Friday, January 21, 2022

Review: Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2022 - Compton Verney Grounds

This review of the second episode of the latest episode of Landscape Artist of the Year 2022 on the Sky Arts channel is a little bit different.

There are two reasons for this:

  • the shortlisted artists were ALL of the three amateur artists - and I can't remember that every happening before (which is not to say it hasn't)
  • I bang on every week (it seems) about the need to remember 
    • NOT to focus on just the heat painting re. who should go forward to the semi-finals but rather to pay particular attention to the submissions too.
    • AND SO.... I decided to set myself the challenge of writing down right at the beginning - after the review of the submissions by the Judges - who I thought would be in the Shortlist at the end of the Heat
SO THIS WEEK I'm paying particular attention to what the Judges say about an artist - and you will see a lot of quotes.

This review also focuses on:
  • the location and weather
  • the artists profiles
  • themes arising during the episode
  • who was shortlisted and who won.

Episode 2: Capability Brown designed ground of Compton Verney

The landscape was designed by Capability Brown

The episode happened to be at Compton Verney

However the star of the show for the purposes of subject matter were the grounds designed by Lancelot Capability Brown - the English gardener and landscape architect. I didn't count how many times he got name-checked in the programme - but it was rather a lot.

"Totally fantastic - and fake as hell!"

The challenge is how to improve a view which is already an artistic creation.

[Note: Compton Verney is also the location for the exhibition celebrating Portrait Artist of the Year - see my blog post EXHIBITION: Portrait Artist of the Year (2013 - 2021) ]


It started off cloudy, then looked a bit glum, followed by a short period of drenching rain - and then sunny skies with clouds.

Of which more later.....

The Artists

The artists in front of their view - with the bridge in the background

You can see profiles of the artists on this link. For some reason they don't set these up in advance and then press the "publish button" once the episode has been broadcast.

What struck me - while doing my version of their profiles below - is how much LAOTY left out in terms of what these artists have been up to in the past!

Five professional artists took part. These were:
  • Brian Hindmarch [Gallery | ProfileFacebook] - a printmaker for over 50 years - he also worked as a designer and teacher and was a lecturer in Graphic Design at Bradford College School of Art for over 20 years, from 1992 to 2013. Currently he works from a studio in Ilkley and applies a wide range of graphic design techniques and processes, including photography, etching, letterpress, lithography, screenprint and relief print. He has a particular interest in interpreting natural history, environment and landscape in his work, which includes original mixed media artwork and limited edition prints.
  • Chloe LeTissier [Instagram | Twitter] Moved to London from Guernsey  in 2002 to study at the Slade School of Fine Art (2002-2006), where she specialised in painting. In 2010 she was offered a place on The Drawing Year at the Royal Drawing School. In 2012 she was selected for the Threadneedle Prize Exhibition and in 2016 she won second prize  selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition. (I KNEW I knew the name!). She works (when not on maternity leave) as the Office Manager and PA to the Head of Courtauld Gallery.
  • Síle Walsh [Instagram] - a self taught artist from Waterford in Ireland who returned to her full time professional art practice in 2017 after raising her children. She participated in Portrait Artist of the Year in 2018 - broadcast in 2019. She likes graphic blocks, precision and straight lines. You can see examples of her landscapes here
  • Angela Webb - [Facebook | Instagram] a Scottish artist (and former architect), living and working in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. She regularly takes part in art festivals and Open Studio events (eg Warwickshire Open Studios) and teaches workshops for schools and art societies. She works mainly in oils, likes structure and perspective and often works in a square format. These are examples of her landscapes.
  • Patrick Wilkins [Instagram]- Born in Rochester and now lives in Broadstairs in Kent. Had a career as a technical illustrator and worked in engineering product design for over 30 years. His career changed in 2012 following a serious illness and he is now a pencil artist, working in coloured pencils (and technical pens and acrylic gouache) and an associate member of the Society of Graphic Fine Art (SGFA). He's also exhibited widely in juried / open exhibitions in the UK including UKCPS, RBA, RBSA and the Margate Turner Contemporary Open Exhibition. This is his submission
So I'm on this tonight, Sky Arts 8pm. Filmed quite a while ago in Compton Verney in Warwickshire, my one request was 'Don't give me green fields and a lake to draw', so that went well. (Patrick's blog alert)
Three amateur artists were also in the LAOTY Pods.
  • Mark Bonello [FacebookInstagram]- Originally from London he now lives on the North Antrim coast in Northern Ireland. He's a self-taught artist who works as an HGV Driver and contrary to his teacher's comments at the time, he actually "looks out a window for a living". In 2021, he exhibited with the ROI. He paints plein air using his HGV cab as his studio. Having four hours to paint is his idea of a luxury - but a bucolic landscape would not have been his first choice for a subject. This is his submission - which looked better on television.
  • Afsheen Nasir [Instagram] - Comes from Karachi in Pakistan. She is self taught and works as a civil servant. She paint landscapes in oil but this was her first time painting 'en plein air'. She exhibited at the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2019 and previously appeared in "Show me the Monet". This is her submission.
  • Justine Warner [Instagram] - She is a textile and mixed media artist and is also known as "the lady who paints with ties". Her brand name is "Pearl loves Paisley" She creates unique, nature-inspired works crafted with vintage ties, textiles and found objects. She has progressed from exhibiting at the village show to open call exhibitions, art festivals, an art gallery in Helmsley and the North Yorkshire Open Studios. Plus has been artist in residence with the Yorkshire Arboretum and you can see a video about her on YouTube. Those interested in what she does and how she does it will be pleased to know she does Zoom Courses online. This is her submission

