Friday, November 01, 2019

Review: Episode 3 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 - Millenium Bridge Gateshead

This episode in Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 was the first in which the artists did not experience rain, although the sky changed quite a bit.

It's actually Heat 5 so took place on 5th July - a little while after the first two episodes - hence the better weather and why we're back to rain again next week!

However this week it also had serious competition from the final of Bakeoff!

The pods on Gateshead Quays

It's also the first episode which hasn't featured Kate Bryan - who was in St Thomas’ Hospital at the time with premature rupture of membranes and was waiting for a C section (which happened the next day during Heat 6!). Those who like pics of baby Juno should head on over to her Instagram account.

I had a side bet with myself at the Battersea Arts Centre back in April that there was no way she'd make it through to the end of the heats of Landscape Artist of the year - and I guessed right.

Thank you!

It's amazing to find that three of the participants in this episode have each written a blog post which references my blog in very complimentary terms - and I'd like to thank Fujiko Rose, Camilla Dowse and Keith Tunnicliffe for their perspectives

Links to their posts can be found below.

The Location

The location for Heat 5 / Episode 3 was Gateshead Quays - looking at the Gateshead Millenium Bridge which opened in 2001, is the world's first tilt bridge (it tilts up to let larger vessels through) spanning the River Tyne and an engineering emblem of the region.

The Millenium Bridge, Gateshead
That's a very challenging ellipse to draw never mind paint!

What I'd never realised before is that it's also part of the Arts Quarter and very near to the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art - which inhabits some enormous ex-flour mills built by Rank Hovis and completed in 1950.

This is what the Baltic looks like from the Millenium Bridge
Image: Flickr

The Artists

In the listing below you will find links included to :
  • the artist's website - embedded in their name - for those wanting to know the standard of work by artists who get selected
  • their social media - which follows - should you wish to follow them
  • their submission - IF they've provided an image and I've found it
  • blog posts written about the day - IF they've written one
  • the speeded up video of the overhead camera following their day is at the end
Episode 3: The Artists - after completing their paintings

Five Professional Artists 

There are five professional artists
  • Camilla Dowse  (Facebook | Instagram) Used to be a picture editor in publishing and has now painted professionally for five years. She is based in Henley on Thames. 
    • She's written a blog post about appearing in the programme and opens with the fact she's never seen the programme  and is not a plein air painter! I see Camilla's paintings regularly in London (re. open national art society exhibitions and the exhibitions for art competitions) so knew pretty much what her painting might look like - although it ended up lighter than I was expecting. See below for why you need to read Making A Mark! ;)  
Painting is an activity you tend to do alone so I’m very conscious of needing to get out more, to meet people, and to try to promote my work. I regularly visit the arts blog Making a Mark to see what opportunities there are throughout the year, and it was there that I saw the call for artists for the next series. The application process was very simple. So much so that I’d forgotten all about it until a few weeks later when I got a call......
  • Rhonwen Hayes (Facebook | Twitter |  Instagram) From County Clare in Ireland. She went to art school in Dublin. She has a job as a film set painter. Does not have a website and reveals precisely nothing about herself on her social media accounts. She lives in Ireland 
  • Andrew Hird (Facebook | Instagram) - took early retirement after selling his haulage company. Now lives in the Isle of Wight and tries to paint plein air every day. He considers himself to be a contemporary landscape painter of both land and sea. He has exhibited at the Mall Galleries, Chelsea Art Society, Patchings Festival, and Royal Society of Marine Artists. 
  • Fujiko Rose (Facebook Page) / Instagram) - Lives in Welwyn Garden City. She appeared in Episode 1 last year and impressed with her skill. Since last year she has gained a website - which I hoped she would. She is 21 and works in ink with a dipping pen and brush. She currently works as an artist but also runs Zanshin Studio - a bespoke artisan surface business providing decorative art - with her mother. 
  • Troy Stewart (Instagram) - from New Zealand, now live in London. He is an architectural technician and is doing a diploma in contemporary portraiture at the Art Academy in London. 

Three Amateur Artists

There were three amateir artists
"'I have always loved a blank piece of paper" is probably what sums up my approach to starting an artwork. Achieving the success of becoming a pod artist in the Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 springs from that very same ethos.

  • Paul Graham (Instagram) - a professional photographer for over 30 years and based in Glasgow. He often carries his paints in the boot of his car. He works in acrylic and is not averse to making the medium look like watercolour or oil paint. 
Despite being an award winning photographer, I don't like to work from images as I feel that you can end up with an artwork that resembles a camera image with lens distortion. I’m much happier to sketch away and find something that I can hook into while the subject is in front of me.

50 Wildcard Artists

The 50 wildcard artists were based on a wide area of the Gateshead Quays - which gave them infinite possibilities in terms of what to paint.

Wildcard artists crossing the Millenium Bridge

PS. If you are a wildcard artist in future and are trying to work out where the location might be, do remember that the camera crew want a nice long photogenic walk of you getting there. So if you're asked to assemble on one side of a bridge which you can walk across assume the location for where you will be working will be the other side!

