THREE Limerick-based artists have made it to the Dublin heat of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year competition.
Only 72 contestants were chosen out of over 1,400 entries from Britain and Ireland, and the artists admitted that it was a daunting prospect painting a celebrity’s portrait under the pressure of an audience and constant TV cameras.
The popular programme, now in its second year, features 12 contestants in each of the six heats, and the Dublin heat - featuring local artists Mark Heng, Charlotte Lee and Enda Griffin - will air on Sky Arts on Tuesday, December 9.
At the end of each round the judges selected an artist to go through to the semi-final. The winners from the heats then take part in more challenges, including painting multi award-winning actor Sir Ian McKellen, before the grand final at the National Portrait Gallery.
Both Mark and Enda painted actor Colm Meaney’s portrait, while singer and the Voice of Ireland judge Sharon Corr sat for a pencil portrait by Charlotte, who works in Silkes on Catherine Street.
After submitting their own self-portraits earlier this year, they were thrilled to get the call this summer that their work was selected amongst the best. “Hands down it was one of the best experiences of my life,” said Charlotte, 24, who is a graduate of the Limerick School of Art & Design.
However, each of the artists are not permitted to reveal how far they got in the TV show, and were forced to remain tight-lipped on their success.
“It’s like the Great British Bake-Off, but with paint. I couldn’t believe it when I got the call, I thought someone was joking,” she laughed.
“The portrait took four hours, and you were interviewed every 25 minutes, so it was quite intense and the pressure was on with the time we were allowed,” she explained.
Enda, a father of two young children, who also studied at the Limerick School of Art & Design, said he has painted less than 10 portraits in his life, and was thrilled to get the call. “I wasn’t daunted by Colm Meaney at all, he was just so nice. It was strange because painting can be such a solitary experience. In the end, I put my headphones in and tried to block out the noise and the atmosphere, and just concentrate on the work. My hands were shaking at times, it was just pure adrenalin,” he told the Limerick Leader. He used a mixture of charcoal, pencil and oils for his portrait.
Mark, a caricature artist from Boston who recently moved to Limerick, said sketching with people around him is par for the course in his work.
While he was calm under pressure, he said when he got the initial call he “started to panic and began painting furiously.” The four finalists will see their work exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery and the winner will be awarded a £10,000 major commission for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.