Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Review: Episode 6 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 - Drake's Island

This my final review of the Heats of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2019. Next week it's the semi-finals - and the week after that it's the Finals it's all over until next year!

The Location

The location was again Plymouth Ho! This time the artists had Smeaton's Tower lighthouse behind them and the view was of the picturesque west country coastline - including Drake's Island off the coast.  It also included the architecture of buildings along the Grand Parade and the small port in front of them.

View of the pods in Hoe Park on on Plymouth Ho!

It looks as if the sixth episode to be televised is actually Heat 3 - which had much better weather than the second heat on the following day - which was then broadcast as the first episode!

It also explains why Kate has made a reappearance as she's not yet in hospital having her baby - as she was in last week's episode!

The weather

The day was a huge challenge for painting in terms of weather. Starting off with a considerable amount of sea fog, very low and grey skies and lots of rain.

Then by midday the weather was improving - and by the end of the afternoon there was lots of blue sky and fluffy clouds

Beginning of the day - and about to start
Time to finish the paintings

Episode 6: The Artists 

5 Professional Artists

  • Pavel Isupov (Instagram) BA (Hons) Painting at Edinburgh College of Art 2015 – 2018. Has exhibited widely including at RSA New Contemporaries 2019. This is a link to his submission
  • Paula Mitchell  (Instagram) - a studio and plein air artist from Hampshire. BA Honours in Illustration from Portsmouth University. Professional career as a graphic illustrator alongside her work as an artist. Read about her experience of being invited to participate in the Heat
  • Tony Parsons  (Facebook | Instagram) - a full time artist who paints every day - with approximately half his paintings completed plein air. He frequently has paintings exhibited at the Mall Galleries He also drives the Brighton lifeboat!
  • Mike Skinner  (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - Works as a freelance artist and designer in rural Gloucestershire and Central London. Has produced art on commission for architects, designers and commercial organisations for the last 15 years (He has an extremely nice page on his website of his paintings in situ). Has exhibited in the RA Summer Exhibition, prestigious art competitions and at a wide variety of venues.
  • Lisa Takahashi  (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) Got through to the semi-finals of the 2018 competition as the Wildcard Winner from the Heats. Over 10 years' experience in teaching linocut and painting

3 Amateur Artists

  • Emma Lord  (Facebook | Instagram) Most of her landscapes are based on her own photographs taken locally and are predominantly sky-scapes and landscapes in the Ribble Valley and Bowland
  • James Murch  (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - based in Paignton in Devon. He's spent many years practising the classical approach to painting and sight size. He prefers to work entirely from life in front of the landscape he's painting - even if it involves several visits to complete a painting - as it did with his submission.
  • Steven Rigby  (Facebook) An accomplished watercolour artist who sketches all the time. I know little else about Steven as he doesn't have a website - but he shared this on Facebook.
Spoiler Alert. Can reveal this cos I know it won't be shown.All lined up in the sunshine next to our finished paintings. Irate director screams "It's bloody him again!!! Looking round to see who committed such a heinous crime, he had a word with the make up lady who then rushed over to myself and proceeded to swab my forehead with some sort of masking powder!!Not my proudest moment but such a fantastic time.
You can see videos of their work on - keep clicking more and look for series 5 Heat 3 as the prefix to the videos.

The Wildcard Artists

If tempted to apply for next year's wildcard slots, do remember a big umbrella is an essential item of equipment. Waterproof groundsheets and tents are even better!

more painting by Wildcard Artists in less than lovely weather!

Themes and Learning Points

I'm beginning to run out of new things to say!

Today, the themes are:
  • Submission paintings reflecting last year's venues
  • Which view to choose in bad weather?
  • Which medium to use in changing weather?
  • Lush oil and interesting brushwork
  • Hold back on the kitsch.
  • Not a lot of tablets.

