Sunday, January 30, 2022

Review: Episode 3 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2022

The third episode of Landscape Artist of the Year took place during what seemed to be a hot and sunny summer's day at Whitstable Harbour on the north Kent coast..

Waiting to find out who's made the shortlist at Whitstable

This where they also filmed the Landscape Artist of the Year: Celebrity Special on a greyer day in Whiststable - which was broadcast back in November 2021 - see my Review: Celebrity Landscape Artist of the Year 2021

I tried my challenge to myself of identifying who was going to get to the Shortlist after seeing the submissions and hearing the Judges comments - and it was much less clearcut - but I still got two out of the three right! (I'll tell you which and why at the end!).

Episode 3: Whitstable Harbour

Episode 3 is being broadcast again tomorrow at 3pm in the afternoon.

Whitstable Harbour and environs

This time the location was right on the edge of the Whitstable Harbour - next to Whitstable Fish Market with all the fishing boats, buildings associated with the local fishing industry and the local asphalt factory(!) clearly visible. 

The pods next to Whitstable Harbour

Next to the Whitstable Fish Market and opposite the Mr Whippy Ice Cream van according to Google Maps

The weather was glorious high summer - blue skies and very hot!


the artists

There are eight artists in each heat - selected from the very many artists who applied.

Still no profiles for Episode 3 on this link..... (Sky Arts is being very slow this year with profile info and videos re artists - I think they've forgotten to do them!)

Professional Artists

There were six professional artists who are:

  • Dawn Beccles [Instagram] - Dawn is big on hot pink - check put her website! Her submission was a view of Malarhodjden in Sweden - inside a vase. Was previously in a pod in 2018.
  • Susan Beaulah [Facebook | Instagram ] - Lives in Beverley in Yorkshire. Studied at the Hull Regional College of Art before embarking on a career as an art teacher in London. She's been painting and exhibiting regularly since the 1980s in watercolour and oil. In recent years, her works have been mainly produced in India – from Rajasthan in the north to Kerala in the south and document people's daily lives.
  • Violet Cato - Born in Austria. Graduated with a first class honours degree from the Slade School of Fine Art (BA Painting) 2001-2005. Lives and works in East London.
  • Alex Chilvers [Instagram] - an illustrator, animator and painter, originally from Grimsby and currently living in London. He studied illustration at Middlesex University and then did an MA in Drawing at The Royal Drawing School in London. His practice us ground in observational drawing and his paintings normally revolve around his normal places he visit and regular routines.  Last year he won a prize at the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. He works in gouache and is a big fan of football. 
  • Austin Cole - a Welsh artist-printmaker born in Pembrokeshire. Member of the RBA SGFA, ARE and the Royal Cambrian Academy. He studied Fine Art at the Sir John Cass School of Art, the Slade School of Art and at Morley College in London. He's a retired civil servant who exhibits widely and regularly with leading national art societies and art competitions. I very much like his fine art prints - but he was drawing in this heat.
  • KV Duong - b.1980 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, now based in London as a painter and action artist. He "creates imagined landscapes using various media such as historic Vietnam War images and documentation, his own body painting images, and found objects and materials that have personal significance."
It looks a bit like this heat got all the people at the beginning of the alphabet!

Amateur Artists

There were two amateur artists who are:

  • Desmond Downes  [Facebook |  Instagram] - He's a a Design Professional in the Animation Industry working from his studio in Louisburgh, near the coast in Co Mayo. He studied Studied Design Communications at Waterford RTC. So basically very skilled in visual art - on the commercial side. He has some very impressive landscape paintings on his website - which seem to sell regularly! This is his submission - which is of Cregganburn in County Mayo.
So basically no surnames which start after the letter D!


Wildcard Artists

The 50 wildcard artists were located along the pier used for the Celebrity Artists programme - where they had a very good view of the town, the beach and the groynes. It looked a bit crowded to me by the time you factored in the teams of production personnel and the tourists!  No chance to get away from it all to a quiet little spot!

