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Sky Landscape Artist of the Year 2024

Updated: Feb 4

Hello everyone!

I appeared on Series 9 Episode 4 of Sky Landscape Artist of the Year as a pod artist this week, which was filmed at Stonehaven harbour in Aberdeenshire. I thought I'd just write about the day in a bit more detail than I do on my other social media, for anyone who might be interested in the programme or thinking of applying themselves.

It's been a while since I posted on this blog. It's been a busy 6 months or so since the episode was filmed (with the birth of my son, a couple of big exhibitions, Christmas and New Year etc.) and there's lots of restrictions about what you can and can't post about on social media, so I thought it was best to just wait until the episode had aired until I wrote more about it. 

Below is my submission painting that got me on to the programme. It's of Leith Street in Edinburgh. You have to submit one main painting and then a couple of others (one of which does not need to be a landscape). In previous series these would be displayed with the other artists' submission paintings in a gazebo on site for the judges to look at. This was the first series where the submission paintings were displayed alongside us in our pods and the judges looked at them and discussed them with us while we were painting. The crew took them down around 1pm though after they'd finished filming them.

My submission painting 'Hurrying Home'

Stonehaven harbour
The pods lined up along the harbour wall
Awaiting the announcement of the final three

I was very apprehensive about appearing on telly. I'm a bit of an introvert and the thought of being on a programme that I've watched for many years felt a bit daunting. But after applying for three years in a row, and being a Wildcard last year, finally getting accepted to appear as a pod artist was an opportunity I couldn't turn down.

For anyone who hasn't yet watched the episode... ***SPOILER ALERT***...

Me doing my best 'I'm so happy for you' face

I made it into the top three but didn't win the heat unfortunately. It was still a really good experience and I'm glad I took part. The crew who film the programme are all very nice and friendly and there's a fairly relaxed atmosphere considering it's such a big production. One thing that surprised me was the sheer amount of people employed to make the programme. There seemed to be hundreds!

It was around early May 2023 when I found out I'd be on the programme and where it would be filmed. I think I found out a couple of weeks before the filming date where exactly in Stonehaven it would be and I was chuffed it was a harbour scene as I like painting water and boats.

From the other side of the harbour, facing the pods

I drove up the day before (it was about a 5 and a half hour drive) and stayed in a hotel nearby. I spent the night in the hotel staring intently at paintings of harbours on my phone by artists I admire, hoping to somehow get some last minute inspiration by osmosis. I've included some of the ones I looked at below.

David Curtis
Trevor Chamberlain
Marc Dalessio
Peter Brown

On the day, I left the hotel about 6.30am and had to be on site by 7.30am. It was around 9.30am before we could get in the pods and get set up. I started painting around 10am. The weather was dull and grey all day and it rained later on, which doesn't really matter at all in a pod! It doesn't even feel like plein air painting because you're so well sheltered from the wind and rain. One thing that was hard to get used to though was the constant interruptions. About every 20-30 minutes, someone would come along to interview me or ask me to go to a different area or ask me to move out of the way so they could get a shot of my painting etc. It was really difficult to stay focused. Every time, after I had to stop, I would find it hard to remember where I was up to or what I was about to do next, and it would take me a while to get back into it.

It's a very long day of filming. I think I finished painting around 4pm and then it was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing filming interviews and other shots around the harbour. Even after the results were announced and the filming was finished, it was another hour or so until I could collect my painting to take home (someone takes the 7 paintings that didn't win and wraps them for you but it takes a while).

Just a completely natural chat after a day's painting

My finished painting on the day

After I'd got my painting, it was time to make the long journey home with my pregnant wife and my mum (who had come up herself on the train, bless her). Another 5 and a half hour drive just about finished me off. It was well worth it though and it was a good laugh watching the episode this week and seeing my mug on the telly! If anyone has any more questions about the process or the day then feel free to leave a message.

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