MAKING A MARK: Review: Episode 6 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2023: Strangford Lough

This week, in the final heat of Landscape Artist of the Year 2023, we finally got a PROPER landscape! 

Absolutely no entertainment centres – whether on a pier, a pleasure beach or a racecourse – and no country houses either! 

Instead we had lot of natural greens, greys and ochre colours – in the water, shoreline, grass, hills, grass and lots of trees. It was a pleasure to watch despite what was a very grey day at Strangford Lough, County Down in Northern Ireland.

It is however linked to that other entertainment vehicle – Games of Thrones – as being within the area of Winterfell

Pods at Strangford Lough, County Down

As always, my review covers:

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

Episode 6: Strangford Lough

On a spit surrounded by water – which was receding as the wide went out


The pods were located on a spit jutting out of Strangford Lough – next to Strangford Sailing Club – in the area knows as Winterfell in Games of Thrones – nearer to the sea than most of the rest of the lough.

The pods were looking across the water to Audley’s Castle built in 15th Century which overlooks the entrance to the sea lough from the sea.

One aspect which complicated matters for those that didn’t know or notice is that Strangford Lough is a sea lough and consequently is tidal – and the tide went out – revealing a lot more foreshore over the course of the filming.


The day of the heat was grey with flat light – but it stayed consistent all day with slight variations in the sky.

It appears to have been the sort of day which works well for those accustomed to working with light and looking for the colour which exists even on a grey day. Which is what happened and it was a pleasure to watch……

The Artists in the Pods

Artists in Episode. 6
(L to R back row: Andrew, David, Laura, Helen, Beth;
 L to R Foreground: Elliot, Lewis and Chi Yen)

Episode 6 pod artists are listed BELOW in the alphabetical order of their surnames.

  • Links to their websites are embedded in their names.
  • Social media platforms are also referenced.

The info in my profiles comes partly from the programme but also from their websites. How much depends very largely on much bio info is online!

The pod artists in this episode were:

  • Laura Gill [Facebook] – A retired interior designer who lives in Dunblane, Scotland.
  • Lewis Graham [Instagram] – Born in Birmingham and currently an art student living in Worcester. Graham explores the rural landscape and depicts it through large-scale charcoal drawings, painting and printmaking.
  • David Hamilton [Instagram | Twitter] –  a retired art director for an international company that produces themed sets for the entertainment industry and occasional TV extra from Portadown in Northern Ireland. “very chuffed to have exhibited with the RA, RUA, RHA, NGI and the AR.” He has also been selected for the RA Summer Exhibition, London, 2016 and  shortlisted twice for the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery
  • Beth Horner [ | Instagram] – graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Painting in 2020, having received a BA in Painting from Wimbledon College of Art in 2017. Currently a Digswell Arts Fellow and works from her studio in Letchworth Garden City.
  • Helen Lloyd Elliot [Instagram] –  live and work in Dorset and London. Primarily a landscape and portrait painter – and a nature lover. Has exhibited at leading open art exhibitions in England. She’s made a print of the painting she completed in the heat. Tai described her as a colourist and I agree.
  • Andrew Mart [Instagram] – a musician and teacher from Nottingham
  • Elliot Roworth [Facebook | Instagram] – a former architectural designer from Brighton. He’s inspired by architecture and intrigued and energized by light effects and reflections. He’s one of a few artists in this series whose paintings on his website have impressed me.
  • Chi Yen Snow [Facebook | Instagram] – Relocated to Clevedon, near Bristol from London in 2017. Mother to two young girls. Graduated with a degree in film and animation. Spent over 15 years working as a graphic designer. Works in acrylic and oils and started working in pen and ink during lockdown. Participated in a pod in Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 at Herstmonceux Observatory
The Artists Pods at Strangford Lough

Wildcard artists

As always, there were 50 Wildcard Artists painting in the same area

The Wildcards painting on the edge of the lough

We heard in this episode that Judges can be drawn towards your wildcard painting by the aesthetics of your set-up!

The general consensus was that there were some exceptionally strong Wildcard artists and that the Wildcards had a very good day. 

Maybe because they’d been given a proper landscape at last?


seven of the eight pod artists with their submissions
(David Hamilton is missing)

It’s taken until the last heat to see the wall of submissions properly – albeit only 7 of the 8 artworks.

Interestingly the really big one is by David, the only artist from Northern Ireland. Most are on the small side

Submissions from the Pod Artists are considered at the outset

At the beginning of the programme, after having seen the submissions I always write down for myself who I think will be shortlisted just on the basis of the submissions – and got two right – and wasn’t sure who I’d make my third artist.

Themes, Learning Points and Tips

What follows are themes talked about or observed during the day and what we can learn from them and tips with how to deal with various challenges

Skies are important: what to do about a grey sky which keeps on changing

Having looked back at Episode 2 of LAOTY 2019 re. Chi Yen Snow, I’m going to repeat one of the themes I highlighted in that episode and revise it for this episode.

Light emanates from (the grey sky) and illuminates the greens” Tai Shan Shierenberg

Being good at skies gives you a head start on everybody else.  One can expect at any venue, wherever that might be, you will get a sky. – and that this sky might well be challenging.

The nature of plein air painting is that the sky keeps changing – even when it’s grey all day and the sun never comes out!  

  • Grey skies are difficult. A grey sky which stays grey all day is unlikely to be identical all day. Vaporous cloud is difficult to do – and practice makes perfect.  
  • The best way to tackle this is to do a LOT of plein air painting and then you’ll work out various strategies for dealing with this that work for you.

