Monday, January 17, 2022

What's different about Watercolour Challenge - on Channel 5?

I've just watched the first episode of the new Watercolour Challenge (on Channel5) and I'm going to note below what I noticed was different about this version.

Plus a "booboo" which they need to fix to avoid running foul of the competition regulators.

DEVON WEEK: The artists in Episode 1

What I noticed

  • The location was not as advised. 
  • However, as always with this programme, there was a decent profile of the place itself and its history and what's interesting about it. In this case it is an award-winning Grade I listed ex-naval victualling yard which provides the greatest amount of Grade 1 listed military buildings in Europe.
The Royal William Yard - with one of the watercolour painters bottom left
  • The artists are
    • 50% retired and 50% employed 
    • 75% of the four artists are 55+ - which is not dissimilar to many watercolour societies / groups and those who regularly watch this programme - and those participating in the previous programme on Channel 4
  • The artists' standard / experience is 
    • what I'd call "decent amateur standard" i.e. reasonably competent without any being professional - although one is a part-time illustrator/part-time Mum. 
    • not all the artists are people who regularly paint landscapes - or even plein air. It's a common feature which occurs elsewhere e.g. Landscape Artist of the Year. It does make me wonder how plain it was made to the artists that ALL painting would be landscapes and all set-ups would be taking place outside, whatever the weather. However they all arrived with decent anoraks so I guess they knew!
  • The artists are NOT identified by their full names. What's the problem Channel 5? If others can do this so can you!
  • Fern Britton makes a very good replacement for Hannah Gordon
It's definitely a competition which decent amateur artists should apply for if there's going to be another series.

What's different in this series of Watercolour Challenge?

Fern Britton and Lisa Takahashi
  • The whole process (minus the bit where say who's won) reminded me a LOT of the what it's like when you're on a week's painting holiday with a decent art teacher
    • The mentor artist/judge seems to be much more involved in providing guidelines at the beginning and assessments during the process - both in terms of dialogue with the contestant artists and the commentary with Fern Britton
    • Lisa is very articulate, very smily, identifies aspects people do well - but does not shy away from the issues they are not tackling.
  • There are useful and educational tips throughout - in terms of:
    • aids which help composition e.g. Ken brought his viewfinder and Lisa provided some guidelines
    • drawing versus painting - and the challenge of having enough time
    • monochrome versus colour for capturing the nature of a place
    • things to think about the beginning
    • challenges which this particular place throws up and how they might be overcome
  • The dialogue between mentor artist and participating artists was respectful but constructive - with Lisa adopting very much the Socratic approach to highlighting potential issues (i.e. asking a question about "how" rather than highlighting a problem)
  • Lisa provided an excellent and articulate critique of the strengths of each artist and painting and ways a painting could be improved.
  • It was really, really nice to see the artists using LARGE brushes - and not assuming they can get everything done using a size 6!
  • It's the same artists all week - which makes for an added dimension which was missing from the Channel 4 show. 
    • The winner of the first episode was Ken 
    • It'll be very interesting to see how the artists compare notes on what Ken did and what they did - and how they up their game tomorrow!
Ken learning he has won.
  • In addition, there was a profile of an artist associated with the place - which was interesting as the artist was Joshua Reynolds and I certainly learned some facts I didn't;t know before. However it might have been better if the artist had been a watercolour artist - rather than one renowned for painting in oils. So far as I''m aware he only used watercolour for sketches.  His career was also very much founded on his talents as a portrait painter and he didn't paint many landscapes. So interesting diversion - but it would be great to see a programme about watercolour painting which also  highlighted watercolour masters from the past or present?
I'm going to be tuning in again to more episodes - but won't be reviewing them all. Maybe a review at the end of each week?

Do let me know what you think about the programme - and whether it's matching the standard of the previous programme - or maybe improving on it.

The Two Booboos 

This is Booboo #1 - which could get somebody into trouble if they don't fix it PDQ.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Review: Episode 1 Landscape Artist of the Year 2022 - Eden Project Biomes

This review of the first episode of the seventh series of Landscape Artist of the Year considers:
  • the location and weather
  • the artists profiles
  • themes arising during the episode
  • who was shortlisted and who won

Biomes and Pods

Episode 1: Eden Project Biomes

The location

The location was overlooking the Biomes at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Note: There is a second episode in which the artists will paint the gardens.

View of the Eden Project in Cornwall

The location of the Pods overlooking the Biomes seemed to be to the left of the Visitor Centre - in an area which was fenced off. The public were noticeable by their absence.

The pods next to the Visitor Centre - Biomes are to the left

They had great weather - dry, sunny and warm with blue skies and some wispy clouds. 

The Artists

There were six professional artists - in alphabetical order by surname a link to their website is embedded in their name.

The artists lined up with the artwork produced during the heat

Sky Arts seems to be a bit slow to get the artists' profiles up on their website where they name the artist, provide links to their social media sites and show the video of them working on their painting. It wasn't up yesterday but it was there this morning - see but not opening for some reason.

