James Green: my time on Landscape Artist of the Year

James Green on Landscape Artist of the Year

If you’ve been following Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year competition, you will have seen Folksy seller James Green (and his spoon) get all the way to the semi-final. We asked James to tell us about his experience, what it was like to take part in a TV competition, and how it felt to be a printmaker in a world of painters. Over to James…

It was a bit of a surprise to me to be involved in another TV show (after previously taking part in the Portrait Artist Of The Year series in 2013), but I applied, and was lucky enough to be selected to take part in the ‘sequel’, entitled ‘Landscape Artist Of The Year’. It’s a competition, a bit like The Great British Bake-Off, but for landscape artists. The winner is given a £10,000 commission by the National Trust to create a picture of one of their properties. There were over 2,000 entries, and 48 artists were chosen to take part in the first stage (six episodes, with eight contestants in each).

At least with this one I thought I’d be a little more in my comfort zone, as landscapes are part of the range of prints that I make. If only it was that simple!

Landscape Artist Of The Year 2015, Sky Arts, James Green, Lyme Park

STAGE 1: LYME PARK, CHESHIRE

For the first round of the TV show, I was asked to go to the National Trust property Lyme Park in Cheshire. I had to be there really early for the start of the filming day, so I decided to head over the night before. I stayed at a charming B&B (Kinrara in Whaley Bridge) and the view from it was one I’d have been glad to do a linocut of!

After an anxious and mostly sleepless night, I got up at the crack of dawn and headed to Lyme Park. Overnight, I seemed to have developed some kind of lurgy but I figured the day’s activities would distract me. The location was quite spectacular – it was apparently where some of the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice drama series was filmed. I turned up with my linocut printing tools, inks, paper and pencils, met the film crew and the other seven contestants and had a healthy bowl of porridge in the catering bus. Everyone was very friendly, and the other contestants were all as nervous as I was.

James Green, Sheffield View number 4, lino print, linocut

My linocut competition entry, Sheffield City View No.4seemed rather primitive by comparison with the entries from the other contestants.

We were led into a tent to view the entries from the other contestants before the competition started. There was a great range of styles. At that point, my entry (linocut Sheffield City View No.4) seemed rather primitive by comparison.

We were filmed and asked how we felt about the imminent competition and then led to our outdoor ‘pods’ to get set up. The pods were individual platforms with a roof. This was where we’d be working from. They were all placed in a line so we’d have the same view. I had assumed (and hoped) that we’d be working on a view of the grand main building at Lyme Park, but I was wrong. Instead, our view was the other way around, of the gardens in the park. There wasn’t a building in sight!

Landscape Artist Of The Year, James Green

I had assumed (and hoped) that we’d be working on a view of the grand main building at Lyme Park, but I was wrong. Instead, our view was of the gardens in the park.

So, we got set up and met the competition judges: artist Tai Shan Schierenberg; director of exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts, Kathleen Soriano; and head of contemporary art at The Fine Art Society, Kate Bryan. We also met the programme presenters, Frank Skinner and Joan Bakewell, and started our four-and-a-half hours of creativity.

Landscape Artist Of The Year 2015

I had planned my time in advance… however, it soon became apparent that time was going to be tight. I hadn’t factored in the weather and the frequent stops dictated by the film crew, judges and presenters.

Now, four-and-a half hours isn’t very long to do a linocut, but I had planned my time in advance, and figured I could create an A5-size two-colour print in the time. However, it soon became apparent that time was going to be tight. I hadn’t factored in the weather (really windy and cold) and the frequent stops and starts dictated by the film crew, judges and presenters.

Lyme Park, linoprint in progress, James Green linoprint,

I didn’t really think it was going too well… my work was getting wet and blown about in the wind, and I was freezing cold (I’ve never cut lino in gloves before).

I was finding it pretty hard to get my linocut done. I didn’t really think it was going too well. I was rushing my composition, my work was getting wet and blown about in the wind, and I was freezing cold (I’ve never cut lino in gloves before). Joan came over to check how my print was getting on, with the cameras in tow, and I revealed a test print, which I thought looked awful. Pretty embarrassing!

inking lino,

With the cameras in tow, I revealed a test print, which I thought looked awful. Pretty embarrassing!

