This heat of Series 10 saw a lot of very good portraits - either as
submissions or as heat portraits - or both.
|View of the shortlisting process in Heat 5|
Heat 5 Portrait Artist of the Year
(series 10 / broadcast 8 November 2023)
What follows considers:
- the sitters
- the artists
- self portrait submissions - my analysis
- themes I identified plus comments and tips
- which portrait the sitters chose
- who the Judges shortlisted - and why
- who won
At the end of this post are details of how to apply for next year's competition and links to all my reviews of the heats to date.
NOTE: I'm going to start calling each episode a "Heat" because of the very confusing numbering of episodes which start with one involving children. Sky Arts needs a folder for ALL the episodes which are NOT "PAOTY heat episodes" and consequently are SEPARATE from those relating to the very serious art competition! If I keep saying this, maybe the people at Sky Arts will get the message that there's nothing more confusing than coming to the first episode of Series 10 and finding it's nothing whatsoever to do with PAOTY.
Heat 5: The Sitters
The three sitters were:
Nigel Havers - an English actor in a number of very popular films and television
drames/series and presenter. He is most known for "playing the
quintessential, old school Englishman with his dashing good looks,
cut-glass accent and thoroughly charming manner". He also collects
contemporary British art.
- he brought a guitar - and some scripts to read
Vanessa Kingori OBE - Born in Kenya and raised in St. Kitts before moving to London
aged seven. She is a 'trailblazer in publishing. She is currently the
chief business officer at Condé Nast Britain and is also a Vogue European
business advisor. She is also British Vogue's Publishing Director. Prior
to that, Kingori was the publisher of British
GQ across all
platforms. She is also a visiting fellow at the
University of the Arts London
and sits on several boards and is a regular public speaker
- she brought her grandmother's silk scarf
Mishal Husain - a British newsreader and journalist for
and BBC Radio. She
was the first Muslim presenter of BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Her family are from Pakistan but she was educated in England. She
lives in Camden with her husband and three children
- she brough a rug and a kilim from Pakistan
Heat 5: The Artists
The artists in Heat 5 (of Series 10) broadcast on 8 November 2023 are
listed below in alphabetical order of the surname.
You can see all the profiles on the Sky Arts site plus speeded up videos of their paintings.
THIS WEEK I've embedded the speed up videos in the shortlist section.
There's a thread about art education running through the artists this week -
I actually take a look at bios on the internet and hence my profiles reflect
the extent to which artists have made an effort to tell us about themselves.
Alex Perry-Adlam (Instagram) - He is a Painter, Ceramicist, Photographer, Printmaker and Head of Art
at St. Catherine’s School, Surrey. He lives in Weybridge.
Cameron Bennett (Portrait Blog)). He's been has been painting and illustrating professionally
since 1999 and his portfolio includes illustration and mural painting as
well as portraiture. He lives in West Sussex and is also a secondary
school art teacher.
Harriet Brady (Instagram) - She is based in Sheffield. She is a TV Script Editor by day and an
artist at night. This is
her submission in a good light.
Marina Renee-Cemmick (Instagram) - She is a self-employed artist. She grew up in Dorset and moved
to Glasgow to study Painting at Glasgow school of Art (2018). She
studied at The Royal Drawing School, London (2021) before receiving Arts
Council Funding to research ways of combining theatre and drawing. In
2022 she was awarded a New English Arts Club scholarship, and completed a
residency at Dunfries House in 2022 and Colstoun House in early
(Instagram) - A New Yorker with synesthesia who moved to the UK during the Pandemic
and lives in the Scottish Borders. Graduated from the University of
Cumbria with a BA in Fine Arts in 2022(?). Used copic markers and coloured
pencils for her heat artwork.
Brendan Megarity (Facebook) - an artist based in Belfast. He tutors art groups part time in drawing
and painting. He studied graphic design and illustration at art college in Belfast and
works in Indian Ink and Oils.
