Wildcard at Compton Verney Grounds

Sky Landscape Artist of the Year, Compton Verney Grounds, Wildcard artist!

After watching this exciting programme for many years, I was delighted to be given a chance as a wildcard artist for the 2022 series. My wildcard day was to be the first day at Compton Verney in Warwickshire. Quite a long way from Glasgow but hey you must give these things a go! 

I knew to pack for the vagaries of an English summer’s day,so the car was full, as it turned out, our umbrella, wet weather gear and tent all came in handy. We experienced sun, rain, and thunder. Not quite four seasons in one day but near enough. At one point in the day I was painting, holding up an umbrella and trying to put a tent up.

The grounds of Compton Verney are beautiful and well worth a visit. I was lucky enough to find a position which suited my style with loads of green in front of me and acres of reflections. A family of swans added some interest too just to add to the stately home vibe, although at the end of the painting when I added one in, I don’t think Tai was very impressed. I kept one of the feathers anyway as a lucky mascot.

I had brought everything but the kitchen sink, so I was well prepared with a spare canvas. In the end I painted two A1 size boards to make sure that I could include both the amazing cedar tree to my left and the bridge to my right. In the end this paid off as all the judges, especially Kate, thought that I had been quite courageous to tackle such a large diptych.

I began with washes of green and crimson acrylic paint across both canvases, for this I painted them on the ground and I’msure there are bits of grass and still embedded in the paint. Using a three-inch wash brush, this didn’t take long. The breeze helped to dry my two canvases meaning I could get onto the oil painting quite speedily.  A new medium for me that day was drying linseed oil which was beneficial as I could add layers on top and not move too much paint lying underneath. 

The rain came down, an interesting paint effect was created! I must admit I was in the zone and hardly ate or drank anything all day, not to be recommended. My concentration was interrupted of course by the cameras and the other wildcards, the atmosphere, I felt, was like that of an art festival. We were all so different yet for those few hours, we were all in the same boat which created a great camaraderie. I didn’t see much of the pod people as they were further round with a view of the main bridge.

It was exciting to see Joan Bakewell and Stephen Mangan come around and chat throughout the day to other wildcards. The judges were lovely and passed through our area regularly. When they headed in my direction, I became a little nervous but really it was lovely to talk about art and the methods I was using. Being an artist can be a lonely existence and I was encouraged by our chats and their positive comments.

I was interviewed a few times which was fun. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t worry about how I might come across on telly, but I thought to myself that not much of my bit would make the final cut. At the end of the day, I felt like I had run a marathon, but I was pleased with what I had produced and that was the main thing. If the judges liked it even better.  

Time passed quickly and soon the time came when we were told to finish and put our brushes down. We were thanked for attending and one of the production team kindly said that they thought the wildcard section was the best bit of the day. It was announced that the judges had made their decision and soon Tai would come along and let us know which artist had won, we could follow him and give them a round of applause. I was just clearing away my paints when I saw Tai coming towards me. I was gobsmacked when he said congratulations and that I was the winner! I probably cried; I can’t remember. It was a moment I will always remember, that probably sounds cheesy but it’s true. Then I was interviewed again and asked lots of questions. It didn’t feel real, my paintings which I’d splashed paint on, scraped it off, applied more texture with my fingers, brushes and even the feather were then treated with great care and taken off by the production team. I was quite pleased that I didn’t have to try and get two very wet large oil paintings back in the car.

What a day! I can’t recommend the experience highly enough so if you are thinking of having a go then just do it.

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