Thursday, March 28, 2019

Review: Episode 7 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2019

Episode 7 produced a bit of a pink shortlist - three girls on the shortlist with a dominant pink tinge to the portraits with colour, a graphite drawing was accompanied by a vivid pink scarf and the background included some very strong pink!

Lucy Fall, Annie Lee and Catherine Noone waiting to find out the winner of Episode 7
- who each draw or painted one of the sitters

The Artists, Self-portraits and Sitters

I'm beginning to think the descriptions should be Students, Amateurs and Professionals.


  • Hun Adamoglu (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - video - took 4 days to create his self-portrait which was about his connection to his Cypriot heritage.
  • Neequaye Dsane (Dreph) (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - video - He has an Art, Design and Media degree and is as influenced by comic books as old Masters. He's well known as the street artist Dreph and has worked for three decades producing street based painting in Asia, Africa, the UAE, Central and South America and throughout Europe. He produced street murals - do have a look at his websites and in particular at his giant portraits in the street. He now produces giant murals for publicity for events eg Idris Elba's film Yardie and Michelle Obama's book 'Becoming'.  This is his webpage about painting Jamael Weston
he is best known for his large-scale murals and oil paintings. His portraits and their accompanying backstories present an alternative narrative, a tribute to living unsung heroes and heroines.
  • Lucy Pass (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest) - video -  She paints within a certain constrained palette and also draws.  She's from Lancaster, draws and paints great eyes and confessed to being a big fan of Steve Mangan! Not a lot more about her on her website. 
  • Khushna Sulaman-Butt (Instagram) - video  - Born in Lancashire. Graduated in 2016 from Oxford University with a BFA Fine Art. Artist-in-Residence, Kensington Aldridge Academy (the school at the foot of Grenfell Tower).  Currently doing an MA at the Slade. I recognised her straight away as she was selected for the BP Portrait Award Exhibition in 2017.  Her portrait was of a group of the friends she made, while studying at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford University.  I met and interviewed her at the time - see BP Portrait Award 2017: Artists with their paintings
  • Phil Tyler (Twitter | Instagram) - video - an experienced British painter who has exhibited his work throughout the UK who is also an Art Lecturer at the University of Brighton - which I guess is why the idea of a whole day to paint sounded such a luxury to him. He has exhibited in the ING Discerning Eye, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, The Lynn Painter-Stainers prize.  He was also shortlisted in the 2018 Heat - and lost out to the eventual winner of the Portrait Artist of the Year 2018.

Amateur Artists

There were four amateur artists - two of which ended up in the shortlist - and one of them won!
  • Annie Lee (Annabella Lee) (Facebook/ Twitter / Instagram) - video - Took her art A Level a week after the heat. Now studying at Central Saint Martins. Spent an hour plotting features before starting to paint.
  • Catherine Noone (Instagram) - video - Widnes based Animator, Illustrator and Designer. Attended the Manchester School of Art for an MA Illustration with animation
  • Emily Sharples - video - student and part-time hairdresser; about to start an Art Foundation Course at Camberwell
  • Sharon Wright - video - A retired receptionist who lives in Suffolk. She is a regular painter who prefers to paint from life. She's a member of the local art society who entered for the prestige of the programme. 

The Sitters

The sitters for Episode 7 were:
  • Angela Griffin - a well known actress who worked for many years on Coronation Street before becoming involved in other series such as Lewis.
  • Gina McKee - an English actress who won the 1997 BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for Our Friends in the North
  • Jamael Westman - an actor who Graduated from London's RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) in 2016 and has the lead role in the American musical Hamilton in the West End

The Self Portrait Review

Add caption

Discussions and Observations

The better the sitter the better the portrait

The artists were very lucky with these three sitters - they all maintained very steady poses - with no slouching, twitching or nodding off!

That said they might not have been there for some of the artists because they were only looking at their technology.

How rude to paint from technology!

There was a comment from Sharon in the episode to the effect how rude it was to the sitter to paint from technology when they had taken the trouble to sit - without moving - for the four hours that the artists got to paint. I agree. To be presented with a model and not to use that opportunity to paint them from life seems to me to be pretty silly.

Moreover I don;t think the judges are a fan of technology unless used in a practical way as just one of your tools.

That said I do well understand why artists have iPads and the like. They also have to contend with an enourmous number of people passing by and standing inbetween them in the artist. You don't see very much of this in the programme - but just watch all the videos of the individual artists and you'll see exactly what I mean. So the artist needs something to do when they can't see the model!

I studied all the Vimeo videos - which provide a speeded up uninterrupted view of each artist completing their painting and watched to see :
  • whether they used technology
  • where they fixed the technology
  • what impact it had on their painting
Interestingly I think some of the artists did themselves no favours by neglecting to bring a proper support for their iPad or iPhone if they were using it as a reference.  You need a fixed point of reference. This is where the unmoving model comes in!!

