Monday, April 12, 2021

Review: Episode 3 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

This is my VERY late review of of the final (third) heat of Landscape Artist of the Year 2020 (Canada). Not quite sure what happened last week. Suffice to say, my planned posts went out of whack! See also

Artists in Episode 3 waiting to hear who's going to the Final

Episode 3 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020) 

This originally aired in Canada on March 1 2020. 

Location of the pods: HEAT 3 - Midland Town Dock

This was an industrial landscape.
A grain elevator and silos at Midland Town Dock - albeit the silos were decorated with a mural.
Known to the Huron/Ouendat people as “Ouendaronk”, to the French as “La Mer Douce,” and to the British as Georgian Bay, the waters of the so -called “Sixth Great Lake” have had a profound effect upon those who inhabited its shores. Welcome to the Midland Town Docks
Georgian Bay on Lake Huron is significant within the context of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven - Thomson was brought up on its shore and a number of the Group of Seven painted its landscapes - and lakescapes. 

The pods at Midland Town Dock.

Interestingly the pods are set up differently to the UK. The roof is slanted and normally runs side to side, whereas in Canada it runs front to back - making getting in an out rather more difficult for some!

I'm afraid I can't look at grain silos now without remembering that utterly dreadful explosion in Beirut - which happened in August 2020 - before this was broadcast in October 2020.

Mural about the heritage of the location - with a Huron man and a Jesuit priest
This mural measures 80 ft high and 250 ft wide and is the largest outdoor historical mural in North America. It displays Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons as it would look like in the 1640's
However grain silos painted in a mural (painted by Fred Lenz) which explain the history of the location make them much more interesting. So much so that virtually all the artists avoided painting the silos and mural! Only one had a go.  

Tip for the programme makers - just because it makes the visuals very interesting doesn't mean artists will paint it - IF YOU ONLY GIVE THEN 4 HOURS!! It's quite difficult enough painting places without painting paintings of places done by somebody else!

The weather

Predictably enough - the weather changed during the course of the programme. Starting off dull with lots of cloud and then better weather came later - and generated skies which started changing a LOT!

The artists in Episode 3

There was a bit more variation in the places that the artists lived in Canada in this heat. Only two lived in Ontario (both in Toronto) - whereas there were four other artists from two from British Columbia, one from Alberta and one from Nova Scotia.

There's no question, in my opinion, that this episode had more competent artists participating than the previous two episodes.

Links to their websites are embedded in their names. Links to their social media come after the name.

Professional Artists

Five professional artists took part -
listed below
  • Kylee Turunen (Facebook | Instagram) - an emerging Canadian artist, born in London Ontario to a landscape painter father. Now lives in Port Alberni, British Columbia. She completed the Fine Art program at Toronto's Centennial College in 2009 and is currently represented by a number of galleries around Vancouver Island. This is an interview with her. She has one of those "difficult to read" websites because everything is in capitals - which means you give up reading pretty quickly - which is a shame as she creates nice paintings. I'm not entirely clear about what differentiates her landscapes from her abstract landscapes as some look pretty similar to me. She normally works just from photos which means painting to a time limit plein air was a very new experience for her.
  • Nadine Prada (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) Lives in Toronto, ON after spending her childhood in the Caribbean. Educated at Ontario College of Art and Toronto School of Art. Used to have a career in advertising until she experienced a 8.8 earthquake. Now works as a professional contemporary artist and facilitator.
This is a story about “careful what you wish for”. I used to watch the original British show, Landscape Artist of the Year, and think to myself, “I’d really love to do that one day.” So when the call came out to audition for the Canadian premiere, I didn’t think too hard and just sent in my submission. (No time to talk myself out of it.) Cut to the day we actually had to show up and produce a painting in 4 hours (WAAAAAAAYYYYY outside my comfort zone since I work in lots of layers - and in front of an entire film crew, complete with judges, no less). It’s seriously one of the most exhilarating, rewarding experiences I’ve had in my art career and now I get to share it with all of you. I hope you get a chance to watch, and then tell me what you thought of the show. Nadina Prada | The Prada Gallery, Facebook 23 October 2020
  • Jeff Wilson (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - a very different background story. Grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland & trained as a structural geologist. He then worked in mineral exploration around the world before settling in Vancouver in 2004. He took took art classes at Emily Carr University, and his a hobby transitioned into a full-time art practice in 2013. His paintings have been exhibited widely in public galleries in BC, Alberta and WA State. He's represented by a number of galleries, has work in various public and private collections and has won awards for his art.
Kylee, Nadine and Jeff

