The Elizabeth Hosking Prize for Watercolour

  • November 2, 2020

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2021 is now open for entries and the judges are pleased to have the opportunity, for a second year, to award the Elizabeth Hosking Prize for Watercolour. 

Watercolour paintings are vibrant and have a distinct clarity, unlike any other painted medium.

This is an inherently practical medium for painting outdoors. All you need is a paintbrush, paper, palette, paint and water to create an artwork. The equipment is lightweight and the paint fast-drying – watercolour is therefore ideal for artists working outdoors, on the move, and travelling on safari, which is why the medium lends itself to landscapes and wildlife, meaning watercolourists can rely less on reference photographs.

The DSWF chatted to our generous sponsor Elizabeth Hosking and world-renowned watercolourist and Wildlife Artist of the Year judge, Hazel Soan, about the Elizabeth Hosking Prize for Watercolour entries in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020

“I am delighted that Elizabeth Hosking is generously donating the prize for the most notable watercolour entry. There is a freshness about watercolour that is unrivalled by any other medium. The white paper and liveliness of a watercolour artwork has immense appeal. This means they always sell very well at the Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition and are often very affordable, partly because they can be relatively quick to create, but more so because traditionally watercolours have been a more reasonably priced art source,” 

says Hazel

To top it off watercolours, being bound in gum Arabic, are one of the most environmentally friendly painting mediums.

Why enter a watercolour into Wildlife Artist of the Year?

Whilst watercolours are relatively accessible and the perfect medium for artists out in the field, the medium also demands immense skill and control on the artist’s behalf. 

“The watercolour medium is essentially a transparent medium, and often thought to be rather unforgiving, but this only happens if you lose the transparency by overworking. I guess that is what makes it so exciting! It is always a challenge, full of unexpected rewards. It’s about knowing when and where to put the brush down on the paper, when and how to lift it up, and when to leave well alone.” 

says Hazel

The fluid nature of watercolour adds another dimension to painting, creating undeniable allure and a sense of realness to the painting. A few well-placed brushstrokes can yield the most incredible results creating stunning lustrous and ethereal effects.

Given the medium dries so fast you can produce more entries, which then increases your chances of being shortlisted, all while improving your technique with each artwork! Not to mention the benefit of all those entry fees supporting critically endangered wildlife across Africa and Asia.

Tips for entering watercolour artworks

Artists that demonstrate skill in both placing and controlling passages of colour without muddying their paintings are likely to do well.

“When it comes to watercolour, the ‘less is more’ approach is often fresher, avoid overpainting, you need to think before you place your brush,” 

says Hazel

When photographing their Wildlife Artist of the Year entries, artists need to take care to make a good digital representation of the original work, and this is especially true for watercolourists. In a watercolour painting the white paper is the source of light, and the white can come out rather grey if the photograph is not taken carefully. The judges see only the digital scans as the exhibition this year is entirely virtual, so be sure you are not sending in a photo which dulls your painting and loses the eye-catching freshness associated with watercolours. 

“The judges are looking for the bravery and boldness associated with confident watercolour paintings,”

says Hazel. 

Stay true to the medium and try not to rely too much on the pencil-drawn contour to construct and shape your watercolour.

Innovative and inspiring work with good technique, not just a painting that is just a copy of a photograph.

says Elizabeth Hosking

This immediacy is what watercolourist Nichola Hope achieved in her 2020 entry, which won the prize this year.

Elizabeth Hosking Prize for Watercolour winner 2020

“’Tansy Beetle was the perfect representation of a watercolour done well. This artwork is vibrant, expressive, bright and bold and perfectly captures the lustre of the endangered beetle’s exterior,” says Hazel.

Nichola Hope’s vivid green and yellow ‘Tansy Beetle’ watercolour was the first recipient of the Elizabeth Hosking Prize for Watercolour. The nationally rare tansy beetle only occurs in a small part of York in the United Kingdom.  

It’s hard to say why one particularly likes a painting. ‘Tansy Beetle’ attracted my eye. It has a beautiful colour and very well painted.

explains Elizabeth

Watercolour artwork in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020

Another watercolour worth noting was Wings category winner Ze Ze Lai’s ‘Modelling’

“These birds on a wire are extremely well-placed, the interval and the shapes of the spaces between them are as poignant as the minimally painted birds. And well-titled too, owing to the clever play on words by Lai,”

says Hazel.

Modelling is the term used for creating form in a painting using the light and shade. Lai adroitly forms the birds with a few distinct light, dark and mid tones.

Among the other 12 watercolour shortlisted entries, the judges admired ‘Dust up at Sands River’ by Alice van Jaarsveld. 

“I loved the use of colour in ‘Where the Bird Sang’ and how Derek Robertson truly captured the urban wildlife theme in his watercolour,” 

says Hazel

The judges enjoyed Jack Haslem’s ingenious use of watercolour – very much the ‘less is more’ approach for creating water and ripples in his painting, ‘Frog Swimming’.  

They also delighted in the impactful icy textural effect created by artist Rachel Toll, created using salt within her watercolour ‘Harsh to us is home to them’

Watercolourist, Tom Shepherd, took a leap of faith adding a yellow passage of colour before adding his bee-eater ‘Looking Back’, the boldness of this brushstroke was noted by the judges. 

We look forward to seeing the lively watercolour entries in Wildlife Artist of the Year 2021.