Thursday, November 25, 2021

Review: Series 8 Episode 7 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021

Series 8 Episode 7 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 is repeated tonight on Sky Arts for those who missed it yesterday evening. This is my review of this episode

[NB Apologies for late posting - I've been sorting stuff for my surgery all day!]

The beginning of Episode 7 - waiting to start


All artists are listed below according to whether they are professional or amateur and in alphabetical order by surname. Any links to their website are embedded in their name. Social media websites are also listed if known. 

Professional Artists

The four professional artists in this episode are:

  • Martin Burrough - had a career in international reinsurance when he drew and painted as an amateur when he could find the time. Then became a professional artist in the summer of 2011 on completing the Portraiture Diploma at The Heatherley School of Fine Art. He's now a a portrait and landscape painter working from a studio in Chelsea
  • Katherine Dereli [Facebook | Instagram] - is an artist who works on commissions (paintings, drawings or sculpture) 
  • Adrian Hill [Instagram] - born and raised in a small mining village in the north of England. Apparently inspired by PAOTY to sell his business and become a painter - and is self taught. Has had his painting selected for several art competitions. Mixes oil painting with other media including inks.
  • Nneke Uzoigwe [Instagram] - After studying fashion design at the University of Brighton, Nneka retrained as a painter at London Fine Art Studios. She has received the De Laszlo Foundation Scholarship (2016 and 2017), the De Laszlo Award at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition (2020) and the Green & Stone Art Prize (2020). One of her paintings is in the current ROI exhibition at the Mall Galleries.

Nneke, Mark, Natasha and Adrian

Mary, Martin and Jackie

Amateur Artists

The five amateur artists in this episode are:
  • Natasha Aidoman - a biomedical science student who has started doing commissions.
  • Jacqueline Gartlan [Facebook | Twitter] - an Irish self-taught oil painter. Has exhibited in my work in exhibitions in Clonmel, Cahir, Dungarvan and Naas and completed numerous commissions. Her self-portrait was painted when she was still grieving due to the recent loss of her sister Breda.  
  • Mark Oliver [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter ] - An award-winning illustrator with a background in graphic design who lives in Worthing, West Sussex. 
  • Iqra Tariq [Instagram] - a miniature portrait artist of Pakistani heritage living in Manchester who creates contemporary portraits in the tradition of Mughal portraiture
  • Dr Mary Shepperson MA PhD FSA [Twitter ] - Lecturer in Architectural and Urban Heritage at the University of Liverpool. An archaeologist specialising in architecture and urbanism of the ancient Near East - whp paints in her spare time. Very familiar with anatomy from digging up numerous skeletons - but this will be the first time she has painted a live sitter.
You can also look at their profiles on Sky Arts and see the top down videos of each artist at work

The Self Portraits

This was the second week when we actually got a clear view of the self portrait wall!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

SURGERY UPDATE #3: I've finally got a date!

I think it's partly because I used to be a senior manager in the NHS that I'm actually quite patient when waiting for dates for surgery. 

Up to a point.

The point was reached when I got to two years from when I was first told I needed surgery.

I'm also one of the six million waiting for routine elective operations - except I'm waiting for two...

So yesterday I emailed a letter into something called the Access Issues Resolution Service (AIRS) at Barts and pointed out:

  • November 2019: the need for surgery was identified (i.e. I had broken shards of bone floating around in my ankle)
  • 2nd April 2020: the outpatient appointment which should have started the journey to surgery should was cancelled due to Covid. At that point going into hospital was not high on my agenda!
  • October 2020: got fed up waiting for any sort of communication about a rescheduled appointment and found the right button to press (AIRS) and duly pressed it
  • As a result I got two appointments for my ankle and shoulder in the next two weeks
  • End of October 2020: 3 x-rays plus a nice man in the Foot and Ankle Clinic told me I was bone on bone and had no cartilage left in my right ankle. It wasn't a question of taking out broken bone shards, more a question of giving me an ankle fusion which would eliminate movement and pain - which sounded like manna from heaven to me. But I'd need to be non-weight bearing for up to three months i.e. live life on one leg. Agree continued weight loss would be a good idea.
  • Early November 2020: nice man in the Upper Limb Clinic confirmed I have no cartilage in my left shoulder and am bone on bone. Confirms the wisdom of me stopping driving due to my very limited movement/pain - and tells me I need a shoulder replacement - but it's a long recovery! I decide this might be better after ankle is fixed. Promptly sell car and start thinking electric for when I finally get to drive again...
  • March 2021: Finally get a steroid injection in my ankle after the lockdown end 2020/early 2021 - end of pain for a bit....
  • June 2021: finally get to see consultant who lists me for surgery
  • September 2021: do pre-assessment for surgery
  • and then nothing.
Two years later I want my operation!

I've also lost 6.5 stone / 41.3kg with a view to coping better on one leg for three months

As a result of the email I sent yesterday to the right people I'm going to be getting my ankle fusion operation on Monday 6th December.

