PAOTW – Sunday 15/11/2020

Floella Benjamin, a favourite presenter on Playschool and Play Away, classic TV programmes in the 1970s and 80s was the sitter for this session. She is now known as Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham and is a member of the House of Lords where she advocates for children’s rights. Humpty Dumpty from Playschool made an appearance with Floella, and he was as chubby and colourful as he used to be :o) Floella is an amazing 71 years old, which is incredible as her skin is flawless and barely lined. She has the broadest smile and beautiful teeth, so most of the public painting her did do her teeth, even though it was a big challenge. Floella puts her hair up every day and usually wears bow and clips, but today she wore a little tiara as she does like to dress smartly.

Dame Joan Bakewell, a presenter on PAOTW, is officially called Baroness Bakewell of Stockport and also sits in the House of Lords, so she and Floella had a discussion about their speeches and what it is like being members there, but coming from very ordinary working class backgrounds.

The artist today was Fatima Pantoja, a LAOTY competitor in 2017 and a PAOTY semi finalist in 2019. Fatima was going to use oils or acrylics but decided to use pastels instead as that’s what she was known for in the programmes. She worked on cartridge paper over 200gsm and used soft pastels by Unison in a broad range of colours. Fatima says that she likes Unison round pastels, but any soft pastel that costs over £2 each will be good quality. Buy a set with a basic range of colours then expand colour by colour individually. Any colours or mixing she wasn’t pleased with she rubbed away with a chamois leather not an eraser. Fatima used fixative throughout the session when she’d finished different layers as this allowed her to work over the top of previous layers.

It was another excellent session between the artist and sitter and listening to their conversation makes the hours fly past.

Steve used acrylic on hardboard and has got Floella’s caramel skin colour just perfect. He has caught the liveliness in her eyes as she is about to speak again.

Cynthia say she doesn’t usually do teeth but thought she’d have a go as Floella smiled all the time. This portrait in the 4 colours she’s been using took a little longer than previous weeks, taking 3 sessions spread over 3 days, with little touches until she was happy. Such a lively portrait and excellent likeness with the skin colour and huge smile.

Juliet used pencils for her portrait, giving darker emphasis to Floella’s eyes, making them the main focus of the picture.

Dot took one hour each for her two portraits of Floella. One is pencil and one watercolour. Isn’t it interesting to see the likenesses and differences that you notice by using 2 different media?

Tracy took about 2.5 hours for her watercolour portrait. The background behind Floella was material in a blue and white tie dye effect. Tracy used blue and white too but changed the background to swirls, representing the 2 rose bushes that Floella said she planted in her garden when her son and daughter were little. Tracy liked painting the turquoise glittery jumper and is happy with Floella’s collar bones, but is not so happy with her face.

Here is Fatmia’s finished pastel portrait of Floella, followed by the portrait Floella herself chose as her favourite, the top three chosen by the judges, the youngsters’ portraits and some from the wall.

Suzan’s painting

Suzan has painted this view in Venice from when she went on holiday there. It’s in oils on canvas and the colour and detail in the painting are superb. Well done, Suzan!


The island of San Giorgio Maggiore lies in the middle background, with the campanile, rebuilt in 1791, towering over the Benedictine church built by Palladio between 1566-1610. On the right is the Dogana da Mar, the former Customs House, built in 1678 and now an art gallery. A little historic information because Venice is like an open-air museum, full of wonders like these and brought to life by Suzan’s beautiful painting.

PAOTW – Sunday 8/11/2020

Samira Ahmed, writer, journalist and broadcaster for Channel 4 and now the BBC, was painted by PAOTY 2019 semi-finalist Geoffrey Harrison. The two built up a great rapport and it was another fascinating portrait session. Samira sat very still and even though she talked a lot about her life and career, it wasn’t a distraction.

Geoffrey had got used to Samira’s face as he’d sketched her several times during the previous week. On the day he used oil paints in Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna (for the ground), Titanium White, Naples Yellow, Winsor Red and Paynes Grey, for a slightly muted palette. For brighter tones he would have also used Prussian Blue and Venetian Red. Geoffrey’s big tip was to not use a paint thinner with the oils but to use Damar Varnish to thin the paints instead. This makes the oil paint dry quicker so you can paint over the top much sooner.

Over 1700 people followed the live session on Sunday morning and people put in the Facebook comments which country they were painting in. There were hundreds in the UK and Eire and also artists in…Australia, Puerto Rico, Portugal, New Zealand (where the session was from 11pm to 3am), Sweden, Argentina, the Philippines, Canada, Monaco, Abu Dhabi, Switzerland, Brazil, Turkey and Germany. It’s amazing to think that artists are joining in all over the world and Tai-Shan, one of the judges, said he feels very humbled that the programme reaches to the artistic community worldwide. Hear hear, it’s brilliant to be part of that community!

