Friday, October 19, 2018

Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year

The Landscape Artist of the Year competition and television series hosted by Sky Arts television kicked off this week in a spectacular setting.

To round off what feels a bit like "Making A Mark does Plein Air Week" I've got below:
  • an overview of how to view the series
  • a note of how to enter next year's competition
  • a review of Episode 1 - at glorious Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire - including mini profiles of the artists and links to their websites and LOTS of Learning Points!
  • plus lots of references to past blog posts and tips about plein air painting at the end!
The landscape pods in front of the ruins of Fountains Abbey


Episodes - Heats, Semi-Final and Final


This is the fourth series of the show, which is produced for Sky Arts by London and Glasgow-based independent production company Storyvault Films. The audience for the programme has grown with every series to date.

You can view Season 4 and the episodes relating to the Heats, Semi-Final and Final each week
  • on Tuesday evening at 8pm on Sky Arts
  • anytime you like using the NOW TV app to watch on a mobile device (which is what I do - see the post at the end about how to do this)
  • PLUS if you get Now TV you can watch ALL the episodes from Seasons 1, 2 and 3!
The locations for the various episodes which follow Episode 1 are as follows - together with the dates of the first broadcast on Sky Arts

The Heats


These involve eight artists - a mix of professional and amateur - and some 50 wildcard entries painting nearby
  • Tuesday 23rd October - Viking Bay 
  • Tuesday 30th October - Loch Fyne 
  • Tuesday 6th November - Studley Royal 
  • Tuesday 13th November - Broadstairs Beach 
  • Tuesday 20th November - Inveraray Castle 

Semi Final


This comprises the winners of the Heats
  • Tuesday 27th November - (Semi Final) - Felixstowe Port 

Final

If it sticks to the recipe, this should be the best three from the Semi-Final
  • Tuesday 4th December Double-bill - (Final) Greenwich Park and The Winner's Film

The prize for the winner this year is a prestigious commission from the Imperial War Museum to create an artwork to tie in with the centenary of the 1918 armistice.

Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2019


Some 1,600 artists entered for the 2018 competition - and they were whittled down to just 48 artists competing across six heats.

Want to compete next year? You might want to follow my reviews where I try to analyse:
  • who got selected for the heats and why
  • why people win a heat
  • what created a barrier to winning a heat
You can find details of how to enter Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 - but you have until 11th May 2019 to submit your entry

I'd STRONGLY RECOMMEND you watch this series first - and read my blog posts!

Episode 1 - Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2018


I covered the judges, presenters and how to watch this programme in Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 starts tonight earlier this week - so I'm not going to repeat myself.

Instead we'll get straight into the episode

The Location


The location for Episode 1 is Fountains Abbey one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England.  I well remember being completely overwhelmed by it when I visited it. It's absolutely HUGE and it's surrounded by water and trees and a large expanses of flat ground. Making it an absolute ideal location for a competition like this!

Fountains Abbey
You can read more about what happened in the four hundred years between it being founded and when it was ruined following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII on Wikipedia

What it must have felt like to the competitors is anybody's guess. It's quite nerve-wracking enough painting live for a television show without also being confronted with such an imposing structure!

Learning Points


The key for me - in the context of a location like this - was about what they chose to do - which demonstrated their talent and provided them with a view which they could also finish in the four hours they have to paint.

In a sense you could tell very early on who might get to the end and win the heat - by how they started. If you don't know who won, just review those early profiles of the artists and see what they tell you about their ability to deliver.

For me, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that judging a competition like this is not unlike interview people for a job - where you can find yourself making early decisions about candidates based on what they wear and how they walk through the door and greet you. Early impressions count for a LOT!

The Artists 


In the listing below:
  • a link to the the artist's website is embedded in their name - for those wanting to know the standard of work by artists who get selected
  • links to their social media follows - should you wish to follow them

There are five professional artists:

