MAKING A MARK: Review: Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2023

MAKING A MARK: Review: Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2023

You can find my review of Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2023 – at Blackpool Pleasure Beach – below. 

It includes lots of quotations
from the programme – from presenters, judges, artists and wildcards!

The Pods in front of the Rollercoasters

My review covers:

  • the location and weather
  • the artists’ profiles
  • themes arising during the episode
  • who was shortlisted and who won

Episode 4: Blackpool Pleasure Beach: Rollercoasters

Blackpool Promenade
with Blackpool Tower and the North Pier
(Episode 1)in the far distance
and Blackpool Pleasure Beach
and the rollercoasters in the right foreground

Location and Weather

“This year we’ve reimagined landscape art”

Reimagining landscape art is what artists do – not Judges or film production companies! The locations continue to be idiotic.

The location for Episode 4 was
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
– with the pods set up to face the rollercoasters.

  • As if artists have been
    falling over themselves to paint this particular location because it is so
  • Quite how this location relates to the commission relating to the Van de
    Veldes is quite beyond me…..

I’ve never painted a structure before. I normally paint hills.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach was founded in 1896 as a pleasure park for adults. It is still run by the granddaughter of the founder.

It’s also a site which is happy to accomodate filming opportunities.

The location adviser / whoever decides locations for Landscape Artist of
the Year really needs a radical rethink before next year.
I shall
doubtless continue to comment at length on this topic
on my Facebook Page. I’m also considering writing a blog post all about how to choose a
location to make an interesting programme which generates good future applicants for the series.

Anyway, this is the view the pod artists had from their pods – minus the
blue sky! This pic must have been taken the day before. Lots of curves and
hundreds if not thousands of struts
(i.e. the track sits on top of something that looks remarkably like

View from the Pods

As a painter I would find this very difficult Tai Shan Shierenberg

The weather

The weather was really awful. Anybody who knows Blackpool could have told them it was a MAJOR risk.  See the pic of Joan below – she was the ONLY one who dressed sensibly for the day – but then she used to go on summer holiday there when she was young and knows what it can be like!

It started off dull and windy. By midday it was pouring with rain and had started blowing a gale and raining so hard IT WAS RAINING INTO AND INSIDE THE PODS!  

I gather a lot of the wildcards gave up and went home since they had no shelter at all – or had concocted weird ways of sheltering – starting with a big bloke with an enormous umbrella on sentry duty through to being enveloped in polythene sheeting!

The Artists in the Pods

Episode 4 pod artists are listed BELOW in the alphabetical order of their

  • Links to their websites are embedded in their names.
  • Social media platforms are also referenced.
There was no group shot of the artists altogether at any stage so this is
the artists at the line-up when they hear who has been shortlisted
L to R: Joseph Schneider, Anne Byrne, John O’Neil and Jenny Wightman

L to R: Kwesi Awotwi, Nigel Murray, Mark Lippett and Lorna Hamilton

The info in my profiles is pulled partly from the programme but also from
their websites. 