I created a chart of what seemed to me to be their use of technology and their success in getting a likeness. (By which I mean essentially whether the draughtsmanship is good rather than whether all the colours are spot on)

This is what I came up with. It also reflects in part the comments of the Judges (eg Tai's comment on Khushna's portrait)

The main thing I noticed when we looked at the painting from above - and could see the image and the iPad next to one another was that he proportions were all wrong.

Tai made a comment - which I agree with - about the fact that people were either:
  • not looking carefully enough
  • not standing back to check what they'd done.




From life

Tech (drawing)

Tech (painting)

Good likeness

Annie (painting)  Lucy

Annie (Hour 1)  Catherine


Likeness nearly there


Neequaye (check tones)

Likeness needs resolution - one or more fundamental weaknesses

Phil (50:50) 
Phil (50:50)

What was worrying to me were those painters who didn't seem to appreciate the problems with their painting.

I prefer those who know they've not got what they needed to achieve or just found the whole experience a bit too much.
I'm ignoring the face for the moment because it's too overwhelming

Size of the Painting

As often happens people were working on supports of a very different size. Some went big and some went small. They then had to choose how much to include. Yet again everybody ducked hands. Only Phil attempted the whole figure - and was going well but was hampered by the fact that he couldn't get the likeness in what had become a tiny head.

There's a lot to be said for painting a very good small head - with the emphasis very much on the words "very good". (It's just like Masterchef - if you go simple you must produce excellence)

Size - and proportion - of the Head on the Canvas

I noted that artists who failed to get a good likeness had often painted heads which were too small or malformed.

What I also noticed is that people were getting the proportions of different parts of the head badly wrong.  It's not enough to be good at painting eyes and mouths. You must also know the relative size of features to the whole and from one to the other. 
  • one artist basically flattened the skull of the sitter suggesting a lack of knowledge of basic dimensions of the head
  • another consistently got the width relative to the height wrong and placed features in the wrong place
  • angles and shapes were consistently drawn badly
Tai commented that failure to slow down, stand back and reflect on what you've done relative to what you should be looking at explains a lot about why people go wrong.

I appreciate that it's not easy in that space to pace backwards and forwards - but it is essential. Even if you sit down you must get up periodically and check what you've done from a distance.

One reason I think they got things wrong was because the format of their support and the format of their technology were different

It can get very confusing if you don't create a boundary within which to work which echoes the format of your reference.

TIP: If you regularly use photos as a reference try this trick:
  • make sure the format of the photograph is identical to the support you are using eg. 
    • square to square is the easiest to get right with phones
    • my mini iPad gives me 16cm x 12cm = 4:3 ratio
    • You can measure the format on your phone of tablet to work out what support to work on or what boundaries to plot
  • use an app to get a grid from which to work and then grid up your support to suit
This explains why Annie spent an hour on her drawing at the beginning getting placement of the face on the canvas and the placement and proportions of features right - and then was able to spend the rest of her time painting from life, secure in the knowledge she had a good baseline drawing

Bottom line - like anything else in life, time spent at the beginning on looking and sizing up and measuring proportions and angles is rarely time badly spent when it comes to portraiture

There may only be four hours - but you can 
  • either choose to spend that time wisely 
  • or rush in and start painting and then realise after the event that this was not a wise move!

Good paintings vs good likenesses

How many paintings do you need to paint?  For me, unless discarded quickly at the beginning for a bad start, multiple paintings are a sign of:
  • either a failure to spent time LOOKING carefully at the beginning
  • or an artist who has a major full-on panic.
  • or both!
Two artists produced multiple canvases.  Phil produced three and finally started to get Angela's likeness at the end - even if the proportions were still wrong!

You get a better likeness quicker if you look long and hard and carefully at the outset - and then you get to save time because you don't have to start over - and start another painting and get panicked about whether you will have enough time. So at the end of the day those who start slow can often spend their four hours wisely!

The challenge of skin tones

Skin tones are difficult to get right - whatever skin tone you're painting because they all change depending on the light - and if the light changes too it gets doubly difficult!

Knowing how to get colour into skin that is effective rather than random is a technique that only some artists can pull off. Generally those who have been painting for a long time.

However every television company has learned it need to be diversity conscious. Consequently you can 100% guarantee that the models for a portraiture competition will always - across the competition as a whole - include people who don't have an Anglo Saxon heritage.

In this heat there were two people who had a mixed heritage background.

Your part in the challenge presented by this competition is to arrive having tried painting skin tones which are different to your own (whatever that might be) - and there are as many skin tones as there are paint mixes - so you won't be completely thrown if you get a model with a skin tone that you are unfamiliar with.

Your main mission is to know how to convey colour in different skins so it doesn't look flat and dead. We very definitely had at least a couple of people in this episode who were caught out badly by the skin tones.

What should I do/practice/get in advance?

