Wednesday, December 02, 2020

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

Trying to catch up with Episode 7 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year before the next episode airs!!

View of Episode 7 at Battersea Arts centre - minus the public ue to covid-19

Episode 7: The Artists, Self-portraits and Sitters

This is the About the Artists page (click episode 7 under Series 7) - where you can see their individual self portraits and speeded up videos of their paintings.

One thing - you get edited highlights about artists in the programme - whereas I dig deeper and bring added value...... Some of the information below was not mentioned in the programme.  

The artists in Episode 7 - waiting to hear the judgement

Professional artists

Six professional artists participated in this heat
  • Vincent Michael Brown ( Website | Facebook | Instagram ) - professional artist since 2002 and began first selling my art and taking commissions at the age of eleven. Now a 48-year-old fine-artist and co-founder of Artime (a gallery, studio, art school and shop) with a good track record in art competitions.
  • Deborah Pearce ( Website | Facebook | Instagram | Commissions ) - BA in Fine Arts, Painting. from Central St Martins. Has worked as a worked as an Actor and Hypnotherapist, Coach and Tutor - as well as an artist.
  • Leanne Rutter ( Facebook | Instagram ) - who I have met and know from her portraits which have won awards and been hung many times in the Mall Galleries. She's an Associate of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, is exhibiting in the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters 2020 and this is an article about her travel paintings
Last night I appeared on @skyarts Portrait Artist of the Year @artistoftheyear. Due to #boatlife, my lack of a TV and lockdown preventing going to someone’s house I haven’t actually been able to watch it

Leanne Rutter finishing her background to her portrait of David Haig

  • Si Sapsford ( Website | Instagram ) Based in London. An artist and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University of East London. Has a very long and extensive CV of exhibitions, awards and publications. Was selected for BP Portrait Award Exhibition in 2000 and won the BP Travel Award in 2000. Joint winner of Innovative Teaching Award UEL in 2020. Predominantly sculpts (she currently makes mechanical sculptures) and has only recently taken up painting again. She's also been painting the sitters from Portrait Artist of the Week - which you can see on her website.
  • Alastair Farley ( Instagram ) - a Fine Art Graduate currently doing an MA at the Royal Drawing School.
  • Liorah Tchiprout ( Website | Instagram ) based in London. Studied Fine Art Printmaking at University of Brighton, graduating 2016. In 2020 she graduated with an MA in Printmaking from Camberwell College of Art, London. Her work is concerned with belonging, girlhood and the theatrical. She builds physical puppet characters to construct her own pantheon from which to draw images.

Amateur Artists 

  • Caron Clarke ( Website | Instagram ) - Very sensibly got a new website up and running after appearing in this heat! Born in London, Caron Clarke is a watercolour artist. who teaches art and design to children with autism. 1995 - BA (Hons) Illustration, University of Westminster. 1998 - Postgraduate Certificate in Art and Design Education, Middlesex University. 

  • Jack Dickson ( Website | Facebook | Instagram ) - Based in Dorset. BA (Hons) Fine Art: Painting at Winchester School of Art (1997). 2002 - PGCE Art and Design: University of Brighton. He works as a House Master and school master who teaches art to 14-18 year olds at an independent school in Dorset. Participated in portraits for NHS Heroes this summer.
  • Licia Santos - Based in London. Studying fine art at Goldsmiths College of Art. 

Self Portraits

Self portrait wall in Episode 7

This is a summary of the size, format and content of the self portraits in this heat. 
There was a distinct preference for smaller than average "head and not very much shoulder" self portraits in this heat.

  • SIZE
    • Large x 1
    • Medium x 3
    • Small x 4
    • Very small x 1
    • Landscape format x 0
    • Portrait format x 8
    • Square format x 1
    • full size x 0
    • torso + head + hands with another person x 0
    • torso including head and hand(s) x 2
    • Head and shoulders + hand(s) x 1
    • head and shoulder(s) x 4
    • head x 2

The Sitters

The Sitters for Episode 7 were:
  • Jane Horrocks - an English actress, comedian, voice artist, musician and singer, who played the roles of Bubble in the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (1992–2012) and received Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for the role in the 1998 film adaptation Little Voice.
  • David Haig MBE - an English actor and playwright with a career over four decades and ha appeared in a number of very popular television programmes and films as well as a number of West End plays.
  • Jordan Stephens - one half of hip hop duo Rizzle Kicks

Themes and Tips

Drawing / Blocking / Refining

Artists use various ways to draw the sitter, then block in and refine the portrait and include the detail.  This series offers an enormous amount of information for those wanting to think some more about how they choose to paint - and whether it is effective.

If you have a talent demonstrate it! It gets you noticed and the Judges paying attention. 
Although she used two brushes for drawing, Si Sapsford's main talent was being able to produce a convincing drawing with a brush.

Si Sapsford can paint with two brushes - one to apply paint and the other to remove

Contrast between your own studio and painting with company

The context of television an episode for a television programme involves a lot of work in the room which does not appear on screen. Thus this is not a quiet environment and those around and about the artists are not limited to the Judges and the presenter.