  • Kwesi Awotwi – an artist and film-maker based in Hackney in London. Trained in London at the Art Academy, Atelier Fine Art and Heatherley School of Art. Works in his studio in Clapham. Co-Founder/Producer at GroundHog Pictures Ltd
  • Anne Byrne (Facebook
    Instagram) – retired marketing Executive from Chester and a contemporary
    landscape painter interested in a contemporary take on traditional
    approaches to landscape painting. Trained at St Helens School of
    Art in the late 70’s. Currently represented by The Harbour
    Gallery in Portscatho, Cornwall. Her work suggests she knows how to
    create a composition. Works in oil with big brushes relative to format
  • Lorna Hamilton (Instagram) – b. 1973 in Northern Ireland. Works in mixed media. Currently
    lives and works in Nottingham. BA(Hons) in Fine Art in 1995. She has
    worked as a full-time professional artist for 27 years and has exhibited
    work across North America, UK, Ireland and China, with 3 sell out solo
    exhibitions. Her work has been featured on television programmes in the
    UK and Ireland, with paintings in public collections in N.Ireland and
    several others in a significant private collection in New York. Won the
    Winner of Parker Harris Mentoring Award & exhibition award in 2022.
    In 2023 she has a Public Art Commission for Northern Ireland and
    the Falkland Islands Residency: Arts, nature & wellbeing!
  • Mark Lippett (Facebook
    Instagram) – an art tutor from Stafford. Mostly known for his architectural work
    depicting abandoned buildings which have been exhibited across the UK in
    a number of solo and group shows. 2000: MA Fine Art – Painting at
    Wolverhampton University. 1997: BA (hons) Fine Art at Cumbria College of
    Art and Design. Works as an art tutor delivering workshops and teaching
    classes to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. Currently
    current artist-in-residence at Spode Works Studios. He’ll be exhibiting
    with the SGFA at the Mall Galleries in March.
  • Nigel Murray – a retired art teacher from London. Trained at Harrow School of Art
    and did his Art History degree at Camberwell, Nigel has worked as an
    illustrator, teacher and artist. His artwork is rooted in a deep love of
    drawing, especially from direct observation
  • John O’Neil (Instagram) – former Navy weapons engineer based near Aberdeen. He’s been
    exhibiting for a couple of years and has succeeded in getting into a
    number of competitive open exhibitions. He paints traditional landscapes
    in Scotland in oils.
  • Joseph Schneider (Instagram) – artist and part-time tax driver from Shropshire. 2009-2011 MA in
    Painting, Royal College of Art. Creator and Director of the
    Rural Art Hub – an accessible community art space providing innovative,
    inclusive opportunities for all ages to experience artistic
    collaboration and discovery. He has 30 years of experience as an Artist,
    Artist Educator and Creative Play specialist working with all ages in a
    range of different community setting.
  • Jenny Wightman (Instagram) – from Macclesfield. Worked for 15 years as an English teacher before returned to university to realise my long-held ambition to study art.

The Wildcards

As usual 50 wildcard artists set up nearby to paint the same scene.

Wildcards on the promenade – numbers diminished as the weather got worse.

I look forward to seeing the wildcard work as it’s very often better than the artwork in the pods – and demonstrates what can be done in that location.

I suspect one of the reasons we saw relatively little of the wildcards’ artwork was it was either hidden by polythene or the artists were disappearing by the time they came to look – due to the appalling weather which they were exposed to.


It’s becoming very tiresome that we never ever get a shot of all the submissions together – so we never get to see what stands out or how they look next to one another.

Considering how important the submission is to decisions about the shortlist and winner I’m very surprised at this omission.

The Judges with Joan Bakewell considering the submissions.
(Note Joan has is observing the Blackpool on a grey day dress code)

We do however have the new marketing image of the artists holding their submission painting – which is very useful in terms of providing a point of comparison on size and format and style.

Artists in Episode 4 with their submission drawings/paintings

Most of their submissions were on the large side of medium size with only one small painting. The ones I liked were by Lorna, Anne, Nigel and to a lesser extend Nigel and Jenny. I also appreciated the double vanishing point in John’s work.

Themes, Learning Points and Tips

Dress appropriately – bad weather can be really bad news

Tai Shan Schierenberg
wearing his normal kit for some abnormal weather and sheltering under a large umbrella
held down to avoid the wind allowing it to take off!

This was one of the worst episodes of LAOTY that I’ve ever seen for bad weather.

“One of our hardest challenges”

They’ve had spells of rain in other episodes but nothing quite so consistently awful. Basically:

  • it started grey – which is never good news
  • the wind blew for most of the day and by the looks of it got stronger over time
  • when it rained it did what always happens on the west coast when there’s a strong wind – it rained horizontally rather than vertically i.e. driving rain – right inside the pods
  • the wildcards were out in the open – like sacrificial lambs!

“Gosh, it’s blowy today!” 

The really bad news is that some media really does not like rain. Which immediately impacts that artist’s chances of winning anything. Mark switched to coloured pencils

“windscreen wipers for my glasses would be good” Pod artist

This makes me think that those choosing locations for this series have absolutely no idea about basic meteorology:

  • winds in this country typically blow from the west – and carry rain (Blackpool is on the west coast and is very exposed to rain collected by winds blowing across the entire Irish Sea)
  • locations on the west coast very often get a LOT more rain than locations further east (East Anglia is very dry! The westerly winds have dropped all the rain by the time they get there; the East Winds in winter months are vicious as they come straight from Siberia)
  • basic physics means that the rain drops as soon as it hits land and/or anything high – like rollercoasters.

