My Portrait Artist of the Year Experience

I was so excited to find out I’d got a place in Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year at the beginning of 2020, with filming originally planned for March.

Spot my self-portrait top left! :)

Getting prepared

I was lucky enough to have some wonderful models pose for me in life, I mostly work from photos as I need time to make mistakes, learn from them and come back with fresh eyes a few days later, but apparently this wouldn’t be possible on the show (I checked!) I needed to work on my time management. I did indeed make a lot of mistakes on this series of portraits but I learnt so much from them.

My Portrait of author, Bernardine Evaristo, as part of ‘Portrait Artist of the Week’ during lockdown in March ‘20.

The day finally arrived for filming

4.30 wake up call and I’m feeling like an actual grown-up, driving myself to London, bit of makeup on, clean clothes. And then it begins to rain. Two hours of poor visibility and splash back from massive lorries on the motorway really added to my nerves for the day-and then the fear hit my stomach. With beads of sweat forming on my brow, and my labour breathing techniques being put to good use, I saw the glowing sparkling lights of Asda (my car park for the day) I was saved. I was the last person to arrive on set, but I had a beaming smile that said ‘I’ve already won, I didn’t shit myself on the way here!’

The model reveal

Don Letts was a beautiful man to draw. I felt privileged to have him as our model, he was funny, humble, a bit of a fidget, but really helped ease our nerves. He also enjoyed testing us, placing his hand by his face for the sitting — he said “You can tell a good artist by how they paint hands!”

I had the honour of painting ‘The Rebel Dread’, Don Letts — filmmaker, director, 6Music DJ

Painter, portrait artist and art teacher living in Westcliff-on-Sea in the UK. Co-founder of The Secret Art Club.

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