Friday, January 03, 2020

Call for Entries: Portrait Artist of the Year 2020 (Season 6)

The deadline for entries for Series 6 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year is Friday 7th February 2020.  You have five weeks left to get your entry together.

If you want to enter this very popular art competition you need to be an artist who can cope with producing good portrait paintings in a short amount of time!

This post looks at:
  • the benefits of entering this competition and getting selected for a Heat
  • the benefits of winning the competition
  • the downside for those who enter without doing their research and prep first!
  • how to enter

The benefits of entering Portrait Artist of the Year 

The producers are looking for 72 artists to paint across 8 heats
The success of the show depends on the standard of the art produced, so from the outset the programme is a genuine celebration of good art and an intelligent, fascinating examination of the artistic process.


Heats for this particular competition are filmed in March and April 2020. However the programme will not be broadcast until early 2022.

Taking part in a heat means
  • being watched by LOTS of people - and gives you the opportunity to raise your profile if you impress those viewing with your portrait (PLUS you might be invited back for a second go)
  • facing a challenge you're unlikely to experience ever again
  • becoming part of a community of artists who've "got the 'I've been on PAOTY' T-shirt"
....artists who participate report that their experience was not only positive for their career in terms of the exposure, but also thoroughly enjoyable and surprisingly useful for their artistic evolution.


The benefits include
  • the chance to win a £10,000 commission for a portrait of a well known figure for a major British institution - to be painted in a fairly short space of time.
  • £500 of art materials from Cass Art
  • you become a well known name - due to the fact that it's the most popular art programme on television - and there are LOTS of people watching!

The less wonderful side of entering

You may well come to regret entering IF
  • you fancied being on the box so you could tell all your friends about it BUT
    • you didn't do your homework (see my reviews of learning points at the bottom of this blog post)
    • you didn't practise in advance working to 3 hours (i.e. nobody gets 4 hours!)
    • your portrait was an absolute mess and looked really awful
  • you find out that:
    • being watched by LOTS of people at the Heat is really, really distracting
    • the camera teams and production team are more interested in making a television programme than letting you get on without any interruptions - or even sight of the sitter
    • having a meltdown because you can't cope / finish on time does not help you OR the other heat participants (although no footage will appear on tv)

Here's how to enter

This is a summary of:
  • WHO can enter Portrait Artist of the Year 2020
  • PROCESS: how the competition works
  • Plus TIPS on how to enhance your entry.
You can also follow Sky Arts’ Twitter and Facebook page for updates.

Who can enter

The Competition is open to all artists – amateur, professional or hobbyists - but there are some restrictions.
We do not cast for characters – instead, our expert judges select participants based purely on the quality of their submission artwork.
They may not cast for characters however the producers really do need to improve their screen out the obvious OTT self-publicists who create with "dramatic effect". There was one such in the 2019 Landscape Artists competition last year and it seriously undermined the credibility of the programme.

How about taking a look at websites before making the final selection? They tell you an awful lot about whether an artist is likely to make a good contribution or prove to be an utter distraction.

You can ONLY enter if YOU are:
  • aged 16 or over as at 16th October 2019
  • in good health
  • have been LEGALLY resident in the UK, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland for AT LEAST one year on 16th October 2019
  • the holder of a current valid passport.
You will, upon request, provide the Producer with supporting documentation in order to substantiate this, and will immediately notify the Producer of any change in Your immigration or residential status. Terms and Conditions ‘Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2021’
Those aged who are not yet 18 years old MUST ALSO have parents who provide:
  • written agreement to you entering
  • written consent to you being filmed prior to filming.
  • accompany you at all filming - or send a nominated adult. 
This is NOT a competition where your Mum, your best mate or your spouse can enter you without you knowing! People can help you with the entry process but it must be YOUR ENTRY. 

You are NOT able to enter if you have been a finalist or winner of ANY previous Artist of the Year competition run by Sky Arts (i.e. Portrait or Landscape).

How to enter

The self portrait

First you need to create your self-portrait! Note any previous applicants who were selected can only reapply if they submit a BRAND NEW self-portrait.
  • I'd advise those who have applied before and not been selected to paint a new portrait and make sure it's better than the last one.
Your self-portrait which needs to be:
  • a portrait of the applicant, by the applican
      created in the last 5 years 
    • measuring a maximum of 1220 x 914 mm (48” x 36”) MINUS frame. 
    • in any of all normal drawing and painting media. Collage and Mixed media works are also allowed. 
    • Note: Photography, video, sculpture and all forms of digital media are EXCLUDED. 

    The application form

    TIP - do NOT recycle your application from last time. That's just guaranteed to irritate the judges and ensure you waste your entry fee!

