Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2020

In 2020 I was a contestant on Sky Television Portrait Artist of the Year.

The competition took place at the Battersea Arts Centre in London.

At the start of the contest, the nine competitors are split into groups of three with each group painting a celebrity sitter.

Each contestant was given four hours in which to paint a portrait of one of the celebrity sitters. At the end of the four hours the artists reveal their portrait painting to the sitter. The celebrity sitter then chooses one of the portraits to take away with them. The three celebrity sitters were; Adrian Dunbar, Ricky Wilson and Zawe Ashton.

Prior to the show we are asked for our preferred sitter. I asked to paint someone who was, ‘easy on the eye,’ and ‘who had good bone structure’ and a ‘great fashion sense.’ Actor Zawe Ashton ticked all of these boxes. She wore a floral silk dress by ‘Vampires Wife’ which had puffed sleeves at the shoulder. She was sitting in front of a set inspired by the artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The first thing I did was to paint a neutral Grey ground, on which I could paint the face. Next I started to draw in the proportions of the face using charcoal. My hand was shaking a bit at the start, but I soon settled down as I was encouraged by friends and family who had come to support me. I decided to use acrylic paints, enabling me to overpaint in layers more quickly. My approach was to apply color in an expressive way, attempting to capture the mood and vibe of my sitter.

I was also delighted when, at the end of the session, she chose my portrait to take away with her. She commented that it was ‘The sense of fun that I had captured in her, even though she had sat poker faced for four hours.’

The next stage of the competition was for the judges; Tai-Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano and Kate Bryan to choose three of the nine contestants to go through to the quarter finals of the competition.

I was delighted to be a chosen quarter finalist alongside talented artists, Christabel Blackburn and Thomas McGregor.

The judges then analysed and summarised their responses to the two paintings each artist had submitted, both the four hour celebrity portrait and the self portrait submitted prior to the competition.

Tai described my paintings to both be of, ‘isolated figures dreaming in painted places.’

The semi final place went to Christabel Blackburn who subsequently went on to win Portrait Artist of the Year 2020!

It was an amazing experience and I would recommend anyone to take up the opportunity by submitting a self portrait. I prepared beforehand by asking lots of people to sit for me and making portraits of them within the four hour timescale.

On the day itself I played music through my headphones to stay calm and pretended that I was in my studio doing what I normally do.

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