Updated: May 1
It's been a summer of secrets! In April I applied to participate in Sky Arts 'Landscape Artist of the Year' and in May I received the call to say that I had been accepted. The filming schedule started in June but I was asked to keep everything top secret! With two young kids I didn't even tell my family.
My entry piece for the competition 'Red Field', available as a limited edition print here.
In June I went off to film my heat. The location was Paddy's Hole, near Redcar. It's a cove of fishing huts on an isolated promontory of land looking back at the steel works on the coast. I stayed in Middlesborough and on arrival at the hotel I received a call to say that there had been a disaster. The team had been setting up the 'pods' used to house the artists as they work but high winds meant three had been destroyed and couldn't be used for filming. There was nothing to be done, our heat would be filmed inside. my heart did a little leap, en plein air collaging has never been easy! Having some shelter would be great.
Arriving at seven in the morning, driving up a potholed road, I really didn't know what to expect. I was so relieved I had found the right place and amongst the fishing huts and boats there was a production marquee, lorryloads of filming equipment as well as catering buses and hoards of people! Sleepy eyed artists were arriving and unloading equipment. Having been told to bring 'whatever I need' I brought my whole studio of paints, papers and of course my sewing machine! Thank goodness for keen and friendly runners.
We were wired up for sound and then filmed arriving, unpacking and setting up for our challenge. There wasn't much time to chat with the seven other selected artists in my heat but we were all enjoying the excitement of the morning. We set up in the back of the fishing club with views directly across Paddy's Hole.
It was a totally different landscape to that which I would usually select to draw. It was almost post-apocalyptic with tumbled down huts, and layers of time worn wood, sheet-metals and detritus. Where were the trees and tiny cottages?!
The filmed challenge lasted four hours. The time flew by. Running creative workshops I have got used to working in front of people but having cameras focused on you every second, capturing each process felt very strange. I listened to music and tried to focus on the task at hand. The judges came around and I spoke to Tai-Shan Shierenberg and later to presenter Frank Skinner. Everyone on the production team, the judges and presenters were great to talk to and made the whole day a pleasure.
The piece I created in the four hour challenge.
Those of you who've seen the show will know that of the eight artists in a heat, three are selected to go forward for further judging before one artist from each heat is selected for the semi-final. Sadly, I wasn't selected to go through to the semi-final. On the day the work I produced didn't have the romance or colour of my usual landscapes.
Having participated, there's a long time to wait until I could share that I was going to be on the TV, and there's no seeing the final cut before my episode is aired on Sky Arts on November 15th at 8pm. So I'll be hiding behind the sofa hoping that the judges didn't say anything too cutting. The whole experience to this point has given me confidence in my work and spurred me on to create a new series of landscapes that I will be exhibiting soon.
images from Sky Arts Landscape artist of the Year