Thursday, April 18, 2019

Portrait Artist of the Year: 2019 Exhibition Tour & 2020 Semi-Final

This is about

  • where you can see an exhibition of portraits painted during the Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 competition by the Heat Winners and Finalists - which is touring the UK during April, May and June
  • how to see the Semi-Final for Portrait Artist of the Year 2020 (I'm going!)

Portrait Artist of the Year: 2019 Exhibition Tour

If you've been following the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019, you'll doubtless be interested in seeing the exhibition which is at the following venues


  • Clarendon Gallery 46 Dover Street, London, W1S 4FF - until Wednesday 24th April 2019 (Monday - Saturday 9.00am - 6.00pm; Sunday Closed) - you'll need to query Easter Monday with them direct. They ask you to register your interest to attend the exhibition at - but I think they're only concerned about numbers.


Thereafter, exhibitions are limited to 2 days at weekends - so be sure to make a date in your diaries!


They do in fact have Galleries further north than Chester and Nottingham but the tour does not extend that far

Portrait Artist of the Year 2020: Semi-Final

At the end of this month - on 30th April 2019 - you can see the Semi-Final of the Portrait Artist of the Year 2020 - in which all the Heat Winners will be participating.

The image above tells you what you need to know - and 
DO NOT GO if you don't want to know who won which Heat - before it is televised! 
I know some of you don't like unexpected surprises!

I can however tell you that I watched every episode of the Heats for 2019 even though I already knew who was in the Final - because I watched it last June! It didn't make any difference whatsoever to my enjoyment of watching the programmes - including the Semi-Final. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Duncan Shoosmith is Portrait Artist of the Year 2019

Last night Duncan Shoosmith won the Final of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 

Paintings in the competition by Duncan Shoosmith (left to right) Self Portrait, Jodie Comer, Laura Linney (in the Final) Courtney Pine, Dame Cleo Laine (Commission for the Final)
The Final was actually held at the National Portrait Gallery on 13th June 2018.

This was the day after the announcement of the BP Portrait Award - which is how come I noticed the Judges were in the Building the next day as the winner and I went to use the lifts to find a quiet place for an interview!  After the interview and lunch I went in search of where they were filming the final - and my first guess turned out to be correct.  You can see the photos I took in an album on my Facebook Page Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 FINAL - of which more later

This post contains
  • commentary on the themes of the Final
  • observations on the Finals Process 
  • points you in the direction of pictures of what the Final actually looks like from the artists' perspective. 
  • where to read more if you're interested in applying in future years
The Prize for winning the competition is a £10,000 commission. This year the commission was to paint Tom Jones for the National Museum of Wales. So a not insignificant prize and a not insignificant sitter to paint for posterity.

The Three Finalists

Sara, Tom and Duncan outside the National Portrait Gallery - doing their walk for the camera

The three finalists were:
  • Sara Lavelle (Twitter | Instagram) - video - Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (Distinction) at Falmouth University and then went on to study Illustration BA (Hons) at the University of Brighton (and got a First Class Degree). As a final year graduate she had only recently taken up painting. Now based in London.
  • Tom Mead (Facebook / Instagram) - video - Always nice to see a website which includes evidence that the artist goes to life class and can draw from life! Currently doing a BA degree in Painting at the University of Arts (Wimbledon). He creates paintings with a multifaceted perspective on individuals which suggest movement. Loves to paint in acrylic. These are Tom's paintings in the competition.
  • Duncan Shoosmith (Facebook/ Twitter / Instagram) - video - based in Wiltshire; combines painting at home in his garage with looking after his three young children. He does great portraits of kids if you take a look at his website!
One of the themes within the programme was of the old professional versus the two young cubs metaphorically snapping at his heels or as someone put it 'youth ganging up on old age'. It's certainly the case that the only painter who was professional or had any experience was Duncan Shoosmith. After last year's final one might have taken this to mean that he could be written off - and that youth and innovation would win through.

Comments from the Judges at the beginning suggested that what they particularly liked about these three portrait painters is that they all come at portraiture from their own unique angle.  
  • Duncan has his own bold and structural way of painting based on intense observation from life
  • Tom has a unique and fragmented style which suggests movement
  • Sara paints without a plan and finds her way to the end image and has a luminous way of painting skin
They were very pleased with the three they had chosen.


