Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Review: Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 - Studley Royal Water Garden

Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 was held at Studley Royal Water Garden - a Georgian landscaped water garden situated in the wild and wooded valley of the river Skell in Yorkshire.

It was the third heat to be both wet and a grey day which took some time to improve - which is somewhat ironic given we had such a hot and very sunny summer this year.

It also threw up an interesting conclusion - which is discussed below. I'd love to hear your views too... (which you can add on my Facebook Page)

Wildcard artists walking over the lake to their location for painting

The Location: Studley Royal Water Garden

Studley Royal Water Garden from way up high above it
The bridge that the wildcard artists (above) are walking over is at the end of the straight canal.
The problem with the Water Garden is it looks great from above, but when viewed from the lakeside - which is where the pods were - it mainly just looks like flat water. (I know I've been there and was greatly underwhelmed by it - until I got some way above it!)

The View FROM ABOVE the Pods
Look at how flat it is - and how much flatter it will be for the artists

The Artists

This week there were five women and three men - and seven painters and one printmaker.

Six professional artists

I'm never very sure why the artists get ordered on-screen. I prefer to be neutral and list them in alphabetical order by surname - links to their websites are embedded in their names and other social media accounts are also listed if self-evident in Google.

It's always interesting when doing these profiles to see which of the professional artists are media and event savvy and have found ways to raise their profile off the back of their television appearance.

  • Dorothy Morris (Facebook Page | Twitter) - Lives and works in Carmarthenshire in South West Wales. She has a degree in Fashion and Textiles, an MA in Fine Art and is a part time Art Teacher (1979 to present). She works in a wide range of materials including textiles, ceramics, mixed media and more traditional mediums such as watercolours and acrylics. She also runs the Greenspace Gallery and Tea Shop in Carmarthen - which also supports charitable endeavours.
  • Alexander Pemberton - Graduated from Chelsea School of Art in 1981. Paints from life mainly by the Thames in Greenwich and also in the streets and areas of London he has lived – previously the East End, now Greenwich and Deptford. He's had solo exhibitions of his landscape paintings at two reputable galleries Abbott & Holder and Chappel Galleries. This is the painting he submitted. Given his experience of painting from life I was somewhat puzzled by his apparent lack of confidence on the programme - and use of a 'prop' which is obviously not the way he normally paints landscapes.
Anthony Eyton has called Pemberton’s paintings ‘deliberate and distilled’.
  • Jessica Rose (Facebook Page | Twitter | Instagram) - a painter printmaker who lives in Ealing and paints in watercolours and oils and makes hand-pulled original prints using techniques including linocut and etching. She also runs classes in Hanwell several times a week teaching drawing and painting skills. 
  • Lucy Smallbone (Facebook) - Specialises in modern landscape painting and prefers to tends to work with oil paint on board as it makes for more interesting marks. She did her foundation diploma in Art and Design at Falmouth; graduated with a 1st class degree in painting from City and Guilds of London Art School and then did a Master Degree at the Slade School of Art where she won several awards for her work, including the 2015 Duveen Travel Prize - which she used to travel to Chernobyl and paint the landscape there. For those interested in learning about oil painting, She's currently delivering a course on Introduction to Oil Painting this term at the Art Acdemy. She's also got two solo art exhibitions
    • Edgelands at Fiumano Clase (25 October - 15 December 2018)
    • an exhibition at HSBC, London, December 2018 

Two amateur artists

Oddly after a week when we had three amateur artists with well developed websites, this week we have two artists who I can't find online.
  • Giles Woodward - a full time Art Teacher in a state secondary school who is also an urban landscape painter who sells his work. This is his blog post about his submission and experience
  • Anne Goh - not sure if I've got the spelling correct. 


It was good to see that at least two of the artists (Lucy and Jessica) used a sketchbook to work out potential subjects. I'm always surprised not to see more of the artists use sketchbooks to work out cropping, tonal patterns, colour palettes etc.  I loved the look of Lucy' sketchbook - and she had followed the advice from last week - to research the area and look at what it looks like via online pics in advance of the Heat.

Much of my commentary comes below in relation to the themes and the outcome of the heat.

Learning Points | Themes for this episode

As with all my other blog posts, I tried to detect some learning points within this episode

Be different

I've got people who participated this year corresponding with me behind the scenes. One of the more recent comments was to make sure you do something different for the digital submission - so you stand out and aren't one of the green English landscapes

I did hear Kathleen say that they liked it when urban landscapes are submitted - as landscape painting is not just about the rural perpective.

The submission by Bridget also had a slightly fantasy aspect to it - it certainly looked very different to a conventional landscape - although had recognisable features within it. It reminded me of Peter Doig.

