Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Review (Part 1): FINAL of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

I'm going to do my review of the Final of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020) in two parts - with the second part on Thursday. This is because this final is a bit different to the UK one.

First off there are seven artists in the Final. 

Cue jokes and knowing glances between Judges about "The New Group of Seven"! (Note what I said in my review yesterday of the third episode!!)

Secondly, I'd like to do a commentary on the paintings in the Final and why I think the Judges chose as they did i.e. my interpretation over and above what they actually said in the edit. - so that's what will be covered in the second part. Along with what happened on the day.....


The Final was filmed at Lake Rosseau in Ontario - about 120 miles north of Toronto. This is a famous lake in Muskoka - which was painted by members of the Group of Seven (although interestingly Wikipedia neglects to mention this)

I'm assuming - based on the location of the lighthouse that they were based on a slope down to the lake - running through the middle of the photo above.

This was the location of the pods - close to and above the lake shoreline

The location of the pods

Herein lies the nub of the problem of why we have had three episodes of flat ground for the pods facing flat views with architecture / manmade objects.

There's a lot of trees in Canada.

Which is absolutely fine and tickety-boo if you are an individual plein air painter - painting on your own.

However if you're filming a television programme with seven GINORMOUSs pods for the artists (exactly why do they have to be that big??)......

...then you have to have them jacked up if they are on a slope - and as you can see they had a two way slope - going down in front and from left to right as per the pic below.

I'm not sure Health and Safety would have approved of the technique and extent of jacking up of that pod on the right below

This is another view of the jacking up of pods. They seem to be using wood disguised by fronds of fir tree!

Also - there was a bit of an issue with the view from the pods. Besides the slope and the jacking up -there were quite a few trees in full view for some.  In fact I think the view must have been quite variable depending on which pod you got to paint in.

The Artists

I'm going to show you pics of the artists with their submissions to gain entry into the Heats. 

That's because of another aspect of the programme which is different to the UK one. There is no commission painting done by those selected for the Final.

Those who follow my reviews for both LAOTY and PAOTY will know I always - repetitively and endlessly - indicate that the quality of the submission painting is critical to 
  • decision-making about who wins a heat, goes through to the Final and 
  • wins the competition as a whole. 
The commission painting done for the Final is often the point when we know who will win.

The submission/commission is also a proper reflection of the calibre of the artist - as it's 
  • a subject they have chosen (if a submission)
  • composed in whatever way they thought created the best painting
  • painted / created in whatever amount of time the artist required to produce a painting worthy of 
    • an entry to the competition 
    • winning the final
But no commissions in the Canadian Final - so I'm going to revert to their submissions.

So listed below - with their paintings are the group of seven artists in the Final - as covered in my first three posts about this competition
We have 
  • six professionals and one amateur
  • four women and three men
  • one is indigenous to Canada
  • two are recent immigrants to Canada (as in another four have families who came from elsewhere in the past).

Episode 1 Artists

Denise Antaya (Instagram) 
  • Lives in Kingsville, Onatario. 
  • Had a 31 year career in Advertising before her husband died and she decided to pursue her life long passion for painting landscapes on a full time basis - by taking a degree in fine art.
  • Her submission was a knockout. Quiet, understated but well composed and well painted. She understands composition very well and creates nice 'feel good' paintings of real landscapes - but typically spends longer on them than the four hours allowed by the competition. 
  • She was my favourite to win Heat 1. 
  • I'm sure she sells a lot. In fact I know she sells a lot - for respectable sums - because she's got LOTS of red dots on her website.
  • She was very enamoured with the location of the Final - very much the sort of landscape she likes to paint.

Denise with her submission (oils)
  • Lives in Toronto. 
  • Graduated with a B.A. in Visual Arts from the University of Western Ontario in 2006. 
  • Combines working as a professional artist with teaching high school (presumably art). 
  • Seems to be an artist who is trying very hard to make his career work but hasn't had a lot of exhibitions to date. 
  • Likes to paint urban landscapes - in black and fluorescent paints but it's not the sort of colour palette or the type of illustrative based art which impresses me.
  • Not a plein air painter.

