Thursday, December 06, 2007

BP Portrait Award 2008 (call for entries) and BP Travel Award

BP Travel Award 2006
Jim Bettle Charcoal burner, Hazelbury Bryan, Dorset
copyright Toby Wiggins

Details of how to enter the 29th Portrait Award 2008, sponsored by BP, have been placed on the National Portrait Gallery website.

This is a link to the online entry form and this is a link to the rules. In brief:
  • the first prize is worth £25,000
  • the competition is open to all those aged over 18 on 1.1.08. Artists aged 18-30 are eligible for the Young Artist's Award (worth
  • the work entered must
    • MUST be predominantly painted in oil, tempera or acrylic. Watercolours, works on paper or pastels will NOT be considered.
    • should be a painting based on a sitting or study from life; the human figure must predominate.
  • artists are restricted to one entry per artist
  • work must have been completed after 1.1.07.
  • work must be at least 10" x 8" / 25cm x 20cm
  • The entire competition is judged, on an equal and anonymous basis, from original paintings.
  • entry forms and registration fees must be submitted to the NPG by 17th February
  • there are lots of very detailed requirements as to submission and collection of the actual painting - read carefully!
For those new to the Portrait Award, do bear in mind that last year over 1,870 paintings were submitted and only 60 were exhibited. I've done the maths for you - that's about a 3% chance of being exhibited. However those 60 paintings were seen by about 195,000 people.

Winners in 2007 were as follows - click the link to see a resume of their background, their work and comments left by people on the paintings:
You can also read my previous blog posts about this competition - which contain images of previous winners and finalists - links are below:
BP Travel Award
All artists selected for the exhibition will be eligible to submit a proposal for the BP Travel Award. The aim of the Award is to provide the opportunity for an artist to experience working in a different environment, in Britain or abroad, on a project related to portraiture which will then be shown as part of the BP Portrait Award exhibition and tour the following year.
Portrait Award 2008
Toby Wiggins won the Travel Scholarship in 2006 and the work he did as a result of the Award was exhibited in the 2007 exhibition. You can see one of his drawings at the top of this post - and the rest if you click the link in his name. I love his style - lots of hatching! I also really loved the way in which he drew in pencil on gesso - it gave an amazing quality to the line of pencil.

Such a pity that entries for the actual portrait award have to be in oil, tempera or acrylic and that pencil drawings aren't allowed!


  1. Will you take part in this contest, Katherine ?

  2. Interestingly, I could now enter if I wanted to as the rules changed last year to remove the age limit (previously it was limited to artists who were not yet 40).

    I also have the fairly significant problem of only working in dry media which is not eligible.

    It would be good fun though to work out a possible subject.

    Finally, I do know people who are entering and they are MUCH better painters than me!

  3. One thing that get's me about this competition is that it has an entry fee. It keep refering to the fee, but I haven't been able to find out online how much it actually costs to enter. Am I just being blind or do other people have the same problem?

  4. stephanie, according to this page the fee last year was £20. I agree though, they should post it somewhere so you don't have to register your details before getting to the fees page.

  5. I was a little disappointed to see most of the work exhibited last year were in ultra-photorealistic style, mostly smoothly blended, without much expressive brushwork and "personal watermark" on them. Also, lots of full frontals without too much creative composition. I am not really sure why -- is it simply the taste of last year's jury? Or there is deeper reason behind?

    Also I am slightly uncomfortable with the descrimination against work on paper... At least pastel is a traditional portrait medium...

  6. Tina - thanks for fidning that information

    I've written to the NPG to alert them to the omission of information but I don't know how long it will take the webmaster to sort it.

    elfling - I seem to recall that similar remarks were made by art critics last year. I guess, as with any competition with judges, you are always going to see the personal preferences of the judges reflected in their choices. However there's nothing that requires candidates to work in this way. I've seen exhibition works and winners in previous years who didn't.

    I think the thing about media and support may well reflect the fact that in a gallery of this sort not all work is on show at all times and works get moved around, go in and out of storage etc. While there is no question some pastels look fresher than some oil paintings over time, they do require more careful handling. I guess they need to be confident that commissioned works can be produced in the specified media.


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