Alice Boggis-Rolfe Wins Heat 3 of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2017

by Cass Art

Taking to the cliff side in South Wales, Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year returned to our screens this week with the sweeping landscape of Rhossili Bay. Elements of vast, open water and banks of sand presented a vast challenge for the contestants, as they fought to bring a sense of place, distance and atmosphere to their paintings.

Painting continually with the developing sky, the judges admired Alice Boggis-Rolfe’s evolving style, and awarded her a place in the semi-final this week.

Having grown up in Gloucestershire, Alice moved to London where she now lives and works as a full time artist. Over the past year, Alice has travelled across the globe, painting 'en plein air' in a breadth of different landscapes, from the tea plantations in Sri Lanka to the bustling streets of Kathmandu and the tobacco fields of Cuba, as seen in her submission piece for the competition. She prefers to work on site, although occasionally makes larger works in her London studio. Since her training at Chelsea College of Art and Heatherleys, Alice has exhibited regularly in group exhibitions and is currently preparing for her second solo exhibition. 

We caught up with Alice to find out more about her challenges painting around the world and the importance of adding a sense of place to your paintings...

Hi Alice! Congratulations on winning Heat 3 of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2017! How did you find the challenge of capturing Rhossili Bay?

Thank you so much! It really was a challenge, when we arrived I was a bit nervous having all the cameras around but once I got stuck into my painting I got used to it all and it was great fun. I paint outside a lot and often paint seascapes, so once I was concentrating on my painting and trying to ignore the unusual circumstances it felt like a normal day's work.

Your painting developed and evolved along with the changing winds and skies – do you always approach your paintings in this way?

No not always, but in this case the weather and skies became more and more exciting as the day wore on and I wanted to capture as much of that as possible. One of the many reasons I love oil paint is that it allows you to do this. 

There were a varied number of viewpoints from the other artists. How did you decide on your composition?

The weather had a huge impact on all of us that day so I wanted to focus on that in my painting. The view we had was a very long bit of headland which was quite far away so it also made sense to me compositionally to include a lot of sky. 

How important do you think it is that a landscape translates a sense of place and time? 

I think that's what landscape painting is all about. It’s about so much more than just the view or a fleeting moment which you could capture in a photo. To me a painting has to record everything else; the wind, the temperature, the sense of urgency or calm. It's also as much about the things you don't notice as the things you do. For example, what you leave out of a painting whether by accident or choice. I always complete a plein air painting in one go, as if I returned to the same spot I'd only end up painting a new picture over the top - only the drawing would be the same. 

You have been travelling the world painting over the past year, as seen in your submission piece of the Cuban tobacco fields. What challenges did you face travelling and painting in such varied environments?

Where do I begin?! The people made the biggest impression on my paintings. At first I found it so distracting, often finding myself surrounded by spectators, something I never could have coped with before. But I came to enjoy the company and even with a language barrier the 'Ooohs' and 'Ahhhs' could be very helpful in knowing whether I'd just made a mistake!

I also found that I had to concentrate much harder on colour, as everywhere was so different, even the skies were a different blue in each place, so no more mindless colour mixing. Other hurdles included having to make do with petrol instead of turps in some countries and having to carry all my kit around in my backpack which was almost the same size as me.

Do you always prefer to paint in plein air and how do you think this influences your work?

Yes as much as possible, unless I'm scaling up a plein air work in the studio but even then I'd much prefer to be outside. As I mentioned before, for me painting is about so much more than just what you see. It’s often the race before the rainstorm comes in or the sun sets, or trying to include a man on his bicycle before he scoots off. Colours look different in real life too, especially their relationships to one another. 

Have you always painted in oils?

Always oils and nothing else, I simply can't get my head around watercolours and have huge admiration for anyone who can. I most prefer painting on gesso panels as the paint dries faster on them allowing me to build up layers in a short time period without them going muddy. Although when I travel, I use canvas as it’s so much more practical.

I use Michael Harding paints as their colours are so rich, they're more expensive than others but the tubes last three times as long. My brushes are all quite soft and flexible, either synthetic or sable. I find with hog brushes I end up scraping as much paint off as I want to put on but with softer brushes I can lay it down easier. 

How do you think your experience so far will shape your approach in the semi-final?

The day at Rhossili was great fun and much less terrifying than I had imagined, so I'm looking forward to the next stage. It’s always fascinating working a long side other artists and seeing their methods and learning from them, so I'm excited about that aspect too. Also, I will try to have a bit more confidence in my work, I thought my painting was so awful the whole way through and yet somehow the judges saw something in it that I didn't and chose it over the others, I'll have to remember that.

Feeling Inspired?

Discover more of Alice's work on her website or on her Instagram.

Follow Alice's lead and experiment with layering oil paint and develop your practice with our range of painting materials online and in-store. Share your landscapes via our social channels using the hashtag #LOATY2017 and don't forget to tag @CASSART



See more of Alice's work at her second solo exhibition 'Paintings from Around the World' at the Box Galleries in London from Tuesday 28th November to Sunday 3rd December 2017.

Don’t miss Heat 4 of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2017 on Wednesday 8th November at 8pm, on Sky Arts. We’ll be bringing you another heat winner’s interview, live on the blog and across our social media channels from 9pm.

Explore more work by the heat winning artists of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year, past and present, with our series of exclusive interviews on the Cass Art Blog


Inspired by this year's heats? Sky Arts is once again on the hunt for the next Artist of the Year. Whether you're a master of portraiture or a pro at plein air, submit your works for a chance to win a £10,000 commission and £500 worth of art materials from us here at Cass Art. Both competitions are now open for submissions. Find out more by following the links below:

Enter Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 or Enter Landscape Artist of the Year 2018

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