Episode 7 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2022 (Series 9)

artforummyid

I’m so long this week in posting this review that I’m going to use a pic from when the one of the shortlisted artists was announced as the introduction!

the winner of Episode 7 is announced

This is my review of Episode 7 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2022 (series 9). You can find my reviews of previous episodes of the current series at the end of this post.

Below you can find

  • brief profiles of the nine artists competing for a place in the semi-final
  • names of the three sitters – one for each segment of the set-up above
  • themes I identified in this episode
  • what the judges liked a lot and what they were less impressed by who was shortlisted – and Judges comments on each
  • who won this heat

The Artists

The artists in Episode 7


Artists in Episode 7 are listed below in alphabetical order. I provide some detail which got left out of some of the bios on television. Links to websites are embedded in names.

  • Alexandra Beteeva (Instagram) – from Russia and is now an art student currently studying painting and printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art 
  • Jeannie Kinsler (Instagram) – born in 1963 in England, Jeannie was raised and schooled in Zimbabwe and then South Africa. She studied Graphic Design at the then Natal Technikon. She has had two portraits accepted for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters annual exhibition.
  • Richard Kitson – he paints, draws and makes etchings in his studio in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. He also previously participated in PAOTY 2018 when he painted Kadeena Cox. He’s had a portrait accepted for the annual Royal Society of Portrait Painters open exhibition at the Mall Galleries. 
  • Jodhie McCourt (Instagram) – an accountant from Norwich, whose self portrait was an oil in board
  • Thompson Osim – a research technician at University College, London
  • Lee Turbill – a charity worker from Northampton.
  • Simon Turvey – an award-winning professional artist who who lives in Orpington and paints animals for a living and whose art has been sold at Christies! He’s a member of the Society of Wildlife Artists and is its past Secretary. Once I looked at his wildlife art on line I knew exactly who he was – but didn’t connect the artwork to the face! He spent two years at Ravensbourne College of Art and became a professional painter at the age of 20. He’s also a portrait artist and his work was included in 500 Portraits (National Portrait Gallery Publications)He did his self portrait – which had three views of Simon – in 10 days. 
  • Jude Wainwright – a fine art graduate who works in creative branding and lives and works in Manchester. Her self portrait was very small.
  • Lucie Wake (Instagram) – a professional artist from York

If often wonder how they decide how to allocate artists to each heat – other than the obvious make a point of having a mic of professional and amateur artists. This week we seem to have rather more from the end of the alphabet – which one might assume means this was the last heat – except when you know that the order of the episodes bears absolutely no relation to the order of the Heats!

The Sitters

The sitters for this heat were

  • Lemar – an English singer, songwriter and record producer who emerged from Fame Academy and has had considerable chart success with his music
  • Candice Carty-Williams – a British writer, best known for her 2019 debut novel, Queenie – which won ‘Book of the Year’
  • Henning Wehn – a German stand-up comedian based in London.

Size and Content of Self Portrait Submissions

[No decent view of the self portraits lined up this episode – which is a pity]

Every week I look at how the self portraits can be analysed in terms of format, size and content.

FORMAT

A square format seems to be becoming very popular. Is this the influence of Instagram?

  • Portrait x 4
  • Landscape x 1
  • Square x 4

SIZE

Nice to see some large paintings again in this heat.

  • Large x 3
  • Large/Medium x 1
  • Medium x 2
  • Small x 2
  • Tiny x 1

SCOPE (in terms of representation of artist’s body)

Five of the nine artists failed to paint any hands in their self portraits – which in my book is a major missed opportunity – especially if they also failed to paint any hands in their self portrait submission too.

  • full size or most of body (including hand) x 1
  • head + upper torso + hand(s) x 3
  • head + upper torso (no hands) x 2
  • head and shoulders x 1
  • head x 2

Themes


The Ugly Stage

Most artists will be very familiar with the phrase ‘The Ugly Stage. This is when you’re part way through and your artwork does not look good.  There’s a variety of reasons

I have to say at the halfway stage I was very sure that some of the portrait looked really awful. The issue was whether or not the artists were going to rescue them

If we look at this television series in the round – rather than just this episode, I have to tell you that there’s almost always one who doesn’t – and sometimes more.

Is a portraiture about the artist or the sitter? Discuss…..

The question was posed in this week’s episode. 

I like portraits where I can tell who painted it (if familiar with the artist’s work). I’m very much NOT a fan of artists who have not yet achieved any level of maturity in their approach to their work and hence have evolved a style or way of painting which suits how they paint best.  

That’s one reason why I’m very sure the Judges are always looking to see if there is a consistency of “look” between the self portrait submission and the heat painting. One may have taken several hours if not days or weeks and the other has to be completed from scratch in 4 weeks – but you need to know for certain they are by the same painter.

At the same time one has to ask what is the point of portraiture if you can’t tell who it is – or it’s a bad likeness. 