So that's 2 weeks to get everything finally finished off and ready for not moving fast or far for three months. Not that different from lockdown really - except I won't be going out.

This is the post-it note I've had fixed on my iMac for the last 12 months.

  • Back slab plaster = plaster which does not completely encircle limb and allows for swelling. I'll be on my back with my foot elevated to heart level for two weeks to keep the swelling to a minimum!
  • Non weight bearing plaster = exactly what it says. I won't be able to my foot down at all. It holds the bone in place and allows it to grow
  • Protective boot goes on after my ankle has grown new bone and fused and it just needs to be looked after. Hopefully end of January.
  • BUT weight bearing then needs to be managed on a progressive basis and as any pain allows
Meet my Strideon knee scooter - or how to get about when you can't put one foot on the ground!

This was me in August when I'd just got it and assembled it (i.e one of the things I was doing during my timeoff in August!) I still needed to adjust it further to get everything to the right height.

However this is very heavy and I don't think there's any chance of me getting on the tube until I'm walking properly again - and can walk some distance. 

Bottom line - no exhibitions until at least next June I think 
i.e. I can start walking again after three months - but first I have to relearn to walk and then I won't be able to go far to start with.

So the plan is 
  • I'm going to work my way through my bookshelves (and bookshelves) of art books and write book reviews. 
  • Plus keep up with art available online and on the television and write periodically about that.  
Then when I've recovered - I'll be getting my shoulder replacement done - which will mean one hand typing!

Then, when I've recovered from that and got my mobility back in my shoulder, I hope I get to buy an electric car and go travelling at long last.....

So quite a lot of change in the next 18 months - 2 years or so.....

I have my fingers crossed my hip is not trying to go the same way.....

Friday, November 19, 2021

The Ingram Prize 2021 - prizewinners and selected artists

If you're starting out on your career and lean very much towards the very contemporary side of making art then you may well be interested in the Ingram Prize - which has just announced its 2021 prizewinners

What is the Ingram Prize?

The Ingram Prize was established by The Ingram Collection 6 years ago. It is:

  • an annual purchase prize & exhibition 
  • to celebrate and support artists at the beginning of their professional careers.
There is no prize money as such - however it provides:

  • the opportunity to exhibit and sell work, 
  • attend a programme of continuing professional development, and 
  • the chance to develop both industry and peer-to-peer networks.
Artists who can enter are visual artists within five years of graduation from a UK based art school (undergraduate or postgraduate level).

Entry is free, and artists can submit up to two works in any media, with no restrictions on size.

The rewards for those selected are:
  • Group selling exhibition for all finalists; 
  • opportunity to attend a day of professional development seminars; 
  • exhibition catalogue; 
  • private view/networking event; 
  • opportunity to apply for a residency project. 

2021 Ingram Prize

The winners of the Ingram Prize 2021 were announced last night at the Private View for the Exhibition currently being held in the Unit 1 Gallery, 1 Bard Road, London W10 6TP until 26 November 2021

2021 Prizewinners

There were four prize winners in total. 

The Founders Choice Award went to Figures on a Bed by James Dearlove (see below) who will be offered a museum solo show in 2022.

Using old newspapers as a canvas, upon which to depict sprawled male bodies, Dearlove explains:
“This painting is a contemporary urban landscape of queer bodies and demonstrates the desire and disquietude that are central concerns in my work. I am preoccupied with how light falls on flesh and how bodies can coalesce with their surroundings. This painting is informed by my experience of living as a queer man in the heart of London. When I had a studio in Vauxhall (which could be called a very gay part of London) I was aware that all around me gay men were meeting on hook-up apps for anonymous sex and drug-taking. I felt I couldn't ignore this intense and strange human interaction as subject matter however transgressive or hard to understand especially as it was going on in my community. 

I painted on random squares of old newspaper which I de-acidified so as to ensure the longevity of the painting. I chose newspaper because the printed matter interrupts the surface and interferes with the painted marks with a kind of soft violence that I found appropriate and beautiful. I also like the counterplay between the intimacy of the bodies but also their anonymity and the anonymity of the city and the twenty-four-hour news cycle.”
Artwork by three more artists will be purchased for The Ingram Collection.  In essence 
  • Anna Perach (Daphne), 
  • Anietie Ekanem, (Yemaya o Yemoja)
  • Katharina Fitz (Pupa and Queen) 
You can also see those selected for the exhibition

