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Romford painter ‘overwhelmed’ after reaching semi-final of Sky landscape artist competition

PUBLISHED: 12:00 22 November 2017

Landscape Artist of the Year 2017 contestant John Ball, of Romford, with presenter Frank Skinner. Picture: Justin Downing/Sky UK Limited.

Landscape Artist of the Year 2017 contestant John Ball, of Romford, with presenter Frank Skinner. Picture: Justin Downing/Sky UK Limited.

© Sky UK Limited.

An amateur painter with a penchant for “bleak” scenes has seen off competition from professional artists to reach the semi-final of a television contest.

Artist John Ball with some of his work. Picture: Ken Mears Artist John Ball with some of his work. Picture: Ken Mears

John Ball, 38, of Romford, is in with the chance of winning a £10,000 commission through the Sky Arts show Landscape Artist of the Year 2017.

More than 1,000 people entered the third series of the popular programme, presented by Frank Skinner and Joan Bakewell, with just 48 selected for the heats.

Maintenance worker John, who competed against seven others to proceed to the next round, is delighted to have made it so far.

“It was overwhelming to be honest, it was very exciting and totally unexpected,” he told the Recorder. “All the others in my heat were professional artists – some of them had been for decades – and it was a real surprise to get through.”

One of John Ball's paintings. Picture: Ken Mears One of John Ball's paintings. Picture: Ken Mears

Under the watchful eye of the judges – art curator Kathleen Soriano, art historian Kate Bryan and award-winning artist Tai Shan Schierenberg – John and his fellow contestants in episode four got to work painting Knaresborough Viaduct, North Yorkshire.

His semi-final challenge – to be aired next week, on Wednesday, November 29 – was to portray the lavender fields of Castle Farm, Kent. The contestants were joined by a selection of ‘wildcard’ artists: 50 were given the opportunity to win a spot in the round.

“I had a really good time, but you’ll have to wait and see,” said John.

On filming the show, he added: “It’s very busy on location, you’ve got a lot of camera crew. I was a bit nervous but it was a lot of fun, definitely an experience.

The judges and presenters filming series three of the Sky Arts programme Landscape Artist of the Year. Picture: Sky UK Limited. The judges and presenters filming series three of the Sky Arts programme Landscape Artist of the Year. Picture: Sky UK Limited.

“The feedback from the judges was definitely helpful, they have a sit down with you, and ask you questions about your work, it’s a proper critique. It’s encouraging to have a bit of recognition.

“It was good to chat to the other contestants and look at the work they were doing, ask them questions about the technique they were using. We had very different painters: some worked in acrylics, others watercolours, so there were different ways of interpreting the same thing.”

John applied to the show on “a bit of a whim” after spotting the advert, and was informed a few months down the line that he had won a place in the heats.

He was a “little rusty”, having not painted regularly for a few years – “I was doing a lot of night shifts, and was busy doing up my house” – but his talent shone through.

The judges and presenters filming series three of the Sky Arts programme Landscape Artist of the Year. Picture: Sky UK Limited. The judges and presenters filming series three of the Sky Arts programme Landscape Artist of the Year. Picture: Sky UK Limited.

“I think it’s always been in my blood, I moved on to paint from drawing when I was at school and then went to art college.

“My subjects are a little bit bleak: I like doing car parks and petrol stations and stuff like that, some people find them quite unappealing but that’s the area I like to focus on. It’s almost forgotten architecture, I give them some drama, romanticise the buildings a little bit.”

The show has already given John’s work more of a profile: one of his pieces, portraying Canvey Island tourist information centre, has proved popular.

“When you apply for the competition you do a submission piece, and they show that. Since that went out I’ve had a lot of interest, so I’m going to do some prints and sell them.

John Ball with one of his artworks. Picture: Ken Mears John Ball with one of his artworks. Picture: Ken Mears

“I’ve done a few bits and pieces over the years, some record covers for people I know and stuff like that. I’d like to do more, it’s just trying to fit it in really.”

This year’s winner will take home £10,000, and enjoy a trip to Jamaica to paint the view from playwright Noel Coward’s final home, Firefly.

The resulting artwork will be displayed in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which Coward described as “the most perfect theatre in the world”.

See how John got on in the semi-final by tuning into Sky Arts at 8pm on Wednesday, November 29. You can check out more of his work on his website: beware-the-void.com.

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