Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Review: Episode 4 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

This is a review of Heat 4 of Portrait Artist of the Year - which this week saw six amateur artists and 3 professional artists

You can see links at the end to my reviews of the first three episodes.

Heat 4 of Portrait Artist of the Year

The Professionals

Three professional artists were:
  • Jamie Green (Instagram) - age 27, based in Manchester and a shortlisted contestant in 2017 - who who was back by virtue of viewers of Sky voting for him to be the artist they'd most like see again. He has a very strong style which I guess is "a bit like marmite".
  • Etha Gurak?? - an Eyptian by birth, who studied art and a professional artist in Cairo before getting married and coming to live in London 10 years ago. Her self-portrait took her 28 hours and she listened to an "inspiration playlist" while she painted which included 'Eye of the Tiger"
  • Jackie Edwards - Born in London to Irish parents, she now lives in Ireland. She studied art at Dun Laoghaire School of Art and Design. She's also been exhibiting in Ireland, the UK and Europe since 1989. She exhibited a stunning portrait of "The Artist's children" at the Royal Ulster Academy last year (see Putting on an Art Exhibition - Behind the Scenes at the Royal Ulster Academy)

The Amateurs

Six amateur artists brought their kit to the Wallace Collection. They were:
  • Olivia Crossman - uses pastel on canvas and has a somewhat unique technique to her work. She uses a palette knife to scratch at the pastel layers. Produced a very impressive self-portrait.  She had completed a Foundation Art Year at Camberwell College of Art - but was now pursuing a science degree (Biology at Imperial College) and hoped to combine the two.
  • Anna Kenneally - She recently completed a BA in Fine Art at Bath Spa University - which I think she means she was in her final year when she painted in Heat 4. Her paintings on her website have a strong narrative edge notwithstanding some are contemporary updates on paintings by past masters.  She did an Interview with Cass Arts back in 2016.  Her goal is becoming a professional artist.
  • Aret Shukovsky?? - Comes from Poland and now lives in Southampton. He placed an emphasis on wanting to get the drawing right
  • Lisa Puhlhofer (Facebook Page- Based in Suffolk, she is a former nurse. Between 2015 and 2017 she completed the Diploma Course at 2015-2017 Diploma in Portraiture Heatherley's School of Fine Art. Little did I know I was in the same room as Lisa just a few days ago - at the The Bankside Staff Show Private View 2018. I thought the hair looked vaguely familiar!
I took early retirement moved to Suffolk to free up the money I needed to go to college. I studied at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art in Chelsea, because it was the only School which had a Portrait Diploma at the time, and I liked the idea of being taught by professional working artists.
  • Roy Goodman - A career in science - he now lives and works in Cornwall. After he took retirement he became a a painter and photographer. In 2007 he obtained an MA in the History of 20th Century Art from Falmouth University, followed by an MA in Photography from Plymouth University in 2012. He has a painting which has just reached Second Stage of the John Moores Painting Prize.  I'm not quite sure why he has himself down as an amateur portrait painter since he exhibits in galleries - however he mostly paints landscapes.
  • Sam Smith - A self-taught IT Manager from Hertfordshire who had only painted 7 portraits before - including his self-portrait. He learned how to paint from watching videos on YouTube! Just a little competition from a bloke of the same name to find his website! 
The sitters were:

Discussions and Observations

Using a grid to get the outline embedded

The commentary noted that 8 of the 9 artists were choosing to draw in the outline using pencil, while one eyeballed the sitter and dew using her paintbrush. Guess which one impressed the judges?

Gridded up two ways on the iPad
The use of an app on their ipads to get the drawing started and well placed on the support was also very ubiquitous. I can understand why people might do this if they are not confident drawing from life - but it does speak to a lack of experience in drawing from life.

It's been a bit of time since I went to a life class (or the one I used to go to at the Royal Drawing School - which was about drawing a head) - but I don't recall iPads in use for that purpose. Maybe they are now?

That said at least two of the portraits ruled themselves out because they had MAJOR errors of facial structure and proportion.  Can you tell which two I mean? At least one of the artists knows it....


Jamie Green was using a very unusual background for his painting - and I do believe I spied him bringing it into the Wallace.

Which presumably means that contestants can prepare their canvases at home and get down a neutral surface to work and/or a grid. I say that because that was definitely a VERY prepared surface I saw!

It does suggest that future contestants would do well to get this clarified as it's a considerable help if you're ready to go and don't need to prepare a surface or grid up in the course of the four hours. It means four hours is just for the painting.

Light and colour

I'm noticing that they are particularly impressed by all those who know how to
  • modulate and use their colour palette properly and 
  • paint light
If you can't see colour in skin tones you can give up and go home!