One of the themes within the programme concerned the stress and nervous energy associated with a Final. The suggestion from the Judges was that the artists live off their nerves and that this is a good thing.  From the comments of the artists, they recognised that nerves were natural in the context of the Final but that they'd prefer if they felt a bit more relaxed.

This was the set-up for the Final. You may just be able to spot the olive green chair for the sitter underneath the very big painting - and the ACRES of space between easels and sitter.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Restoration of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris - how to donate

This is about ways to donate if you feel strongly that you would like to contribute to the restoration of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris.

Yesterday evening, I wrote about The Destruction of Notre Dame - only the stone will remain and posted my photos of Notre Dame from my visit in 2009 on my Facebook Page

Today my mind turns to the future - and the restoration and how it will be funded. I contributed to the Fund for rebuilding of the Glasgow Art School after their dreadful fire and will also be contributing to the restoration of Notre Dame.

The spire of Notre Dame burning before it collapsed through the vaulted stone ceiling of the cathedral

Contributions are going to be of three types:
  • practical - those who can provide space and equipment and IT for what will be a massive project
  • expert - people who can actually contribute to the work of restoration
  • financial - those who can fund the actual restoration and rebuilding works
Below are details of 
  • pledges by the French
  • the official organisation funding the restoration prior to the fire
  • different organisations accepting charitable contributions from American taxpayers

Pledges by the French

Various French billionaires and French companies have pledged huge sums currently totalling €600 million (£520 million / $677 million) At present there's a bit of what seems like status-based arm-flexing going on amongst French companies in terms of pledges being made!
  • €200 million (£172.7m) 
    • Bernard Arnault's family / his LVMH luxury goods group 
    • L'Oreal, the Bettencourt Meyers family / Bettencourt Schueller Foundation
  • €100 million
    • French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault 
    • French oil and gas company Total
The Louvre will be providing a home for the artworks and artifacts rescued from the building.

Friends of Notre-Dame: This is the official organisation that has raised money for the restoration that was underway.
  • This is the donation page on its website. Apparently more than €2 million (£1.7m) has been raised in less than 24 hours for the rebuild through an official website.
  • It pre-dates the fire, was already helping to fund the restoration and has offices in both France and the USA. 
  • The website explains the curious arrangements which led to this situation - and why President Macron was so very prominent at the fire last night!
As a result of a French law passed in 1905, the cathedral became the property of the French State but its use is dedicated exclusively to the Roman Catholic rite. Entrance is free of charge. It is classified as a French Historic Monument.
As owner and project manager, the French Ministry of Culture is responsible for regular maintenance, repairs and renovation of the building. Up unto this point all work was financed by the French State. But because of budgetary changes the State no longer wishes to assume the burden of financing desperately needed repairs. For this reason the Archbishop of Paris, in concert with the Diocese of Paris, have created the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris.
My recommendation would be to donate direct to the organisation already set up for the purposes of restoring the cathedral.

The Rose Window in the South Transept (2009) which is now very dirty but appears to have survived

Support from International Sources


  • The U.S. branch of the Friends of Notre-Dame (see above) is a 501c3 public charity, making all gifts tax-deductible for U.S. contributors.
  • The New York-based French Heritage Society has launched a Notre-Dame Fire Restoration Fund. It is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization and donations are tax-deductible for American taxpayers. Its eleven chapters in the U.S. and one in Paris have supported the restoration of nearly 600 buildings and gardens since 1982.
Guided by the belief that the most enduring expression of a culture is to pass on its highest achievements, French Heritage Society is dedicated to protecting the French architectural and cultural legacy both in France and the United States, with emphasis on raising funds for preservation, restoration and education.
  • Basilica of the National Shrine (Washington, D.C): Those Americans who prefer to contribute via the Catholic church need to note that the largest Roman Catholic church in North America has launched its own fundraising campaign. 
  • Apple has indicated it intends to support the restoration.


I'm unclear what is being set up in the UK to help fund the restoration. I imagine this might be led by the Church and the Cardinal of Westminster - but who knows?


