Friday, December 03, 2021

Review: Series 8 Episode 8 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021

This is my review later than usual review of the last Episode  of Series 8 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021. 

Judges reviewing the self-portraits in the final episode of #PAOTY 2021

If I'm still around and not in brain-numbing pain after my ankle surgery on Monday,  then the review of the Semi-Final will follow next Thursday. 

For the record, I monitor social media each week before writing these reviews to see what the wider public think. I start by using the hashtag #paoty and noted this week that Instagram beats Twitter by a ratio of 2:1 - and Facebook has very, very little (i.e. lots over time - but very little for this series).


I've got the impression that portrait artist of the week was used as some sort of melting pot for identifying potentially good people for the main event.
I've noticed a lot of the artists taking part this year have 
  • also taken part on Facebook in Portrait Artist of the Week.
  • got a site on Saatchi
The Artists sat outside during the Judging

Professional Artists

I've got the overall impression that there haven't been as many professional artists participating in this series compared to previous series. I haven't counted - it's just an overall impression. I wonder why that is?

The three professional artists in this episode are:
  • Jane French [Instagram | Twitter] - Gets my prize for the best written short summary of who she is on her website. Since September 2021 she's been engaged in a 100 Heads project which she is posting to her Instagram account
Based in Leicester, Jane French is an accomplished figurative artist and portrait painter. She is a proud member of the Contemporary British Portrait Painters collective (CBPP) – a group of some of the best portrait artists working in Britain today. Having originally studied Fine Art at Newcastle University, and later an MA in Design at De Montfort University (Leicester), Jane worked as an illustrator and graphic designer before focusing professionally on her own practice. She is also an art and design tutor, working online and at art centres and FE/HE institutions across the UK.
  • Karen McKeon [Facebook |  Instagram | Saatchi] 4 years at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland - has a Dip AD. Originally studied sculpture. Now a practising professional artist painting in thin oil on canvas. She lives in Var in France.
  • Christos Tsimaris [Instagram | Saatchi] Lives in London. Participated in PAOTY 2020 and reached the semi-finals where he had a bit of a meltdown and a bad day - as I stood and watched. (see my review of the semi-finals - which incorporates comments on what I watched - in April 2019 - but did not make the screen)
    • 1996 - 1997 - Masters Degree, European Fine Art, Winchester School of Art, Winchester
    • 1995 - 1996 - Post Graduate Studies, Byam Shaw School of Art, London
    • 1988 - 1993 - B.A. Hons Degree, School of Art of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Amateur Artists

The six amateur artists in this episode are:
  • Terry Coyle [Facebook | Saatchi] - a part-time maintenance worker and amateur artist who comes from Derry in Northern Ireland.
    • 1996-1999 University of Ulster: Belfast College of Art - Batchelor of Arts , Fine and applied art.
  • Robbie Jeffcott [Instagram] Based in London. Studied Fine Art Westminster and then trained as a tattoo artist.
  • Hlumelo Konini [Instagram] studying architectural technology at Aberdeen University
  • Helen Kelly [Instagram] - Mother of three small children; Studied fine art and printmaking and used to be an FE Lecturer but now works as a horticulturist focusing on health and sustainable habitat in Stourbrige
  • Amber Lewis [Instagram] Based in Birmingham and wants to study art at University.
  • Jacob Walden [Instagram] Age 16, studying for his A Levels and lives in Warwick.


The final sitters for Episode 8 were:
  • Ian Hislop - Writer, broadcaster and Editor of Private Eye (I never knew he lived in Sissinghurst - but I do now!)
  • Emma Dabiri - an Irish author, academic, and broadcaster. She is a teaching fellow in the African Languages, Cultures and Literatures section of the African department at SOAS, a Visual Sociology PhD researcher at Goldsmiths and has written some seminal books
  • Daniel Mays - actor who starred in Series 3 of BBC drama Line of Duty as Sergeant Danny Waldron


Have you experience of painting Hair - from too little to a LOT?

Hair had a starring role in this week's episode. Emma Dabiri (author of Don't Touch My Hair has a huge amount of wonderful hair, Ian Hislop has very little and looks positively cherubic at times as a result and Daniel Mays favours prominent gangster stubble!

