Sunday, January 28, 2024

Review: Episode 3 of Landscape Artist of the Year Series 9 (2024) at Hever Castle Lake

Episode 3: The Lake at Hever Castle in Kent

This is my review of the third episode of the 9th series of Landscape Artist of the Year 2024.  As regular readers will know by now, it considers:
  • the location and weather
  • the artists' profiles
  • themes arising during the episode
  • judges decision-making
  • who was shortlisted and who won.

Location and Weather

Hever Castle is in Kent. It was bought by William Waldorf Astor - who was at the time said to be the richest man on the planet - and created a grand garden for the Italian statues he brought back from his Grand Tour. He then had a grand sandstone loggia created at the end of the party for admiring the lake and having parties outside.

Below you can see an overview of part of the Estate - with the garden in the mirror, the stone loggia next to the lake and the pods below it on the other bank of the lake
Part of the Lake at Hever Castle
Pods and the space for the Wildcards are central towards the bottom of the pic

The space allocated to the Pods was very narrow which I suspect made for some interesting issues in relation to filming and how close the spectators got to the artists.

The space allocated to the Wildcards is the green open space to the left - which is actually very narrow also in terms of frontage on to the lake - leading to a very tight serried ranks of easels at the front edge.

Pods on the edge of the Lake - with lots of water and lots of trees

The eight artists in their pods and the 50 wildcard artists were set up on the left bank of the Lake at Hever Castle. They were beyond the Italian Garden and had the option to look:
  • across the lake
  • at the stone built Loggia inbetween the Italian Garden and the Lake
  • looking back towards the Castle
The weather was far from great. Mainly it was dull with a huge dollop of rain at the beginning. It got better towards the middle of the afternoon and evening.
"We set up and the heavens opened"
The pods were deluged just as they started the heat. There's a shot of somebody sweeping water out of one of the pods!

The Artists

Artists in the Hever Castle Lake Heat

Below you can find profiles of the eight pod artists. Links in the names are to their websites

If you visit you can see videos of them painting the heat paintings.
  • Evelyn Chambers (Instagram) - She lives in Kent, near the Castle and exhibits locally in Kent. She has been painting since childhood. Her main themes are nature, the sea, landscape, horses and self-portraits. Evelyn currently uses marker pen for her drawing on the canvas followed by acrylics. You can see her submission - in the pod - and pod painting on this page on her website.
  • Deepa Goswami (Instagram) - lives in Newham in East London. She achieved a Distinction in her Foundation Year at the Royal Drawing School and is a Part I Graduate from the Sheffield School of Architecture. She currently works as a fitness instructor and paints miniatures. She's also currently shortlisted for the Artist of the Year competition run by the WWT London Wetland Centre in West London (@wwtlondon). I think she's painting in gouache, although I don't think it got a mention in the programme.
  • Rydal Hanbury (Instagram) - How lovely to be named after a lake in the Lake District! Rydal lives in St Albans, Hertfordshire and draws and paints in London and St. Albans. She completed The Drawing Year at The Royal Drawing School in 2008. From 2016-18 she studied for The Portrait Diploma at Heatherley Art College. Over the two years she won the Portrait, Figure Composition and the Drawing Prize. She has taught drawing at the Royal Drawing School and Central Saint Martins. She spent 10 years drawing the scenes of rush hour people around the Bank of England before Covid. During COVID she ran a lunchtime drawing class via Zoom for those working from home. From 2022, she focused on the St Albans Charter Market. Taking a year to draw ‘every’ stall from east to west, learning every trader’s story. Her submission is of her garden and husband's greenhouse and was painted during the pandemic. She's pictured below with her submission painting.
  • Yana Kucheeva (Instagram) - Lives in Berkshire and works as a book illustrator for a Russian publishing house. Her artwork has been published in a number of magazines and art books. I thought she produced a very effective painting in four hours. Particularly since she'd never painted plein air before - or to a time limit! (see Themes for a pic of it.) Her submission painting of an abandoned factory in St. Petersburg turned into an art space was large and impressive.
  • Craig Longmuir (Instagram) - He is an artist and art teacher from Sheffield. He has over thirty years experience of painting with oil on canvas following his first class degree with honours in Painting & Printmaking from Sheffield Hallam University in 1986. He paints mainly en plein air and favours dramatic, hilly locations with vast panoramic vistas. His submission painting is of the Hope Valley from Bamford Edge. His style is very colourful and involved a LOT of paint.
  • Joe Mayhook (Instagram) - Born and raised on a street on Bankside in London he works as a Parks Manager. In his spare time he endeavours to record the buildings and life of Bankside. He paints in blocks of colour and this is his submission painting of St Pauls from Southbank.
  • James Robinson (Instagram) - He is an artist and illustrator, specialising in painting and drawing both from life and imagination. He lives in Hertfordshire and studied art at The Florence Classical Arts Academy. He was the Artist in Residence at Haileybury School in 2021 and he now teaches there. His submission was a painting done of River Mugnone, Via Felice Fontana, Florence.
  • Louise Stebbing (Facebook, Instagram, X) - Louise is a Norfolk based traditional fine art printmaker working mostly in lino printing & etching. Her submission was a linocut as was her heat artwork. She has exhibited extensively - in very reputable places and won many prizes for her work. She draws inspiration and solace from nature around her and places she visits. Below is the linocut she produced AFTER the heat and when she got home.  I think she ran out of time on the day to achieve what she was aiming to do. I had her down as a probably shortlist artist.


