Sally Ward's experiences as a finalist on Sky TV's Portrait Artist of the Year competition
Sally Ward had to decline her well-earned place in Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year competition in 2019, but in 2020 she entered again and to her utter surprise made it all the way to the final. Sally painted Melanie Sykes, Bernadine Evaristo and Eddie Izzard, and was very relieved that she didn’t trip over any cables.
Find out all about her experience in this second part of a double-bill podcast episode.
With thanks to Storyvault Films Ltd for audio footage.
Clubhouse: @clairewaitebrown and Creativity Found Connect club
I'm really glad to have all the artists here today, because we have a really, really special sitter, we've got quite a spectacular set, and they are so close to winning this massive commissioned this big prize. And I think any of these artists would be a really worthy winner. I still can't quite believe that I'm one of only three artists painting today is still waiting for someone to pinch me wake me up from the dream. I think I just felt huge amount of joy that being in that situation, I felt very lucky. I just thought, I'm going to enjoy this experience, because I'm allowed to paint here for the rest of the day. And then I'll never I'll never do this again. And what I appreciated was that I had two more times off the shock of getting through that first heat, I'm still shocked about it now. There were so many other fantastic houses. For all the years leading up to that I struggled even to say to people that I am an artist. And I think that whole experience of being on that programme just really affirmed me that this is what I'm meant to be doing.Claire Waite Brown:
Hi, I'm Claire, founder of creativity found a community for creative learners in educators, connecting adults who want to find a creative outlet with the artists and crafters who can help them do so with workshops, courses, online events and kits. For this podcast, I chat with people who have found or refound their creativity as adults. We explore their childhood experiences of the arts, discuss how they came to the artistic practices they now love. And consider the barriers they may have experienced between the two. We'll also explore what it is that people value and gain from their newfound artistic pursuits, and how their creative lives enrich their practical, necessary, everyday lives. If you listened to the first episode, in this series with Sally Ward, you will know that Sally had to decline her well earned place in skies portrayed Artists of the Year competition in 2019. But in 2020, she entered again, and to her utter surprise, made it all the way to the final. Sally painted Melanie cites Bernard he never stopped, and Edie is odd, and was very relieved that she didn't trip over any cables. Let's find out more.Unknown:
Somehow I ended up in the final of that competition the following year. You know, I think from the from the moment that I had to decline the place I was then determined to give it my best shots the following year. So no, no duplicates, competition entering. I remember going through all sorts of wrestles with what what portray I would submit because obviously, I'd been accepted with my first oil port trait. And I wrestled about whether to rescind because you can resubmit the same painting. And I thought it did get me through last time. But strangely, I felt that that wasn't the right thing to do. And so I did another self portrait to enter the sky competition. And I'm glad I did because I just felt that it was important for me to demonstrate that. It's not just about one painting, but it's about me as an artist. And I was developing so much in my ideas about portraiture at that point that to submit something that I'd done right at the beginning of the process, or you know, two years before just didn't feel right to me. So I wanted to demonstrate a progression. And again, I just sort of I think I wanted to demonstrate that this was a serious thing for me. My development and my thoughts about where my portraiture was going was something that I also wanted to demonstrate. So I submitted that portrait in the end. And I'm sure that everyone else who enters it, you just think, Oh, have I done the right thing, but it was selected the following year. And the competition was filmed in the summer of 2020. Right in the middle of the pandemic. So it was really touch and go throughout the beginning of that year about whether it would actually go ahead because we were right in the middle of all those lockdowns, but amazingly the people that storyboard to produce the programme, have an amazingly can do attitude. And they made it work. It was brilliant. And so So, I went on the programme, hugely nerve wracking. Very stressful, but totally transformative. It was another one of those moments, I thought I'd completely bombed. I think I always do tend to think that I've bombed at something and so that the shock of getting through that first heat I I'm still shocked about it now. There were so many other fantastic artists there that day. And you know, in the competition, I'm honestly, I was humbled by it, then I still am. And so to my, to my shock, I got through to the semi final and had to go and book a load more time off work I've been planning for and I painted so I painted Melanie Sykes model and present Melanie Sykes in the heat. And then I went on to Pate, book probably prize winner Bernadine ever stay in the semi final. And the semi final was an incredibly, incredibly intense experience more intense than the heat because of perhaps the stakes were a bit higher. Again, I wasn't expecting to get through at all. But I think I just wanted to grasp the opportunity and give it my best shot. And I don't think I've ever concentrated that hard for that long. Ever. In my life, it was the most intense experience. And I only just finished the painting in time. And there was no no room for error. So you know, it's a wonderful, again, surprise, but an amazing moment when they put me through to the