Samira was lit from windows on both sides in her study which was a challenge for us, but as usual M&C members produced some cracking portraits.

Juliet used her favourite sketching medium of pencils, with Samira’s hair very full and beautifully caught with busy pencil lines.

Cynthia used a restricted palette but can mix so many colours. She originally painted the background blue but felt it was too much, so changed it to purple, which seems to give the whole portrait an overall harmonious feel with the colours of her blouse. The colour and softness of Samira’s skin is spot on, well done. After lots of looking Cynthia tweaked the portrait a little, the whole portrait taking 4 hours.

Steve painted Samira in acrylics on hardboard in 4 1/2 hours over 3 sessions. The golden background works really well with Samira’s colouring and her facial features appear 3D with good use light and shadow. He enjoyed the session, saying it was a really interesting exchange between the artist and sitter.

Dot did two pictures, only taking an hour each, quite an accomplished feat in such a short time. One is in pencil in her sketchbook, the other in watercolour on Bockingford paper. Samira’s curly, ringletty hair is beautifully drawn and painted, framing her face well.

Tracy used different media this week as a challenge. Samira was drawn in HB & 4B pencils and coloured pencils in a sketchbook that has brown paper, not white, giving texture to the portrait. It took about 3 hours because she kept fiddling :o)

Here is Geoffrey’s finished portrait, Samira’s favourite portrait which is digital art, followed by the judges top three, the youngsters’ portraits and a selection from the wall by the public.

Remembrance – November 2020

Four pictures were painted this week for the theme of Remembrance, all very moving and beautifully painted, well done.

A poppy wreath was made to hang in a window, from the cut-off bottoms of bottles and bottle tops, painted with acrylics and glued onto cardboard.

The following pictures were painted in 2014 and 2018 to commemorate one hundred years of the beginning and end of the First World War. They were shown at art exhibitions in Christ Church and Gravesend Market by members of M&C who are also members of Gravesend Art Group.

PAOTW – Sunday 1/11/2020

Melanie Blatt, singer/songwriter and member of the group All Saints was painted by Inge du Plessis, a PAOTY contestant in 2017 and finalist in 2020. Inge used oil on canvas, 45cm x 45cm, blocking in Melanie’s face and then refining the facial details with smaller brushes.

The two ladies built a good rapport and chatted throughout the morning. Melanie was a good sitter as she kept quite still, even when she was talking. Her lipstick proved the hero or nemesis of the viewing artists, with some loving and others not liking the bright red pop of colour. Many viewers said they were fans of All Saints so they played the album CDs in their homes whilst they painted along.

Melanie’s face was a little distorted by her computer’s camera angle, but we all managed to draw and paint along successfully.

Dot drew Melanie from the live programme on Sunday morning but felt the likeness wasn’t quite there. She tried again on Monday, working from a screenshot. Both are pencil drawings in her sketchbook, taking about an hour each. Dot says that it’s easier working from a photo but somehow it doesn’t have that fresh quality you get from working from life. Very true, Dot, you’ve hit the nail on the head with those thoughts, but both your drawings have a very good likeness.

Steve painted Melanie in watercolours on Bockingford watercolour paper. The background in Melanie’s home was a busy one with lots of household items, but Steve has used his own softly coloured, wet-in-wet background to make Melanie the focus of attention so your eyes don’t go wandering about the painting.

Juliet has drawn Melanie looking very thoughtful. She has also drawn a sitter from the PAOTY programme a couple of weeks ago. It’s Rwandan/Scottish actor Ncuti Gatwa, looking boldly at the viewer. Both well drawn with the faces looking 3D on the flat page, with good use of shading.

Cynthia used the same four colours she has used the past couple of weeks and says that she is really enjoying using a limited palette, even though the colours take longer to mix. She uses a grid on her iPad to help transfer the sitter’s face on to a canvas and has bought several more canvasses for PAOTW for the next few weeks. Cynthia says time flies when you are so engrossed and it’s an ideal pastime for lockdown. Well said!

Tracy decided that she just can’t get a good enough likeness from the live sitter every week so uses a screenshot now. Melanie’s amazingly bright lipstick had to be the main focus of her picture, so Melanie herself is drawn with an HB and 2B pencil. The lipstick is Daler Rowney’s Alizarin Crimson artists watercolour paint, with a little Bright Violet added for the darker areas.

Here is Inge du Plessis’ final portrait and the painting that Melanie chose as her favourite portrait from over 1000 entered on Instagram

These are the top three paintings from the public, chosen by the judges. Also the favourite younger painters’ images and lots of entries from the wall, shown at the beginning of the programme.

