Thursday, July 13, 2023

Preparing for Portrait Artist of the Year - Gail Reid shares her experience and tips

Gail Reid has sent me what I regard as one of the best ever blog posts I have ever read regarding how best to prepare for the Portrait Artist of the Year heats.

It contains absolutely no spoilers but does reveal in detail how somebody who is serious about doing well prepared for her heat. (It's also been cleared by the production team so she's not doing anything out of order or against the "keep quiet about everything until your episode has aired" contract that you have to sign when you participate).

I have to confess, in my very many reviews of heats of Portrait Artist of the Year I do get very frustrated every time I hear an artist say "this is the first time I've ever painted from life" and I  often wonder why people enter such competitions on television if they don't prepare properly so they give themselves the best chance possible. 

So it's lovely to be able to share this blog post - not least because she highly recommends my blog as part of the preparation!

Gail Read and her self portrait at Battersea Arts Centre - just before filming starts!

in the weeks running up to filming day, I practiced hard on unsuspecting friends and family and honed my process to a tee. So until it’s aired, I can share my practice runs, palette, brushes, and the process that I evolved to do my best on the day.
Her blog post Lights, Camera, Action covers (in order):

  • What is PAOTY? - in which you do get to see her self portrait - which complies with all my recommendations! ;)
  • Program researchers (Storyvault/Sky TV) - in which Gail highlights all the stuff which happens between application and arriving at Battersea - and highlights one really good option for those so inclined!
  • My research - what she does prior initially to get herself ready to start practicing - which includes reading my past blog posts about the heats - in which I give tips serviced from what happens in each episode / stage of the competition.
I cannot recommend the Making A Mark blog enough. SO much information, I binge read lots of posts, hoovering up tips on everything from canvas size to how best to talk to the judges. Here is the post about entering this year’s competition.
  • My starting point - she highlights why drawing people is something she is used to doing (which to my mind explains the quality of her practice portraits)
  • Practice runs - her approach to practising painting 4 hour portraits - and what she learned
  • Her Sitters and the portraits produced x ? - I'm amazed at the quality of her practice portraits. One the basis of which I'd say she's a dead cert to be shortlisted if not win her heat. For one thing she's not just doing heads and she is including hands - which I've been recommending for some time. When everybody else does heads, make sure you stand out and produce a good upper torso portrait! So her portraits are:
    • Grace (whole figure) - which made me think how much nicer it would be for sitters if the production team gave them proper chairs!
    • Izzi (profile figure sat at a table with lots of context) - an example of why it's always wise to remember you might get one of the slots which mean you get a side view!
    • Ray (upper torso with hands and backdrop) - people need to test out whether they can manage the backdrop as well as a portrait. This one taught her about lighting.
    • Cilla (upper torso with hands) - an interesting one re the need to raise the sitter up as close as possible to eye level. Excellent observation!
    • Debbie (whole figure) - always good to practice painting the whole figure!
    • Caroline (whole figure) - a really interesting one with an emphasis on posture and really excellent boots! I wonder how many people practice painting shoes?
    • Angela (head only) - an experiment with a head only and tighter crop
    • Other practice - there's more! Including during her holiday!
    • Glen (upper torso with hands) - an interesting experiment in the use of a tablet and photo to refine details after blocking in and initial work in the first half of the time period - done two days before the date of the heat.
If anybody else has got approval from Storyvault/Sky to post blog posts before their episode airs do let me know. I'm happy to share! :)

A Final Tip

For those wanting to enter PAOTY next year, I'll probably be posting the Call for Entries for Series 11 - to be filmed in April 2024 - in early October 2023, round about the start of Series 10 being broadcast.

So if you want to get ahead of the rest who are not reading this blog post, I suggest you start practising now - and getting that self-portrait licked into shape!

For those wanting access to MY PAOTY TIPS - you can find them in my reviews of the various episodes which are listed below.

Reviews & Learning Points (PAOTY Series 5-9)

Series 8 of PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Autumn 2021)

Series 7 of PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Autumn 2020)

Series 6 of PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Spring 2020)

Series 5 of PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Winter/Spring 2019)

Series 4 of PORTRAIT ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Winter / Spring 2018)

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