  • Ron Kuwahara (LinkedIn) Halifax, NS Had a 40 year professional career as a physicist - working for Defence Research and Development Canada Atlantic. Turned to painting in retirement. In 2011, he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art, with a Major in Painting after studying at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University. For me, he's doing better than a lot of younger paintings who've never done anything else. I like the fact he's not afraid of going big and abstracting his landscapes.
  • Elzbieta Krawecka (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - born and raised in Krakow, Poland. -Now lives in Toronto, ON (via Kuwait).  Moved to Canada to attend the Ontario College of Art and Design - and developed a love for the Canadian landscape. Her landscape paintings depict large areas of open spaces such as skies or water, defined by pattern formations. She's exhibited her art in numerous group and solo exhibitions. I appreciate a lot of artists who appear on television (not all by a long shot) but only rarely want to own one of their paintings. Take a look at the gallery on her website - and work your way back to 2001. You'll find you jaw dropping as I mine did at her amazing paintings of skies. I'd like one of her paintings.
Mackenzie, Ron and Elzbieta

Amateur Artist

There was just one amateur artist.
  • Mackenzie Brown (Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn ) A very interesting individual. She is First Nations Cree from the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, though she currently lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She has a degree in Child and Youth Care and creates contemporary Indigenous art, teaches Cree cultural lessons throughout Alberta, works as a Project Manager at Indigenous Tourism Alberta and facilitates discussions throughout all levels of government and academia.  She paints in acrylic and includes beadwork in her paintings and focuses on the land and uses materials from the natural world to honour her ancestry. 
My name is Kamamak, or Mackenzie in English. As a young girl I was taught about balance. The balance between traditional and contemporary. This is how I live my life – with a moccasin in both worlds.

Wildcard Artists

Yet again, a lot of the wildcards were impressive. I keep wondering if they are all people who create fabulous paintings but are unable to talk to camera....

The Wildcard Artists were painting from a jetty nearby 
(Pods are in the top left background)

The wildcards had a more interesting, less architectural view

What I liked about This Episode

It was good to see a member of one of the indigenous nations of Canada taking part - particularly as the relationship between artist and land is rather different to other artists of European heritage. I hope it wasn't only prompted by the mural on the grain silos.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Prince Philip (1921-2021) - the painter

Many will write today about the passing of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh and consort to HM The Queen who died peacefully at Windsor Castle this morning.

I wonder if any will mention his interest in painting. 
(They did - see 2021 articles referenced below)

Below I'm going to comment on what I know of his interest in art and design - and in painting.

Prince Philip painting on Britannia - by Edward Seago

I've seen many paintings by Prince Charles - which are regularly exhibited in art society exhibitions in London. I guess that this interest in painting was probably derived from the fact his father also had an interest in painting during time available for leisure.

The Duke of Edinburgh has had a life-long interest in art and design, both as a patron and collector, and as an artist himself. His atmospheric oil painting of Duart Castle from the Sound of Mull in the Western Isles is included in the exhibition. Prince Philip: Celebrating Ninety Years at the Drawings Gallery in Windsor Castle | artdaily

Paintings by Prince Philip have however been rarely seen - until relatively recently. 

Tuition by Edward Seago

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Making A Mark is a Top 10 art blog in 2021 - again!

Making A Mark has again been named one of the Top Ten Art Blogs in the UK in 2021.
Which means I get to put a new image in the side column of this blog to indicate this

The Top Ten Art Blogs

I record the blogs which get listed each year - mainly because the URL stays the same and hence the listing is lost

You can see from the art blogs that there are a lot which have stayed the same and ......
  • a number have been around for a very long time - and we've all been in this listing together for ages!
  • there is a distinct bias towards street art
  • there is a preponderance of team blogs - and I've indicated below which are solo efforts and which are team blogs
Vuelio uses a proprietary algorithm to create these rankings, based on topic-related content in blogs on its system – you can read more about the process here

 For the record, the top ten art blogs in 2021 are listed below:

