Friday, January 14, 2022

Review: Episode 1 Landscape Artist of the Year 2022 - Eden Project Biomes

This review of the first episode of the seventh series of Landscape Artist of the Year considers:
  • the location and weather
  • the artists profiles
  • themes arising during the episode
  • who was shortlisted and who won

Biomes and Pods

Episode 1: Eden Project Biomes

The location

The location was overlooking the Biomes at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Note: There is a second episode in which the artists will paint the gardens.

View of the Eden Project in Cornwall

The location of the Pods overlooking the Biomes seemed to be to the left of the Visitor Centre - in an area which was fenced off. The public were noticeable by their absence.

The pods next to the Visitor Centre - Biomes are to the left

They had great weather - dry, sunny and warm with blue skies and some wispy clouds. 

The Artists

There were six professional artists - in alphabetical order by surname a link to their website is embedded in their name.

The artists lined up with the artwork produced during the heat

Sky Arts seems to be a bit slow to get the artists' profiles up on their website where they name the artist, provide links to their social media sites and show the video of them working on their painting. It wasn't up yesterday but it was there this morning - see but not opening for some reason.

  • Denise Cliffen Primarily self-taught. Started out at a 1999 as a muralist specialising in trompe l'oeil (trick of the eye) and became a professional mural artist in her 30s. She paints landscapes and teaches art workshops and classes in acrylics and soft pastels in the Peak District. Has exhibited with the RBA and the RSMA. Lives in Whatstandwell in Derbyshire.
  • Elisha Enfield [Instagrama figurative and landscape painter working between London and Berlin. She graduated from the University of Brighton in 2011 with First Class Honours in Fine Art Painting. Some very impressive paintings on her website. Come from High Wickham.
  • Dominic Parczuk [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter] - Born in 1982 in Lincoln, England. Did a foundation in art and design in Lincoln. Graduated from Central St. Martins college of art with a BA Hons degree in fashion design. His studio is located in East Yorkshire & Lincolnshire and he works exclusively in Eat Yorkshire - mainly in oils and from life. 
  • Priya Suneel Born in Kerala in India, Priya graduated with a Degree in Fine Arts with Distinction from the  University of Madras and the Government of India Merit Scholarship. She has participated in several solo and group exhibitions in Kathmandu, Lagos, Delhi, Chennai and London. She is a mixed media artist who lives and works in Northwood.
  • Lincoln Taber [Instagram] Studied at City and Guilds of London Art School and has had a number of one man shows as well as participating in a number of group shows (shared and mixed). 
  • David Youds [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter] Studied Art @ Blackburn College and UCLAN and lives in Lancashire. He paints everyday aspects of life - and a bus stop in Acrrington for his submission. He regularly exhibits his work in open exhibitions and has exhibited with the Royal society of Oil Painter, New English Art club, Royal Society of British Artists and Scottish Royal Academy. He reached the semi-final of LAOTY in 2019

Two amateur artists included:

  • Doug Johnson [Instagram | Etsy] Works in sales with an engineering company. Took up printmaking five years ago and makes link priints and linoprint animations. He has a really neat website.
  • Shahrokh Nael [Twitter]- a filmmaker born in Iran who uses writing and narration around the core image - very much a in a storyboarding way.  Tai described it as landscape meets mind mapping meets documentary.

The Wildcard Artists

We're back to 50 wildcard artists at every location. They were located along a pathway on the very edge of the gardens 

Some of the Wildcard Artists

....and had to trek with easels and art gear in single file to get to their positions. 

It looked as if itwas a long trek from the car park / public transport! As always those who know better - from experience - had their kit on wheels!

Wildcard artists trekking with their art gear - some wheeling and some carrying!

The submissions

Viewing the submissions

There's no way of knowing when you view the image on the wall during the programme of how big it is - because the view above is fleeting - until you see the submission with its artist. 

Dianne Cliffen seemed to have the largest artwork submitted as an entry

It struck me that most of the submission were smaller than usual. Maybe people are beginning to realise that having to transport a large painting to an unknown location might be a challenge too far. Hence the size seems to be reducing. 

