Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Review: Episode 4 of Portrait Artist of the Year Series 7 (Autumn 2020)

I was supposed to be writing this review of Episode 4 of Portrait Artist of the Year (Series 7 Autumn 2020) ahead of the broadcasting of Episode 5 - but the news from the hospital of the fact I'm grinding bone and need a shoulder replacement as well as surgery to have n ankle fusion left me somewhat discombobulated - hence why it this week instead

I have a side bet with myself every week which involves guessing the winner. I'm doing pretty well so far!

I spotted the winner of this episode within a few minutes of the episode starting - and it was all about how the artist started......

The end of the painting for Episode 4

Episode 4: The Artists, Self-portraits and Sitters

Below is a short description of each of the participating artists. Plus who is professional and who is amateur is determined by the artists. It does not necessarily follow convention. 

The links are to websites and social media sites in the artist's name. Most of the group were not social media savvy.  Somewhat surprising only three artists are listed as having a website on the  About the Artists page for Heat 4

(NOTE: I have to say I'm not impressed with the actions of whoever got the job of doing the links to the artists because I've picked up a number of omissions and two mistakes so far i.e. I do NOT depend on that page and this page provide better links!)

The Professional Artists

This heat had 4 professional artists
  • Sarita Maharjan Website | FacebookInstagram | Twitter - Born in 1985, Sarita comes from Nepal but is currently based in Birmingham. She has been painting for more than 14 years. She graduated with a Masters Degree in Fine Art from the University of Wolverhampton in 2011 and has been showing in the open exhibitions of the Royal Birmingham Society of Arts.
  • Ryan Jowitt Instagram ) - a 24 year old artist from Margate in Kent. I'm struggling with the professional description given the lack of much of a presence online - however he exhibited at Turner Contemporary while still at Grammar School in Kent. Admits to "winging it" in terms of his approach to the competition and portrait.
  • Rosso Spoto ( Website - www.rossoart.net (my browser blocks it because of filters I use) | Facebook | Instagram ) - Born in Sicily (1978), Rosso lives in London since 2004. She has an an academic background in Politics and Human Rights and a professional career in digital marketing and advertising. Primarily self-taught, she trained briefly at the Prince Drawing School and at LARA (London Atelier of Representational Art) in London and has been painting full time since 2016. Her art revolves around femininity and her identity as a woman in our contemporary society. She won the Emerald Winter Pride Art Award in 2016 and The Holly Bush Emerging Woman Painter Prize 2017. Participated in PAOTY 2019.
  • Eugenie Vronskaya ( Website | Facebook | Instagram ) Born in Moscow in 1966 and started studying icon painting age 9. Attended Moscow School of Art (1981-83) and Moscow University of Art (1983-89). Arriving in London in 1989 (age 23) with 14 years of classical training behind her She was the first Russian Student at the Royal College of Art in London (1991-93). Invited by Sir Anthony Caro to participate in the International Triangle Workshop in New York state. Married with two children she went to live and work in the Highlands of Scotland (near Inverness) before returning to London. She's represented by the John Martin Gallery in London. Her paintings are in many private collections across the world as well as Tate Britain, V&A Museum in London, Pushkin and Tret'yakov Gallery in Moscow. This iarticle in The Independent is an interview about Eugenie Vronskaya: How to paint Scotland from London
every year on my birthday I paint a self portrait

The Amateur Artists

Plus 5 amateur artists
  • Londonna Evans Instagram ) London based Artist and former retail manager. Heatherley School of Fine Art - Diploma in Portraiture
  • Wayne Fallon ( Instagram ) Head of Art @brookfield_school_art in Chesterfield
  • Ian Legge - a part-time art technician from Maidenhead and self-confessed perfectionist 
  • Emma PileWebsite | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) a Digital Artist based in London, specialising in theatre, exhibitions & events. She trained in Theatre Design at Central School of Speech and Drama and works as a Theatre Design Assistant at the National Theatre. This means she's involved in creating backgrounds and the technical drawings for them (which maybe explains her painting)
  • Allegra Wilder ( Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) Recently qualified as an architect.  The Judges loved the close-up of the thumbs up in her self portrait.  Allegra loved Ray's pink eye shadow and wanted it to infuse her painting. (PS I love the domain name of her website!!)
won't paint your cat but keen to paint your sister

