There was just one place left in the semi-final with the sixth episode of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2014 last night. The sitters this week included Divine Comedy sinsger-songwriter Neil Hannon, Star Trek actor Colm Meaner, and The Corrs violinist Sharon Corr.
The final heat took place at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The next episode will be the semi-final on the 16th December, with the finale airing on Tuesday 23rd December - what a pre-Christmas treat!
One painter, Aine Divine, returned after competing in the Glasgow heat last year, and she was so happy she did. She was crowned the Dublin heat winner for her portrait of Neil Hannon, and we wanted to know how it felt to be there a second time round.
Can you describe the day to us? How was it painting on a time limit with so many people watching again?
The Dublin heat was a fantastic day. I had been part of the Glasgow heat last year and so I felt more relaxed and knew what to expect. This mattered hugely as I think maintaining an even state of mind is crucial!
I was determined to paint as I normally would, and my primary purpose was to be relaxed, and not get swept away by the excitement. To this end I did a grounding meditation in the morning; I had headphones on to tune out the hype a little! They were a Godsend and when I got going I ended up listening to my sister's fast paced running music, which helped me stay in the flow and keep active.
I have never minded painting in front of people/ I demonstrate a lot in my classes, and actually I felt really good vibes from the crowd because they were willing us on! I have lovely memories of members of the public coming up to congratulate me and saying lovely things about my painting. All in all it was a brilliant experience.
I am used to painting a model in a 4 hour sitting as I go to a class every week in Edinburgh (run by a fantastic tutor Damian Callan) where we paint well lit models for the day. So four hours was good.
Were you satisfied with your final portrait?
I was satisfied with how I felt at the end of the day. I loved painting Neil's portrait and I wouldn't have done it any differently. I liked it when i looked at it in the end, but it's hard to see it clearly after working on it all day. It was a real privilege to take part, and I felt I could let go of the outcome, as I had enjoyed the day so much and painted as I wanted to. The fact that I won the heat was a huge bonus.
Why do you use watercolour over other types of paint – what is it you like about its quality?
I use watercolour but also oil and acrylic, really any media I think suits the subject. I enjoy watercolour paint because there is the possibility to be incredibly loose and expressive, and then the chance to achieve great detail. I love to go between these two ways of working throughout the painting. I love watercolour because the water allows the paint to move around the painting with very little manipulation with the brush; you create a channel and the paint flows into it. It's really exciting and freeing.
Metaphorically, if you had to save just one famous painting from a burning building, which would you choose?
I think I would save Rembrandt's self portrait as an old man. It feels to me as though his paintings are so full of the human spirit and his self portraits in particular are so full of soul. It would be the death of something very rich were it to burn.
What motivates you to paint?
I am motivated to paint by the feeling it gives me, by the way it allows me to be grounded in the present moment and respond to what I see. I can be myself totally and paint out whatever's inside. As Van Gogh said: 'a painting to ease the mind'
I am inspired by colour and light, and by the beauty in nature. I never tire of painting people.
Would you recommend the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year experience to other artists?
I would! I was very grateful to have had the chance to be a part of it, it's such a great opportunity. I loved being part of the Dublin heat as my parents and sister were there to support me - and they were delighted when I won!
Check out our video of highlights, chatting with the judges and contributing artists.
Catch Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2015 on Tuesdays, from 8-9pm on Sky Arts 1. The semi-final airs on the 16th December, with the finale on the 23rd December, so make sure you don't miss it!
Read our interview with the winner of last year’s Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2013, Nick Lord, here.