Saturday, June 26, 2010

BP Portrait Award: Michael Gaskell's unparalled record

In the last 11 years, Michael Gaskell has entered the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery five times and his record is as follows:
  • 2010 - 2nd prize
  • 2009 - 2nd prize
  • 2003 - 2nd prize
  • 2001 - commended
  • 1999 - commended
That means every time he's entered he's achieved some form of recognition.  That's a record unparalled to my knowledge in the history of the competition.  I also can't think of anybody else who has won 2nd prize three times.  Normally, with that sort of track record, if any artist is shortlisted for a third time then they normally win.

 2nd prize winner (for the 3rd time) - Michael Gaskell (b.1963)
Egg tempera on wooden board, 290 x 205 x 11 mm
photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

(he) only got to know his sitter, Harry, when he agreed to sit for him. Having seen the sitter whilst he was out shopping with his family, Michael was persuaded to approach him by his wife.
We talked about the art materials he uses and what sort of portrait he aims to produce.

Michael started painting in egg tempera in the mid 90s for very practical reasons.  He had his studio in the house and needed a paint which was clean and relatively odorless (compared to the alternatives).

He's taught himself how to paint with egg tempera and used to read every manual he could find about how to create and use the approprate sort of gesso for egg tempera.  He recollected that it took him about 3-4 years to get the hang of how egg tempera works best and how to get the best out of it.  He loves the fact that he can paint in layers and paint over anything

His paintings are meticulous (like large miniatures), very smooth and remind me very much of the golden age of Dutch painting.  He also maintains an amazingly consistent high quality in his painting.  Below is his portrait from the BP Portrait Award 2009 exhibition

Second prize - Michael Gaskell (b.1963) for Tom (egg tempera on board, 270 x 210 mm)

Egg tempera requires a rigid surface so I wondered what sort of what sort of support and preperation he uses.  It turns out that his boards are made of mdf (but he makes sure that it's the type of mdf without the formaldehyde).  He then applies the gesso himself and he makes his paints from pigment from Cornelissen,  However he joked that the shop would never count him as a great customer as apparently he has still got a lot left from his first ever purchases!  He also uses very small brushes - sizes 0000 and 00000 - which are ones typically used by miniaturists.

His paintings take him about three months to produce - however the elapsed time will often be longer as he often allows the paint to rest to allow the paint to settle on the board.

In my view, his paintings glow and demonstrate that he truly has mastered the unique properties of egg tempera which makes it a medium which can look as fresh today and in hundreds of years time.

I like them a lot and I'm very sure that he will one day win the BP Portrait Award.

Michael Gaskell comes from Sheffield but now lives in Leicester.  His website is  His work is represented in private collections in the UK, Europe, Asia and the USA.

If you'd like to know more egg tempera, can I suggest you take a look at my information site Egg Tempera - Resources for Artists - which includes a link to Michael's website.

See the exhibition:  The exhibition of portraits by the winners and selected entries will be at the National Portrait Gallery, London until 19 September 2010 after which it goes on tour to:

You can also see a video of the entire exhibition

Making A Mark Archive of BP Portrait Award posts

BP Portrait Award 2010

    BP Portrait Award 2009 
    BP Portrait Award 2008   
    BP Portrait Award 2007    
     Links:  Resources for Artists - Portrait Competitions

    1 comment:

    1. Thanks so much for doing the video - seeing the scale of paintings makes a huge difference!


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