The Self Portraits

Reviewing the self portrait wall (PAOTY Episode 4)

This is a summary of the size, format and content of the self portraits in this heat
  • SIZE
    • Large x 3
    • Medium x 3
    • Small x 1
    • Very small x 2
    • Landscape format x 0
    • Portrait format x 7
    • Square format x 2
  • CONTENT OF SELF-PORTRAIT - as always, for me, the only ones in the running for making a difference as to outcome are those that are more than just a head and preferably include hands and/or are full size.
"We very rarely get an entire figure" Kathleen Soriano

That's a bit like saying, if you do submit a whole figure the Judges are going to spend more time assessing it re whether you can be a heat participant. 

Clever Londonna Evans!

View this post on Instagram

It was such an amazing experience to take part in @artistoftheyear series 7. Thank you @rayblk for being a pleasure to paint, the Judges, Stephen and also to the behind-the-scenes crew who were all so lovely to work with. If you missed episode 4, you can catch it again on Sky Arts, Freeview (channel 11) and Now tv. . . . #paoty #paoty2020 #liveshow #livepainting #celebritys #artistsofinstagram #softpastelspainting #pastels #pastelartwork #pastelportrait #portraitpaintings #paintings #rnbartist #rayblk #britishartists #femaleartist #unison #rembrandtpastels #ampersandpastelbord #ampersand #pastelboard @artistoftheyear @storyvaultfilms @kathleen.soriano #taishanschierenberg @katebryan_art @rayblk @heatherley_school_of_art @unisoncolour @rembrandtartistpaint @ampersand_art

A post shared by Londonna Evans (@londonna.art) on


The Sitters

Sitters for the fourth heat were:
  • James Nesbitt - an Irish actor and television presenter from Northern Ireland.  He admitted to being a terrible sitter and at one point went to sleep
  • Scottish fashion designer and artist Pam Hogg. She sat beautifully for the painters on the front edge of the chair - which must have been very wearing over four hours!
  • musician Ray BLK - a British singer and songwriter who was born in Nigeria, and grew up in Catford in London. She won the BBC's Sound of 2017 - and was the first unsigned artist to do so.

Episode 4: Themes

Why would you enter a portrait painting competition and not practice painting a portrait in four hours?

As soon as somebody says they've not practiced painting a portrait in four hours I'm pretty sure they'll be very lucky to get shortlisted and almost certainly will not win.

In this case I was wrong - in part. The person who said this did get shortlisted - but did not win.

That's because this is a competition and to do your best you need to bring your best and as we all know "failure to prepare means you prepare to fail"

The winner of this heat routinely paints a self portrait every year in 2-3 hours. The clue as to the winner was dropped very early in the episode!

Ryan Jowitt with his portrait painting of Ray BLK

"They have to come up with some way of making the portrait interesting"

The Judges were giving some clues away in this episode about what helps you get a place in a heat. Namely that you MUST differentiate yourself from the pack.

Kathleen said
"They have to come up with some way of making the portrait interesting"
Anybody submitting a routine head and shoulders should count themselves VERY lucky if they get selected - and I predict it's unlikely they're selected in the first round.

If you want to get selected:

When a challenge becomes a handicap


"four hours is a stretch to do one piece of art. Today I've decided to do three - it's quite a challenge!"
    Do I need to say more?

    Time spent looking rather than painting

    Attention was drawn in this episode to the time one artist spent looking rather than painting.

    Time spent looking at your subject is rarely wasted and, unless you are creating a complete fantasy, those who constantly check on a regular basis are often those who impress the Judges more.

    Bottom line they want to know if you can paint from life as well as copy/interpret a photo.

    Copying photos rather than referencing them

    I very much defend artists who take photos of the sitter and then use the photo to help them compose their painting and/or paint it.