Anybody in the north west knows that Blackpool can be nice – but it can also be really dreadful – which is WHY it has so many indoor entertainments! 

  • Joan knows this. I know this. 
  • We both come from the North West and have both been to Blackpool in the summer. Enough said?

TIP to programme makers: Employ a meteorological adviser to tell you what the chances are of having a good day or a bad day – and just how bad a bad day can be – at different possible locations. Do NOT book a location or anything associated with it on a whim or somewhere somebody thinks it’s a good idea. Do your homework first! Can I remind people that none of the Judges are regular all weather plein air painters – and boy does this programme need one who is!!

TIP for wildcards: There is no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing! (Alfred Wainwright – the man who drew the Lake District and developed guides)

One person had a great day. That was the Wildcard winner who is a regular plein air painter – and consequently was dressed in the gear that those who are all-weather plein air painters generally acquire over time!

  • completely waterproof outer gear – top and bottom. (my waterproof overtrousers have zips up the side for getting on and off easily). Incorporates
    • a peaked hood – to stop rain getting in your eyes / drenching your face
    • high neckline – to stop the rain getting down the back of your neck – and neck warmer underneath
  • ‘Big peak’ cap held on by a tight beanie to stop it blowing off in the wind. 
    • Helps you see colours better in sunlight 
    • keeps the rain out of your eyes when it’s raining 
    • stops your ears suffering in strong persistent wind.
  • Waterproof padded gilet underneath also helps to keep you warm.
  • lots of zip pockets to hold vital bits and bobs on your person – and keep them dry.
  • deep pockets to hold your hand warmers!
  • cuffs at end of legs and arms – keeps you warmer.
Jo Burns – kitted out for Blackpool wind and rain

Verticals and Horizontals – lots of straight lines

The view was a morass of verticals and horizontals – and curves.

Personally speaking my notes say “Artists must have been sick as parrots!”

I’m actually now waiting for the episode for the pod artist who rebels and walks out of the pod and away from the competition. It’s going to happen if they keep on with this type of really stupid view.

The rollercoasters in front of the Pods

What was interesting was the way the view stimulated the artists to approach it in very different ways

  • some cropped tight and made it more feasible to finish
  • some didn’t crop tight enough and ended up painting endless struts
  • some hadn’t been practising painting to four hours in really poor weather – and as a result had great compositions and unfinished paintings
  • some tried to ignore the rollercoasters and painted the car park / rusty railings instead – and then tried to work out what to do about the rollercoasters
  • one turned sideways and painted a small part of suggested rollercoasters, a lot of sky and the sea. Guess who won?

TIP: How best to approach straight lines and curves which need painting quickly

It was agony watching people trying to paint the straight lines and curves. In a studio you’d be using tools to help you. e.g.

  • stiff card – in different sizes – which can be dipped in paint and then applied to the paper / canvas to get a sharp completely straight edge. (I think only one artist did this)
  • flexible curves t- o create the right curve that you can then draw in to create a curve to follow

You can bring tools from your studio to use outdoors!!

Getting the format right for the view

Sometimes you have to decide whether you need to change your normal format when faced with a view which is very unusual.

The right format ultimately depends on your vision of your painting – but also on the nature of the subject.

For me, if you’re going to attempt to paint most or all the rollercoasters, the only way you can do that is on a panoramic format. Yet nobody had one with them – and the people who had brought the art supplies obviously hadn’t brought any with them.

In this instance, I think I’d ask how you are supposed to know that the struts in the background relate to a rollercoaster unless:

  • you stretch your composition sideways
  • you include one of the carriages with people in it

Decision Time

Wildcard Winner

The wildcard winner was Jo Burns who is a regular plein air painter from Ilfracombe. 

She studied Fine Art at Jacob Kramer College in Leeds and went on to St Martins briefly and then did a BA in Fine Art at Loughborough College of Art. She completed an MA in Fine Art Painting at Manchester in 1984.

She has had five major Arts Council Residencies…..has received a number of Arts Council Awards.