Submission paintings reflecting last year's venues

It suddenly struck me this week that a number of the submission paintings have demonstrated that they too can paint beaches. Remember last year two of the heats were on the beach at Broadstairs?

Others have been demonstrating they know how to paint water - and last year we had quite a lot of water.

It's not a bad notion in terms of demonstrating "this is what I can do" - however it's always got to be borne in mind that the really important thing about a submission painting is that is a very good and representative example of what you can do first and foremost.

Which view to choose in bad weather?

One of the painters in this heat chose a view which chimed with the sort of location he liked painting. However he also made the very wise decision to exclude the sky - and hence was completely untroubled by what the weather was doing on the day.  His palette too was on the imaginary side (pinks and greys) and consequently left the blues and greens that everybody else was painting on one side. In doing so he instantly created a painting which was different to everybody else's and was never going to be compared one with the another. (Note: They only ever seem to take the best one of one view).

It's a strategy which is worth thinking about.  Paint the less obvious - and possibly the less difficult in terms of changing weather.

EXCEPT I think it really only works when you, as an artist, are enormously attracted to the view that is unaffected by the weather - and can really make it interesting. Don't adopt this strategy to get out of painting an ever-changing sky!

Which medium to use in changing weather?

The view of Drake's Island at the beginning of the Heat

Weather is always changeable.

It's problematical if the weather starts off badly - when you can barely see anything except the fog or the rain (see above) and then improves over the course of the day so that it looks as a day has moved through seasons in a few hours (see the images above of the weather).

There again if you work in oils or acrylics there is some scope to enliven a painting with colour which has started in monochrome tones when it was started during severe fog.

If you paint in watercolour, there are more limited opportunities to over glaze. It's almost better to start again if you want to avoid muddy colours.

Otherwise you have to stick to the colours and tones of the scene you started with. Which means you better take a photo to remind yourself of what it was that attracted you to the scene - as every aspect of it disappears from view.

Lush oil and interesting brushwork

You only need to look at the paintings which Tai Shan Schierenberg produces to know that he really likes artists who are not mean with their use of oil paint - and have the ability to use one well judged brush mark to represent, for example, the sky peeping through.

It's also clear from the comments of Kathleen Soriano that she likes artists who can handle lush paint with expertise

It's no coincidence that the winner of this heat is an artist who recommends the use of Old Holland or Michael Harding which are lush, lack fillers and are loaded with pigment and colour strength.

Variation on the greens and tones to suggest form on the headland and in the sky and cloud

Drake's Island - represented by individual brushmarks

Hold back on the kitsch

They include the comments which survive the edit for a reason.  They'd like future participants to pay attention.

The Judges are none too fond of what they refer to as "kitsch" or "twee"
Kitsch is the German word for trash, and is used in English to describe particularly cheap, vulgar and sentimental forms of popular and commercial culture. Tate 
Twee: affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint Merriam Dictionary
In the context of the view in this heat, they meant "boats" (as referenced by Tai in the last heat).

Cute little sailing boats.

You have been warned....

Not a lot of tablets

I remember thinking at the beginning I wasn't seeing a lot of use of tablets by artists. I'd love to know whether anything was said to the artists about avoiding the use of tablets while standing right in front of the subject.

Or maybe they got better at selecting people who could actually paint plein air?

I certainly had the impression there were more genuine plein air painters this year. It's certainly not the case that all were and we are still having people turn up who have never ever painted a view by looking at it for real. But there do seem to be less of them this year.....


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The Results

The easels with the paintings awaiting assessment by the Judges

Unfortunately, the way the easels and paintings were lined up meant they were 'contre jour' and hence it's very difficult for you to see what they look like - although you can get an appreciation of relative size.

Heat artists lined up with their paintings - awaiting the judgement re. the shortlist

Episode 6 Shortlist

The normal process of discussion of each heat painting was followed in arriving at the shortlist. (see notes below)

The artists shortlisted were (in the order they were called)
  • James Murch
  • Lisa Takahashi
  • Pavel Isupov

The shortlist - Pavel Isupov, Lisa Takahashi and James Murch
two very excited people and 'one cool dude'!