So, several interviews later and a fair bit of waiting around while the judges made their minds up (with cups of tea to warm us), we were asked to stand next to our pictures to be told who was in the ‘top three’. I pretty much knew that this wouldn’t include me. I had now seen some of the other artists’ pictures, and they all looked impressive compared to my print.

James Greeen, Landscape Artist of the year 2015,

As I was standing next to an easel with my picture on it, a gust of wind had blown one of my prints out of my pod and into the giant pond! Some poor runner was trying to fish it out!

Frank and Joan then began to speak, and, much to my surprise, my name was read out! Top three! Perhaps the judges were feeling sorry for me? So then myself and the two other shortlisted artists were interviewed (again) and questioned by the judges. I was dreading this bit. My mind by now was pretty frazzled, and getting more than a sentence out that made any sense whatsoever was going to be a challenge. Somehow I mumbled about my Lyme Park print, and my Sheffield one, and they nodded politely to the answers I gave to their questions.

There was more waiting around, then finally they lined the three of us up again to find out who the winner was. We had to stand next to an easel with our picture on while being filmed. It was at this point that I looked behind me to the pods we had been working in. A gust of wind had blown one of my prints out of my pod and into the giant pond we had been facing! Some poor runner was trying to fish it out.

Frank and Joan started speaking again. I was nervous, but pretty sure that I wouldn’t win, what with the competition. And, then … they called my name out!

Landscape Artist Of The Year 2015, Sky Arts,,

Somehow I had won the heat, despite the weather, the tricky view and the print that I thought hadn’t gone very well. I was very much in shock, but also hugely flattered.

Somehow I had won the heat, despite the weather, the tricky view and the print that I thought hadn’t gone very well. I was congratulated by Frank, Joan and the judges, and the other gracious contestants. I was very much in shock, but also hugely flattered. I was filmed one more time, and tried to explain my incredulity to the camera. I felt bad for the other shortlisted contestants, but was also excited about what would happen next.

The finished linoprint of Lyme Park

James Green’s finished linoprint of Lyme Park

THE MIDDLE BIT

The TV people then sent a film crew up to my home in Sheffield to film a back-story about my work, family and other interests. They filmed me working in my studio, playing swing-ball with my son, interviewed my family and friends, and also my band (The Big Eyes Family Players).

James Green, lino cuts,

James Green at home via Our Fave Places

SEMI-FINAL: LONDON

Two weeks later and I was in the semi-final of Landscape Artist Of The Year. No pressure. There were now seven of us left in the competition, and we had to travel down to London to do another four-and-a-half hour mystery challenge. If the artists I had already seen were impressive, then these were going to be seriously good. I felt very out of my depth. I caught the train to London St Pancras and was picked up by a taxi to take me to Alexandra Palace. There, I met the other contestants, a lovely bunch of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Some were full-time artists, some part-time and some students. All were painters though, apart from me. The film crew wanted us to speak on camera about our thoughts about the competition and where we thought we’d be doing a landscape of in London. I don’t know London very well at all, so had no clue. I just hoped it’d be a scene with some buildings in it.

Landscape Artist Of The Year 2015, semi-final, james green, tower of london

After another rather sleepless night, we all trudged on to a minibus that was taking us to a mystery location. No one could really work out where we were going, or where we were when we stopped.

The six other artists and I then headed to our hotel to try and relax and get some food and drink. It was good that we had a bit of time to hang out and talk about this surreal situation we found ourselves in, and share ideas about our art. We were all nervous, but being in a group together made it feel a little less scary.

At about 6.30am the next day, after another rather sleepless night, we all trudged on to a minibus that was taking us to a mystery location in the capital. No one could really work out where we were going, or where we were when we stopped. We were ushered into a posh hotel to be mic’d up and the TV producer explained that we’d then be given some directions from outside the hotel to where our pods would be, and that we’d be filmed all of that time, to capture our reactions. So, off we went.

