Monday, April 10, 2017

Watching a heat of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

Today I went to the Wallace Collection to watch a Heat of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019However,
  • I can't tell you who the sitters are and who the artists are or show you the portraits!
  • BUT I can show you all their palettes and I can tell you about what I observed!
First some background.
There are three sitters and three artists per sitter. So I'm going to organise the pics of the palettes by sitter - and then they'll make sense in a year's time when the heat is televised!

In the pics you can see the palettes and tools they were using. Some obviously brought all their kit from home while others were taking advantage of the art supplies made available by Cass Arts who sponsor the programme.

In between the pics, I'll provide my observations and comments on the Heat.

You can speculate as much as you like as to who are the professionals and who are the amateurs - I'm not telling! However the range of people participating ranges from somebody who has just done their A levels through to an artist who was classically trained in Florence.

Sitter 1 - actress

Somebody commented on a recent blog post about an art competition, that the artists all seemed to be painting from their iPads.

I can clarify that a lot do use iPads. However, from my observations the reasons are as follows:
  • Some sitters sit still and others move a lot. A photo on an iPad gives you something to work from while the sitter comes back to the resting pose
  • Some artists are squaring up their canvases and using software on their iPads that "squares up" the photo they took. This then enables them to check the accuracy of the structure of the face as they plot it on the canvas. Seems like a good idea to me to assist with working to a time limit.
  • Not every artist is used to working from life and the iPad is like a comfort blanket. However, I do think the judges watch carefully and do know who is painting the sitter from observation and who is too dependent on their iPad.

Sitter 2 - actor

The artists have four hours to paint their portrait - excluding breaks for lunch and breaks for the model.

However, for anybody having aspirations to enter, you don't get four hours to paint. That's because judges and presenters are going to come round and film you and ask questions and you'll get relatively little done while that's happening. You can easily chop 30-45 minutes off your painting time for interruptions - depending on whether or not you find it offputting when they interview the person next to you!

Not everybody finished.

One person took 3.25 hours to square up their canvas and paint the eyes and the hair and the background. The artist then painted the nose, the mouth and most of both cheeks in about 40 minutes! It was nerve-wracking to watch!

I'd very much recommend that anybody who puts in an entry for 2019 needs to practice painting portraits in 3 hours from start to finish excluding breaks!

I actually don't know how some people timed their portraits. I think it's true to say that, as the warnings about how long they had left started towards the end of the final session, some were very clearly surprised.

Again I'd recommend people think very carefully about how they can use a silent timer which they can stop and start.

Sitter 3 - presenter

The self-portraits they submitted to get entry to the Heat were hanging on the wall. I can see exactly why each artist was chosen. However, there were some discrepancies between what they painted at home and what they produced on the day.

If there was one recommendation I'd make to Sky Arts it's that artists should be required to submit two portraits.
  • One painted in as much time as they like - to demonstrate the skill they have when there is no time limit;
  • AND one which is painted in three hours from start to finish. That way they'll have a much better idea who can perform under pressure of a deadline!
I hope you find this helpful. I'm very happy to answer more questions if I can help without compromising the programme!

PS. Hello to all the participating artists who were kind enough to let me take their pics and answer some questions. There will be more pictures on this blog next year! It was lovely to hear that some of you know my blog and follow it!

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