Wildcard artists on the pontoon

it appears pretty crowded for the socially distanced wildcards on the pontoon
- with film crews, tourists and judges all visiting

Themes and Leaning Points

Which view?

The judges variously described Whitstable Harbour as having some monumental forms while being dynamic, chaotic, busy - with both workers and tourists, with lots of action, detail and noise. 
Bottom line there was plenty on offer in terms of views!

Overall, it also had a great sense of being a working place - and the Judges were hoping the artists would capture this.

The major questions were:
  • what view to choose
  • what to focus on
  • how big to go - in terms of picture-making and support
  • what to edit out
  • whether to have a plan - or to choose what appealed and wing it!
To my mind, those who were shortlisted were those who made some intelligent decisions and made the most of what was on offer. So a lot of what happens at the end of the heat is very much rooted in decisions made early on.

The wildcards had the same view as the celebrities programme - but rather better weather. It was interesting to see what they chose to do compared to the celebrity artists.

The challenge of indecision

Making decisions at the beginning is problematic for those who find it difficult to make decisions - or who prefer to "go with the flow".

Decisions need to be made early about
  • what format for the chosen view
  • what size of support to use
  • what media to use 
Compositions are needed quickly if you're going to get on with the challenge of creating the art. However the penalty for going too fast is that you may miss out in a better way of doing it.

TIP: I think those who make poor decisions tend to be those who have not practiced in advance in terms of taking themselves to a place to work 'plein air' and to confront a view which they would not normally have chosen - and create a decent image.

Finding out in the on the day whether or not you can do this is not a great idea!

You need to get the drawing / proportions / colour right at the beginning

The basics of drawing, colour and proportions were all mentioned 
in discussions about what people thought it was important to get right at the beginning. 

Interestingly when we got to the review, the weaker images were those were issues were identified in relation to all of these e.g. 
  • drawings which were 'good in parts' only
  • size of people relative to buildings
  • colour which lacked impact - for the scene and the day
Getting aspects right at the beginning is particularly critical for the fine art printmakers who cannot undo their lines.

What's very critical on a hot day is to use colours which speak of the heat - and that means your colour choices become critical to the outcome. All of those shortlisted produced images which looked "hot" - and that was down to their use of colour

Painting places with people

If a place has people - then painting it without people just makes it look odd. Joan Bakewell noticed and so did I.

People in a landscape can make it more relatable and add meaning and context to the place.

I've noticed this a lot amongst people who paint landscapes. Many artists are happy painting inanimate objects (structures / tree / vegetation etc) but they rarely are confident about introducing people - and yet many places would rarely be seen without people.

There again there are those who think landscapes are spoiled when you add people in to the picture.

I often wonder why artists forget that "staffage" lends both scale to a landscape painting - so long as you get the scale of the people right! The problem one of the artists had in this heat was she included people but then got the scale wrong as they'd disappeared by the time she got round to painting them. (This is where photographs to record such details can be very handy!)

Another artist, Alex Chilvers, demonstrated how simple depictions of people being active can be very effective in his painting of a football match on Hackney Marshes. It reminded me very much of LS Lowry - and let's not forget that LS Lowry is one of the most popular landscape painters in the UK - so far as the public are concerned!

TIP: If you want to produce relatable landscapes, try developing your skills in recording people in simple shorthand ways.

Painting Boats

It's worth noting what Kathleen Soriano said. Tai is allergic to paintings of boats which are not well done!

Equipment needed for painting on a sunny hot day

One of the interesting things about looking at wildcard artists painting in the heats is you can always tell those who know what weather can do to you and your artwork!

Hence I'm pretty sure I'm correct in saying the experienced plein air painters were 
  • all wearing hats with brims which shaded both eyes and sometimes necks. 
  • Plus a number understood the value of using sunglasses to cope with glare and the need to sort out tonal values.

Decision Time

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

Wildcard Winner

Clue: the wildcard winner is ALWAYS one of the artists interviewed during the wildcard section of the programmes. As in ALWAYS.

This is printmaker Katie Thomas-Mitson (she got married just after the programme was filmed) being interviewed by Kate Bryan. She produced a simple but very effective linoprint with three colours while sat on the pier under an umbrella. 

