Sunday, February 21, 2021

Review: Episode 6 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 at West Reservoir, Stoke Newington (again!)

The artists and Landscape Artist of the Year team sweltered in 90F degree heat last summer on "the hottest day on record for 100 days. while filming the Episode 6 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 Then nearly had a thunderstorm too! In the end some commented they felt as if they'd had four seasons in one day.

Episode 6: waiting for the announcement of who has been shortlisted

LAOTY Episode 6 at West Reservoir, Stoke Newington, London

The Location

They were back at the West Reservoir in Green Lanes Stoke Newington N4 2HA - and swopped places with the Wildcards. The pods were out next to the reservoir edge - with fans 

Pods on the edge of the Reservoir

while the Wildcards were on the Reservoir Terrace. 

West Reservoir Centre and terrace

By way of contrast I should report that the West Reservoir Twitter account has been reporting near freezing temperatures in the water in the last week for their winter swimming activities!

Interestingly Episode 3 was actually filmed the next day - so this wasn't actually the final heat but rather the penultimate one - as they filmed the semi-finals nearby the following week (my sources tell me!)

The Weather

This was a classic hot summer's day - with heat haze in the morning, 90 degree centigrade in the shade at midday and then cracks of thunder and threats of a summer storm from a grey sky in the afternoon - but the rain never materialised.

I'm surprised they all survived without shade - even if they did have fans.

Note to Tai - get a hat if you feel the heat that much! They're very cooling.....

The Artists

Six artists participated in the heat - split between three professional and three amateur. Artists are listed alphabetically below - with links to their websites embedded in their names and their social media sites after their names (if they have any) plus brief profiles of where they are from and what they do.

Professional Artists

The professional artists were:

  • Susanna McInnes (Instagram) Lives in South London and has been painting landscapes for 20 years. BA (HONS) degree in Fine Art from Manchester Metropolitan University. She has exhibited in various locations over the years. Painted from her roof during the first lockdown. Previously participated as a wild card artist in Episode 3 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 - Millennium Bridge Gateshead where she did a splendid painting. I think it was a shame she didn't paint as big this year. Chose her submission on the basis of the painting which wowed her Instagram followers the most. This is a link to:

  • Joanna (Jo) Myles (Facebook | Instagram) BA (Hon) in Art, Major in printed textiles. Former textile and fashion designer. She likes working in mixed media She seems to have made the switch to professional artist about 3 years ago. This is her blog post of her experience of the day
  • Daniel Newbury (Facebook) - lives in London and runs his own driving school as well as being a professional artist.  His preferred media are graphite drawing and pen & ink/watercolour and he specialises in views of London. He's written about his experience and included photos and a video of the day on his Facebook Page.

A good handful of you already know that hilariously, I was on Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the year last night. I haven...

Posted by Daniel Newbury on Thursday, 18 February 2021

Amateur Artists

The amateur artists were:

  • Sharon Adebesi (Instagram) - a self taught amateur artist who works for the London Ambulance Service. She uses colours which reflect her emotions - and she finds blue to be very calming. Her submission was a very striking and complex painting of a busy market in Ghana on a black background.
  • Stephen Jordan (Instagram | Twitter) Lecturer in Social Work at Essex University. Also studied at Southend College of Arts and Technology. He liked working in mixed media. You can see his absolutely amazing submission painting on his website (although it looks better on his Instagram which has it right way up) - it took 10 years to plan and three years to paint. PLUS his University did an article about him! Lecturer displays artistic talent on Sky Arts
  • Kalpna Saksena (Instagram) Lives in North West London. Formerly an accountant in the City of London. Well developed skill in drawing. The themes of her paintings revolve around humans and their environment, from buildings to machinery to everyday objects - and she loves construction sites. She found the subject of her submission painting on a walk through central London. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - take a look at her life drawings using coloured pastels on a dark support on Instagram.

Wildcard Artists

There seemed to be numerous Wildcard artists - as they had the whole of the terrace in front of the West Reservoir Centre to spread out on. 
The Wildcard Artists enter the site. The Wildcard winner is the chap in pink shorts.

This is the back of Lisa Takahashi - painting a podworthy painting - who was one of the wildcard artists having participated been the Wildcard Winner in 2018.

"People who have gone big have really loosened up" Kate Bryan - commenting on wildcard paintings

Note Lisa's hat. Anybody without a hat on was being very silly and would have been boiling their brain in the heat. 

Well that was a scorcher! Some snaps from my day as a wildcard on sky arts landscape artist of the year, which was aired...

Posted by Lisa Takahashi - Artist on Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Themes and Learning Points

What is a landscape?

  • None of the paintings submitted with the application were a landscape format - being either portrait or squareish. 
  • Plus most were NOT about traditional concepts of subject matter for landscapes - with most involving urban spaces or manmade places or some element of industrial landscape.

