Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Review: Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018

Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 was filmed at Viking Bay at Broadstairs in Kent in June 2018.

Below you can find:
  • more about the professional and amateur artists participating in this heat
  • my commentary on the heat and review of the programme
  • more learning points for future contestants
  • where you can view the exhibition associated with Landscape artist of the Year
Pods on Viking beach at Broadstairs
EITHER they were up incredibly early OR the public don't frequent the beach when it's grey!

This episode had me really wondering why Storyvault Films doesn't do a better job of checking whether people have ever painted plein air before.

The joy of this series comes from watching people who can paint plein air and produce a decent painting at the end of it. The more who can do it the more pleasurable the episode is.

It didn't take too long to suss out this episode was going to be very different from the one last week.

There are six heats - and two were painted at each location. So it's clear that whatever order they are filmed in is not the order they are presented in - otherwise we'd be having Heat 2 of Fountains Abbey this week.

In this instance Episode 2 was actually Heat 4!

[NOTE: At the end there's an update from the Heat Winner about some of the points raised in this post]

The Location: Broadstairs and Viking Bay

Viking Bay, Broadstairs in Kent - with the pods on the beach + sunshine!
How come they originally set up the pods the other way round?

I think this is clearly a view from another day.

The filming took place on the beach at Viking Bay which is actually in Broadstairs (for the initiated - as Broadstairs did not get much of a mention!) on what looked like a very grey and none too warm day - at least in the morning.  BELOW is the actual scene from the pods on Viking Beach

The scene from Viking Beach
Actually it looked extremely cold at times and it was noticeable that some of the artists painting in the pods and on the pier had not contemplated a cold and windy day. I think there were a lot of cold knees. I even spotted one who obviously had a bikini on under her clothes! I'd also add the judges and presenters also looked rather chilled at times!

I'm surprised as we were having a blisteringly hot and sunny summer at the point. Indeed I highlighted the opportunity to visit in Heats of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 (in which you can see the original set up for the pods) - and the set-up day was blue skies and hot - and I decided not to go because I thought it might be too hot!

For any of you who fancy visiting Broadstairs and having a go painting at the same place - and painting to a four hour time limit(!) here's

The Artists

I've found that my blog, Facebook and Twitter are all good for finding some of the people who feature!

A link to the artist's website or site they use to post is embedded in their name. Social media sites are after their name - followed by a brief profile.

Four professional artists

  • Paul Alcock (Facebook Instagram) - who I met in St. James Park two weeks ago!  (see Capturing the Moment - plein air paint out in St James's Park) - a nice chap and a regular plein air painter! Paul is a professional artist, tutor and demonstrator based in Southend on Sea, Essex. He graduated from Camberwell School of Art in 1986 and runs weekly art classes for Adults in Leigh on Sea, Westcliff and Rayleigh - and at various other locations. He also featured in a previous post of mine about Paintings for the Diamond Jubilee.  He uses a traditional approach to plein air painting - but also likes to paint the everyday and contemporary subjects.
  • Charlotte Ashleigh Halton Davies - I can only find a Saatchi website which says very little. She's a 28 year old a mum-of-two who graduated in fine arts from the West Wales School of the Arts. Work in pen and ink.
  • Jen Orpin (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram provides an excellent account of her paintings) - a contemporary figurative landscape painter who predominantly paints urban scenes with oils on canvas, board and wood. She graduated in Fine Art (1996) from Manchester Metropolitan University, lives and works in Manchester and has been a full time professional artist for the last six years. She exhibits with various galleries, and has been selected for various Open art competitions/exhibitions. Her paintings have also featured in the last three series of the BBC1 drama, Last Tango in Halifax, Ackley Bridge and Russell T. Davies’ Queer as Folk.
  • Lynn Wixon (Facebook) - She has been a painter all her adult life who has also taught art to both University Students and the public. Comes from the West Midlands, lived for many years in Sheffield and now lives in live in the small coastal village of Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire. Her main theme is painting Engineering & Architecture in a landscape, usually on the coastline. She started her UK Coastal Tour in 2010 and have pretty much been working on it since then.  I don't remember seeing her work in the RSMA annual exhibition - but I think it should be - because she's a very interesting and effective painter in my view with a stunning series of coastal scenes. 

Four amateur artists

I'm bemused by Sky Arts definition of amateur artist. Do they just go by how artists describe themselves?
  • Barry Westcott (Blog, Facebook Page) - an care worker who now lives on the Isle of Man after five years living in Cyprus. He has not art training and paints photorealistic paintings of landscapes, people and seascapes - from photos. Oddly, on LinkedIn he describes himself as a professional artist.  (Maybe out of date?) . He has one of the more interesting brush grips I've seen.
  • Gary Spencer - has a day job as an art tutor and spends as much time painting as time allows. Again, I'm wondering why he's been grouped under the amateur artists if he is teaching art.  Very many professional artists also teach.
  • Krina Amin (Twitter) - an emerging artist, working and living in East London and also Head of US Strategy at Ethical Corporation. Her website suggests she's much more about painting bodies than landscapes.
  • Katie Rundall - a an amateur collage artist who uses fabrics and stitching and who is a former McMillan Nurse. She brought a sewing machine, an ironing board, an iron and all her fabrics.

