Saturday, March 04, 2023

Finn Campbell-Notman wins Landscape Artist of the Year 2023

This is about the Final of Series 8 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2023 at Portmerion in North Wales - which was won by Finn Campbell-Notman.

The Finalists with their Final Paintings

Some fans of the programme were quite apprehensive as to who might win. Fortunately, we had a new worry as soon as the programme started! Why no Dame Joan? What have they done with her - and why no explanation?

You can find all my reviews of previous programmes in this series at the end of this post.

The Prize

The prizes are:
  • a £10,000 commission for the Royal Museums Greenwich to create an artwork celebrating the Van de Veldes at an exhibition of their work at the Queens House in Greenwich
  • the title "Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2023"

The Finalists

Left to right: Finn, Helen and Stefano

The Finalists were - in order of their episode:
  • Finn Campbell-Notman (Episode 1 / Heat 1?)
  • Stefano Ronchi (Episode 3 / Heat 5?)
  • Helen Lloyd-Elliot (Episode 6 / Heat 6?)
I go out on a limb in my reviews of the Heats and say who I think will be in the Final - so you also get what I said about each artist in my review of each heat!

Finn Campbell-Notman (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter)  

Finn in the pod
  • a professional painter and illustrator. 
  • Born in London in 1970, he grew up in rural England as part of an artists' commune. His art education also includes BA (Hons) in Fine Art at U.W.E. Bristol and at Wolverhampton (to 1993), a double First Class B.A. (Hons) in Illustration from Falmouth College of Art, Cornwall, UK. (1998-2001) and an M.A. in Communication Art & Design from the Royal College of Art, London (2002-04). 
  • You can see his illustration work here
  • Since 2020 Finn has been without a studio or permanent home and divides his time between Bristol and Andalucia.
He competed in the very first heat shown - near Blackpool North Pier - see Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2023 - Blackpool Beach and Pier

What I said

You could say I predicted his win - because this is what I wrote in my review of the first episode of this series
Interestingly, if you went through all the websites and social media sites prior to viewing the programme, I'd have very definitely been selecting Finn for my shortlist for this heat.

Indeed I think he might stand a good chance of making it to the Final (see below)! 
an afterthought - by me!
  • The winner of LAOTY 2022 was the winner of the first heat
  • The winner of PAOTY 2O22 was the winner of the first heat
I know I have a formula for writing these posts. Do the production team from Storyvault ALSO have a formula for which episode they decide to air first?


Stefano Ronchi (Facebook | Instagram)  

Stefano in the pod and the sunshine and the intense heat
  • from Italy, lives in Hackney and can work big. 
  • He describes himself as a "punk surrealist painter". He has been influenced by Leonardo, Brueghel, Dali, and Hieronymus Bosch mixed with comic book art. 
  • His very large impressive submission was called The Hill (Acrylic on canvas, 120x80 cm 2017)
He appeared in the 3rd heat at Castle Ward in Northern Ireland - See Review: Episode 3 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2023 - Castle Ward

What I said

This is what I had to say about Stefano's heat painting and submission
For my part, I have to say I'd draw a very sharp distinction between:
  • something which is very good art - of a surreal / comic book variety
  • an excellent landscape
Both of Stefano's painting are the former and not the latter. It was quite simply fantasy. He's a surrealist painter - and a very good one - but he's not a landscape artist.

In response to Kate's comment, being unable to stop looking at it does not make the painting qualify for the competition!
We've subsequently had an email correspondence and he's a very nice chap who is very talented.


Helen Lloyd Elliot [Instagram]

Helen - in her pod,
very sensibly wearing a wide brimmed hat to protect her head and eyes from the sunshine

What I said

The winner was Helen Lloyd Elliot - and very deserved it was too. I thought she might get edged because in some ways she's very close to the winner at Blackpool in Episode 4.

The view was that she was a great painter, using great brushmarks while hovering between abstraction and realism.

I think Helen will be in the final. She talked about the win giving her confidence. I don't think she needs it, I think she just knows how to respond to a scene and how to paint it.
and in my last review - of the semi-final
Helen is a very effective colourist and observer of scenes who delivers more than can be seen by more ordinary mortals.

I'm hoping she wins the Final.

The Location

The Final has two locations:
  • the location for the Final Painting in 4 Hours
  • the place(s) about which the Commissions are painted.

Portmeirion - the Final Pod Paintings

The Pods were set up in the middle of the Italianate village of Portmeirion in North Wales which became better known to those watching television when it hosted the cult tv series called The Prisoner in the 1960s.

For me it's not what I'd call an ideal location for a Final - if for no other reason than
  • the quantity of tourists around and about - and associated noise
  • the very limited number of places you can place the pods.
There are great views down at the harbour - but I'm not sure these were what they wanted irrespective of the stone boat - which I naively thought was why this location had been chosen!

The 'faux' Italianate village of Portmeirion
- built by Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975

Dungeness - the Commission Paintings

For the first time ever in #LAOTY, all three artists went to the same place for their Commission painting - Dungeness - which has one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe and is a site of conservation and special scientific interest (not that the latter got a mention!)

Another difference was that it was also unclear who the commission was for. 

I'm left wondering whether there was maybe thought to be discrepancy in "fairness" to each artist by providing different locations in the past. Or maybe they're just trying to cut costs by only having one film crew cover all three? 

That said they were still given three different places to paint within the same general location and at least one artist was not very pleased with what she got!

Prospect Cottage and Finn

Each artist was allocated a different point of view:
Interestingly - for a competition where the prize is a commission to create a painting providing a contemporary response to the Van der Veldes, the fact Helen immediately announced that she didn't like the sea and had no interest in painting the boats seemed somewhat ominous for her prospects of winning - but I kept the faith and stayed rooting for her!

This for me confirms that the artists - even at the Final Stage - have absolutely no idea what the Winner's Commission will be. Of which more comment in a follow-up post.....

The Weather

It was very clearly that BOTH locations were being painted on one of the blisteringly hot days that we had last summer - and I really felt for them.

Responsible artists make sure they locate themselves in SHADE when painting in extreme heat!!  It avoids heatstroke and stupid paintings.

That means production teams which have a duty of care to their artists need to do the same thing!
  • PODS: None of the artists were in shade! I seriously think the people who organise the Pods need to understand that it's not uncommon for painters to seek shade to paint from - in order to see both colour and tones better. It's surely not beyond their wit to create a complete shade cover for the top of the pods? A white opaque cover does not cut the mustard. 
  • COMMISSIONS: The locations were VERY exposed. Plus near the sea you can be misled as to how hot it is if there is a breeze - which can be very dangerous. What exactly was stopping the production team from looking after their welfare by providing portable sunshades? For my part I'd have absolutely no problem with the sight of production team members making sure they were able to paint in very hot weather under a shade.
If I was an artist in a Final and I wasn't provided with suitable protection - given they and not the artists are choosing the locations - I'd flat out refuse to paint until they sorted the problem out and protected my wellbeing!

I suggest others might like to think about doing similar.  It's never ever worth getting sunstroke.

The Final

The Final' programme comprised:
  • pod painting within 4 hours at Portmeirion
  • commissions - of three locations at Dungeness
  • followed by the announcement of the winner.

Decision Time

As always, the programme culminated with the Judges considering the commission painting together with the painting from the heat.

Decision Time

The Commission - Dungeness Paintings

I'm just going to remind those who watched the programme of the paintings as my discussion of them comes below alongside that related to the pod paintings.

I will reiterate once again that 
  • the submission painting at the beginning and 
  • the commission paintings at the end 
make or break the choice of who gets to win - because ONLY these paintings show what an artist can do if given the time.

Prospect Cottage by Finn Campbell Notman

Dungeness Power Stations by Stefano

This has an interesting and weird foreground!

Dungeness Shingle by Helen

Helen turned her back on the sea and the fisherman's shacks and the boats and looked in the other direction. I cheered - always nice to see an artist decide what they're going to paint!

The Final Pod Paintings

Again - in the order I listed the artists above. Plus my comments.

Commission Painting and Final Podd Painting by Finn Campbell Notman

Finn's paintings were diverse again - much as his 4 hour paintings have not been as good as his paintings produced with more time.
  • His commission painting of Prospect Cottage was excellent - a good composition and well painted - albeit it lacked brushmarks and textural interest for me (however he is after all an illustrator and texture doesn't tend to be something which features much in illustration). Plus it looked rather like it belonged in the plains of the mid west than the shingle beach of Dungeness.
  • However his pod painting of Portmeriod was very average. It looked initially as if his composition might be good - but I think it could have been better e.g. his thirds were off. It was also tonally bland and looked very 2D painting. It also included greens which were wrong - in the sense that it came across as a "one green colour" painting. It just lacked nuance. I was, yet again, underwhelmed. (i.e. I don't have to agree with the Judges!)

Commission painting and Final Pod Painting by Stefano Ronchi

 did something rather odd - and I'm left wondering if he worked out an approach to his paintings in advance. I rather think he might have done as it was very smart each way bet! 

He also effectively produced a diptych - a mirror painting - which can only have been conceived on the day of the Final. I was VERY impressed!
  • he decided to limit his "weird stuff" to the commission painting of the unprepossessing nuclear power stations which I thought was a really challenging brief. 
  • During the four hours of the Final, he pulled off an amazing feat by playing it straight - with just a minor tweak at the end. Effectively demonstrating that he doesn't need to rely on tricks to produce a convincing landscape. (On the other hand I could have done without his partner telling him what to do next!)
The mirror painting - echoing the vertical and the markings on the power station with the pillars of the colonnade was truly inspired. He very much redeemed himself as a proper landscape painter who deserved to be in the final having done that! For me, although a different format, it had distinct echoes of The Allegory of Good and Bad Government - see my blog post Ambrogio Lorenzetti - the first panorama

Commission painting and Final Pod painting by Helen Lloyd-Elliot

Helen really didn't like what she was offered as a commission or what she could see from her pod. I felt she got a raw deal. There again I was backing her to win!
  • In a normal commission scenario, if you don't like the subject you can always refuse the commission. In this instance it identified she liked neither the sea or boats - and she effectively eliminated herself as a potential winner at that point. It would have been very irresponsible for the Judges to put forward a winner to the Royal Museums Greenwich who hated both boats and the sea. I'm left wondering what she might have done if she knew the commission in advance.
  • That said she produced a commission painting which was simply stunning and lush and I'd have on my wall any time! The shapes, tones and colours of the shacks and homes along the horizon line and the shingle and sky were simply sublime. She abstracted forms in the foreground and simplified colour in a very aesthetic way. Her sky was absolutely wonderful. 
To my mind Helen was effectively penalised for being a plein air painter who largely paints from the subject and not from technology. She didn't really have an option of painting much of anything she didn't see in front of her. I think she did jolly well and I think a lot of people will be very keen to buy her paintings!

The Winner

For me, the Final was very evenly balanced, you could make a good case for any of the artists to win

The Judges decided that the winner was Finn Campbell-Notman - who I had mentally placed in third place.

However, read on.....

the announcement of who has won

What I thought

Credibility for the series is identifying somebody who can produce a credible painting for a £10,000 commission.
Get it wrong and those who make and broadcast the series have serious metaphorical egg on their collective faces.

I thought at the end of the programme that Finn potentially made a very good choice for the commission and I could understand why the Judges chose him i.e. 
  • he's familiar with flat landscapes having lived in Norfolk
  • he can do big skies - when given the time
  • his style might suit something where a "vintage" approach in terms of style and palette might very well be a good idea.
That said, Helen also does great skies - and if she'd known how important water, boats and skies were, I think it's very possible she might have done something very different at Dungeness.

In conclusion, I think we might very well have had a VERY different series and quite possibly a different winner IF the commission has been known about when they did the Call for Entries 

This is just a question of better planning. Most art galleries routinely work with a minimum of 3 year time horizons for exhibitions - it's not difficult for them!

For example:
  • The artists who entered would have known that there might be some serious justification for locations which involved flat landscapes, lots of water and boats during the heats
  • some of the excellent marine artists around might have perked up and stuck in an entry
  • We might have seen better painting in the heats - and semi-finals and finals where the four hour paintings did not disappoint - as they largely did in this series.


  • First, I'll do a post about the commission - but after I've seen it in person as I live just across the river from Greenwich
  • I'm also going to do a follow up post for this series. There's too much that badly needs addressing not to summarise.


The programme is broadcast by Sky Arts ( available on Sky, Now TV and Channel 11 on Freeview) and the films are made by Storyvault Films.

Landscape Artist of the Year 2024

For all those interested in entering the series which will be filmed this summer - see my blog post about Call for Entries: Landscape Artist of the Year 2024 (Series 9)

The closing date for submissions is NOON on Friday 28th April 2023.

2023 series

All my reviews of the episodes in Series 8 include themes for reference by future participants - or plein air painters working to a time frame - in terms of problems experienced and challenges overcome.

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