London-view-tower-bridge-semi-final

Our panorama view included the bridge, the Tower of London and a view of the city, including The Gherkin. A London City View! I felt much more confident about attempting this scene, as I’m used to working on urban scenes.

I still had no idea where we were. We reached a clearing through some trees and could see our pods in the distance. Our view was on the Thames, by Tower Bridge! The panorama view included the bridge, the Tower of London and a view of the city, including The Gherkin. I wondered if I could choose the latter, and was relieved to hear that I could. A ‘London City View’!

landscape artist oft he year, semi final, tower bridge

I decided to be a bit more realistic with the time given and try a smaller print this time

I felt much more confident about attempting this scene, as I’m used to working on urban scenes in my Sheffield prints. Also, the weather was much kinder (sunshine, warm and not much wind). I had decided to be a bit more realistic with the time given and try a smaller print this time, but still two-colour if I could.

Landscape Artist Of The Year 2015 Sky Arts, semi final, JAMES GREEN, Andrea Southam

It was the same format as the previous round, with lots of on-camera interviews, questions and chats with the judges.

It was the same format as the previous round, with lots of on-camera interviews, questions and chats with the judges and Frank and Joan. I didn’t mind at all, although I did really just want to get on with the print. Frank Skinner was particularly friendly, and seemed very much into printmaking. I said he should come on one of my workshops!

Frank Skinner, Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year

Frank Skinner was particularly friendly, and seemed very much into printmaking. I said he should come on one of my workshops!

What I hadn’t anticipated though, was the amount of people, mostly tourists, who would take an interest in what we were doing. There were hundreds and hundreds of them all day, wanting to know what we were doing, and taking photos of us. It was nice that they were interested, but it was a little distracting!

Landscape Artist Of The Year 2015

Time ticked on, and from feeling like I had plenty of time to spare, I had about fifteen minutes to press my final print.

Time ticked on, and from feeling like I had plenty of time to spare, I had about fifteen minutes to press my final print. I thought that my linocut had been going well. I just couldn’t afford to mess this bit up, otherwise I’d have nothing to present in the end. I had managed to create a two-colour print, and just managed to print the second colour with literally two minutes to go. Phew.

tower bridge lino

I thought that my linocut had been going well. I just couldn’t afford to mess this bit up, otherwise I’d have nothing to present in the end.

It was all over. Tools down. More interviews were next, chats with the judges, and we were all asked to line up again to be told who was going to make the final. I really didn’t expect to be picked, even though I was happy with my print. I saw the other artists’ interpretations of the view and yet again was mightily impressed: six amazing paintings in all sorts of different styles.

london, tower bridge, linoprint

I had managed to create a two-colour print, and just managed to print the second colour with literally two minutes to go.

And… I wasn’t picked. Never mind. I guess I was a tiny bit disappointed that my part in the process had ended, but also slightly relieved that my next prints would be created in the privacy of my own studio, and not within a strict time-limit under the watchful eye of a camera crew.

Landscape Artist of the Year, London , Semi-final

I was a tiny bit disappointed that my part in the process had ended, but also relieved that my next prints would be created in the privacy of my own studio, not within a strict time-limit under the watchful eye of a camera crew.

I’d like to add that everyone I met and worked with on this TV series – the producers, the artists, the runners, the technical people, the judges, Frank and Joan, and everyone else – were so very friendly and helpful, and it made the whole experience very enjoyable indeed.

London skyline, lino print, London linoprint, linocut, james green

James Green’s final linoprint of the London City View

 

Buy James Green’s prints from his Folksy shop James Green Printworks

Catch up with the whole series of ‘Landscape Artist Of The Year 2015’ on SKY ARTS / SKY 1

Credits: Photographs by Jon Hall and Andrea Southam for Sky Arts 2015. Additional photos by James Green.

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1 Comment

  • November 28, 2015

    Joseph

    Fascinating series James! Enjoyed watching you create and well done for getting so far.