  1. StreetArtNews (TEAM BLOG) - Urban art for "art geeks". This blog has been around since 2009.  I've always thought of this one as a team blog -  I think the giveaway is that Rom Levy is described as Founder & Editor-in-Chief 
  2. Jackson's Art Blog (TEAM BLOG) - I always highly recommend this blog for all those interested in art materials and techniques with art materials. This is a team blog and its most regular writers are Julie Caves, Clare McNamara and Lisa Takahashi - with contributions with other occasional writers
  3. We Make Money Not Art (SOLO BLOG) written (somewhat irregularly) by Régine Debatty - and which seems to have been around forever. 
  4. Art Plugged (moves up one place) - a contemporary online platform which features art news from across the globe and interviews with artists.  Basically you can't read the posts unless you register and join the Art Plugged Community. It's one way of driving up subscriptions. Unclear whether it's solo or a team, effort but it's definitely commercially driven.
  5. Hookedblog (SOLO BLOG moves up one place) - Created by Mark Rigney in 2005 and focused on the street art scene
  6. ArtWeb Blog (TEAM BLOG)  says it's "For Aspiring And Professional Artists On The Internets".  Basically a front end for selling artist websites. However it does have useful content for those trying to develop online marketing. 
  7. Making A Mark (i.e. me) at an exhibition
    (SOLO i.e. Just me! ;) Except I started it in 2006, and since then it has received over 5.4 million visitors and 16.8 million page views - from visitors from all over the world.  I'm always absolutely amazed at the number of people it reaches. 40% of visitors come from the UK, 25% from the USA and the remainder from the rest of the world. Mainly focused on the UK but lots of content is more generic and applicable to artists all over the world.  I've got used to people who recognise me and stop me in the street when I'm walking to and from an art exhibition in London - despite the fact I post very few full face pics of myself!! I'm very struck by how pedestrian my blog design is compared to others - but it works for me....
  8. Inspiring City (SOLO BLOG) - another covering the urban / street art scene set up by Stuart Holdsworth in 2012. He also does podcasts
  9. Scribblah (SOLO BLOG) - Selling artwork from a blog. Rose Davies describes herself as: ‘artist, printmaker, scribbler, ageing headbanger, feminist, activist, mad-cat-woman, cake-maker, accidental-archaeologist, mud-wrangler, wild, Welsh and opinionated’ - so more than just about art!
  10. The Primary Art Class (SOLO BLOG) - I think Emily Gopaul's blog is a wonderful idea and will doubtless be invaluable to all primary school art teachers - and parents!
A number of these have been in the top ten for a long time. I get that's the payoff for being persistent in our blogging!


Friday, April 02, 2021

The Natural Eye Bursary 2021 - Call for Entries

The Society of Wildlife Artists has published its Call for Entries for The Natural Eye Bursary 2021 
The deadline for entries is 1st June 2021 - so plenty of time to prepare an application.

What is The Natural Eye Bursary?

The Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) offers this Bursary each year to artists aged 16 and over who are interested in portraying wildlife in art.
the selectors are looking for proposals that demonstrate a sense of enquiry into the natural world through original and thoughtful creativity that will result in a genuine artistic and personal response to the wildlife subject.


What is on offer?

The award has two components:
  • Awards of up to £750 are available to artists submitting exceptional proposals that focus on wildlife as a main subject to:
    • carry out independent projects, 
    • develop research - involving artwork
    • or training in art practices .
  • Successful applicants also have the opportunity to 
    • exhibit an example (or examples) of their bursary work during The Natural Eye exhibition held annually at the prestigious Mall Galleries in London’s West End
    • have their report of their project published on the SWLA website.
In addition
  • several past bursary winners have gone on to become active members of the SWLA 
  • the bursary has helped with exhibition opportunities and professional relationships that continue into the future
  • most award winners have continued to diversify in the arts, often citing their bursary project as a pivotal moment in their practice. 
I was immersed in nature for a month, observing wildlife every day and for the first time learning to identify those methods of field drawing that work for me
CHRISTOPHER WALLBANK Bursary Winner 2008 - Read his report 
Urban Black Kites of Delhi by Chris Wallbank (won 2008)
- a subsequent project - as exhibited 10 years later in the SWLA Annual Exhibition in 2018

Essentially, it's an opportunity to demonstrate your interests, the scope of your enquiry and the knowledge, skills, talent and innovation that you bring to bear on creating a focused piece of research and artwork.
Christopher Wallbank (bursary winner 2008) discovered his fascination for combining art with ecology during his project drawing the wildlife of two extremes, depth and altitude, in the Bay of Biscay and Picos de Europa mountain range. He has since gone on to collaborate with several field-based conservation projects, including the long-term monitoring of guillemots, the preservation of urban black kites and as an SWLA member on the Wallasea and Wadensea projects. 
Green Bridge Loomery by Chris Wallbank

What are selectors looking for?

Successful proposals will reflect the SWLA’s main ethos to generate appreciation and delight in the natural world through fine art.
The current context changes the bursary slightly this year:
  • Both the Pandemic and the subsequent lockdown(s) has meant that many more artists have found inspiration in nature. 
  • However they also been limited in how far they can travel - and many in the UK are still limited by how far they can move away from their local area.
Many of the society’s members and associates working under lockdown restrictions have demonstrated how successfully artistic enquiry can capture the awe and wonder found in nature without the need to travel to exotic corners of the world.
Consequently in 2021, the SWLA have very sensibly suggested that they are particularly interested in proposals that 
  • either celebrate the wildlife found close to home
  • and/or projects by artists who have, perhaps for the first time, discovered a new focus for their work by engaging more with the natural world. 
That does not exclude other proposals - but the focus enables a much clearer focus on wildlife near people's own homes than hitherto.

