July 25, 2024


Art Shines Through

Episode 4 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2022 (Series 9)

Episode 4 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2022 (Series 9)

Producing this review this week has been very difficult. I always watch the episode all the way through and then go back and review sections of it in more detail. In general I’ve watched the whole episode 2-3 times before I finish the review.

This has proved well nigh impossible this week as 

  • the Now TV app (used for viewing Sky Arts) refuses to behave on my iPad and iPhone – and 
  • it’s impossible to see a repeat of Sky Arts on Channel 11 on my television as it doesn’t belong to any of the “on demand” apps. 

Now that might be because Now TV has maybe failed to keep up with the updates to the Apple operating system? All I know is that periodically

  • I can’t use the stop button 
  • Nor can I move to specific parts of the episode. 
  • which means it becomes a very much a “watch it from the beginning or nothing” experience and make my notes fast. Which frankly will not win many fans in my neck of the woods!

Hopefully this is a glitch which will be fixed. It’s certainly straining my credulity as to why I should pay £9.99 a month for an app which behaves like this! 

Major whinge over – here’s my review….

The artists in Episode 4 are listed below – and are ordered alphabetically by surname. You can also see the top down videos of what they painted on this link

  • Ramon Adeyemi (Instagram) – originally from Lagos, Nigeria where he gained Diplomas in Art and worked for the National Gallery of Art. He now lives in Manchester and works as a professional artist. His self portrait was the first he had done in 20 years.
  • Oliver Bassett Cross (Instagram) – a full time artist and aspiring script writer from London. His self portrait took him two days.
  • Jill Dudley (Twitter) – lives in County Durham and words as a service manager for her local council
  • Keren Golea (Facebook | Instagram) – a fine art student studying at Oxford Brookes university. She’s originally from the Philippines. She won the Glyndebourne Tour Art Competition for 2021, She produced a very large photorealistic self portrait.
  • Stephen Grey – a retired advertising art director from Lincolnshire. He’s the oldest participant in this year’s competition.
  • Elizabeth Griffiths (Instagram | Twitter) – from Stourbridge who works as a public health consultant and works in textile art as well as other media.
  • Neil Hamilton – lives in Ballyshannon in Donegal, Ireland and teaches English language and art. He graduated in Fine Art from the University of Ulster. His self portrait portrayed him as a man in a dressing gown and took him him 35 hours.
  • Anastasia Olarou (Instagram) – a watersports instructor from Hertfordshire who has a background in prop making for film and T.V
  • Emily Roberts (Instagram) – a professional artist and art teacher from Cornwall who likes to paint portraits from life.

The Sitters

The Sitters for Episode 4 were:

  • Bruno Tonioli – ex Judge of Strictly Come Dancing; 
  • Yolanda Brown – a British saxophonist, composer, and broadcaster, who looks like she has great hair; and
  • Helen Sharman – the astronaut.

Size and Content of Self Portrait Submissions

Every week I look at how the self portraits can be analysed in terms of format, size and content.


One of the landscape format paintings was the very big painting by the person who won.

  • Portrait x 6
  • Landscape x 2
  • Square x 1


It’s worth noting that the winner painted the largest submission

  • Large x 1
  • Large/Medium x 1
  • Medium x 5
  • Small x 1
  • Tiny x 1


  • full size or most of body (including hand) x 1
  • upper torso + hand(s) x 2
  • upper torso (no hands) x 1
  • head and shoulders x 4
  • head x 1


Every week I try to identify some themes which were relevant to this heat and also maybe helpful to future aspiring participants.

The Worst Sitter Ever

This folks is just ONE of the reasons why artists NEED to have devices so they can take photos at the beginning.

I felt really sorry for those who drew the short straw and got Bruno Tonioli – and also wondered what on earth the celebrity bookers were thinking of! It very much appeared that he didn’t sit still the whole time irrespective of whether the artist painted form life – as one did!

I’m also surprised Tonioli’s agent didn’t tell him not to accept the gig – as his constant movement did his reputation no favours as well as not helping the artists.

The discrepancy between time spent on self-portrait and available in the heat

One of the conundrums for very many artists who apply to participate in this competition is how long to spend on their self portrait.

This episode was notable for the extreme discrepancy between the number of hours spent on submissions compared to the amount of time available in the heat. The question it poses is how is the artist going to adapt to cope.

The clever artist who will do well is the one who has thought about this and determined the best strategy for adapting their normal approach to the context and constraints of the heat. In other words have a plan and then practice it!

The contrast between large and small

This heat illustrated something which is relevant to every potential participating artist.

By and large two small paintings – the self portrait submission and the heat painting – will not cut it in this competition. 

At least ONE of them needs to demonstrate:

  • what you can do – with all the time in the world or just four hours
  • that you can paint more than just a head

In Episode 4, two artists produced a large and a small painting

  • Ramon submitted 
    • a small self portrait of his head and shoulders; 
    • he then did a large portrait in the heat which included the head, hands and some of the legs. 
  • Keren produced 
    • a very large photorealistic self-portrait of her herself swimming – which was essentially just a head coming out of the water – HOWEVER she also painted the suggestion of her body underneath. 
    • Plus another painting of a head on a smaller scale in the heat – about which Tai said……
    • you can see both below 

How to get going

It occurred to me that those artists who make very good progress in the morning 

  • provide more for the Judges to ponder on during their lunchtime assessment – and 
  • consequently are more likely to be watched closely in the afternoon.

Just a thought….

How to finish?

