POSTED BY: Veronica Dooley

How to Paint a Portrait

12th Feb, 2019

How to Paint a Portrait

One of my favourite programs kicked off on Sky Arts this week and it’s well worth a watch whether you are an artist or not. Sky Arts ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ invites professional and amateur artists to produce a portrait painting of famous sitters. The panel of judges select the eventual winner through several rounds where they will receive the opportunity of a lifetime, a £10,000 commission to paint a famous sitter that will hang in a National Gallery.

In each episode, the artists are given just four hours to paint a person that they have never seen before. And they must do this in the public eye, in front of the cameras whilst taking questions from the TV presenters and the judges…not an easy task. Over the course of the programme we watch as each portrait comes alive before our eyes. Painting and drawing is all about interpreting the shapes and colours that your eye can pick up on and the longer you look, especially when it comes to painting faces, the balance of detail and subtlety becomes key.

It is fascinating to watch how each artists will use their own unique style to create new portraits and seeing how their work evolves through the competition. And of course, then comes the big reveal at the end when the canvases are turned around for the first time and we get to see what the famous faces think of their portraits.

Christian Hook
My personal favourite winner so far was Christian Hook, winner in 2014. Hook’s work involves the meddling of a lot of different skills, a balance of figuration and abstraction. It is captivating to watch as it veers from one to the other in a flurry of colourful brush marks and scraping off until the painting seems to find its own perfect equilibrium. And although he has an astonishing ability to capture the likeness of each sitter, the portrait also becomes a representation of the artist too.


Gareth Reid
In 2017 Belfast man, Gareth Reid was victorious, and got the opportunity to paint none other than Graham Norton. And in a very quirky Irish coincidence, the artist discovered during the sitting that he was actually related to Graham Norton himself (being his third cousin) which could really only ever happen in Ireland!! The finished portrait was unveiled in the National Gallery of Ireland in 2017 as part of their wonderful portrait collection where it has been very well received.

So I’ll be tuning in tonight to see what unfolds and hear the dulcet tones of the lovely Joan Bakewell’s ever so posh accent as she says … ” Artists, you have one hour”.

Veronica is our resident artist and brings her undeniable flair for the creative into her role as Client Services Manager. She’s always on hand to guide you through all the aspects of your project right through to the final stages. When she’s not at her desk, you’ll find her getting creative in her own private studio, working away on everything from paintings to printmaking and drawing.