Wednesday, 29 January 2020

SKY Portrait Artist of the year, 2020 - the filming

My finished portrait of actor/director Noel Clarke
This was the most stressful painting experience I have ever had, and it was exhausting, thrilling and, in a strange way, exciting all at the same time. Having done so much prep, all I wanted to do on the day was get ON with it, and found it difficult, at times, to even speak to the camera as I was so focussed. I felt nervous but ready - and didn't want to let my team down. SEVEN of my students flew from belfast to London to support me and watch the proceedings, and my brother and his partner also came, so I felt well supported. 
The Team...Margery, Sara, me and Catherine - the night before, like as if it was all a blast... They did, to be fair, text me at 6am to make sure I was up and ready for filming.. 
The venue, Battersea Arts Centre, was excellent, with consistent lighting and lots of space. There were cameras everywhere, with each artist easel having it's own camera in front and behind. 
Sara next to my self portrait
It was the first time that noel Clarke had sat for a portrait, and he was anxious in case he didn't do a good job. He needn't have worried - he was fantastic at sitting still and he was lovely to paint.
The first marks, literally! I always begin by using my hand-span as a guage for the head.
When I did my practice paintings, I worked sometimes from the model, and sometimes from my phone - I found that my phone was quicker, and that if I started from life, the camera wouldn't 'see' the same angle that I did, so it needed to be one or the other. If someone is going to sit still for four hours for me to paint them, then it's the least I could do to work from life. Most other artist, I understand, didn't do this. Great pity. On the other hand, this was less a paint-a-thon and more of a race, so whatever is the quickest! So I put my fastest-music in my headphones (ABBA! Not even joking!) and got started. 
The drawing, directly onto the canvas to save me the time of transferring it. I forgot my fixative spray, so was a tad nervous about painting over this... gulp. But nothing ventured... If I had drawn on a large pad, or larger canvas, I might well have NOT painted, but continued drawing.
The nerve wracking bit - adding paint on top of a perfectly fine drawing... will I 'lose' it...?? No going back now! (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tyrrell) 

Some of the camera crew - this was my view! 
Hard enough as it was to paint in such public circumstances, the worst bit was being taken outside at regular intervals to 'talk to the camera' - nightmare! I don't even like having my photograph taken, so this was torture. Though the crew were all absolutely fantastic and lovely. 

The fabulous Tai-Shan Scheirenberg
Joan Bakewell!

In the centre, 'the team' a bit star struck with Stephen Mangan. Far left is Gregor and Maeve, come to cheer me on, thanks! 
The quietest time was during the lunch break, when the hall emptied. Many of us continued painting, glad of the uniterrupted time to get as much done as possible. Even so, it was a marathon right up to the last minute. I didn't walk around the hall at any point - on the far side from my space all the self portrait were on the wall, but I didn't want to see ANY! (no room for nerves!)

Just seeing this photo brings it all back to me - it was getting busy by now! (Photo courtesy of Katherine Tyrrell)

Battery recharging!! 
With about 10 minutes remaining, I could hear one of the producers whispering to the artist next to me, asking 'what could possibly go wrong?', and I knew that she'd be asking me next. My goodness, there were so many potential answers to that question, mostly of the non-arty variety... and when she DID whisper, Julie, Julie what could go wrong?, I just hadn't the time to stop painting and said 'I have no words', and ignored her! Oops!!! It was a relief when we were told to put the brushes down..
and... it's all over. 

I was sorry not to get through to the next round, but I so enjoyed the experience. And, I'd do it again!!

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