The Wildcard Artists


No pics of the submissions together as they are now all hung in the pods which I'm guessing is more cost efficient and effective for all sorts of reasons. Not least that the Judges now ask the artists about their style and submissions!

There were:
  • large x 2 (landscape x 1 and 1 squarish)
  • Medium x 4 (landscape format x 2 + squarish x 2)
  • Small x 3 (landscape x 1 and portrait x 2)

Themes and Learning Points

Coping with the weather

Nice as this looks - this was NOT what it was like on the day. 

If you've never painted plein air before, you won't be used to the things like
  • what rain and a very moist atmosphere does to various media and how it handles outdoors in the prevailing atmosphere; (alternatively what very hot weather does)
  • how you you sometimes have to deal with four seasons in one day and still paint what you see in front of you even though the original scene disappeared some time ago. It's not unusual for artists to get back after the break for lunch and the scene looks completely different!

I cannot make the message any plainer. You leave yourself at a major disadvantage - and still being filmed - if you have not had any of the experiences which can befall the plein air painter. Including the heavens opening with a deluge of rain.

The exception which proves the rule?

That said, this is the painting Yana Kucheeva produced and I have to say I was amazed. 
  • She has never painted plein air before - ever!
  • She finished within the four hours and it's a medium size painting - certainly not small. 
  • She's also  probably captured of the scene in front of her than any of the other painters
I put it down to the fact that:
  • she's an illustrator and her rapid assessment of workable options, 
  • plus the time management determination to complete by the deadline that illustrators working to deadlines tend to develop when they have a regular contract for one publisher.
Lake Hever Lake by Yana Kucheeva

Reducing the landscape to a few elements

Judges commented on the ability of some artists to recognise that the landscape comprised a few elements and then reduce the view they were doing to those elements.

They did this in different ways - but simplicity in structure, design and perspective can really make it much easier to read a painting. For example, does it have a foreground, middle ground and background that read as such?

TIP: ALWAYS define the basics with any landscape. At the very least create a sketch which defines for you 
  • what is the foreground, middle ground and background
  • where you intend the main tonal shapes to go
  • what the basic colour palette is
Don't forget to keep it simple to start with. 

You don't have to paint what's in front of you!

You can position yourself and your easel anywhere you like inside the pod. They may well have to do the adjustments to make sure they're filming you at all times but that's down to the production crew. 

So while ostensibly the subject was the loggia and the lake directly opposite, some of the pod artists - and some of the wildcards - decided to look for something more interesting that appealed to them.

So some looked up the lake and across to the opposite bank of trees and undegrowth. While others looked past the loggia - along the side of the Italian Garden and back to the Castle.

TIP: Do not paint a subject which does not appeal to you. Nothing good will come of that. Find a view that you like better and paint that instead.

Should Wildcards paint the same subject as the Pod Artists?

I'm not sure I've ever discussed this before. Naturally - at most locations the wildcards are often in a completely different location with a very different view and the question simply does not arise.

This time pod artists and wildcard artists were side by side - and it was interesting to see the numbers who lined up to paint the same view as the pod artists (they thought) were painting.

Interestingly the winner didn't do this but rather chose a completely different perspective of the lake and produced a very nice painting of the lake and the very mature trees which surround it.

TIP: Be Different! I located next to the pod artists, think long and hard before you start painting the same subject that the pod artists are lined up to paint.  I don't think it's a wise idea. You can have too many paintings of exactly the same subject - and although everybody paints differently:
  • it's becomes very hard to be distinctive 
  • it's sometimes it's easier to get noticed when you don't choose what might seem like 'the obvious'. 
Note also what the Wildcard Winner and one of the shortlisted artists did.

It doesn't have to be a "big view".

Speaking as one who has been very partial to portraying big vistas and views in the past, It feels very odd to remind people that you can:
  • just paint one thing in the landscape
  • take a slice out of the landscape and paint that. Study for example the painting by the winner.

Paint a size you're comfortable with

There's nothing worse than painting plein air using a size which you don't normally paint and/or paint at that size plein air.

It catches some people out when they realise how much board or canvas or support they have to cover. It also can also really undermine your normal approach to making art.

By way of contrast, for me, I had a lightning bolt moment at the Lotus Cafe in Ubud in Bali, when I realised it was actually much easier for me to go big when creating art plein air than it was to try to paint small.  After which I used to always go on painting holidays around the world equipped with two large sheets of foam core and lots of abrasive pastel card (25.5" x 19.5").  Read my blog post When I turned the corner............. for more on this topic)

However, for some people, looking for smaller views suits their way of making art better.  Such as the winner of this heat. Look (below) at just how much content is packed into what is actually a small format painting.

