Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Review: Episode 3 Landscape Artist of the Year at West Reservoir

LAOTY Episode 3 at West Reservoir, Stoke Newington, London

This review of the third episode of Landscape Artist of the Year (Series 6) considers:
  • the location and weather
  • the artists profiles
  • themes arising during the episode
  • who was shortlisted and who won
This was actually the last heat to be shot before the Semi -Finals (the following week) - although it's been screened as Episode 3. It's interesting to know this because it gives a better perspective on comments made by the Judges.

episode 3 pods
Location of the pods - next to the West Reservoir Centre

The location

Episode 3 was held at the West Reservoir in Stoke Newington (LB Hackney) last summer. (It's currently closed due to lockdown)
  • The water has 23 acres of a 30 acre site which is an accredited centre for water activities and water sports - including dinghy sailing and open water swimming.
  • The pods were set up next to the edge of the reservoir - next to the West Reservoir Centre building.
  • The general public were not allowed at the event
  • Participants could only bring one guest.
West Reservoir and Centre plus pods (centre) and wildcard artists (left)

The weather

The weather was sunny but breezy and it looks on screen as if an excellent day was had by all.

The Artists

Links embedded in the artists' names below go to their websites. Their social media accounts are indicated if they exist.  Their 'official' Sky Arts profiles and videos of how they created their landscape can be seen here.

Artists on a break - after they had finished

Professional Artists

There were three professional artists:
  • Silviya Georgieva (Instagram) - trained and educated in Sofia, Bulgaria but now living in London. She has a BA in Applied Textiles and a Masters in Graphical and Spatial Design from Bulgaria's most prominent art and design universities. She has a passion for working in passion for making multi-media collages. She also has has extensive experience in ceramics. Her artwork was selected for a Washington Post story The best art created by Washington Post readers during the pandemic, which shows the 20 best art works created during the pandemic. Below is an insight into what happens when the film crew photograph you with your submission
She is currently immersed in work exploring the relationship between the human world and the diminishing natural world, highlighting both the negative dilemmas and the possibilities for change.
  • Julian Vilarubbi (Instagram | Twitter) - Lives in Brighton where he has a studio. He studied painting at the Royal Academy Schools where he won the Richard Ford Award for travel in Spain.  He usually creates landscape paintings (in acrylic and oils) based on his travels. He writes about his process for producing his submission painting of Mount Athos in Greece on his website.  Also does life drawing on an iPad and has written a book about this 'Life Drawing on the iPad' (published by Crowood Press in June 2018).

Amateur Artists

There were three amateur artists:
  • Amanda Barrett (Instagram | Facebook) Switched to a career in graphic design because her art school was only interested in promoting abstract work and wasn't interested in painting from life. Subsequently studied British Institute Florence: Certificate in Renaissance Art, Brighton Art College: Foundation Painting, Chelsea School of Art BA Graphic Design.  She does a lot of plein air painting (and is an active participant in various 'Paint outs') and is currently contemplating becoming a professional artist after deciding to retire from graphic design. Last year she won 3rd prize in Paint Out Norfolk - against 400 paintings by 48 artists!
  • Judith McDonagh (Instagram) - an 18 year old student from Oxford.  Tai-Shan - who's a very nice man - voiced the view to camera that she had given up..... However judging by age and her relative lack of presence / paintings online and her process on the day, I suspect it's very likely that she either disliked the experience (i.e. it's certainly not for everybody) or maybe felt way out of her depth and/or both.
  • Anil Patel (Instagram) - a graphic designer who lives in Leicester and is a big supporter of the local footie team. Previously appeared in chosen for BBC’s Big Painting Challenge 2018! (I knew his face and painting technique looked familiar!).  He won my "fastest painter of the episode" back in April 2018!

Wildcard Artists

Wildcard artists were limited to just 25 - probably due to the constraints of the site. They set up on mats in the grass around the reservoir.

Wildcard artists on their way to their may on the edge of the reservoir

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:
  • How best to combine nature and urban landscapes.
  • More of what Tai-Shan does not like
  • No scope for walking away
  • Young painters
  • sometimes the second paintings are better

How best to combine nature and urban landscapes

Everybody will remember the diktat they had from teachers when at school - to remember that you MUST answer the question set in the exam.

In this episode there were a couple of clues from the commentary of the Judges as to what that question was. They expected to get artists who worked out how to portray aspects of nature in an urban environment.
"bring together urban and rural in one work"

"looking at nature through the prism of modern life" 

I'd argue that maybe the winner was the only person who evidently did that - with other artists tending to lean more towards the buildings around the edge or the activity on the water.

