PAOTW – Sunday 6th December

Lesley Garrett, CBE, soprano singer, musician and broadcaster was the sitter this week, painted by Tom Croft, a PAOTY contestant in 2018.

Tom is a professional artist and his name may seem familiar if you have heard of the ‘Portraits for NHS Heroes’ painting project. Early in the March lockdown Tom couldn’t get motivated to paint as the news was full of the spread of Covid-19 and the many deaths in hospital. He wanted to paint a health professional involved so said he’d paint the first person to send him a photo. From that one painting other artists said they’d paint portraits of nurses, doctors, or carers and in total over 14000 portraits worldwide have been painted. A book has now been printed and Tom is hopeful there will be an exhibition in the future. For more info on this project and to see some examples of the amazing portraits just google ‘portraits for NHS heroes’, look for the hashtag #portraitsfornhsheroes on Instagram, or go to Tom’s website at

When on PAOTY Tom’s oil palette was rather unusual as he just added the oil paint colours on top on the previous blob of paint. He still does this and 2 years on his paint towers are even taller! The first photo is from PAOTY in 2018 and the second photo from the live session.

He uses hog hair brushes with oils as he likes the way they add the paint to the canvas. He didn’t say what exact colours he was using, but as you can see from his paint towers he uses many colours, often mixing them on the canvas and not the palette.

There was a long break of about 40 minutes at the beginning of the session when gremlins got into the transmission, but once it started again Lesley proved a lively sitter who talked rather a lot and sang to us several times. Tom got Lesley to look up to her left, meaning she was now looking at her windows so there were several reflections on the surface of her glasses. Some of us tackled this problem by simply paining the eyes in full and then putting a bit of the reflection colour over the top.

Steve thought Lesley a great choice of sitter as she was so animated and enjoyed hearing about her family history. Especially moving was how her parents put themselves through adult education courses later in their working lives so they could become teachers and her father became a headteacher. That work ethic has rubbed off on Lesley as she sings around the world in non-Covid times.

Steve’s first portrait is coloured pencils on Bockingford watercolour paper and the second is acrylic on hardboard, using only Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Titanium White and Mars Black. Tom spoke about using grids to draw his portraits, so Steve did the same and found it useful when enlarging Lesley’s face.

Cynthia used white, yellow, red and blue acrylics for her portrait of Lesley, on a 8″ x 10″ canvas. She debated whether to paint the background as she prefers to leave the background plain. However, Lesley explained she had deliberately posed in her music room in front of her favourite wallpaper showing a bird freed from a cage, like her singing escaping from herself. It was a lovely story so Cynthia decided to paint the background too, which has worked out perfectly as the purple colour offsets Lesley’s lighter skin tones. Note the window reflections on Lesley’s glasses too.

Dot drew Lesley’s likeness in only half an hour, which is such short time in which to get a good likeness. Great use of pencils in many tones from light to dark, especially following the lines of Lesley’s curly hair.

Tracy enjoyed painting Lesley’s face in watercolours in about an hour and could not resist painting the wallpaper behind. That was in gold watercolour and black acrylic paints and it took about 2 hours as it was quite fiddly to get the shapes of the sinuous branches and leaves.

Here is Tom’s finished portrait of Lesley. Just look at all the different colours he put in her skin tones. The second photo is the portrait that Lesley chose from all the portraits sent in by the general public. Following those two pictures are the judges’ top three, the youngsters’ portraits and those from the wall.

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