Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Review: Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 at Chartwell

Shortlisting line-up after landscape painting is over

Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2020 returned to Chartwell in Kent for the fourth episode having kicked off with a view of Chartwell the house in Episode 1 (see my review). 

This review of the fourth 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.

LAOTY Episode 4 at Chartwell in Kent - the Garden and View

The Location

This second heat at Chartwell saw the pods moved up the steps on to lawn terrace in front of the House - which has the most amazing view of the rest of the Estate and the Weald of Kent.
The pods on the Terrace Lawn in front of the House

Below is the view from the Garden terrace below the house. I know that skyline of trees extremely well from sketches. That's one of my favourite places to be sat on a good day! It is however very exposed on very sunny days. I also have many, many photos - and sketches - of the view from that terrace. I've sat there more times than I can remember!

The photo below was taken in the early morning as the lawn (and terrace) are in full sun from late morning to the end of the day.

the view from the terrace beneath the house

The Weather

It looks as if it was a scorchingly hot day. There were certainly comments about people having problems with what the heat was doing to their paint.

The Artists

Artists are listed by status and then alphabetically. You can see their profiles on the Sky website

Professional Artists

There were four professional artists in this heat.
  • Max Denison-Pender Facebook | Instagram | Twitter - He wanted to be a painter age 5. Now aged 22 he is a classically trained painter based in London. I assume he has "connections" as he's certainly got access to locations and jobs which would normally be very surprising for an artist of his age and experience.  He's very clear that 4 hours is an oil sketch for him. 
  • Imhonigie Imoesi Facebook | Twitter - Born and raised in Edo State, Nigeria, graduated with a Higher National Diploma in painting and general art, majoring in painting in 1999. Upon graduation, he embarked on a full time career as a studio artist and has exhibited regularly. Had a residency at the National Gallery of Art, Lagos at the 2005 and 2009 . Moved to the UK with his wife and daughters 9 years ago.  He likes using a palette knife and creating texture in his painting to prevent his painting from being static. He had a very impressive submission which you can see on his Facebook Page.
  • Rosie Parmley Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Born and grew up in Finchley, London with her Turkish Cypriot parents. Graduated from Bath with a fine art degree. Completed teacher training in 2014. Currently works as a Painter and Teacher at The Colour Factory, Winchester UK and is currently doing live Zoom classes. You can see both her submission and her heat painting on her website.
  • Rachel Wright (Instagram) No social media sites for Rachel [UPDATE - oh ye she has - thanks Louise Gillard!). I was very puzzled by somebody who was fairly new to painting in watercolour would choose to continue to paint in watercolour in the heat. I wondered if anybody had explained to her it's not uncommon for artists to switch media between submission and heat - and can still do well of their paintings are good and consistent in style. 

Amateur Artists

The two amateur artists were
  • Ben MacGregor (Instagram) Ben would normally be working on a building site - but in what capacity I'm not quite clear.  (Decorator?).  It's such a shame that Ben is not online with his artwork. He prefers to work in an expressionistic abstracted way and his artwork reminded me strongly of some of the works of the painter Paul Nash - not entirely divorced from reality but not realistic either.  He spreads his paint with spatulas [UPDATE: I've been sent his Instagram ID!]
  • Zoe Wilkinson (Instagram) Philiosphy student who produced her submission - a painting of her local pond - for her A level course work. 

Wildcard Artists

Wildcard artists arriving

The wildcard artists had absolutely masses of space. They seemed to move down to the lake or stayed near to where they could see a wall (for those who like buildings rather than a lot of green!)

I think I'm right in saying you can see the winner in the above pic!

Themes and Learning Points

Green, green and more green

top down view of the estate

It's pot luck whether as a landscape artist you get an urban or more rural landscape. It seems as if those who like trees sometimes get buildings and those who like buildings sometimes get trees and an awful lot of green.

Lots and lots of green is a big problem for anybody not used to working with greens and how to see, make and vary them.

For me it's very unwise for people participating in this competition not to know how to make effective and interesting greens - mainly by mixing rather than straight from a tube. 

One of the things I was always taught is that you can't make effective greens for transitions unless you also use some red.

This is the wildcard winner showing you just how much red she had on her painting....

working with reds to get solid and interesting darks to show off the lights
in the Wildcard winner's painting

A blue sky with nothing happening

an awful lot of still blue sky

Tai identified the sky as being a major problem - as it effectively removed the scope for interesting painting. 

Oddly one of the things I thought was really odd was that there were rather a lot of paintings produced on the day - which included sky - which was not bright blue. 

My own view is that the bright blue can be challenging but very effective if you balance it out with what to do in the rest of the painting. I guess for me those paintings which had less successful skies were also those which lacked the sort of balance which made the painting read well from a distance.

VERY BIG views - with a lot in the distance

This might be the view that convinced Chruchill to buy Chartwell and there is no question that it is very impressive. However it also a very tricky view. Kathleen rightly identified it as a major challenge where they need to decide how much they are using in their paintings and how much definition to use.

There's an awful lot of it. It can seem overwhelming (I speak from personal experience of trying to make sense of it myself).  It has many  zones and layers which can work to your advantage if you identify and clarify them - and their varying colours, However they can also work against you if you get muddled and the zones then become confusing when you look at the painting.

You can see the Weald of Kent - but they almost all decided to ignore it in favour of 
  • a section of the trees around the lake 
  • or the view along the top of the wall of the terrace and into the distance
Only Rosie went for the panoramic format which can do it justice - although it felt rather disconnected and I can't honestly say it reminded me of the view itself.