  • Make yourself a recipe book of skin tones to refer to when you're under pressure. It saves time!
  • Bring a protractor (a measuring instrument, typically made of transparent plastic or glass, for measuring angles) and CHECK the angle of different parts of the head which you can see in front of you with the angles you've laid down on your support and revise as required.
  • Read about portraiture and how to place a head on a support. (My own mental checklist is eyes on a thirds line - usually the one a third from the top - and ideally on the sweet spot. It's boringly predictable but it's in general it's a safe option because it works if you're only going to do the head or the head and a bit of upper torso.
  • Study and learn the typical proportions of the head - from all angles - and how each of the features relates to the others.
My proportions crib sheet!

Decision Time

Sitters get to choose the portrait they'd like to take home
  • Jamal chose Neequaye's portrait - I suspect because it was the most finished portrait and maybe because it meant he had a portrait of himself painted by Dreph. He said he loved it!
  • Angela chose the third painting by Phil - which took him an hour to do. I think she was just bowled over that anybody could produce a portrait in an eye
  • Gina chose the painting by Annie - which came as no surprise to me.  She said it captured the spirit of my personality.

Things the Judges liked

Overall there was a feeling throughout the day of people nearly getting a likeness but not quite.  Hence below I've got some points which weren't positive points at the end - but had been raised as queries during the day

Judges were impressed by:
  • artists who look hard and really examine what makes their sitter unique
  • artists who make good judgement calls on proportions in their under-drawings
  • capturing the mouth and expression at rest really well
  • the good use of colour in paint
  • emotional representation of the sitter
  • artists who keep their cool and don't panic - and keep their focus as a result
Judges queried
  • whether an artist is a one trick pony in terms of colour palette (more a question than a criticism)
  • the use of outline - but them around to it at the end as it served to lift the head off the page
Judges were less impressed with:

  • people who did not look carefully enough
  • fundamental errors of drawing the head 
  • errors in drawing which remain uncorrected due to a failure to review and compare at a distance

The Shortlist and Heat Winner

Waiting for the announcement

Catherine Noone, Lucy Pass and Annie Lee

The Shortlist

The Judges noted that all 

Review of the shortlisted portraits

Self portrait and portrait of Jamael Westman by Lucy Fall
Tai described it as a portrait of a pensive head. Everybody started the day by drawing his head too small - but she corrected it.

They thought that Jamael was her perfect sitter for her - a romantic sense that was contained.

Self portrait and portrait of Angela Griffin by Catherine Noone
Catherine kept her focus and at some point during the day had introduced an objective distance into her drawing which served to lift it off the page.

Self portrait and portrait of Gina McKee by Annie Lee
Annie is very good at observation and examination. The comment made was that Annie had responded to Gina's likeness without slavishly trying to follow it and in doing so has made a work of art which also happens to be a great portrait of Gina.  Tai thought it a wonderful achievement for somebody so early in her career.

Episode 7 Winner

The youngest artist won the heat because the Judges chose Annie Lee as the Heat Winner.

She was described by Tai as having been very receptive to her sitter which resulted in a portrait which shows great empathy.

In my opinion, she also produced the most complete portrait with the best likeness of a model who has a quirky look which is not easy to capture.  The painting of her mouth was exquisite. Annie's use of the beetle in the necklace as a motif in the background 'sealed the deal' as she introduced an element of personality into the portrait and made it more meaningful for the sitter. Small wonder then that it was chosen by Gina McKee to take home.

My guess is that Lucy ran her a close second - and that if she'd tackled Lamael's hair she might possibly have won.  Catherine also bottled on the hair. Both got the outline in but made very little progress with the vacuum they enclosed.

Annie is a natural artist with a real talent. She has a very good understanding of portraiture and a mature approach to developing her work - despite that fact she was only 18 years old at the time and was sitting her A level exam in Art a week later. It just goes to show how good she is. I expect to see her work in the art exhibitions of national art societies and and major art competitions in London in the future.

Annie Lee hearing that she has won the Heat!

Her fellow shortlisted artists were also both very complimentary about her skills and thought her a worthy winner,

VERY SADLY The video of her painting for some reason has been made two seconds rather than two minutes - so I'm going to include it here and then have a quiet remonstration about this off screen!

ANNIE LEE: Time-lapse painting on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 from N9 Design on Vimeo.

More Learning Points re. Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year

PLUS below are my blog posts from last year which contains lots of learning points about painting in this competition for those aspiring to compete this year.

Learning Points re the 2019 competition

Learning Points re the 2018 Competition

Below are my PREVIOUS blog posts about the 2018 competition and my reviews of the heats, semi-finals and final - in which I comment on specific aspects for aspiring future contestants!

How to watch if you don't have Sky

How to watch PAOTY 2020 LIVE!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Celebrity Painting Challenge on BBC1 - who's taking part?