  • Denise Cliffen Primarily self-taught. Started out at a 1999 as a muralist specialising in trompe l'oeil (trick of the eye) and became a professional mural artist in her 30s. She paints landscapes and teaches art workshops and classes in acrylics and soft pastels in the Peak District. Has exhibited with the RBA and the RSMA. Lives in Whatstandwell in Derbyshire.
  • Elisha Enfield [Instagrama figurative and landscape painter working between London and Berlin. She graduated from the University of Brighton in 2011 with First Class Honours in Fine Art Painting. Some very impressive paintings on her website. Come from High Wickham.
  • Dominic Parczuk [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter] - Born in 1982 in Lincoln, England. Did a foundation in art and design in Lincoln. Graduated from Central St. Martins college of art with a BA Hons degree in fashion design. His studio is located in East Yorkshire & Lincolnshire and he works exclusively in Eat Yorkshire - mainly in oils and from life. 
  • Priya Suneel Born in Kerala in India, Priya graduated with a Degree in Fine Arts with Distinction from the  University of Madras and the Government of India Merit Scholarship. She has participated in several solo and group exhibitions in Kathmandu, Lagos, Delhi, Chennai and London. She is a mixed media artist who lives and works in Northwood.
  • Lincoln Taber [Instagram] Studied at City and Guilds of London Art School and has had a number of one man shows as well as participating in a number of group shows (shared and mixed). 
  • David Youds [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter] Studied Art @ Blackburn College and UCLAN and lives in Lancashire. He paints everyday aspects of life - and a bus stop in Acrrington for his submission. He regularly exhibits his work in open exhibitions and has exhibited with the Royal society of Oil Painter, New English Art club, Royal Society of British Artists and Scottish Royal Academy. He reached the semi-final of LAOTY in 2019

Two amateur artists included:

  • Doug Johnson [Instagram | Etsy] Works in sales with an engineering company. Took up printmaking five years ago and makes link priints and linoprint animations. He has a really neat website.
  • Shahrokh Nael [Twitter]- a filmmaker born in Iran who uses writing and narration around the core image - very much a in a storyboarding way.  Tai described it as landscape meets mind mapping meets documentary.

The Wildcard Artists

We're back to 50 wildcard artists at every location. They were located along a pathway on the very edge of the gardens 

Some of the Wildcard Artists

....and had to trek with easels and art gear in single file to get to their positions. 

It looked as if itwas a long trek from the car park / public transport! As always those who know better - from experience - had their kit on wheels!

Wildcard artists trekking with their art gear - some wheeling and some carrying!

The submissions

Viewing the submissions

There's no way of knowing when you view the image on the wall during the programme of how big it is - because the view above is fleeting - until you see the submission with its artist. 

Dianne Cliffen seemed to have the largest artwork submitted as an entry

It struck me that most of the submission were smaller than usual. Maybe people are beginning to realise that having to transport a large painting to an unknown location might be a challenge too far. Hence the size seems to be reducing. 

I was also struck by how many adopted a portrait format - which is somewhat unusual where the wide format I called 'landscape'!

The submission included some unusual subject matter - such as a fire which was VERY eye-catching (by Elisha Enfield). Not least because despite the fact it's quite loosely painted it's very convincing.


Others, such as David Youds, painted the totally ordinary - such as a bus stop in Acrrington which included a message in reverse

Themes and Learning Points

There's a lot of themes this week. I didn't see any of them until I went back and watched again the next morning!

Playing around at the beginning

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

'Watercolour Challenge' returns - on Channel 5

The much loved Watercolour Challenge - a daytime 'feelgood' cult classic - returns to our screens in the UK at 4pm next Monday, 17th January 2022 - and will run for 20 episodes.  

It'll probably run for a lot long longer on the 'on demand' channels if the Channel 4 version which ran for four series between 1998 and 2001 is anything to go by. I was a big fan - but often disagreed with the Judges!

Watercolour Challenge's first episode - on the front at Scarborough

The Changes 

The major changes are that 
  • There are four amateur painters EACH WEEK - all painting the same view at five different locations (so NOT new painters for each episode - with a paint off on Fridays!). I guess this will make it much fairer given that sometimes good painters didn't win their episode because they got a subject they didn't like
  • it's going to be on Channel 5 - instead of Channel 4 
  • Fern Britton is the host - in the role long vacated by the much loved Hannah Gordon. There's a nice article with her about the new programme Fern Britton returns to TV to present Watercolour Challenge
  • the programme is being made by TwoFour - which is part of ITV Studios.

Key Features

The aim is to
blend the artists’ skills with tips for the amateur art lover, glorious views and a daily dose of competition.
  • There are 20 episodes spread over 4 weeks - 5 episodes each week 
  • Broadcast at 4pm each day - making it an ideal programme for this very dim time of year either - to watch either live or on demand.
  • Episodes are filmed at scenic locations around the country - and the views are often very challenging.The locations are:
    • Yorkshire
    • South Wales
    • Devon
    • Cornwall
  • The four painters compete against the clock to capture some of Britain's finest views. They are allowed just three hours for each painting. 
"On some days," she said, "they spend three hours in the rain, cold and wind but we do give them 15-minute breaks every now and then." In the first episode looking over the seafront of Scarborough in North Yorkshire, several of the artists simply ripped up their first efforts.