Wildcard winner Jo Burns with Tai Shan Shierenberg

The Wildcard Winning Painting by Jo Burns

Shortlisted Artists

Artists waiting to hear who has been shortlisted

The shortlisted artists were:

  • Jenny Wightman
  • Kwezi Awotwi
  • Anne Byrne 
I haven’t come across anyone yet who agrees with the shortlist that the Judges came up with – and I’ve looked!

Below is, for me, “the one that got away” – because that was the view and that was the day – and I really don’t understand
why he didn’t get a place on the shortlist – other than that
submission probably wasn’t the best choice even if it got him a pod

TIP: Your submission has got to work hard for you

  • Initially it has to be something “different” that gets you noticed. 
  • Plus it has to work hard when it comes to deciding who gets shortlisted. 

Joseph’s approach was to include everything and really go for it.

I stand by my approach of putting EVERYTHING in. Also off camera Tai-Shan Schierenberg said “you have a miraculous ability to capture the world with concision.”


Below I comment on each of the shortlisted artists’ paintings – and add in comments from the Judges.

Jenny Wightman: Submission and Heat Painting

Her  submission was an impressive and towering pencil drawing. The judges commented on its vertiginous perspective.

She was also working in dry media which is not common in this competition (people associate it with painting).  For her heat work, she chose to include pastel

“what a day to choose to use pastel!”

I liked the way she blurred parts of the image using line. The Judges liked the way she added in colour for the heat in a controlled way.

Kwesi Awotwi: Submission and landscape painting

I’m afraid Kwesi’s style of painting – whoever has painted it – does
absolutely nothing for me. I see similar in art galleries and wonder what it
is I’m missing that curators think is good.

His submission painting was described as “playing with very little“. I’d just ask where are the streetlights? Other night-time paintings – which I like – do not look like this.

The proportions in his painting are completely distorted. It’s as if it’s a painting of two halves – top and bottom.

The Judges thought it an interesting development from his submission – with again an approach which includes no drawing whatsoever, only “painterly mark-making”

Anne Byrne: Submission and Heat Painting

I thought it absolutely fascinating that she decided to turn side on and paint what was in front of her – after she had removed six other pods as that great area of nothingness bottom centre is where the other pods were. When I saw where she had been positioned, I thought she was very, very brave AND she came up with a solution which was about the place but didn’t allow the rollercoasters to dominate.

There’s a wonderful feeling of air Judge

The words the Judges used to describe her heat painting were 

freer, expressive, contemporary, original, delicate serenity

They also appreciated the contrast between the pleasure beach and the sea and the contrast between the two. She said herself that she had been looking for the tension between the organic and the manmade. 

Thinking about it – without the sea in the painting, any of the paintings could be of any rollercoaster anywhere in the world.

I was sure she was going to win. There again I was sure last week and got it wrong!

The Heat Winner

Shortlisted artists waiting to hear who’s won

The Heat Winner was Anne Byrne – who goes through to the Semi Final.

I must confess, I did the profiles of the artists yesterday afternoon
before I watched the programme and I’d already decided – on Wednesday afternoon – that if I were
judging I’d be picking Anne as my winner.

Indeed I’d go so far as to say, bearing in mind the pic in the intro part
of each episode which presumably relates to the commission, I think she
has a good chance of making the Final and might even win! She can
certainly handle sky!

Next Week

The competition continues as the contestants take a trip to Ascot to capture the glamorous racegoers at the Royal Enclosure Picnic.

The title of next week’s episode is Ascot Picnic – which I assume
means they’re in the car park – where the wildcards were last time –
painting all those having picnics before the racing.

That’s not a landscape either. 


The programme is broadcast by Sky Arts ( available on Sky, Now TV
and Channel 11 on Freeview) and the films are made by Storyvault Films.

Landscape Artist of the Year 2024

For all those interested in entering the series which will be filmed
this summer – see my blog post about
Call for Entries: Landscape Artist of the Year 2024 (Series 9). The closing date for submissions is NOON on Friday 28th April 2023.
(Note the Terms and Conditions appear to have disappeared from
their website i.e. you shouldn’t need to register to see if you
would want to register!)

2023 series

All the reviews in Series 8 include themes for reference by future
participants – or plein air painters working to a time frame – in
terms of problems experienced and challenges overcome.

I’ll be archiving the reviews of each episode in the reference
section at the end of each episode.