I love painting portraits, I think! - it's a real battle to get anywhere with them and I always want to give up when I'm in the middle of one, but force myself to persist to the end! It involves much groaning and many cups of distractive and strong tea - occasionally a biscuit. (When I'm anxious I like to attack the biscuits and have been known to go through half a packet without realizing - the only evidence is the crumbs pebble-dashed down my front).
So how wonderful that the BP Portrait Awards are visiting Wolverhampton Art Gallery (until the end of November) and I can go and see, and admire, and be inspired.
So what is it??
The BP Portrait Award is an annual competition of contemporary painted portraiture, and attracts entries from all over the world. This year, 2,667 entries were received from artists in 88 countries. Initial assessment is digital in order to whittle entries down to a longlist of a few hundred, and then those are viewed physically and reduced to the selection of 48 finalists. These finalists are judged anonymously with each judge justifying their choices - 1st prize is a wonderful £35,000.
Here's a quick canter through what I saw and particularly liked.
The whole portrait was this eye.
Derek (I am) by John McCarthy, Acrylic on panel.
Dad's Last Day
Nathan Ford, Oil and pencil on canvas.
Sunday, 10th September was Nathan Ford's father's last day. Suffering from bowel cancer, hernias, Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate cancer, he continued to work rather than retiring. On the Sunday morning, the artist sat with his father and drew and painted. The mantelpiece has a mixture of anniversay and "get Well" cards, above hangs a portrait of his parents on their wedding day 47 years before. Stan Ford died at home at 10.30pm.
An Existential Crisis by Megan Roodenrys, Oil on linen
The portrait is of Maeve, the artists daughter, who suffered depression, and creating the portrait helped the artist understand how this affected her. Surrounded by symbols of beauty and joy, the artist is hoping her daughter will have positive not negative days.
I've got to be honest, beautiful portrait though it is, I couldn't help feeling the eyes were looking in slightly different directions? Maybe they were irl - we'll never know!
Girl with Long Hair by Annalisa Avancini - oil on canvas (detail - I thought the painting of the eyes and fall of light was beautiful)
This portrait is of the artists sister in law. "The clash of the pattern on the old sofa on which she sits, her embroidered t-shirt and her long hair was an interesting compositional challenge".
Mrs Anna Wojcik by Monika Polak
Those who love textiles and have perhaps been painting on them for years (!!) will appreciate this one. It's the bare outlines of a body painted onto a cloth (no stitching) and then the face and hands beautifully rendered in oil paint.
I have always understood that you didn't use oils on fabric because the paint will eventually rot the fabric without a layer of gesso - perhaps there's some acrylic gel in there somewhere!
The fabric shows through the paint but doesn't interfere with the tones and shading, which is interesting, and I love the way that it looks like it's 2 fabrics and not one.
Here's the winner of the £35,000 prize.
An Angel at my Table by Miriam Escofet - oil on linen over panel.
Fair Isle David by Shona Chew, oil on linen
Finally, Mr and Mrs Cooper, Separated by Mark H Laurence, oil on canvas
This portrait is of Mr and Mrs Cooper. The work is part of an ongoing series looking at adults with learning disabilities.