  • Jonathan Hargreaves - He won Heat 2 last year and as a result reached the semi-final in last year's competition.  You can see a speeded up video online of him painting in last year's competition. He works as a a multidisciplinary illustrator and artist. His paintings in both competitions are on a large landscape format board with an orangish surface.
  • Frances Lemmon - a professional artist living and working in Guernsey. She teaches art, works in oil, acrylics, pastels and and abstracts her shapes and colours and exhibits in Guernsey and Jersey.  Her painting in this heat was done in acrylic.
  • Carl Knibb - (Facebook Page) -  born in Birmingham but has been living and working in Lichfield, Staffordshire for nearly a decade. He's an associate of the RBSA. He was the winner of 2016’s ‘Capture the Cathedral’ competition, where his painting ‘Pilgrims’ was hung alongside works by J.M.W.Turner within Lichfield Cathedral (making him a 'shoe-in' for this heat! During the competition he was painting in acrylics on board, after producing a quick concept sketch in watercolour.
“When I applied to be a competitor I submitted a painting of Bird Street, Lichfield. I really didn’t think I had any chance. Hundreds of fantastic artists send in their work every year, so when I got the call telling me I was through to the competition I was completely bowled over.”
  • Fujiko Rose (Facebook Page) / Instagram) - She is 20 and works in ink with a dipping pen and brush. She currently works as an artist and runs Zanshin Studio - a bespoke artisan surface business - with her mother. It produces wallpaper and one of these now relates to Fountains Abbey! She has a domain name booked but no website as yet - but I'm hoping she'll get one soon!
  • Haidee-Jo Summers ROI ARSMA (Facebook Page) - Lives in Lincolnshire. She has won a number of awards for her painting while exhibiting regularly at the Mall Galleries with various national art societies and plein air events. She writes regularly for The Artist magazine, her first book ‘Vibrant Oils’ was recently published by Search Press and there are associated APV films on DVD with the same name.  Her work is very attractive.  During the competition she was painting in oil on board.

...and three amateur artists

  • Will Huggett (Instagram) - Now a UK based Illustrator specialising in Book Jackets and Narrative. Recently he was an illustration student doing a BA at Falmouth University. Below is his submission
  • Sam Weston - an artists who used to be a street artist - but no longer has the legsl for it - and now produces artwork using stencils and spray paint. 
  • Kate Rowe - who is a textile artist creating artwork from materials and stitching.


The wildcard entry


In addition, there were 50 artists who represent the wildcard entry. They painted a different view of the ruins in a different place.

The 50 wildcard artists arrive to set-up

The review of the artwork entries


Before the heat gets going the Judges review the artwork entered with their submission.

Viewing the artwork submitted by artists as their entry into the competition. Note the very different sizes!

It was good to see some innovative art-making in this episode. It was very apparent that some amateur artists were selected because they produced artwork in interesting ways e.g. the stencils by Sam Weston and the textile art produced by Kate Rowe.

Learning Point


  • The size of the artwork entered as part of the submission can vary enormously
  • Ultimately it's whether the artwork continues to impress in real life - as opposed to when a digital image is seen on a screen - which counts in terms of the impressions created - and the judging at the end.
  • The key think to remember about this artwork is:
    • it's what helps get you in - when judged digitally
    • it's what helps get you shortlisted at the end 
    • it's very much taken into account when judging the Heat Winner because the artwork is reviewed with the plein air painting at the end of the heat
    • if your work is innovative you may well find this works to your advantage

The four hours of painting


I made notes while I watched the video - and with every review I try to
  • convey my thoughts on the episode (they can be a bit random!)
  • identify learning points for artists wanting to try next year - or just plein air paint for themselves
I always wonder why people are selected who clearly sent in entries which took them a very long time to produce

This year I also wondered where the iPads as memory joggers had gone forever. Maybe the comments in previous times about people standing in front of a view and painting from an iPad have hit home? I'll wait to see what happens in upcoming episodes!

I love seeing the short clips of speeded up painting as you really get a sense of how each individual artist approaches their work.

It was nice to see a recent art student get a break to appear on the show. However I wondered if the size of the artwork he produced was the sort of size he liked to work with (he produced the smallest painting by far for the submission) or whether he was more concerned about not messing up on television.  I guess at this stage of his career it's more important to have been selected for a heat on his CV and avoid painting badly in front of people when you're trying to make your career in art.

It was interesting to see that Nick Grove, the winner of the Wild Card entry, was somebody who very much embraced the subject and found a composition that worked extremely well with both the monumentality, the lighting and the setting.  He has a great website - but also see his Facebook Page.

The wildcard winner

Learning Points


You can always tell which are the seasoned plein air painters as they can produce a painting within the four hours allowed - and not be thrown by the change in light/weather.
  • The seasoned plein air artist inspects the weather forecast so know whether any sun is likely to last - and knows what they need to do at the outset if the weather or light is likely to change later on from very sunny to cloudy eh produce a watercolour sketch or take a photo to record where the shadows were.
  • Those who have been painting plein air for ages also know how to choose a size and a subject that they can finish within the four hours
  • Plein air painters who can draw out a good composition on their support will always win out - and gets awards and sell their paintings - over those who just do a representation of a scene without exercising their minds too much about composition!