Practice, practice, practice

It was interesting that Sam Smith had decided to practice ahead of his heat by painting in his conservatory in 3.5 hours. As he said he wanted to
  • get used to the overhead light and how it changed what he saw, and
  • working within a time limit - adjusted for people coming to talk to him. 
It all sounded very sensible!  He also brought a cap with him so that his perception of colour was not distorted by the brightness of the atrium in which they were all painting. Obviously that painting in the conservatory paid off!

I'm noticing more and more that those who took a long time over their self-portraits simply cannot adjust to working within a shorter time period and producing good work. Unless they change the way they work as Jackie Edwards did.

To me the key to success is about being able to
  • produce a portrait within something between 3.5 - 4 hours which doesn't look like one which dozens of other painters could also produce and 
  • achieve a decent likeness of the sitter.

Decision Time

Sitters choose portraits

Conlath Hill chooses Louise Crossman's portrait of him
- he liked her technique and thought she'd captured his eyes
I rather like this section. It says such a lot about a sitter's awareness of art and whether or not a portrait is good.
  • Conlath chose Lisa's portrait
  • Stefanie chose the portrait by the Egyptian lady whose name I'm sure I've spelt wrong!
  • Rachel chose the "statement piece" by Jamie Green.

So that's one shortlisted piece going home with a sitter....

The shortlist

The contestants line up to find out who has been shortlisted....

The shortlisted artists were Louise Crossman (Conlath), Jackie Edwards (Conlath) and Lisa Puhlhofer (Stefanie).

The women are really dominating this series. Even before the choice of Heat Winner we knew it was a woman - with a chance that Irish women might just make it 4 out of 4 through to the semi-finals!

Heat 4 - Shortlisted artists - Louise, Jackie and Lisa

I wasn't in the least bit surprised by the Judges' choices. They were the three artists who impressed me from the beginning - both in terms of their self-portrait and the way they started their work.

It reminds me that when you create a positive impression straight away, then you have to do something really awful to lose that standing in the Judge's eyes.

Self Portrait and Heat Portrait of Conleth Hill by Louise Crossman

Louise's technique is fascinating. I've seen pastel artists work on watercolour paper before but not vertically on canvas - and not rubbing pastel on and then scraping it off with a palette knife. Absolutely fascinating to watch, especially given my own preference for pastel.

The self-portrait is great. The Heat Portrait rather less so as it's just a bit too "mug shot" for me - but that's the penalty of being in the middle.

I think if I was a participant and got landed with the middle I'd ask for the model to be change position so I didn't have a full on perspective.

Self Portrait and Heat Portrait of Conleth Hill by Jackie Edwards

In my opinion, of the three, Jackie is far and away the most accomplished portrait artist in terms of work done to date and evident on her website. However she obviously needs more time to work to her best - and that's a consideration anybody entering this competition needs to have.

Also I think she made him too dark, when actually his skin tone was very pale...

Self Portrait and Heat Portrait of Stefanie Martini by Lisa Puhlhofer

I like Lisa's colour palette and I like the sensitive way she uses it to both liven a painting up but not "swamp" it with effect.

I liked Lisa's self portrait - particularly the way in which she has created a lost and found effect with the frame of her glasses so you know she's wearing them but they don't dominate the portrait.

Last week I commented on shoulders - and how so many people kept getting them wrong. I think she's got the shoulders pretty spot on in both portraits.

Heat Winner

Heat 4: The self-portrait and the Heat Portrait of the shortlisted artists

The Heat Winner was Lisa Puhlhofer.

Her self portrait achieved a very good likeness despite a lively colour palette.  It took 8 hours to paint and was intended to reflect her face when painting - thoughtful!

The portrait painted in the Heat was much more a study than a full-on finished portrait. However she took her time over the aspects which mattered, the drawing from observation (with her brush - which impressed at the beginning), the accuracy of the likeness and her ability  to use a great colour palette to tackle and make interesting what was a major challenge i.e. the flawless perfect skin of a young woman - without aging her!

As one of the judges put it (in effect) she reflected the context she was painting in wonderfully well and used the colours of the context to knit together unity within the painting.

Portrait painted by Lisa Puhlhofer, the winner of Heat 4

Heat 5

The sitters next week are Elizabeth McGovern of Downton Abbey fame, Harry Potter film star Fiona Shaw and Paralympic gold medalist Kadeena Cox.

I'll be back next Wednesday with another review.....

PS If you're wondering why Sky Arts doesn't get a mention up the top of the page, it's because I've come to the conclusion that Facebook makes this post invisible to people if I do!  Facebook really does need to learn about reviews!!!

REFERENCE: Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

Below are my blog posts about the competition and my reviews of earlier heats - in which I comment on specific aspects to aspiring future contestants!
Previous Years

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you again for the review. A great programme and your review helps me put my own thoughts into perspective. Mike


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