Most were medium to large size with only one small painting.

HOWEVER due to the pandemic I do think it's been noticeable that most participants have come from the southeast - and hence maybe this has probably influenced the sort of landscapes submitted. 

For example, most of the painters in this heat live in London or nearby.

I am more and more convinced it is a waste of time submitting small paintings unless they are small jewels. 

Your submission is your one and only opportunity to grab some attention and get yourself shortlisted if you don't quite pull off the painting you intended in the heat. It's perfectly obvious that it does not have to take the form of a conventional landscape.

Submission paintings on the wall

Location: Do your research - before the day

I've made the point before that it does no harm to your chances to do as much research as you can about the location before you start to paint.  (i.e. why Jen Gash knew when a huge container ship was going to hove into view at the 2018 semi-finals at Felixstowe -and change the entire scene because she'd worked out the most likely location for the semi-finals and looked up the shipping timetable to see if any ships were due in on the day!)

Jo Myles shares my view that forewarned is forearmed for the competition!

Remember - Google Maps and Street View are your friend. :) Plus they've never been to a location yet which didn't have a website and/or images available via Google etc.

Why you need a hat and umbrella to cope with extreme heat

Sensible wildcard artists had either 

  • brought an umbrella or painting umbrella/parasol 
  • and/or were wearing hats
  • or had retreated to an area of shade!
It was notable that those complaining about the heat didn't have a hat on!

Sun protection is essential if painting plein air in extreme heat

If painting plein air, on very hot days, you need to:

  • Avoid both sunstroke and sunburn i.e. 
    • bring a hat - to cover the top of your head and reduce the scope for your brain boiling!
    • use sunblock - now is not the time to work on a tan!
    • cover up! Use a long sleeved shirt designed for extreme heat (i.e I bought some for visiting a desert - and they were very welcome!)
  • Be able to see the colours without the sun shining in your eyes - so wear
    • sunglasses
    • a broad visor ( my favourite - as it also stops the sweat dripping off your forehead too!)
    • OR use a painting sun umbrella / parasol - which does not influence how colours look on your palette or support (Have you ever had one of those days where you look at your painting the next day and the colours are all wrong?)
    • BUT remember that spike ones do not work on concrete! You need one which attaches to your easel 
    • AND remember you can't use them in wind - they take off!

Having a strong base colour

Three of the artists in this heat started their paintings on top of a very strong (dry) base colour.

  • Jo was on a shocking pink
  • Sharon was painting on black
  • Kalpna was on a strong red
It certainly saves time in terms of covering the entire canvas to start with a base colour. (I'm not quite sure what the rules allow in terms of arriving with a support which you've applied a base colour to - but enough seem to do this to suggest it's allowed.)

The thing is, it's pointless working on top of a strong colour unless
  • it works for the specific painting in that location
  • you know how to utilise it to good effect.
It was clear during the programme that Sharon changed her mind about the wisdom of working on black for that location on that day - and I have to say I agree.

In other words "don't do it because you've seen other people doing it" or if you're new to coloured support. Use them if you know how to use the coloured support.

PS There is a reason why most professional painters start from a fairly neutral mid tone for their toned support.  Having a fairly neutral mid tone allows you to go up and down in tones - without being distracted by colour. Here's a blog post about the best colours for the ground of a painting by a painter who teaches online - How to Choose a Colour for a Tonal Ground (My Top 5 Pigment Choices)

How to capture time as well as a landscape

"The paintings should be about today"
Often the challenge is how to capture the weather as well as a landscape - which can be a real challenge when it can change very fast as the light changes both tones and colours - as clearly happened over the course of this heat.

If you paint plein air you're always going to experience the time passing but have to make a decision at some point about which point in time your landscape will be about. 

However Stephen Jordan posed a different challenge. He sets out to capture time WITHIN his landscape paintings - and did a top down view and painted one side of the reservoir for each of the four hours of the time allotted.

I thought it was a really interesting approach - and wondered why more artists don't also attempt to capture time explicitly in one way or another.

UPDATE: The need to train to generate your best result

I've added this in after publication - because it exemplifies for me one of the really important points for all wildcard and pod artists. 

This is what Stephen Jordan said in his interview for the article about him published by Essex University on its website
“I had been called by the production company at the end of June to tell me that I had been selected. I knew I would only have four hours to paint something on the day, so set about training myself on days in July to create something acceptable in my style in four hours, I took some days off work and went off on my bike to paint for four hours in the open, so that on the day I would be used to sitting and painting for that time. It meant that on the day I was able to focus and not panic. In the end I think I did the best I could, but everyone can judge when they watch the programme."  Lecturer displays artistic talent on Sky Arts
I thought he did brilliantly on the day. He had a plan, he knew how to work within the time period and stayed focused and didn't panic. He wasn't averse to getting out of his pod to find the pictures that he needed to include in his painting. Plus he finished on time and produced a splendid painting.