The final review


Unlike Portrait Artist of the Year, the landscape doesn't get a chance to say which artist's work it liked best! ;)

Also the sandbags on the easels means there's no swopping around of easels to determine which is the best artwork - the judges have to use their eyes alone.

The presentation of the artwork for the judges
The Artists Lineup

The artists then get to hear who has been chosen for the shortlist - and who has won!

The shortlist


After the review of the paintings minus the artists, a shortlist of paintings is determined - referred to as the shortlist.

The shortlist for this heat were - in order they were called
  • Haidee-Jo Summers - which came as no surprise to me
  • Carl Knibb - also not a surprise
  • Fujiko Rose - which I was pleased about as I think she's huge talented - she ought to be entering more art competitions as well as drawing designs for wallpaper and cushions!
To judge the overall winner, the judges then viewed the artwork produced on the day with the submission work.  See what you think....

Here are my thoughts

Haidee-Jo Summers produces consistently good and impressive plein air paintings with excellent compositions.  She also has an ability to handle very complex subjects and indeed likes complex subjects and finding ways to making them work. This skill comes from very many years of very regular plein air painting, honing her craft and her trade and making a professional career for herself.  She also has an ability to work time - I'm assuming the shot of her sat on a chair having a hot drink was linked to the fact that she had completed her painting before time was called! She is a very worthy member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and being asked to write a book and articles about painting with oils. Plus her paintings are on exhibition at two exhibitions this week at the Mall Galleries and the Menier Gallery.

Haidee-Jo's work is just full of sunshine. She really understands how to capture the light in her workTai Shan Schierenberg
Haidee-Jo Summers
The Infirmary complex and tunnels (which canalise the river) by Haidee-Jo Summers
Her two works up for review

It was clear from the outset that Carl Knibb was an impressive - and very fast painter - and that he is not thrown when light changes even if he has to work through the challenge to come out the other side. He is also very reflective and realistic (doesn't try to kid himself!) and knew exactly what was wrong with his painting at different stages and what he needed to tackle.  It was also interesting to see what a painter who loves contre-jour and painting light does with a subject where the lighting is entirely different - and then changes!
He's a fabulous painter and a very fast painter
Tai Shan Schierenberg
Carl Knibb painting in the afternoon after the sun and the blue skies have disappeared
Fountains Abbey by Carl Knibb
Carl Knibb's artwork - up for review
I found Fujika Rose's pen and ink work to be utterly charming and extremely accomplished - even more so given her age.  I think she has an amazing talent and a very sophisticated approach to producing her drawings. She also has a great grasp of what is possible, how to finish off within a timescale - and how to elevate its impact by the addition of a tiny amount of bling!

This is her submission work.


Fujika Rose applying 'not real' gold leaf  - with Tai Shan Schierenberg
Fuji's artwork - up for review
I predict a great future for all of them!

Although I think both Carl and Fujika might learn a thing or two from Haidee-Jo's website!

Learning Points


This competition is very much not for the plein air painter who usually finishes their plein air painting off in their studio at home!

If you want to enter practice producing - and completing - lots of plein air paintings beforehand within 3 hours. This then allows time for being interrupted, interviewed and filmed during the four allowed for the painting.

The Heat 1 Winner


Carl Knibb was extremely surprised to find he had won. It was so nice to see an artist who had genuine respect for the achievements of his fellow artists.  Also nice to see that he finally recognised that he needed to believe in himself a bit more!

My own view is that the painting he entered played a significant part in his win.

This is Carl Knibb's blog post about his win - and the experience of the competition so far.

Learning Point

  • Believe in yourself and your ability to perform when faced with a challenge
  • Always be nice to the other contestants!


On to Heat 2 and Viking Bay in Broadstairs Kent - and another artist with an ironing board!


and finally...


PS I thought Stephen Mangan proved to be an excellent replacement for Frank Skinner - affable, relaxed but 'on point' when it came to commenting. I LOVED his comment to Carl Knibb about the status of his paintings (plural) after 20 minutes!


More about Landscape Artist of the Year on MAM

If you don't have Sky then you can watch via the Now TV app - see my previous post
How to watch Sky Arts - Portrait Artist of the Year 2018 without subscribing to Sky!

More about Plein Air Painting on MAM

For many years I awarded the The Painting Plein Air Plus Prize

The Painting Plein Air Plus Prize for excellence in plein air painting plus a strong commitment to sharing information

The past winners are:
  • 2011: Enrique Flores (4ojos
  • 2009 shared by: 
  • 2008 shared by: 


There has been much reference on this blog to plein air painting and painters over the years. Here's a selection of blog posts.

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