Themes and Learning Points

How to crop a complicated view

The Millenium Bridge complicated the artwork because it's more about what's not there than what is. It's very open and airy and has cables down from the arc to the baseline of the bridge.

The challenge for these heat participants was how to make the bridge fit with the rest of the painting. Was it better to do it as a whole and convey its impact, or just pick a section of it and not convey what the whole looks like. How do you get it to "sit" in its background and avoid it sticking out like 'sore thumb'.

Some take the position given to them in terms of where the easel or table is set up. Some move around within their pod so they get a better perspective on what they want to paint - and where's the best place to view it from. The latter tend to know what will work and what will not - and usually also takes more trouble working through options for where to put the four lines which crop the image and are used to create a painting.

There are limitations as to how far you can move due to the overhead camera - but, in principle, they can move that too!

See Composition - the four most important lines - which I wrote 11 years ago - and provides a few more practical tips!

Sketching as preparation

You can start with an idea in your head How do you realise that?

The best approach to work out how to deliver is probably by producing a sketch in advance of starting on your artwork. Work out the composition, work out the issues and how to address them.
  • Some used sketchbooks and thumbnails - but this means you can neglect the details which might become an issue as you begin to work larger and need to include more detail.
  • Some use charcoal on their canvas - and can end up with very mucky supports their painting
  • Others - such as Camilla - did small colour studies to work out - but what it looks when using small brushes on a small format might change when working on a bigger format - unless you also change the size of your brushes.
Fujiko started out at the composition stage with a very clear idea of what she wanted the final piece to look - an old photo but modernist - with a sense of wood block.

How to work out the wildcard winner before the announcement

The way to work out who is going to win the Wildcard competition is to look at how much camera time the different wildcard artists get.
  • Basically if they don't say anything on camera before the decision then they are 'toast'!
  • If an artist gets interviewed more than once then they are very definitely on a some sort of shortlist.
  • This week it was self-evident who it was going to be when they revealed what their favourite paintings were - and out of two one was being painted by somebody who had not had any camera time!
Have a read about the wildcard winner (see below) and I defy you not to acknowledge that an "interesting back story" may very well be influential in who gets air time.....

Tools: masking tape and sharp edges

I got the sense that some painters seemed to use masking tape and sharp edge tools due to a lack of skills in draughtsmanship. That's not to say more accomplished painters did not also use sharp edges - but it's the way that they used them which was very different.

Tools are not shortcuts which avoid learning how to draw. Plus you also need to know the pros and cons of using them. For example masking tape leaves a very hard edge - which can be a plus or a minus.

A sharp edge can also be used as a guide rather than the way to produce the end result.

The trick with cables (and many other straight lines) is to remember that they aren't all the same - in comparison with that's next to them - or in terms of along their length from top to bottom of the cable.

There were too many heavy dominant monochromatic cables for my liking by those who seemed to be were using the sharp edge as the completed cable.

The key to cables - and other sharp edges is OBSERVATION - and noticing the differences along the line and in relation to its context.

Game Plans and time management

A recurrent question this episode (maybe noticed more because of the absence of Kate) - is whether or not contestants have a game plan. (Although there's a bit of me which wonders whether I pick up themes each week because there is a prompt list somewhere for the Judges)

One artist had a detailed plan of how she was going to work - but failed to deliver what she thought she was doing.

The artist who won had no game plan won the heat. However she knew how to work and the importance of working the composition at the beginning and before she started working on a proper support.

Support for a capability of delivering the best you can do within the time is a product of working on your art on a very regular and knowing what you are capable of - PLUS lots of practice to working within the time limit - and reading my tips from the last series!!

Use the Heats to enhance your preparation

Keith Tunnicliffe came up with a great idea - which is if you "get the call" and find you've got a place in a pod, why not take the opportunity to find out how it works BEFORE your heat.
With everything moving at a pace and with the first of the heats about to commence at Herstmonceaux in East Sussex I look at ways i can speed up the process to ensure I complete on time.
A great incite into the filming and the day ahead comes with watching a whole series of the competition. I choose to watch the first series which has a couple of linocut artists involved. My main reason for watching is soon forgotten as I get carried away with the art and the show! Time to concentrate and actually look at the pos and the artists to see how it all works. Lots learnt here and so straight to my table and lets see how we can improve ...
We decide to pop down to see Herstmonceux Castle to help me familiarise myself with how it all works. A quick call to StoryVault to ensure I am allowed to be there and away we go. WOW, loved it, what an atmosphere, despite the weather. This was a great day out for both of us and the StoryVault people and the 50+ Sky crew were so approachable and so accommodating to everyone.
You're too late to visit a heat prior to next year's application. However if you're really not sure and are umming and erring I think a visit to one of the Heats next year is all you need to make a decision one way or the other for the year after next.


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The Results

Episode 3: Waiting for the shortlist to be announced on Gateshead Quays
The normal process of discussion of each heat painting was followed in arriving at the shortlist.

