Sunday, January 17, 2021

Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 at Chartwell

This is the first of my reviews of the new Landscape Artist of the Year programme in 2021.

Pods in front of the house at Chartwell
Pods in front of the house at Chartwell

Landscape Artist of the Year (Series 6 - filmed in 2020)

This is the sixth series of this programme which is produced for Sky Arts by Storyvault Films.

The "Artist of the Year" programmes are some of the most popular programmes produced by Sky Arts. The audience for the Landscape artist of the year programme seems to grow with every series.

LAOTY boasts the titles of “best-performing, non-scripted series of all time” and second-biggest series ever for Sky Arts, with viewing figures growing over the course of the series.

You can view it

  • on Wednesday evening at 8pm on Sky Arts (on Sky / Now TV / Freeview)
  • on demand on Sky TV and Now TV anytime you like 
    • you need the Sky TV or NOW TV app to watch on a mobile device or your own TV - if you have a relevant subscription (which is what I do - see my blog post about how to do this)

The Judges are the same as always - and - because filming took place outside - we also saw the return of Joan Bakewell which was excellent news.

We saw lots of suitably socially distanced discussions!

The Judges: Kate Bryan. Tai-Shan Schierenberg Kathleen Soriano - with Joan Bakewell

Episode 1 at Chartwell

The first episode was at Chartwell - and this is the link to Episode 1

The Location

Chartwell is the former home of Sir Winston Churchill and is now a National Trust property. The large course stands in manicured country gardens on top of a large grass slope leading down to a lake and several acres of woodland and farmland.

It's a garden I have visited often over the years and last summer we paid it a lot of visits once it was open again.

The view they had is actually very difficult because:

  • they are looking up - which is a situation most artists don't normally encounter when working plein air
  • it involves a lot of different levels
  • getting the size, shape and perspective of the house correct is a challenge on its own.  One I have tried and come a cropper on in the past - when drawing with a view from just to the left of there they were positioned.  (I'm going to see if I can remember where that artwork is)

The weather

As you might expect - given last year's weather - the weather was dry, sunny with a bit of cloud from time to time.

So no challenges there then - apart from how the sun was going to move across the subject

The Artists

This year 36 artists (12 less than usual) took part in six heats which were filmed last summer. This means that there are six artists (rather than eight) in each of the six heats

Artists in their Pods at the start

You can find out how to enter for the series being filmed this summer for next year at the end of this blog post.

Artists are listed by status and then alphabetically. You can see their profiles on the Sky website . Interestingly they all have surnames in the first half of the alphabet.

Professional Artists

There were two professional artists in this heat
  • Gail Davis (Facebook | Instagram) - artist based in Berkshire, mainly painting in oil on canvas. Studied at Berkshire College of Art and Design. Worked as an exhibition design manager. Has been a professional artist for 12 years. Selected for the 2020 Exhibitions of the Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal institute of Oil Painters. Appeared in Episode 8 of Portrait Artist of the Year in March 2020 
  • Paul Gadenne (Facebook | Instagram) - a Canterbury-based artist who has been a Chartered Designer and has a background in commercial Interior Architecture and Exhibition Design. He is an SAA Professional Art Teacher and currently teaches "Art for Everyone" - art lessons for adults of all abilities at venues in Dunkirk and Sandwich, Kent. He writes for 'the Artist' magazine and is the founder member of Urban Sketchers Canterbury. He has previously been filmed for this series in 2015 at Waddesdon Manor. His Facebook Page has some good photos of the day. 

Amateur Artists

There were four Amateur Artists - although I think I dispute 'amateur' status for one of them - on the basis that you need to know rather a lot about art in order to be employed teach it!

These were:
  • Julia Burley (Instagram) - no information online. 
  • Shelagh Casebourne (Instagram) - Following a London-based career in publishing, in 2010 she gained a Fine Art degree from The University of Reading and a PGCE in Secondary Art and Design. She has a studio in Berkshire. Her Instagram indicates she was painting along with Portrait Artist of the Week. She made a last minute application with the hope of getting a wildcard place.
  • Gabriella Fernandes - First class degree (2015) in History from Durham University - which involved History of Art. Recently worked as cabin crew with British Airways
  • Stuart Jarvis (Instagram) - He's an experienced teacher and currently Director of Art at Uppingham School (a boarding school). In recent years he has enjoyed commissions by Drax power station, North Yorkshire; Bradwell decommissioned power station, Essex; and Ketton Cement Works, Lincolnshire. 

Wildcard Artists

Wildcard artists at Chartwell
Wildcard artists at Chartwell

I hear that the number of Wildcard Artists are reduced from last year. They had 50 last year but I think it's just 25 artists in each heat this year.  

They set up on the grass which slopes down from the house to the lake in the valley bottom. It's actually a better view of the house - and I've certainly seen artists and art groups painting the house from this vantage point on my visits to Chartwell. 

(I'm not telling you what my favourite vantage point is - but I've done many sketches from there!)

Wildcard artists on the grass slope below the house at Chartwell
Wildcard artists on the grass slope below the house at Chartwell

I think maybe this lady missed the big sign near the entrance warning about the black swans and their "assertive" behaviour! (For which read "aggressive" - my other half howls about the time I was chased away by them when settling down to sketch!)