As you can imagine various small projects have been set up to fund the restoration on Go Fund Me. However you can be assured that Go Fund Me will be making very sure that the funds will not be released by Go Fund Me until confirmation has been received that transfers will be made to the right people.
“Since the news broke last night, hundreds of campaigns have been launched by people wanting help rebuild Notre Dame. As ever on GoFundMe, we are in full control of funds until we are absolutely sure that they will get to the right place,”
communications manager John Coventry

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Destruction of Notre Dame - only the stone will remain

The Destruction of Notre Dame
It's absolutely tragic watching a huge and very fierce fire burning in Notre-Dame de Paris which is gutting the building. 

Many, many people in Paris and around the world are watching as huge flames burst through what was the roof.  Both sides of the Seine are lined with thousands of people watching the fire.

very many people watching the sad scene
The spire and roof have already been lost. The vaulted roof was completed in 1208.

Le Monde's coverage has some truly devastating footage

  • 8.50pm - Saving Notre Dame is not certain according to the French Interior Ministry
  • They can't use water bombs as that makes collapse of the structure more likely
  • 9.15pm BBC reporting that it's being said in Paris that there is a distinct possibility the whole structure will collapse
  • TUESDAY 9.15am A French reporter in Paris is reporting that all the medieval stained glass in three of the Rose Windows has melted and done - except for the one above the Portal (main entrance) have gone - see the link to my photos below which include two photos of the Rose Windows
  • midday - it becomes apparent that the Rose Windows have not melted and appear to just be smoke damaged
  • 5.45pm: see Restoration of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris - how to donate ]

The spire prior to its destruction
The Flèche or Spire of the Cathedral, which was destroyed in the April 2019 fire, was located over the transept and altar. The original spire was constructed in the 13th century, probably between 1220 and 1230. It was battered, weakened and bent by the wind over five centuries, and finally was removed in 1786. During the 19th century restoration, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc decided to recreate it, making a new version of oak covered with lead. The entire spire weighed 750 tons. Following Viollet-le-Duc's plans, the spire was surrounded by copper statues of the twelve Apostles, in four groups of three, one group at each point of the compass. Wikipedia
The spire has collapsed into the cathedral
Tons of dry wood in the timber rafters and tiles will have collapsed onto the thin vaulted roof
- which may also have been lost [Update: parts of the vaulting have been lost - presumably when the spire crashed]
The BBC has just said that the cathedral - on the Island where Paris began - will be devastated
  • the wooden parts of interior will be completely lost 
  • a number of priceless artefacts may not have been removed in time. 
  • the stained glass will also be lost due to the heat - it's already melting and it seems very likely all will be lost [UPDATE: The great Rose Windows of the Transepts have gone - the stained glass has melted]
It's possible that nothing will be left of this cathedral by the time the fire is put out.
[Update: The stone is still standing, the cathedral has its skeleton left and will be rebuilt]

You can see my photos of the cathedral (in 2009) on Facebook - which includes views of the interior.

Yet again, it's awful to see a major iconic building under renovation be destroyed by a fire.  The cause of the fire is not known - but it's reasonable to suppose it's something to do with the works.

From the other side of the Seine - before the spire went

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Commission an artist: 'Home is where the Art Is' (Episodes 1-5)

If you're interested in the artwork produced by artists pitching for a commission in the BBC's new afternoon show "Home Is Where the Art Is" you can find out below:
  • What their names are 
  • Links to their website and social media
  • Who they are and what they do
  • How to contact them
Patricia Lee (right) with the work commissioned by her client (left)
I wrote about the BBC's new show in Home Is Where the Art Is - needs a makeover! in which I highlighted some concerns. One of these was the absence of any name credit in text in the programme

For all those saying that the names are said in the programme so why do they need the credits?