The choice for what artists should do towards the end – to finish off – often revolves around three choices

  • add in more elements 
  • refine what you’ve done to date
  • stop and put your brush down – and avoid overworking / messing up what you’ve achieved so far

I must admit I’m liable to shout at the screen when 

  • people start messing around with filling in a background when they’ve not yet delivered on the basics
  • those who focus on detail and miss the fact the tonal pattern is lacking 

whereas I applaud those who:

  • know when to stop – and leave well alone
  • know and understand their own skills – and know how much time they need to do something significant 

More importantly, the question relevant at this stage is whether or not all the time before the last hour was used wisely. 

So very often we see people rushing at the end when better application earlier one would have avoided any need to rush.

The Still Life Motif

I’m seeing absolutely no evidence that including this makes any difference to the outcome of the heat

The Judging

Judging takes place in three stages. The sitters choose the portrait they can keep. The Judges then whittle the artists down to a shortlist and then review the heat paintings of the shortlisted artists alongside their self portrait submission.

Never ever underestimate the importance of the self portrait submission. A weak one is never ever going to get you shortlisted and a strong one will put you in with a definite chance.

Sitters Choices

The sitters chose their preferred portraits as follows:

  • Bruno Tonioli chose the romantic portrait by Emily Roberts – which I thought was by far the best of the three, but suffered from a sitter who did not sit still.
  • Helen Sharman chose the portrait by Jill Dudley – which included the insignia from her former role in space
  • Yolanda Brown chose the very expressionistic painting of a full figure of Yolanda and her tenor saxophone by Anastasia Olarou. I rather thought she might. 

Critique by the Judges

The Judges liked

  • artists who have worked out a strategy and a technique for producing an artwork in four hours
  • artists who get going faster – with no faffing about
  • those who are brave and attempt to portray more of the figure
  • an artist who used a digital image to get started but then painted tone and colour from life rather than being distracted by the distortions introduced in digital images
  • portraits with feeling
  • those who achieve a sensitive likness

The Judges were less impressed by artists who

  • failed to achieve a good likeness
  • created a harsh or brutal rendering of the sitter
  • created an overly romantic rendering of the sitter
  • failed to develop a good tonal structure i.e. painted colours rather than form

The Judges were sympathetic to those with a bad sitter – but ultimately create the shortlist based on the submission and the heat painting. So if you’ve got a bad sitter you better hope you’ve got an ace submission.

The Shortlist

Waiting for the announcement of the shortlist

Those shortlisted were:

  • Ramon Adeyemi
  • Anastasia Olarou
  • Keren Galea
Shortlisted artists – self portrait submission and heat painting
(L to R: Ramon Adeyemi; Keren Golea and Anastasia Olarou)

In the order they were announced….

Ramon Adeyemi – submission and heat portrait

I’ve been noticing that those choosing artists for this year’s competition have been very mindful of the fact that their commission sitter this year is Lenny Henry and consequently – one way or another, there needs to be some testing of whether artists can handle different complexions. One way of doing this is to select artists for whom a brown skin is something completely normal. The Judges commented on how much they liked the painting of the skin tones in his self portrait.. Equally he did exceptionally well painting Yolanda.

However the Judged were very impressed with the way he captured the way she sat and her sense of presence. 

Plus he was highlighted for having been “brave” and ratcheting up his delivery by painting a bigger portrait and including her torso. tops of legs and hands. I’m very persuaded of shape, form and substance and am happy he focused on that rather than the flowery bits on her shirt which were superfluous.

Anastasia Olarou – submission and heat portrait

Purples don’t process well – I’m sure this looks very different in real life!

Her self portrait was very relaxed but nicely cropped – and it was a neat way of demonstrating how Anastasia paints hands. Hence she she wasn’t bothered about focusing on hands in the heat painting and instead went for the sense of Yolanda and her saxophone – which I think she caught well – even if both were sadly out of proportion in places.

The judges like that she painted in an expressionistic and all enveloping way with wonderful movement.  They also liked the fact she didn;t dodge the saxophone and shorthand she used to paint it – which was also something which impressed Yolanda

For some reason, the photo the photographer took of the Keren’s portraits is absolutely AWFUL and makes her heat painting look completely pitiful. So here they are – as photographed – and then with a better image of the heat painting.

Keren Golea – submission and heat portrait (except it doesn’t look like that!)

Helen Sharman by Keren Golea

As you can see this is a much more impressive image.

What the Judges liked was that the heat painting was realistic but was much more organic compared to the hyperrealism of the submission. It was much warmer and more engaging. 

They were also impressed by somebody who had obviously had to completely rethink her process in order to cope with the time constraint of four hours – and she delivered an excellent portrait within that constraint

Finally they really liked the fact it was a very good likeness of the sitter – in ways which went way beyond the fact she’d traced the outline. Tai was hugely impressed.

to produce a painting of this finish within this timescale – I’ve never seen it before!
Tai Shan Schierenberg

Episode 4 Winner 

The shortlisted artists with their heat portraits

The artist who won Heat 4 was Keren Golea. You’d never guess it from this shot!

This one however is a bit more expressive…..

Keren Golea is announced as the winner.

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Episode 5

The sitters next week will be

  • Dame Stella Rimington – a British author and former Director General of MI5 (1992 to 1996)
  • Big Zuu – a British rapper, grime MC, songwriter, DJ and television personality 
  • Alexis Ffrench – a British classical and soul musician, composer, producer, and pianist. Ffrench was the best selling pianist of 2020 in the UK.

Sky Arts Artist of the Year – REFERENCE

If you want to look back at reviews of previous series you can find links to them in
my Art on Television pageThis year’s heats are: