Thursday, January 11, 2024

Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year Series 9 (2024)

    I've reviewed every series of Landscape Artist of the Year since 2018 and this is my review of the first episode of the eighth series of Landscape Artist of the Year 2024.  

    It considers:

    • the location and weather
    • the artists' profiles
    • themes arising during the episode
    • who was shortlisted and who won


    The episodes are broadcast at 8pm every Wednesday evening on Sky Arts (on Freeview Channel 36 and Sky and Now TV).

    As always 
    • 48 artists are selected - from c.2,000 applications. 
    • Eight of these artists compete in each heat on location in a pod by creating an artwork within 4 hours  about a selected landscape 
    • the heats are held at each of the six locations which were filmed last summer in Aberdeenshire, Liverpool and Kent.
    • three people are shortlisted and their heat painting and submission artwork are considered together
    • the winner of each heat moves forward to the semi-finals
    • where all the heat winners and one or more wildcards will compete for the three places in the final
    • the three finalists produce two paintings - a commission and a painting 
    • one artist is chosen as Landscape Artist of the Year
    • receives a £10,000 commission to produce an artwork. This year it will be a view of Orkney and its contribution to a sustainable economy. (I think wind turbines will feature!)
    You can access my previous reviews of episodes of Landscape Artist of the Year since 2018 on my Art on Television page.

    Episode 1: Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire

    Location and Weather

    Last night it was such a relief to find that the first episode of Series 9 Landscape Artist of the Year had a magnificent landscape. Especially after all those tortuous structures, locations and big buildings in Series 8.

    Part of Dunnottar Castle on the left
    with the pods in the foreground - close to the cliff edge 
    and the wildcards on the far cliff edge
    plus good weather - for most of the day

    The location for the first episode was simply stunning - in an epic way! It certainly provided an immense view.

    The ruins of Dunnottar Castle sits on an outcrop from the rugged North Sea Coast in Aberdeenshire. Both castle and sliffs are are just amazingly photogenic. Do check out the website - embedded in its name - this is the history
    Dunnottar Castle plays a vital role in the safekeeping of the Scottish crown jewels, the Honours of Scotland (in 1651-2)
    So - no complaints from me (compared to last season!). The only thing of concern was whether the pods were firmly weighted down given the close proximity of a very precipitous edge! ;)

    The weather started off very bright and sunny and very slowly deteriorated over the day - although it threw in a rainbow at some point relative to the rain.

    Magical!! Looks like it ought to be a blockbuster.....

    I did wonder how long they had to wait before they got a rainfree spell for the announcements at the end!

    The Usual Suspects - minus one

    Last summer, Joan Bakewell retired from Artist of the Year. The omnipresent team in every episode now comprises the three Judges and now just one presenter. They are:
    • Judges: Kate Bryan, Kathleen Soriano and Tai Shan Schierenberg
    • Presenter: Just the one - Stephen Mangan
    Kate Bryan, Kathleen Soriano, Tai Shan Shierenberg and Stephen Mangan
    towards the end - in the rain

    The Artists in the Pods

    Below is a synopsis about each artist - in alphabetical order. 

    LAOTY Episode 1 2024 Artists
    left to right: Henry, Cat, Simon, Jen, Jess, Kristina, David and Alison 

    The next comment - included in Episode 1 only - repeats what I've said in previous years. It would have been good to have had the opportunity to say it before this heat aired as I've never had a heat before with so little info about do many of the artists!!

    TIP: If you were selected as a pod artist for LAOTY 2024 - and will be appearing on this blog in future episode reviews:
    • do try and make sure you've licked all the places you can be found online into a good shape before the broadcast - I'll be looking for them!
    • make sure it's very easy for me to find a profile of who you are and what you do. Those who get the longer profiles below are those who provide the "easy to find" info!
    That's because what I say about you is largely dependent on what's said about you online! My first port of call is where you see videos of them painting.

    (Note: This week I've got two artists who've claimed domain names but not followed through and created a website before they appeared on television. Plus three who are practically non-existent online.)

    You get extra comments from me if you've already followed me!