Previous Bursary Awards

Previous bursary work has included a wide range of different media including; 
  • drawing, 
  • sculpture, 
  • painting, 
  • online journals, 
  • artist’s book-works and 
  • installation.  
Successful bursary projects have focused on one (or more) aspects - see below
  • many document their experience of wildlife first hand - by working from observation in the field. 
  • artistic development through education and building practical skills e.g. Gareth Williams’ bursary award enabled him to join a print studio for a year and develop his observations of wildlife through print making.
I was able to learn this entirely new way of working, which gave my work a new visual language and, complimented my style
  • research resulting in remarkable portfolios of work on display at The Natural Eye Exhibition. 
The resultant 2008 exhibition gave me the opportunity to invite peers and contemporaries to see my installation at the gallery — a great space — which led to an invitation to exhibit the work at "The Animal Gaze: Contemporary Art & Animal/​Human Studies" — Whitechapel
HELEN J. BULLARD, THE NATURAL EYE BURSARY WINNER 2006, 2007 - read about her 2007 project and her 2006 project


How to apply for a Natural Eye Bursary Award

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

What happens to art after the demise of BBC Four?

Yesterday we had the very sad news that BBC4 is to become an "archive only" channel.

BBC4 will no longer commission new documentary series as the arts and culture channel is downgraded to a repeats-led network.... 
Executives have decided that its relatively small audience, older than the national average at 62, does not justify continued investment in commissions." (The Times | Repeats rule roost after BBC4 funding cut)

It's interesting that the BBCMedia Centre's page of news highlights makes not one mention of the demise of BBC4. 

These are the relevant BBC documents

Below I discuss what they mean and what might be an alternative. 

Let's bear in mind that this is a BBC which is well aware that it is within the targets of the current government because of its perceived antagonism towards Brexit - and various other issues over the years.

Ageism alive and well at the BBC

Apart from what appears to be an extremely ageist approach to audiences - this also suggests we have seen the end of proper / serious / educated programmes about art.

Instead, the BBC is resurrecting BBC3 for an audience which does not watch television anyway. Plus an interrogation of the current programmes highlighted on the BBC Arts platform indicates art has become very low in the hierarchy of what gets counted as culture.  Instead Books, Film, Theatre and "BBC New Creatives" (Film / Dance / Animation) get the bulk of the platform.

It looks to me as if the BBC has abandoned 

  • Art History 
  • All those that have enjoyed watching programmes about art on BBC4
  • The audience in general aged 64+ (BIG mistake!  These are the people who vote!)
My other half refers to BBC4 has what BBC2 used to be before the BBC decided it wanted to become "popular". It's the only BBC channel he watches.

The alternative to mothballing BBC4

Here are a few suggestions for the BBC in relation to its recent budget decision
  • remember that the BBC mission is to "Inform, Educate and Entertain" - which is demonstrated more clearly by BBC Four than any other BBC channel. 
  • stop paying presenters absolutely ridiculous salaries
    • start setting an example - rather than continuously inflating costs
    • stop employing people to present who will not take the equivalent of a pro-rata fee to the salary of a BBC employee
    • if you want to cut costs there is no better way to start
    • stop paying ANYBODY more than the Prime Minister - period.
  • create a better balance of arts programmes - recognising that each appeals to different age groups in different ways
  • stop being ageist i.e. 
    • reintroduction of priced television licences for the 75+ audience
    • elimination of a channel which caters to the interests of those who are:
      • not part of the "yoof" culture
      • more likely to be unable to travel for events and visits to cultural centres
  • create better equality between the age groups
  • create a channel specifically for the 22% of the population aged 60 and over 
    • in the same way as it has a channel for kids
    • recognising that more older people spend more time at home 
    • recognising that more older people spend more of their time watching television or listening to the radio

I rather suspect that the 60+ population will not take this lying down and I look forward to signing the petitions which will doubtless emerge and get the necessary number of signatures which means they must be debated in Parliament.

Indeed I've just signed LAST YEAR'S petition Save BBC Four from closuree started last May after the rumour that the BBC wanted to chop BBC Four.

If you appreciate BBC Four and its arts programming I recommend you sign it - and share it with likeminded others!

Other articles about the demise of BBC4 and the BBC's ageist approach to programming

Below are articles which focused on the decision to "archive" BBC4

Increasing repeats requires an amendment to the BBC’s operating licence, which is overseen by Ofcom.

There is likely, however, to be a clamour from older BBC4 loyalists who feel that the corporation is prioritising younger audiences. Earlier this month it was announced that the youth-focused BBC3 was being revived six years after it was scrapped, at a cost of tens of millions of pounds.

and this one - 
The BBC has headed off mounting criticism by announcing that BBC Four—the specialist arts and science channel known for programmes such as Life Drawing Live!—will not be closed. Instead it “will continue to have originations [commissions], with a focus on the arts”, says a BBC spokesperson.
Why this announcement merits celebration is completely beyond me! 