"That takes courage I think. Everything is going on around them. Some didn't do that in the first episode but by the second location they gained confidence and they would just start all over again immediately." Fern Britton
  • There's a new professional artist each week - who provides mentor support and then judges the paintings at the end of each episode. Army veteran and professional painter Ady Wright acts as mentor and Judge for the Yorkshire week. I found out about the new programme from Lisa Takahashi (Facebook) who was the mentor and judge for the Devon based locations.
You can see Fern below in a short video about the new programme - plus learn about the first three locations

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

A Generous Space and the Artist Support Pledge

Artist Support Pledge now has a real exhibition space as well as an online one.

View of part of A Generous Space

Immersed in pre-surgery stuff - and accordingly not travelling anywhere last November - I missed the press releases about the Exhibition which is now taking place at Hastings Contemporary.

Which accounts for why I've not seen it - but I can tell you about it.

A Generous Space

A Generous Space is a manifestation of the first ever exhibition by the Artist Support Pledge (ASP). This opened on 25th November and moved the artwork from just being online to a space in the Hastings Contemporary Gallery in Sussex. 

Hastings Contemporary

The exhibition has been crowdsourced from Instagram and there were more than 3600 submissions to take part in the show, all made via Instagram using the #aspshows hashtag

The exhibition now includes more than 300 works created by artists from around the world - which gives a slightly less than 10% success rate.

The artwork includes paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, photography, basket making, weaving and needlework. The has travelled to the UK from countries including America, Canada, India, Republic of Moldova, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, and Republic of Ireland. There is also a strong representation from local and regionally based artists.

A view of A Generous Space

The ASP founder, artist Matthew Burrows MBE and a group of selectors selected works to be included in the exhibition. The selection panel included 
  • Kate Bryan – Head of Collections for Soho House
  • Jes Fernie – Curator and writer
  • Julie Lomax – CEO of a-n The Artists Information Company
  • Lakwena Maciver – Artist and 2020/2021 Hastings Contemporary exhibitor
  • Natalie Melton – Creative Director at Crafts Council 
  • Javier Pes – Art writer and editor
  • Sally Shaw – Director of FirstSite, Colchester
  • Jo Baring – Director of the Ingram Collection of Modern British & Contemporary Art
The exhibition lasts until 17 April 2022 - and you can view the exhibition in this video
For a list of artworks available to purchase in this exhibition, please click here.
You can find Hastings Contemporary on Rock-a-Nore Road, Hastings TN34 3DW

On the website it says
All the works featured in A Generous Space – the design for which is inspired by an Instagram grid – have an accompanying label that includes the Instagram details of the artist, so anyone interested in buying the work can get directly in touch with the artist to do just that. The same egalitarian ethos as the online version of ASP.

except, on the basis of the video an the website that doesn't seem to be quite how it works

  • I can't see a label next to the paintings
  • nor can I see where the individual paintings are being profiled online
If anybody would like to help me out with this aspect I'll be pleased to change this comment. 


Matthew Burrows started the Artist Support Pledge on on the 16th March 2020 in response to the COVID19 pandemic. 

The Artist Support Pledge is the blog post I wrote about it back in May 2020

Monday, January 10, 2022

Landscape Artist of the Year 2022 (Series 7) starts on Wednesday!

Series 7 of Landscape Artist of the Year (2022) will be broadcast on Sky Arts starting this Wednesday 12th January 2022 

  • on Sky Arts on Freeview (Channel 11) at 8pm 
  • or live streamed via Now
This post is for those who want to 
  • know what the LOCATIONS were when they filmed last summer (2021)
  • think about entering to paint this summer (2022) to view next year (2023)
  • recap on some of the learning points from previous series

I'm expecting the format to be the same as always 
  • 9 episodes in total (6 Heats + semi-final + Final + Commission)
  • the same 3 Judges plus the same 2 presenters
  • 6 locations for the heats
  • 6 or 8 artists in the Pods in each heat - depending on whether they are reverting to the norm or sticking with the 6 they had in 2020 re. the constraints they were operating under
  • 4 hours total to paint the location the artists are given - from the pod they are assigned (unless you rebel as some have done in the past - and turn round / wander off / etc!)
  • Wildcard artists at each location - with numbers being tailored to the space available
  • the winner gets a £10,000 commission to paint a specific location 
  • coverage via their social media - 

In terms of locations - unlike in the summer of 2020, the location filming went further afield in the summer of 2021!

I haven't found any reference to Heat Locations in print yet - but social media has been MUCH more revealing! I've found various posts by "people who were there" - and it's clear the presenters and judges and the production team have all been to the following for the Heats - plus I found a listing of all the locations and dates! :) 

So this is it
so ONLY five Heats - and not six?? Maybe they didn't get enough decent entries?

  •  Peak District National Park in Derbyshire3rd February 2022: the Final will be at Levens Hall - thank you Kathleen Soriano! This is located south of Kendal in Cumbria - at the gateway to the Lake District National Park. Looks like they had a fabulous sunny day in the gardens with the topiary.....
  • 2nd March 2022: Winners Film - Rochdale Canal