2016 was a momentous year as it was third time lucky to have one of my prints chosen for the RA Summer Show. The process is really long and tests your patience at times, but the thrill of being chosen was a pinnacle for me. The 12,000 entries go in electronically in mid-February and are shortlisted in mid-March, at which point you have to take the actual work to the RA. All rather unexpected as you deliver the work to a back entrance in an alleyway and the work is taken by a not terribly engaged worker. Not that you expect anyone to say anything complimentary I suppose. By mid-May, there was an email to say that my print “is still under consideration” which was weirdly unexpected. Of my two pieces, one didn’t make it to the delivery to the RA stage. By the end of May, I was still in the running, although I have heard that shortlisted work may not hang in the end, so fingers still firmly crossed.
Eventually, on 28th May I received an email:
“I am pleased to inform you that your artwork, WINTER SUNSHINE IN THE TREES, has been selected for this year’s exhibition.” What a great thrill, and a recognition that what I was doing artistically had received an endorsement from the art world. The RA make you welcome and there followed a number of previews, starting with ‘Varnishing Day’ when all the exhibiting artists view the hanging and process down to St James’ Piccadilly for a short service led by Canon Lucy Winkett. Tracey Emin and her posse were leading from the front. I was at the back with other naughty first timers determined to wring out every last drop of enjoyment from the whole spectacle. And the prosecco of course
Then there were preview days and they provided you with an ‘exhibitor’s card’ which allowed access to the Academicians’ Room for the duration of the Summer Show. This is an inner sanctum of calm for the RA artists – a stylish hybrid between airport lounge and art gallery. What a privilege. Nice food too
On top of all of the pomp and ceremony, there is the vulgar and unexpected commercial aspect of the RA Summer Show. On the last preview day, I was called by someone wanting to buy one of my prints, golly really? Well, you need to call the RA and they’ll sort you out.He called back five minutes later and said: “sorry they’ve all been sold”. How could this be? The previous day there were no ‘red dots’ which had been evident in other pieces. But as my print was ‘skied’ which is the term used for works that are up high, there wasn’t an easy way to apply dots. Thankfully the RA allowed me to produce 4 extra ‘artist’s proofs’ to be able to let the latecomers also have a copy. Turns out they were all sold before the show had even opened to the public. An unexpected bonus for me, I never went into this as anything but a hobby – so I was able to reinvest the money from sales into a new larger press, one that would allow me to print a whole sheet of Somerset paper without having to tear off edges.