Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Review: Episode 4 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2019

Episode 4 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 seemed different and I'm not quite sure why. 
  • the Judges picked their shortlist in record time 
  • the Twittersphere did not go into meltdown. 
  • Instead we had lots of tweets commenting that even the Judges can get it right some of the time!
The best portrait (of Beverley Knight) in Episode 4 - by Archie Wardlaw
I'm not going to repeat what I've said in other reviews of this series other than this post includes:
  • a list of the professional and amateur artists participating in Episode 3 of the series
  • my commentary on themes which I spotted
  • who got shortlisted
  • who won the Heat and goes through to the Semi-Finals.
More about the competition and the judges in my first blog post - listed at the end.

The Artists, Self-portraits and Sitters

You will find links to:
  • the artist's website - embedded in their name - click the link to see more of their artwork
  • artists' social media accounts if I can find them online.
  • the speeded up time lapse video of each artist working on their portrait - which means that even if you can't watch the television episode you can at least see the portraits being painted
Please contact me (see side column or via Facebook Page) re. any inadvertent errors of spelling or links ASAP

Oddly, this Heat has more contestants without a website or any social media presence.

The Professional Artists

The five professional artists were:
  • Archie Wardlaw (Facebook | Instagram) - video - He is a contemporary painter specialising in portraiture and still life. He studied Classics and Philosophy with Mandarin at the University of Exeter and then trained for five years in the Classical Atelier method at London Fine Art Studios where he is now a senior tutor.  He has also taught art to the inmates of a prison. He lives in London and undertakes portrait commissions from his studio at Battersea Business Centre in London.
  • Dante Turner - video - Nothing much online. A Peruvian artist who lives in Somerset with his husband. He won the Public Choice Prize at Wells Art Contemporary (WAC) Competition and Exhibition in 2016.
  • Daisy Murdoch - video - Lives and works in the Cotswold Village of Amberley, near Stroud. She works predominantly in oils, painting small still lives and portraits
  • Zoe Beaudry (Facebook | Instagram) - video -  (b. 1991) an American artist from East Lansing, Michigan, specializing in oil painting with an emphasis on portraiture and the figure. BA in studio art from Kalamazoo College in 2014 and her MFA from The Glasgow School of Art in 2018. In in 2019 was featured in the annual FBA Futures exhibition at Mall Galleries in London. Currently on a residency with Kriti Gallery in Varanasi!
  • Jane Clatworthy (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - video - a figurative artist based in London. Her studio is in Earlsfield. Born in the north of England, raised in Zimbabwe, lived most of her adult life in South Africa. Did a portrait Diploma at Heatherly's Art School. This is an Interview with Jane Clatworthy. She wasn't joking about the thing she liked to paint best!  It's the first time I've looked at a contestant's website and recognise people in the portraits on the website!  This is how she saw Stephen Graham on the day of filming.

Amateur Artists

  •  Shalewa Olayiwola - video - a 19 year old psychology student.
  •  Romy Kelleher - video - age 17; lives in Hertforshire. D doing her 'A' Levels after the competition. This was her first self portrait and it took her four hours to complete it which was impressive. 
  •  Feisal Brimah (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - video - Revenues Officer with Brent Council who paints in his spare time. He prefers painting animals.
  • Robyn Parker (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) - video - 28 year old Artist and School Photographer based in Clacton, Essex. She specialises in coloured pencil drawings, oil paintings and Ink work and also runs workshops - including taster sessions for those who'd like to try alcohol ink work. Wants to be a full time artist.

The Review of the Self Portrait Wall

Art is like handwriting. The more you do it the more you develop a style. Age has nothing to do with it. How much you've painted has.

When you have finished watching the programme, go back and review the self-portraits again and ask yourself
  • what's the difference between the self portrait and the heat portrait when reviewing those who were shortlisted and everybody else?
  • what's the difference between between the short-listed heat portrait and the self-portrait submitted in advance?
  • Do they look like they've both been produced by the same artist? 
That's the really important point about the self-portraits. You need to assess if they've been done by the same person. In the case of the shortlisted artists / heat winner it's often very easy to give a very fast response.

The Sitters

The three sitters were:
  • Anna Chancellor - actress
  • Beverley Knight - singer
  • Stephen Graham - actor
I always think the chairs could be more helpful to the sitters. It might just be me. Every time I look at them and think I'd be walking straight out again, saying "I'll be back once you've got me a chair which is suitable for sitting completely still for four hours".

Discussions and Observations

Slavery to Technology

two amateur painters taking photos of the sitter before they start
Every series at some point we hear about the judges dislike for the use of technology.

I'm going to go on record as saying I think they're being unfair. That said I'm a huge subscriber to the notion that painting from life brings an added extra which painting from a photo cannot deliver.

However if you are going to place people under a roof of glass where the lighting changes throughout the day and certainly over the four hours - if not within four minutes - artists need a reference point for the light they started with.

That said those who simply draw from and stare at their iPhones and iPads throughout the day will always tend to draw comments such as that made by Kathleen
"Shall we just tell Beverley she can go home?"
Photographic records have their place. However so does working from life - and I'm positive that those who work only from their iPads have to produce something very special to get shortlisted.