All three therefore had everything from lots of hair to very little which, in turn, provided a major challenge for the artists in terms of structure, shape, volume, tone and colour - because there is nothing that undermines a portrait more than not getting the hair (or lack of) right.

For me the important thing is to recognise that you need to work out the shape of the skull underneath the hair before drawing / painting the hair - otherwise you run the risk of getting it very wrong.

I'd urge artists contemplating an entry in next year's competition to make sure they practice painting hair - because this episode proves it can be a make or break factor in the final assessment!

How to cope with painting in 4 hours

As always the four hours is not four hours - unless you work straight through the lunch break - because you get interrupted etc etc etc.

It's always interesting to watch 
  • how different artists determine different strategies and shortcuts to employ for dealing with the time constraint; and 
  • whether they arrived at the Battersea Art Centre with a thought through strategy - and practice under their belt 
  • or whether they were making it up on the day in terms of how to paint this sitter in under 4 hours.
Most interesting was Hlumelo Konini who decided to continue his 'letterbox' perspective on subjects - and just drawing the eyes, nose and ears.  However, although interesting, it doesn't provide the scope to demonstrate that you can do more than that.

Working from dark to light

It's a treat for me when we get a properly trained painter working in oils who works from dark to light. 

Even better if he or she is also an art teacher who can verbalise the mantras provided to students about how to approach painting from dark to light.
Don't rush the highlights - highlights are the treat at the end of working from dark to light 
Jane French was a major treat in this respect. I loved the fact that she was not in the least bit put off by one of the Judges commenting half way through to the effect that her face shadows were very dark - when she's been laying in the underlying darks and not fussing with the lighter tones which SHE KNEW would come later!


Sitters choose a portrait painting

Daniel Mays chose the painting by Karen Mckeon. Like Daniel I also loved this painting - but it didn't look like him! However it'll look good on his wall. 

Ian Hislop chose the remarkably good painting by Jane French which had the advantage of being an excellent portrait which also looked like him in 'contented cherub' mode.

Interestingly all the paintings of Ian were good - but very different.

Ian Hislop by Jane French

Emma Dabiry chose the portrait by Christos Tsimaris. I think this may be because it 

Judges choose a shortlist

Did you work out which were the five they made their final choice of three from?
"It was difficult going from five to three"
Waiting for the shortlist

The three artists the Judges chose were:
  • Helen Kelly
  • Christos Tsimaris
  • Jane French

Paintings by Helen Kelly - self portrait plus heat painting of Daniel Mays

Helen Kelly was extremely surprised to be shortlisted. I'm guessing quite a lot of other people might be too. However when you see the two paintings together, it's obvious that this is an artist who has a well developed sense of what she wants a painting to look like.

However I did think for a very long time that she was never going to correct the awful distortion of the head shape which was present for a very long time as this painting developed. But she did!

Plus I thought it was pity she gave him a beard when in fact he has heavy stubble. It completely changes the sense of the individual.

However, and you may think surprisingly, I think she actually captured the best sense of Daniel Mays. 

Paintings by Christos Tsimaris

Tai very obviously loves what Christos does in terms of process and application of paint. Which is basically about saying he does things which Tai finds very absorbing. However, while I can well understand the enthusiasm for the technique, in my book, that doesn't necessarily make you a good portrait painter.

I thought Kate's comment about the portrait "looking a bit shrunken" was absolutely spot on. My feeling was that her arms are just plain wrong and her arms and torso seemed to be out of proportion with the size of her head. i.e. her head was smaller and her hair was bigger. Too much focusing on the face and hair and not enough on proportions and the rest of the painting to my mind.. However I did think his self-portrait was very good - but quite limited in the sense it's just a head and shoulders.

My main gripe about Christos is he has a tendency to "go murky".  My main concern about him is I think he gets quite nervy in competitions of this sort and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the semi final this time.

Paintings by Jane French - self portrait and heat painting of Ian Hislop

The Judges commented that Jane is a traditional painter who is very good at painting clarity of form and light - and that she brings some airiness to her paintings. Which I'd call giving a sense of volume and of being a real person sitting in front of you.

I thought Jane was exceptionally good at capturing both form and likeness, tone and colour - and her paintings look 'clean' for wantof a better expression i.e. the reverse of murky!