It just goes to show why training for this event is ALWAYS worthwhile!

Episode 6: The Results

The Wildcard Winner

The winner was the man in the pink shorts - who turned away from the reservoir and produced a lovely traditional landscape painting on a purple ground of the Team Tent in the long grass. 

His name is Bob Higgins from Essex.  I think he wrote this review of what he uses for materials for painting. I am however intrigued by his bit of kit to the left of the painting.

The winning wildcard painting - with subject matter in the background
- and intriguing bit of kit to the left


waiting to be shortlisted

Below are the completed artworks from the heat.

Heat Paintings

The shortlist selected from this heat's pod artists were:
  • Stephen Jordan
  • Jo Myles
  • Kalpna Saksena
The conundrum for me, and what I found very odd, was why Susanna who had some really great comments from the Judges during the course of the day did not get selected at the end. My conclusion was that her two paintings when combined looked too slight compared to the three shortlisted. (I come back to the importance of size of painting and quality of both your submission and heat painting)

Heat paintings of the three shortlisted artists are shown below along with their submission. It's very often the submission painting which makes the critical difference to who gets shortlisted and who wins.

Shortlisted: Stephen, Kalpna and Jo - submissions and heat paintings

Stephen Jordan

Stephen Jordan: submission. and hear painting

What the Judges thought

  • very impressed with his submission painting
  • liked the idea of painting time - and felt the four different skies made sense of this (i.e. in a way he was lucky due to the weather changing in the afternoon)
  • very personal approach (which I think might be "code" for 'how does this translate)
  • remarkable what he achieved in 4 hours i.e. a painting of the whole day
What I thought
  • very different approach to paintings - but does it work for subjects without four sides and a clear boundary?
  • amazing submission - a little surprised by how long it took to create
  • adapted his approach to <4 hours and did very well - but was fortunate the sky decided to change
  • Personally I'd have voted for him as my winner!

Jo Myles

Jo Myles: Submission and heat painting

What the Judges thought
  • obviously loves colour
  • Kathleen observed a lot fo similarities between the two paintings in terms i.e. tree fulfils the role of the windbreak.
  • very inventive painter
  • a painting full of joy
  • one of the strongest vertical paintings they've ever had.
What I thought
  • bottom line I'm not a fan of tall thin paintings. Format came across as gimmicky to me.
  • I didn't get the "joy" thing at all.
  • Still not sure what the two red things in the water are - due to colour and proportion

Kalpna Saksena

Kalpna Saksena: Submission and heat painting

What the Judges thought
  • the fluorescent colours of their building safety gear does not come out strongly in the submission
  • Tai thought the heat painting was too loose at the midway point.
  • heat painting was admired at the end - very interesting, very tropical and steamy with an ominous sky - in Stoke Newington
What I thought
  • Submission painting is an abstracted version of a building site 
  • focus is on shape and colour and there's a lot less detail than you think. 
  • tones and colours worked better when the weather in the afternoon changed to become more stormy looking
I ended up wondering if they would have chosen the same people if they'd looked at all three paintings a week later away from the heat and the experience of the day.

Heat Winner

The winner was Kalpna Saksena. It just goes to show that a painting Judges were not sure about midway through the heat can change their minds at the end.

Kalpna Saksena wins the Heat

The Semi Final

The next programme is the semi final - with seven participants - the six heat winners and the artist chosen from the six wild card winners.

The subject is the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford - and I think they're located on the Knights Bridge inside the Park (go to streetview to see what I mean). 

All I can say is "Good luck" with the ArcelorMittal Orbit in the centre of the picture!

the pods in the semi final

I wonder which wildcard is in that seventh pod?


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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


    • Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 at Chartwell + themes
      • Artist profiles
      • Composition and completion
      • Simplification and what to leave in and what to leave out
      • The importance of shadows
      • Highly Coloured Grounds
    • PLUS participant blog posts
      • Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 | Stuart Jarvis
      • Preliminary drawings of the day. | Stuart Jarvis


     EPISODE 3

    • Review: Episode 5 of Landscape Artist of the Year at West Wycombe House
      • Working in different media - silkscreen printing and marker pens
      • Give the artists a proper chance to do well (one for the production team!)
      • How to use a frame to find a picture
      • Coping with the weather
      • What the artist likes to paint - and what happens if you avoid aspects you don't like
      • The darkest darks and the lightest lights

    2019: SERIES 5



      EPISODE 3

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


      2018: SERIES 4

      HEAT 1

      HEAT 2

      HEAT 3

      Review: Episode 3 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 at Loch Fyne (Loch Fyne, Scotland) - the themes which jumped out for me were

      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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