Landscape Artist of the Year Wildcard Experience

Entering the competition

In order to have a go at being a wildcard artist, you need to first apply to the competition. This involves entering the following:

  • A photograph of your main landscape submission. This artwork must have been made in the last 5 years’. The photograph should not include the frame or surroundings
  • A photograph of an additional landscape.
  • An optional third photograph of art from your portfolio. This does not have to be a landscape.
  • One passport style photograph of yourself.

Once you have entered competition, you will then later receive an email saying whether or not you have been successfully chosen for the main competition. If you have not been chosen, you will then have the chance to apply to be a wildcard entrant. You are given a choice on which location and day to attend and the application for this is done on first come first serve basis. The places go really quickly, so be organised and set an alarm so that you are the first to enter.

Fingers crossed, you will then be notified if you have been successful in becoming a wildcard entrant!

On the day

It was an early start where we needed to be on sight and register any canvasses or materials that we would be paint on at 7:30am. There is then a little bit of waiting around so that all the wildcards have registered. I know some people got up very early in order to drive down and register for this time. Whilst waiting, it was really interesting to see all the different materials that people had brought for the day. Some people had a whole trollies of painting equipment, full with large easels, canvasses, buckets the lot, while others brought the basics.

When everyone had registered, they gathered the wildcards together to get some filming of us all walking down with your easels, canvases and setting up for the day. There was such a lovely atmosphere. Everyone seemed really excited to be there and to experience en-plein- air in the beautiful English sunshine as it was filmed at the height of summer. It was great to hear from other artists, there was a real mix of experiences: some had been old hand wild card artists for some time, whereas others this was their first experience, which put me at ease to hear I wasn’t the only newbie!

We were shown the area where we could paint, we were not allowed to be too close to the little waterfall as it would be tricky for sound. We were also told that we were given 4 hours to paint, however, we could choose to not take breaks if we wished, and therefore the total time was more like 6 hours. We were left to find a painting spot quite quickly, so there was a little bit of a rush to get us all set up for the start of filming.

Many artists flocked to the lake area, which showed a beautiful vista of a classical temple and a reflective lake. Something to be aware of is making sure other artists are not blocking your view, and to think about shade if it is a really hot day. Others decided to paint shady, woodland areas, or meandering hill where a classical temple stood afoot.

I was fortunate and found that when they asked us to find our spot, I was stood quite close to the lake area. I quickly set up me easel and laid out my paints ready to start.

After a while, the cameras began filming us paint, and a few of the judges wondered over to have a look to see how we were all getting on. I could feel my nerves getting the better of me!

I really didn’t do a great job at painting on the day! I felt like a couldn’t focus on what I was painting, whereas normally I get really engrossed in my work and forget about everything else that is happening in the world. I found half way through painting, another wildcard moved, which meant I couldn’t see the view I was painting any more. I had a go at painting another scene for a bit of fun and thought I will work on these later when I’m back at home.

I really want to learn from my mistakes and have another go at this with more experience under my belt.

Towards the end of the day the wildcard artist was announced. We were told to follow the camera and Kate Bryan for the announcement. We all gave her a massive clap and a socially distanced congratulations. I really liked her artwork, it was a unique view of the lake, I loved her colour choices, her artistic license and the quirk that she added to the scene.

After the announcement, we had to pack away our equipment and then we were given a choice to go and watch the contestants in the pod and the last part of filming.

I loved this! It was so fascinating to see behind the scenes and the way in which the programme is filmed. It was great to see the contestants landscape entries and how each of them tackled the landscape.

Tips on how to be prepared

From my experience, this is what I have learnt and things I will bear in mind if I were to enter the competition again.

  • If you have the funds, I would recommend staying somewhere close the night before as it can be quite a long day – though this isn’t a necessity at all.
  • Practice a technique of painting in a 4 hour time span. I would recommend doing lots of plein-air painting beforehand to get a feel for painting out in the open on the day (even if you plan from working with a photo).
  • What media are you going to use?  What do you feel comfortable painting with in a 4 hour time limit? Does a coloured ground work for you? Are you going to paint totally from life or are you going to work from a photograph?
  • Go in with a plan but also be prepared to not stick to your plan entirely! Let the landscape speak to you. How are you going to portray your experience of that place into a visual representation? This might be through composition, colour, mood, or a unique characteristic in the landscape.  You might want to make some sketches first before you jump straight into the painting. These are decisions are ones which you might make on the day so that your work is truly informed by the landscape.
  • Looking at other more experienced artists, I noticed lots of people were working from a photography that they had taken on an iPad. From my experience I think this is the easier thing to do,  as the changing light creates a real challenge for colour and the placement of light and dark and the creation of form. Although I really admire the artists that work purely from life because there is real skill in that.
  • Things to also remember to bring: A few canvasses of different sizes; a chair; lunch, snacks, water and tea or coffee; sun cream; a coat and layers – who knows what the British weather will do!

Would I recommend?


It was a great experience to paint alongside other artists. You get so used to working away at your own paintings at home, that it was so nice to feel like there is a whole other community out there.

I would love to have another go, especially now as I know what to expect and how I could be better prepared.

I really enjoyed seeing how the programme is filmed. The is long if you are prepared to wait and see who wins the heat!

So short answer is … yes I recommend, what have you got to lose?