Celebrity Painting Challenge is the second new art series on the BBC - on BBC1. 
Following on from my post TWO NEW BBC Art Shows last November, I can now reveal who's going to be doing the real work - the painting - and when the show starts!
Lachlan Goudie @lachlangoudie Mar 20
Strap on your palettes, arm your paint tubes and wind up the celebrities... here comes #CelebrityPaintingChallenge @BBCOne 8pm Thursday 4th April
Courtesy Mariella Frostrup Twitter
In this instance key facts and features are:
  • six "celebs" (names below) will find their artistic skills are tested by various challenges (as per the previous Big Painting Challenge with 'ordinary mortals'). It does occur to me that some of the might be more accurately referred to as 'former well known people on the box'.
  • the series starts on 4th April on BBC1 - with a self portrait and then hey get to paint a nude Keith Allen.

BBC One’s Celebrity Painting Challenge


The participants are
  • Jane Seymour - actress who has starred on both film and on television - who paints. She describes herself as an artist and homemaker on her website. She also has her very own Facebook Page called The Art of Jane Seymour. Here she is painting with Glenn Campbell on YouTube

  • Josie d'Arby - a Welsh television presenter and painter from Newport, Wales. She used to present a number of high-profile shows
  • Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen - Laurence gained his fine art degree at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts before going on to work for the design firm Peter Leonard Associates. His art website - which is actually really badly designed! His output has included Limited edition fine art prints for DeMontfort Fine Art (one of the major players in the UK repro print market)
  • Amber Le Bon - an English fashion model and the eldest of the three daughters of Duran Duran lead singer Simon Le Bon and model Yasmin Probably better known for attending the celeb preview of the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art with her parents. Not big on images on her Twitter feed. 
  • George Shelley - an English singer, television and radio presenter and actor. He is known as a former member of the boy band Union J. In 2015, he competed in the fifteenth series of the ITV reality show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! and finished as a runner-up. I'm guessing he's the male version of "the totty" - because those 'casting BBC programmes are so VERY predictable!

I'm trying to work why they are listed in this order. Is it in order of fee earned - or skill as a painter - or how long they lasted?

Interestingly, given the fact that the "names" are known for other reasons they are accorded the status of presenter (unlike The Artisans without a credit on Arts and Crafts House)

The rest is pretty much as indicated previously.



  • a four part series 
  • The Challenges will comprise
    • traditional - portraits, self-portraits, landscapes, still life and life drawings
    • fun challenges "with humour and a twist".
  • The Final will comprise "the toughest challenge yet"
  • A selection of paintings from the six artists will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to charity.
except for rather more detail about the nature of the first episode!

Episode 1

Six celebrities tackle the human form as they capture on canvas a nude Keith Allen and their own self-portraits. Our judges and the public pick whose art will hang in the gallery.

    Saturday, March 23, 2019

    Looking for Rembrandt - on BBC4 in April

    BBC4 is marking the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt's death by telling his story from how own perspective - despite the fact he fell on hard times towards the end of his life and left no diaries and fewer than 10 letters!

    crop of a Self-portrait c. 1628 by Rembrandt van Rijn, (painted age 22)
    oil on panel, h 22.6cm × w 18.7cm
    It's an experiment with light - and his curls are drawn in the wet paint with the butt end of his paintbrush

    Looking for Rembrandt

    Looking for Rembrandt is a BBC Four documentary told in 3 one hour episodes starting Tuesday 9th April. It's uniques insofar that the story is told via fragments of information about him in:
    • Amsterdam’s civic and legal archives
    • his 90 self-portraits
    • his many different paintings, etchings, and drawings
    It will have a curious cast of characters providing information - including art collectors, art restorers, hand surgeons, security consultants, insolvency lawyers, novelists, curators and graffiti artists. 

    The actor Toby Jones provides the voice of the artist as the series explores how such a great artist who was at one point the darling of Dutch high society could finally end up buried as a poor man in an unknown grave in the Westerkerk.

    Critical questions are addressed:
    • How could an artist made rich by the patronage of Amsterdam’s wealthiest elite come to declare bankruptcy? 
    • Why did he fall out of favour at a time when he was painting his greatest masterpieces?
    In the first of three episodes we learn how Rembrandt arrived in Amsterdam ‘like a thunderclap’ and was courted by the city’s wealthy elite, before falling into conflict with the city’s most powerful patrons. Jones explores the highs and lows of Rembrandt’s personal life too: from the new-found riches enjoyed with his wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh, to the tragedies that unfolded before him, leading to some of his most celebrated work.

    Self-portrait, Etching at a Window, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1648
    etching, h 160mm × w 130mm

    Biography of Rembrandt

    There's also a new biography of Rembrandt by Jonathan Bikker the curator of the new exhibition All the Rembrants at the Rijkmuseum
    In Rembrandt: Biography of a Rebel, takes us on a journey past all of the ups and downs of Rembrandt’s life in seventeenth century Leiden and Amsterdam. With humour, insight and compassion, he shows us Rembrandt’s genius and the novelty of his works, and brings the artist back to life – you will not get any closer to Rembrandt than this.
    Title: Rembrandt: Biography of a Rebel
    Author: Jonathan Bikker
    Design: Irma Boom
    Price: €25
    ISBN: Dutch 9789462084742
    English: 9789462084759

    Wednesday, March 20, 2019

    Review: Episode 6 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2019

    Episode 6 pf Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 was one of those where it was clear who definitely needed to be in the shortlist - but then there were a fair few also rans.