November 2020

This time of year we are usually busy mounting, framing and labelling our artwork ready for our annual Open Day at the end of November. What a difference a year makes, as we are again required not to go out unless essential and to work from home where possible. We cannot meet this month and have cancelled our December Christmas party. Possibly we will only meet again on the fourth Saturday in January, the 23rd, just over 11 weeks away.

Subject suggestions will be posted monthly again, to give you ideas of what to draw and paint if you’re stuck for ideas. Send photos of your pictures to me (Tracy) by email, text, WhatsApp or Messenger.

Remembrance – Our second Wednesday session in November was due to fall on November 11th, Remembrance Day. It’s too big a commemoration to miss on that day, so paint along on the 11th in the evening when we’d usually meet, or anytime during the week.

Be inspired by war poetry by writing a few lines of a well known poem and add a picture to the words. Several members combined words and paintings in 2014 when one hundred years since the start of WW1 was commemorated. You are welcome to send pictures of those paintings because they were so moving.

Paint poppies worn by people, poppies in fields, in wreaths or in the art installation “Blood Red Lands and Seas of Red” that was at the Tower of London in 2014. Paint a relative that fought in a war, horses, ships or aeroplanes. A vast choice so hopefully there will be something that inspires your picture.

Here are the titles of a few well known poems from WW1 that are easily accessible online…

In Flanders Fields – Lt Col John McCrae,

We Shall Keep the Faith (a reply to In Flanders Fields) – Moina Michael

When you go home… – the Kohima Epitaph

The Death Bed – Siegfried Sassoon

Dulce et Decorum Est – Wilfred Owen

The Soldier – Rupert Brooke

For the Fallen – Robert Laurence Binyon

MCMXIV – Philip Larkin

Perhaps – Vera Brittain

(If you find this subject too morbid then please paint something of your own choice.)

Do Your Own Thing (DYOT) – Saturday 28th November would have been our Open Day, so paint something at home on this day or during the month. Paint absolutely anything you would like to paint, but a challenge is set to finish at least 2 paintings, or more if you can!

We all have paintings at home we don’t get around to finishing as we run out of time or lack enthusiasm to complete. Now is your chance to make time for yourself, sit down, get your paints out and finish those paintings. Try and finish at least 2 paintings and you will be pleased you have done so. Send the photos of your finished masterpieces to me during the month and I will collate them and pop the on the blog at the end of November.

Chrysanthemums – the flower of November, paint them in a garden or a vase, all varieties of beautiful colours.

Portrait Artist of the Month – no challenge this month as PAOTW on Sky Arts is continuing every Sunday morning into December.

Sky Arts PAOTW – Sunday 25/10/2020

This week DJ and presenter Nihal Arthanayake was painted by Dorian Radu, a professional artist who appeared on Portrait Artist of the Year in 2019 and 2020. Dorian visited his family in Romania a few months ago and as he was unable to travel back to the UK he is still there, with his studio set up in his family’s living room.

Artists from all over the world tuned in to Sky’s free Facebook page at 10am and we had a very entertaining 4 hours of chat about rap, dance and the London New Year’s Eve fireworks. Quite a few people on Facebook asked Nihal to remove his large earphones as they felt it ruined their paintings of him, but he insisted on wearing them as he is primarily a DJ so feels they are part of him and his work.

Nihal barely took a breath and managed to speak (and fidget!) for hours and hours, occasionally interrupted by his son, daughter and the family dog. It was hard to draw his mouth as it moved constantly, but those members who took part took screenshots so they could study his face better.

Steve drew Nihal in ink pen on cartridge paper. Each sketch notes the amount of time it took him to do. Why not try this at home? It’s a good way to look back and remind yourself if you prefer long portrait studies or shorter ones.

Cynthia used 4 acrylic colours on an 8″ x 10″ canvas. She managed to mix all Nihal’s skin tones with only these 4 colour and she says was a challenge getting the black for his hair. It just goes to prove we don’t need loads of colours on our palettes to achieve a broad range of colour mixes.

Dot drew Nihal in 90 minutes on cartridge paper using pencils from HB to 9B. She says it would have been quite easy not to draw but to listen to the men talking for the whole time as they were two very interesting people.

Juliet drew Nihal in her usual fine detail and this week we have a bonus drawing from her of Melanie Sykes, one of the sitters in the PAOTY that was broadcast on Sky Arts last week. There’s good bone structure on both their faces.

Tracy painted Nihal in watercolours and decided to leave out the busy background of framed pictures. He has such big brown eyes that she wanted them to be the main focus of her painting.