The other 2021 finalists were (in alphabetical order): 
  • Bianca Barandun (Royal College of Art, 2017)
  • Ingrid Berthon-Moine (Goldsmiths, University of London, 2017)
  • Fiona Campbell (Bath Spa University, 2018)
  • Mae Chan (Royal College of Art, 2021)
  • Marc-Aurèle Debut (Royal College of Art, 2020)
  • Anne von Freyburg (Goldsmiths, University of London, 2016)
  • Lisa-Marie Harris (Central Saint Martins, 2021)
  • Clara Hastrup (Royal Academy Schools, 2021)
  • Selby Hurst Inglefield (Central Saint Martins, 2019)
  • Elizabeth Jackson (Royal College of Art, 2021)
  • Marie-Louise Jones (Central Saint Martins, 2021)
  • Orna Kazimi (Central Saint Martins, 2018)
  • Hugo Lami (Royal College of Art, 2019)
  • Max Limbu (Goldsmiths, University of London, 2020)
  • Liam Mertens (Slade School of Fine Art, 2019)
  • Isobel Napier (Slade School of Fine Art, 2018)
  • Abi Ola (Slade School of Fine Arts, 2021)
  • Ryan Orme (Slade School of Fine Art, 2019)
  • Ella Porter (Royal College of Art, 2019)
  • Luke Silva (Central Saint Martins, 2021)
  • Gayi Soori (Central Saint Martins, 2020)
  • Olivia Strange (Chelsea College of Arts, 2017)
  • Liorah Tchiprout (Camberwell College of Arts, 2020)
  • Mircea Teleagă (Slade School of Fine Art, 2016)
  • Maddie Yuille (City & Guilds of London Art School, 2019)
This year’s Ingram Prize encompassed a variety of themes, including the environment, queer-femme experience, body image, immigration, and the pandemic, with the shortlisted finalists - from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Denmark and New Zealand, France, Ukraine plus Trinidad & Tobago - entering work in a broad variety of different media, from ceramics, oils, and watercolour, to video, tapestry, and found / recycled objects.

The Ingram Collection

Founded in 2002 by serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Chris Ingram, the collection spans over 100 years of British art and includes over 600 artworks.  More than 400 of these are by some of the most important British artists of the 20th century, amongst them Edward Burra, Lynn Chadwick, Elisabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth and Eduardo Paolozzi. 

The main focus of the collection is on the art movements that developed in the early and middle decades of the 20th century, and there is a particularly strong and in-depth holding of 20th century British sculpture.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Review: Episode 6 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 ( Series 8 )

This is a review of Episode 6 of Series 8 of Portrait Artist of the Year - which is being repeated tonight at 7pm on the Sky Arts channel.

For more reviews of previous episodes see the listing at the end of this blog post.

The PAOTY Pod at the Battersea Arts Centre where every episode is filmed


Four professional artists included
  • Gabriella Cohen [LinkedIn] - from Staines, Middlesex.  Digital Content Creator/ Fine Artist who graduated with a first class degree in Fine Art from Bournemouth - who enjoys creating characters in her work.  Submitted a self-portrait with a futuristic quality - and aimed for a slightly unusual edge to her portrait.
  • Lee Kay-Barry [Facebook | Instagram] - an Artist, Digital Content Creator and Social Media Manager. Born in London in 1995 and studied a Fine Art degree at University of Leeds. Favours a bold, colourful and abstracted approach to portraiture
  • Lynn Kennedy [Facebook | Instagram] - graduated from Dun Laoghaire College of art and design in 1993. Since then has worked in several creative arts, including design, illustration and photography. Lynn now works primarily in oils, and much of her work is commissioned for private collections. The programme makers got rather carried away! She didn't win the Ruth Borchard Prize but rather had a painting in the 2019 exhibition.
  • Phyllis Dupuy [Instagram] - grew up in Montreal, graduated from McGill University and went on to teach art in northern Ontario. Moved to the UK in 1979 to study ceramics and has exhibited her ceramic work for 25 years. Studied oil painting and portraiture at Heatherley's School of Art in Chelsea. Her portrait commissions have includes Louis de Bernieres, the Novelist. Also painted #portraitsfornhsheroes

The five amateur artists are:
  • Amy Coleman - From Ireland, age 13 she is the youngest contestant in this series. Painted her first self-portrait for the submission. The heat was the first time she has ever painted anybody from life.
  • Alex Cooper [Facebook | Instagram] - former picture framer who lives in the Welland Valley on the borders of Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire. Took part in Portraits of NHS Heroes in 2020 and won the Clare Balding week in Sky Arts Portrait of the Week. Plus practiced hard for this Heat by painting three portraits a week.
  • Jana Forrester [Facebook | Instagram] - a medical physic student at UCL. 
  • Charlie Hardcastle [Instagram] - graduated in Painting from Edinburgh College of Art in 2020.  Likes to focus on getting the drawing right. Focuses on painting the features and skin and not so much the hair
  • Xinchu Zhang [Instagram) - Born and grew up in China. No lives in Brighton where he works for the Pensions Regulator.
You can also look at their profiles on Sky Arts - but the above listing below is about as comprehensive as I can make it - once I'd got the correct spellings of two of the names!


We actually got a clear view of the self portrait wall this week!


