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This page shows the Judge's comments on finished competitions (most recent first):
The entries remain in "previous competition" until the "current competition" is complete. 
Winner, and mentions on Home page slide show 

Mick Oxley, Northumberland artist, was judge for the Northumberland Coast competition, 

Mick works from his studio/gallery in Craster, Northumberland. His work is inspired by the sight, sound and smell of the sea, and the dancing patterns on the water due to rapid changes in light. Most of his work is either textured acrylics or watercolour sea studies, here are a couple of examples, and you can see his latest work at


Here are Mick's comments:

The winner was Adrian Swales

‘The Last Flowers of Summer’

Carole Thirlaway Chair of Nework Artists North East was the judge, here are her comments and some examples of her work (you can see more of her work on Network Artists website.

"Thank you for asking me to judge this excellent exhibition, it is an honour.

I am a printmaker who enjoys experimenting with texture and colour. I use Wood Engravings and Collagraphs as the main focus of my work. I find the contrast between the controlled discipline of wood block engraving and the freer unexpected results from Collagraphs both interesting and exciting. 

The Oak and the Broom (Wordswoth Poem) Old Walls and Sky

I would like to say, before I reveal the competition winners, that the entries were a real delight. It certainly cheered up these last days of Summer for me. I enjoyed the breadth of styles and differing approaches to the subject. When looking at the entries there was a perfusion of colour which was uplifting. My artist journey began with paint and I was reminded of how rewarding and versatile a medium it is. I found singling out winners extremely difficult as this implies losers of which there are none!

In first place I selected No.6, ‘Fading Lily Pads’ by Geoff Stables

I found this reminiscent of my visit at this time of year to Monet’s garden at Giverny. I loved the quiet stillness of the scene after the business of Summer and before the calming down of Autumn. The colours reflect this peacefulness. The painting is quite abstracted with the stylised trees and lily pads. I felt a certain sadness in the piece, once again speaking of the passing of Summer. Delightful.

In second place I was torn between several entries but in the end settled upon No 18, ‘September Garden, 2020’ (Pauline Hughes)

This painting is a truly a perfusion of colour. It is nature giving us the last burst of energy before retreating to conserve itself for a period of rest until the summer of a different year. It is a painting of hope. How lovely to look at this during the darker days ahead and remember that life regenerates and the colour of this garden will be back. It seems a metaphor for our current situation.

In third place I selected No.14, ‘Allotment Sketchbook’. (Alan Dordoy)

I have a real love of sketchbooks. I always promise myself that I will be more diligent about filling my own but often fail. As a result, I really appreciate the sketchbooks of other artists and find it a real treat if I visit exhibitions where they are on display. I guess its like being able to read famous people’s diaries. It speaks a lot about the person. I was delighted to see this entry from a sketchbook. The colours are lovely, and each sketch tells us that it is the end of Summer. Beautifully drawn and painted. I would guess this artist’s sketchbook is full of treats, especially from the allotment.

Well that is the end of my selection. Art appreciation is very much subjective, but I did find so much in this exhibition that delighted me and would love any in my home! I would like to congratulate you all and would love to see future exhibitions of your work, hopefully one day soon in reality.

These are some other observations regarding the remaining entries.

I loved ‘Carol in the Sweet Peas’(Monica Shaw) I was actually successful this year with sweet peas (for a change) and as I am Carole this could be me!  Lovely use of colour and a fun painting.

I thought No15, ‘Bouquet for Katheen’ (Harry Bell) a particularly pleasing composition. It kept drawing me back. I liked the background contrast and the contemporary approach to the vase and table.

All the still life entries are very well composed and painted.

I enjoyed the iPad entries.

No.1 ‘Frilly Poppies and Seedheads’ (Judy Appleby) was another favourite. I like the use of aluminium as a base. I think that gave the painting luminosity. Having never worked on aluminium, however, I am only guessing at this.

No.9 ‘Iris, Victoria Falls’ (Josie McLaughlin) is a beautiful painting. I love the delicacy of the flowers and it is so accurate in its interpretation.

All were a delight to see and consider. The colours reflected the remit for the competition and the compositions very evocative interpretations.Thank you once again for inviting me and congratulations to you all."

Judge for the July-August competition “I’d rather be in….” was Carmen Gordon
“What an honour to be asked to judge this months' competition! I feel my main qualification is enjoying trying to create, and looking at interesting paintings. I'm a previous inmate of the Biscuit Tin Studios and before that a North of England Art Club member. I now have a studio at home in Thropton, where I'm chasing elusive abstractions of the natural world. Here are two examples of my recent work:"

Competition  I’d rather be in…..