The colours used by Lucy were vivid and unreal - which fits with her style of landscape painting and also of the place she was painting - and they certainly made her painting stand out and get noticed.

Get out of your pod!

One of the things I've not seen a lot of before is artists getting out of their pod and going off looking for a more inspiring view / perspective.

However this time they did!

I'm not in the least bit surprised, given the perspective on a very flat lake, that some of the artists decided to get out of the pod and walk some distance to find something more interesting. Some took a camera / cameraphone with them and at least one (Jessica) took a sketchbook.

This inevitably means that the artists who took phones are then working from digital images which also means they don't have to cope with the changing light, weather etc etc etc.

Speaking personally I'm somebody who simply could not do a competition like this because I have to work on something that 'speaks' to me. That's not to say you can't find an angle - but if it doesn't grab you from the off, the usual result is what feels like a second-rate drawing/painting.

What to do when you don't know what to do

We had some artists with major attacks of nerves in this episode resulting in a lot of nervous activity at one extreme and what seemed to be a lot of pondering at the other.  That's nothing to be ashamed of - in fact, it's entirely normal. The issue is how do you then work your way through the nerves to achieve an outcome that is positive. Essentially the same issue that actors face before going on stage or in front of a camera - or a sportsmen faces before a major challenge where they need to perform NOW!

One of the effects of being nervous is you can lose confidence in your decision-making abilities and don't know what to do for the best.

Techniques used by the artists in this heat to confront their nerves and enable them to paint included:
  • Keep ladling the paint on to the support. I'm not quite sure why Bridget's painting looks nothing like the ones on her website, but I'm prepared to speculate that "keep on painting" was at the back of her mind in terms of how to meet the challenge of painting in front of a camera. (See last week - re 'Knowing when to stop')
  • Give yourself something you can paint. Sometimes you need to limber up and start painting by painting something completely different. Portrait painters are well known for producing small still life studies.  Was this why Alexander decided to introduce a vase into the landscape? I could find no rhyme nor reason behind it.
  • Produce more than one painting.  It's always wise to turn up for an event like this with a choice of supports given you've no idea what the subject is going to be. It's also a good idea to try out different options if nothing grabs you to start with - and then decide which you think will work best. This is the strategy that Lucy seemed to adopt. However if you keep going like this all the way through the heat, you can find yourself with very limited options as you approach the deadline.....

Visual "trickery"

We had three who took an unconventional approach to a landscape
  • Greg Mason created two paintings of alternative perspectives on the garden - one of a completely symmetrical part of the garden and the other looking out from the temple at the garden. I thought it was rather odd but very effective. I just wished it was a little less 'colour neutral'
  • Alexander Pemberton put a rectangular vase on the table. I couldn't work out why. Until I saw his painting at the end and realised it looked like his other paintings which included tower blocks
  • Lucy Smallbone ignored all the grandeur and artifice of the Georgian watergarden and after a number of false starts, she cropped one of the statues to essentially a small bust view and added green into the background. It took nerve to think this might be OK as a landscape.

When is a landscape a landscape?

I was intrigued by what Sjy Arts and/or the Judges think a landscape is. 
Is it anything which isn't a portrait, still life, fantasy art, etc etc?
  • One of the submissions is, as one of the Judges pointed out, strictly speaking an Interior. 
  • One of the Heat Paintings I would describe as a 'still life'. 
  • Another of the artists actively introduced a still life object into his painting.

After last week's heat, I came away thinking a landscape was something that gave a proper sense of place - as experienced by the artist - but that it actually needed to include something we recognised as a landscape - and that place.

So what's the definition of a landscape - and do the guidelines need to be a bit clearer on this topic?

According to the Tate
Landscape is one of the principal types or genres of subject in Western art
According to the Encylopedia Britiannica
Landscape painting, the depiction of natural scenery in art. Landscape paintings may capture mountains, valleys, bodies of water, fields, forests, and coasts and may or may not include man-made structures as well as people. Although paintings from the earliest ancient and Classical periods included natural scenic elements, landscape as an independent genre did not emerge in the Western tradition until the Renaissance in the 16th century. In the Eastern tradition, the genre can be traced back to 4th-century-CE China.
According to Visual Arts Cork (who I really rate) - on their Landscape Painting (1500-present) page they have this....
DefinitionIn fine art, the term 'landscape' - from the Dutch word 'landschap', a patch of ground - describes any painting or drawing whose "principal subject" is the portrayal of a scenic view. Such scenery encompasses meadows, hills, mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, forests, coastal views and seascapes. The view depicted may be that of a real place, or it may be an imaginary or idealized scene.
So what's the Sky Arts definition of Landscape? 

The Results

This was the line up of Heat Paintings....