    Make sure you get your entry right first time! This is what you need to do:
    • YOU need to complete/submit the online application form - read it all through first before you try to complete it.
    • YOU need to upload digital images (low resolution JPEG - I suggest 150dpi - no less than 800KB and ideally no more than 1.5MB) of paintings created by YOU. These are: 
      • an image of your self portrait (one image only - and your photo also needs to show the entire portrait and exclude the frame)
      • one image only of another portrait - ideally from life and MINUS frame 
      • an OPTIONAL further image of another painting. Make sure both the work and the photo is good. 
    • PLUS you need to upload one passport style photograph of yourself (maximum size of 500 kb). This is where it's worth practising looking photogenic for the cameras rather than "startled in the headlights / practising for a mugshot"
      The images of the Self Portrait Entry and the Additional Works of Art must NOT be manipulated in any way and must be of the work of art entered.

      Sky Arts provides a useful guide on How to Photograph Art. READ IT!

      Portrait Artist of the Year - Process & Timeline

      In outline, this is how the competition works from the call to entries to the broadcast of the final programme in February 2022.

      The process pre-selection

      Complete the entry and submit online. See above

      Closing Date for Entries - deadline 12pm (midday) on Friday, 7th February 2020. (a fortnight earlier than last year).

      Selection of 72 artists from the entry submissions to participate in the Heats (9 artists for each of the 8 Heats). 
      A panel of Judges will review the Self Portrait Entry(s) and the Additional Works of Art from all the valid Competition entries and select the artists who will be invited to attend one of the Heats.
      "A panel of Judges" is a wonderful phrase. My theory is that people other than the Judges for the Programme may well screen the entries prior to letting the Judges in the programme see them - to remove all the absolute no hopers and avoid wasting their time. In part I guess it depends on how many entries they get and how many and how awful the 'no hopers' are.

      Notification: Successful entrants (“Shortlisted Artists”) will be notified of the result of their entry on or shortly following 24th February 2020 
      • shortlisted artist i.e. you will be allocated a heat and a specific date 
      • you may be asked to be a Reserve Shortlisted Artist - a number of standby artists may take the place of a Shortlisted Artist if they are no longer able to take part / do not turn up on time on the day of the heat
      • non-successful entrants 

      Battersea Arts Centre

      Filming of Portrait Artist of the Year will take place in March/April 2020 on weekdays at the Battersea Arts Centre in London, from 24th March to 2nd April. 
      • Take your unframed self-portrait and painting kit to the Heat (and possibly additional artworks) . All shortlisted artists must be able to transport the self-portrait to the heat as the self-portrait forms part of the judging process. All paintings are handed over for the duration of the making and screening of the programme i.e. you won't get them back until Summer 2020
      • You have to paint a portrait from life in a maximum of 4 hours over a period of 6 hours. The sessions are typically 45 minutes long before a short break (plus a longer break for lunch). The reality is you get a lot less than 4 hours because of filming.

      Note what you cannot bring to the BAC if you come to watch

      • Episodes 1-8 - Heats are filmed in the Grand Hall at the Battersea Arts Centre where the public can also watch (If planning to come and watch - either in advance of your heat or as a member of the public - note what it says about bag searches). Dates of the Heats are below
        • Heat 1 – Tuesday 24th March 2020 
        • Heat 2 – Wednesday 25th March 2020
        • Heat 3 - Thursday 26th March 2020 
        • Heat 4 – Friday 27th March 2020 
        • Heat 5 – Monday 30th March 2020 
        • Heat 6 – Tuesday 31st March 2020 
        • Heat 7 - Wednesday 1st April 2020 
        • Heat 8 - Thursday 2nd April 2020
        • you can see lots of pics of previous heats in my blog posts at the bottom of this page. Note in particular the distance between artist and sitter - and that people and cameras will be getting in the way from time to time
      • Episode 9 - Six Heat Winners meet for the Semi-Final
      • Episode 10 - The Final culminating in the announcement of the winner
      • Episode 11 -  The Commission - a programme about "the artist of the year journey" and painting the commission.

      At The Heats

      The programmes are presented by Stephen Mangan (his second portrait artist series) and Joan Bakewell. The latter is in her late 80s and has been a leading figure in the arts for nearly six decades.

      The Judging Panel has stayed consistent for four series. The Judges are: 
      • award-winning portrait painter Tai Shan Schierenberg
      • independent curator and Chair of the Board of the Liverpool Biennial Kathleen Soriano (who also used to be the Head of Exhibitions & Collection at the National Portrait Gallery and Director of Exhibitions at the RA) and
      • British art historian, curator and arts broadcaster Kate Bryan.
      Shortlisted Artists will be asked to produce an artwork depicting a Portrait of a Sitter allocated by the Producer
      i.e. you don't get to choose
      • who you paint
      • where you put your easel - watch the programmes to see how far the easel is from the sitter. The reason people use iPads is because they can't see the sitter's face properly!
      The Shortlisted Artists will have a maximum of 4 hours over a 6 hour period (or such other period as the Producer at its discretion may determine) to complete their Heat Artwork.
      To get shortlisted for the final three of the Heat - your painting is judged on the results produced at the end of heat, whether you think the artwork to be finished or not.

