The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Posted by Julia Ogden on

I am writing this way after my screen print has been sold and the experience of having a piece of my artwork exhibited at the Royal Academy is over. I am not sure why it has taken me so long to write about it.It was such a thrill to be accepted, that I almost couldn't believe it was true. So here is how it began..

My Dad has been telling me for years to apply for the Summer Exhibition, it is one of the world's largest open submission art shows, running without interruption since 1769! I think the thing I have always loved about it, is it covers all tastes. I really think you would be hard pushed to not find at least one piece of art that spoke to you and gave you butterflies.

So in 2018 I registered with the view of applying then, but with the deadline drawing near I was just too skint to apply; it costs £35 .This is a reality of being a self employed artist, sometimes its cash flow, sometimes it is just building from being part-time to full-time, sometimes it is the aftermath of previous years of growing your business with no capital.. for me it was all of those things.

So 2019 came around, my art was doing well (touching all the wood) and I thought one night; the deadline for the Royal Academy must be soon...It was that night! In three hours! I wasn't at my studio so I started searching through what I had on my computer. I had a Blue Moon screen print that had been selling well. I loved the simplicity of the circle with the detailed drawing. I checked who was curating this year and it was Jock McFadyen. I loved his work and he had painted a moon! That is the one then, I thought, and applied.

Much to my surprise I got through to the second round, after getting through the digital submission successful artist's are asked to bring their piece of art to the Academy, it is then handed over without packaging to be judged again. I took a very self conscious photograph of the queue, it is blurry but gives you an idea!

The Academy receives over 10,000 submissions, so it is not a surprise it was two months before I was informed by Blue Moon had made it into the exhibition!

I made the trip down to London shortly after for the Varnishing Ceremony, this was traditionally a day when artists finished off their artworks for the exhibition; making any last minute tweaks and varnishing them. There is a little snippet of this in Mike Leigh's film about Turner. Today, however it is more a celebration and a day just for artists to visit the exhibition.

We all gathered in the courtyard and there was a steel band playing as we formed a precession through Picadilly and to St Jame's Church for speeches. We also sang a few hymns, which I didn't know!

It was then back to the Academy for the prettiest table full of food and champagne (elderflower juice for me) and more really inspiring speeches.

Next to my print, look up!

 Things that caught my eye..

 The bear though..



I visited again with my family, it was so lovely for me to have their support.

I can't really say enough good things about the exhibition, it is open to everyone, I know there is a charge to enter but if you can rustle up the £35, you do it safe in the knowledge that it means that students at the Royal Academy do not pay any fees as a result. The Varnishing Day was an absolute highlight, to be reminded of all the great artists that had exhibited there made me feel lucky to be part of it.

So I have already been thinking about next year, I feel it is a long shot to get in two years in a row, but I will give it a go. I am not sure what with yet, but I think it just has to be from the heart and something I have a feeling about, like the moon. 

Good luck to anyone applying, go for it!


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