Monday, January 25, 2021

Review: Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 at West Wycombe Park

The second episode of Series 6 of Landscape Artist of the Year in 2021 looked like an idyllic spot with lots of space for all concerned - and sunshine to boot!

My review below considers:

  • the location and weather
  • the artists profiles
  • themes arising during the episode 
  • who was shortlisted and who won

Episode 2 at West Wycombe Lake

The second episode was at the lake in West Wycombe Park - and this is the link to Episode 2

The Location

West Wycombe Lake in Buckinghamshire is set in 45 acres of landscaped parkland and part of the West Wycombe Park estate which has belonged to the Dashwood family since 1698. The house is now owned by the National Trust.

The nine acre lake is entirely man made and was designed to have the form of a swan.  Swans were seen swimming on the lake during the episode and swans seem to be a recurrent motif of the series so far!

Spot the swan - and the Temple of Music!

A lot of the artists seemed to be challenged by the curves of the classical architecture of the Music Temple. I don't think any of them got it right.

The Weather

They had a bright sunny day - albeit with a strong breeze / blustery wind which caused a few problems for some of the artists. 

The Artists

The Artists relaxing - in a socially distanced way - after they finished

The names of the artists below include links to their websites (if they exist) and social media sites are listed after their names. 

Professional Artists

There were four professional artists - of varying levels of education and experience:
  • Dougie Adams (Instagram) -  A former Guardsman who was did three tours of Afghanistan but was discharged from the army in 2014 after being diagnosed with PTSD as a result of some of his experiences there. Enjoys painting landscapes plein air and also paints dogs. Selected for 'Art in the Aftermath' exhibition.
  • Sophia Brook (Instagram) - b. 1984. Used to work as a qualified teacher until she began studying full time at Heatherley School of Art in West London in 2015. This is her submission Bay of Naples
  • Renata Fernandez (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - b. 1971, Venezuela. Based in London since 2003. Selected for the Lynn Painter Stainers Prize 2016 and 2018, Mall Galleries. Started to explore landscape painting in 2013.  Her blog has an irritating habit of not producing the image which has been trailed! These are her Artist Support Pledge artworks
I'm ready to do anything to make it work Renata
  • Shaun Morris (Instagram) -  1990-1993 BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art, Painting, University of Sunderland; 1994-1995 Master of Arts Degree in Fine Art, Painting, Norwich School of Art And Design. Shaun is a painter and printmaker from the Black Country whose aim is to attempt to depict an alternative landscape of contemporary Britain, one that explores the often overlooked physical and psychological spaces that we often pass through or occupy.  He works in series related to his interests and was a bit out of his comfort zone in this classical manmade landscape idyll. Good track record in terms of art competition, exhibiting and commission work from public bodies. You can see his final painting here - Disco Temple

Amateur Artists

There were two amateur artists - who don't have their own websites.
  • Kirandip Green (Instagram) A Laser Therapist working in the beauty industry in Birmingham. She likes to frame the scene in her landscape paintings.
  • Rosemary Firth (Facebook | Instagram) Works in collage - using discarded artworks for her material. BA Fine Art Hull College of Art. Retired Art Teacher - left teaching to open an art gallery in Doncaster where she lives.  She now teaches art from her home. She lists her artwork on the Yorkshire Art website and has produced a book on producing collage artworks by recycling old artwork.
"(it's) much more fun than painting!" Rosemary 

Wildcard Artists

The Wildcard Artists

There were 50 wildcard artists. Obviously the parkland provided lots of space for suitable social distancing.

It turned out they included a lot of people who produced some very interesting artwork. Indeed, as is not unusual with this series, a number of the wildcard efforts, faced with the same view, were rather better than some of the work by pod artists

I do wonder whether the company who produce this programme have reviewed the process they use to choose artists who generate a good competition.  If not, maybe they'd like to ponder on the above....

Episode 2: 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:
  • Interpretation - producing something different
  • Things Tai-Shan Schierenberg does not like
  • Shifting conditions / "The water keeps changing"
  • Practice beforehand
The start

Interpretation - producing something different

"What we're looking for is landscape going forward" Tai-Shan Shierenberg
The Judges are very keen on artists who produce art which is NOT too literal and not the usual type of representative landscape painting produced by many.

In essence they prefer to see artists who make an active decision to interpret the landscape.  They want to see the artist use their own language to interpret and avoid the conventional.

This imperative applies as much to the submission artwork as it does to heat paintings. Indeed, the Judges commented that the artists chosen were those who they perceived as interpreting the landscapes they painted.

However at this venue, what the artists were confronted by was a highly historical and largely artificial landscape.

The Pods in front of the Temple of Music

Things Tai-Shan Schierenberg does not like

"boats, swans, people - you know what I'm like" Tai-Shan
I think what he means is he doesn't like anything which 
  • fails to look for the scope to abstract and simplify 
  • includes 'romantic' elements
Which is odd given that the landscape they were all paintings is as classical and romantic as you could ever hope to see in the UK estate of a large country house. 

I guess what he meant is "don't get suckered in by the classical and the motifs".