Winner: No. 4 …a deserted Bedouin village. The whole is almost abstract with interesting composition, wonderful textures and great use of colour evoking the hot glow of sunset.  
Painted by Susan Lonergan


Runner up: No. 6 …In the swimming pool with my grandson… I enjoyed the abstracted treatment of the ripples contrasted with the gentle realistic treatment of the face. A difficult subject so well done that it made me want to jump in too!
Painted by Ian Davison

And feedback for the other entries which were all so enjoyable:

….Byker baths. I really enjoyed the free drawing style and, best of all, putting it on the front of the Baltic!
….Kathmandu. Lovely attention to detail which invites lots of visual exploration.
….an Octopus’s Garden in the Shade. This is so much playful fun! Lots to explore visually with interesting textures, composition and well used text.
….The sunshine. Yes, I would like to be beside the seaside! Lovely use of colour as a whole, but especially in the groyne and the trees.
Mahico. A relaxed colour palette with an evocative sky inviting me to be there with a G&T...
….River Torrans. Enlivening vibrant use of colour in this abstracted composition.
….Kyoto. A lovely peaceful scene that invites you to be there with the soft use of colour.
….Jesmond Dene. Plenty of light and dark contrast with attention to leaf and branch detail.
….Many a time and oft. Lovely loose drawing and an evocative palette... perhaps a glass of chilled rose this time...
….the Alcazar garden, Cordoba. Beautifully painted with a sunny warm cohesive romantic glow throughout.

You can now see all the artists' names in the Previous Competition Gallery. Winner and runner up are on the home page slide show

We asked Nicola Stevenson, curator of our Alnwick Playhouse exhibitions, to judge our Still Life competition July 2020

Nicola Stevenson graduated in Art & Design from the University of Ulster in 1993 before moving to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to complete a Post graduate in Computer Applications in Art & Design. She worked for many years as Computer Graphics Technician in Durham before settling in Shilbottle to work at Alnwick Playhouse where she now manages the Playhouse Gallery. Nicola has been developing her painting over the past few years, exhibiting regularly locally, and now is a resident artist at The Old Bath House, a recently converted miners bath house in Northumberland, with her own studio & gallery space there allowing her to continue her work on a larger scale.

Here are some examples of these recent larger paintings:


Nicola's choices for the competition placings are:

First: No 4 'Horchata For Two' by Harry Bell
Great textures and interesting areas of text kept my eye busy and instantly pulled me in. A pleasing composition with great use of colour and tone.


Second: No 6 'Strawberry' By Sandra Haney
Capturing the very essence of the strawberry, beautifully placed and sublime use of colour. The flecks of white bring it to life and the use of light makes it good enough to eat.

Third:  No 18 'Mandarin orange in water' By Susan Lonergan
A confident bold painting. Great use of the monochrome with that pop of orange from the mandarin then reflected through on to the saucer adds to the interest. Fantastic composition, I would love to see this one on a much larger scale.

Also a mention for 'Through the Greenhouse Window' by Ian Hancock:  Interesting aspect and and lovely use of colour and tone.


Our portrait competition June2020 was judged by Gerard Durkan, a retired art teacher and accomplished portrait artist. Gerard’s portraits are are frequently full length studies that portray the subject in a setting or pose that provides a narrative about interests or personality. There are two examples of his work, one showing an unusual back lit portrait with strong contrasts, and the other with the subject seated at a table and the artist seen in a mirror on the table.


There were nineteen entries in the competition and a high standard. Gerard commented on several and noted that No. 1 (self portrait in orange hat by Harry Bell) has a pleasing composition and has dealt well with the challenging view of the face. Vincentish use of paint particularly on the hat is well applied. However, his selections were:

1st: No3 “Self Portrait”. By Malcolm Yorke    An arresting pose which invites engagement with the subject’s personality. Confidently drawn with assured application of paint and selection of colour and tone. 

2nd: No6 “woman”. by Joe Buggy Beautiful sense of form and manipulation of media. ( I would have liked to have seen other views). The subject communicates a quiet and demure assurance. The scribed marks enhance the modelling and are aptly reminiscent of African tribal markings.

3rd: No 18. by Adrian Swales  An exciting use of strong lines and complimentary colours to successfully establish the composition; indicate place and frame the figure. A lovely use of reflected light illuminates the hand and face with confidently placed colours and tones.


Winner "Self Portrait" by Malcolm Yorke


Honorary member Tony Montague was the judge for "Bird or Birds" here are his comments.

Tony added a useful list which he used as a basis for judging. You can see/print the list by clicking here

"The standard is very high and selection for me has been difficult because I know little about the subject. However I have judged the works mainly on artistic merit using a checklist of 12 criteria (attached) . These were used by students in the past to help them with their painting compositions. I think the comment at the end is probably the most useful part of the list.
I have picked out 3 works for comment and then my selection for first, second and third.

Bird 9  - beautifully painted pastel and strong highlight in the central section of yellow birds against dark background.
Bird 7 (Waxwing) - well painted pastel good centralised image.
Bird 3 (Ostrich Chick) - A very original idea very well executed.

Third Position - Bird 4 Black Swan - (by Bruce McNiven) Interesting head on shot of the bird , well executed watercolour with good graded wash background

Second Position - Bird 5 Bul Bul - (by Judy Appleby) excellent use of mixed media creating a lively and interesting background.

First Position - Bird 2 Collage of Crows -  (by Ian Hancock) Excellent use of mixed media . Good texture on the birds and an interesting pattern of negative shapes  between ground and birds.


Winner: "Collage of Crows by Ian Hancock"