  • Landscape format x 1
  • Portrait format x 5
  • Square(ish) x 2


  • Large x 1
  • Medium x 3
  • Small x 4
  • Tiny x 1


  • full size or most of body (including hand) x 0
  • Upper torso + hand(s) x 3
  • upper torso (no hands) x 1
  • head and shoulders x 5
  • head x 0


The three sitters were:
  • Maggie Aderin-Pocock - a British space scientist and science educator. 
  • David Olusoga - a British historian, writer, broadcaster, presenter and film-maker. He is Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester and has also presented historical documentaries for the BBC.
  • Sergei Polunin - a Ukrainian-born ballet dancer, actor and model.  This is an 'interesting' article about the Self-destructive dance superstar

THEMES in Episode 6

This is a discussion of some of the themes I thought came up in this episode. Most are perennial across episodes and series.

The best of diverse approaches OR Are you different enough as a portrait painter?

Having a distinct style helps if you want to grab the Judges' attention (a comment in the heat)
This heat illustrated something which I think all those applying for a place in the next series should be aware of.  

The Judges:
  • do like people who don't paint / make art like everybody else i.e. you are more likely to get noticed if your work does not look like anybody else's OR a school of painting
  • tend to take only one of a particular kind of 'standard portrait painting' through to the shortlisting i.e. if they get two or three people painting in more or less the same way OR with more or less the same end result - they only ever seem to take one of them.
In other words they want to see the best of diverse approaches.

Listen carefully to the deliberations in this episode and you can hear them deliberating about similar portraits and opting for just one of them

Portraits which are quiet or noisy or troublesome

So we agree it's a good thing to stand out and get noticed - or is it?

Portraits can get noticed for different reasons.

Obviously an artist frequently hopes that their portrait gets recognised for the display of good drawing, good likeness and painting skills

However portraits also get highlighted if
  • they look quiet compared to others
  • they are 'too noisy' in terms of the impact of colour on the viewers eyes or lines which take eyes every which way
  • you keep noticing too much is wrong with the portrait
  • they can also be troublesome - because you stare at them trying to work out what it is that means that the likeness has been lost; or (my favourite) the painting ' hurts my eyes' - that undefinable something which means that the painting is visually disruptive - which is not usual in portraiture.

Seeing colours differently

There was quite a lot of comment about how artists use colour - and find unusual colours within the skin and the hair. 

My feeling is if you just paint the local hue - and not the spectrum of colours that can be seen within a surface you won't get very far....

When a background can undermine everything

I was quite confident that Lynn Kennedy probably had a very good chance of getting shortlisted on the strength of the scope, size and quality of her self-portrait. Somehow the painting in the heat didn't quite measure up - although, fair play, she attempted more than most did and included her sitter's hands.

Then, right at the last minute she added a blue background - which not only clashed horribly with Maggie's dress, it was the wrong blue in terms of the blue background in the pod and it was fairly scrappy in terms of sketchiness and not going to the edges. Plus it was very flat and unmodulated through the use of other colours

I forget whether it was Kate or Kathleen who words to the effect this was the point at which that portrait dropped out of the running.

Another painter painted a very flat yellow ochre background derived from a comment from the sitter about a colour he nearly dressed in.  She described it as a 'safety blanket' so she had a finished background so the final painting looked finished.  I can understand that sentiment. HOWEVER, she then found that it was a major challenge in terms of working with the skin of her sitter. I don;t think it helped her.


Sitters choose a portrait

This is when the Sitters have to choose which of the self portraits they want to keep
  • either because they really like it
  • or they'd prefer to make sure they can keep it out of circulation. I don't think the latter happened this week but I've been certain that's what has happened on previous occasions.
The three sitters chose as follows
  • Maggie Aderin-Pocock chose the portrait by Phyllis Dupuy - she loved the flow of the hair and the fact it made her look younger
  • David Olusoga chose Charlie Hardcastle - it was a face he recognised
  • Sergei Polunin chose Lee Kay-Berry
The shortlisting lineup

Judges choose a shortlist

The three artists the Judges chose were:
  • Xinchu Zhang
  • Gabriella Cohen
  • Charlie Hardcastle
What they liked about their shortlisted artists is summarised below

self portrait and heat portrait by Xinchu Zhang

Xinchu has 
  • a beautifully painted character study
  • got a good likeness and has the head properly sat on the shoulders
  • a great sense of a living breathing person
I liked his self-portrait better than his heat portrait - but did like the way he painted a lot.

self portrait and heat portrait by Gabriella Cohen

Gabriela has  
  • a painting style is very distinctive - producing a very bold self-portrait
  • colours are stunning - creating a vintage / alien perspective and a quite magical work. She likes being mysterious - to capture the personality.
  • found a happy medium between doing something which interested her and that is flattering for the sitter
  • the ability to use technology in a creative capacity 
The issue for me going forward is whether or not she can do hands.

self portrait and heat portrait by Charlie Hardcastle

Charlie creates portraits which have 
  • great emotional content with very little there in his submission - which he repeated in his his heat portrait
  • has done something which looks very refined and delicate - and almost looks like a fresco, it's so chalky and has a subtle emotional component
  • David went for the painting because it evoked an emotion which he recognised
I thought his double self-portrait was very clever - and had marked psychological undertones.