I also liked the fact her self-portrait was her upper torso including both hands - and both those hands are rendered extremely well

Although her painting of the clothing was unfinished, I think that it's very likely that she will get a large number of commissions on the strength of her appearance on this programme.

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The winner of Episode 8

The winner of Episode 8 was Christos Tsimaris.

I wasn't surprised - because anybody who gets asked back and/or selected for the heats for a second time is obviously favoured by the Judges to some degree.

My winner was Jane French.

Next week - Semi Final

The Sitter for the Semi Final is  drummer Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, who now looks like a very dapper bloke who used to work in the City of London.

Nick Mason - the sitter for Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 semi finals

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Review: Series 8 Episode 7 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021

Series 8 Episode 7 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 is repeated tonight on Sky Arts for those who missed it yesterday evening. This is my review of this episode

[NB Apologies for late posting - I've been sorting stuff for my surgery all day!]

The beginning of Episode 7 - waiting to start


All artists are listed below according to whether they are professional or amateur and in alphabetical order by surname. Any links to their website are embedded in their name. Social media websites are also listed if known. 

Professional Artists

The four professional artists in this episode are:

  • Martin Burrough - had a career in international reinsurance when he drew and painted as an amateur when he could find the time. Then became a professional artist in the summer of 2011 on completing the Portraiture Diploma at The Heatherley School of Fine Art. He's now a a portrait and landscape painter working from a studio in Chelsea
  • Katherine Dereli [Facebook | Instagram] - is an artist who works on commissions (paintings, drawings or sculpture) 
  • Adrian Hill [Instagram] - born and raised in a small mining village in the north of England. Apparently inspired by PAOTY to sell his business and become a painter - and is self taught. Has had his painting selected for several art competitions. Mixes oil painting with other media including inks.
  • Nneke Uzoigwe [Instagram] - After studying fashion design at the University of Brighton, Nneka retrained as a painter at London Fine Art Studios. She has received the De Laszlo Foundation Scholarship (2016 and 2017), the De Laszlo Award at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition (2020) and the Green & Stone Art Prize (2020). One of her paintings is in the current ROI exhibition at the Mall Galleries.

Nneke, Mark, Natasha and Adrian

Mary, Martin and Jackie

Amateur Artists

The five amateur artists in this episode are:
  • Natasha Aidoman - a biomedical science student who has started doing commissions.
  • Jacqueline Gartlan [Facebook | Twitter] - an Irish self-taught oil painter. Has exhibited in my work in exhibitions in Clonmel, Cahir, Dungarvan and Naas and completed numerous commissions. Her self-portrait was painted when she was still grieving due to the recent loss of her sister Breda.  
  • Mark Oliver [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter ] - An award-winning illustrator with a background in graphic design who lives in Worthing, West Sussex. 
  • Iqra Tariq [Instagram] - a miniature portrait artist of Pakistani heritage living in Manchester who creates contemporary portraits in the tradition of Mughal portraiture
  • Dr Mary Shepperson MA PhD FSA [Twitter ] - Lecturer in Architectural and Urban Heritage at the University of Liverpool. An archaeologist specialising in architecture and urbanism of the ancient Near East - whp paints in her spare time. Very familiar with anatomy from digging up numerous skeletons - but this will be the first time she has painted a live sitter.
You can also look at their profiles on Sky Arts and see the top down videos of each artist at work

The Self Portraits

This was the second week when we actually got a clear view of the self portrait wall!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

SURGERY UPDATE #3: I've finally got a date!

I think it's partly because I used to be a senior manager in the NHS that I'm actually quite patient when waiting for dates for surgery. 

Up to a point.

The point was reached when I got to two years from when I was first told I needed surgery.

I'm also one of the six million waiting for routine elective operations - except I'm waiting for two...