Daniel Nelis (Instagram |
Facebook) - He is a educator and curator and award-winning visual
artist. One of his paintings ‘All things Shining’ has just won the Tyrone Guthrie Director’s Award at the
Royal Ulster Academy
142nd Annual Exhibition. Six months ago he won The RSA Guthrie Award and
Medal at the 197th Royal Scottish Academy Annual Exhibition. He was also
awarded the RUA Outstanding Student Award as part of the UU Belfast School
of Art Degree Show 2014. One to watch - but he'd do better if he built a
Sara Reeve (Instagram) - a Brighton-based painter who predominantly focuses on portraiture and
also works as a wedding officiant. She is also a Tutor at Draw Brighton as a life drawing session leader and runs evening classes in
Painting Portraits in Oils. She is also a proud @artcanorg
member. Previously she worked for 12 years as a wedding photographer - so
I'm guessing she knows a few things about how to make people look
Yin Wang - a figurative and portrait artist born in China, and is now
based in London. She is an art student currently studying for a BA Fine
Art and Contemporary Portraiture at the Art Academy London. Prior to this
she got a BA and a Masters in Fashion in China. She says her colour
choices and brushwork are influenced by Chinese traditional ink art,
reflecting my cultural heritage.
Self Portrait Submissions
Size, content and calibre of submissions
allocated them to the various categories below.
The main thing I noticed about the submissions in this episode was they
tended to be larger than those typically submitted - I had to add in a new "large medium" category and they tended to have
more of the artist in them. There were also some interesting
It resulted in the finalists lineup of submissions and heat paintings
looking very different to the one in the last episode!
time on their submission....
- Portrait format x 7
- Landscape x 2
- Large x 1
- Medium Large x 2
- Medium x 4
- Small x 2
- Tiny x 0
- full size or most of body (including hand) x 2
- upper torso including hand(s) x 4
- upper torso (no hands) x 1
- head, shoulder and hand(s) x 0
- head and shoulders (no hands) x 2
- head only x 0
I think I might have to change this categorisation to include a category
for those who do upper torso including hands plus a complicated
Studying / teaching art
A very high percentage of this week's artists are either teaching art or
studying art. I made it four of the former and one of the latter. This might well account
for why the standard of work submitted and produced was generally much
higher in this heat.
That's the reality for a lot of professional artists. They cannot generate
enough cash from their art or depend on cashflow from their "art business" so also have a steady (possibly part-time) day job - with being an art
teacher or tutor the favourite of very many.
However, the really amateur artist does not have a very strong presence in
this series - whereas they have been in the past - and had people foaming at
the mouth when they failed to distinguish themselves.
I think the series has also improved its reputation over the years and
professional artists are now more likely to take part than in the past when
the standard of some work left a lot to be desired.
Bottom line - if you select better artists you get more experienced /
better artists applying.
What photographs are you taking at the beginning?
While some artists try to work entirely from life - and only take photos to
get details and a backup image to work from when the cameras get in the way
- some artists work entirely from a photo.
They then stare at
their technology throughout the heat and rarely look at the sitter.
The thing is - whichever artist you are - the value of those photos you
take at the beginning is going to depend entirely on what you chose to
photograph and how you did it.
The fastest method is
- Either using a smartphone which is bluetooth linked to an iPad.
Or use the iPad as you'll get much better colour balance because of the
the much larger screen which absorbs more light
- using macros to get an appropriate zoom
You might get better portraits with a good quality camera - but you need
to remember that
- you only have four hours and
what sort of quality the photo needs to be for the sort of painting
you can produce in four hours
plus you need to spend time getting the photos off the card and onto
the screen you are using
What I'm always amazed about is that artists don't seem to use zoom to get
in close on the features of the face - as in really close!
TIP - Harriet used an app to
incorporate their object (the carpet and rug) into the background so she
could work out how to paint them
Size is relative
We don't often talk about the height of the sitters - but's it's actually
quite important to choices about composition
very tall sitters - like Vanessa Kingori - can also wear high heels and
tower over everybody. She has a long body, legs which go on and on as do
her arms. That means there's that much more to paint. This makes for a
considerable incentive to think long and hard about how to compose and
crop the image for the heat painting. She would have made a truly
fabulous full length painting - but that would have been very
challenging in the time.
small sitters offer an opportunity to paint more. Nigel Havers is a lot
smaller than people think he is and it's entirely unsurprising to me
that he rather liked the rather large life size artwork which showed all
of him. It was also very imposing! (see below)
TIP - STOP AND THINK long and
hard before making any decisions about what parts of them to
paint and on what sort of support
The Slice Painting
Cameron, Brendan and Yin all chose to use a
- This means the format is tall and thin.
- This significantly constrains what you do with a composition.
The Judges all recognised the challenges - and I think had varying views
about their success in using it.
Cameron did a head and hands and then filled the rest of the support
with motifs from the carpet. I think Kathleen likened it to "an apotheosis". For me his use of the slice looked gimmicky. Tai thought he
was a great painter who needed to learn how to "reel it in a bit".
