Sunday, March 14, 2021

The £10,000 Landscape Artist of the Year Commission

The prize for the Landscape Artist of the Year this year was to take on and complete a £10,000 commission to commemorate Dinas Oleu for the National Trust.

This post is a review of the final episode of the Landscape Artist of the Year Series which started in January and finished last week. with Episode 9 which focused on the development of the commission and then its unveiling.

Ophelia Redpath and the Landscape Artist of the Year Judges
looking at the Commission Painting

It follows on from Ophelia Redpath wins Landscape Artist of the Year 2021 at Trinity Buoy Wharf - my post about the Final of the competition.
"She's our winner because she intrigues us - she's really accomplished and peculiar" Kate Bryan
My post covers:
  • the subject of the commission
  • background / relevant history re landscape painting
  • the location
  • collecting information and recording it 
  • sorting, sifting, percolating, creating
  • painting the final painting.
I very much RECOMMEND you watch the programme as it was a very interesting insight into the artistic process of one artist - and how filming can give you one story and the artist gives you another.

Why Dinas Oleu?

Dinas Oleu was the very first gift of land to the newly conceived National Trust - after its foundation in 1895. The Trust aimed to preserve places of historic interest and/or natural beauty

It came from Fanny Talbot who was a landowner and philanthropist

The Commission Process

The Commission process follows a not untypical process - except for the fact that the artist has got a camera crew along wanting nice views for the programme.

At one point I wrote down what appeared to be the process being followed by Ophelia Redpath
  • receive commission
  • get background 
  • visit location - and observe the view (or views)
  • collect information via observation, sketching and photographs
  • generate ideas / possibilities 
  • become confused by the scope and range of source material - but keep going
  • allow information to percolate
  • ponder on the strong ideas
  • begin painting

The Commission

Every year a different organisation provides both the brief and budget for the commission. This year it was the National Trust and Justin Albert, Head of National Trust Wales provided the brief for the commission when they met at Penrhyn Castle (of the formidable gardens).

His criteria were that:
  • she paint Dinas Oleu - a rocky outcrop above the fishing village of Barmouth in Wet Wales 
  • the painting reflects the principles of the National trust 
  • the painting will meld the people and the landscape

The Background 

Kathleen Soriano provided an interesting commentary on the development of landscape painting in the UK and the role of a Welsh artist called Richard Wilson who was one of the founder members of the Royal Academy of Arts and a leader of landscape painting in the UK - associated with the development of painting the "sublime" in landscapes - conveying both mood and meaning, power and spirit in the landscape.

In particular she identified that he'd painted locally at Cadair Idris - and consequently Ophelia slogged her way up the peaks to the same spot - to find a low cloudline and the back was in the cloud and Llyn Cau was a dense black! (The geomorphologist/geologist in me loves any paintings of glacial erosion - including cwms - such as the one in Wilson's painting) 

Richard Wilson - Llyn-y-Cau, Cader Idris - Google Art Project


The location is remote and the views are sensational! (see next image below)

Dinas Oleu is a 4.5 acres (1.8 ha) stretch of rugged hillside above the seaside/fishing village of Barmouth in West Wales. A further 13 acres (5.3 ha) have since it was gifted to the National Trust.  It's located on the coast in the southern part of Snowdonia - looking out into Cardigan Bay and is very remote.

 Hiking and Sketching

The hiking comes first - and then the sketching

There seemed to be an awful lot of walking - then climbing up some VERY VERY steep slopes - involved in getting to various places where she wanted to go - and (I'm guessing) the filming team wanted her to go for their storyline around Richard Wilson.

I was left wondering what would have happened if somebody like me had won. I have to walk up hills backwards due to the limited flexion in my ankles!

Ophelia climbing up the slopes of Dinas Oleu

"It's a really, really, BIG, BIG scene .......I'm feeling quite overwhelmed" Ophelia

Ophelia sat on the slate bridge....

....sketching a slate mountain

You have to decide which elements you are going to paint Ophelia
I particularly liked her comment about 
"colours are easy.....structure and texture are more difficult" Ophelia
and her notion that in order to make the mountain look bigger she needed to know about the very small details - small rocks and plants - which differentiate between the macro and the micro and hence give scale to the size of the huge view she was trying to get down on her board.

What was also interesting was that we saw lots of sketching in various types of light and weather - the working with ink when it was pouring with rain being "interesting"!

However we saw much less taking photos - whereas when Ophelia was in her studio she showed us the photographs she'd had made into a book of all the places she had visited and all the subject matter which had interested her.

What she didn't say is that sketching is very often about finding out how things work and building some memory muscle for later - which you simply don't get just by taking photos.

Becoming confused

I rather liked her very calm approach to becoming increasingly confused.

She was very confident that the painting would work its way out in the end. 

That, of course, is the voice of experience and the knowledge that you know you know so many things about what works and what does not work that your inner self will sort the wheat from the chaff and bring out a good composition - with all the right content.

...and so it came to pass

I think the fact that her paintings always have a very strong sense of narrative must help enormously. It must feel something like an author trying to work out the storyline for a plot.  Once you've got the structure right you can play around with how it works.

The Unveiling

You cannot beat the facial expressions when people are genuinely impressed. I personally think it's the best commission painting so far.

The weird thing is that there are incredibly few shots in the programme of the complete painting (except from a distance) - and those are both fleeting and don't seem to reflect the colours of the painting itself - as shown in the macro shots.

None of the photos done at the end of the heats or when judging the three finalists.

See below to see what I mean

What looks like a fairly dull painting

Compare the painting to these crops and the speeded up video of the painting being painted at the very end of the programme.

This view is missing both top and bottom (and I tried looking on different screens to see whether it was my screen or how it was filmed)

BUT Just look at the colours!
It seems to be more of a panoramic format than in the above pic
Is it missing some of its top and bottom?

The top left of the painting - and the Afon Mawddach estuary

Barmouth, beach and boats - but missing the sky

Ophelia's signature bird - a very red Welsh Kite

I was left wondering whether there was a tiny artist with a backpack to be found climbing the steep slopes of Dinas Oleu somewhere in the painting. It would be very appropriate if there was!

I'm just hoping there's going to be a Landscape Artist of the Year Exhibition in London and that I'll get a chance to see it in person.  t the moment I can't see anything on the home of the Clarendon Gallery in Mayfair - where exhibitions have been traditionally held. Now galleries can't reopen yet - but they do know they can do in the near future - so I'm hoping......

DO NOT FORGET the deadline for entries for The deadline for entries to LAOTY Series 7 - which will be filmed this summer - is currently NOON on 30th April 2021 (Details below)


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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 competitionSo 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
To help you prepare I RECOMMEND that you
  • Take a look at my reviews of the last THREE years (below) - which include lots of pics - to help you have a think about whether you want to enter.
  • Watch previous series 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



    • 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




    • 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 


    the heat; the view; the wind;PLUS




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