Golden ratio and rule of thirds

Ben was a devotee of the golden ratio for his expressionistic / surrealistic paintings - and I'm guessing having "good bones" around which to hang your own view of the world is a pretty good idea.  It certainly worked in his case.

Max also used the rule of thirds to work out the proportion between land//lake/trees and sky - to give himself enough to do on the small board he was using for his oil sketch. 

Knowing how big to go for the time allotted

Those who know how much they can get done in (less than) 4 hours - and how big they dare go are ahead in the race from the very beginning.

That has to be knowledge based on experience - and specifically of working outside in all weathers. You need to know what will happen to your paint and support when it's extremely hot / cold / very wet / very dry etc

I'd say both Max and Ben demonstrated they were most at home with the size they chose - and how to work with it. 
Four hours to me is a sketch. I don't want to jeopardise the image by going big
Ben did however note that the sun on his paint made them a bit buttery. It's worth noting that VERY hot days are a completely different context for painting compared to fine, sunny days where it's not blisteringly hot.

Rachel recognised that she is a slow worker - and likes working slowly in watercolour. She had practiced in advance how to work to cope with the time allotted

More about Tai's phobia

This week Tai commented on another of his phobias - people in a landscape. He wants to see figures with some meaning rather than pure decoration. 

He does NOT want to see "a tourist painting on a sunny day" 

Episode 4: The Results

Wildcard Winner

The painting by the Wildcard Winner was really good.  The Judges really liked the way she recognised the light and worked with it to capture the light on each tree.

Louise Gillard is a painter and printmaker who lives in Battersea in South West London. She often paints plein air.
After a career of some 25 years in publishing and marketing, Louise was able to transition to a full time career as an artist and art teacher in 2017.
Tai-Shan Schierenberg and Louise Gillard - the Wildcard winner

LOTS of tonal variation - as you get on a very hot sunny day in the trees of
the painting which won the Wildcard event


How difficult is it to ask artists to stand in-between their easels so they don't mask their own paintings and we can see BOTH the artist AND their painting?

The shortlisted artists were:
  • Max Denison-Pender
  • Ben McGregor
  • Rachel Wright
These are the paintings of the shortlisted artists

The Judges indicated they were looking for artists who brought their personality to bear on the landscape and produced something that connects their submission with the landscape they were presented with i.e. a consistency of style and intent.
from left to right: submission and heat painting
by Rosie Wright, Ben MacGregor and Max Denison-Pender

I thought Ben's paintings overwhelmed the other two in terms of both content and size. If you were going to choose somebody who might potentially paint a commission of a big landscape I thought it was pretty obvious who would be chosen.

heat painting by Rachel Wright

They didn't photograph Rachel's two paintings together. Maybe because her drawing board was in a vertical position? The easel needs to have the bottom ledge on which each painting sits at the same level (see above re. all three sets of paintings to see what I mean).  I'm guessing this wasn't necessarily Rachel's mistake but I'm surprised it wasn't corrected so we saw both paintings together - which we need to see to judge each shortlisted artist.

What the Judges thought
  • they liked her submission painting
  • it was a sensible decision to provide a view which allowed more scope for her to include some abstracted architecture as well as the garden
  • Kathleen liked the "grubbiness" (I emphatically did not!) she considered that dirtying it ip stopped it from being "far too pretty"
  • her calm, thoughtful, methodical approach is reflected in her painting.

What I thought
  • Interesting view - but the painting overall was too slight to win the heat and it doesn't have the colours of Chartwell - it's too pale. Plus I'm not a fan of blacks and greys in watercolour paintings. 
  • I don't think Tai spotted that the figures in her painting might well have been Tai and Stephen Mangan from their interview earlier in the programme.

submission and heat painting by Ben MacGregor

What the Judges thought
  • his marks are unmistakable
  • has edited the landscape to invent his own landscape
  • so much good potential
  • his painting has a strange quality - interesting and artful
  • his painting takes you on a journey throught the landscape
  • he's unique and they want to see something new
What I thought
  • a fascinating approach to painting landscapes - I'd want to see another one.

submission and heat painting by Max Denison-Pender

What the Judges thought
  • he knows what's he's doing
  • Kate likes the use of figures in the landscape 
  • small, focused, fantastic sense of light
  • looked like a lot of paintings by a lot of other painters i.e. not unique
  • BUT it's a good example of a particular style of painting
What I thought
  • pretty much the same as the Judges. Good painting but not exceptional.

Pod Winner

The winner of Episode 4 was Ben McGregor. He was down as my potential winner from the minute I saw his submission as it was so unusual and yet really interesting.  It also struck me as painting which might be well suited to capturing the Welsh landscape for the National Trust - which is the commission on offer.

Ben McGregor is the winner

Ben McGregor with his submission painting

The next episode

The next episode is at West Wyckham House in Buckinghamshire i.e. the house which is home to the lake and gardens which featured in Episode 2.

I think I've worked out now that all episodes were at distances from London which meant that nobody needed to be put overnight.


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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 

      EPISODE 1

      EPISODE 2

      2019: SERIES 5

      EPISODE 1

      EPISODE 2

        EPISODE 3

        EPISODE 4
        EPISODE 5
        EPISODE 6
        SEMI FINAL
        • Review: Semi-Final of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 at Cromarty Firth


        2018: SERIES 4

        HEAT 1

        HEAT 2

        HEAT 3

        HEAT 4


        HEAT 5

        HEAT 6 




        • 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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