    That's because the nature of this programme is such that it's not uncommon for the artist to be wholly unable to see the sitter because there are crew or filming going on in the vicinity and at that point you need a reference photo to keep going.

    For me the most useful way to use a phone or tablet is to try out different/alternative crops - so long as you remember what the format of your device is and use the same format for your portrait. (You can work all this out at home before you come to the heat and bring supports which lend themselves to working from a composition worked out on a device

    I also note that a number of artists are now making sure they have a way of gridding up their reference photo so they can get outlines down faster. 

    What I am very much NOT a fan of - and I suspect neither are the Judges - are those who paint solely from the photo and never ever look at the sitter. 
    Will you look at ray rather than your phone?
    Tai Shan Schierenberg
    For the record I don't think I've ever seen a heat winner chosen who has painted solely from their reference photo.

    (PS I must do. blog post about gridding apps.)

    You can tell who gets shortlisted by who gets filmed

    They all get filmed at some point for their profile piece - but some get filmed more than others. That's why if you want to play "Judge" you need to guess early - because it becomes more and more apparent as the episode is broadcast who is in with a chance of being shortlisted.

    That said some wane over the course of the day.....

    There again, they never stop filming so there's always plenty of choice for the Editor.

    Decision Time

    Now for my commentary on what happened after the painting stopped.

    Sitters choose portrait to take home

    • Ray chose Allegra - because she painted her personality
    • James chose Rosso - because he thought she got closest to his him
    • Pam Hogg thought Eugenie really captured a moment but chose the portrait by Emma.
    Allegra Wilde - with her painting of Ray BLK

    Judges choose shortlist of three

    Line up of artists - in front of their self portraits

    I'm including comments about self portraits as well as about heat paintings - because they matter!

    Judges liked
    • paintings which demonstrated a direct connection with the sitter
    • mixing media - drawing with chalks on top of paint
    • choosing an interest colour for the ground of the painting
    • people who take chances with colour
    • 'a real statement painting'
    • self portraits which demonstrate an ability to 
      • differentiate
      • attract attention
    • self portraits which include the entire figure
    • portraits which demonstrate an awareness of the nature of flesh e.g. its weight as well as surface, colour and tone
    Judges were less impressed with
    • as always - not nailing the likeness
    • a painting which was a bit too startling / poppy for Tai's 'old' eyes
    • disconnects between background and portrait which create two paintings on one canvas

    The Shortlist 

    Left to right: Rosso Spoto, Eugenie Vronskaya, Ryan Jowitt

    The three artists shortlisted
    • Rosso Spoto (professional) - because she captured mood
    • Eugenie Vronskaya (professional) - not a formulaic painter
    • Ryan Jowitt (professional)
    Which meant that at last a professional might get chosen for the semi-final!

    Here are their paintings

    Paintings by Rosso Spoto

    Paintings by Eugenie Vronskaya

    Paintings by Ryan Jowitt

    The Winner

    For me there was no question who was the winner. I'd have been very surprised if either of the other two won - mainly because their paintings either lacked a likeness or weight.

    Episode 4 (Series 7): Final decision time for the shortlisted artists

    Eugenie Vronskaya wins Episode 4 of Series 7 of Portrait Artist of the Year

    The winner was Eugenie Vronskaya. The Judges said she had 
    "demonstrated a fearlessness in approach which created an authentic and compelling portrait"
    Like I said at the beginning, I was absolutely convinced from very near the beginning of the artists starting their paintings that she was going to win. 

    I think it was perhaps the maturity of her approach to starting the portrait which caught my eye. 

    I looked at her website for the first time after watching the heat - and what I found there means I'm not surprised she demonstrated a confidence about making pictures (check out her website!)

    This is the post that Eugenie posted to her Facebook Page.



    Sky Arts is now available on Freeview - but on demand is not.

    This is probably the most important post for all those who don't have Sky or access to Freeview or want to watch on demand - it's how I watch the competition "on demand" - except I now use a Now TV stick plugged into my television
    These are previous posts about the competition

    I've just spotted that I didn't write up the Final - because of the surge in Pandemic changes I think. Must correct that!
    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


    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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