final. And I got to paint. Eddie is art, who, you know, had been someone I had admired for for many, many years. I've always just loved Eddie's art. And it was just a fantastic experience, even though it was very pressured and very stressful. Where Where would you get an experience like that? Three such distinct artists is great, say all their work on the wall, then you watch them today, they will just take such a different approach. You have, it's nice to see that consistency of style. You know, Curtis gets right in there with his little story. Kofi Stern's back thinks long and hard and gently. And then Sally quietly sort of grids up she's the most technical as yet is to sort of dissecting the light the form Curtis is very psychological. He's like, how do I get Eddie spirit on this page? And kofi? I think somewhere between Yeah, you're making me realise even more how hard it could be to judge between them at the end. But thank goodness, we've got the commission. So make or break those commissions.Claire Waite Brown:
So it's hard enough, being in a competition, probably in a situation that you're not normally in when you're painting at home. You know, you've got your time and stipulations. You've got someone there that you admire. You've got other people around production crew, and what have you. Do you think that affected the work that was coming out or affected you mentally? Or did you get into a zone where you're like, I'll just pretend I'm at home in my home studio, and I just work like I normally do.Unknown:
I found it really fascinating experience, because I would say, if I had predicted how I would have been in that situation, I would have said that my hand would have been shaking, that I sort of I probably tripped over something or happy or nervous or wouldn't be able to talk to the judges properly. And none of that happened. And I can only think that I was incredibly nervous in the build up to it. And you know, there are lots of unknowns in that situation. You don't know who your setter is going to be. You don't know what the production crew are gonna be like, you don't know how that will all feel you don't know whether you'll feel comfortable. So that was all horribly nerve wracking. But the very odd thing was that once I started painting and that sounds like again, such as a cheesy thing to say, but once I started painting I had been homeschooling my son for 10 weeks, flat out before that, and I tell you it was a joy to not be homeschooling and to be painting. And I think I say I was just so grateful. I think because you know the panda may have been so difficult. And it certainly meant that I had far less time to paint because of the children being at home. And working, I think I just felt a huge amount of joy that being in that situation, I felt very lucky. And I just thought, I'm going to enjoy this experience, because I'm allowed to paint here for the rest of the day. And then I'll never, I'll never do this again. And what I appreciated was that I had to do it three more, two more times. But in terms of you know, the production crew were fabulous, made us feel very comfortable. The chats with the judges were again, thinking about it in advance, I thought I'd be very nervous and find it very intimidating. But I genuinely enjoyed our conversations. I had some amazing chats with Tai Shan, Sharon Berg, one of the judges, he was an incredible artists. And, you know, just, it was an amazing experience. Because to suddenly get this sort of critical eye on your work, and for an artist of that, of that standing to be looking at your palace and saying, you know, how are you going to approach this? And suddenly, again, sorry, cheesy comment. But it's like, we were just talking the same language. And it all felt like it just clicked into place. And it was a really moving experience because of that, as well. Because for all the years leading up, leading up to that, I struggled even to say to people that I am an artist. And I think that whole experience of being on that programme just really affirmed to me that this is what I meant to be doing. And it's not that I don't like my other job at all I do. But this is this is my language. This is how I this how I communicate. And there are other people, I realise the other artists there all day. The judges, there are other people who get that, and I haven't had those conversations before. And I just really want to have more of these conversations and immerse myself in this lovely world of art and people who love art and talk about art and think about art. So it was a good experience.Claire Waite Brown:
Yeah. Oh, I'm so pleased. There's so much more to everybody's journey guests on this show, than just actually picking up a paintbrush or picking up a musical instrument. There's so much more that the new creative activity does for life. All sorts of journeys everybody has, which is absolutely fabulous. And that's what we want to hear. So thank you so much for being able to share that.Unknown:
Again, Sally, sort of a motorway to the emotions. It's interesting that I don't know Sally's teacher at all. But there's just so much love in this painting, but also incredible loneliness and isolation. I think there was a sort of quiet loneliness and all of Sally's painting, which I thought was incredibly poignant. And it's that pathos that I was talking about earlier. There's a real sense of calm of dignity, of quiet achievement. I mean, we see it in Sally's portrait of Eddie as well, you know, the same faraway look. And I think she's also been really clever here with the composition. I think having that little shock of Eddie's dress sort of peeking through at the bottom. And that pale pink of the neon, it sort of bounces your eye around and otherwise fairly still portrayed. I love the way that she puts paint down she's always sculpting them with the paint getting the planes in. But through the process of doing that, she really does come up with something which has a real energy to it.Claire Waite Brown:
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