    What follows is my review of the sixth episode - with a commentary on themes - and there's more about how choices are made later on.

    The Artists, Self-portraits and Sitters

    Below is a short description of each of the participating artists. The links are to websites and social media sites in the artist's name. Most of the group were not social media savvy.

    If I've made a mistake with any of the links or details please let me know. How to contact me is in the side column of this blog - or you can comment on the link to this blog post on my Facebook page. I'll then correct PDQ!

    Professional Artists 

    Tai talking with Jixuan Chen about how he draws and paints in ink and the brushes he uses
    • Jixuan Chen (Facebook | Instagram) - video He paints in ink on paper - with two brushes in the same hand - one for outlining and the other for tone - and the change over between the two is too fast for my eyes! Art Education: 2018: MA (Painting Course) Royal College of Arts. London; 2015~2018: BA (Fine Art-Painting), Wimbledon College of Arts (UAL). London. Got to the final 200 in BP Portrait Artist Award in 2018. He completed his submission in 130 hours.
    • Salvatore Fullam (Facebook | Twitter) - video A professional artist from from Lucan, Co. Dublin. He paints from photos and technology but can also paint from life - as he did in the heat.  Not really got to grips with social media other than Facebook.
    • Sarah Gibson (Facebook) - video - From Cincinnati, OH. A contemporary realist artist, specializing in figurative works, portraits, and still-lifes. Spent seven years in Florence, with formal training in drawing and painting from the Angel Academy of Art and The Florence Academy of Art. Currently lives and works in the seaside town of Largs, on the west coast of Scotland - with her husband. Teaches part time at the Edinburgh Atelier of Fine Art and sells her own work.
    • Emil Nikolla (Facebook | Instagram) - video Lives and works in Beckenham in London. He drives a bus, teaches art and paints. Studied at the ΑΝΩΤΑΤΗ ΣΧΟΛΗ ΚΑΛΩΝ ΤΕΧΝΩΝ Athens School of Fine Arts - Greece's premier Art school ). He has exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
    • Rosso Spoto - video Born in Sicily. HTrack record of pre-selected for major competitions - but not yet selected. Website not kept up to date. No social media presence - although her work gets posted on social media.
    I strive to create a visual imagery with which the viewers can easily connect and engage creatively and critically.

      Amateur Artists 

      • Sebastien Bishop (Facebook | Instagram) - video. The consensus was/is that he produces some interesting drawings
      • Takwonda Mtawali - video an engineering student at the University of Sheffield. She paints using only primary colours.
      • Ellie Preston (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - video A Fine Art Graduate who works in an ice cream shop, paints every day and aspires to becoming a professional artist. Won the Brenda Landon prize for portrait painting at Chelsea
      • Stephen Wood - video An army veteran and part-time carpenter with no formal art training. His submission was only his third painting and his heat painting was his fourth. He paints in watercolour and uses the grid method

      The Self Portrait Review

      I loved Ross Spoto's passport photo approach to her self-portrait which provided personality as well as a clear indication of an ability to paint well and consistently - as is also evidenced by her website. Her self portrait charmed the Judges.

      Observations included:
      • disturbing and brilliantly off - "but I think that's why we liked it" - about Salvatore's large self -portrait
      • "lovely to have somebody working with watercolour in a different way". I thought this was an odd comment. It assumed watercolour is only painted in one way. I felt like sending the Judges on a watercolour appreciation course!
      • a tondo within a square was a very unusual composition which caught the eye.

      The Sitters

      The sitters were
      • Sophie Ellis Bextor - a British singer, songwriter and model and multi-platinum selling recording artist - who has an absolutely fascinating face
      • Adrian Lester - an Olivier Award winning actor on film and in television dramas. He's also a director, and writer.
      • Nitin Sawhney CBE CBE is a British Indian musician, producer and composer - who writes songs and music for film. In 2017 he received the Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement award

      Discussions and Observations

      Monday, March 18, 2019

      Review - Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2019 - and pricing issues

      the bottom half of the prizewinning painting by Jennifer McRae 
      This is about the recent Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize Exhibition. It covers:
      • the prizewinners
      • the nature of the artwork selected
      • the artwork I liked
      • pricing of artwork
      You can still see all the artwork in the virtual exhibition on the website - except you don't get a sense of size - and some were very big and some were very small.


      The wall of Lynn Painter-Stainers Prizewinners 2019

      First Prize (£20,000 and a Gold Medal): 

      Jennifer McRae, Past, present, future: tracing the female line (2018), £16,000

      I was fairly cockahoop having said in my blog post about selected artists last week
      Terrific contemporary figurative painting! This is who I'd give the LPS Award too. Jennifer McRae never ever disappoints.
      Seeing it in the exhibition, I was even more impressed with it.

