The Smith & Williamson Cityscape prize

Charlie Winter, a Smith & Williamson investment management partner, talks to us about his role as a judge for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition (Cityscape Prize) and what he looks for in a winning painting.

How did the opportunity to judge the watercolour competition come about?

I am a keen amateur artist and help with the layout of the art in the Smith & Williamson office therefore it seemed a natural evolution to judge our cityscape prize.

What are the factors you consider when critiquing a watercolour?

A level of technical skill is key. Very generally, I see two types of painting; the very detailed almost lifelike and much looser, traditional watercolour wash style. I look for good draughtsmanship, a skillful use of colour and the ability to create an atmosphere.

What do you think makes a winning watercolour?

It's very personal - there's no set formula. We're looking for the artist to show a number of skills to create moods and emotions. Overall it needs to make sense. But, as ever, beauty is in the eye of the beholder...

Do you and other judges typically reach an overwhelming consensus when it comes to the winner - or do you often have quite a few discussions/negotiations before reaching the final decision?

The judges draw up a shortlist of around 400 of which some will be cityscapes. They normally whittle down the starting figure to around ten paintings. Then there’s a mini vote where people can select their favourite four or five and then from there the most popular ones are chosen as the prizewinners. We need to pick a winner, so a consensus is eventually reached, but there can be some civilised horse-trading.

How can people who feel they know little about art learn more about the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art?

Learning the difference between good and bad art is like wine - if you like it, you buy it again. In a similar way, with art, if you go to an exhibition and like it you may go to similar exhibitions and slowly develop your knowledge and tastes. The wider your exposure the better, so listen to but don’t be constricted by the opinions of self-styled experts. If an artist has given a piece a lot of thought, then there must be some value there. As a non-expert, don’t dismiss anything.

Contact us

Charles Winter profile image
Charles Winter

Partner London +44 (0)20 7131 4646

Related content

Sunday Times Watercolours

Proud supporters of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition

STWC winners

Find out more about this year's winners

Smith & Williamson websites use cookies. Find out about cookies here. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.