For me I don’t mind stylised responses e.g. Stuart Pearson Wright (who painted JK Rowling for the National Portrait Gallery) invariably paints people with longish faces – because he has an eye condition which distorts how he sees faces – which hasn’t stopped him winning prizes and having a very successful career as a portrait painter.

Why the Sitters Choose as They Do

Lemar chose Thompson Odim – which I must confess I thought was an absolute given before anybody put brush to support. Just because of the culture thing of blokes look after blokes who look like them.

It’s come up quite a lot before in terms of choice being related to who somebody is/how people get on much more than whether or not they like the portrait. 

The reasons som sitters choose some artists and not others is that there is an empathy or emotional connection on the day – you couldn’t not choose them….

It’s a good reason to engage with your sitter – if they look like they are happy to do so….

At what stage do Judges choose artists for reasons other than to do with how good they are?

I’m never ever convinced that they always choose the best three artists in every heat.

I’m absolutely sure part of the judging conversation we never ever hear goes along the lines of 

“but he’s very like that artist from two heats ago – we need another type of artist”

They simply don’t want eight identikit artists in the final – because it would make it very, very boring.

I’m absolutely convinced they are aiming for variety – and in relation to this particular commission – they’re also looking for somebody who they think can paint Lenny Henry’s skin tones. (See last week’s discussion about “Own Race Bias for Face Recognition”). 

I personally think that’s a very pragmatic reason – given the commission is for the National Portrait Gallery and will doubtless be given a prominent display when the Gallery reopens next year!

A Final Message for Future Artists 

Given this is the last heat – and there will be people applying for next year’s series after I’ve written this post – here’s my final message around the themes to come out of series 7

  • be yourself – have your own style
  • don’t be like everybody else 
  • if classically trained (which they don’t like because the sausage machine means everybody paints like everybody else!) try and find something which makes you different (probably via the design and composition of your self-portrait)
  • be sure to achieve a good likeness
  • make sure you get hands in somewhere – it’s easier to achieve this with the self portrait
  • work out how to do a shorthand version of what you achieve when painting for more hours/days – because the two paintings need to look as if they’re by the same artist

The Judging

First the sitters choose – and then the Judges do.

Sitters Choices

  • Lemar chose Thompson Osim’s portrait
  • Candice chose Jodie’s portrait – very much an emotional response
  • Henning chose Jude – having said he was going to choose the one that looks least like him!


Critique by the Judges

Things the judges liked:

  • good composition
  • excellent colour choices
  • the way the paint goes down
  • lightness of touch
  • care and attention to getting detail right
  • artists who know when to leave well alone and not go back and rework passages which are already working fine
  • stylised approaches to painting portraits

Things the judges liked less

  • something going wrong with the colour in the face

The Shortlist

Waiting to hear who has been shortlisted

The shortlisted artists were – in the order they were announced:

  • Thompson Osim
  • Jude Wainwright
  • Jeannie Kinster
The line up of the shortlisted artists’ paintings

Self portrait and heat painting by Thompson Osim

I think half way through one of the Judges commented that they weren’t quite sure whether Thompson was painting Lemar or creating a second self portrait. It’s an issue I’ve seen crop up before when chaps paint other chaps who look somewhat like themselves. I think it must be an ‘automatic pilot’ thing if the nerves have kicked in.

It came back in the afternoon…

Self portrait and heat painting by Jude Wainright

I’m guessing the connection with Lenny Henry is the fact that Henning is a comedian and both artist and sitter connected over what the painting looked like.

Jude has a highly stylised way of painting – with an emphasis on patterned markmaking. Interestingly, of the three artists who painted Henning, I did think she actually achieved the best likeness.

Self portrait and heat painting by by Jeannie Kinsler

They really liked the diligence Jeannie had applied to getting Lemar’s likeness but thought her painting was weeks away from being finished. I disagree. It’s a study and a very competent one and at least as good as others. 

The Judges described her painting as pale and ethereal.  When lined up next to the others it certainly does look very pale. 

However for my money she was by far the best painter.

Episode 7 Winner

The winner of Episode 7 was Jude Wainwright who was ‘gobsmacked’! I was also very surprised because at no time has Jude painted hands. However, this painting was much bigger than her self portrait submission – which was tiny.

Jude Wainwright with her portrait of Henning Wehn

I must confess I’d have very definitely chosen Jeannie Kinsler.

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Next Week is the Semi Final!

No more heats because next week is the Semi-Final. 

Which is odd since Series 3 through to Series 8 have all had eight heats before the semi final. Are they running out of enough decent artists? Or just cutting the budget? Or something else….?

The sitter for the semi-final is the singer Rebecca Ferguson – who also won a talent contest! Which should sort out who can paint afro-caribbean skin and who can’t. If the artists haven’t been practising they only have themselves to blame.

Although I’m never quite sure if the artists actually know who the final sitter for the Commission will be.

You can start guessing now who the sitter for the Final will be…….

Sky Arts Artist of the Year – REFERENCE

If you want to look back at reviews of previous series you can find links to them in

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