Episode 3 Shortlist

The artists shortlisted were (in the order they were called)
  • Fujiko Rose
  • Andrew Hird
  • Camilla Dowse

shortlisted artists - Camilla Andrew and Fujiko

The shortlist wasn't a surprise. I'd ruled out most of the artists in the heat fairly quickly (based on process and draughtsmanship) - although I must confess I thought Troy was in with a serious chance of being shortlisted - but probably would not win.

It's also very noticeable that these three are probably the ones who draw and paint the most - and that sheer dedication to putting in the hours on a regular basis is probably what helped to set them apart from anybody who draws or paints less regularly.

Note also that none of them had heavy dominant cable lines which were the same along their entire length.

The following combine comments at the shortlist stage and those made when the shortlist was being assessed.

Fujiko Rose

Drawings by Fujiko Rose
  • Kathleen said Fujiko redeemed her work from "prettiness". She used the white of the paper to define the arc of the bridge - it's very elegant and has a timeless quality. She understands how to lead the eye. The dark balustrade in the front is very clever.
  • Tai liked the graphicness of the submission.  It brings all the detail and texture to the fore - whereas the artwork created in the heat is the reverse - it's very quiet and draws you in.

Andrew Hird

Paintings by Andrew Hird
  • Tai said of the heat painting - that's a good solid piece of painting. It really has a sense of the day and it's put together in a really lovely painterly sort of way. Overall his colours are very tonal within the context of a certain sort of painting tradition but we certainly get the feeling that it's very much related to what people experienced today.
  • Kathleen said what she really liked was he has really drawn the eye into the gap which he found. The strength of his painting today is he that he found the right angle - which he also did with his submission. He's very good at finding that focus point.

Camilla Dowse

Paintings by Camilla Dowse
"I loved Camilla's little sketch" Kathleen Soriano
  • Kathleen said: I really like the arch and hints at the sense of the wires. The oranges and the lovely blues - it's very pleasing. We know she's very effective at painting water - as can be seen in her submission. It's interesting that she knows when to stop in the painting today.
  • Tai said: I'm looking at these buildings at the back which have a sense of Tuscan villas on the hillside

Comments about the work which was not shortlisted


  • like the amount of sky relative to the river
  • got a sense of where he was standing 

Not so positive / more critical 

Worth a review to think what you can avoid in future
  • rushed and not thought through
  • it's unstructured and fails to give a sense of solidity
  • what was promised did not appear
  • I don't know what I'm looking at
  • the colours are bonkers

Overall winner of Episode 3

DO NOT FORGET when assessing the shortlist......
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.
Tai is clear that each of the shortlisted artists were true to their individual voices - which only serves to emphasise why the submission needs to be very representative of "the way you make art".

Being seen to have a mature worked out style is seen as very important - whatever the age of the artist.

Episode 3: Waiting to hear the winner

The overall winner of Episode 3 was Fujiko Rose - who was very surprised.

This is a video of her day - I love the lunch bit in the middle. Artists have got to eat - but that doesn't mean to say they need to desert their pod!

LAOTY_S5_HEAT5_CAMI_FUJIKO_ROSE from Storyvault Films on Vimeo.

My own view is I think the three were very even - you could make a case for pros and cons for each.

I think maybe Fujiko edged the other two because her artwork was very different - whereas I think we can expect to see more artists who paint like Andrew and Camilla in the Final. The judges do very much like making sure a diversity of approaches and styles are represented in both Heats and the the Final.  They want three very different artists in the final - to enhance the tension!

Fujiko has written a lovely post about her experience of the day (e.g. how she managed to practice the wrong view in advance) - in which she is kind enough to mention Making A Mark at the end.
I’ve made the day sound very tense but that was just when I was drawing and feeling panicked, overall I had a lot of fun, I loved talking to the judges and the hosts, I cannot express how kind and supportive they all were. Getting to meet and talk to the other artists was very valuable and one of my favourite parts of the show, also if you’ve seen the episode they were so incredibly talented the show should put out a list of the artist there so take a look at them!
TIP (re. her post): when they tell you a location - get on Google Maps and Streetview and see what you can see FROM that location!

The Wildcard winner

The painting of the Baltic which made Paul Ashton the wildcard winner

The Wildcard Winner was Paul Ashton from Bradford. He studied figure drawing under Michael Stewart at Jacob Kramer and completed his BA in Contemporary Art Practise (now Fine Art) at Leeds Metropolitan University.
Born in the 60s, grown in Leeds, scared in Los Angeles. Matured in Yorkshire. Made it, then broke it, loved and lost and saved from the bottle after some time in the clink.
The wildcard winner
I imagine that given we know that the Final is Battersea Power Station that Paul Ashton's painting may have just added him on to the shortlist for the semi-finals (as in "more likely than not" to be the wildcard painter who is added in at the semi-finals).

The next review

The next review is of Episode 4 - which is at Herstmonceaux Castle in Sussex - so I think we'll be back to rain after a blast of sunshine from the North East.

I already know the names of the participants - and if you are from Storyvault Films and are reading this you might want to reflect on why that is..... ;)