Going Wild at Hever Castle

I was thrilled to be invited as a ‘wild card’ on Landscape Artist of the Year and recently spent a wonderful day at Hever Castle in Kent, where they were filming one of the programmes for the next series. If you keep an eye out on Sky Arts in January 2024 you might catch a glimpse of me! I later discovered that Louise Stebbing had been there the day before, working on a print in one of the pods. For those of you that haven’t seen this before, it is an art competition with 8 or 9 main competitors in each programme, who each have their own ‘pod’ to work in to produce a piece of art in 4 hours. The winners then go on to semi-finals and the chosen artist of the final round wins a £10,000 commission. Every stage of the process is filmed in detail and it was completely fascinating to see the process in action and the hard work involved. Kathleen Soriano, Kate Bryan and Tai Shan Schierenberg had the difficult task of judging the work.

About 50 wild cards were allocated what seemed like a very small area to set up and produce our artwork. This turned out to be a really friendly and relaxed situation and I was glad that we weren’t allowed to wander off and find a quiet corner in isolation. The judges wandered through at regular intervals to see how we were progressing and as I was setting up my easel I met the presenter Stephen Mangan, who judged my voluminous cotton shirt to be very sensible. It was going to be a very hot day!

Of course the castle was also open to the public and as the morning went on more and more visitors came through on the path behind us. Many of them stopped to talk to the artists and quite a few returned throughout the day to have another look round. People were so kind about my work and made lots of lovely comments.

At one point Kate Bryan wandered past and said, ‘ooh that’s lovely’ and the next thing I knew Kathleen Soriano came across to see my work and asked if I would mind being interviewed (!) She was so relaxed and easy to talk to and we chatted while the film team got set up. You would think the interview itself would be easy to film, but there were several interruptions, most of them planes passing over, so that we had to stop and then start again.

What a marvellous and memorable day. Everyone involved with making the programme was helpful, friendly and endlessly patient and it was great to see so many other artists at work and all the different methods and styles they used. I will definitely apply again next year!

Lesley Williams