PAOTW – Sunday 29/11/2020

Journalist and presenter Jon Snow was the sitter this week, painted by Catherine MacDiarmid, PAOTY shortlisted artist in 2014 and 2018 and semi-finalist in 2019.

Jon has been presenting the Channel 4 news since 1989 and he showed us the camera and lighting set up in his study where he has presented the news since the lockdown in March. It was fascinating hearing about his long journalistic career visiting countries all around the world. He was asked questions of how best to start a career like his and he advised not being sent down from university like he was! He had been reading law at the University of Liverpool and was involved in anti-apartheid student demonstrations. Many years later he was thrilled to actually interview Nelson Mandela. We learned that Jon and his wife are enthusiastic amateur watercolorists and Jon spent much of the session with his head down as he drew then painted Catherine the artist.

Catherine used oils on a linen canvas with lemon-smelling turps to dilute the paint. She used White, Ultramarine Blue, Magenta, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Lemon Yellow, and Burnt Umber for the initial lines on the canvas. Catherine starts a portrait from the eyebrows and nose and then works outwards, She calls the distances between the eyebrows, eye and tip of the nose ‘the golden triangle’. If you get those initial measurements correct then the rest of the features will fit into place. She laid quite solid looking daubs of colour on the canvas and then used a dry brush to smudge and soften the edges and got a very good likeness of Jon after only an hour.

Cynthia used the three primary colours and white for her portrait on an 8″ x 10″ canvas. She painted in short sessions over three days, showing that you can watch the programme any time, not just on the Sunday. Cynthia has caught the sparkle in Jon’s eyes and the liveliness in his face perfectly.

Juliet has sketched Jon in pencil, using dark and light strokes to give form to his face. She has paid particular attention to his eyes, making them the main focus of attention.


Steve has again created two portraits, one in coloured pencil on Bockingford paper and the other in acrylic on hardboard. Both very good likenesses of Jon and one very animated as Jon speaks to us about his life.

Dot has captured Jon’s serious side in pencils, taking about 90 minutes. She says the portrait wasn’t easy to do during the live session as he was looking down and painting a lot of the time.

Tracy painted Jon’s face in watercolours in about an hour and then focused on his rather beautiful, brightly coloured tie. That took another hour and where the tie looked silver-coloured she used the SAA’s silver watercolour paint. The paint looks grey in some lights but when the light hits it at a certain angle it is shiny.

Here is Catherine’s finished portrait, followed by two paintings that Jon himself chose as his favourites from well over a thousand the public entries. After those are the judges top three paintings and the paintings by the youngsters, the youngest being only 2 years old and she even drew the shape of his tie, amazing! Finally there are paintings from the wall.

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