Two weeks ago I sat with my family and had a surreal moment watching myself appear on TV, reaching the final three of my heat in a painting competition. It marked the end of a fun adventure that began in May this year when I received a phone call to tell me that my application to Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year had been successful. I couldn’t believe it! I’m a huge fan of the landscape and portrait versions of the programme with both on series link. I’ve watched every episode of every series so the thought of being a contestant myself filled me with excitement and apprehension.

In June the day of filming arrived and it was good to meet the other artists and discover where people had travelled from and share feelings of nervousness.
I found the whole process of making the show fascinating. The production team is huge and they all buzzed round working hard, each with their own tasks to complete but working together seamlessly so that artists, presenters, judges, camera operators, sound engineers, caterers, security and all, were in the right place at the right time.

After some initial interviews on camera and being filmed ‘arriving’ I felt a sense of calm once the painting part of the day had begun. It was what I was there to do and the unnatural things like talking on camera and chatting with presenters Joan Bakewell and Frank Skinner just kind of happened along the way.

The judges Tai Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano and Kate Bryan are people I have huge respect for. I’ve learnt a lot from hearing them talk about art on previous series. It was great to meet them and be judged by them. On the day, the other contestants and I had no idea how the judges felt or what they said about our work so to watch the broadcast and hear such flattering comments regarding my painting has encouraged me greatly. I thought my style probably wouldn’t lend itself to Kate’s taste so to hear her describe my entry as ‘a little jewel of a painting’ was lovely. Early in the day before filming, Kathleen told me the judges had high hopes for me which was exactly what I needed to hear as I had no idea if I was out of my depth or not but had a great confidence boost when she said that, so I appreciate her kindness. Tai was another calming presence as he came to my pod to have a chat before painting and filming began. He checked out my materials, colour palette, brushes and we talked about the Art Academy where he is head of painting and where I’d previously taken a 10 week evening course taught by another artist. His and Kathleen’s comments about my work during judging were also hugely encouraging.

The reality of being filmed while painting hit home when the first camera crew arrived soon after the competition had begun and set up directly in front of my view! They stayed for a few minutes while one of the producers asked what I was up to before disappearing and reappearing throughout the challenge, sometimes accompanied by a judge or presenter who proceeded to chat through the current stage of work. There was a lot of talking to camera before, during and after the competition so to discover what made the final cut was especially interesting.

It was a relief once Frank and Joan called time on the competition as that was it, there was nothing else I could do and I felt reasonably happy with my painting under the circumstances. There was then opportunity to catch up with the other contestants and hear how they’d got on and get a quick glimpse of their work. The production crew provided a packed tea (as well as a cooked breakfast and lunch earlier in the day) so while we relaxed and refuelled, the judges were deliberating with each other over the work which at the time I had no idea included choosing my piece for the final three. It was a surprise to hear my name being called when filming began again and I have no arguments with Fadi going through to the semi final when that was announced. His work was outstanding, especially his composition which I thought was a really brave decision. For those who didn’t see the programme Fadi chose to paint the view out the side of his pod including one of the other contestants, painted in a lovely abstract manner. Well done that man! At time of writing I have no idea how he gets on or any clue about who else progresses so I’ll be watching with interest and rooting for Fadi all the way!

The whole experience was fantastic. The professionalism of the production team was a pleasure to see and be a part of. If the opportunity arises in the future to compete in another series I’d snap their hands off!

Thanks for reading!