Here is Dorian Radu’s finished oil painting and the coloured pencil picture Nihal himself chose as his favourite from all the public entries.

The judges also chose their top three entries, the best of the youngsters’ pictures and there are images from the walls of Nihal’s portraits, that are shown during the following week’s programme.

PAOTM October – Dame Judi Dench & Yinka Shonibare

This month Yinka just pipped Dame Judi at the post for the number of portraits drawn and painted of him. Such different subjects but all drawn and painted brilliantly by our members, well done everyone!

Juliet draws with so much sensitivity, creating an almost 3D image of the subject by looking where light and shade falls on their faces. Both images have no colour, just granite pencil was used.

Ann L used pastels for her portraits, cleverly using coloured paper to add warmth to the images as the paper peeps through.

Steve also created images of both subjects. Dame Judi was painted in acrylics on board and Yinka is in coloured pencils on Bockingford watercolour paper. Again the subjects have a depth to them as he has used light and shade to create the form of their faces.

Susan used an usual pose of Yinka looking down, as she liked the emphasis on his dreadlocked hair. Once drawn she then drew him again and used watercolours on Fabriano Classico 5, cold pressed watercolour paper, 12″ x 18″. Painting his shirt loosely focuses our eyes on the colours of Ankara fabric in his hair.

Dot drew the two subjects, achieving very good likenesses of both through careful study of their faces. She used the pencil heavily for the darker areas and softly blended to the lighter areas. Their cheekbones really stand out on the paper and Dot gives an understanding of how the human face is composed.

Tracy calls her painting ‘style over substance’ as she actually spent more time on the background than on Yinka himself. The background is based on 2 paintings by Yinka of swirling vibrant colours, juxtaposed by Yinka himself looking very calm in the foreground. Watercolours in an A4 Hobbycraft 300gsm sketch pad.

Analogous Autumn – October Saturday 2020

It was brilliant to have 17 enthusiastic members come along to our session last Saturday. We had 3 ‘bubbles’ of people so we could chat to those in our group, but keep apart from the other tables. It feels a luxury having a big table each to use and we all managed to spread our art stuff over the whole table top. I’m not sure how we will ever share half a table again!

The suggested session subject was ‘Analogous Autumn’ and there were many beautiful Autumnal paintings created during the day. Some members did one painting and others did several, whilst some carried on with other projects like still life and portraits. A super, eclectic mix of pictures. Click on the first photo to enlarge it and scroll through to see them all. (Any current Portraits of the Week or Month will be on another post soon.)

Sky Arts PAOTW- 18/10/2020

It’s back! The Sunday weekly challenge for artists to draw and paint a sitter, either live from 10am-2pm or in your own time from a screenshot provided or one you take yourself. You can then upload your picture to Instagram by Friday 2pm, putting a hashtag symbol in front of myPAOTW, for viewing by Instagrammers throughout the world and by the usual 3 judges.

DJ and presenter Annie Macmanus, known as Annie Mac, was painted by PAOTY 2019 finalist Sara Lavelle. Sara painted a quick likeness in acrylics then painted in oils over the top, completing most of the portrait during the programme and finishing it off during the week. The usual chat between sitter and artist was very interesting and it’s fascinating to get to know people better.

The members who took part remarked on Annie’s beautiful clear skin, bright eyes, thick curly hair and full lips. She is very beautiful and an absolute pleasure to paint.

Cynthia spent around 3 hours altogether on her portrait, working from a screenshot. To try out some acrylic paint she had bought 4 tubes of Daler Rowley paint and a small 8” x 10” canvas in Poundland, what a bargain! Cynthia used just the 4 colours that are in her photo, which gave all the colours needed for Annie’s skin and hair tones. That’s very similar to the Zorn palette, which uses white, red, yellow and black.

Dot’s pencil sketch of Annie took only 20 minutes to get a good likeness. The watercolour took longer. Both pictures are on Bockingford.

Juliet finds sketching very therapeutic and her portrait of Annie looking very wistful is extremely detailed, including all her curls.

Steve did quick sketches of Annie whilst the programme was broadcast live. He noted how long each sketch took, which is a good way of reminding oneself when looking back through a sketchbook, as it would be hard to remember. The three at the top are ink pen and the bottom one is coloured pencil.

Tracy took about 2 hours to paint Annie in watercolours. She found Annie’s bright blue eyes the hardest to paint as they were firstly a too-intense blue, then too dull when darkened. Third time lucky and the eyes seemed about right.

Here is Sara Lavelle’s finished portrait of Annie. Also the judges top three, the best of the youngsters’ portraits, one from the director and finally a selection of the many portraits shown on the programme a week later.