    The Wildcard Artists

    I'm not surprised that some people bring trollies.
    The trek - carrying all your stuff - can last a while sometimes

    The wildcard artists gathered around the lake but out of the eyeline of the pod artists

    The Submissions

    I'd love to be able show you the submissions given I bang on and on about their importance - but for some reason the person directing the cameras and the one taking the photographs haven't yet got this message. 

    Hence we rarely see a picture which gives us a view of the landscapes all lined up next to one another - much as happens at the shortlisting stage - where we don't get to see the heat paintings next to one another. All we see is them hiding behind the artists while they wait to be shortlisted.

    In a competition, you make decisions by comparing one image with another - so I'd regard a view of all the images together as a critical part of the programme.

    We NEED to see the submissions lined up AND the heat paintings lined up.

    Instead, at the submission stage this is what we get

    A truly dreadful distorted perspectival view of the submission art

    Dreadful perspective on submission artwork

    or what they look like from a VERY LONG WAY AWAY!

    All the viewers get to see of the submitted artwork
    by way of a comparison - from a VERY LONG WAY AWAY

    Themes and Learning Points

    Different ways to identify who will win

    I rarely get caught out now in terms of who gets shortlisted at the end of the painting session. The challenge then becomes how soon you can tell who will get shortlisted
    • As indicated above (Submissions) the artwork submitted when entering the competition is absolutely critical
    • I can also tell by the amount of air time that different artists gets. Don't forget that this is NOT real time. The programme is edited after the heat has taken place and hence the programme makers need to be able to demonstrate a story from beginning to end which explains why the winner is the winner. 
      • It's very clear to me that the Judges tell the Directors who they need to focus on to make sure they get enough filming.
      • Those who are very unlikely to get shortlisted don't get a lot of air time in terms of the edited version of the programme
      • Those who are contenders keep popping up during the programme. 
      • If you start seeing a lot of one or more individuals throughout the programme, then it's more than likely you're going to see them lining up with two others at the end.
      • HOWEVER, there are two sets of people who also are likely to get above average filming and they are
        • those who talk well to camera
        • those with an interesting back storey or artistic technique may also be filmed for the interest for viewers 

    Constructed landscapes

    Whether the landscapes are country houses, urban scenes or parkland associated with country houses or in urban location, almost all the landscapes selected for this competition are "constructed" i.e. they are not 'proper landscape' as determined by nature.

    View of Compton Verney house and grounds

    The contra argument is there is precious little landscape in the UK which is not already manipulated by man in one way or another.  It's all a question of degree.

    Thats said I'm much more used to seeing more naturalistic landscape in art exhibitions than I am in LAOTY. I know the production requires certain essentials to make it happen - but I sometimes wonder whether we should be sending in suggestions for 

    What would be great is if Storyvault Films who make the programme were to produce a brief of what they need for a location - and then for all the fans to start providing suggestions and an assessment of how well they fit the brief. 

    That way we night get rather less "constructed reality" and rather more "proper landscapes"!

    Drawing / painting bridges and arches

    I guarantee at least one episode each LAOTY series will involve a bridge.

    Plus that bridge will create a challenge in terms of both drawing and painting - and not every pod artist does well in confronting the challenge - as proved to be the case in this episode.

    TIPS: The best advice I can give is:

    • practice bridges and arches beforehand - so that you at least know how they work and what a spring point is
    • ignore the bridge/arch and paint something else!

    Drawing / painting trees

    In a landscape like this, you MUST acquit yourself well in terms of including trees and drawing / painting them well. It's a given - a bit like drawing bridges in a competent way. 

    Interestingly, there were some who did just that - but then didn't quite make the rest of the painting work.