THEN I REALISED - this was from May 2020!!!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Review: Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada was marginally better than Episode 1. That's not saying a lot. (see Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

This was filmed in Autumn 2019 and originally aired in 2020 in Canada. It's now being broadcast via Sky Arts (Freeview) in the UK.

Location of the pods: HEAT 2 - Cobourg Marina

I was tut-tutting again about the location of the pods. All I can say is that the location manager for this programme must have a very suburban outlook when it comes to landscapes

The pods in front of Cobourg Marina

The primary criteria for locations seems to be "flat ground" - with more "flat ground" nearby for the wildcards and then even more "flat ground" for the rest of the set-up re the production team. 

Not quite sure where the quality of the landscape and the view gets a look in!

The secondary criteria seems to be somewhere where they don't have to carry the pods too far! 
The pods were located next to Cobourg Marina
"This is technically a seascape" (Mark Meyer)
...except it wasn't since it was a lake not a sea!  Its water is derived from several rivers which all drain into the lake - and there are no tidal flows.

This location offered:
  • very little land in view
  • just pontoons and boats, Lake Ontario and the sky. 
  • the trees were either side of them and in the far distance. So all those who like to paint trees were out of luck!
.....and yet just around the corner was a nice little bay with a sandy beach and some rather nice looking trees - and even better - reflections and shadows!! (see top left in the above photo)

Maybe this is a case of commercial television programme-making as an advert for recreational facilities?  Permission to film dependent on those providing permission telling you where they'd like you to go?

The weather

We had the first heat with interesting weather causing complications for the artists. The morning was clearly a typical maritime low key monochrome morning with a grey sky and low cloud. To be followed around lunchtime by sweltering hot weather and a brilliant blue sky and some very interesting high clouds.

I felt for all those who were not kitted out suitably for painting plein air in changing weather.....
Especially that wild card painting in the sun with a bald head and no hat.

The Artists in Episode 2

(Left to right) Colin, Ian, Beckett, Andrew, Deborah and Anna 

Professional Artists

Four of the five artists came from Ontario - continuing the trend started last week. Maybe those who made this programme didn't provide a very big production budget for reimbursing the travel expenses of artists living in other parts of Canada. 

The standard seems to be one artist NOT from Ontario per heat! 

If I was an artist living in Canada - somewhere other than Ontario - and I had applied for this art competition on television, I think I'd be studying the law and regulations around competitions and entries and how they are treated - and maybe writing a letter to those who regulate such things.....  After all if it says "artists from all over Canada", surely there ought to be a better mix than we've seen so far!

Five professional artists took part - a listed below. There were four painters and a book artist and I'll list them in that order

Saturday, March 27, 2021

RA Summer Exhibition 2021 - digital entries start 13th April

This is by way of an alert that the 2021 Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts is likely to be held in the Autumn/Winter of 2021 (subject to any government pandemic constraints).

Summer Exhibition 2021

Planned Exhibition Dates: 22 September 2021 – 2 January 2022
Run without interruption since 1769 – yes, even in 2020 – the Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open submission art show. It brings together art in all mediums, from prints, paintings, film and photography to sculpture, architectural works and more by leading artists, Royal Academicians and household names as well as new and emerging talent.


This is the link to the Submission Page - BUT

  • entries are not yet being taken
  • full details of what / how to submit have not yet been provided
  • You can start submitting digital entries on 13 April (which is when I will do my annual Call to Entries post)
  • the deadline for submissions is 24 May 2021 i.e. completely different to usual!
I suggest you bookmark the page and check back on 13th April.

In broad terms the process will be as usual i.e.
  • register to enter the exhibition (if you don't already have an account)
  • pay your entry fee (£35 per work)
  • enter one or two works to the exhibition - by entering details and uploading images of your artwork
  • wait for the letter to tell you the outcome of selection by the Judging Panel

Summer Exhibition 2020 - Artworks in Storage

Artworks in last Year's Summer Exhibition are still in storage and cannot be released until the RA opens again - which won't happen until 18th May at the earliest (i.e. when the RA can reopen - if the date for Step 3 on the Pathway out of lockdown does not change)

Note for those submitting to the 2021 Exhibition. You have to assume that the same might happen to artwork in the next exhibition as well!

So don't submit work which you've promised to another exhibition straight after!

Friday, March 26, 2021

National Art Society Exhibitions in London - after lockdown

I'm very pleased to say that life after lockdown - in terms of visiting the annual art exhibitions of national art societies - is looking brighter as information begins to appear on websites.