    Episode 1 pod artists are listed BELOW in the alphabetical order of their surnames. 
    • Links to their websites (if they have one) are embedded in their names
    • Social media platforms are also referenced. 
    Read the above tip to find out how to get a decent short bio / profile from me
    • Simon Backley (Instagram) - a textile designer from Blackburn. Virtually no info online. His submission was described as "Hopperesque" by Tai!
    • Kristina Chan (Instagram) - She is a Canadian printmaker who has studied in London. She now lives in London and works as an artist between printmaking, photography and public installation. Her submission was a large monochrome work on very thin Japanese paper. She has exhibited regularly in the UK and internationally and has had a number of commissions from important clients. (This profile is updated from the original published)
    • Cat Croxford (Instagram | - landscape artist based in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. She is represented by several galleries including Clifton Fine Art in Bristol and my work can be found at Affordable Art Fair Battersea and Hampstead most years. She also run workshops and painting courses in South Oxfordshire and have written articles for art magazines. She usually starts with a completely black ground. She is mainly interested in painting trees. Of course, to test her ability to paint other things she's allocated to the north east coast of Scotland and a landscape with no trees
    • Jess Gale (Instagram | Facebook) - a contemporary painter who is represented by Osborne Studio Gallery, British Art Portfolio and Athertongreen Art. She currently lives and works in London and Dorset. Born 1967 in Catterick, she first began to paint in 2010 and subsequently trained at The Heatherley School of Fine Art. She mainly focuses on landscape painting - both plein air and studio work - and uses a range of media.

    • Jen Maidment (Instagram / Facebook / Saatchi) A contemporary portrait and landscape artist, from Yorkshire who is currently living in Caerphilly in South Wales. She entered with a tiny painting of her friend's London front garden. She is skilled at a graphic treatment of greens.
    • Henry McAlpine (Instagram) Brought up in Northumberland - which influences his work. He has a First Class Honours Degree in Fine Art from Leeds University before going on to study traditional drawing and painting techniques. He is inspired by nature and Futurism and German Expressionism. Since graduation, has exhibited his art in a variety of exhibitions across the UK and in 2023 he had a painting in the DSWF Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition. 
    • David Schab (Instagram | Saatchi) - a Polish artist who lives in Bristol and produces colourful paintings. Minimal info online.
    • Alison Whateley (Instagram | Facebook | - a textile / mixed media artist who lives in Devon. She uses haberdashery and, in particular, sheer fabrics plus appliqué and free mot to create atmospheric landscapes. She had a textile artwork in the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition at the end of last year. As is not unusual with most textile artists she had difficulty with using fabric in a windy situation during the heat but I thought she coped admirably. 
    What I can tell you is that it was exciting, challenging, nerve-wracking and fun. I met the most lovely people and made new friends. But most of all it was an amazing, unforgettable experience.
    Alison Whateley commenting on the heat on Instagram
    Oddly, all three blokes were bearded. I don't remember anything about that that in the terms and conditions....

    The Wildcard Artists

    The wildcard artists were in view of the pods but on a separate headland which also overlooked Dunnottar Castle giving them a certain "on a par" position with the pod artists.

    The gap between wildcard artists and Dunnottar Castle

    INNOVATION: The Submissions

    We have an INNOVATION. I'm not sure whether it's because of the particularly wild location of this first heat, but the submissions are no longer lined up in a tent erected specifically for  viewing the submissions.

    They are now displayed
    • INSIDE the Pod - one easel for the current painting and one easel for the submission
    • ALONGSIDE the developing heat painting
    I comment more about this in one of the THEMES below.

    Submission artwork exhibited INSIDE the pod

    Themes & Learning Points

    Every week, in my review, I highlight what I observed as being some of the themes arising from the location, the day and the nature of the artists in this week's episode.

    Not painting what the Judges expect

    This was the first thing I wrote down as a theme. It turned out to be very pertinent - or maybe I'm just good at picking up on the editing which generates the theme which drives the show?

    Submissions in the pods

    I think artists need to think carefully about all the implications of having their submission painting in the pod. 

    It very effectively shows the Judges whether the artist:
    • is maintaining their style
    • has adapted for creating art plein air the style they delivered in the studio
    • how well the two paintings "sit together" in terms of stylistic content.
    Plus I had the very distinct impression that there was more talking by the Judges with the artists about their SUBMISSIONS in the pods. That's a bonus - it's never happened before!