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Winner of Episode 6

waiting to hear who has won

The winner of the heat filmed for Episode 6 was Gabriella Cohen 

The rationale was as follows - according to Kate Bryan
"We're looking for someone to take the conversation forward with portraiture. Gabriella's really inventive, she's really playful - and then we're just thinking about what's coming next in the semi-final 

Gabriella Cohen won Episode 6

Episode 7 

The sitters in the next episode on Wednesday 24th November 2021 are: naturalist and conservationist Chris Packham; dance teacher and original Strictly Judge Arlene Phillips and Ali Jawa (whoever that is!). 

I'm struggling with sitters this year - I'm feeling pleased I knew two of three for the next episode!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Cons and Pros of ING Discerning Eye Exhibition's tech makeover

I visited the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2021 at the Mall Galleries today (after my hip hiatus last week) and left rather sooner than I expected to because It made me feel VERY irritated.

I'm going to deal with the technological changes associated with this exhibition in this post and may write another one about the exhibition itself. These are:

  • QR Codes as the ONLY wall labels
  • new website - with some significant omissions

This is the toned down edited version - which will tell you a lot.

I'm also going to comment on the technological change associated with the website - which is much more of a good news story - but with a big sting in the tail....

But first the really bad news....

QR Codes only as labels - and absolutely nothing else!

The ONLY labels on the wall are QR codes i.e. 

  • No artists name next to their work
    • I'd hazard a well-informed guess that this is completely unacceptable to most artists.
    • If the organisers knew they were going to do this then they should have stated their intentions in the Call for Entries
  • No printed catalogue of which more below....

This is what I wrote on my Facebook Page after having made my way past maybe a dozen artworks in the East Gallery which I visited first

I think if I was an artist who had submitted my artwork to this exhibition - and had been selected by one of the Selectors - I would be very seriously dischuffed.

  • no profile for me as an artist which is plain to see
  • less chance of selling my work
  • less chance of being noticed by art gallery owners who visit exhibitions like these looking for new talent.
Don't get me wrong. I am NOT against 

  • EITHER the use of new technology
  • OR the intelligent use of QR codes to enhance the viewing experience 
As an ex senior manager who has been responsible for and managed the large scale implementation of new technology solutions in the workplace in the past, what I am VERY averse to is:
  • poor communication - to both artists and visitors
  • no scope for feedback from those who experience the "experiment" e.g. "how did you find our use of QR codes?"
  • poor project management e.g. a rollout without beta testing which fails to identify issues which need resolving (i.e. provide a good customer experience - based on what those using the system think not what those responsible for implementing it think!)

The Issues

Some of the technological issues are:

Broadband / Wifi

  • Broadband is not good in the Galleries - patchy at best and totally absent from the North Gallery
  • Hence visitors have to use the Gallery wifi system - which means opening up their phones to a public wifi system i.e. that thing you are warned against doing and I never ever do! Who is liable if somebody gets scammed as a result of using public wifi - because some scammer will find out it's available....
Good luck with finding out anything about these pieces in the North Gallery
- where there is no secure broadband - just public wifi


  • Not everybody has a smartphone 
  • Not everybody has a smartphone which can recognise QR codes

Communication on paper

  • There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on the wall which tells you the name of the artwork; the name of the artist, media used and price
  • Some extremely tatty, unlaminated - and hence not clean -  bunches of paper at the front desk for those with no phones is dire beyond belief and in absolutely no way a good substitute for proper labels! 
    • Which bit of Covid Best Practice do the organisers of this competition think this complies with? Or didn't they think?

Bottom Line

I walked out because I wasn't enjoying the exhibition. 

Here's the reasons why:

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Sky Arts Artist of the Year Competitions: Call for Entries

Sky Arts has published its Call for Entries for its two "Artist of the Year" competitions - for portrait artists and landscape artists

Below you can find out the key facts of what you need to do to enter. I'll also try and remember to do a more specific post for each and a reminder prior to their deadline for entries - just in case you forget!

Common to both

Both have:

For the winners

  • a prize of a commission valued at £10,000
  • the title Sky Arts Artist of the Year - for either portrait or landscape

For all participants

  • LOTS of publicity for you and your art
  • traffic to your website and social media sites - so long as you remember to create then and publicise them!
  • looks good on your CV

Basic of the Entry Process

  • You need to submit a self-portrait or a landscape of your choice  - made within the last five years and limited in size (both in reality and as a file size)
  • Artwork you submit can be a lot more important than many people think to whether or not you win a heat
  • Your artwork will only be viewed on screen  by the Judges - so it needs to read well on screen - and won't be seen in person by the Judges until you get selected and bring it with you to your Heat.
  • You must complete an online form

Basics of the Heat Process

  • paint an artwork (of sitter of location) within 4 hours (with a lunch break in the middle)
  • you have no choice over the sitter or the location
  • you have no choice over where you are located
  • you will be interrupted by cameras and people getting in front of you
  • those who don't mind talking to camera AND are articulate will get a lot more air-time than those who don't like talking and/or cannot talk intelligibly (i.e. never ever forget this is actually a TV programme first and a competition second)
  • those who don't like talking to camera are unlikely to progress because this is after all a television programme!
  • lots of people will talk about you and your art online - and some will be very opinionated and public i.e. this is NOT a competition for those with thin skins who don't like unasked for critiques. If you put your art out there in an art competition people will comment - it's what happens.

Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2022 (Series 9)

This is the page where they have all the details of what to do and how to enter the PORTRAIT competition

DEADLINE for Entries is NOON on 11 FEBRUARY 2022.

(You can also read advice on how to create a digital image in Image Management for Artists on my Art Business Info for Artists website)

Some things to think about

  • Have you ever painted a portrait from life before?
  • Do you know how the structure of the head works?
  • Can you capture a likeness?
  • Have you only portrayed celebrities to date? Do you know how to create a portrait which doesn't involve working from a portrait?
  • Does your artwork look like many other people's or is it distinctive?
  • Will you be available for the filming - planned to take place at Battersea Arts Centre in March and April 2022 - and can you afford to get there?


  • Make sure you know how to take a good digital image of your self-portrait - or know a person who can
  • Work out how you need to change your practice to complete a portrait in 4 hours
  • Draw people's heads all the time - you learn a lot and can work faster if you know your way around a head which is different to those you've portrayed previously
  • Get people to sit for you on a voluntary basis
  • Work out the best way of capturing a likeness - as opposed to painting the bits you enjoy doing!
  • Create a portrait within 4 hours that you are happy with - and then do it again - and again and again.
  • Submit an excellent self-portrait

Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2023 (Series 8)

This is the page where they have all the details of what to do and how to enter the LANDSCAPE competition

DEADLINE for applications is NOON on 14 April 2022.
However they very often extend it! (It depends on how many quality applications they receive)

Some things to think about

  • Are you used to painting plein air?
  • Can you cope with carrying on as the the weather changes - for better or worse? They don't stop for anything.....
  • Can you cope with the light changing as the time passes or the weather changes?
  • Have you ever painted a landscape - beginning to end - in four hours?
  • Have you ever painted landscapes with people watching / filming / asking questions?
  • What makes your landscape art different and interesting and something they might want to see more of?
  • Will you be available for the filming - planned to take place around the UK in June 2022?


It's not untypical for the best landscape paintings to be produced by those who can paint whatever is in front of them to a deadline.
  • Make sure you can produce a good digital image of your landscape submission - minus any mount / frame
  • Think about what makes for:
    • good landscape art
    • poor / boring landscape art
  • Practice plein air painting - a lot!
  • Work out to revise your process so you can produce a landscape image in under four hours
  • Then work out how to speed up
  • Work out what you need to do to focus better and block out interruptions
  • More practice!!
  • submit a good landscape with your entry


You can find out more about what happens - and yet more things to think about - in my reviews of all the episodes of recent series. Artist of the Year winners have thanked me for them!
See my posts in the link below (and look at links to previous series and posts at the end of episode reviews)

Monday, November 15, 2021

Elizabeth Blackadder - Favourite Flowers

If you are interested and have the time I recommend you visit the retrospective exhibition about Elizabeth Blackadder: Favourite Flowers at the Garden Museum. However, there's now less than a week left to see as it closes on 21st November 2021.

Exhibition announcement outside the Gallery at the Garden Museum

One of the highlights for me of every visit to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts was seeing the latest watercolour paintings of flowers by Elizabeth Blackadder RA I was rarely disappointed - until latterly as she became very old and her skills took a dip and maybe her eyesight too. However that's the natural process of ageing....

What's important is to remember them for the reason you became a fan in the first place!

She of course eventually became Dame Elizabeth Blackadder DBE, OBE, RA, RSA - before she died in August this year a month short of her 90th birthday.

Now I've seen the exhibition, I'm going to be writing more about her on my Botanical Art and Artists website (she is in fact going to get a dedicated page!) but for now, this is a quick review of the exhibition.

The exhibition

It's the first exhibition since her death and it's good that it was both intentionally planned as a retrospective and is also about the subject she was most famous for painting - and printing.

You can see all the artworks in the exhibition on The Scottish Gallery website - which also includes a video of the exhibition hung in that galleryI'm also going to include some views of the exhibition in this post - and will post a few more to an album on Facebook. 

The exhibition - as one would rightly expect from the title - focuses on her portrayal of flowers - plus 

  • a few portrayals of Japanese gardens, 
  • some still life paintings with flowers and 
  • one cat - on his own with a lot of grass
  • plus one linocut portrait of Elizabeth Blackadder by her husband the painter/printmaker, John Houston
It's a mix of watercolour paintings, and paintings in oil and watercolour. It's the latter, as always, which are the most impressive. Which might seem an odd thing to say for somebody who is one of the loosest, washiest watercolour painters I know.

