MAKING A MARK: Royal Watercolour Society OPEN 2022

The Royal Watercolor Society (RWS) is again running its Annual Open Competition after a break during 2021 due to you know what!

However the deadline for entries is Monday 10th January 2022!

Formerly known as the Contemporary Watercolor Competition (among many other names during the exhibition’s 50+ year history), the RWS Open is the largest open-submission water-media exhibition in the world, attracting thousands of submissions nationally and internationally each year.

To be honest, I think the RWS needs to be very careful about using claims like that because unless they know the number of entries they attract beats those who submit work to the RI’s Annual Open Exhibition – otherwise they could get into trouble with the Advertising Standards people.

I guess they could argue this is the only competition which is ONLY open to submissions from non-members – but the nature of their statement does not say that – and I know how many entries the RI Annual Exhibition gets!

Benefits of this RWS Open

The primary benefit of this competition is it acts as a platform for applying for membership of the Royal Watercolor Society. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say don’t even think about applying unless you have submitted to this competition and have been selected and hung!

Other benefits are:

  • Your selected artwork is hung in the RWS Open exhibition at Bankside Gallery, located next to Tate Modern on the Thames Path
  • Your selected artwork will appear on the Royal Watercolor Society website for the duration of the exhibition and beyond
  • You can become part of a network of present and past exhibiting artists
  • If you come to London you get to meet members of the RWS for networking and potential membership proposal. (I’m not sure whether they make any online forums available to successful artists)
  • You are eligible to win awards on this year’s prize list, including the RWS Young Artist Award – see below

Royal Watercolor Society Prizes

  • David Gluck Memorial Award | £1000 Cash Prize
  • RWS Award | £250 Cash Prize
  • RWS New Graduate Award* | £250 Cash Prize
  • RWS Young Artist Award** | Guest Membership to the RWS for 2 years to an artist under the age of 35, allowing the winner(s) to exhibit in all Society exhibitions at Bankside Gallery for this period
  • RWS Publicity Prize | Your selected work on exhibition publicity material RWS Social Media Prize*** | Feature on @royalwatercoloursociety Instagram

Sponsored Prizes

  • The Cass Art Solo Show Award | The opportunity for a solo exhibition of your work in one of the Art Spaces at Cass Art
  • The Artist Prize | Feature article in The Artist & Leisure Painter Magazine
  • Cotswold Mounts Prize | £125 cash
  • Daler Rowney Art Materials Prize | Two watercolor art materials bundles to the value of £800
  • Dry Red Press Prize | The opportunity to have your artwork published on a greetings card
  • The Heatherley’s Open Studio Prize | Five days worth of studio time at The Heatherley School of Fine Art
  • Insight School of Art Prize | £250 cash
  • Schmincke Prize | Three sets of Schmincke Horadam Supergranulating watercolors
  • Seawhite Art Materials Prize | Seawhite art materials
  • St Cuthbert’s Mill Paper Prize | £150 worth of paper
  • Winsor & Newton Prize | Art materials

Call for Entries

Who can enter?

  • For 2022 the RWS would like to invite artists of all backgrounds, at any stage of their career

What can you enter?

  • Works on paper in any (and all) water-based-media Including (but not limited to) watercolour, acrylic, ink, gouache and mixed media pieces featuring non-water-based materials as long as a water-based-media is included.
    • All work should be on a paper support ie paper, cardboard, etc (not canvas, wood, plastic or any other surface)
    • No prints, copies, reproductions or photographs are eligible

Are there rules about watercolor techniques – should I only send work in that conforms to traditional ideas of watercolour?
The judges will be looking for ideas, competence and integrity – as long as the materials conform to those stipulated in the submission guidelines, they will be interested in how you choose to use them and will be excited by both innovation and expertise in traditional methods in using water-based media.

  • No restrictions on style or subject matter
  • Painting must have been completed in the previous 4 years (2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 ie not as suggested in the Guidelines which somebody forgot to update!)
  • Artwork for sale. (Note: The Gallery levies a commission of 40% + VAT on picture sales).
  • Framed paintings which do not exceed 200cm x 200cm
  • Well presented artwork – poorly presented paintings or works that differ significantly from the photograph that was entered will not be accepted.

For your work to be insured against theft under Bankside Gallery insurance, your paintings must be framed, glazed and fitted with mirror plates. Other display options are welcomed but these are displayed works at your own risk.


How should I choose which of my paintings to send in?
Remember that the judges are looking at many works in a short time. They will be more likely to be captivated by work(s) with something special to say and with a personal point of view. They are looking for artists with a clear style and identity in all the works that they submit rather than lots of different styles of painting.

  • Works for the exhibition are selected from digital images uploaded as part of the online application form.
  • The selectors are:
    • Brit Pruiksma | Independent Curator & Founder of Mothflower
    • David Remfry RA RWS | Artist
    • Jill Leman PRWS | Artist and President of the Royal Watercolor Society
    • Wendy Jacob RWS | Artist
    • Chloe Fremantle ARWS | Artist Royal Watercolor Society Pri

Delivery and Collection

  • If your work is selected for the exhibition, framed paintings should be delivered to Bankside Gallery on Monday 28th February, 11am-5pm.
  • Only professional Art Couriers should be used. Artwork delivered by non-insured non-art couriers (eg Royal Mail, .FedEx) is NOT ACCEPTED.

We recommend sending your work (via an arts courier in your country) to either Picture Post ( 711011 or 07833450788) or Art Moves of Chelsea ( 7352 7492) who will deliver your work(s) on time on your behalf and make sure all the packaging is taken away.

  • Collection of any unsold paintings is from Bankside Gallery on Monday 21st March, 11am – 5pm. Storage fees are charged if you or your representative do not collect on this day.

The Exhibition

An exhibition of selected paintings will be held at Bankside Gallery from Friday 4th until Sunday 20th March 2022.

You will be invited to attend the private view at the beginning of the exhibition where you can meet your fellow exhibitors and prizes will be announced.

In the event of a UK lockdown or other covid-related restrictions being put in place, the RWS reserves the right to deliver the RWS Open exhibition as an online only event.

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