So yesterday I emailed a letter into something called the Access Issues Resolution Service (AIRS) at Barts and pointed out:

  • November 2019: the need for surgery was identified (i.e. I had broken shards of bone floating around in my ankle)
  • 2nd April 2020: the outpatient appointment which should have started the journey to surgery should was cancelled due to Covid. At that point going into hospital was not high on my agenda!
  • October 2020: got fed up waiting for any sort of communication about a rescheduled appointment and found the right button to press (AIRS) and duly pressed it
  • As a result I got two appointments for my ankle and shoulder in the next two weeks
  • End of October 2020: 3 x-rays plus a nice man in the Foot and Ankle Clinic told me I was bone on bone and had no cartilage left in my right ankle. It wasn't a question of taking out broken bone shards, more a question of giving me an ankle fusion which would eliminate movement and pain - which sounded like manna from heaven to me. But I'd need to be non-weight bearing for up to three months i.e. live life on one leg. Agree continued weight loss would be a good idea.
  • Early November 2020: nice man in the Upper Limb Clinic confirmed I have no cartilage in my left shoulder and am bone on bone. Confirms the wisdom of me stopping driving due to my very limited movement/pain - and tells me I need a shoulder replacement - but it's a long recovery! I decide this might be better after ankle is fixed. Promptly sell car and start thinking electric for when I finally get to drive again...
  • March 2021: Finally get a steroid injection in my ankle after the lockdown end 2020/early 2021 - end of pain for a bit....
  • June 2021: finally get to see consultant who lists me for surgery
  • September 2021: do pre-assessment for surgery
  • and then nothing.
Two years later I want my operation!

I've also lost 6.5 stone / 41.3kg with a view to coping better on one leg for three months

As a result of the email I sent yesterday to the right people I'm going to be getting my ankle fusion operation on Monday 6th December.

So that's 2 weeks to get everything finally finished off and ready for not moving fast or far for three months. Not that different from lockdown really - except I won't be going out.

This is the post-it note I've had fixed on my iMac for the last 12 months.

  • Back slab plaster = plaster which does not completely encircle limb and allows for swelling. I'll be on my back with my foot elevated to heart level for two weeks to keep the swelling to a minimum!
  • Non weight bearing plaster = exactly what it says. I won't be able to my foot down at all. It holds the bone in place and allows it to grow
  • Protective boot goes on after my ankle has grown new bone and fused and it just needs to be looked after. Hopefully end of January.
  • BUT weight bearing then needs to be managed on a progressive basis and as any pain allows
Meet my Strideon knee scooter - or how to get about when you can't put one foot on the ground!

This was me in August when I'd just got it and assembled it (i.e one of the things I was doing during my timeoff in August!) I still needed to adjust it further to get everything to the right height.

However this is very heavy and I don't think there's any chance of me getting on the tube until I'm walking properly again - and can walk some distance. 

Bottom line - no exhibitions until at least next June I think 
i.e. I can start walking again after three months - but first I have to relearn to walk and then I won't be able to go far to start with.

So the plan is 
  • I'm going to work my way through my bookshelves (and bookshelves) of art books and write book reviews. 
  • Plus keep up with art available online and on the television and write periodically about that.  
Then when I've recovered - I'll be getting my shoulder replacement done - which will mean one hand typing!

Then, when I've recovered from that and got my mobility back in my shoulder, I hope I get to buy an electric car and go travelling at long last.....

So quite a lot of change in the next 18 months - 2 years or so.....

I have my fingers crossed my hip is not trying to go the same way.....

Friday, November 19, 2021

The Ingram Prize 2021 - prizewinners and selected artists

If you're starting out on your career and lean very much towards the very contemporary side of making art then you may well be interested in the Ingram Prize - which has just announced its 2021 prizewinners

What is the Ingram Prize?

The Ingram Prize was established by The Ingram Collection 6 years ago. It is:

  • an annual purchase prize & exhibition 
  • to celebrate and support artists at the beginning of their professional careers.
There is no prize money as such - however it provides:

  • the opportunity to exhibit and sell work, 
  • attend a programme of continuing professional development, and 
  • the chance to develop both industry and peer-to-peer networks.
Artists who can enter are visual artists within five years of graduation from a UK based art school (undergraduate or postgraduate level).

Entry is free, and artists can submit up to two works in any media, with no restrictions on size.

The rewards for those selected are:
  • Group selling exhibition for all finalists; 
  • opportunity to attend a day of professional development seminars; 
  • exhibition catalogue; 
  • private view/networking event; 
  • opportunity to apply for a residency project. 

2021 Ingram Prize

The winners of the Ingram Prize 2021 were announced last night at the Private View for the Exhibition currently being held in the Unit 1 Gallery, 1 Bard Road, London W10 6TP until 26 November 2021

2021 Prizewinners

There were four prize winners in total. 

