Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Sky Arts 1 Portrait Artist of the year 2013 -Show 2 Glasgow - the chicken sandwich episode...

Wel,l the Art show from Glasgow was finally aired. Again it was nicely done, and I was surprised that I featured in it as much as I did! Thanks StoryVault Films!

So here's my brief experience of the day.

Filming started really early - we had to arrive at the Kelvingrove Museum for around 7am. We were filmed arriving at the venue - and were then taken onto the set. The set was very impressive and took up much of the space in the main hall near the entrance. There were crew outside doing crane shots of the building, and on set there were several crews manning each part of the construction - which was called 'The Cheese' - and were were all allocated a space in our section of The Cheese. Each piece of The Cheese had a runner and a floor manager who looked after us. The organisation was very good and very cleverly thought out.

Drawing and painting started at around 10.30am... and quite frankly I was terrified. The other artists were very friendly - but there was a competitive edge - so we all got to it straight away. Being part of the process whilst understanding and appreciating how the filming is completed was interesting. As a lecturer in Media Studies at Portsmouth University enabled me to see how the production company were going to produce the narrative, and from what TV shows they had developed their format. It was very much like the Antiques Road Show and the British Bake-off, as I mentioned in my earlier blog post. So I felt prepared for the questions, the positioning of myself in relation to the work, continuity and narrative. Joan Bakewell, was very sweet, she was supportive and appeared to be genuinely interested in everyone's work and technique. Frank Skinner, on the other hand asked more antagonistic questions - much of which was not included in the final cut.

We were all told to standby when our sitter arrived. Of course we didn't know who it was going to be.. but it was a nice surprise to see the Scottish Actor, John Hanna. I  had said to the production team that part of my creative process was to hug my portrait sitters.. so I  did actually get a very nice big hug from John!! (thanks John!) 

However, what I had not anticipated was the sheer strength of different layers of 'the gaze' (Lacan, Berger, Mulvey) in this experience. For a start, we - as artists - were gazing and observing our sitter. Then we were being looked at and observed by the cameras; we were then observed by whom I can only describe as the' art police' - two very tall, (I'm only 4ft 11ins) women. Unfortunately I didn't know who they were, and I could only assume that one was the arbiter of trend, and the other the arbiter of taste. Then we were observed by practising artist Tai Shan Shierenberg. On top of all that looking - we were all finally observed by the general public who appeared in their droves with all their own personal recording media. It was rather like being in a zoo. Whilst all this was going on we also had to produce a painting or drawing - preferably a likeness of our sitter. The layers of looking and being seen were the most I had ever experienced. It was bonkers! 

So, I started my work and, using compressed and soft charcoals, blue tak and Fabriano paper, I tried to do my best - under truly surreal circumstances. Once I got going I actually enjoyed it. I decided to have fun and just do my bit. I was amazed that I had even been short listed!

Here's a video clip from Sky Arts of John Hanna talking about his experience of sitting for us.


Having Tai come and give a constructive critique of my work made it all worth while. 

The pressure on set was very intense and completely exhausting, and I was certainly relieved when I had finished!

The judging was a pretty intense procedure too. we all had to leave the building and were interviewed outside about our expectations. I do believe that someone was so nervous that they actually threw-up outside. The other sitters were amazing - Sophie Turner and Michael Kerr - and the artists did some fantastic work. I think our winner was well deserved - his work reminded me of Rembrandt. 

Overall, I think I will be remembered most for scribbling all over the paper, and recollecting when I first heard I had been short listed.. I choked on my chicken sandwich I was eating whilst getting the phone call from StoryVault Films.... 

Special Thanks

I would like to say a very big thank you to everyone who has supported me during this competition - especially (the lovely) Ed, Chris Wood, The Southsea Gallery, colleagues at the School of Creative Arts Film and Media, University of Portsmouth, White Elephant,  Ellie for friendship and lovely photos of the day used on this blog, and Scott (DJ Loveless) for providing such an entertaining end to the weekend.

I am available for private commissions, and often run simple drawing classes during the spring and summer months in and around Portsmouth and Hampshire. If you would like to get in touch please do leave a comment, or you can find my contact details via the University of Portsmouth web site. 


  1. we really enjoyed watching you on Sky Arts, you came across as such a lovely person and soulful in your art. Thanks so much for making us smile and for sharing your art - Ciarna (my hubby is in this weeks Dublin slot -Pham Van Duc) so I know what its like :D x

    1. Hi Ciarna! Thanks so much for your kind words!! Looking forward to seeing your hubby on the next show!! It was a very strange experience!! :) X