I was also struck by how many adopted a portrait format - which is somewhat unusual where the wide format I called 'landscape'!

The submission included some unusual subject matter - such as a fire which was VERY eye-catching (by Elisha Enfield). Not least because despite the fact it's quite loosely painted it's very convincing.


Others, such as David Youds, painted the totally ordinary - such as a bus stop in Acrrington which included a message in reverse

Themes and Learning Points

There's a lot of themes this week. I didn't see any of them until I went back and watched again the next morning!

Playing around at the beginning

We often see artists saying they're just playing around trying to work out what to do - while painting direct on large format canvasses / panels. I note that many of those who spend a lot of time at the beginning paint straight on to their panels - with no preparation.

I love the way Kathleen always arrives with a pep talk for all those who she deems are wasting too much time at the beginning with too much 'playing around' and not enough 'getting on with it'.

After all the artists are there for a while before the filming starts and you don't need a paint brush in your hand to stare at your subject and work out what your options are. 

It was very noticeable to me that the winner of this episode was an artist who employed a sketchbook very intelligently to look at different SMALL AND SIMPLE THUMBNAIL  options for how it might her landscape might work

  • It's a practice which I commend to others.
  • Using a sketchbook allows you to make well informed decisions without spending oodles of time
  • Just keep the lines simple and the thumbnails small!


The artists tackled the VERY panoramic landscape of the biomes in different ways. Some went wide and panoramic while others took a vertical slice through the view.

It was probably one of the most critical decisions made by the artists - and it's interesting to see how it impacted on the final paintings and who got shortlisted.


  • Never ever assume that you have to paint literally everything in front of you. It can be a big mistake.
  • Find the bit which particularly interests you. What catches and holds your eye?

The panoramic view of the Biomes from the Pods

Formats and Multiple Panels

I was surprised by how many people started doing multiple panels - there was one triptych and one diptych. 

For me this was a result of:

  • not having worked out what interested them and 
  • not working out which composition works best BEFORE putting paint to panel/canvas.  
  • PLUS it generates the problem that by extending your painting surface you can be left with very real challenges in terms of how much surface can be painted in the way you'd like to in the time available.  This can result in very uneven paintings - which is in fact what happened in this episode.

It also struck me that maybe artists hadn't considered the wisdom of bringing multiple lightweight panels in different sizes. Clearly Lincoln Taber had - because he had four landscape panels - and joined three together - painted in the portrait format to make a triptych! What I didn't quite understand is why you would go to the Eden Project and not take a wide panoramic format with you.

The thing is a painting which has grown out of its original panel is not what I consider a diptych or triptych - since the latter are typically designed very carefully to have different subject matter in each part of the panel - it's not the bit which didn't quite fit on the first panel!

Two artists chose to adopt a vertical slice within a portrait format - and both got to the shortlist,.

TIPS: There's a lot to be said for:

  • either sticking with a size and format you know
  • or deliberately taking a format and size with you which might be needed given the location - so you can avoid multiple panels

Amateurs versus Professionals - and a defined amount of time

The way professionals and amateurs approach the creation of an artwork can be quite different

  • Professionals paint a lot - it's their work. They get to decide how much time they take over a painting. If they want to start over they can.
  • By way of contrast, amateur painters often have full time jobs or other occupations which take up a lot of their time. Hence painting landscapes for amateurs can very often become something which gets squeezed into the time they can make available. (While working, I used to spend my annual summer holiday working on landscapes in different parts of the world - and it was the only uninterrupted time I had all year to create landscapes as I wanted to. When on holidays with tutors I also used to spend some time hiding from the tutor so they only got to see the finished work!).

Bottom line, I think amateurs often make better use of their time in these contests, because they can be more used to developing a technique which is efficient in terms of use of time.

By way of contrast, the professional plain air painter can be very used to spending limited amounts of time in different locations - and can sometimes find that the four hours allowed is too much time.

So there are pros and cons for both professionals and amateurs of having a defined amount of time.