TIP: Know what size of support you are happy covering in four hours BEFORE you apply. Then practice working with that size support while working plein air in all weather!

The Confidence to Finish Early - and NOT Fiddle!

In this episode there was at least one wildcard and two of the shortlist who finished early - and had the confidence to stop.

That's stop as in:
  • stop tweaking and fiddling
  • stop giving yourself the opportunity to ruin what might be an OK painting
TIP: Stop if you think you've finished. Do not paint simply because there's painting time left. Do not tweak without a very clear idea as to why and what you want to achieve.

Decision Time

After four hours of painting it's time for deliberation and judging of the artworks produced by the artists.

Heat Paintings at Hever Castle Lake

Wildcard Winner

This was one of those episodes where the wildcard artist who won was totally not expecting it. In fact he was stepping back and getting out of the way so Tai could proceed towards the artists who he thought had a good chance of winning!

David Warren from Devon won with a painting which very much reflected the type of day they had for most of the painting time. Dull and overcast with reduced scope for reflections. However although his trees are crude shapes, his colours are such that you can tell what they are. Plus you get a very good sense of just how big the lake actually is.

(David appears not to like being online or social media much). 

One very gobsmacked wildcard artist - David Warren was the wildcard winneer

Wildcard Winner
David Warren's painting of Hever Castle Lake

The Shortlist

I have to say I didn't think there was any clearcut list of shortlisted artists - although there were from the submissions.

Judging pod artists at Hever Castle Lake

Heat 3: Waiting for the Shortlisting announcement

The three shortlisted artists are:
  • Deepa Goswami
  • Rydal Hanbury
  • Joe Mayhook
Submissions and heat paintings by the three shortlisted artists
(left to right: Deepa, Joe and Rydal)

Deepa Goswami

Deepa Goswami: Submission and Heat Painting

Unusually both of Deepa's are portrait format - and I wonder what's the reason for that.

Joe Mayhook

Joe Mayhook: Submission and Heat Painting

Joe didn't realise he had a panorama before he got to the location - but decided her could instead tackle it by using the three portrait format boards he had with him for a triptych panorama instead.

He also seems to have got old of some sort of "panoramic gripper" for the top and bottom which hold them together on the easel. (Not too sure how that works - any guesses?)

I think that he also turned away from the loggia and looked up the lake and along the opposite bank - which to my mind is far more interesting than the very odd stone loggia.

The Judges rather liked what Joe was doing in both this submission and heat painting.

Comments included that:
  • the heat triptych looked like music
  • they liked the big bold block and brush strokes he uses to layout his view of the subject 

This is a link to his Hever Castle Lake Triptych on his website where he says....
The tranquil scene of Hever Castle Lake is brought to life with a thoughtful use of colours, capturing the essence of the natural surroundings. Earthy tones dominate the composition, grounding the viewer in the beauty of the landscape. Warm hues delicately highlight key elements, infusing the painting with a sense of warmth and serenity

Rydal Hanbury

Submission and heat painting by Rydal Hanbury

Her heat painting included - in the bottom righ hand corner - a painting of the boat which Tai and Stephen - plus cameraman - took onto the water?

Was this initiative sort of effort to rid Tai of his allergy to boats?

Three men in a boat:
Judge (Tai), Presenter (Stephen) and a cameraman in a rowing boat on the lake

You can see a large bright version of her submission painting on her website but there's no version of her heat painting on her website or Instagram.

To be completely honest I didn't like this painting. Too dark and muddy for my liking.

Heat 3 Winner

The winner is Deepa Goswami and below you can see her heat painting and her submission.

Heat Painting produced by Deepa Goswami

What's different about this painting is that:
  • it's a landscape painted in portrait format. I know Deepa is interested in the art of Hindustan ad I'm wondering if this stem from that. I've got a vague notion that paintings tend to be either portrait (for a book) or panoramic.
  • it's a slice of a much bigger scene and yet it incorporates all the features of the location in front of her i.e.
    • the stone of the loggia
    • the various mature trees - which are distinctively different within her painting
    • the water
    • the marginal plants at the water's edge
    • the reflections in the water
    • the plants growing on the surface of the lake
  • it reflects her particular interest in how nature interacts with the built environment.
So essentially she has been herself and painted a painting which is true to her roots and interests.
This is Deepa with her submission painting.

Deepa Goswami with her submission painting

Her submission is painted from her home in Newham and features nature (the trees) and the built environment and the view of the River Thames in the distance.

Next Week: Stonehaven Harbour

Next week the pods are lined up along the quayside at Stonehaven Harbour in Scotland.


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.

Blog posts of heats to date:

Past Series - Reviews

You can also read past reviews of the Landscape Series of the Year which very many previous pod artists - and wildcards - 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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