Brendan used a horizontal slice - more of a landscape format. I very
much liked the way he used what would have been empty space to
introduce the shadow of Nigel's Base guitar. Tai really For me his
use of the slice looked gimmicky. it.
Yin has more cultural affinity with the slice and quite possibly
more experience and knowledge of what you can do with a slice and
create an effective portrait.
TIP - only use an unusual format
if you're very used to painting using that format and know what does
and does not work - and never ever be gimmicky!
Large Supports means less focus on just Head and Shoulders
I think the is the first heat I've seen where a number of the artists
tackled their artworks on very large supports whether these were were
paper, gesso board, or canvas.
Oddly, creating an artwork on a large support can actually make it
easier. Or rather this was the revelation I had when I went from painting very
tight watercolours on paper no big than A4 size to creating pastels on a
full sheet of abrasive pastel paper. Life suddenly became soooooo much
If you get the size, shape or proportions incorrect, you've got lots
of space to redraw and get it right.
Going bigger than life size on a large support also has the same
Large supports give you scope to do the full figure - and there's
nothing like impressing the Judges by demonstrating you can do this
Whereas if you're working small, very small deviations from the truth
can make your subject look very weird. I see this happen again and
again in the heats when people work small and/or make heads very small
on small and medium sized supports.
be like Harriet Brady and Sara Reeve and get your portrait of the
whole person done as your submission!
I thought one of the really interesting comments made in the entire heat
was Harriet commenting on how "working big" takes a lot more paint!
If I was an artist BEFORE I put in my submission, I'd want
- my website licked into shape and
- looking the best it can possibly me - in relation to
- "about the artist" and
- my "portrait art"
In this heat, only four of the nine artists in this heat have a
That's because I'm pretty sure that those who select those who make it
into the heats look at the presence online as well as their self
portrait. It's certainly another way in which you can reduce a
longlist to a shortlist for getting a place in a heat.
I'm also becoming more and more convinced that the programme makers
are actively looking for good portrait artists - as a number say they
were persuaded them to apply.
Ditto - if it's a close call for who gets selected for the shortlist
in the heat, do you really think the Judges do not have a crafty look
at their website / Instagram account
(i.e. as in Kathleen's wish for a third portrait)?
What I was surprised about in this heat was how so many artists are
relying on their instagram - which is mostly pics and minimal text -
to profile who they are and what they do.
It's wise to remember that being able to paint in a heat of PAOTY and
demonstrate your work is an unparalleled opportunity to market who you
are and what you do.
Speaking personally, from many many years of looking at websites and
meeting artists, I can tell the "really serious artists" from the
"it's only a hobby really" part-time artist by the amount of
effort which goes into actually developing a website and then keeping it
and want to keep up with my reviews + get an email to your inbox
every time I publish
Who the Sitters chose
They are extraordinary!
The SITTERS chose portraits as follows
Nigel Havers chose the very large charcoal drawing in the centre by
Marina Renee-Cemmick. He said plainly and simply "I love it"
and did not mess about deliberating over the choice but went
straight for hers.
A bravura piece of drawing - and I love the fact that
it's ambitious in the sense that as the figure is rendered life size Tai Shan Shierenberg
Nigel Havers's choice in the centre - and Marina being
applauded by Alex and Brendan
Vanessa Kingori chose the head done by Sara Reeve. I was
pretty sure she was going to as it was an impactful painting plus
the colours used created warmth and empathy - and it is also a very
Sara Reeve with her painting of Vanessa Kingori - which Vanessa
chose to take home
Compare the size of the head in the painting to Sara's
Mishal Husain chose the portrait by Yin Wang. I thought she
might as the head and face were good and the treatment of paint was
so unusual. Interestingly she didn't include the rug or kilim but
her work included some of the colours.
Interestingly both Cameron and Harriet did what I think I suggested
last week and incorporated the pattern of the special object (in this
case the the carpet / kilim) into the background - or everything but
the head and hands in the case of Cameron. His was the totally OTT
version whereas Harriet did the strictly stripped back version.
Neither appealed to the sitter as much as the one with no rugs and all
What the Judges thought
Judging all the nine entries - this drawing of Nigel Havers
is by Marina Renee-Cemmick
The words below are mine - but based on what the Judges said
On the whole the Judges were complimentary about pretty well all the portraits - as might be expected in a more experienced group.
