SPOTLIGHT 

Art magazines

Don’t know your art from your elbow? Never fear, there are magazines to help. Alan Geere heads along to the newsstand.

By Alan Geere

Art magazines
Photograph: Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash.

Aesthetica

What’s it about: ‘The art & culture magazine’ – tagline by masthead.

Vital statistics: February / March 2019 issue: 164 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Quality matt paper, card cover, perfect bound. £5.95 cover price. Publisher states UK circulation is 15,000 with another 5,000 worldwide. Published bi-monthly by Aesthetica Magazine in York.

Cover: Almost full-page image of a woman with pixelated eyes (“moving the viewer into hallucinatory states” we learn later). Four small but beautifully constructed coverlines, a restrained masthead and furniture on a white background. Spare but, er, artful.

Content: Full-page ads up to page 16 before the editor’s welcome and two pages of illustrated contents divided into seven sections. There are 12 entries under ‘art’ taking in photography, design, sculpture and post-production experimentation like the pixelation on the cover. All exquisitely put together with sumptuous photography and an unfussy design that lets the subjects take precedence. The 18 shortlisted works in the Aesthetica Art Prize 2019 and exhibition reviews provide a neat conclusion.

Digital: A website as refined as the printed magazine has content galore plus links to Twitter (63.9k followers), Facebook (145k likes) as well as Pinterest and Instagram. Also sign up for a newsletter and browse a generous awards section.

What they say: “The first issue of Aesthetica was published in March 2003 with a credit card” – editor Cherie Federico shares the magazine’s humble beginnings on LinkedIn.

Verdict: While this is a serious magazine for committed art enthusiasts, it is not daunting or off-putting for the mere amateur. The art, much of it photography, is given the display it deserves while the somewhat spare design enhances rather than detracts. A decent spread of ads contributes to the overall well-being.

Apollo

What’s it about: ‘The international art magazine’ – tagline under masthead.

Vital statistics: March 2019 issue: 196 pages of 285mm x 218mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £6.95 cover price. International readership “in excess of 30,000” according to media pack. Published monthly by The Spectator in London.

Cover: Large picture of a painting of three lemons (part of a larger still life), leading to the coverline ‘Infinite zest’. Four other small coverlines, a corner flash and stylish masthead – all leaping out of a black background.

Content: Ads up to page 26 before two rather reserved contents pages divided into features, market and reviews. Editor’s letter and other thoughtful short reads precede a Q&A about Rembrandt and another essay under the banner of ‘Inquiry’. Not until page 110 do the features get going, but all are generous reads with companion illustrations. The reviews are works of art themselves taking in exhibitions and books.

Digital: Newsy website, with some acute observations from Rakewell, ‘Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world’. Links to Twitter (23.6k followers), Facebook (17.7k likes), Instagram and podcasts on iTunes. Sign up for newsletters and special offers and navigate through quite a few ads – ‘CV Builder’, anyone?

What they say: “There are plenty of things I don't want to read. But Jacob Rees-Mogg on Pugin is right up there” – editor Thomas Marks lets us in on the secrets of his library on Twitter.

Verdict: Lavish doesn’t even begin to do this heavyweight tome justice. It looks and feels sumptuous with the elegant, if rather prosaic, design perfectly complementing the pages and pages of luxurious advertising. If you want to wallow in a warm bath of art, turn on the taps here.

The Art of Watercolour

What’s it about: ‘The art magazine for watercolourists’ – tagline under masthead.

Vital statistics: March-June 2019 issue: 100 pages of 290mm x 230mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £6.95 cover price, although there is no price on the cover. Published quarterly by Diverti Editions in the village of Naintré, near Poitiers in France.

Cover: Big picture of a floral watercolour, three smaller pictures of paintings, eight coverlines and namechecks for no less than nine featured artists.

Content: A full-page uncredited editorial followed by well-illustrated contents spread, even including a world map to show the international range of contributors. An informative what’s on section followed by a five-page reflection on the latest readers’ competition. Renowned artists take readers through step-by-step how they created their masterpieces plus other expert insights. All wrapped up with a technical guide and run-down of competitions to enter.

Digital: The advertised website is for subscriptions and orders, but a click-through to the publisher’s site does bring up a decent outline of what is in the current issue plus the opportunity to subscribe to a newsletter. Links to the publisher’s Facebook page (1.9k likes) and Pinterest.

What they say: “I am looking for very expressive models, and I find them everywhere, perhaps by asking a woman who comes to see one of my exhibitions” – warning to anyone attending exhibitions by Atsushi Matsubayashi, here discussing ‘The sensitivity of the nude’.

Verdict: Unencumbered by advertising – just two full pages out of 100 – this international feast of art uses every centimetre of its nearly square space to fully reflect the majesty and variety of watercolour. It has tons of worthwhile journalism, especially the ‘demo’ pages that clearly reveal the secrets of the stylists. Enough to make you reach for the paintbox.