As usual, The Judges reviewed both the submission and the heat painting when making a decision as to who should be the overall winner.

In the heat paintings they were looking at three very different styles, different media - and different views.

Kathleen felt they'd all done justice to the three different views they had selected.

Review of the submission painting and heat painting

James Murch

Submission and heat painting by James Murch

James Murch struck me as one of the coolest artists I've ever seen in one of these heats. He's not given to over-emoting or panicking or does a very good job of hiding it if he does! Cool, calm and collected - and making very sensible decisions.

Kate was concerned he might overwork it and was pleased he'd stopped from doing too much, to the extent that you could still see some of the canvas in the sky

"it all hangs together very nicely"

She also said he was very consistent in the way he paints and "getting away with murder" with the big dashes of blue representing the blue sky peeking through the clouds - convincing and really quick.

Kate said that James was really exciting to watch because he was able to give a sense of distance, there was real energy in the paint marks, they were believable but they were done with such a brevity that he didn't need to put much down. She wants to see more of his confident painting.

Pavel Ipuvov

Pavel Ipuvov
Tai commented that Paavel had absolutely captured the atmosphere of' nothing going on'.
Kathleen liked that he found and demonstrated his signature style.

I think he likes pink and grey paint and curves!

Lisa Takahashi

Submission and heat painting by Lisa Takahashi
Kate is very impressed with the clouds and the notion that we are looking far out to sea. She also liked the charm of the way the architecture has been treated.

Kate also liked the range she demonstrated in print-making between the two artworks.

Positive and negative comments on other paintings

It was very odd - there were fewer negative comments. In fact it was almost as if the things they might want to say for the very obvious deficiencies in certain aspects were just left unsaid - and you have to listen hard for what is startlingly obvious - but gets no comment.  It's the old "if you can't say anything good, say nothing" ritual.

Some of the comments made
  • the sky and water are extremely beautiful
  • like the composition
  • love the attention to detail in terms of depth and scale
  • Kathleen liked the very real serenity that some captured
  • problems with water which is not flat

Overall winner of Episode 6

James Murch, Pavel Ipuvov and Lisa Takahashi waiting to hear who has won the heat

The overall winner this week was James Murch. I wasn't surprised, his artwork struck me as being a an accomplished painting with some interesting use of paint and brushwork and a good understanding of both colour and tone.

This is his video. His video was actually put up two weeks too early - hence a cryptic note in one of my earlier blog posts which may or may not have lead to the Episode 6 videos disappearing again!  I had a quick look at all of them - but the only one I watched all the way through was this one....

The Wildcard Winner

Beth Uglow from Truro (with the very respectable painting surname) won the Wildcard competition. She seems to be mainly a graphic artist/illustrator rather than a painter.

I wish we saw more of the other wildcard paintings....

The end of the day 

Next week

It's the Semi-Finals in the Firth of Cromarty when they're going to be painting those very peculiar erections in the water.....

More about Landscape Artist of the Year 

on MAM and by participants

2019: SERIES 5


2018: SERIES 4




  • be different
  • get out of your pod
  • what to do when you don't know what to do
  • visual trickery
  • when is a landscape a landscape

Review: Episode 3 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 at Loch Fyne (Loch Fyne, Scotland) - the themes which jumped out for me were
  • Dealing with a lot of landscape and changing weather
  • Knowing what format works best
  • Knowing what to leave out and when to stop
  • The importance of a sense of place
Review: Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 (Viking Bay, Kent) - Learning points included:
  • Save yourself some guesswork and research the location
  • Practice painting plein air
  • Practice completing a painting in four hours - in changing weather
  • Have a PLAN!
  • the importance of the submission piece
  • why experienced plein air painters can paint to a deadline


Previous Years