Like many people I have watched the full series of this programme. My wife and I enjoy trying to pick the three artists chosen from each heat and then we try to select the one winner who will go through to the semifinal.
We are reasonably good and often get all of them right. Sometimes we disagree with the judges but they are paid professionals and have opinions of their own. As with all programmes of this type there is an end decision to be made and they have to look at what they are trying to achieve. They have to choose the artist, who will be able to win the prize and do the commission-sitter justice.
This year the three finalists included one professional artist and two amateurs.
As the series progressed, to me there seemed a slight shift in emphasis on what was wanted. The professional artist, the man far left of the photograph, could produce a superb painting capturing the sitter on every occasion. The only thing against him was that it was a fairly traditional style. The young girl, on the right of the photograph, again caught superb likenesses of the sitters and although her use of technology for reference purposes, may have gone against her in the beginning; she did start to also observe the person in front of her as well. The last artist, in the middle, tried to capture the essence of the sitter and in my eyes did not always capture a likeness.
Before the final, the artists were asked to do a commission and these were seen along with the final portrait at the end of the competition. The judges would use the two paintings to help them to decide which artist was to be the winner.
As soon as the programme started, you could tell as it progressed, who was going to win by the subtle references made by the judges as to what was wanted from the artists. Although this is my opinion, I have spoken to other artists, at my art club, and they had noticed this as well.
I had thought that the likeness was the most important thing in a portrait, but now they were looking for the most inventive artist. Which is fine as long as the artists who take part in the competition know this from the beginning.
At the end of the programme, when it came to the judging, to me the most impressive portrait was by the young girl, as well as capturing a good likeness there was a lot of originality in the use of colour in the background. Unfortunately, her commissioned piece seemed to lack the looseness of this one. The professional artist again produced two superb likenesses. The eventual winner had been given Zandra Rhodes to paint, as her commission and I believe produced one of the best paintings of the whole competition! However, in my opinion, her subject, Zandra Rhodes, certainly suited her style and it would have been interesting to see how she would have coped with the other two artist's commissions.
This portrait of Zandra Rhodes clinched the competition and the winner went away to paint Kim Cattrall as her £10,000 prize. She is obviously a very talented artist and produced the most original work. I think that she has the potential to develop her painting style and this is what the judges recognised. The young girl, if she continues to develop, should also be very successful and the professional artist has already reached a high standard and will continue to flourish.
What bothers me is the title of the competition, "Portrait Artist of the Year". I thought when it started the painting had to capture a likeness. When I go into a gallery I expect to recognise who the portrait is of. Each year it must be harder to pick a winner because there are so many talented artists out there. We have several who come to the club, but to find an artist who has an original way of capturing a likeness must be getting more difficult.
Maybe they need to change the title Sky Arts "Figurative Painter of the Year" or something similar.
The winner Samira Addo with her stunning painting of Zandra Rhodes