The Founders Choice Award went to Figures on a Bed by James Dearlove (see below) who will be offered a museum solo show in 2022.

Using old newspapers as a canvas, upon which to depict sprawled male bodies, Dearlove explains:
“This painting is a contemporary urban landscape of queer bodies and demonstrates the desire and disquietude that are central concerns in my work. I am preoccupied with how light falls on flesh and how bodies can coalesce with their surroundings. This painting is informed by my experience of living as a queer man in the heart of London. When I had a studio in Vauxhall (which could be called a very gay part of London) I was aware that all around me gay men were meeting on hook-up apps for anonymous sex and drug-taking. I felt I couldn't ignore this intense and strange human interaction as subject matter however transgressive or hard to understand especially as it was going on in my community. 

I painted on random squares of old newspaper which I de-acidified so as to ensure the longevity of the painting. I chose newspaper because the printed matter interrupts the surface and interferes with the painted marks with a kind of soft violence that I found appropriate and beautiful. I also like the counterplay between the intimacy of the bodies but also their anonymity and the anonymity of the city and the twenty-four-hour news cycle.”
Artwork by three more artists will be purchased for The Ingram Collection.  In essence 
  • Anna Perach (Daphne), 
  • Anietie Ekanem, (Yemaya o Yemoja)
  • Katharina Fitz (Pupa and Queen) 
You can also see those selected for the exhibition

The other 2021 finalists were (in alphabetical order): 
  • Bianca Barandun (Royal College of Art, 2017)
  • Ingrid Berthon-Moine (Goldsmiths, University of London, 2017)
  • Fiona Campbell (Bath Spa University, 2018)
  • Mae Chan (Royal College of Art, 2021)
  • Marc-Aurèle Debut (Royal College of Art, 2020)
  • Anne von Freyburg (Goldsmiths, University of London, 2016)
  • Lisa-Marie Harris (Central Saint Martins, 2021)
  • Clara Hastrup (Royal Academy Schools, 2021)
  • Selby Hurst Inglefield (Central Saint Martins, 2019)
  • Elizabeth Jackson (Royal College of Art, 2021)
  • Marie-Louise Jones (Central Saint Martins, 2021)
  • Orna Kazimi (Central Saint Martins, 2018)
  • Hugo Lami (Royal College of Art, 2019)
  • Max Limbu (Goldsmiths, University of London, 2020)
  • Liam Mertens (Slade School of Fine Art, 2019)
  • Isobel Napier (Slade School of Fine Art, 2018)
  • Abi Ola (Slade School of Fine Arts, 2021)
  • Ryan Orme (Slade School of Fine Art, 2019)
  • Ella Porter (Royal College of Art, 2019)
  • Luke Silva (Central Saint Martins, 2021)
  • Gayi Soori (Central Saint Martins, 2020)
  • Olivia Strange (Chelsea College of Arts, 2017)
  • Liorah Tchiprout (Camberwell College of Arts, 2020)
  • Mircea Teleagă (Slade School of Fine Art, 2016)
  • Maddie Yuille (City & Guilds of London Art School, 2019)
This year’s Ingram Prize encompassed a variety of themes, including the environment, queer-femme experience, body image, immigration, and the pandemic, with the shortlisted finalists - from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Denmark and New Zealand, France, Ukraine plus Trinidad & Tobago - entering work in a broad variety of different media, from ceramics, oils, and watercolour, to video, tapestry, and found / recycled objects.

The Ingram Collection

Founded in 2002 by serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Chris Ingram, the collection spans over 100 years of British art and includes over 600 artworks.  More than 400 of these are by some of the most important British artists of the 20th century, amongst them Edward Burra, Lynn Chadwick, Elisabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth and Eduardo Paolozzi. 

The main focus of the collection is on the art movements that developed in the early and middle decades of the 20th century, and there is a particularly strong and in-depth holding of 20th century British sculpture.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Review: Episode 6 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 ( Series 8 )

This is a review of Episode 6 of Series 8 of Portrait Artist of the Year - which is being repeated tonight at 7pm on the Sky Arts channel.

For more reviews of previous episodes see the listing at the end of this blog post.