Three composite paintings

small very washy feature within the central painting above

Some of the etchings of plants

However she had an unerring eye and talent for capturing the 'look' and habit of a plant. Perhaps because all her paintings were done from life in the studio - using plants brought in from her garden in Edinburgh.

She created plant portraits - but not in the precise botanical way that botanical illustrators do. To my mind she was beyond flower painting and pushing hard on the botanical painting door - but without any of the meticulous measurement of plants parts - because she believed in eyeballing. Nor does she paint using watercolour in the very hyper-realistic way adopted by some botanical artists. Instead, having viewed a number of the artworks painted from life in the field by famous botanical artists, she has a strong sense of the plant in front of her.  The flowers in her paintings behave exactly the same way they do in my sitting room!

Tulips (watercolour) 1981

Moreover some of her watercolour paintings - which are often large and on full sheets of watercolour paper - always remind me of somebody who liked doing studies from life. 

It took me a while when I first started studying her work to realise that a lot of the content in her paintings is the same bloom or stem or plant or fruit - picked up and turned around - repeatedly. Then she starts cutting up the fruit - or painting single blooms or inflorescences in more detail.

Turn and repeat

I was delighted with this idea and many years ago drew some sunflowers in pen and ink - repeatedly, across the page - by picking them up and turning them around. I was even more delighted when the drawing promptly sold!

Suffice to say, I am a big fan of her composite study pages with no obvious rhyme or reason - other than they look good! That's a good enough reason for me.

Of course she also managed to weave her cats into paintings on a few occasions. 

Watercolour paintings by Elizabeth Blackader

It's essentially a selling exhibition - and the original watercolours have mostly sold for several thousand.  However there are still lithographs available for much more reasonable prices....

The Garden Museum receives no public funds. All proceeds from the exhibition help fund the three teachers who teach children about plants, plus provide food to them and the wider community.

It's a great exhibition, I highly recommend a visit - or a review of the online version if you can't get down to Lambeth.

PS I got the last catalogue at the Museum, but you could try ordering online

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Review: Episode 5 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 ( Series 8 )

Episode 5 of Portrait Artist of the Year was broadcast on Sky Arts (Freeview Channel 11) last night. The episode is repeated tonight at 7pm for anybody wanting to catch up on that episode. 

Below is my review of this episode. It follows the identical format of all the others - as does this post. Just the artists and the themes are different. (At the end you can find a list of my reviews of previous episodes). 

Apologies for a rather later review than usual. I had a health emergency with my (200 miles away) mother yesterday - which has left me feeling rather drained - followed by my BoosterJab today. 


The artists in Episode 5

Nine artists split into four professional and five amateur artists this week. As always I split them into the two self-defined groups and order alphabetically by surname. Links to their website are embedded in their names and social media links listed where they could be found.

You can also look at profiles on Sky Arts - but the listing below is more comprehensive!

Professional Artists

  • Caryn Koh  [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter] - Initially trained as a doctor and worked in medicine as a junior doctor - before retraining as an artist. Migrated from Malaysia to UK four years ago and has participated in numerous group exhibitions over the years in Malaysia, Taiwan and UK plus is one of the artists behind the Portraits for NHS Heroes. She also paints murals.
  • Calum Stevenson  [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube] - graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone and I’m now studying for a MA in Fine Arts at Glasgow School of Art. He spent 80 hours on his self-portrait and focuses on getting a good likeness from the get go.
  • Ruth Swain [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter] - an award-winning portrait, figurative and still-life artist based in Oxfordshire. She works in oil, watercolour and pastel. Studied for a Contemporary Portraiture Foundation Degree at the Art Academy. Previously worked as an advertising art director and illustrator.
  • Michael Youds - Winner of the Scottish Portrait Awards 2019 and 3rd prize at BP Portrait Award 2020 He also works four-day shifts at the Scottish National Galleries in Edinburgh. Born in 1982 in Blackburn, Lancashire, Michael gained a first-class degree in Fine Art in 2005 before moving to Edinburgh in 2007.(His twin brother David Youds featured in LAOTY 2019 Episode 5). 

Amateur Artists

Some have had a considerable art education!
  • Jaimee Andrews [Facebook | Instagram] - freelance illustrator who graduated from Falmouth University in 2019 with a degree in Illustration
  • Kwasi Awotki [Facebook | Instagram] - based in Hackney with a studio in Clapton. Started his training in Atelier Fine Art at London Fine Art Studios in 2018. Also attended the Art Academy and Heatherley School of Fine Art, where he studied Printmaking and Watercolour Painting.
  • Jasmine Barber [Facebook | Instagram] - Has watched PAOTY since she was 15 years old. Based in Essex. Prefers to create realistic artworks in coloured pencils. She describes herself as a professional portrait artist on her website (so I'm left wondering when she went professional) but is typically focusing on celebrity artists while promoting commissions.
  • Amy Dury [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter] - a figurative artist who lives and works in Hove in Sussex. Studied BA Printmaking at Glasgow School of Art (1993–97) and an MA Fine Art at University of Brighton(2000–02). Head of Art at a sixth form college. Shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award (2020) and accepted for the 2021 Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize. Only started painting five years ago.
  • Yevhen Nahirny - Studied Mathematics at King's College London. Painted in PAOTY 2019 when he painted Geraldine James. 