Judges LIKED artists who:
- well designed and well thought through designs
- gentle smiles
- simple reduction
- put paint on the support in an interesting way
- displayed interesting use of media in an accomplished way
- created good portraits despite challenging techniques
Judges were less enthusiastic about those who:
- had gone OTT
- invented what things looked like
The Shortlist in Heat/week 5
|Heat artists waiting to hear who is shortlisted|
Those shortlisted were:
- Sara Reeve
- Harriet Brady
- Yin Wang
My first reaction was to be very surprised there wasn't a drawing or a monochrome artwork in
the shortlist. It underlines why you have to remember
the importance of the self portrait submission.
Putting the submissions together with the heat painting underlined
an observation I've made in the past i.e. that Judges need to see continuity in terms of approach,
technique and colour palette used.
The very bright yellow and orange in the background
seems to produce a very weird effect - it's negating the
colour in Sara's paintings
|Yin Wang - submission and heat painting|
Both paintings - and their drips - are obviously the work of the
same artist. The long sliver of support, whether horizontal or
vertical, also speak of Yin's heritage as a Chinese artist and the
traditional way many paintings were created in the past in China. She
starts with very thin washes and allows them to drip and then aims to
achieve a likeness.
The Judges thought her self portrait was both powerful and expressive
- and that, during the heat, she was very good at marshalling her
washes and drips to do what she what she wanted. Tai, in particular,
was impressed that she was able to produce a portrait as good as it is
out of a an approach and technique which looks chaotic.
I'm personally not convinced by the self-portrait. It was the one
which looked least like the artist I saw in the heat. There again many
people who wear glasses often like to be portrayed as not wearing
By way of contrast, I thought her painting of Misha's head was really
good and she also had a very convincing sense of relative proportions.
Also for me, there's always a danger with this type of technique that
the technique overpowers the likeness.
|Sara Reeve - submission and heat painting|
The Judges thought her self portrait a marvellous painting and were
intrigued by how she fitted herself into a scrunched up perspective.
I liked the way her judicious crop left nothing important out.
- and went bigger than life size. Some may think the head and face
look squashed. Others - like me - might think it was a very smart
crop. The test of course is always the end result - and I think she
achieved an excellent likeness.
She's obviously very
accustomed to working on this size of support and knowing what she
can do in terms of both a head and the whole body.
the Judges and I thought the colouration she used was outstanding
and conveyed both the person and personality without using any
Whenever I come across this painting it fills me with
Tai van Schierenberg
This is how she created her heat painting - it's worth watching.
|Harriet Brady - submission and heat painting|
Harriet made a very smart decision by submitting a full size self
portrait for her entry - which is a good likeness of both face and stature and also
demonstrated her particular style for simplifying everything.
Harriet worked from life and her tablet when painting her heat
portrait. The Judges observed that she spent a lot of time looking and
thinking and overall they thought at lunchtime that she was very slow.
I think those who start slow often finish faster than those watching
might expect - and it's largely because they've been asking the
questions in their head and resolving them so they spend more time
painting and less time correcting.
Tai observed that very well designed portrait results from an approach
which reduces and simplifies everything while her creation of volume
is barely there - but found her approach very interesting.
For me, while I admired the simplification, the portrait was just too
Episode 5 Winner
At least one of the Judges found it very hard to pick a
Kathleen Soriano said something interesting.
I think this is the first time I'd like to see a third
painting from these artists.
If I'd been there I would have suggested they all go and look at
their respective websites - which I suspect they may have done
anyway! It's an obvious thing to do when wanting to make sure you're
putting forward the best artist in the heat to the semi-final and
The three finalists lined up
(left to right) Yin
Wang, Sara Reeve and Harriet Brady
Sara Reeve won this heat.
The artist produced a painting full of warmth and
Prior to this Judges had described her work as follows
which is somewhat ironic given her self portrait submission was
Her paintings are full of joy and she's a brilliant colourist
painted while confined to home because she had covid. There again
think again, she painted that while she had covid!
I have to say I would not be in the least bit surprised to see
Sara in the Final and I think she's very definitely in with a
shout of winning.
My reasons are that
- she is a confident painter
- who knows how to
create interesting compositions,
- gets a very good likeness and
- makes very
good use of colour and applies it in an interesting way.
all the things the Judges like to see in an artist's portrait!
|The winner of Heat 5 - Sara Reeve|
She's having an exhibition of her portrait paintings this
month (see below)
Do you want to paint in a heat next year?
well - it's got links to all my past reviews and all the themes
and tips identified in the last five years.
Plus if you
want to find out more.....
Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year - REFERENCE
Here are my posts about previous finals
Reviews of PAOTY Series 10
Dates after the listed reviews below relate to the date of the first