The PAOTY Pod at the Battersea Arts Centre where every episode is filmed


Four professional artists included
  • Gabriella Cohen [LinkedIn] - from Staines, Middlesex.  Digital Content Creator/ Fine Artist who graduated with a first class degree in Fine Art from Bournemouth - who enjoys creating characters in her work.  Submitted a self-portrait with a futuristic quality - and aimed for a slightly unusual edge to her portrait.
  • Lee Kay-Barry [Facebook | Instagram] - an Artist, Digital Content Creator and Social Media Manager. Born in London in 1995 and studied a Fine Art degree at University of Leeds. Favours a bold, colourful and abstracted approach to portraiture
  • Lynn Kennedy [Facebook | Instagram] - graduated from Dun Laoghaire College of art and design in 1993. Since then has worked in several creative arts, including design, illustration and photography. Lynn now works primarily in oils, and much of her work is commissioned for private collections. The programme makers got rather carried away! She didn't win the Ruth Borchard Prize but rather had a painting in the 2019 exhibition.
  • Phyllis Dupuy [Instagram] - grew up in Montreal, graduated from McGill University and went on to teach art in northern Ontario. Moved to the UK in 1979 to study ceramics and has exhibited her ceramic work for 25 years. Studied oil painting and portraiture at Heatherley's School of Art in Chelsea. Her portrait commissions have includes Louis de Bernieres, the Novelist. Also painted #portraitsfornhsheroes

The five amateur artists are:
  • Amy Coleman - From Ireland, age 13 she is the youngest contestant in this series. Painted her first self-portrait for the submission. The heat was the first time she has ever painted anybody from life.
  • Alex Cooper [Facebook | Instagram] - former picture framer who lives in the Welland Valley on the borders of Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire. Took part in Portraits of NHS Heroes in 2020 and won the Clare Balding week in Sky Arts Portrait of the Week. Plus practiced hard for this Heat by painting three portraits a week.
  • Jana Forrester [Facebook | Instagram] - a medical physic student at UCL. 
  • Charlie Hardcastle [Instagram] - graduated in Painting from Edinburgh College of Art in 2020.  Likes to focus on getting the drawing right. Focuses on painting the features and skin and not so much the hair
  • Xinchu Zhang [Instagram) - Born and grew up in China. No lives in Brighton where he works for the Pensions Regulator.
You can also look at their profiles on Sky Arts - but the above listing below is about as comprehensive as I can make it - once I'd got the correct spellings of two of the names!


We actually got a clear view of the self portrait wall this week!


  • Landscape format x 1
  • Portrait format x 5
  • Square(ish) x 2


  • Large x 1
  • Medium x 3
  • Small x 4
  • Tiny x 1


  • full size or most of body (including hand) x 0
  • Upper torso + hand(s) x 3
  • upper torso (no hands) x 1
  • head and shoulders x 5
  • head x 0


The three sitters were:
  • Maggie Aderin-Pocock - a British space scientist and science educator. 
  • David Olusoga - a British historian, writer, broadcaster, presenter and film-maker. He is Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester and has also presented historical documentaries for the BBC.
  • Sergei Polunin - a Ukrainian-born ballet dancer, actor and model.  This is an 'interesting' article about the Self-destructive dance superstar

THEMES in Episode 6

This is a discussion of some of the themes I thought came up in this episode. Most are perennial across episodes and series.

The best of diverse approaches OR Are you different enough as a portrait painter?

Having a distinct style helps if you want to grab the Judges' attention (a comment in the heat)
This heat illustrated something which I think all those applying for a place in the next series should be aware of.  

The Judges:
  • do like people who don't paint / make art like everybody else i.e. you are more likely to get noticed if your work does not look like anybody else's OR a school of painting
  • tend to take only one of a particular kind of 'standard portrait painting' through to the shortlisting i.e. if they get two or three people painting in more or less the same way OR with more or less the same end result - they only ever seem to take one of them.
In other words they want to see the best of diverse approaches.

Listen carefully to the deliberations in this episode and you can hear them deliberating about similar portraits and opting for just one of them

Portraits which are quiet or noisy or troublesome

So we agree it's a good thing to stand out and get noticed - or is it?

Portraits can get noticed for different reasons.