      The concept behind it - of three generations in one painting - and the utter clutter of the artist's working surface (see top of post) were both a joy to behold.  What I like about Jennifer mcRae's portraits - and I've admired a few in the past few years - is that she's never averse to the subject who looks straight out of the canvas - right at you!

      Plus everything always feels quite natural - as if you've just walked through a door in her home (or the home of her sitters). There are very few portrait artists who can pull that off and I can only imagine it's something to do with the mindset of how she approaches her portrait painting.

      Second Prize (£4,000) 

      Lara Cobden, The Winterkeeper's Cabin (2018), £2,500

      UPDATE: Many apologies to Lara Cobden - as I omitted commenting of her painting by mistake before publishing!

      I kept getting a feeling before I saw it that is was somewhere heading into Peter Doig territory in terms of enigma and mystery - but not quite in terms of painterliness - although it's very well painted.  The painting certainly did not disappoint on viewing and I can well imagine that it was one of those which stuck in the brains of judges - which is what I always think a prizewinning painting should do.

      Young Artist Award (£4,000) - For an artist who is 25 years of age or under: 

      Ewan White, No.7 (2018)

      It's really good to see young artists tackling scenes involving a group of figures - a subject which is ignored by very many portrait artists. This domestic subject has a curious perspective but reminded me of some of the narrative paintings of the past.

      Brian Botting Prize (£5,000) - for an outstanding representation of the human figure

      Charlie Schaffer, Preston (2018), NFS

      I was extremely impressed with this portrait painting - and particularly liked the technique in relation to to the mark-making which you can see in the crop of detail below.  To me it's the type of portrait I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see in the BP Portrait Award.

      The Daphne Todd Prize: £2,000

      James Lloyd - in my room

      James Lloyd has a habit of winning prizes with self-portraits of painting in his studio! (See James Lloyd wins The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture 2008)

      Selected artwork

      I thought it a better exhibition than last year - and I LOVED the hang on the end wall - particularly the three central paintings.

      Friday, March 15, 2019

      Review: Episode 5 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2019

      I have no quibbles with the shortlist produced by Episode 5 of Portrait Artist of the Year.

      The self portrait and heat portrait of the shortlisted artists from Episode 5 (2019)
      Again we have an interesting mix of "amateur" painters and "professional" painters. I think I'm now understanding that those with another job say they are 'amateur'.

      Five amateur artists

      • Rubertine Allen - video - an ex fashion model who works as a billing analyst for a company in Northampton. 
      • Laxmi Hussein (FacebookInstagram) - video - BA (Hons) Architecture from London Metropolitan University. Freelance Artist/Illustrator. Mother of two small sons. Not coming across as an amateur to me - but maybe says she is because of full time her day job. Likes working with W&M Blue Drawing Ink - a lot!
      Laxmi’s distinctive style has attracted commissions for illustrations and artwork from a variety of commercial clients and individuals
      • Amelia Webster (Facebook | Instagram) - video - a Devon based artist, practicing in painting and portraiture. Graduated in Drawing, Painting and Printmaking at Plymouth College of Art in 2017 and has completed a foundation course in art therapy.  Currently an artist in residence with . disability charity - Hannahs at Seale Hayne in Devon. 
      • Henry Whaley - video - taught himself to paint last year while doing Art History at school.
      • Eve Pettitt (Instagram) - video - a yoga teacher from West London who paints as a silent and solitary experience. She trained at the Heatherley School of Fine Art and The Royal Drawing School. Predominantly a figurative painter, working directly from life, she exhibited at the 2017 annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and has a solid exhibition record.
      Increasingly concerned with colours and their relationships, Eve explores what happens when two colours meet, how they dance side by side and what occurs at the borderline.

      Four professional artists

      • Anastasia Shimshilashvili (Instagram | YouTube Channel) - video - Born in Moscow. MA in Fine Art, Surikov Academic Institute of Art, Moscow (2011). BA Monumental Art V.Surikov Moscow State Academy Art Institute (2009). Focuses a substantial amount of her time on teaching fine art, running a YouTube Art Channel, and recently publishing a 'self-teach' art book based on my teaching methods in Russia.
      • Graham Duddridge  - video - Studied Fine Art and Art History at Kent Institute of Art and Design, Aberystwyth School of Art and the The Art Academy London.
      • John Gledhill (Facebook | Twitter) - video - 1977-1980: Royal Academy Schools, London. (Awarded First Prize for Life Painting, 1978) Fine Artist at Kindred Studios
        Works at University of York. Regular exhibitor at the RA Summer Exhibition.
      • Catherine McDiarmid  (Facebook | Facebook (for her Art Classes)) - video - the only professional to announce herself as a Portrait Artist in the title of her site.  Winner of various awards. Previously appeared in Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2014 and 2017 painting Ashley Jenson and Ross Kemp both of whom chose her Portrait of them to keep. This is her blog post about My experience on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019. She has two works in the RI Exhibition 3 – 18 April 2019

      The Sitters

      The sitters for this Heat were:
      The theme of the day was rather more subdued this week (thank goodness!) and covered the Renaissance in terms of colours and techniques.

