Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year: Jo Abbott, Fifth Heat Winner

by Cass Art

Another episode of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year saw more painters battling it out with oil, acrylic and watercolour amid the British countryside to make it to the semi-final.

But as we know as avid watchers of the show, there can only be one winner per heat, and this week Jo Abbott was chosen by the judges at Waddesdon Manor.

A contemporary landscape painter based in Oxfordshire, Jo takes a mixed media approach, using a variety of materials on her finished paintings. We caught up with her about her experience at Waddesdon, and what art supplies she likes using the most.

Jo Abbott Sky Arts

Hi Jo! Are you used to painting outside or was this a new challenge?

I sketch a great deal outside, usually making brief sketch notes in pencil, watercolour and gouache, but sometimes in more detail in acrylics. I like to be very free and expressive at this stage, noting colours, textures and shapes. I usually do a number of sketches and then return to the studio to work these up into a painting, either combining elements or taking a particular feature that appeals and then expanding on it. Painting in front of so many people and the cameras was definitely the challenge rather than being outside!

 Painting by Jo Abbott

Were there any comments from the judges that you particularly took on board?

I tend to paint very intuitively and at one point in the heat at Waddesdon I was feeling rather overwhelmed by the sheer amount of visual information facing me. I was getting a bit lost in the actual detail and wasn't responding to the landscape. The judges reminded me to look back at my submission painting and consider how I had expressed the feeling of that place. It made me loosen up again and stop worrying about being too representational. Oddly once I stopped looking at the view, the painting started coming together better!

Which kinds of paints do you use?

I am a bit of a magpie with materials. I mostly use pencil and watercolour in my sketchbooks, but will scribble with crayon, pastel, ink and acrylics too. In my finished works, I usually work in acrylics or oils, and I also use pumice powder, paper and canvas collage. I have a variety of brands, but I'm using a lot of Cobra and Michael Harding oils at the moment, Winsor and Newton acrylics and Sennelier watercolours. I like to experiment and play with combining materials - you can get some surprising and beautiful results.

Jo Abbott 

Were you pleased with your final painting at Waddesdon?

I was really unsure what I was going to be able to achieve with my painting in my heat as I have never painted to a time before. In terms of getting paint down I work usually fast anyway, but I also had to think about drying time in order to be able to layer paint. I think of the painting as about 2/3 finished, and am frustrated every time I look at it as I just itch to clarify areas I am unhappy with and finish it off properly. I am so glad the judges could see potential in what I did achieve in the 4 hours, but I would have loved another couple of hours!

Finally, what’s next in your painting career?

I am currently working on several commissions and am also looking for other competitions and art prizes. I would ideally like to have gallery representation rather than working from my website, so I will be working on a portfolio and body of work that I can submit. I will be working on new project this winter where I aim to create a series of paintings based around my route "home" to the West Country which is where I grew up. 

Painting by Jo Abbott
Feeling inspired?

Find out more about Jo Abbott's work on her website.

Pursue your own painting and shop for acrylic, oil and watercolour materials here.

Catch Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year on Tuesdays at 8pm.

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