The sitters for Episode 5 are all actor and actresses - with a big Line of Duty presence!
  • Kelly McDonald - a Scottish actress best know for her parts in Transporting, Gosford Park and Line of Duty, season 6
  • Hugh Skinner - an English actor best known latterly for Fleabag and The Windsors
  • Polly Walker - an English Actress who has also featured in Line of Duty (as Gill Biggeloe in series 3 and 5) and starred as Lady Featherington in Bridgerton


The best view of the Self Portraits came at the Judges chat at half time

Judges stand in front of the self portraits - so you can gauge relative size

There was one self portrait which stood out for me in term of its ambition and cleverness. I'm wondering if people got all the allusions in the painting. 

I thought Ruth Swain would have really had to mess it up not to get shortlisted - on the strength of that painting alone.....

Self Portrait by Ruth Swain - after Normal Rockwell

THEMES in Episode 5

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The Great Women Artists Podcast - and Georgia O'Keeffe

How one blog post leads to another....

The Great Women Artists Podcast was started by Katy Wessel, one of this year's Judges of the Derwent Art Prize. (see yesterday's post - Call for Entries: Derwent Art Prize 2022)

Created off the back of @thegreatwomenartists Instagram, this podcast is all about celebrating women artists. Presented by art historian and curator, Katy Hessel, this podcast interviews artists on their career, or curators, writers, or general art lovers, on the female artist who means the most to them.

I'd not come across it before so had a listen yesterday while doing my daily "keep osteoarthritis from getting any worse" walk.

I accessed it via Apple Podcasts and picked the one about Georgia O'Keeffe.

Wanda Corn and Georgia O'Keeffe

This is it - Wanda M Corn on Georgia O'Keeffe - which Katy Wessel announces via Instagram stories and publishes on Wednesdays.

Wanda Corn was the Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History at Stanford University (before she retired in 2017), a very knowledgeable speaker AND has actually met Georgia O'Keeffe. 

Her talk about her work related to O'Keeffe was fascinating - but periodically interrupted by Katy Wessel saying "Oh WOW!!!"

This introduction to the podcast gives you a sense of how Katy Wessel talks to her interviewees.
I am SO EXCITED to release this episode with Wanda Corn who not only **KNEW** Georgia O'Keeffe in the 1980s, but who is the curator of the staggeringly brilliant and HIGHLY successful exhibition, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern at New York’s The Brooklyn Museum in 2017, which toured around the US.

This was an exhibition that looked at how the renowned modernist artist proclaimed her progressive, independent lifestyle through a self-crafted person – from the way she dressed to how she posed for photographs – expanding our understanding of who O’Keeffe was, and her determination to be in charge of how the world understood her identity and artistic values.
Looking for more info about Wanda led me to these two videos about her particular interest - the clothes of O'Keeffe and how she created a 'brand image' as it were

Out of O'Keeffe's Closet: Clothes, Fashion, and Dressing Modern with Wanda Corn (1 hour 33 mins) 

Dr. Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History, Emerita, Stanford University, explores artist Georgia O'Keeffe's use of dress to join body and art in a common aesthetic. Painter Georgia O'Keeffe's clothing style became an intimate part of her artistic identity. She dressed like she painted, putting high value on abstraction and simplicity. Exploring how modern artists redefined themselves and their art, Wanda Corn has carefully researched the apparel of select key artists. Dr. Corn is a leading scholar of American modernism. Among Corn's numerous honors, she is the recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award in 2014 from the College Art Association, the learned society for the visual arts.

Exhibition Insights | Guest Curator Wanda Corn on "Georgia O’Keeffe Living Modern" (13 mins)

Georgia O’Keeffe’s sartorial style became an intimate part of her artistic identity. She dressed like she painted, highly valuing abstraction, simplicity, and seriality. Art historian Wanda M. Corn, guest curator of the exhibition, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, explores the way O’Keeffe used her distinctive taste in clothes to model for photographers, creating a public persona for herself that still dominates the American imagination.

Plus this is a Stanford News article about Art historian Wanda Corn tackles Georgia O’Keeffe

More about The Great Women Artist Podcast

It's a very eclectic list of artists which are featured in the podcast. So far there have been 75 podcasts - all of which are accessible via Apple Podcasts.

I'll probably keep listening - but pick all the ones I've heard of to listen to first!