Friday, October 25, 2019

Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 at Smeaton Tower, Plymouth Hoe

One day on and one episode back - this is a review of Heat 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 - located next to Smeaton's Tower at Plymouth Hoe.

It looks as if this heat had nearly as much rain as the heat at Hurstmonceaux Observatory (in the next episode - see my review!)

a grey and rainy day at Plymouth Hoe - with three cloudbursts and lots of wind and not a lot of sun

The Location

Smeaton's Tower is on Plymouth Hoe. It's a HUGE lighthouse with very striking red and white banding.  The pods were located right next to it.

Plymouth Hoe is where, according to one of those good history stories, Sir Francis Drake played a game of bowls in 1588 while waiting for the tide to change before he sailed off with the English fleet to engage with the Spanish Armada.

Smeaton's Tower is the upper portion of Eddystone Lighthouse built by the father of civil engineering John Smeaton. It which was originally built on the Eddystone Rocks, located 14 miles (22.5 km) to the south, in 1759. In 1877, it was dismantled and moved, stone by stone, to the Hoe where it was re-erected.

The weather

Given the challenges of plein air painting in bad weather, I feel as if I need to do a weather update for each location!

more rain and more umbrellas for the wildcard artists
Note the pods in the background - right next to the Tower

It appears the weather changed for this one about every 20 minutes. It certainly rained (a lot) - and the wind certainly blew (a lot) - and those wearing warm waterproof clothes were probably very glad they'd been sensible!

The day of the competition started out sunny, but soon the wind and rain swept in and the temperature dropped. My fingers were frozen but my spirits were high. The weather demanded a stormy sky which practically painted itself. Maggie O'Keeffe
In the run up to the filming day in Plymouth in June, I had been monitoring the weather forecast and a sunny but breezy day was predicted. However, during filming there were three major cloudbursts and lots of breaks for interviews, which certainly made for a challenging environment in which to paint. Tony Munns
Indeed, as we watched the programme, one wildcard artist chatting to Joan Bakewell tried to stop one of her five umbrellas from blowing inside out! She failed!

The Artists

Artists at rest - after the Heat and while the Judges are reviewing their paintings
It's interesting that both amateur artists have recorded the experience of participating in a television programme via a dedicated page on their website - and only one of the professional artists did!

Six Professional Artists

  • William Balthazar Rose - an English painter who has a long and very detailed biography and a studio in studio on Monte Corona in Umbria. Has exhibited extensively and is represented by a number of galleries - and I don't suppose any of them will be ecstatic by his "performance" in the programme.
  • Zosia Olenska (Facebook | Instagram) - an emerging artist based in York. Grew up the daughter of two artists in London and moved to Yorkshire over ten years ago. Won the Jackson’s Art Supplies ‘Atmospheric Acrylics’ competition in 2017. Exhibited with the Society of Women Artists in 2018 and 2019  She's exhibiting at the Windsor Art Fair on November 9th & 10th and and York Open Studios in Spring 2020. This is her submission.
  • Cathy Reddy (Instagram) - an artist very much in need of a website! Comes from Carlow, Ireland. She mainly works in the medium of relief printmaking. Linocuts are her favorite medium. Her work concerns the loss of agriculture, in Ireland. She previously participated in the Knaresborough heat in 2017. 
  • Dante Turner (Instagram) - Participated in Review: Episode 4 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 Nothing much online. A Peruvian artist who lives in Somerset with his husband. He won the Public Choice Prize at Wells Art Contemporary (WAC) Competition and Exhibition in 2016. 
  • Lisa Turner (FacebookTwitter | Instagram) - a formally trained artist, specialising in landscape painting. She is a a co-founder of Abingdon Art School, where I teach on a weekly basis. This is her blog post about painting Smeaton's Tower
  • Andrew Wykes - Born in the UK just outside of London and lives in Northfield, Minnesota. Studied at Richmond upon Thames College, and Epsom School of Art and Design where he received his undergraduate qualifications in fine art. Graduated with an MFA in painting from the American University, Washington, DC. He has taught art for thirty+ years in schools and colleges in the UK, Belgium and the US.  Currently a Professor and Chair of Studio Arts and Art History Department. Hamline University, St Paul, MN. My personal favourite painter in the programme. It turns out that he reminds Tai of his teacher! This is his submission.

Two Amateur Artists

50 Wildcard Artists

Some of the 50 Wildcard artists getting ready to set-up for their four hours

Themes and Learning Points

A dominant vertical and a strong horizontal and an awful lot of water

I'm minded to wonder to what extent the locations chosen this time are preparing artists for Venice - which is the location of the commission. I have a sneaking suspicion the view is going to involve both dominant vertical structures and an awful lot of water!

It seemed to me the challenge with this particular location was working out how to handle the particularly large and dominant vertical - of Smeaton's Tower - and the very obvious and hard to ignore equally strong 180 degrees view of the horizontal of the horizon and land across the water.
I decided at the outset I would 'cheat' the viewpoint for my painting and adopted a more overhead, drone-like view which would enable me to include the complete tower and a lot more of the surrounding landscape. Tony Munns

In the heat, we were given four hours to paint Smeaton’s Tower and its surrounding area. This was a challenging composition as we were placed close to the subject making it very dominant, while the short amount of allotted time required quick decisions as to the canvas size and detailing. When painting a scene, I love that there are often many ways to interpret and represent the same setting, and I could have chosen a landscape format that showed more of the sea and carried round to the port to the left of Smeaton’s Tower. However, I decided to go for portrait, as this would allow me to show the Lighthouse in its full glory. Lisa Turner
Some got distracted and tried to include all the tower and then got the proportions wrong so it in turn looked wrong.