For those not used to a competition like this, the experience can be very disconcerting and distracting.

Those with less experience of working in the presence of others are more likely to get distracted and lose track of what they are supposed to be doing

For those used to working in, for example, a life class - the experience will still feel different but the context of other people being around and about and moving around is less distracting.

Those who need quiet would do well to get noise cancelling headphones or play music in their ears.

Those who need complete silence and no other distractions are best advised not to enter!!

Time Management

I cannot emphasise enough - hence why this gets mention more than once in every series - that you cannot do too much to get to grips with the time management aspects of this competition.

I saw evidence in this heat of people
  • using their time with little thought for what they still needed to do
  • focusing too long on the drawing and not long enough on the painting
  • with no plan for how long they should allocate to different parts of the painting - to keep the pace up and avoid feeling pressured towards the end (mind you this comes from an inveterate planner! But think Great British Bakeoff - and you'll know what I mean. Those who have a timed plan and keep to it invariably produce the best results) 
  • of failing to finish their portraits
I know there were painters in this heat who could have done better.

Consistency between the Self Portrait and the Heat Painting

More and more it is striking how much those short-listed have a complete continuity of approach and style between the self-portrait submitted in advance and the heat painting.

Self portraits and Heat Paintings by shortlisted artists

Put simply - two very different styles simply does not cut the mustard!

Some thoughts for those thinking of applying for next year
  • Anybody switching media between submission and heat takes the risk that this continuity will not be apparent to the Judges.
  • Those who paint one way when they take a long time - and another way when they paint in just over 3 hours (i.e. not four - nobody ever gets four hours!) might want to think seriously about submitting a self portrait painted in three hours!

If you get a "strong sitter" watch out!

We're hearing more and more from Judges that the performance of the sitters is influencing the quality of the portraits being painted - and good heats are ones in which a number of the artists are stimulated by their sitter and painting good portraits.

So if you find that the sitter is working hard at sitting you need to realise that it's very likely that the two other people in your heat are producing good portraits! 

If all sitters work hard and do well, competition will be intense!

Decision Time

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

Sitters choose portrait to take home

Jordan Stephens - the sitter -
about those see the portraits and choose which one he wants to take home

Jordan Stephens chose the painting by Licia Santos
- who made made the very smart move of including a drawing of his dog Spike in her unfinished portrait very late in the day. Any chap who brings his dog to an art competition is going to choose the portrait with the dog in it!

Licia Santos with her portrait of Jordan Stephens and his dog Spike

Artists with their portraits in the Jane Horrocks segment

Jane Horrocks chose the painting by Liorah Tchiprout - she said she felt very drawn to it.

Liorah Tchiprout with her portrait of Jane Horrocks

Artists with their portraits in the David Haig segment

David Haig chose the portrait by Vincent Brown. He loved all of them but described his painting of a melancholic and contemplative individual as a 64 year old he recognised.

Vincent Brown with his portrait of David Haig

Judges choose shortlist of three

What the Judges liked
  • good likeness
  • portraits which captured character and psyche (but see my comment from the last episode)
  • those who took risks to improve presentation
  • well developed / finished backgrounds
  • finished paintings
Note that Si chose to use a neutral Belgian linen background for her heat painting - which meant it looked finished despite the fact here was no paint in the background (see video at the end). 

What could be improved
  • unfinished paintings


Waiting to hear who is selected for the shortlist

The Judges chose a short list of three which were:
  • Caron Clarke
  • Si Sapsford
  • Liorah Tchiprout
Paintings by shortlisted artists

The Judges view was that the "strong" sitters very much influenced the character of the paintings produced in the heat. (see If you get a "strong sitter" watch out! above )

Paintings by Si Sapsford

Judges commented that:
  • Si Sapsford's heat painting was beautifully painted
  • it has both a great strength and a great clarity which captures the complexity of the human psyche (I thought they were getting a bit OTT at this point)
  • both the self portrait and the heat painting demonstrated a direct look from the subject - an attitude about who they were
They were excited to see the next painting.

Paintings by Caron Clarke

The Judges thought that 
  • to tackle a monumental head showed both great courage and great confidence
  • Both self portrait submission and Caron's heat painting were described as luminous. 
  • her watercolour painting worked well with the support

Self portrait and heat painting by Liorah Tchiprout

The portrait of Jane was described as 
  • a painting which stimulated narrative and stories 
  • a vignette rather than a literal portrait
  • a painting that was easy to live with. 
  • contained careful observation of Jane's body language - something which really only happens when the artist paints the whole of the sitter.

The Heat Winner

The Heat Winner was Si Sapsford. The Judges summary was as follows.
The winner created a sensitive and multifaceted portrait

The winner is Si Sapsford (right)
being applauded by fellow shortlisted artists Liorah and Caron

RECOMMENDED You can watch the video of Sarah painting her heat portrait of Jordan Stephens below.


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 - 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

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 Does Portrait Artist of the Year ignore older artists?

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!

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