Portraits and Palettes

Last summer, artist Ursula Medley suggested I watch Landscape Artist of the Year and Portrait Artist of the Year by Sky TV. I found them on Youtube and started to binge watch. Oh, I loved them. I went through 2013, 2014, 2015 and I had 2016 all queued up on my favourites. Then I went away for 3 weeks and when I got back…they were gone!

So, what was so addictive, and why did they disappear? Set in the UK, for the landscape artists, each week 8 contestants would arrive at National Heritage location and have 4 hours to paint the scenery. For the portrait artists, 9 contestants would arrive at Battersea Art Centre and paint one of three celebrities.

It wasn’t so much the scenery or the celebrity, it was more watching how all the artists would approach painting in a different way. And, even though they had the same subject matter, each result would be very different from the next.

I can’t say I always agreed with the judges, but regardless this was a great learning opportunity.

So, why am I mentioning it now? Well, with the Covid 19 lockdown, Sky TV has been airing Portrait Artist of the Week for four hours on its Facebook page and a short 25-minute summary on Youtube. I am bringing this up because Episode 3 provides the suggestion of a very limited palette for skin tones.

Click on the link and either watch the episode from start to finish (bearing in mind this is very different from the full episodes that were airing each year) or skim through to about 12 minutes. You will see Tai Shan Schierenberg, a well-known artist in his own right and one of the judges, explain and demonstrate how to get skin tones from just four colours – titanium white, yellow ochre, cadmium red and black.

Wildfire Worker 2019

It is these little nuggets that lead to notes on scraps of paper littering my paint box. Capturing skin tones is hugely difficult. I have tried and tried, yet I see now that a simple palette of four colours could have saved me a lot of time.

As to why all of the episodes from past years disappeared…well, I don’t know. Perhaps they were just too darn popular!

Now, just for a treat, I have a full first episode for you of Portrait Artist of the Year 2020. I found this series quite by chance as it appeared on Youtube just days after appearing on Sky TV. However, I have still not found 2019, 2018, 2017 and the Landscape Artist of the Year seems to have disappeared completely. Oh well. Grab a cup of tea, sit back and see if you get addicted, too – if you do, perhaps you can still find the whole series on Youtube 🙂