He's also a big fan of anybody who can handle paint and colour well - and if you want to know why you should take a look at his website! In particular those pages which contain his (urban and rural) landscape paintings.

Shifting Conditions / "The water keeps changing"

Some of the artists seemed surprised that the water kept changing due to the stiff breeze. 

The surface, tone and colour of water is ALWAYS very dependent on a number of different factors e.g.
  • the colour of the sky - which is apt to change
  • the extent of cloud cover - ditto
  • the amount and direction of any prevailing wind - ditto
  • the nature of the light due to season/time of day - ditto
If you've painted outside a lot, you'll have experienced this as it's a not uncommon experience any time you go near water. 

That said, the changes keep on changing. Thus there's a vast range of possibilities for how water can look during any given four hour period - unless the weather boasts constant blue skies and is very settled.

Sometimes it's a good idea to take photographs every time it does and just keep working to try and work out which view of the water works best from the aesthetic perspective - and then continue to paint what's in front of you - while keeping one eye on what's also happening right in front of you.

Practice beforehand

There's something of an irony that the heat winner 
  • normally works on small supports - so made sure he practiced painting bigger beforehand
  • reckoned he'd failed both times!
What was good was this artist recognised recognised that waiting until the heat was not the right time to start trying to change the size you can work with - and deliver a decent painting in (less than) four hours.  

However it's worth noting that failing to make it work actually teaches you a lot - and it obviously worked for him!

The Results

Judging Process

The Heat Paintings - lined up for judging

Judges comments included:

They liked

  • people who were inventive and have a contemporary edge
  • people who used their own language to interpret what they saw in front of them
  • good use of colour
  • good use of paint 
  • juicy brush marks.

They're not a fan of

  • people who just give the Judges "what it looks like"
  • the way the artists painted the Temple of Music which proved to be "deceptively difficult".

Episode 2 Shortlist

Waiting to hear who's been shortlisted

The artists shortlisted (in the order they were called) were
  • Rosemary Firth (extreme left)
  • Renata Fernandez (second from left)
  • Dougie Adams (second from right)
Here's what the Judges had to say about each of the artists and their artwork

Submission and heat painting by Rosemary Firth

What the Judges said

They liked how Rosemary had been very inventive in terms of responding to the ever changing water and how she 
  • handled the depiction of the water and 
  • managed to create a strange surface with watery depth.

What I thought

I really liked Rosemary's work - particularly her submission - although I think on the whole her collages made from recycled previous artwork tend to work better at a distance. 

She has a good sense of design, is very capable at simplifying the content within her image and is very good at creating depth and structure in her collages using recycled painted paper.  

There were a few issues for me to do with finish (holes with no paper) - although given the time constraints they were perhaps understandable.

Submission and heat painting by Renata Fernandez

What the Judges said

The paintings were characterised as a trilogy of three vignettes which didn't necessarily hang well together - until Renata put the orange border around them which they thought also added depth to the paintings.

What I thought

I really liked the submission painting - very unusual and once seen not forgotten. I'm not surprised she got picked for a pod.

The late addition of the complementary colour to frame the individual paintings was daring - but succeeded in uniting the three works - which looked very traditional but a little odd painted on only part of the wood support she'd brought.

Submission and heat painting by Dougie Adams

What the Judges said

The Judges thought that Dougie had really moved on from his submission painting. His work was now a lot freer and looser.  They also liked that he'd pushed the horizon line up the painting so as to give more prominence to the water.

What I thought

Dougie had a good composition - which was I thought not quite as unusual as the Judges made out! However he was by far the most effective painter of water - although that didn't come though until quite near the end.  I was really surprised how his painting developed in its later stages.

  • his painting appears to lack extremes darks and lights - although this might be because the final paintings were photographed when it was very dull
  • He got the sizing and perspective of the temple wrong. There again he was certainly not alone in this respect!

The Wildcard Winner 

The wildcard winner was Susan Isaac (Instagram) a Cardiff born artist, now based in Nottinghamshire.  She lives on a farm and paints and sculpts in her studio. She won first prize in the socially distanced plein air Paint Out Norfolk last July.

The Judges liked what they called her inky / moody / evocative artwork.

Kate Bryan with wildcard winner Susan Isaac

Wildcard artists also get the filming treatment during the day. This was Susan being filmed and is from her Instagram account which has a number of pics of the day - including her artwork.


Episode 2 Winner

The announcement that Dougie Adams has won the heat

The winner was Dougie Adams

What I was puzzled by was why, after the Judges saying all the way through that they wanted somebody who was going to break the mold and use interpretation bring a contemporary edge to landscape painting, they should then pick the artist who was by far the most trad plein air painter on the day. 

That's not to say Dougie's painting wasn't good enough to win so much as I didn't get the contradiction between their thoughts and choices.

The winning painting by Dougie Adams

The next episodes

The next episodes are at:
  • 27th January - Episode 3: West Reservoir, North East London
  • 3rd February - Episode 4: Chartwell - The Gardens


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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
The deadline for entries is currently NOON on 30th April 2021 - although this deadline has sometimes been extended in the past.

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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