Paintings from the Heat
By: (left to right) Lucy Smallbone, Greg Mason, Jessica Rose, Bridget Collins, Giles Woodward, Anne Goh, Alexander Pemberton andDorothy Morris
.....and this was the line up of artists participating in the Heat at Studley Royal for Episode 4.

(Left to right) Lucy Smallbone, Bridget Collins, Giles Woodward, Greg Mason, Alexander Pemberton, Jessica Rose, Dorothy Morris and Anne Goh

Episode 4 Shortlist

Shortlisted artists' paintings - submission and the Studley Royal Painting
The artists shortlisted were (in the order they were called)
  • Lucy Smallbone
  • Greg Mason
  • Anne Goh
The Shortlisted Artists
(left to right: Anne Goh, Greg Mason and Lucy Smallbone)

The Shortlisted artists with their heat painting
Here are the line-ups of submission painting plus plein air painting for each artist - and below are the same paintings in the order they are lined up in the above photo.

I'm going to quote what they said re. the artists and their paintings to try and explain their eventual selection of who would go forward to the semi-final.

Submission and Heat Painting by Lucy Smallbone
The Judges said:
  • Tai liked "Lucy's solution to this vast landscape" He loved the painting. (Maybe because he loves that sort of painting?)
  • Kathleen said "She's identified a mood within this landscape by revealing this sculpture, this torso" and also commented that she's walked through this landscape - even if that's in her mind - and this is what she has pulled out.
  • Kate considered it was her unique take on the place - due have a very expressive response to the place. (Does that actually say anything? I think one could actually say that about ANY of the Pod or wildcard artists!)
I think Lucy is a good artist - and I make that judgement having looked at her website. However I'm not sure her painting on the day is a landscape painting.

However I noted how well the two paintings looked next to one another given the very striking use of orange.

While I understand that this is a painting produced by an artist experiencing a place, for me it suggests rather more that it fits with her Chernobyl paintings. I was also puzzled as to why an artist who can very clearly paint landscapes couldn't on this occasion.

More comments below.....

Submission and Heat Paintings by Anne Goh
The Judges said:
  • Kate felt her painting was very traditional and very well conceived. She liked the bronze coming through from the background and also the slightly less finished feel of the heat painting
  • Tai commented that she had a great sense of the mood of the place i.e. what it would look like after everybody had left. He thought he understanding of how to create an atmosphere through light was extraordinary.
Submission and Heat Paintings by Greg Mason

The Judges said:
  • (Kathleen) I totally applaud Greg's ambition today. He's very cleverly fooled me. I wasn't expecting him to peel away something (the tape) at the end to reveal the two paintings. She also made a very astute comment that his paintings are all about moving from one place into another
  • Kate liked the fact the painting on the left goes to nothing at end of the perspective - in contrast to the painting on the right which focuses in on a sculpture at the equivalent place
  • Tai said It feels very intelligent and intellectual and I like that about it.
For me these two paintings were by far the most thoughtful of the shortlisted artists.

For me there was no doubt he was my Heat Winner - however I had a sneaking suspicion that Lucy might just edge him because her way of painting is liked more by Tai and Kate.

This was how Greg painted his two paintings

Episode 4 Winners - Overall and Wildcard

In a Landscape Artist of the Year, the Judges opted to choose two artists.

The winners of Episode 3 were Lucy Smallbone AND Greg Mason.

Bottom line, IMO the painting produced in the heat by Lucy Smallbone, while very accomplished is NOT a landscape painting. It tells me nothing about the place. I believe that
  • the Judges liked it because it was a good piece of contemporary painting - period.  
  • the reason they ALSO chose a second artist who had produced two much more conventional landscape paintings "in one" was to avoid being howled down by the public (and the sponsors?)! (i.e. they wanted to put her through and had to come up with a rationale!)
Regular readers will know I am no fan of Judges who change the rules to suit their personal tastes - or of competitions that fail to provide adequate guidelines and leave it all up to the Judges. It's all just down to personal taste then.

I think Greg was a worthy winner and that Lucy has a great future in front of her.

The Twitterati were not impressed......

The Wildcard Winner

Amanda Bradbury being told she's won the Wildcard Entry

The Wildcard winner was Amanda Bradbury (Facebook Page) who is a Wildlife Artist and Illustrator based in Gloucestershire. Her wildlife paintings contain illustrative landscapes of natural habitats.

This is the painting which included a strong sense of the rhythm of the weather and the place.

As Amanda commented, they'd been drenched and battered and some canvases ended up in the lake!  One has to admire what the wildcard artists come up without the benefit of the shelter of a pod!

The Wildcard winner - painted from the other end of the lake.

Next week

Next week, the team are back in Broadstairs in Kent and the pods are turned 90 degrees to give different views of the beach and town.

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