I'm not sure if the artists get any briefing from those making the programme or the Judges. It seems a bit unfair to judge them on a criteria that they don't even know about!  That said, if I was in a competition I think I'd probably address myself to the questions of 
  • WHY do they want me to portray this scene and 
  • what's DIFFERENT about this view compared to others?

More of what Tai-Shan does not like

Tai was much more explicit in this series about what he does not like. I think he's dropping hints in the hope that he'll see more paintings he likes.

Last week I focused on what Tai does not like.  This week we found out that he is ALLERGIC to:
  • boats
  • "tweeness" - Cambridge dictionary suggests this mean "the quality of being twee i.e. artificially attractive or too perfect"
Maybe he didn't tell the producers about the boats? Maybe they've decided to test his allergy with dinghies?

No scope for walking away in order to work out what to do next 

I say this - and then remember that this is precisely what Jen Gash did on the day of the 2018 Final at Greenwich - see Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 - the Final. I had lunch with her before the exhibition and she told me she just felt emotionally exhausted and needed to get away to be able to think what to do next - so disappeared for half an hour.....

On the whole however during a heat, there is emphatically much less scope for that "I'll leave it and turn it to the wall and come back to it tomorrow / three days time / next month" process which so many artists use to produce their best work.  The most you're ever going to get is when you have a break for lunch. Unless you deliberately walk away to have a breather - like Jen. That'll get the crew agitated.....

PS I always get up and walk around when working plein air - just to keep the circulation going in my legs! Plus I always recommend a good walk as a jolly good way way of working out solutions to problems. :) 

Young painters

I very much applaud the fact that LAOTY frequently gives young painters a chance i.e. age is not a limiting factor to participation.

However I do think that the team running the series do owe a Duty of Care to those who are young - even if technically they are an adult.  I think the team maybe need to take more trouble over checking out
  • the applicant's experience in both painting - and painting plein air 
  • how they feel about being on television - and what they expect it to be like 
  • why they've applied and what they think they'll get out of it.
This is after all a version of a reality show - and we all know the very serious criticisms made of some of those for some painful reasons. Just because people are artists and not walking around in swimwear does not make them impervious to issues associated with being on television.

A more constructive and supportive approach might be to ask young artists to be a Wildcard first time out - and, if they then enjoy it and do well, then ask them back next year as a pod artist.

Speaking personally, I found it in turn frustrating and painful to watch a very young artist sitting and doing very little - while obviously not happy with what she had produced - but not knowing what to do about it and looking as if she was out of her depth. It must have been so much worse for the individual concerned - although hopefully it's provided a lesson for her in a constructive way. 

For what it's worth I liked her painting better than I liked watching it not progress - and I do wish she'd used what she'd learned from the first one and had a go at a second - I'm sure it would have been better still.

Sometimes the second paintings are better

It was interesting that there were four examples of artists thinking / doing second paintings.
  • Anil decided part way through - and quite early on - to do a diptych. He knows he's a fast painter. However, for whatever reason, he then found that his ground would not dry and paint was sliding around on it. (I think I'd have wiped it off - it looked very thick). So he had to stick with his first one. 
  • Judith thought a lot about doing a second painting - after not being happy with her first - but then did nothing.
  • Amanda decided after an hour that her first painting was too predictable and abandoned it. She then started a second smaller painting and was playing "catch up" However she indicated that knew more or less where she was in terms of what still needed doing relative to the time left - all the way through the painting time.  She then went on to be shortlisted.
  • The Wildcard Winner knew he was going to do two at the outset - and how the second would be developed. His second painting meant that he then went on to become the Wildcard Winner.
So there we go
  • it's worth thinking about doing a second painting
  • make sure that you know why you're doing it
  • make sure you can finish it in the time
  • if you're going to do a diptych, do the ground for both panels / canvases at the same time
  • receive accolades if you get it both finished on time and get it right!

The Results

Heat Paintings and Judging Process

Heat Paintings
from left to right: Silviya, Julian, Anil, Judith, Ophelia and Amanda

Judges comments included:

They liked

  • people who keep trying
  • people who know when to stop and start again / make wise decisions
  • paintings which are lively and have energy
  • paintings which contain narrative / tell a story of the place

They're not a fan of

  • paintings which are twee (Tai)
  • unfinished paintings
  • people who give up
  • coloured supports which are obvious, intrusive or distracting (i.e they don't add value)

Episode 3 Shortlist

Does anybody else get annoyed that artists are asked to stand in front of their paintings rather than in the gap between the easels - so we can see the paintings next to one another?