Well a number of reasons:
  • to respect the work of professionals - just as the credits at the end of the programme respect the work of the people behind the scenes who make the programme
  • two of the three are unpaid - and providing a named credit is fair exchange for the many hours given for free to make content for the BBC. Otherwise it's the equivalent of working for free for the exposure - but without the exposure in terms of a name to enable people to find you!
  • the names might be said - but nobody spells them out. In the first week there are THREE artists where I had to keep replaying the segment to listen to the names again and again - and even then finally identified them using information from elsewhere in the programme (eg "Gallery Windermere paintings cattle" got one of them).
  • the BBC is hypocritical and ignores its own rules when it suits it - such as making sure it gets great guests on the Graham Norton show - because they are only there to promote their latest whatever - and always do!
I feel a letter to the Radio Times coming on.... ;)

PS I feel like making a plea for rather less chainsaw wood sculpting!

Commission an Artist 

Links to websites and key social media are provided.
  • If the website has a commissions page this is included. 
  • contact links are embedded in the name
It's really interesting to see the different way people approach providing information about commissions - and which are obviously more experienced at working to commission.

I'm going to be updating this listing each Sunday with all the artists from the episodes in the previous week.


Episode 1: 

Location: Burnley, Lancashire
Commission: a gift his wife - reflecting their love for their cottage and its social history
Budget: £200
Media: none specified
Media represented: Ceramics; wood sculpture, painting in mixed media
Outcome: bought the ceramic jug with flowers produced by Sally Toms

The Artists in Episode 1 were:
Even the artist who didn't get picked for the commission has had a good time

Episode 2

Location: Northamptonshire
Commission: to celebrate family life in a new house
Budget: up to £1,000
Media: none specified
Media represented: bronze/brass sculpture; illustration; abstract painting
Outcome: Bought both works produced by Theresa Wells and Roger Davies

The artists in Episode 2 are:
  • Theresa Wells (Winner) - a well established and multi award winning figurative sculptor in bronze and mixed media whose work is displayed in several galleries. She works on commission as well as producing pieces of her own choosing.
  • Roger Davies (Winner) - a painter/illustrator (and musician) based in Brighouse, Yorkshire who sells via a gallery
  • Swarez - a self-taught professional abstract artist based in Stroud in Gloucestershire with paintings sold to 42 countries. He hand delivers in the UK.
    • website
    • He has a section on his website in which he explains how commissions work
    • He demonstrated the size of the painting he could produce for the commission budget - and also indicated the size he thought would work better. (A strategy also used in Episode 5 - with a better result). Given the fact he has a VAT registered art business, I'm not surprised he wasn't prepared to budge on price.
    • Facebook
    • It's worth taking a look at the website for an artist who needs to register for VAT!

Episode 3

Location: Birmingham
Commission: To reflect a family bond after donating half of her liver to her mum
Budget: up to £1,000
Media: none specified
Media represented: painting on glass and metal,
Outcome: (see picture at the top) bought the glass art produced by Patricia Lee

Glass art - on commission - by Patricia Lee (see whole piece in top picture)

The artists in Episode 3 are:
I really enjoyed being involved in the programme. (and) I don’t feel ‘used’ by BBC. But I was really disappointed when I spotted that the artists weren’t credited.

Episode 4

Location: Lancashire
Commission: to celebrate the love of their dogs
Budget: up to £500
Media: none specified
Media represented: Textile art (in wool), animal painter, chainsaw wood sculptor
Outcome: purchased a textile artwork incorporating their dogs' hair

The artists in Episode 4 were all based in Cumbria.
  • Charlotte Ashley (Winner) - a textile artist and needle felter who works using the wool she grows, scours, cards, blends, spins and dyes on her own farm in the Edeny valley in Cumbria.
Blessed are the weird people, the poets and misfits, the artists & writers , the music makers, dreamers and outsiders for they force us to see the world differently.
  • Thuline de Cock - Belgian painter who married a Brit and now has a a Studio/Gallery/workshop space in Windermere. Has taught art since 1997.
  • Andy Levy - a chainsaw wood sculptor based in the Lake District
    • website: none that I could find
    • Facebook includes telephone number and business email address

Episode 5

Location: Morecambe Bay
Commission: to celebrate the character of her horse Dragon who has helped her owner through difficult times
Budget: up to £1,000 (eventually spent £2,500 to get a bigger sculpture)
Media: none specified
Media represented: steel sculptor; pet portraiture; chainsaw wood sculptor;
Outcome: budget increased and a bigger and better steel sculpture was bought (see below)

The winning commission - in steel - by Clare Bigger

The artists in Episode 5 are:
I was very impressed by Kate O-Brien who tackled the issue of Commission Fees head on with this image at the top of her Twitter Feed and Facebook Page

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Shortlist for Jackson's £5,000 Open Art Prize published

The shortlist of finalists for the Jackson's Open Art Prize (£5,000) are listed below.
The prize aims to celebrate exceptional artworks by artists at all stages of theirs careers

There's some admirable work included in the shortlist. This a link to images of the shortlisted artwork in 2019 - the names of the artists are below.