Artists & Illustrators

What’s it about: ‘For everyone inspired by art’ – tiny tagline on spine.

Vital statistics: May 2019 issue: 84 pages of 298mm x 230mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4.50 cover price. Magazine “reaches 62,000+ readers every month, including 11,000 regular subscribers” according to media pack. Published monthly by Chelsea Magazines in London.

Cover: Big picture of a ‘watercolour portrait’, six well-engineered coverlines and that most artful of mastheads set on a stark white background.

Content: Welcome from the editor, a page of contents and a page of letters precede ‘9 artistic things to do in May’. Apart from ‘regulars’, content is divided into ‘features’ – like Van Gogh’s little-known love affair with Britain – and ‘practical’, covering everything from painting landscapes from your imagination to how to work with inks. This issue came in a polybag with a ‘free!’ 24-page booklet on ‘How to paint from photos’.

Digital: A bright and engaging website which has useful features plus art for sale. Big plug to Instagram (5,405 followers) plus links to Twitter (24.2k followers) and Facebook, which is clearly a big hit with nearly 300,000 likes.

What they say: “The lady on passport control at Tangier airport just told me I look like Spiderman. So, how’s your Saturday night going?” – editor Steve Pill channelling his inner superhero on Twitter.

Verdict: Much to like about this vibrant, approachable title. Clearly designed and well-illustrated, it will satisfy both the expert and beginner, although the media pack does state that readership is “primarily made up of practising artists”. A good show of display ads plus a small classified directory add to the all-round appeal. Also, good value at £4.50.

The Artist

What’s it about: ‘The practical magazine for artists by artists – since 1931’ – tagline under masthead.

Vital statistics: May 2019 issue: 80 pages of 297mm x 210mm. A mix of gloss and matt paper, heavier gloss cover, stitched. £6.99 cover price. Published monthly by The Artists' Publishing Co Ltd, part of Warners, in Tenterden, Kent.

Cover: Big picture of an outdoor watercolour (Windsor Castle, no less), three smaller pictures, eight mainly small coverlines plus a big ‘plus’ signposting the free inserted guide.

Content: A welcome from the editor followed by a busy contents spread that includes a plug for the ‘online community’ and next month’s issue. ‘Features’ and ‘practicals’ neatly intersperse with plenty of engaging pictures to draw in the reader. Painting demonstrations bring the techniques to life, showing all stages from blank canvas to finished painting. This issue came in a polybag with a 50-page book about Sea and Sky (rrp £4.99).

Digital: Shares digital presence with companion magazine ‘Leisure Painter’. Plenty of lively content at painters-online.co.uk, including blogs, comments, tips and advice. Click through to Twitter (11.5k followers), Facebook (15.3k likes). Digital edition of the mag available to download for smartphone and tablet.

What they say: “Would it be possible to revise the number of posts any member can make in one day? I've noticed an increase in the number of people posting four art works at once, having the effect of pushing the less ‘enthusiastic’ posters down / off the page” – problems, problems aired on the online forum.

Verdict: Lots of practical info to dip into for both the practising artist and the armchair enthusiast. A generous website complements the printed product, which could look a little pricey compared to other titles at £6.99 for 80 pages.

ArtReview

What’s it about: ‘Shaping art history since 1949’ – strapline on cover.

Vital statistics: March 2019 issue: 168 pages of 300mm x 236mm. Quality matt paper, card cover, perfect bound. £6.50 cover price. Circulation of 50,539 according to media kit. Published monthly, except in February, July and August, by ArtReview Ltd in London.

Cover: A birthday cake made up of cake, jam, icing, candles and copies of ArtReview with a sparkly ‘70’ to commemorate the magazine’s big birthday issue. The masthead, the strapline and bar code. That’s it.

Content: Gallery ads through to page 22 then a short, uncredited essay about 70 years of ArtReview. Most of the issue is given over to a 70-year retrospective, divided into decades, with a small exhibitions and books section at the back. The republished articles and pictures give an insightful glimpse into those bygone days from a treatise by Henri Matisse to a review of the first Turner Prize exhibition via an interview with Andy Warhol. All elegantly put together and interspersed with more slices of that cake.

Digital: A well-populated website with news, reviews, features, previews, opinions and videos. Links to Twitter, with a whopping 286k followers, and Facebook (30k likes) plus a newsletter to sign up for.

What they say: “Screw a world in which I can interview an artist in Casablanca over the phone from a Japanese bar in São Paulo, but he can't get a visa to come to his exhibition opening in London” – International editor Oliver Basciano reflecting on the inequalities of globalism on Twitter.

Verdict: Looks and feels on top of its game. As an affectionate and knowledgeable take on 70 years of art history, this issue will be hard to beat. Everything is done with style and panache, even the full-page ads which contribute in no small measure to the overall impact.