Below is a summary of what I've found so far.

Note: Under the UK Government's Roadmap for reopening after lockdown in England:

  • STEP 2: Commercial Galleries can reopen (alongside Retail) on 12th April
  • STEP 3: Public Museums & Galleries (i.e. primary purpose is NOT retail/trading) can reopen on 17th May
Commercial galleries come under non-essential retail and will therefore be permitted to open from 12 April.

Mall Galleries

Information has started to appear on the Mall Galleries website about when we can expect to start visiting exhibitions in the Galleries again.

the next three exhibitions which can be seen in the Mall Galleries proper

The Mall Galleries is the trading arm of the Federation of British Artists and displays their annual selling exhibitions each year - plus the exhibitions of other national art societies.

Below I'm listing each of the art societies which have details posted on the website plus

  • the link to the online exhibition
  • start and finish dates of the actual "in the Galleries" exhibition
  • note that the hours for ALL exhibitions in the Galleries are 11am to 4pm 
One MAJOR PLUS is that, following a suggestion I made (which I'm sure was something which occurred to others as well), the Mall Galleries website has been changed so that ALL the NON-MEMBER artists who exhibit in an exhibition get their artwork listed under the BUY ART section of the website.

These are the Upcoming Exhibitions.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

This is a review of Heat 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2020 - which is currently being broadcast on Sky Arts in the UK. The second heat is tonight at 8pm.

I'm going to broadly follow the format I used to review the Landscape Artist of the Year series in the UK - but I'll be briefer.

In summary

  • it's not the UK series in either depth or treatment
  • it has some seriously overblown narrative and marketing. That might be the way people do things in Canada - but it's triggering a somewhat negative reception amongst more than a few LAOTY fans in the UK
  • as usual I will call it how I see it!

Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

Location of the Pods

One major difference from the UK series is the travel involved in relation to locations. Unlike the recent UK series which was limited in scope due to the pandemic, this series was filmed in Canada in Autumn of 2019 for broadcast in late Winter 2020.

The locations for each episode are ALL in Ontario. So why not call it Landscape Artist of the Year Ontario?

Given the spectacular landscapes in Canada this is extremely disappointing.  It's not even as if they've travelled to where some of the best landscapes can be found - and then filmed in that location......

There's very little by way of wild locations. The locations are as follows
  • HEAT 1: Ontario - Somerled Farm - a rural agricultural context. 
  • HEAT 2: Ontario - Cobourg Marina - an opportunity to paint boats not a landscape.....
  • HEAT 3: Ontario - Midland Town Dock - an industrial landscape
  • FINAL: Ontario - Lake Rosseau - a recreational area some 200km north of Toronto.
It appears that landscapes in this series can be anywhere - so long as they're near easy motoring distance from Toronto.

PS Guess what? Five of the six artists in the first episode are also from Ontario.....  I rest my LAOTYO case.

Location in Heat one - Somerled Farm

View of the pods with a very funnelled view on the manicured farm. 
The wildcards were set up next to the house - in the garden - middle right

I found the location to be absolutely awful. That is I'm sure the farm is lovely and the owners too - but this is not a suitable challenge for a landscape painting competition!

View from the pods

Bottom line:
  • It was boring verging on caricature
  • The pods were lined up with a very funnelled view of a very well kept barn and some close cropped grass 
  • Although agricultural it might well be described as extremely manicured. 
  • There were horses in a fenced paddock - but a large tree and the fence meant the artists could not see them properly - and of course horses are not really keen on posing for artists!
  • The wildcard artists painted in a garden! 
Two artists - Denise and Marissa - had the good sense to look the other way and paint something other than the barn.

I'm beginning to think that all location managers for this series need a serious education in composition in art - as some obviously have no idea whatsoever of what makes for a good location. (Bearing in mind this comes on the back of at least one absolutely awful location in the recent UK series).

The Artists in the Series

Apparently hundreds applied but only c. 60 artists were chosen for the heats - although that figure obviously includes the wildcard artists. This is because:

  • there are only four episodes - of which just three are heats AND
  • there are only six artists in the pods
  • which means only 18 artists in the three heats - and the rest must be wildcards!
Six of the country’s top artists have just four hours to complete a landscape masterpiece. Each week, it’s a new group of artists in a new location, all vying to make it to the final.
One has to take issue with the description of the series. Absolutely no way are these Canada's "top artists". I say that knowing quite a few Canadian artists who paint landscapes who are considerably better than these artists.

If that sort of marketing was used in the UK I'd be reporting the series to the regulator of advertising for false claims! Surely people don't let tv companies do this in Canada?