    Maybe this is because there was no Joan and hence the ratio iof Judges chat to presenters has changed. In which case that's no bad thing for the viewers who like to listen to "art talk".

    It also allows all the visitors to the location see also how the submission compares to the artwork created on location.

    I'm guessing it also creates quite an incentive for each artist to focus on making the artwork in making look like it's connected in some way to the one that was submitted. 

    (I have had the feeling some artists in the past have not quite understood that the Judges are looking for connections betweeen the two)

    Movement of the sun - and disappearance of the sun

    As always for all those who are not used to plein air painting, there are one or two rude awakenings

    One of these is that the sun moves during the day. It then transforms both the shapes, the tones and the colours of the subject you are painting. It can be incredibly frustrating for those who are inexperienced in painting in the open air.

    The Judges in fact wondered whether they might get eight views which looked very similar - which makes me think they should do some plein air painting too!

    • Work out where the sun is moving to and what the impact will be.
    • Don't make painting in a pod your first ever experience of plein air painting!

    How much of the view - and what format?

    One of the things which always surprises me is that people arrive in their pods with only small format supports.

    How big your support is influences how big you can go with your view. Plus when you have a stunning view, trying hard NOT to capture its impact is just plain counter-productive. 

    I personally find it much easier to create large artworks than small ones since adjustments re size and perspective are much easier to do. 

    By way of example, I completed this artwork (many moons ago) - of a not dissimilar subject in more or less the same time as the artists have in the LAOTY episodes - with the same challenge about how to make the sea and sky interesting.

    Tanah Lot, Bali
    19.5" x 24.5", pastel on Rembrandt pastel card

    TIP: Bottom line unless you did a large artwork for your submission, it's a good idea to paint bigger in the pod.

    The basic rationale for this - as I have explained before - is that you need to keep in mind what the prize is for winning. That is, unless you're just along for the experience and have no great aspirations re winning!

    Bottom line, few people are going to be happy to pay £10,000 and then only get a small painting and you need to demonstrate you can deliver for a commission of this value.

    TIP: Even if you like painting small, have at least a medium size format in your kit and be prepared to paint on it. 

    I was very impressed by Simon who had the wit to take his three small boards and turn them into a triptych!


    "I'm probably over-fiddling"
    Two artists who identified at the beginning as strong contenders for shortlisting ruled themselves out of contention by overcooking their paintings.

    They both went big. They both painted fast. They both did far too much. They lost the simplicity and clarity that they were both capable of delivering. It was very sad - in part, because I think both knew before the end that they were the architects of their own fate.

    There submissions were impressive. If they'd delivered to the standard of the submission we might have had a different shortlist and even a different winner.

    TIP: I think artists need to mull over the benefit for the Judges of having the submission in the pod. 
    • They can see what you can do. 
    • They also get to compare it with what you produce on the day
    • BEFORE they get to the supposed judging time.

    Decision Time

    Wildcard Winner

    As often happens, the wildcard artist looks as if they should have been selected to be a pod.

    Kate Bryan informing Rebecca Paterson she is the Wildcard Winner

    The wildcard winner was Rebecca Paterson who lives in Aberdeen. I could tell from the moment earlier in the programme when Kate enthused about her painting....

    Rebecca graduated from Gray’s School of Art in 2009 with a BA(Hons) in Painting and again in 2010 with a Master of Fine Art. For over a decade she has been a practicing artist and a professional Creative Practitioner. She also regularly exhibits and sells her fine art and associated items all over Scotland. Plus works in the Artroom At Grampian Hospital Arts Trust as a Creative Practitioner.  She looks like a very worthy winner to me.

    She produced a very atmospheric nighttime scene of the castle set against the rugged coastline of Aberdeenshire.
    Rebecca Paterson's imaginative and atmospheric painting of Dunnottar Castle and coastline

    The Shortlist

    Reviewing the landscapes at the end of four hours

    Personally speaking, I've always reckoned that while watching the programme you can usually tell 
    • who is NOT in the running by how much airtime they get. 
    • The corollary is, of course, that if they get more air time than most they're considered to be in with a chance of being shortlisted.
    Notwithstanding that the cameramen have no idea who is winning, so it's all in the editing - and I'm guessing that the editors always hope that early favourites who failed to deliver did not consume too much of the video!

