Continuing from my Sky Arts Adventure post, part two of my Sky Arts LAOTY (Landscape Artist of the Year) experience brings all the elements together; and leaves me with lasting warm, sun kissed memories. And knowledge of how to learn from it for a more successful adventure next time.
It’s true when they say that without failures we won’t fully appreciate the great achievements we accomplish later on. Nerves have always been my biggest weakness when combating with public speaking moments, and this became very apparent on this day; particularly in-front of the cameras…
Let the painting commence
So, all set up, I commit to the vastness of the landscape ahead of me. Being 5 feet tall, attempting to paint a landscape peering over a hedge is not the most cleverest decision I ever made; – but the beauty of the landscape was calling, and so akin to a sirens call, I was whisked off into its grandeur.
I often flit between drawing with a pencil and paintbrush, today was no exception. I decided to loosely draw in the landscape with my paintbrush. I knew there was no way, nor the time to, include every detail of the all encompassing view; so a quick sketch to highlight the areas I would focus on, to make impressions of it was the best way to paint.
And thus, that is how I set out..
I dabbed on the paints, roughly pitching out my chosen view. Then began to work in sections as per my usual practise. I soon realised the pitfalls this way of working was going to be, whilst working with quick drying oils on such a hot and sunny day. I started painting the big tent dome in the bottom right of the picture. I blocked in the colour quickly with the intention to add light and shade; however, the penetrating sun activated the quick drying oils within minutes of it touching the canvas. To me it felt like seconds! Instantly I realised the obstacle I was facing, and with a mighty big canvas of 70 x 50 centimetres staring back at me, my sudden hopeful optimism waned ever so slightly.
My Sky Arts LAOTY Experience
I thought I had planned for every eventuality. It had not occurred to me that the 8 hours drying time estimated for the quick-drying oils, would in actual fact shorten in time under the basking sun. In that moment I wished I had brung some linseed oil with me.
Hindsight is a beauty, in that way.
The next four hours became a manic rush to paint as quick as I could before the sticky paint stole my chances of hoping for a decent painting. Try as I might, that battle was lost the moment when the warming sun met the quick drying oils.
Paired with the sudden onslaught of my sleepless night and the sun, my energy levels dipped and my concentration suddenly slipped in a need for sleep. The warm sun started to sing an alluring lullaby.
Aware of the impending dangers dangling ahead of me like a precarious carrot, my sister suggested I put my earphones on and listen to some music to perk me up and get into the flow. Great idea I thought – but alas, I had forgotten my earphones back at the B&B.
Rescue eventually came in the form of chocolate brownie and coffee. Only a couple of hours to go (we had 4 hours plus 1 hour for lunch); it was enough to keep me going. By this point I had accepted the cards I had been dealt, and so did the best that I could do given the circumstances.
Interviews & I
Buzzing around me was a hive of activities. The TV crew had cameras going up and down the aisle interviewing everyone, at one point Tai Shan Schierenberg came and interviewed the young artist painting in-front of me. I remember her working very fluidly, making interesting mark-making which Tai found intriguing. All of this, plus knowing at one point, I’ll also be interviewed revved up my nerves to al all time high.
I was not managing this part of the experience well. And this showed. Just before the last 30 minutes of the contest, the tv crew stood in-front of me. It was my turn to speak. You’d think it’d be a breeze in the park, particularly when you enjoy having conversations.
Not I. I fumbled through the interview, repeating myself more than I would have liked. It honestly felt akin to when walking along a steep mountain ledge, you stop to climb over a path worn away. Imagine you having to focus – full concentration on the climb as well as trying to manage your fear of heights and the possibility of slipping and falling down the cliff. By that time of the day, I was frazzled under the hot sun as well as flagging, due to the lack of sleep. My sleep depravation muddled my mind and my nerves took a front row seat at the cinema eating popcorn as it ramped up the anxiety levels. Somehow I got through it, and that kind of sums up how the day went. I got through it. That said, I had a fabulous time; I really did!
Alas, with everything stacked against me – “thank you sunshine!” (said with sarcasm). I didn’t quite win the wildcard competition, but I did have fabulous time and an experience which I’ll always cherish. You can watch the full episode on Sky Arts via this link. Going forwards, I’ll definitely do this again, so watch this space! To read a review of the episode, click here.
My Sky Arts LAOTY Experience – What I learnt
My biggest takeaway from this experience has been to cater for every eventuality, especially the weather! It amazed me how underprepared I was in factoring in the warm weather in relation to the oil medium I was planning to use. Quick drying oils are best to work with in cooler weather or with a medium which will extend the drying time, such as linseed oil.
Also, taking smaller canvases to paint on would have helped to alleviate the pressure I put on myself immensely. If I didn’t feel one composition was working I’d have the material to switch and work on something different. That possibly could have aided me well now that I think about it.
Plus a good night’s sleep is paramount. Travelling down the day before or perhaps even a couple of days ahead so to settle in and get your bearings would be best. And enjoy every second of it!
Something like this really makes you understand yourself as an artist, as well as what you want to achieve with your creativity. In the moment of seeing the chosen scene, I was captivated by its beauty and I felt compelled to paint a ‘typical’ plein air painting the judges would like. I worked against my better judgment to paint with abstract imagery within the landscape.
Our calling as artists is knowing and trusting what the inner self knows about the creative process as well as our inner compass – which brims in the kaleidoscope that is our unique creative DNA. I failed to trust that on the day, I failed to believe in my creative DNA. I hope not to make the same error in my next adventure.
My Sky Arts LAOTY Experience – The Dilemna
The painting sat in my room half-finished for about one year. I found myself thinking about it often and finally, inspiration returned to complete this. The tricky part, in this case, was how much do I work on this. This painting started last year when I entered the Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year as a wildcard entrant. Teamed with unrivalled nerves and a sleepless night, the painting turned out a little different to my usual style. Which is one of the reasons why I couldn’t bring myself to work on it again – until now.
I didn’t want to completely rework the painting as, I felt, part of its story and provenance needed to be preserved -particularly with the precarious nature I put paint onto canvas.
I have been in a place where I could – and still can, see lots of areas where I could tweak and make better. But by doing so, I wonder if that would lose the essence of how it started out as. How does one manage a dilemma like this?
1 Year and 4 Hours, The Eden Project
For now, 1 Year and 4 Hours later, The Eden Project, oil painting on canvas, has been completed. I decided to include the imagery of a sculptural bee and bio-domes, which I captured in a photograph I took prior to the competition start. From the start I wanted to bring that imagery into my painting; but for some reason, on the day, I didn’t. It finds its place within the landscape 1 year later. How is it looking to you?