Katie Thomas with Kate Bryan
You can find her a link to her website in her name. She's written a blog post about the day - see Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2022 - in which she shares some very useful tips - both for Lino printers and those working plein air on hot days!
I decided to create a jigsaw block – cutting my Lino in to 3 slices so that I could ink them in separate colours and pop them back in to my jig reassembled. This yielded a clean and vibrant print, which was honest & unquestionably mine. I am glad I made a jig and used my Turnes Burton Pins as this made the process a lot quicker and easier.

Colour choice was easy. It was the hottest day of the year and everyone was uncomfortable, so the combination reflected that. The heat made the ink run away, but I was glad I chose oils as the quick drying of water based inks would have been potentially awful.

The Shortlist

Waiting to be shortlisted

The artists shortlisted were:
  • Alex Chilvers
  • Dawn Beccles
  • Desmond Downes

I identified two of the Shortlist back at the beginning - on the basis of submissions and Judges comments - and the two I identified were Desmond Downes and Dawn Beccles - on the basis of extremely competent painting and a unique take on how to create art respectively.

I've seen Alex Chilvers art hanging on gallery walls and I was interested to see what he produced.

As Joan Bakewell astutely observed, none of the shortlisted artists had focused on the life - in terms of people - at the harbour. (Although Alex did have some people in the background of his painting). 

Alex Chilvers

Submission and heat painting by Alex Chilvers


About the submission of a football match on Hackney Marshes painted in gouache - the Judges said:
  • beautifully naive
  • like a Lowry made for the 21st century
I thought it was a very clever composition - and demonstrated how very small amounts of one colour can stand out and draw the eye when painted in the right context.

About the heat painting, the Judges commented:
  • Tai "brutal honesty" - he loved it
  • Kate liked the immense sense of light on the day and the space
  • extremely well put together 
For me Alex demonstrated how important the design and composition are to an effective artwork - and how the colours used can create the feel of a place if used wisely. He was also the only person to include some people - in the background - at the Mr Whippy van!

Dawn Beccles

Submission and heat painting by Dawn Beccles

About the submission the Judges thought it:
  • a landscape on a vase - or in a vase - there was some debate
  • it created a contained sense of "other worldliness"
About her heat painting, they commented
  • Dana produced a hot intense trio of paintings - small but effective
  • Each painting was like a fragment of the scene

Desmond Downes

Submission and heat painting by Desmond Downes

The Judges commented that his submission
  • created the sense of the wind with the surf on the tops of the waves
  • had not done too much - within the context that seascapes are very difficult
  • a characterful 'little painting'
I got the impression they thought him very competent - but were maybe not hugely excited by his work. Maybe thinking it was a little too traditional? I thought the colours in his seascape were stunning and that he was very obviously somebody who understood colour and tone extremely well an was very comfortable wielding a paintbrush.

About his heat painting Tai said
  • he wanted him to paint the craziness of the harbour scene - but instead Desmond opted for a structure and painted it in a very accurate - using suggestion only
  • Desmond certainly knows how to paint 
  • one commented they were a sucker for the grey/green and hot orange combination used in the painting
For me there was no question that Desmond Downes was the standout painter - in terms of handling paint and understanding of colour and tone - in this episode. He also created a jewel like painting from something which was extremely unprepossessing i.e. an asphalt factory and emphatically demonstrated he could paint buildings as well as ,more conventional seascapes!


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Heat Winner

The shortlist from Episode 3 at Whitstable Harbour
(left to right) Desmond, Dawn and Alex

Desmond Downes won Heat 3. Tai said
he knows how to build a painting which is totally believable although everything in it is suggested
TIP: It's always worth remembering that Tai loves anybody who demonstrates they are extremely competent when handling paint - and how they suggest rather than detail.

Episode 4

The next episode will take place at the Eden Project in Cornwall - and will focus on the gardens.
The contestants revisit the extraordinary Eden Project, this time looking to capture the grandiose of the outdoor gardens

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