Getting the Likeness

A lot of the episode revolved around whether or not the artists captured the likeness. In part this was because so many either never did or took a long time to develop the likeness.

By way of contrast, at least one artist had the likeness very fast.

In this series, "getting the likeness" seems to be something of a threshold test.
  • Either - in a heat where many are failing to achieve the likeness - it's a very quick sift test to sort the contenders from those who won;t make the short list.
  • Or, the artist needs to be doing something absolutely amazing if they are to get through despite not quite getting the likeness

Seduce the Judges with unusual media and technique

One of the problems seems to be there's some sort of unwritten rule which means that there needs to be some diversity at the short list stage i.e. too many portraits painted in the same media in the same way are not allowed.

This if course plays to the strengths of those who do not use oils or acrylic and whose paintings look very different to everybody else.

If on top of that you can intrigue the judges with how you use your media - which they may have never seen before in terms of how you use it, you are in with a very good chance of making it to the shortlist if you can also pull off a good likeness.

Experience will out

In a competitive situation, with all the stresses and strains that can bring, it is naive at best and stupid at worst, to do something you've never done before - or only done a few times.
  • How do we get people selected for the Heats who have only ever done one self-portrait? 
  • How do we get people working in media they have very limited experience of?
  • Why do we get people whose heat portraits look so very different to their self-portraits?
My own view is they rule themselves out of contention very fast.

The answer to how not to be those people is to develop experience before you apply.

Experience provides you with
  • the ability to work to time (and stop when you've finished) and 
  • the confidence to know what to do when things need sorting out.

Decision Time

Sitters choose portrait to take home

Anna Chancellor (sitter) with Robyn Parker - whose portrait she chose
The portraits the artists chose came as no surprise
  • Anna Chancellor chose the portrait by Robyn Parker - and felt it was the one which might look best in her house. 
  • Beverley Knight chose the portrait by Archie Wardlaw
  • Stephen Graham chose the portrait by Jane Clatworthy.  He felt she'd made the best job of capturing him.

Things the Judges liked

  • artist who captured the likeness of the individual
  • artists who captured the spirit and real sense of the person i.e. "who he/she is" NOT just "what does he/she look like"
  • artists who remained in control of their media all day
  • impressive use of a palette knife
  • impressive use of charcoal

Judges were less impressed with

  • artists who failed to capture the likeness
  • glaring errors in terms of proportions
  • techniques that looked like visual tricks rather than genuine style
  • portraits which were a bit too graphic / comic book style

The Shortlist and Heat Winner - and a really fast choice

Some very pleased Judges who worked very fast in this Heat
The Judges commented on how FAST they managed to arrive at who should be in the Shortlist - in under a minute.

I'm personally not surprised. To me there were only four contenders. I think Jane Clatworthy lost out to Archie Wardlaw (you can hear them talking about the technique used for her heat portrait vs her SP) and her palette knife technique could not improve on the "difference" element introduced by the two other shortlisted artists who were both very different to Archie.

waiting for the announcement of the shortlist
The Judges chose:
  • Shalewa Olayiwola - an amateur - who worked really fast and effectively 
  • Archie Wardlaw - an art teacher who was a role model in doing not just saying 
  • Robyn Parker - who demonstrated an art medium which was new to the Judges and how to control it.
Left to right: Robyn Parker, Archie Wardlaw and Shalewa Olayiwola
These are their self portraits and with their heat paintings - and remember what I said earlier about the lack of a gap between the submission and the performance in the Heat?

Shalewa Olayiwola
I was surprised at the difference in size of the two pieces and the speed with which Shalewa worked to complete her Heat Portrait. Like Archie she finished the background as well a the head.

Archie Wardlaw
Archie's two portrait were developed in a traditional way and both bear the mark of an artist who knows what he is doing, is in control of his medium and knows what to do to check whether his portrait is on track or not. He reflected as well as painted - and painting without thinking rarely produces a good result.

Interestingly because his submission was small his heat portrait looked more impressive as a result - although both were of head and upper torso.

He was also the only painter in wet media to finish a portrait properly in the sense of completing the background.

Robyn Parker
I very much liked Robyn's self portrait. I think her Heat Portrait would have looked even better on a better sized support

Episode 3 Winner

line up of the self-portraits and heat portraits for each of the shortlisted artists

Waiting to hear who has won the Heat

Unsurprisingly, the Judges chose Archie Wardlaw as their winner. I'm not in the least bit surprised - and nor were many of those who follow the competition and tweet about it. The consensus was Archie was very definitely the winner.

As the other two shortlisted artists pointed out, it's always nice to lose to somebody who is just so much better than you are - because then you never ever feel short-changed!

This is the video of Archie painting his portrait of Beverley Knight - which will at some point be hanging in her home.

ARCHIE_ WARDLAW: Time lapse - Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 from N9 Design on Vimeo.

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

BELOW are my blog posts from this year's series so far which contains lots of learning points about painting in this competition for those aspiring to compete in future.

Learning Points re the 2019 competition

How to enter PAOTY 2020 and how to watch if you don't have Sky

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!