Katie Rundall - with her submission


Themes for this episode

There were two themes for the comments picked up by the film crew and producer near the beginning of the programme
  • wanting to win i.e. "why would you enter a competition if you didn't want to win" - interestingly a perspective predominantly voiced more by the male amateurs.
  • the overall lack of preparedness and planning for plein air painting.
Unfortunately it became only too clear that many had
  • no strategy for the day, 
  • no plan of how to complete a painting or artwork in four hours, 
  • not read about how the heats work
  • no prior preparation 
  • no idea about what plein air painting can be like
  • not a clue about what they were doing as they'd never ever painted 'plein air' before
Also the fact that the tide comes in and the water level changes relative to the background and the the sun moves and the light changes seems to have been a surprise for a few....
    For me it reduces what could have been a great episode to one that had so much less impact than it might have.

    All it needs it to enhance the programme even more from the viewers' perspective is for the application form for the competition to also ask THREE FUNDAMENTAL questions - the answers to which should always count for more than any interesting backstory:
    1. Have you ever painted plein air before?
    2. Can you complete an artwork while working plein air in four hours?
    3. What's the URL where we can see your other landscape paintings?
    Now that would really make the Judges work really hard for their fee!

    Interestingly, one of the people who was not used to painting in front of people - and felt out of her comfort zone - adopted a very clear strategy and plan for painting and made the shortlist.

    Two groups of artists seeing the scene differently

    This was the scene confronting the artists at the beginning of the day - or maybe when the production company started filming. (The programme is full of views of the bay from a completely different day when the sun shone - which was a bit misleading!)

    Two of the judges also identified the artists as falling into two groups
    • the imaginative and fantastical who will imagine the colours whatever (eg Gary, Katie) and the abstracted (Krina)
    • those who were more representative, realistic and serious who will be a tad more sombre on a day of muted colours. (eg Paul, Lynn, Jen and Charlotte)
    It's interesting how that translated through to the shortlist and the winner.... I think that's a learning point!

    Use of tablets etc

    Although it was clear that some people had used cameraphones and iPads/tablets to record the scene at the beginning of the day - it did look like most were painting from observation. Not that all were observing what was there!

    I'm beginning to wonder whether Sky Arts have put a ban on working from tablets and ignoring what's in front of them - or at least strongly suggested that those who work from observation are going to earn more points with the Judges.

    Or it could just be clever filming and editing! Difficult to tell - but it's now been two episodes with not much evidence of working from tablets.

    I'd love to hear more on this topic if anybody would care to comment.  (see below for the winner's comments!)

    Learning Points

    If you get invited to participate in a Heat of Landscape Artist of the Year - either in a pod or as a Wildcard Artist:
    • Save yourself some guesswork and research the location
      • check out the location on Google Maps - you can get a lot of insight by zooming in on Google Maps and looking at the satellite version
      • work out the compass points - i.e. where is the sun coming from in the morning and how does this change in the afternoon. It helps with sussing out what might be the best views
      • if you are near water, check the tide tables for that location on the day of the heat - and you'll know when the tide is at its highest and lowest
      • check out Google and see what it has to say are the key features of the area / venue
    • Practice painting plein air - I say this every time I write about art competitions involving plein air painting!  The major benefit is you'll work out:
      • what you need to be comfortable and warm/cool
      • how media misbehaves as the temperature changes
      • how much you can get done in a defined time period
    • Practice completing a painting in four hours with a break in the middle in the context of both 
      • changing light and 
      • varying weather
    • Have a PLAN!
      • work out what you will record at the beginning - to help completion as both weather and light changes over time
      • think about how you will crop what you can see to make it manageable AND a good composition which draws the eye in (you can practice mental cropping everywhere you go - it's great fun!) AND achievable in the time period.
      • know what to do to slow down or speed up the rate at which paint dries in different conditions and/or you work  so you can keep working without mishaps and stay on track with the timeline
      • develop skills in painting alla prima BEFORE you get to the venue!

    The Results

    During the discussion of the final paintings it was clear that the Judges were looking for evidence that:
    • people had observed the place properly and reflected it in their paintings
    • that, even if abstracted or imagined, that the painting still needed to have a 'sense' of that particular place (otherwise why would they need to be there as opposed to working from a photo at home I guess)
    While there were specific aspects they could admire about a number of the paintings - for example the Judges were amazed at how much stitching Katie got done in her fabric collage artwork - it was predictable that the shortlist was going to come from a small number of paintings.