      Reviewing the submission and the heat portrait 

      To win the Heat and progress to the Semi-Final the self-portrait for each of the three shortlisted artists will also be taken into account. Hence why the self-portrait you send in with your entry is really important - it's going to be a key reason why you got selected for the Heats AND the reason why you might win a Heat!
      The panel of Judges may take the Shortlisted Artists’ Portrait Entry(s) and their Additional Works of Art into consideration during this judging process, and all of the criteria for judging and the decisions of the Judges shall be at the discretion of the Judges and the Producer and shall not be not open to dispute or discussion.
      What I noticed in the Heats in 2019 is the consistency in terms of approach and style by the shortlisted three - which read across from submission to heat painting .  If there's a major discrepancy between the self-portrait and the portrait produced in the Heat, you are unlikely to proceed further - unless you do even better than expected! 

      One aspect of the "quid pro quo" for the celebrity sitters is that they each get to choose one of the finished portraits to keep for themselves (on permanent load) – regardless of whether that artist went through to the next stage. So even if you don't get through you may be able to say your paintings is now in the sitter's collection. It can change your life even if you don't get to the final!

      The Semi Final and Final

      Provisional dates for the Semi Final and Final - at a location "somewhere in London" - are as follows
      • Semi Final - Tuesday 21st April 2020 - probably at Battersea Arts Centre
      • Final - Thursday 21st May 2020 - probably at the National Portrait Gallery (which will not yet have closed!)
      If You are chosen as a Semi-Finalist or Finalist and are asked to travel away from home or are invited to attend the Final, the Producer shall supply and pay for Your reasonable and pre-agreed travel and hotel costs plus a daily allowance of £25 per day, or part thereof.
      The Semi Finalists will consist of the winners of each of the Heats

      All Semi-Finalists compete on an equal basis with an equal chance of reaching and winning the Final.

      Just look at the gap between the sitter and the artists. No wonder people use iPads!
      I think they may possibly be reconsidering the format for the Semi Finals.
      The Producer may ask all of the Semi Finalists to depict the same Sitter, or the Semi Finalists may be divided into groups to paint the same Sitter per group, or each Semi Finalist may be required to depict different Sitters
      Personally I think the current format needs a rethink not least because I know what happened in the 2019 Semi-Final(!) and saw how far painters were from the subject when I attended the 2020 Semi-Final.

      Finalists are asked to complete a further two Portraits

      These are:
      • to be produced within a 2 week period with sitter, dates and timings determined by the Producer
      • an artwork created and filmed at a location in London on Thursday 21st May 2020
      The Final 2019 - you can't always see the sitter for the cameramen
      and it comes worse because now there are only three of you!

      The winner must then agree to be available between the Final and 30th November 2020 to produce the Winner’s Prize Artwork - and a documentary on exact dates to be determined by the Producer.

      My best wishes if you do decide to have a go.

      You are advised to read all the terms and conditions at least twice!  PARTICULARLY in relation to
      • your commitment
      • reimbursement
      • copyright
      • publicity
      • criminal / civil actions 
      If you are chosen as a Shortlisted Artist, or a Reserved Shortlisted Artist, the Producer will make an ex gratia payment of £50 (fifty pounds) towards your travel/hotel and subsistence costs incurred in attending the Heats.
      If You are chosen as a Semi-Finalist or Finalist and are asked to travel away from home or are invited to attend the Final, the Producer shall supply and pay for Your reasonable and pre-agreed travel and hotel costs plus a daily allowance of £25 per day, or part thereof.
      For example - note that this show tries very hard not to be a competition for showoffs and blabbermouths! i.e. you can say nothing and show nothing until your episode has been broadcast.
      You will not without the Producer’s or Sky’s prior written consent disclose, publicise or discuss with any third party and/or otherwise publish or transmit (on any platform, including all forms of social media) any information or photographs relating to the Series, Your appearance or participation in or contribution to the Series, the production team or any participants in the Series nor any other information which may come to Your attention (including without limitation in relation to the Producer or Sky or otherwise) save where such information is already public knowledge. Breach of confidentiality is a serious matter and the Producer reserves the right to disqualify You if You disclose any confidential information.
      So even though I didn't enter, I'm sitting on all my photos of the 2020 Heats, semi Final and Final until they have been been broadcast! ;)


      This is probably the most important post for all those who don't have Sky - it's how I watch the competition - except I now use a Now TV stick plugged into my television

      Learning Points re the 2019 competition

      Below - 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 2018 competition

      These are my reviews of the competition in 2018 highlighting learning points - as it was broadcast. More than one of those artists who participated in 2019 thanked me a lot for the commentary and advice - including some who went a long way!

      Review: The Final of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018
      Review: Semi Finals of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018
      Review: Episode 8 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018
      Review: Episode 7 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018
      Review: Episode 6 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018
      Review: Episode 5 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018
      Review: Episode 4 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018
      Review: Episode 3 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018
      Review: Episode 2 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018
      Review: Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018 - Episode 1

      plus previous posts re other years