    What I found particularly interesting this time is that I think the tenor of the critiques have changed. I'm sure there was:
    • more critique in a substantive analytical way - with fewer weasel words. The Judges were "telling it like it is". (Three cheers from me!!)
    • for each artist / artwork we heard more than I think we have in the past about what:
      • judges liked
      • judges did not like or elements they felt had not succeeded
    • generally it was a lot more balanced, cogent and much more helpful.
    Assuming this continues, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that aspiring LAOTY participants listen very carefully to this part

    The artists lined up to hear who had been shortlisted

    The shortlist selected from this week's artists were:
    • Henry McAlpine
    • Jen Maidment
    • Kristina Chen
    They had one thing in common. Their artwork looked 'different' and not like the sort of paintings that can be produced by other artists.

    I had two other artists listed - and I think the reason they did not make the cut is listed within themes under "overcooked". (It reminded me very much of "Bakeoff"!)

    Below are the submissions and heat paintings - plus my short review of why I think they were selected.

    paintings by shortlisted artists in pods - with the subject in the background

    submission and heat painting by 

    Henry McAlpine was never ever my favourite painter at the beginning. It looked too artificial to me. However he grew on me during the day and I think the Judges felt very much the same way.

    I think Kathleen nailed it when she talked about him having to be a bit more naturalistic which meant the painting was "easier to read". 

    I think Tai also made a very apt comment when he talked about Henry painting the wind.

    He also really caught the sense of the castle and its immediate surroundings - which was an essential part of the scene they faced.

    He does however need to learn to exclude the twee. The flowers and foliage in the foreground was a big mistake.

    I have to say I can see his paintings - if a tad more naturalistic as per the Castle painting - doing very well in galleries up and down the country. 

    submission and heat painting by Jen Maidment

    Jen Maidment made steady improvements throughout the day. She was not somebody I was taking seriously to start with - in part because she'd painted a small submission. 

    However once she started locking in her strong tonal shapes and then sorted out both the foreground and the sea and sky, she was looking a much stronger contender.

    She was one of a few who captured the striations and variations - in both colour and tone and shapes - within both sea and sky. Even if your subject is something like a castle, what makes it work is the context it sits in - and Jen made it work.

    Her work was described as being very crisp and contemporary. 

    submission and heat painting by Kristina Chen

    Kristina Chen rescued an impossible situation and benefited from the fact that both Kathleen and Tai liked the strange quality of her artwork. They do love seeing artwork they've not seen before!

    I thought Kristina's submission was very impressive - and I identified her at the beginning, when we only had the submissions to go on, as being one of the shortlisted artists.

    I also think it is infinitely superior to her heat artwork. However I have sympathy for the fact that what she had planned to do in the heat i.e. printmaking turned out to be impossible given the location. She was working on very light paper and it became obvious to her that working into the initial drawing / print using other media was the only way she could finish. 

    She captured the huge clefts in the cliff on which the castle sat and got a very real sense of the massive nature of the cliffs and the relatively small size of the castle. Plus she got the weather in the latter part of the day.

    Heat Winner

    The winner of this week's heat was Kristina Chen. 

    I'm not disappointed however I think her submission probably got her through. It will be really interesting to see:
    • whether she works out how to do printmaking outside
    • what she produces in the semi-finals
    Speaking personally I wouldn't have been surprised if Henry won. I think he possibly ran her a close second.

    Next Week

    The LAOTY Team and associated landscape artists are off to Liverpool Docks next week - and apparently what is one of the most challenging subjects that has ever been presented to the artists.


    For all those interested in entering the series which will be filmed this summer (during June/July) - see my blog post about Call for Entries: Landscape Artist of the Year Series TenThe deadline for submission is NOON on Friday 3rd May 2024 - and entries are ONLY accepted online.

    You can read past reviews of the Landscape Series of the Year which very many artists have said they have found helpful. See my Art on Television Page which:
    • lists all reviews I've published for series episodes broadcast between 2018 and 2023 
    • together with the topics / themes /TIPS I identified in each episode.
    The programme is broadcast by Sky Arts ( available on Sky, Now TV and Channel 36 on Freeview) and the films are made by Storyvault Films.

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