A selection of those shortlisted for the Prize
There are a number of Prizes worth £10,000 overall

  • Overall Winner of the Jackson's Art Prize - £5,000
  • People's Choice Award (of all the entries received) - £1,000 - Voting is now open
  • Emerging Artist Award - £1,000
  • 6 Category Prizes - £500 each
Bottom line - it's an Art Competition worth entering (see more details at the end)! 

Those shortlisted artists who choose to do so will submit their work for exhibition at the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead (9-12 May 2019)

This is a link to the longlist of artworks eligible for the People's Choice Awards

  • It's NOT in the least bit obvious but there are images on more than one page
  • I predict that all those NOT on the front page of each category will received fewer votes as a result

Names of shortlisted artists for Jackson's Open Art Prize

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Review: Semi-Final of Portrait Artist of the Year 2019

The Semi-Final Episode of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 was broadcast on Tuesday - and can still be watched via Now TV.

Portait artists painting Courtney Pine

The Semi Finalists

There were nine semifinalists - five men and four women.

These included six professional artists
  • EPISODE 1 - Geoff Harrison (Portraits website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - Stockport man (which greatly appealed to Stockport woman Joan Bakewell! Undergraduate degree in Fine Art Printmaking from the School of Art in Hull; lived in Japan for several years but now lives in London. He did an MA Japanese Studies at SOAS in 2009. Involved with anatomical painting and illustration and medical arts. Has had two residencies: Artist in Residence at Barts Pathology Museum at St. Bart's Hospital + Leverhulme residency at The Royal Veterinary College (see his paintings) He has also been shortlisted for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters' Bulldog Bursary and long-listed for the BP Portrait Award. He produces portraits on commission - and schedules painting around looking after this children.
The Heat felt awesome just to be there.  But if you win something, you kind of get a taste for it and the stakes are higher 
The nine Semi Finalists

Three young amateur artists - who were all students at the time of the Semi Finals
and three amateur artists
  • EPISODE 3Sara Lavelle (Twitter | Instagram) - video - Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (Distinction) at Falmouth University and then went on to study Illustration BA (Hons) at the University of Brighton. As a final year graduate she had only recently taken up painting. Now based in London.
  • EPISODE 7 Annie Lee (Annabella Lee) (Facebook/ Twitter / Instagram) - video - Took her art A Level a week after the heat. Now studying at Central Saint Martins. Spent an hour plotting features before starting to paint.
  • EPISODE 8 Tom Mead (Facebook / Instagram) - video - Always nice to see a website which includes evidence that the artist goes to life class and can draw from life! Currently doing a BA degree in Painting at the University of Arts (Wimbledon).  He creates paintings with a multifaceted perspective on individuals which suggest movement.  Loves to paint in acrylic.

What was different 

The semi-finals of Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 gets underway

Another new venue

For PAOTY 2018 they were at the Cafe de Paris. These semi-finals were at the Hackney Round Chapel in Clapton.
It has such a strong sense of place. It's uplifting. It's got to influence our artists today Kathleen Soriano

One sitter not two

Last year, the semi-finalists were surprised to find they were painting not one but two models.

This year, they return to just one sitter - the jazz musician Courtenay Pine who brought his sax to keep him company.

I gather he turned four hours late which must have made some production people rather fraught - and the painters rather tired by the end of the day.  It certainly explains to me why the episode seemed curiously 'flat'. Maybe they'll be back to two sitters - just in case - next year (or maybe just one renowned for punctuality?)

What the Judges were looking for

We're looking for more narrative and more texture. We're going to have to get tougher with them Kate Bryan