    The artists at the announcement of the shortlist
    (left to right: Katie, Lynn, Paul, Charlotte, Krina, Jen, Barry and Gary)


    I predicted the shortlist correctly about halfway through the episode as approaches to creation began to settle down.  The artists shortlisted were:
    • Jen Orpin
    • Paul Adcock
    • Lynn Wixon 
    and I absolutely agree with the Judges decision.

    The Judging of the Shortlist - including the submission painting

    Here is the line-ups of submission painting and plein air painting

    Jen Orpin

    Paintings by Jen Orpin
    Paintings by Jen Orpin
    I think Jen's submission painting helped considerable with her reaching the shortlist as it's the more impressive of the two - which is unsurprising given she paints urban scenes and not the seaside.

    The Judges remarked how they were both underpinned by a stripping back the subject to make it simpler - and taking a segment of a scene and making it monumental and a monumental scene and making it much simpler. It's only a trained eye that can do that.

    Paul Alcock

    Paintings by Paul Alcock

    As Lynn said, boats have to "sit" in the water - and Paul's boats very definitely did that. His middle distance  building and boats were completely believable - and the muted colours and tones of his boats are consonant with the colour of the sky and the water.  I also like the fact he's got that variation in colour across the water which reflects something we can't see - the depth.

    Kathleen Soriano particularly liked the liquidity of the water and lovely tones and the way the waves took the eye away into the distance.

    Lynn Wixon

    Paintings by Lynn Wixon
    Paintings by Lynn Wixon
    • Tai Shan Schierenberg really liked the clarity of Lynn's marks and vision 
    • I think the graphic very clean nature of her work might have appealed less to Kathleen and Kate who seem to like the painterly rather more.

    However I think
    • her coastal structures series is stunning and her submission painting is wonderful.
    • she was using oil based pigment sticks or acrylic marker pens a lot - but didn't recognise the make. Did anybody recognise them?

    Episode 2 Winners - Overall and Wildcard

    The winner of the Heat in Episode 2 was Paul Alcock - who never said a word about his recent exploits when I met him two weeks ago!  I did remember that the name and face rang a bell (my long term memory is better!) and was thinking I must look for him on my blog this morning!

    I thought it was between him and Lynn. Interestingly both have previous experience of painting the coastline, coastal structures and the sea - and certainly knew what to expect in terms of tides!

    and this is the winner's perspective - and why I know this was actually Heat 4!

    UPDATE: Paul also sent me some comments via Facebook on points raised in this post - which are RECOMMENDED READING for those anticipating competing in future in a plein air event
    Hi Katherine, I had a read of your review this morning. It was really interesting to read your take on it. Yes there were a few cold knees, particularly at the beginning! Reading through I realized that I had actually been pretty well prepared and having painted mainly outdoors for the last 8 years throughout the seasons, twice taken part as a wild card plus entering other plein air competitions such as Paint Out Norwich and Pintar Rapido all helps. There's no ban on tablets that I know of and I did take a few photos along the way just incase but in the end I don't think I used them and just relied on my memory as the scene changed before me. Best wishes Paul

    The Heat 2 Wildcard Winner

    The wildcard painters on the pier soon learned they needed to find any windbreaks they could and it was a bit crowded in parts!

    Wildcard painters

    The Wildcard Winner was Lisa Takahashi (FacebookTwitter, Instagram) who is a Spike Island Printer in Bristol who produces linocuts and paintings and who, in my opinion should have been in a pod!  She recently had a print at the Society of Women Artists annual exhibition where I was a Judge of one of the prizes - and I remember her print!  She spent her time creating her painting which sat on the ground - I think she';d had a bad experience with the wind and her easel.

    This is her blog post about the experience of being a wild card artist. Interesting to note that your speed of response to the rejection slip and invite to become a wild card determines whether you get a place as it's first come first served.

    Note also the 7.15 meet/start time in Broadstairs for all artists! So as I suspected that's why there's nobody on the beach at the beginning!

    Exhibition - Landscape Artist of the Year 2018

    Gallery website

    The exhibition will be at the Clarendon Fine Art Gallery which has been appointed Official Gallery Partner of the popular Sky Arts TV Show Landscape Artist of the Year 2018.

    Our Mayfair gallery will be hosting the series exhibition in collaboration with Sky Arts, showcasing three paintings from each of the eight finalists and including the winning landscape.

    • The exhibition will open on Thursday 6th December between 6-8pm and will continue until Saturday 15th December. 
    • Work from all 8 semi-finalists and the winner will be on show. 
    • The Gallery is at 46 Dover Street, London, W1S 4FF (nearest tube Green Park)

    Next week

    Episode 3 comes from Inverary Castle and grounds at Loch Fyne in Argyll and Bute. Here's a 'taster' of the episodes with some coverage - and pics - of the visit: Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year crew wowed by Inveraray | Argyll & Bute Council (Film in Argyll)

    I assume after that we'll rotate back through the previous locations.

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    More about Landscape Artist of the Year on MAM

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

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