Monday, October 12, 2020

Call for Entries: Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 (Season 8)

It's a big week for Portrait Artist of the Year this week.

  • Series 7 kicks off 8pm on Wednesday 14th October 2020 on Sky Arts (see my post Sky Artist of the Year (Portrait and Landscape) returns last week). It's not the series which relates to 2020 because that started in January this year.
  • PLUS Portrait Artist of the Week returns every Sunday from 10am-2pm from 18th October – 13th December 2020 on (I'll do a reminder on Saturday about this)
  • AND the Call For Entries for Series 8 opens on Thursday 15th October!!

Series 8: - Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year

The deadline for entries for Series 8 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year is Friday 29 January 2021 extended to Monday 1st February 12:00 midday  

You have 3.5 months to get your entry together.

HOWEVER 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.


The plan is that HEATS for this particular competition will be filmed at Battersea Arts centre in March 2021. 
We hope to open the heats to the public but this will be subject to government guidance closer to the time 
If you’d like to receive information on filming dates and locations and updates about the series join their mailing list and follow Sky Arts TwitterInstagram and Facebook pages.

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.
  • 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 (if that in fact happens - it all depends on the pandemic progression)
    • 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 Series 8 (to be filmed and broadcast in 2021)
  • 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.
You should be in good health and know of no reason why You should not be able to participate in the Competition.
Goes without saying really.  Don't be silly - no matter how much you want to participate. You're bound to get tested (maybe in more ways than one) - because no TV company needs a newspaper article about how they infected all the people working on a programme. So expect them to be very strict about testing and controls.
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.

I'm not convinced that the competition isn't being ageist in terms of seeming to select younger and younger artists each year. I'd like to see a lot of older artists apply and have a go!
Is Portrait Artist of the Year failing to reflect the diversity agenda by being ageist?
Or do older people just not enter art competitions - because they think they'll be ignored?

You can ONLY enter if YOU are:
  • aged 16 or over as at 15th October 2020
  • 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 15th October 2020
  • 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 Series 8’ (working title) Competition
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).
Those 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.

How to enter


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 applicant 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. 

Self portraits of the Heat Winners at the Semi Final in April 2019.


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.
All information supplied (including personal details) in Your entry or otherwise provided must be truthful, accurate, complete and in no way misleading. We reserve the right to disqualify You if You have supplied untruthful, inaccurate, misleading or incomplete personal details and/or information

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 - probably in December 2021.

The process pre-selection

Complete the entry and submit online. See above

Closing Date for Entries - deadline 12pm (midday) on Friday 29 January 2021.  (a week 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 19th February 2021 
  • 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 
You can also be invited to be a Reserve Artist - which I suspect means you step in if somebody has had contact with Covid-19 and is no longer able to take part.
Each heat will have its own number of Reserve Shortlisted Artists and which Reserve Shortlisted Artist is selected to fill any opening is at the sole discretion of the Producer. Reserve Shortlisted Artists could be called upon up any time from the day of agreement to be a Reserve Shortlisted Artist to the morning of a Heat.
Filming of Portrait Artist of the Year will take place in March 2021 on weekdays in London, from 16-25th March.  

My guess is they will continue to use Battersea Arts Centre given they know the building and the people running it. Whether there will be an audience is anybody's guess.  It's not a well ventilated room so I think if they do numbers will be very strictly limited and must be booked in advance.

The programmes will be presented by Stephen Mangan (his second portrait artist series). It's unclear whether Joan Bakewell will be there given her age (late 80s). I suspect she will in future focus on leading on Portrait Artist of the Week instead - as she did in May / June this year.

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.

At The Heats

This is what you have to do
  • Episodes 1-8 - Heats will be filmed in London. Dates of the Heats are below
    • Heat 1 – Tuesday 16th March 2021 
    • Heat 2 – Wednesday 17th March 2021
    • Heat 3 - Thursday 18th March 2021 
    • Heat 4 – Friday 19th March 2021 
    • Heat 5 – Monday 22nd March 2021 
    • Heat 6 – Tuesday 23rd March 2021
    • Heat 7 - Wednesday 24th March 2021 
    • Heat 8 - Thursday 25th March 2021
    • 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
While the Producer fully intends to stage the Heats on the dates outlined above, the Producer reserves the right to alter the dates above if necessary for the needs of production.
  • 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 
Your original Self Portrait Entry and Additional Works of Art, on request, must be given to the Producer on loan to the Producer until the all episodes of the Series have been first broadcast by Sky or any further Exhibition  
  • 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!
Overview of Episode 6 of the last series
check out the distance between the artist and the sitter!!
  • You then 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.
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 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!  
    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!  
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.

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 

  • Episode 9 - Six Heat Winners meet for the SEMI-FINAL
    • All Semi-Finalists compete on an equal basis with an equal chance of reaching and winning the Final.
    • 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.
The Semi Final is intended to take place at a London location on Tuesday 13th April 2021 
If You are chosen as a Semi-Finalist, and in addition to the Semi Final Date, You agree to be available if requested by the Producer at any location (including, without limitation, Your home) for further filming between 14th -21st April 2021 (during any times requested by the Producer between from 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.).
  • Episode 10 - The FINAL culminating in the announcement of the winner - which will NOT be at the National Portrait Gallery due to the fact that this is closed. Finalists are asked to complete a further two Portraits. These are:
    • to be produced within ONE DAY (this is a major change)  with sitter, dates and timings determined by the Producer
The dates and times that the Finalists shall be given to complete the first of the Final Artworks shall be determined by the Producer, and may be within a set time period on a single day or over a number of days, and the Producer may film any or all of this process. 
    • an artwork created and filmed at a location in London on Thursday 22nd April 2021.
  • Episode 11 -  The Commission - 
    • this is the work you do for the prize - a £10,000 Commission
    • a programme about "the artist of the year journey" and painting the commission.
    • You must be available between the Final Date and 4th July 2021 to produce the Winner’s Prize Artwork on exact dates to be determined by the Producer.  

The Producer will have the right to film You working at the Winner’s Prize Location, in Your home/studio at work on the Winner’s Prize Artwork and at any other necessary locations.  

and finally......

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 - which you assign to the Producer of the Programme
  • 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.


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
How to watch Sky Arts - Portrait Artist of the Year 2018 without subscribing to Sky

These are previous posts about the competition

Learning Points re the 2020 competition

plus my blog post which highlighted a 
However How to watch heats of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 was followed by PAOTY 2021 Heats Closed to the Public - which is why there will be none of my photos of the process this year.

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!
plus previous posts re other years

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