Exclusive Interview with Heat 1 winner of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

by Cass Art

Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year is back on our screens and we can’t wait to get our weekly dose of portraiture! Professional and amateur artists alike take to their easels to capture their celebrity sitters in just four hours. The stakes are high as the artists battle it out to be crowned ‘Portrait Artist of the Year 2018’, the winning artist will receive a £10,000 commission to paint Kim Cattrall for the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, and £500 of art supplies from Cass Art. 


Returning to the Wallace Collecton in London, Heat One saw an array of famous faces with the 10th Dr Who David Tennant, Brit Award winner James Morrison, and writer, actress and producer Michaela Coel. Presenters Frank Skinner and Joan Bakewell break the tension as the three judges, award-winning artist Tai Shan Schierenberg, Head of Collections at Soho House Kate Bryan, and independent Chair and Curator of Liverpool Biennial Kathleen Scoriano, pay close attention to the artists' every move.


We caught up with Hetty Lawlor winner of Heat One to find out about her experience of kick starting the show and her incredible work…
Congratulations Hetty! How did you find the whole experience? Were you feeling the pressure?


It was over-whelming but exciting at the same time. Being around other artists was a new experience, but it was very motivational. I felt pressure more from the audience asking me questions, and when the camera got really close.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where do you live, are you studying? 


I live in the west of Ireland, in Westport, Co. Mayo. I’m now 18 years old and studying for my leaving certificate in June (A Levels). I have one sister, Anna, studying Animation in College.


Which artists inspire you?


I’m always drawing and making artwork from a variety of subjects. My focus lately has been portraits. My dad, Jimmy Lawlor is also an artist and is my main inspiration. Drew Struzan is my other inspiration.
Do you always work on a small scale and do you enjoy painting from life?


I don’t always work on a small scale, but I prefer it as I can get more detail. I work off a small easel, so that works for me too, and it takes up less space. Yes, I really enjoyed painting from life. I had never painted from life before, but I could see the character of the sitter more. Although it worked better when they didn’t move! The mobile phone makes it easier to get a likeness when the sitter keeps moving. It also helps when the light and shadow move.
How did you feel when they revealed you’d be painting David Tennant? 
I was amazed when I found out I was painting such a famous actor as David Tennant. I’m glad I knew who the sitter was and I didn’t have to act like I knew him!


The judges said the piece had a nostalgic and romantic feel. How do you capture that in your artworks?


Maybe I painted David Tennant younger than he was, and maybe that was the nostalgic aspect. I usually try to capture the moment and character in my artworks. It’s up to interpretation.
You used an interesting range of drawing materials and paints in the work, could you talk us through your technique and your favourite art materials. 


Mixed media allows me to capture multiple details and texture. It gives a lot of layers to the picture. I like to use paint and pencil on board because they work well and complement each other. I use Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils and Liquitex Professional Heavy Body acrylic.


David chose your piece to take home with him, how did it feel to have your work selected? And how did it feel to win the heat?


I felt very special to have my work selected. It gave me a big confidence boost to continue in the competition. The thought of it hanging in his house is surreal though! Winning the heat was shocking, when they selected me from so many fantastic artists. Crying on camera was not ideal, but it had been such a long day, and my emotions got the better of me.
How will you approach the Semi Final? Will you be working in the same style? Will you do anything differently? 


I think I will approach the semi-final with excitement. I plan on enhancing my style and working slightly bigger. Hopefully I will be less awkward and more prepared.


What advice and tips would you give another artist thinking of applying to Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year? 


Don’t enter when you’re studying for your leaving certificate! Multi-tasking is not on my skill-set! But in all seriousness, it is an eye-opening experience that I would recommend to any aspiring artists, and you meet the most wonderful people, both artists and camera crew.
Feeling Inspired?


Discover more of Hetty's work on her website www.hettylawlor.com or on her Instagram page @hettylawlor


Like Hetty, you can experiment with mixed media and explore our range of coloured pencils and acrylic paints online and in-store. Share your portraits via our social channels using the hashtag #PAOTY2018 and don't forget to tag #cassart



Inspired by this year's heats? Sky Arts is once again on the hunt for the next Artist of the Year. Whether you're a master of portraiture or a pro at plein air, submit your works for a chance to win a £10,000 commission and £500 worth of art materials from us here at Cass Art. Both competitions are now open for submissions. Find out more by following the links below:


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