The other aspect to remember is that although there are no shadows, there are still tones – and you need to be very aware of what the range of tones are – especially when you have a lot of green.

“A lot of greens and quite a lot of grey”

Flat light emphasises the range of tones and in particular the range of greens which can be seen in a landscape. 

Here’s a TIP from Henri Matisse

“When I have found the relationship of all the tones the result must be a living harmony of all the tones, a harmony not unlike that of a musical composition.” Henri Matisse had to say in his A Painter’s Notes, 1908,

TIP: The challenge of painting in flat light is it’s a “Game of TONES”!

There was one awful pun used in the programme – which is a good way of reminding artists of what to focus on when there is no sunlight.

Painting next to water

“The narrative really is in the water”

A few TIPS for matters relating to water

  • Unless the water is landlocked, there is one absolute dead cert – it will have a tide. Strangford Lough is a sea lough and consequently it is tidal. Which the artists discovered as it started to go out revealing the foreshore. This meant that anybody wanting to feature the reflections needed to get the tonal pattern of the reflections marked out early on. 

“the reflections are going to go – the water is going that way” Kathleen Soriano to a rather surprised painter – who then told him to take a photograph!

  • Just because it’s summer, there’s no way you can ever assume that the weather will be warm. If you’re next to a large expanse of water and there’s a wind, you can feel very cold. So make sure you’ve got cold weather gear with you.

Persevere or Start Again?

The eventual winner was about to start again at one point as she thought her painting was not working.

TIP: What’s the best thing to do when it’s not working? There are two options:

  • either accept that it’s “the ugly phase” and work through it
  • or dump it fast and start again – AFTER you have worked out WHY it has gone wrong. There’s absolutely no point in starting again and repeating the same mistakes.

For the record, so far as I’m aware, the winner fixed whatever was bothering her.

Things to avoid

TIPS FROM THE JUDGES: This is a miscellany of comments which I though worth highlighting

  • don’t overthink it
  • don’t overwork it
  • enjoy your painting
  • finish with polish and finesse

Decision Time

Wildcard winner

Kate Bryan was of the opinion that they could easily have had three wildcard winners – so congratulations to those who participated in what was, by all accounts, a very creditable wildcard effort.

However the winner was Harvey Martin from Berkshire (why wasn’t he at Ascot??) who painted what was referred to as a really lovely post impressionist painting.

Harvey Martin was very surprised to be told he’d won the Wildcard

I can’t find him anywhere online….

Shortlisted artists

Artists lined up to hear the decision at the old boathouse

Left to right: Beth, Andrew, Helen, Lloyd, David, Laura, Lewis and Chi Yen.

The artists who were shortlisted were:

  • Helen Lloyd Elliot
  • Elliot Roworth
  • Chi Yen Snow

My choices – at submission stage – where Helen and Elliot and I wasn’t surprised they opted for Chi Yen too.

These are their submissions and heat paintings lined up next to one another – ready for the final judging – and you can see, for the first time, their relative size.

Shortlisted Artists: Submissions and Heat Paintings
Left to right: Helen Lloyd Elliot, Eliott Roworth and Chi Yen Snow
Submission and heat painting by Helen Lloyd Elliot

In my opinion, it’s more difficult to paint an impression of the view you see – and do it well – then it is to paint something very precisely and accurately. 

Helen Lloyd Elliot paints extremely good impressions where she says a lot but does not overwork her painting.

Kathleen commented that her use of colour reminded her of music – with the different coloured marks being like musical notes. She also demonstrated she can change the way she paints to reflect the nature of the landscape and the weather on the day.

Submission and heat paintings by Elliot Roworth

Elliot demonstrated a commitment to constructing his painting through the use of large shapes for the important built features. Tai considered it to be very well considered and built. 

His submission was considered to be almost graphic whereas his heat painting was much more painterly.

I thought his vertical slice created impact and that he created effective compositions within the format.

Submission and Heat Drawings by Chi Yen Snow

Her two drawings were identical in format and approach – in a tondo (circular) shape and vertical markmaking in pen and ink to signify both shapes and tones. I think she got the third place because it is an approach the Judges had not seen before. Also she managed to give a strong sense of being able to create depth with a very restricted range of marks.

The Winner

The winner was Helen Lloyd Elliot – and very deserved it was too. I thought she might get edged because in some ways she’s very close to the winner at Blackpool in Episode 4.

The view was that she was a great painter, using great brushmarks while hovering between abstraction and realism.

Heat painting of Audley’s Castle

I think Helen will be in the final. She talked about the win giving her confidence. I don’t think she needs it, I think she just knows how to respond to a scene and how to paint it.

Next Week

Next week is the Semi Final at the Thames Barrier. Yet another monumental scene with no relevance to the commission – apart from the water…..

The participating artists will be

  • Heat 1: Finn Campbell-Notman
  • Heat 2: Susanna Macinnes
  • Heat 3: Stefano Ronchi
  • Heat 4: Anne Byrne
  • Heat 5: Steve Nice 
  • Heat 6: Helen Lloyd Elliot
  • one wildcard – to be chosen from those selected in each heat

For what it’s worth, I’m currently thinking the Final will probably be between Finn Campbell-Notman, Anne Byrne and Helen Lloyd Eliot – but it’s all to play for (at least it was last summer!).


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: You now do NOT get to see the Terms and Conditions until you have registered to enter – which seems absolutely crackers to me! How can you know if you want to register at all unless given all relevant information. It’s looking very much akin to email harvesting to me – and needs to be changed back to the way it has been in previous years.

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.

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