IT IS the UK's largest privately-funded arts award with total prize money of £35,000 and provides a showcase for Scottish landscape painting.
The eventual winner of the Jolomo Bank of Scotland Award 2011, which was launched in Edinburgh yesterday, will receive 25,000.
The annual contest was established by one of Scotland's best-selling artists, John Lowrie Morrison, known as "Jolomo", in 2006 to promote the painting of the Scottish landscape.
Mr Morrison last night said one of the driving forces behind the award was his belief that conceptional art, personified by works by artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, was taking precedence over painting.
"Conceptional art is seen is seen as 'cool' and 'more sexy', real cutting edge. But it is not about thoughts and feeling, but about the 'concept'. I've just visited the Impressionist Gardens exhibition and it bowled me over while a brick in the middle of a gallery floor doesn't do it for me.
"Not that I don't like conceptional art, as an ex-art teacher I taught every style. But in many ways painting has taken a back seat in Scottish art schools since I was there with courses becoming more academic.
"The award's about passion, not just painting, not just Scottish painting. I was always passionate about painting since I was a wee boy."
Mr Morrison, whose customers include celebrities such as Madonna, added: "We are into our third biennial awards scheme. They are aimed at young and emerging artists, with no age limit. But the judging panel, including myself, is not looking for a clone of the work I do, it can be of anything in the landscape.
"The first winner in 2007 was Anna King whose work was fairly desolate, a very cold, gritty landscape. That type of work has a kind of beauty about it. The 2009 winners were all quite abstract.
"I decided that the total prize money should be increased to 35,000 this year, with 25,000 going to the winning entrant and the balance being shared among the runners-up. I know that this level of prize money can make a real difference to artists early in their careers, allowing them to develop their practice and explore new directions in their work at the same time as easing their financial worries."
The 2009 award attracted 74 entrants whose ages ranged from 22 to 71.
Susan Rice, managing director of Lloyds Banking Group Scotland, said: "Bank of Scotland is delighted to sponsor an award that inspires so many, especially as the prize money provides such a great support to artists."
Applications for the awards close on 21 January 2011. A short-list will be announced in March and an exhibition of their entries will be held in May. The winner will be announced on 23 June 2011.
Keith Salmon, winner of the 2009 award, said: "Winning has made a real difference.The award gave me the confidence and security to really focus on my painting - a rare opportunity for any painter at the start of their career."