Sky Arts PAOTW week 9 – Sunday 21st June 2020

Firstly a big thank you to Cynthia, as she made us aware that these sessions would be going on every Sunday. We all thoroughly enjoyed the first 4 sessions and were thrilled when they were extended to 8 and then 9. From all the messages received this week we’re all very sad that they have now finished and we won’t know what to do on Sundays any more! It was incredible to be involved in a joint art experience, not just in the UK and Ireland, but artists joined in from most European countries, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South and North America. It was a truly global collaboration. Tai got very emotional at the end of this final session and couldn’t keep his tears at bay, knowing something very special was ending, as we are slowly released from lockdown.

This week classicist, historian and documentary maker, Dame Mary Beard, was painted by PAOTY 2013 finalist, Selena Mowat, from her home in Germany. Selena was quiet and didn’t ask many questions of Mary, but the judges and Joan all asked many questions. Subjects included the Romans as portrayed in films, all wrong apparently, and Kate asked about the Roman goddess Juno, who her daughter is named after. Kathleen asked about older women in the media, both giving their own experiences of first being in front of the camera in their fifties. Joan and Mary reminisced about their times as undergraduates at Newnham College, Cambridge. Mary said this was only her second sitting for a portrait, the first being nude in one of the episodes in her documentary series called “Shock of the Nude” (it’s 3 interesting episodes about the nude in Western art). Mary also said she’d got really good at Zoom calls and sits there in a dressing gown but wearing her pearls, so no-one knows that she hasn’t bothered getting dressed. An interesting morning with lots of amusing anecdotes.

Selena paints on plywood boards that have had white acrylic stippled on them with a big brush so the surface is not smooth. She paints with oils and has 3 tear-off palettes on the go at the same time. One palette has white, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow and yellow ochre. The second palette has crimson and what she calls ‘normal’ red, which looked like cadmium red. The third palette has cerulean blue, cobalt blue, sap green and a ‘dark brown’ that looked like burnt umber. She uses large to small flat topped brushes (known as bright brushes), a fan brush and a small brush for details. Selena started with a pink background, then used darker mixes to block in the darker areas and got a good likeness of Mary within an hour.

The big decision for all of us was painting Mary with teeth or no teeth, as you can see from the photos above, and should we paint the hundreds of books or not? Here are our pictures…

Angela D took 4 hours to paint Mary in water mixable oils. She will add the books as a blurry background later.

Juliet drew Mary in pencils

Cynthia used pastels for her portrait

Susan did no drawing at all but went straight in with watercolours. Those books must have taken a long time.

Steve painted with watercolours on Bockingford paper

Dot drew Mary’s portrait in only 2 hours, changing from teeth to no teeth

Tracy sketched then decided to draw Mary smiling, in black biro, using grey coloured pencil for all the books, cobalt blue watercolour for the t-shirt and pearl coloured shiny watercolour for the pearl necklace. She had another go using watercolours but feels the eyes aren’t quite right.

Tai got very emotional at the end as he is so passionate about art, saying that in these bleak times it has been a slice of escapism on an international level.

“Art has the power to heal, the power to nurture people. Creativity really is the key to staying sane in this sometimes mad, mad world of ours. So well done to all of us. A nice surprise is the talent out there. Thank you so much for coming on a journey with us, we’ve really had a fantastic time. Stay safe, stay creative.”

Here are the judges top three paintings from the public and also Selena”s finished portrait of Mary.

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