The ones who do best are those who plan their use of time well - and know very well how long it takes to do things.

Your usual focus

Landscape painters typically lean towards painting what they like painting. A lot of us are well used to walking around and looking for some time before settling on a view

However that's a luxury you ONLY get when painting for yourself on your own - at a location of your choice

Within a competitive context, it's very unlikely you're going to get what you want and/or to get the pod and/or pitch that you'd prefer to be located in. 

TIPS: You need to work out a strategy for how you will deal with a subject you may not like and a view or location you don't want to be in.
  • If you only paint land and vegetation, you very much need to be prepared for the fact you might be located in urban areas and/or painting buildings or structures. 
  • If you prefer painting urban scenes, you might be confronted with lots of green
  •  if you've not painted any other type of landscape subject, you need to practice widening your scope before you turn up!
  • Then work out what section of it you like. After all you don't need to paint everything!
You also need to remember there needs to be some sort of tie-in between your submission and your heat painting i.e. the Judges have already told you they like what you do - in terms of the submission. Is your heat painting going to make a connection to your submission?

It was really painful watching Kathleen salivate over Dominic's sky in his submission - and for Dominic to then realise Kathleen was looking at his painting and commenting on how little sky there was - and so he wiped it off and started again. The net result was a painting with a great sky - but the rest was nowhere near as good as what he wiped off. I watched somebody who had looked like a dead cert for shortlisting just disappear from view......

The challenge of the Biomes

The Judges were very clear that the artists HAD to include the biomes. However they recognised that there was also a very pronounced need to edit to enable them to make a painting and not freak out.

The Judges view was that the complexity was a very good challenge for all the artists.

The Biomes looked like a total nightmare to the artists and anybody watching! 
  • First they were spherical - but in a geodesic way - with hexagons joined together which changed. 
  • Plus the perspective of the hexagons changed depending on there they were located - and the surface changed depending on the light - and also reflected the sky!
There was a lot of putting off the Biomes until rather late in the day - and some of the artists made judicious decisions about just how much detail they were going to include.

Some of the best looking artwork at the end came about because of some intelligent decision-making at the beginning not to try and include everything.

Printmakers should enter!

I'd very much encourage printmakers to enter this competition.
  • They very much like to have diversity in terms of people creating art in the pods and the printmakers often seem to do well. 
  • Plus the discipline involved in printmaking has often seemed to me to encourage a better developed eye for an image which can work. After all there's no wiping off and starting again when linocutting - as in this episode

Decision Time

Wildcard winner

The wildcard winner was Max Panks who is a London based actor and watercolour landscape artist. (Facebook Max Panks Art | Instagram: @maxpanksart

Tai delivered the good news to Max Panks

Interestingly he completely ignored the biomes and painted the gardens! There again that's what he was facing - so hardly surprising. I bet the wildcard artists get the biomes in the episode where the pod artists paint the gardens!

The comments made by Tai was that the Judges had enjoyed his joy in painting with watercolour and the looseness of his approach and the expressive abstract sense of the painting. Plus the fact there was a good sense of light. 

Eden Project by Max Panks

The Shortlist

The shortlisting

The shortlist selected from this week's artists were:

  • Elisha Enfield
  • Doug Johnson (the printmaker)
  • Denise Cliffen
Heat paintings of the three shortlisted artists are shown below along with their submission. 

As always, it's very often the submission painting which makes the critical difference to who gets shortlisted and who wins. Plus whether the two paintings together look like they come from an artist who has a well-developed body of work and knows their own style and way of doing things

I think you'll agree that's very much the case with this shortlist from this episode.

Elisha Enfield

Doug Johnson

Denise Cliffen

Heat Winner

The winner was Elisha Enfield - and to be honest - I think she got it with her her submission because it's the superior of the two paintings. However she also very clearly brought her approach and style to her heat painting too - plus she was the one who made very intelligent use of her sketchbook! It was thoughtful and considered.

and the winner is.... Elisha Enfield

Elisha goes forward to the semi-final 

....and next week we're at Compton Verney in Warwickshire - where the artists are painting the grounds.

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