Obviously an artist frequently hopes that their portrait gets recognised for the display of good drawing, good likeness and painting skills

However portraits also get highlighted if
  • they look quiet compared to others
  • they are 'too noisy' in terms of the impact of colour on the viewers eyes or lines which take eyes every which way
  • you keep noticing too much is wrong with the portrait
  • they can also be troublesome - because you stare at them trying to work out what it is that means that the likeness has been lost; or (my favourite) the painting ' hurts my eyes' - that undefinable something which means that the painting is visually disruptive - which is not usual in portraiture.

Seeing colours differently

There was quite a lot of comment about how artists use colour - and find unusual colours within the skin and the hair. 

My feeling is if you just paint the local hue - and not the spectrum of colours that can be seen within a surface you won't get very far....

When a background can undermine everything

I was quite confident that Lynn Kennedy probably had a very good chance of getting shortlisted on the strength of the scope, size and quality of her self-portrait. Somehow the painting in the heat didn't quite measure up - although, fair play, she attempted more than most did and included her sitter's hands.

Then, right at the last minute she added a blue background - which not only clashed horribly with Maggie's dress, it was the wrong blue in terms of the blue background in the pod and it was fairly scrappy in terms of sketchiness and not going to the edges. Plus it was very flat and unmodulated through the use of other colours

I forget whether it was Kate or Kathleen who words to the effect this was the point at which that portrait dropped out of the running.

Another painter painted a very flat yellow ochre background derived from a comment from the sitter about a colour he nearly dressed in.  She described it as a 'safety blanket' so she had a finished background so the final painting looked finished.  I can understand that sentiment. HOWEVER, she then found that it was a major challenge in terms of working with the skin of her sitter. I don;t think it helped her.


Sitters choose a portrait

This is when the Sitters have to choose which of the self portraits they want to keep
  • either because they really like it
  • or they'd prefer to make sure they can keep it out of circulation. I don't think the latter happened this week but I've been certain that's what has happened on previous occasions.
The three sitters chose as follows
  • Maggie Aderin-Pocock chose the portrait by Phyllis Dupuy - she loved the flow of the hair and the fact it made her look younger
  • David Olusoga chose Charlie Hardcastle - it was a face he recognised
  • Sergei Polunin chose Lee Kay-Berry
The shortlisting lineup

Judges choose a shortlist

The three artists the Judges chose were:
  • Xinchu Zhang
  • Gabriella Cohen
  • Charlie Hardcastle
What they liked about their shortlisted artists is summarised below

self portrait and heat portrait by Xinchu Zhang

Xinchu has 
  • a beautifully painted character study
  • got a good likeness and has the head properly sat on the shoulders
  • a great sense of a living breathing person
I liked his self-portrait better than his heat portrait - but did like the way he painted a lot.

self portrait and heat portrait by Gabriella Cohen

Gabriela has  
  • a painting style is very distinctive - producing a very bold self-portrait
  • colours are stunning - creating a vintage / alien perspective and a quite magical work. She likes being mysterious - to capture the personality.
  • found a happy medium between doing something which interested her and that is flattering for the sitter
  • the ability to use technology in a creative capacity 
The issue for me going forward is whether or not she can do hands.

self portrait and heat portrait by Charlie Hardcastle

Charlie creates portraits which have 
  • great emotional content with very little there in his submission - which he repeated in his his heat portrait
  • has done something which looks very refined and delicate - and almost looks like a fresco, it's so chalky and has a subtle emotional component
  • David went for the painting because it evoked an emotion which he recognised
I thought his double self-portrait was very clever - and had marked psychological undertones.

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Winner of Episode 6

waiting to hear who has won

The winner of the heat filmed for Episode 6 was Gabriella Cohen 

The rationale was as follows - according to Kate Bryan
"We're looking for someone to take the conversation forward with portraiture. Gabriella's really inventive, she's really playful - and then we're just thinking about what's coming next in the semi-final 

Gabriella Cohen won Episode 6

Episode 7 

The sitters in the next episode on Wednesday 24th November 2021 are: naturalist and conservationist Chris Packham; dance teacher and original Strictly Judge Arlene Phillips and Ali Jawa (whoever that is!). 

I'm struggling with sitters this year - I'm feeling pleased I knew two of three for the next episode!