      Discussions and Observations

      Below are my observations on this week's Heat followed by the shortlist and why they got shortlisted and who won the Heat.

      Wednesday, March 13, 2019

      Owner of Artist Network, Wet Canvas & North Light Books files for Bankruptcy Protection

      I've just caught up with the news which broke earlier this week that F&W Media have filed for bankruptcy protection. 
      F+W Media, the multimedia company that publishes books, magazines, and digital content for hobbyists ranging from writers to quilters, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy March 10.
      F&W Media has two divisions withins its largely arts and crafts empire
      • Communities ($67.7 million in revenue in 2018) comprises 10-enthusiast categories and includes - for artists - Artists Network, Artists Network TV and Wet Canvas
      • Books ($22 million revenue in 2018) includes North Light books as well as a lot of other specialist arts and crafts imprints for hobbyists and a backlist of 2,100 titles - one of which is mine!  Others of which belong to some long time artist friends.
      I have written four books, which they have had me revise and expand for a total of eight. At last count, five were still in print, but they have frozen royalty payments and the authors haven’t been paid. This came as a shock last week. One of the authors
      F&W Fine Art includes:
      You can read the filing here - from which I can see that F&W Media owes significant money to various other art book publishers - which is somewhat worrying.

      It has outstanding debts totaling $105.2 million and only $2.5 million in available cash
      Authors of art instruction books who are due royalty cheques will be receiving nothing until such time as a sale of their imprint occurs - if this indeed happens. Whether they can retrieve their content (for publication elsewhere) should a sale not occur depends on how their contract is worded.

      I have little else other than links to news coverage at the moment
      Oddly there is absolutely no indication of the bankruptcy filing or what's happening on any of the F&W websites that I can find. I'm assuming that means either those administering the sites have not yet been told, have been told not to say anything in public and/or or nobody quite knows what to say about the devastating critique of the reasons for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing indicated by the current CEO
      The term Bankruptcy Protection is used because a bankruptcy filing in a court of law stops all collections activity and legal proceedings regarding debt and financial matters. BLP Bankruptcy Law Professionals
      UPDATE: This is the official site recording matters re. legal proceedings and there is a Creditors Meeting in early April.

      Pursuant to Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code, a meeting of creditors will be held on April 8, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. (prevailing Eastern Time) at the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building, 844 King Street, 2nd Floor, Rm. 3209, Wilmington, DE 19801.
      I'm not surprised by the fact of the bankruptcy protection filing - except by the length of time they have managed to last.
      The bankruptcy filings made this week by F+W Media offer a rare and revealing look at a company spinning out of control during the last two years, struggling with debt, the secular decline of print media, the loss of ad revenue, the harmful impact of free online content, and an ecommerce strategy that suddenly turned disastrous.
      It pains me to say this but I saw this coming a very long time ago when I realised that the owners failed to grasp the reality of the move of commerce to online and what the requirements are of a new type of business model. They seemed to have a vision of ecommerce which was was corporate and conglomerate and failed to realise how nimbler smaller operations would move faster to satisfy demand from its consumers.

      To my mind, it was a lumbering giant in an ecommerce world full of micro-entrepreneurs.

      Monday, March 11, 2019

      Call for Entries - Royal Society of British Artists 303rd Exhibition

      This is a reminder that you have until Friday 15th March 2019 to submit an entry to the 2019 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA)

      This post is about the Call for Entries. It covers
      • how to become a member of the RBA
      • who can enter
      • how to enter
      • the exhibition
      Last year, the RBA selected a record number of 174 works from the open submission.

      a view of part of the main gallery at last year's exhibition
      Artists are invited to submit works for exhibition alongside members of the Royal Society of British Artists at their Annual Exhibition 2019.
      This then is your opportunity to exhibit with the Royal Society of British Artists whose past exhibitions have included works by past members such as
      • James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) - who was RBA President 1886-1888
      • Walter Richard Sickert, RA (1860-1942) - Elected RBA President 1928 - 1930
      • LS Lowry, RA (1887-1976) - RBA Member 1935
      • amongst a number of other well known artists
      You too could have work selected from the open entry as Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) did when four of his works, each priced at £160, were included in the winter show of 1887/8!

      303rd Exhibition in 2019

      The 303rd exhibition in 2019 will be held in July 2019 at the Mall Galleries. It's usually held across all three galleries due to its size.
      • Opens on Thursday 4th July  2018 
      • Open to the public every day from 10am - 5pm (except the last day)
      • Closes at 1pm on Saturday 14th July 2019.
      • The Private View will be on Wednesday 3rd July 2018, 11am – 8pm - with speeches at 6pm.

      How to become a member of the RBA

      The RBA is a society where membership is often seen as a complement to membership of other national art societies. Indeed this was its original intention.
      A group of painters met at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on May 21st 1823, to form the ‘Society of British Artists’, whose manifesto stated, ‘This organisation was not formed to rival existing societies but that every Member was to be at liberty to assist and support any other society.’
      Those wanting to join the Society are invited to submit to the annual exhibition. You'll need to submit and be selected for several annual exhibitions before you are accepted as a member.