The infamous Chartwell Black Swans taking an interest

Themes and Learning Points

As with all my other blog 'Artist of the Year' posts, I tried to detect some learning points within this episode - read on for more of these.

Today, these are:
  • Artist profiles 
  • Composition and completion
  • Simplification and what to leave in and what to leave out
  • The importance of shadows
  • Highly Coloured Grounds

Artist profiles

Television is a brilliant way of 
  • raising your profile as an artist 
  • or getting your art career off to a good start 
  • and this applies irrespective of whether or not you get shortlisted.

  • if people want to follow up on you and your artwork they need somewhere online to go! 
  • I'm never quite sure why people want to be on television but have nothing by way of 'up to date' websites / social media accounts.  It's the television equivalent of winning a prize in an art competition - but you haven't quite got round to getting your new website finished. (I've met quite a few artists guilty of that one!)
It's also a great idea if:
  • you publish a post about the experience after broadcast (somewhere). If you do a blog post I'll include a link in my review - and you'll get an awful lot of traffic to your site!
  • you make sure your website is both up to date AND includes one or more of:
    • your submission
    • your heat painting
    • a finished version of your heat painting 
  • PLUS a decent profile of who you are and what you do re art.

Composition - and completion

It's always interesting to see who actually focuses on composition at the beginning.

One of the reasons why I make decisions early on about who's likely to be in with a chance is almost entirely based on how much time they spent thinking about what might make the best composition.

One of the best ways of testing out how much thought has gone into the artwork is whether or not an artist has:
  • worked out the best format and size of support
  • brought brushes compatible with that decision
  • started to work across the whole support from the very beginning.
By the latter I don't mean working in detail. I mean plotting out all the features they will be including - and where they go.

In terms of size and format, you'll find as the weeks pass, that those shortlisted and the winner have almost always used their entire support.  

Those who make wise judgements about size and format are those who know how much they can do in four hours - and brought the right size brushes with them - and then complete their paintings (or very nearly).

I liked the fact that:
  • Stuart took his camera and went walking around until he found a view which worked for him
  • Shelagh plotted out her composition right from the very beginning - and some way in was still making sure she'd got things the right size and in the right place such that the painting delivered on the sense of height
However, when it came to the end the artist who planned her painting from the beginning won out over an artist who produced an artwork which developed from a single painting to a triptych as the day wore on.

Simplification is the key: what to add in and what to leave out

Simplification is the key to finishing in four hours - with interruptions.

Crucially the issue of what to add in and what to leave out should be addressed when working out the composition. As in you should know which items are in or out and which are up for mulling over further as the artwork progressed e.g. how much detail a oppose to how much suggestion.

Those who go in early with detail are very probably dodging the issue of whether or not they can finish the artwork within the four hours - and there are absolutely no prizes for "it would have been really good if I could have got it finished".

I will reiterate many times in these reviews that if you haven't practised painting subjects in four hours (as many plein air painters do on a regular basis) you are very likely to be caught out by time and hence decisions as to what gets added in and what gets left out are driven by time limits rather than artistic decision-making.

Some artworks were unfinished. Some had rushed and maybe spoilt what they had developed. 

This is always the risk of NOT:
  • working out how to simplify and 
  • working out a composition. 

The importance of shadows

The importance of shadows is they help enormously with making a 2D artwork take on three dimensions on the support.

Paul was waiting for the shadows - which he knew would arrive in the afternoon - because he's an experienced plein air painter and know which way the sun moves and when shadows will move in or away.  

It's a skill you only develop through lots of working outside.  I'm sure many plein air painter would agree that working out where the sun is, where the compass points are and hence how the sun will move is a bit like the "mirror, signal, manoeuvre" of experienced drivers. You don't even realise you are doing it - but you do it every time.

Highly Coloured Grounds

Kathleen commented on how many artists "this year" (as in this probably wasn't the first heat filmed) were using highly coloured red / pink grounds to try and make the greens pop.

I note I also made reference to coloured grounds in this post last year Review: Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 at Herstmonceux Observatory

What I think

Apart from the fact, somebody may have read my post last year....?

It's a fashion. If they see people doing well with a coloured ground they want to use it. 

For me:
  • the importance of a mid toned coloured ground is that you're much more likely to read and record the range of tonal values correctly if working on a middle value ground
  • the coloured grounds are particularly effective at enlivening an artwork on a very grey day when there is a surfeit of greyness
  • coloured grounds with very strong colours are disastrous if you don't cover most of them - because then your eye is constantly distracted by the strong colour
Consider the relative benefits of tone versus colour. 
  • Prioritise tone over colour in the first instance
  • When you have mastered recording tones accurately you can move on to the challenge of working with complementary colours
But most of all complete your artwork and make the strong coloured grounds play a supporting role not a dominant - or domineering one.

The Results

Wildcard Winner

Kathleen Soriano arrives to tell Mark Rogerson he has won the wildcard entry

The Wildcard Winner was Mark Rogerson of Wandsworth. He produced a two colour linocut print of a decent size. He'd also very cleverly cut it in two and rollered them separately so there was no scope for messing up.

