So the mobile rings and ... Hi says Conor from StoryVault Films, it’s about your submission artwork for Sky Arts, Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 … the judges loved it and congratulations, you are a finalist in this years competition. There was possibly a slight pause as I caught my breath and realised this was certainly not a crank call, but the start of an amazing opportunity to enjoy an experience so many amateur artists could only dream of. As I had only just started doing linocuts I was even more surprised!
We had a great chat to ensure my artwork, Waterloo Sunset
[linocut on watercolour paper] was mine and available for the
show. It was mid-May and my wife, Georgina, and myself
were just arriving at Beesands on the South Devon coast for
a short walk and a meal at the wonderful beach side Inn. After
noting the basic information and confirming my availability
we headed for the pub. Sworn to secrecy, the owner must
have thought we seriously disliked the food as our mouths
were so dry and in shock we could hardly eat. At some stage
we will return and tell him my story, the food there is great by
With the artwork safely in my possession I started to research
the process and immediately came across an amazing blog
which completely opened my eyes to what lies in store.
With serious concerns as to my ability I trembled a while, panicked for a few days, and then thought ‘you can do this’ and the excitement kicked in … I was going to enjoy this!
Over the next few days I worked on ideas, concept and a list of what I would require for my 300 mile trip to Gateshead, yep the North East. I have a bit of a 'Northern Soul' but not that North! Not sure of the location so the mind starts work overtime to the possible places. Social media mentions someone spotting Stephen Mangan in Newcastle City Centre, not much help there then.
The process starts now ...
Despite the fact that the Gateshead heat is not until July 3rd I am setting my stall out immediately. I need to prepare fully and look into what the judges are looking for in the artist.
Whatever the findings I will definitely be myself and as yet I am not planning on restricting myself to one medium and it may well be, because I work loosely and quickly, that I end up with 2 possibly 3 different artworks on the go. I will certainly enjoy the location, whatever and wherever it is.
Initially I look back on the submission artwork
to refresh myself on what I produced earlier in the year that won me through to the finals. Luckily, I was so proud of my finished artwork, I took pics and made a video of the stage reductions. [see above]
A little bit about me ...
‘I have always loved a blank piece of paper’ is probably what sums up my approach to starting an artwork. Achieving the success of becoming a pod artist in the Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 springs from that very same ethos.
I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of
‘local art groups’ where I learned tips and
tricks that guided me in my progress,
but have always held on to my quick and
loose style. Mainly creating
Watercolours and Line & Wash I
developed a feel for Line Drawings and
had a period of time producing drawings
on to products for people. However I
have never lost my enthusiasm for
creating art [See my iPhone sketches
video >>] and we take every opportunity
to visit Exhibitions & Open Studios
whenever we can. My love of the Coast,
Countryside, Architecture & Structure
provide me with a host of ideas and
my love of what I see never diminishes. I have captured and uploaded to Social Media an image every day for over 7 years with a thought that every day we see something that gives us pleasure. Motivated by the quality and variety of work on show, and my eagerness to always try something new, I decided to learn the skills of linocut.
As recently as the last few months, following visiting the Devon Open Studios, I had a one-to-one with an accomplished linocut artist in Brixham and there has been no looking back for me …
Time to prepare ...
Make a list! Great idea! I have never before entered an art competition so I start to compile a list of everything I will require for the event in Gateshead and you certainly have to think outside the box. Taking into account, not only the materials, but what will the weather throw at me. Think cold and wet and it can only get better.
At this point I am still not aware of the actual location but have now purchased materials to add to what I already had and should be ok to cover any view the judges decide upon. The guys at StoryVault have been amazing so far and are making the planning much easier than I expected.
I created this video using iPhone sketches and a couple of watercolours ... #tongueincheek
'My Waterloo Sunset' ...
Sky Arts 'Landscape Artist of the Year 2019'
An amateur artist's journey ...
Time to time ...
Having never painted under pressure I set myself the task of creating 4 linocut reductions, each within the 4 hours time limit the programme has for artists to complete their work. The work is an idea Thameside Micro Brewery has to cover their beers ... Heron, White Swan, Black Swan and Egyptian Goose. This is not a commission but an opportunity to hang my work in a great location. Can't wait to get the OK from StoryVault to be able to mention the competition!