      This is how to join the RBA

      Candidates for membership are exhibited in one part of the exhibition (and of the five people who exhibited at the 2018 exhibition who I said I hoped to see as members of the RBA after the exhibition, four of the five now are!)
      On average, there are 110 members elected to the RBA, all of whom are entitled to exhibit in the Annual Exhibition which is held at Mall Galleries in London. The membership procedure is competitive; candidates will normally be expected to have previously exhibited several times with the Society after which they may apply for election to the RBA.
      artwork in the north gallery last year

      Call for Entries Royal Society of British Artists 2019


      There are many prizes and awards available to win, including:

      Cash Prizes

      • The de Laszlo Foundation Prize: The de Laszlo Medal and £1,500 will be awarded to the artist aged 35 or under for the best art work from life
      • The Patron's Prize: £500
      • The Stuart Southall Print Prize: £250
      • The Gordon Hulson Memorial Prize for Draughtsmanship, Variety & Exploration: £200
      • The Nathan David Award for Sculpture: £150
      • The Davison Award for Oil Painting: £100
      • The Geoffrey Vivis Memorial Award: £100
      • The Anthony J Lester Art Critic Award: £50

      Tuition Prize

      • The LARA Prize for a Young Artist: Short course at London or Bristol

      Publication Prizes

      • The Artist Magazine Award: The winner will be interviewed in The Artist magazine, print and digital editions
      • The Dry Red Press Award: The winning work will be published as a greeting card in the Dry Red Press 'Prize Winners' range, with royalties from the sale of the cards going to the artist

      Art Materials Prizes

      • The Michael Harding Awards: Two awards of £500 worth of Michael Harding art materials, and 10 painting starter sets
      • The Winsor & Newton Painting Award: Art materials to the value of £500
      • Hahnemuhle Fine Art UK Award: A prize of artist paper, worth £250
      • Frinton Frames Award: £200 of picture framing at Frinton Frames bespoke handfinished picture frame makers

      Who can Submit?

      This is an OPEN EXHIBITION.

      Any artist - over the age of 18 - living anywhere in the world can submit artwork to this exhibition.
      I recommend you also have a read of my review of last year's exhibition before deciding on your submission. It has LOTS of images of the exhibition.

      What can you submit?

      • Acceptable media: Any medium including sculpture and original prints.
      • Age of artwork: no requirement
      • No. of artworks: up to six - of which up to four will be selected
      • Previous exhibitions: Work must not have been exhibited previously.
      • Dry: Paintings should be completely dry at the time of delivery (or they won't be hung)
      • Size: Works should not be larger than 2.4m along the longest dimension.
      • For Sale: All work must be for sale
      • Price: The minimum price is £300 (framed prints: £180, unframed prints: £120).
      I'm a big fan of art societies who refuse to allow people to exhibit work they have previously exhibited elsewhere - it makes for a better exhibition of work which is fresh to the eye.

      the RBA Exhibition in the Threadneedle Space last year

      How to enter

      Entry is digital - after the preselection, artists will be invited to submit work for the second stage review.

      • All entries are via digital submission online. (You cannot bring your artwork to London to enter)
      • Images must be in JPEG format and under 5MB]
      • Entry fee is £18 per work payable at the time of submitting (£12 per work for artists aged 35 or under) and includes free admission to all artists SUBMITTING work to the exhibition (normally £4).


      HMRC define you as an overseas seller if you sell goods stored in the UK to UK consumers and do not have a business establishment in the UK.  In this instance the Mall Galleries acts as your agent.

      Those submitting from outside the UK must decide 
      • whether they need to register for VAT in advance (see Overseas business and VAT)
      • engage an art carrier to deliver their work

      Timeline - submission to exhibition

      • Submission closes: Friday 15 March 2019, 12 noon
      • Pre-selection: Monday 18 March, 10am to 5pm
      • Pre-selection notification: Friday 22 March, 12 noon
      • Receiving Day: Saturday 27 April, 10am to 5pm
      • Selection Day: Tuesday 30 April, 10am to 5pm
      • Acceptance notification: Wednesday 1 May, 12 noon
      • Collection of unaccepted work: Friday 3 May, 10am to 5pm
      • Private View: Wednesday 3 July, 11am to 8pm (speeches at 6pm)
      • Exhibition open: Thursday 4 July 10am to 5pm
      • Exhibition closes: Sunday 14 July, 1pm

      TIP: This is a link to images and details of the artwork in last year's exhibition which is on the RBA website. I've ordered it by price - starting with the lowest priced. You can see which ones sold.

      I expressed the view last year that some of those who were exhibiting were using very silly prices.

      I recommend you study carefully the price ranges for different sized work - and work in different media - and which sold.  That gives you some sort of context for a submission this week.