Kathleen commented on how inventive some of the artists were at finding ways to deal with the tower.

The person who chose the right approach was the winner of the heat who did the smallest version of the whole tower! Meaning size is not always important!

Being flexible with your formats

You may like working to specific sizes and formats - but you don't want to be too wedded to them because you don't know when your view is going to need an alternative treatment.

I liked the way Andrew manufactured a panorama out of three smaller boards and some wood tacked across the back. Not quite sure how he managed this - but it seemed to work!

No game plan

One artist had no game plan for the day - and seemed very uncertain as to what to do for a long time. That didn't stop her getting shortlisted - but it did seem a pretty risky strategy to me.

I am reminded that some of the artists last year researched the locations they were told to go to and looked for potential painting locations and investigated what might be the challenges and opportunities online before the Heat started. Nothing to stop others doing the same.....

Finding the beauty on the day - and avoiding the twee

Kathleen was very much of the opinion that those who were best would identify and find the beauty in the ever changing weather, light and landscape and find a way of combining this to produce a good result.

I'm inclined to agree. Those who do well are those are who continuously observant and notice what makes a difference - and how to balance up one attribute against another.

I'm also noticing how her theme for this series seems to be the colour of the toned surface that artists start with - and the extent to which they allow this to shine through. Pink and red are finding favour!

and finally - don't arrive with a gimmick to market your normal artwork

I usually never ever comment in a negative way on an individual artist.

However it took seconds to realise that one artist stood absolutely no chance of going through - and that was the one who had decided to exploit getting chosen for this heat as an opportunity to get people to find out about his paintings of cooks.  I ended up feeling like somebody else had been cheated of their opportunity to shine.....


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The Results

When the time came to do the line-up to hear the shortlist the production team weren't taking any chances. The artwork was lined up inside the tent and the artists were then lined up in front of their work - in the elements!  Apparently this was the point at which the sun came out!
The Lineup to hear which artists have been shortlisted

Episode 1 Shortlist

The artists shortlisted were (in the order they were called)
  • Zosia Olenska 
  • Cathy Reddy
  • Andrew Wykes

The panel of Judges may take the Shortlisted Artists’ Landscape Entry(s) and their Additional Works of Art into consideration during this judging process, and all of the criteria for judging and the decisions of the Judges shall be at the discretion of the Judges and the Producer and shall not be not open to dispute or discussion.
The Shortlist - submissions and heat paintings

As ever the Judges are still focusing on a diversity of paintings for the shortlist. They also commented on how each artists had continued the language of their submission and kept it going.

I cannot emphasise too much the importance of having a coherent and consistent approach to painting as an important characteristic of those who get picked for the shortlist.

Submission and Heat Painting by Zosia Olenska
The Judges said:
  • Kathleen - what Zosia does really effectively is use a device - like a window - for us to look through. In the submission it was the frame of the bridge and in the painting it was the side of the pod
  • Kate - she spent a lot of time on her submission and provided a lot of paintsaking detail in the background. She didn't have the same time today but really threw the eye into the background.

Submission and heat linocut by Cathy Reddy
The Judges were making very positive noises about Kathy at the halfway stage - which is always a good sign - so long as you don;t mess it up in the second half of the day!

The Judges said:
  • Tai - I was impressed by Cathy's close-up barley heads and I didn't know how she was going to move from that close-up to this space and the monumental lighthouse. She's given us something that is inventive and beautiful and punchy and stands its ground against paintings
  • Kate - Cathy was doubly brave to do prints and not use colour. Her strong monochromatic work stands up against the paintings
Submission and heat painting by Andrew Wykes

The Judges said:
  • Kathleen - Andrew's been really clever and taken the bottom section of the lighthouse and allowed it to weight down the entire composition.
  • Kate - This is a very exaggerated panorama. He kept enough of the lighthouse in that we understood what it was and allowed the colour to inform the headland in the background. He has a really sensitive understanding of colour.
Episode 1 Winners - Overall and Wildcard

Waiting to hear who has won
(left to right) Zosia, Cathy and Andrew
The overall winner of Episode 1 was Cathy Reddy with her linocut tondo image of Smeaton's Tower and the bay and landscape in front of Plymouth Hoe.

Cathy hearing she has won!

I think at the end of the day, the ability of Cathy to produce an image which included the whole landscape and the entire lighthouse was influential. I'm guessing she made sketches or took photos at the beginning to provide reference material because she spent most of her time working in her pod with her head down removing lino with her very sharp cutters and getting a sore wrist!  She created the print with just a minute or so to go before the end of the allotted time - and it came out looking great!

You can see from the above image which artwork is the most striking!

I was pleased she won - it's always good to see a printmaker do well. However my favourite painter by far was Andrew Wykes and I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see him again in future.

The Wildcard winner

Landscape by John O'Neill
John O'Neill from Reading - currently the resident artist at the International School Stavanger in Norway - was the wildcard winner with the painting illustrated above. He can't get the programme in Norway so hopefully somebody will send him a copy of it to watch!

He will go forward to the pool of wildcards from which one will be selected for the semi-finals.

The next review

The next review on this blog is of Episode 3 will be located at the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

If you've done any reviews of any of the episodes do get in touch via my Facebook Page and let me know and message me a link when they go live.

In the meantime - see if you can spot yourself in this "behind the scenes" video made by Georgia Maskery who describes herself as an "Actory Presentery TV girl. Creator of Behind The Scenes at Portrait Artist Of The Year for Sky Arts."


More about Landscape Artist of the Year 

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