With a time clock set for 4 hours I pick up my watercolour pad and sketch the outline of a Heron. Seated with paints and brushes in hand I attempt to capture the light and dark, shape and size and feel of the background greenery. Already 35 minutes in I move over to start the linocut process. Initial cuts to ensure I have the layout ok I surge ahead. I am testing using less paint and a hair-dryer to speed up the process and thankfully I completed in just over the time limit. Now I have to work on speeding up!
This has been a good discipline for me as I enter an experience like never before, luckily the weather is great ... just wondering what Gatehead will throw up.
Tomorrow StoryVault are collecting my submission, Waterloo Sunset ... time to look at accommodation and trip planning ahead of further time restricted test artworks. Thinking White Swan, thinking White Swan Ale!
VIEW Keith's Bio >>
Hotel booked and with a 300 mile journey to take we decide to make it a road trip with a few nights added to take in Whitby, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Hepworth, Hockney at Saltaire and the Hebden Bridge Open Studios. How exciting is that!
With everything moving at a pace and with the first of the heats about to commence at Herstmonceaux in East Sussex I look at ways i can speed up the process to ensure I complete on time.
A great incite into the filming and the day ahead comes with watching a whole series of the competition. I choose to watch the first series which has a couple of linocut artists involved. My main reason for watching is soon forgotten as I get carried away with the art and the show! Time to concentrate and actually look at the pos and the artists to see how it all works. Lots learnt here and so straight to my table and lets see how we can improve ...
We decide to pop down to see Herstmonceux Castle to help me familiarise myself with how it all works. A quick call to StoryVault to ensure i am allowed to be there and away we go. WOW, loved it, what an atmosphere, despite the weather. This was a great day out for both of us and the StoryVault people and the 50+ Sky crew were so approachable and so accommodating to everyone. we especially loved the WildCard area and how relaxed everyone was on the day. As I take it all in, here is a pic of Kathleen Soriano as she seeks out the wildcard winner on the day.
Heats 3 and 4 ...
As an avid user of social media I have been following the #hashtags relating to the show together with the judges social media and ,guess what, the venue for where I am doing my four hour linocut has been mentioned as HMS Calliope in Gateshead. HMS Calliope is a Royal Naval base on the quayside and looks a great setting for the competition.
Whilst I start to research the area I see pics on Instagram of the Plymouth Hoe heats, mixed weather as per Herstmonceux, which all points to a heatwave in Gateshead. Lots of smiles on the faces of the judges and probably a couple of huge smiles on the faces of two of the artists.
Spend the weekend at the Open Studios at Eel Pie Island and across Twickenham, Teddington and Hampton. Very enlightening and a joy to meet so many talented artists. The boatyard [pictured] has me fully inspired for a future linocut. Back at home it is great to see that Sky and Channel 4 are collaborating and showing Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 ... wonder if they will do the Landscape Artist.
More planning done as I await a call tomorrow from StoryVault to find a little bit more about me.
Great chatting with Cora from StoryVault, she was so easy to talk to and we covered the many stages of my life in art. I hope that I have given an uplifting and interesting response to her questions.
More time controlled practising and preperation for the competition brfore heading off again at the weekend to the Open Studios of Hampton, Teddington and Kew, where I was given the opportunity of trying Woodcut. Loved it! Mustn;t get carried away from my discipline of linocut though. Also had a go at Cyanograph which certainly is an interesting medium.
Oh Boy! Is there really only 3 days to go now. Lovely visit from the family with some very touching messages inside of the cards.
What an experience, my first competition and its a big one!
Arrived on time [7am ... yes 7am] and was met by a very cheerful George who assisted with unloading my car and registering for the filming. The crew are great as are the production team and all is very relaxed. I am quite a relaxed person and I am loving this, meeting the other artists, and preparing for the event.
Impressive bridge that tilts and turns and spans across the Tyne.
An artist’s view to capture this the decision now is mine...
Quayside, Bridge and Baltic Mill with a vibrant bright blue sky, or abstract and contemporary to catch the judges eye?
Competition would be nothing if risks we do not take ... to push the boundaries of your art and sometimes mistakes make!
What happens on the day? Click the link to find out ...
The Day arrives ...
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