It gave a complete sense of what it's like being near the bottom of the slope looking up at the house.

Mark has some lovely prints about London - which are nowhere on his T Shirt website - but they've all been nabbed and come up on Pinterest first - often with no links.....

Shortlisting Pod Artists

Artworks produced in Episode 1 - lined up for judging

Some key comments during the Judging process are worth repeating. I recommend watching the episode twice - you see and hear a LOT more second time around - once you're not following who's who and what happened.
We want to see artists who know who they are
I've included this quotation up front as success in this type of competition is often about......
  • having a clearly worked out and mature style (no matter how long you have been an artist) 
  • creating two works which sit well with one another on the day
  • display a confidence in their skills which enables them to take calculated risks.
There's two drawings here - and I think I'm happy to let that one go
An artist is always competing first and foremost with the other artist(s) who is most like them - because they want the artists going forward to reflect diversity in terms of what they do and who they are. It's why those who are totally unique very often do well.

Episode 1 Shortlist

Episode 1 Artists with artwork
(left to right: Julia, Shelagh, Stuart, Gabriella, Gail, Paul)

The artists shortlisted (in the order they were called) were three Amateur Artists:
  • Shelagh Casebourne
  • Stuart Jarvis
  • Gabriella Fernandes
I wasn't surprised - they were the three I chose. Interestingly with only 6 artists rather than 9 one has a much better chance of getting it right.

Episode 1 Shortlisted artworks and artists

Here's what the Judges had to say about each of the artists.

Submission and (triptych) heat painting by Gabriella Fernandes

What the Judges thought

  • Kate thought she didn't quite pull of the triptych - that it didn't quite work
  • They all agreed that she painted really well - with her unusual vertical brushwork strokes
  • Tai was complimentary about the colours 

What I thought

  • I thought she did amazingly well with the triptych given it wasn't plannned at all. Each painting worked on its own and bookended the middle one - however it was a triptych of a semi-circle rather than a panorama - and I'm inclined to agree with Kate.
  • It gave a very strong sense of that scene at Chartwell - particularly in relation to the colours

Submission and heat painting by Stuart Jarvis

The Judges said

  • he produced a great sense of both distance and volume
  • he made very clever use of the black (negative) space in the foreground
  • a painting of two halves - abstracted in one sense and detailed and accurate in terms of the architecture

What I thought 

  • an artist who likes straight lines / perspective / drawing buildings drew the best version of Chartwell all day.
  • submission and heat drawing looked good together
  • it didn't quite have the 'weight' to be the winner.

Submission and heat painting by Shelagh Casebourne

The Judges said

"so much strength to her work because she makes good compositional choices before she gets down to the business of good looking paint"
Kate Bryan

What I thought

  • I had Shelagh down as a shortlisted artist from very soon after the beginning - and that's because of the way she started. Looking up - with a very vertical view - it was an obvious choice to go for a portrait format
  • she then demonstrated that 
    • she understands colour and 
    • knows how to paint figurative scenes in an impressionistic way.

Episode 1 Winners - Overall and Wildcard

Heat Winner

The winner was Shelagh Casebourne - which I predicted, although I thought Gabriella was in with a shout.

Husband and dogs race in to congratulate Shelagh
- the only ones who can pat her on the back!

You can see the video of her painting Chartwell here

Shelagh Casebourne painting Chartwell and its garden

Shelagh Casebourne LAOTY S6 TX1 Timelapse from Storyvault Films on Vimeo.

The next episodes

The next episodes are at:
  • 20th January - Episode 2: West Wycombe Lake, Buckinghamshire
  • 27th January - Episode 3: West Reservoir, North East London


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Call for Entries for the Next Series of Landscape Artist of the Year

In my blog post - Call for Entries: Landscape Artist of the Year (Series 7) - I provide
  • my overview of the call for entries - plus tips
  • links to my reviews of past episodes - which also contain quite a few tips (also see below) 
It includes:
  • Key Features of the competition
  • So you want to paint landscapes on television?
  • Who can enter
  • Eligible Landscape paintings - for submission
  • Your digital entry (and what will disqualify you)
  • What are the Judges looking for?
  • My Reviews of Previous Heats in 2018 and 2019

Take a look at my reviews of the last two years - which includes lots of pics - to help you have a think about whether you want to enter.

Or better still watch the last two years in a major binge on Sky or Now TV - where all episodes are available

Past Blog Posts

2019: SERIES 5 

Below you can find
  • the link to my review
  • THEMES for each of my reviews are highlighted under the link for each review of the episode
  • links to blog posts written by the participants - always very helpful!

  • Review: Semi-Final of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 at Cromarty Firth


2018: SERIES 4











  • Learning Points from Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 - a summary The main learning point for me were 
    • how demanding the location can be for a final 
    • the importance of the Challenge Paintings (i.e. it's not just about the Heat Painting) 
    • the fact that the Judges went back over ALL the paintings produced by the contestants during the ENTIRE COMPETITION in reaching their decision.

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