Essentially these are people who wanted to appear on a television show - probably to increase their own exposure and to market their art. That's a perfectly legitimate reason - but there is no need to over-egg the pudding by calling them all "top artists" when what you mean is 
  • they are in your view the top artists of those who applied 
  • based on their submissions 
  • plus video interviews (i.e. can they talk to a camera / do they seem interesting?)
They instructed us to “be ourselves” but also suggested that we be our most dramatic and interestingly temperamental selves, if possible.
Yet again, it's patently obvious that the selectors forgot to ask whether they'd ever painted plein air to a time limit before......  All I ask is that we see artists who understand how to paint a view in a limited amount of time when the weather might change and the light definitely will. 

In a variation from the UK series, two artists from each heat go through to the final.

The Artists in Heat 1

The artists in Heat 1 included five professional and one amateur artist as listed below. Links in the name of the artists are to their websites.

left to right: Laura, Tosh, Marissa, Phil, Denise and Megan
(it appears coloured hair helps your chances of getting selected!)

For the most part these are artists who exhibit in open studios, local art shows and art walks rather than in galleries. As usual there is some discrepancy in the use of the terms 'professional' and 'amateur'.

Five Professional Artists

Denise Antaya (Instagram) From Kingsville, Onatario.  Had a 31 year career in Advertising before deciding to pursue her life long passion for painting landscapes on a full time basis. My favourite. Her submission was a knockout. Quiet, understated but well composed and well painted. She understands composition very well and creates nice 'feel good' paintings of real landscapes. I'm sure she sells a lot. In fact I know she sells a lot - for respectable sums - because she's got lots of red dots on her website.

Denise Antaya with her submission

Tosh Jeffrey (Instagram | Twitter) Lives in Toronto. B.A. in Visual Arts from the University of Western Ontario in 2006.  He teaches high school (presumably art). Seems to be an artist who is trying very hard to make his career work but hasn't had a lot of exhibitions to date. Likes to paint urban landscapes - in black and fluorescent paints but it's not the sort of art which impresses me. 

Phil Irish (Instagram | Twitter) - Lives in Olora, Ontario. Masters of Fine Art from York University, Toronto (2012) and his Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art and English Literature from the University of Guelph, Canada (1995). He's keen on climate change and environmental concerns and creates constructions and collages - which is what he did in the programme. I was unclear about the longevity of his artworks given the materials he was working with. He made it very clear he wanted to win for the money to fix his roof!  He also made a very accurate summary of the location of the pods
It's a bit cute, honestly

Marissa Sweet (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) From the Philippines and now based in Oshawa, Ontario. She's essentially self-taught and focuses on painting nature and the environment. She starts with a brush and moves on to use a palette knife. Elected Member Society of Canadian Artists' & Ontario Society of Artists. She does online workshops and interviews via Instagram. I like people who work hard at marketing their art.

Laura Zerebeski (Facebook | Instagram) - the only artist not from Ontario. She lives out on the west coast in Vancouver, British Columbia. Mostly self-taught. Became a full time painter in 2008. Describes herself as a full-time expressionist painter with a surrealist edge. She likes to paint urban landscapes (which made me wonder why she was in this heat) and was painting plein air for the first time. I found her caricatured drawing and very bright unrealistic colours in her work to be a bit Disneyfied - which I'm sure will appeal to some.  She wrote two blog posts. She writes well and I found both very interesting and extremely informative. I'm sure both will also be very helpful to others hoping to participate in the future. PS I like her writing more than her art and IMO Laura should also pursue a writing career!
landscape painting involves decidedly less adrenaline so they have to put a time limit on it and amp up the drama...... 
Eventually, I was short-short listed to the finals. I’m in! My silent response when they phoned to congratulate me was a sort of dawning horror. I told them I was speechless with indescribable YAY; inside, that YAY was more like a Stephen King monologue.
They told me to make sure I kept my purple hair (summer experiment/self-colouring mistake) because the network loved it. I suspect I am the Menopausal Rebel archetype, a token Western Canada white female representative.

One Amateur Artist

Megan Hazen (Instagram ) Based in Burlington, Ontario. A 2017 graduate of OCAD University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with distinction. She works in acrylic and has a love of colour. Has developed a somewhat odd technique of creating cutouts within her paintings where there is no content. Although I understood her concept behind why she does this when she described it - and her paintings catch my eye to start with - I'm less convinced this will have long term appeal. She obviously likes plants and animals and I wonder why she doesn't focus on these.

What I liked

Some of the submissions were good.  Others were interesting. 

Thank goodness for at least two artists who looked for something to paint other than the awful barn.

Plus another who blew up the barn with his collage. Not a fan of his work - but totally get the reason for doing it like that!

I felt a bit perverse watching the interesting dialogue between the two Judges.  