Waiting for the announcement of the shortlist

The artists shortlisted
(in the order they were called) were
  • Julian Vilarubbi
  • Ophelia Redpath
  • Amanda Barrett
I also liked the collage produced by Silviya a lot.

Here's what the Judges had to say about each of the artists and their artwork - NOT in the order they were called - but rather the order they were discussed.

Heat painting and submission by Amanda Barrett

Judges said:

Amanda had zeroed in on a slice of urban life - which complemented the same approach to her painting of her local supermarket. The two paintings made more sense when seen together.

Kathleen also noted how she chops off the top of the painting and that the crop adds to the dynamism and tension in the artwork

What I thought

The submission was in my opinion the more successful of the two paintings. I could see what Amanda was going for with the heat painting but I don't think she quite pulled it off.

Heat painting and submission by Ophelia Redpath

Judges said

"An extraordinary finished work of art"
The competition has never ever had a painter like Ophelia - I think the Judges were greatly intrigued by her.

Ophelia knew where he painting was going from the start - and it was all in her head. Her paintings walk a fine line between serious and surreal and playful and fun.  They're
  • very polished and finished
  • weird and strange

What I thought

It was only when we saw the two together that I realised she'd got a bird in flight in both - and a very persuasive view of a bird.  I liked her heron - it's slightly stylised but is still very 'real' but lends a fantasy element to the scene. I started inspecting motifs for symbolism!

Ophelia remained calm throughout, enjoyed her day and finished her painting. I noted she had a very methodical way of working across her support which spoke volumes about a painter who has been painting for a long time.  You just know that if you commissioned her to do an artwork for you, she'd produce something very interesting on time, on brief and with zero drama.

Heat painting and submission by Julian Vilarubbi

Judges said

The Judges thought Julian was very innovative at finding new ways to make marks to reflect the nature of the surface of what he is painting - whether it's vegetation or water.

They noted that he adopted the same approach with both paintings in terms of compositional device - and used the foreground to root the painting in its context. 

What I thought

I really liked Julian's paintings a lot.  For me he was very much vying for heat winner.

Except for one thing - his water felt like it was tilting a tad which I found distracting. (Speaking as one who always has to watch out for her tendency to produce leaning uprights!)

I thought his painting caught the best sense of the reservoir as used by the people there - but the urban context was very underplayed and it made me think it could have been anywhere. 

Wildcard Winner

The first thing to say is that the Judges were very impressed by the wildcard paintings. I refer them to my comment in my last review about who's in a pod and who is a wildcard.

I know they included Lisa Takahashi who is a former Wildcard winner. One day they'll invite her into a pod!

Stephen Kinder (Facebook | Instagram) was the winner of the wildcard section. He studied landscape architecture and urban design and is a self-taught painter. He's exhibited in both London and Surrey for many years. He's currently Head of Creative Arts at Priors Field School, Godalming.

He painted a large painting and then a second painting which was looser and more painterly.
I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him back in the semi-final. 

The Judges described it as a "juicy fresh honest bit of painting"

Kate Bryan talking to the Wildcard Winner Steve Kinder 

Episode 3 Winner

The winner of Episode 3 was Ophelia Redpath.

I didn't think her style would appeal to the Judges and had Julian down as the winner - although I think in terms of being a mature artist who know what she's about and how to paint Olivia more than fits the bill.  

The Judges liked her paintings's surreal qualities and the echoes of magical realism.

It was also the only painting in the Heat which, to my mind, successfully combined both urban and rural/nature aspects giving both equal attention - but with the extra twist of creating something with a hint of magic realism. I guess given this is a proper art movement this avoids it being considered "twee".
"I'm delighted we discovered an artist like Ophelia"

Amanda and Julian congratulate Ophelia (in the middle)

The next episode - tomorrow night at 8pm on Sky Arts on satellite Sky Arts / Now TV or Channel 11 on Freeview - is back at Chartwell - this time painting the gardens rather than the house. The photo in the Radio Times looks as if they've gone for one of my favourite places to sit and look at the gardens and the view......


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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 to LAOTY Series 7 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

Below you can find
  • the link to my reviews in the current and previous series
  • 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!

2021: SERIES 6 



2019: SERIES 5




  • 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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