4 min read
14 Jun

Like many people, I love watching Landscape Artist of the Year! I like the unusual and challenging locations chosen for the artists to paint.  I like to watch the artist’s work develop from composition to completed painting in the 4 hour deadline.  

Back in January 2023, after watching the end of a series of Landscape Artist of the Year, I decided to investigate how to enter!  I googled how to apply and eventually found the information and a link.  Part of the application process is to submit 3 recent pieces of your work for consideration. This was difficult, I pondered over which pieces I should choose. I finally settled on an acrylic painting of Bala Lake with Mount Aron as my main submission plus two other supporting paintings including an oil on canvas of The Lighthouse at Talacre, North Wales.   I received an email advising my application had been received.

The closing day came and finally I received an email on the 11th of May to advise that I hadn’t made selection as one of their main ‘pod’ painters, which didn’t surprise me at all. 7 painters are chosen to paint in the famous pods! However, I was invited to then apply to be a Wildcard, which I did. Then on May 17th  up popped an email from STORYVAULT FILMS:

I felt a mixture of pure excitement and terror at the same time! I completed any necessary forms then waited for the next email. I spent a few weekends practicing different landscapes and techniques, after all, practice makes perfect!  I'd only painted ‘plein-air’ (outside) once before, it does present challenges. However, my biggest challenge would be to complete a painting in 4 hours.  When I told my children that I had got through my daughter said to me ‘How will you do it mum, you can’t paint a picture in under 15 hours!’ She wasn’t wrong.

I received further instructions with the dates and locations of the heats.  I live in Chester so the obvious choice for me was Liverpool.  I selected the 14th June and waited further instructions. Anxiety built,  I knew it was very likely that I would be painting the beautiful buildings in Liverpool which include the Liver building, Port of Liverpool, the Royal Albert Dock and the Tate, to name just a few! Why was I filled with such terror?  I've NEVER painted buildings before! My usual artwork features seascapes and country landscapes! I used a reference picture and had a stab at The Royal Albert Dock with the Liver building in the background. Liverpool hosted the Eurovision during May 2023 on behalf of the Ukraine.  So much life and colour filled the city, I wanted to bring that into my painting.  

Picture: test painting of The Royal Albert Dock with the Liver buildings. 

A few days before my heat I received the exact location in Liverpool which was right in the middle of The Royal Albert Dock and The Liver building! Although the nerves set in I felt comfortable with my practice painting.  However, I had many a moment of imposter syndrome! Would the standard of my work be comparable to the other artists? Would I complete it in the 4 hour deadline? Would nerves get the better of me and I'd make a complete mess of it altogether!  I thought about pulling out. Family and friends provided encouragement and support.  I travelled up to Liverpool the night before with my good friend Martha.  After a lovely meal we did a recce of the meeting point on the waterfront!  My stomach did a somersault! We could see all the SkyArts crew set up.  Back at the hotel,  I set my alarm for 5.30am. I didn’t sleep much and woke up virtually every hour until it was time to get up and get ready. Wednesday 14th June - Martha and I got to the meeting point just before 7am and joined the queue of other Wildcards ready to have our canvases inspected and stamped by the crew.  This is to make sure you don’t have any sketches on your canvas or guidelines.  You are only allowed a single colour block.  My canvases were inspected, stamped and I was given a green wrist band and I was ready to go! I was feeling quite nervous, but it was great to meet up with other Wildcards who were feeling pretty much the same.  I was standing by another Wildcard, Emma, who was accompanied by her husband Mark.  Emma said that she was calming her nerves by viewing it as ‘a painting party!’.  I loved that, so the painting party began!

Picture: British art curator, Kathleen Soriano, one of the Landscape Artist of the Year Judges speaking to a main artist.   
The crew filmed the Wildcards making an entrance to join the main pod artists before I set about choosing a place to paint from and get the easel and canvas set up. I brought some picture hanging strips to secure my canvas to the easel and a weight. I'm glad I did, later in the day there were a few gusts of wind which blew over some artists easels. The other main issue was keeping hydrated in 28°C, the sun was out all day without a cloud in the sky! Working with acrylic in the heat proved challenging,  the paint was drying out on my palette fast! Martha was super, keeping me supplied with a steady flow of drinks and snacks! 

Picture: My view on the day of The Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool.
At 9am we were told by the crew that we could start painting! I completely zoned out and focused on getting my background colour in first then sketching with charcoal before putting my acrylic on. In just over 2 hours I had the bare bones of my painting ready to start putting in the fine detail. The area was buzzing with artists, crew, local reporters, and the public were milling about all throughout the competition. My husband Jolyon was watching the day unfold through twitter posts and sent me through the tweets with a comment on one WhatsApp message – ‘I can just see your red hat on the tweet.' 

Picture: twitter post by @theAlbertDock and yes, you can just about see my red hat. 

My new Wildcard friend Emma set up next to me and she was doing needle felting! So talented.  This medium attracted a lot of interest by other Wildcards, the public and of course the judges.  The camera crew set up to film Emma and one of the judges, Stephen Mangan.  This proved to be a very funny conversation and one I will enjoy watching back when the programme is aired in January 2024.
I went for a loo break and to stretch my legs for a bit before I went back to my painting to concentrate on the fine detail.  When I returned Emma's husband Mark said to me that while I was away so many people had been up to look at my painting and take photos of it. He passed on the very positive comments made!  That made my day! 

I took out my fine brushes and acrylic pens and got to work on the fine detail.  At around 13.00 I decided to call it a day.  My painting was not 100% as I wanted it, but it was time for me to step away. There is always the danger that you can start to ruin the painting by trying to correct things you are not happy with.  So I spent the next hour taking in the atmosphere and looking at the artists work and techniques used, fabulous. I also chatted with all the lovely people who came up to me to ask for photos of my painting or a photo of my painting and me, ask questions about technique, ask if they could buy my painting, and the most wonderful thing was how some people told me that my painting was their favourite, they'd been watching my painting develop from the start. One lady said it reminded her of an Italian mediterranean city scape!   The comments I received have been an amazing confidence booster and left me on a high!  My painting was the smallest canvas of the day (I believe there was a smaller canvas the previous day) but I hope it packed a punch! I wanted to pack it with colour reminiscent of the sunshine that day and the recent celebrations in the city with the Eurovision taking place.  I also popped a few ‘stick men and woman’ walking across the bridge as a nod to L S Lowry because The Walker Art Gallery has Lowry’s painting The Liver Buildings, Liverpool on long term loan I thought it was a fitting tribute.  My painting is now framed on my own wall as a memento of one of the best days I have had! I even picked up a Wildcard T-shirt at the end of the day. 

My message: no matter how scary a new challenge might seem, put yourself forward for new opportunities,! Push yourself out of your comfort zone.  You can only grow and develop from the experience and you never know – you may end up loving it! Overall – I learnt to have faith and trust in my own ability! 

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