  • The woman - Joanne Tod (age 68), award-winning artist and educator - paints portraits(!) and betrayed her ignorance of landscape painting very early in the programme when she confessed she'd never heard of sky holes. What she is doing judging a landscape painting competition is beyond me!
  • The man - Marc Mayer (age 65) Former Director of the National Gallery of Canada - was obviously used to being asked to speak first - and I rather suspect he is not above saying the startlingly obvious should anybody say something really silly. Loved the way he switched into French when speaking to a Canadian wildcard who spoke French as his first language (but where were the subtitles for the rest of us?)
At one point I made a note "Mayer does not like woman judge".

Not a natural pairing - but the tension makes for interesting viewing!

I also liked watching Denise paint and her approach using a brown grisaille for her underpainting before getting going with her oils. Interesting also to watch somebody who paints back to front in terms of zones.

One of the best bits was when Ian Dejardin (who I met and talked with when he was Director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery - nice man) did an overview of Canadian landscape painting - highlighting different styles and approaches across a wide range.  See my review of his Painting Canada exhibition at DPG Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven - Review (2012). 

The artists he featured were

What I didn't like

I really do NOT like television companies who 

  • try to make artists into exaggerated versions of themselves in order to create "interesting television".  
"I came to play and I play to win". Really? The people who watch programmes like these are much more interested in listening to their thoughts about how to develop and progress their artwork than how stressful they are finding the situation - or how pumped up they are in terms of meeting the challenge!!
  • put artists into stressful situations when they have absolutely no experience of painting plein air - and haven't got the right kit with them
  • take two artists who like painting urban landscapes and put them on a farm.
I'm also not a fan of production companies which can't find a flat piece of land on which to put the pods with a view which is not flat!

What surprised me

The artists with no formal art training produced the best submissions.
Or should I be surprised? Given what passes for art education these days......

Heat Winners

Judging the paintings

In a nutshell - from left to right
  • Marissa had difficulties finding her subject - and then painted too small for her style. I'd thought on the basis of her submission that she was more likely to be 'a winner'.
  • Phil created something interesting - which bore little relation to the view and raised questions about its longevity in terms of how it was made
  • Megan's painting underwhelmed and included a non-existent sunflower. She seemed to me to be out of her comfort zone and was painting what she knew rather than what she saw
  • Laura's painting - if less whacky - could have been interesting. She certainly knows how to lay paint down. 
  • Tosh invented a landscape by moving aspects of what was in front of him around - and went big. I really don't like his style or colours but I do think he tried hard and made something out of a difficult/boring subject.
  • Denise turned around and focused on the far horizon and created a nice calm painting. She knows how to paint and she received the best compliments of the day from Mark Meyer.
The Heat winners - going forward to the Final were 
  • Denise Antaya 
  • Todd Jeffrey
I'm looking forward to seeing what Episode 2 is like. More of the same - or something different?

Monday, March 22, 2021

Syntax of Color

I want to highlight a website called Syntax of Color which aims to focus on Art Materials and Colour. 

Highly recommended for art materials nerds like me - and those wanting to expand their knowledge of the art materials they work with currently - and might like to try in future.

This website is actually resurrecting an old site with updated and new material. 

After a considerable hiatus, the art materials website devoted to pigment history stories, interviews with artists and manufacturers, reviews of art materials and items of interest in the world of ASTM will be refreshed and renewed. Also a MAJOR name change has taken place. The old Grammar of Color is evolving into the Syntax of Color. We're back.....

"Syntax of Color" aims to educate artists and share information about art materials by exploring:

Syntax of Color
The Syntax of Color - Home Page

Michael Skalka - author of Syntax of Color

The website is the idea of a chap who I've been corresponding with on and off for some years.  

Prior to his recent retirement, Michael Skalka was the Conservation Administrator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington for very many years where - among other duties - he looked after The National Gallery's Art Materials Collection.
Since 1993, I have been engaged in learning and sharing with others the love I have for art materials

Michael Skalka has an MFA in Museum Studies, expertise in Art Materials, and has been the Chairman of ASTM subcommittee D01.57 (re. Artists' Paints and Related Materials) for some years - which is how I got to know him.  (Note for new readers: I have been known to bang on online about lightfastness of art media at length - and I'm also a co-opted member of D01.57!)

Bottom line Michael is genuinely interested in increasing awareness of issues relating to colour and art materials - and has no axe to grind other than being somebody focused on quality issues. He also knows many of the technical people from the various art manufacturers.

Content of Syntax of Color

Here's a sampler of its content to date - with some quotations to get an idea of content. 
  • Michael writes well and with authority. 
  • If there is one thing I'd like to see him add it's shorter paragraphs and spaces inbetween! (i.e. techniques for writing for online as opposed to printed papers)


He focuses on old as well as current colours - as one might expect of a man who has worked in conservation for over 25 years.