    TIPS: Think about how you're going to treat the trees and don't just jump in. One of the ways of looking at this challenge is to think as follows:

    • what level is a basic competence? e.g. draw / paint different trees and make them look different
    • what elevates the artwork to be shortlist worthy? Going beyond the rendering into making the trees work in design terms and add value to the design and composition e.g. by a painterly treatment which recognises trees are different and doesn't use the same green for every tree

    Coming equipped for the Weather

    Quite a few people came equipped for rain - and then found out that it's a bit different in practice.
    • they had protection for their art - but all the rest of their kit got wet
    • some had plastic to protect their painting - and some did not - or found it was too small
    • those who had started painting in acrylics found they were now painting in watercolour
    You too could be painting in waterproofs
    under an umbrella or sunshade of from a tent

    You might think those in the tents got the last laugh - but in fact the rain did!
    The best comments was.....
    I now realise the tent is not fully waterproof
    • Learn how to paint with one hand while holding an umbrella.
    • OR bring a stand and waterproof sunshade which can be erected and used to protect you from rain

    Decision Time

    This part looks at:
    • the wildcard winner
    • shortlisted artists - and their paintings
    • the heat winner

    Wildcard winner

    As a number of people on social media have noted, there were a number of worthy artists painting as wildcards - and hoping to impress. It's a good way of getting noticed - and wildcard artists have converted into pod artists in later years so always worth travelling to paint!

    The Wildcard Winner was Helen McDonald Mathie who was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne and graduated from Reading University with a degree in fine art. She has lived in Kilmacolm, Inverclyde, for over 20 years. She paints mainly Scottish landscapes.

    Tai tells Helen she's the Wildcard Winner

    She produced a diptych which was much admired by all the Judges. I thought it was an impressive day's painting both in terms of quantity, quality and finish

    Frankly, if she'd been in a pod, I think she may well have won the Heat! I think we'll see her again in future series....

    The diptych produced by the wildcard winner Helen McDonald Mathie

    The Shortlist

    I kept wondering all the way through the programme whether my three were going to make it to the shortlist. 

    I was pretty confident of two - but did wonder about the third - and then he pulled it out of the bag. Which was rather impressive considering the view is the complete antithesis of what he likes and usually paints

    Waiting to hear the outcome of the shortlisting

    The artists who I selected for the shortlist - based purely on their submissions and Judges comments - were
    • Mark Bonello
    • Afsheen Nazir
    • Justine Warner
    Three amateur artists - all of whom were ALSO shortlisted by the Judges at the end of their initial decision-making about the artworks

    ...and the three artists selected for the shortlist were the same three chosen by me after the review of the submitted paintings. 

    Below are some of the reasons why - apart from the fact they all acquitted themselves well in terms of portraying the bridge!
    They're very strong - get a sense of three individual artists who know who they are

    Mark Bonello

    Mark was clearly a "late developer" and clinched his place on the shortlist late in the day - when he filled in the area around the bridge which he'd been painting for most of the day.

    Submission and heat painting by Mark Bonello

    He's managed to place (the bridge) in the landscape and it has become unexpectedly beautiful

    The bridge which seemed to high is actually where he likes to place his subject (see both paintings)

    Afsheen Nasir

    The Judges liked how Afsheen puts paint down and her mark-making.

    Submission and heat painting by Afsheen Nasir
    Her painting is a little treasure

    It's poetic, melancholic and dark

    very textural clouds 

    she revelled in the trees 

    but the yummiest thing is the way the paint is put on 

    PS If you want to impress Tai, he's be looking very carefully at how you use paint and make marks - because that's what he's particularly interested in

    Justine Warner

    For me there was never any question from the submission painting and every stage subsequently that Justine was going to make the shortlist. 

    I also thought there was a very good chance she might win.

    She also made a VERY big impact on social media with lots of people highlighting her work.  If I was a magazine editor I'd want to be booking her for an interview and article.

    Submission and heat painting by Justine Warner

    "It was extraordinary to watch somebody sewing plein air"
    "Justine is masterful at seeing and observing nature"

    "The bridge is phenomenal and the water is totally believable" 
    She's got a beautiful light on the bridge" 

    "It's very painterly" 

    "She's very, very clever at what she does - and I'm curious about how she does it"

    Heat Winner

    The shortlisted artists for Episode 2: Mark, Afsheena and Justine

    The Heat Winner was Afsheen Nasir.  I was not surprised. Her strengths are how she filters the landscape to produce a version which is both simple in terms of design and complex in terms of colour mixing and mark-making.  After the underpainting stage, every time they went in for a shot of brush applying paint I knew for certain she would be on the shortlist.

    Here's a close up so you can see how she applied paint seduced the Judges.

    Afsheena's heating painting

    Crop of Afsheena's painting
    showing the mark-making and how she makes her darks

    Her paintings remind me of a well known artist (as in influenced but not copied) - but I'm still trying to remember who - but it could be either or both of the Nash brothers (Paul and John).

    Suggestions welcome - via my Facebook Page.

    Episode 3

    The next episode will take place at Whitstable Harbour in Kent

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