Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2016 returned to our screens for another gripping episode this week as a new round of artists stepped up to the easel for a chance to be crowned this year’s Artist of the Year.
Anna Perlin impressed the judges with her rendition of Wray Castle, crowning her Heat Five Winner this week.
As an established artist and print maker, Anna creates her distinctive work from her Hertfordshire studio. She is inspired by the environment around her, particularly the British landscape, people and places she visits, which are continuing themes in her work.
Graduating in Textile design and marketing in 2001, Anna initially worked in the retail world before realising that she didn't want to regret not taking her passion for art further. She has been a full time artist ever since and her work has been exhibited widely, including a show at the Mall Galleries.
We caught up with Anna to find out more about her vibrant landscapes and how she injects a sense of seasonal atmosphere into her work… Hi Anna! Congratulations on winning your heat. How did you find the whole experience at Sky Arts?
I loved doing Landscape Artist of the Year – it was an amazing experience which I know I'm very privileged to have been part of. Being a full time artist means spending a lot of time on my own in my studio so although I absolutely love what I do, having an opportunity to share, talk about and be part of art in such a different way was fantastic, especially as I enjoyed watching the last series so much.
Also, seeing the huge amount of people and work that go into putting together a programme like this was fascinating and meeting Frank Skinner was brilliant!
Your practice is so vibrant in colour, can you tell me more about how you approach your paintings?
I do love colour as it has such an effect on your emotions and how you feel about something. It's one of the great tools we have as artists no matter the medium or subject, and how other artists interpret colour is something I really admire - so I've been exploring it in my work. Sometimes it can be easier to paint purely what you see in front of you but I'm trying to play around with colour, texture, contrast – lots of different elements to enhance the 'feeling' of what I'm trying to capture, not just what I'm seeing.
As I'm a self-taught artist it took me a while to get to the main principle I always approach my work with now - that everything I paint is what I would like to put up on my wall. So essentially, every piece of work is something to please me and make me happy! Initially I tried to create art in ways I thought 'proper' artists did, but then I realised there's no such thing, so I do what I want and try not to get caught up in too many other people’s ideas on the right or wrong way to depict something. I paint what I enjoy and I like to think I'm constantly experimenting and exploring – and I hope I never stop!
You paint a lot of flora and fauna. Are natural landscapes your preferred inspiration? Why?
I grew up in a tiny hamlet in Oxfordshire. Our house only had 4 neighbours and was on a bridleway opposite a cow farm, surrounded by fields. As a kid I hated the isolation but now I live in a town and even though we're on the outskirts and very close to the countryside, I would love to have it right outside my door. I think Britain is the most beautiful country – we have stunning landscapes, parks and gardens and as I paint what I want to hang on my walls, my inspiration comes from creating windows onto the landscapes I want to step into - an autumn forest, a summer garden, fields of crops etc. That's what makes me happy so that's what I paint!
What materials do you use to achieve your work - Do you have any brands which you prefer?
My work is mixed media in a true sense. The first few layers of painting are acrylics and then I play around with adding paper and fabric collage, drawing with charcoal and oil pastels as well as layering in more acrylic paints or oil paints mixed with cold wax medium. I've just started using oil bars as well which give some really nice textured marks.
I use a lot of Winsor and Newton products as they're good quality whatever your budget. I also use Rosemary & Co brushes as they're excellent.
Can you tell me a little about your process – how do you create your pieces?
I'll start off by taking my camera out on a walk, or going to find something I've seen that captured me, and I will take loads of photos. Then when I'm home, I stick the photos up on my studio wall as well as lots of magazine tears of pictures and colour combinations I've liked that give me the 'feeling' of what my camera has captured.
I always paint an all over colour on the canvas first so I'm not working on white. I use different coloured backgrounds depending on the feel I'm trying to get – I like using a dark background to highlight brights, such as a sunny day or flowers. A pale background can give subtle tones or a bright background can create interest into a very tonal landscape. I then use acrylics to map out the painting and at some point - I'll start adding in all the mixed media.
Each piece comes together differently though. I try not to over think it early on and to just be loose and free. As the painting moves along, I will narrow down the areas I work on so that by the end there are areas which are hardly touched, and some which I've taken hours working out the shapes, texture and colour combinations. Hopefully this draws people’s eye around the painting in the way I want it to. I give myself time to stand back and think about the different layers so a painting, even a small one, will be done over several days, and the bigger ones can take weeks.
What do you think are the benefits to painting en plein air?
I'm not sure I found a lot of benefits to painting en plein air! I have a lot of admiration for people who do paint like that but for me I didn't find it easy to get the results I wanted. It's a very traditional way of painting and therefore suits a more traditional method of creating art, so I didn't feel my style suited it so much. It's always nice to be outside though, especially on the beautiful day we had for my heat at Wray Castle!
Were you pleased with your heat winning work?
At the time I was pleased. They were such strange conditions to be doing a painting under and I had managed to create something in 4 hours that looked vaguely finished and that upheld my style and approach to painting. Then to top it all, it got selected for the semi-finals which was fantastic.
Afterwards I couldn't really remember what I'd painted though and I hadn't taken any photos, so when I received my piece back and I had a really good look at it, I was disappointed with how it compared to my studio pieces which I can pour days and days of thought into. Knowing that people would be judging my normal work based on that painting is hard as you want to put your best forward and I know it falls short of my best, but in the end how can I be unhappy with something that gave me the opportunity this painting did?!
Read our exclusive interviews with Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2016 heat winners every week on the Cass Art Blog.
Heat winners Philip Edwards and Titus Agbara are now live.
Explore mixed media painting and the layering of oil bars like Anna’s work with our selection of materials on the Cass Art website.
Catch the fourth episode of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2016 on Tuesday 15th November on Sky Arts from 8pm.