Tosh with his submission (acrylic)

Episode 2 Artists

Andrew Cheddie Sookrah (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
  • Based in Toronto. 
  • Born in Guyana in 1956, he emigrated to Canada in 1974 and became a citizen in 1978. 
  • He has spent decades being a professional artist - painter and sculptor - and fine art teacher 
  • He's clearly a very skilled artist and it came as no surprise to me that he is also an elected member of 
    • the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, 
    • the Society of Canadian Artists, the Ontario Society of Artists, and 
    • the Portrait Society of Canada. 
  • Finally he's also an instructor at the McMichael Collection where the finalists's artwork will be on exhibition.
Interestingly Andrew's submission was nothing like the way he painted in the competition.

Andrew with his submission (acrylic)

Deborah Danelley (Facebook | Instagram) The only artist in Episode 2 NOT from Ontario. 
  • Based in Winnipeg in Manitoba. 
  • She graduated in 1997 from the School of Art, University of Manitoba - and received a Gold Medal! 
  • Her collages are made from fragments of the covers and paper of old books very much remind me of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • Her extreme panoramic format seems to be part of her signature style - which means it's great for covering horizontal aspects of the landscape - but not so good for verticals.

Deborah with her submission (paper collage)

Episode 3 Artists

Elzbieta Krawecka (Instagram | Twitter)
  • born and raised in Krakow, Poland. 
  • Now lives in Toronto (via Kuwait). 
  • Moved to Canada to attend the Ontario College of Art and Design - and developed a love for the Canadian landscape. 
  • Her landscape paintings depict large areas of open spaces such as skies or water, defined by pattern formations. 
  • She's exhibited her art in numerous group and solo exhibitions. 
As I said yesterday, I've learned to appreciate a lot of artists who appear on television (not all by a long shot) but only rarely do I want to own one of their paintings. To my mind she has some exceptional knowledge and skills as well as very real talent.

I recommend you take a look at the gallery on her website (this is the link to the ones she created in 2020 either side of this competition) - and work your way back to 2001. You'll find your jaw dropping as I mine did at her amazing paintings of skies. I'd like one of her paintings.

Guess who I thought would win.....

Elzbieta with her submission (oils on a board)

  • A very interesting and engaging individual. 
  • Currently lives in Edmonton, Alberta. However she is First Nations Cree from the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, though she 
  • She has a degree in Child and Youth Care and creates contemporary Indigenous art, teaches Cree cultural lessons throughout Alberta, works as a Project Manager at Indigenous Tourism Alberta and facilitates discussions throughout all levels of government and academia. 
  • She paints in acrylic and includes beadwork in her paintings
  • Her subject matter focuses on the land and developing her connection to the spirits associated with it. She uses materials from the natural world to honour her ancestry.
  • Loves her mountains - and her home in Alberta
Mackenzie and her submission - mixed media (acrylic and beadwork)

The Wildcard Winner

The heats had each supplied two artists for the final - with the seventh coming from the artist chosen to be the winner of the wildcard winners

These are pictured below - being reviewed by the two Judges of the three heats.

Judges review the paintings of the three wildcard winners

The winning Wildcard Artist was Nelson Cheng - who was selected as the wildcard winner for Episode 3.

Nelson Cheng (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) 
  • based in Toronto
  • a self-taught professional artist - who went professional two years ago
  • Bachelor of Honours from York University/Sheridan Institute and a Masters of Architecture from the University of Toronto. Influenced by a design background, his artistic approach relies heavily on patterns, abstractions, shapes, forms, perspectives and geometry. Nelson’s work explores ideas and narratives from lived experiences and are often interpreted through landscape and urban subject matter of his surroundings.

This is Nelson painting during the Wildcard part of the competition at Midland Town Dock.

Part Two

Part two will cover:

  • what happened on the day which provided a few challenges
  • the paintings produced by each artist
  • my commentary on the paintings and why I think the Judges chose as they did i.e. my interpretation over and above what they actually said in the edit!
  • who won! 

I have to say, overall, notwithstanding some absolutely appalling decisions about locations for landscape painting, I thought the series improved with every episode - which is another reason why I'm splitting this review of the Final into two halves....

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