This is all we knew before arriving at a disused warehouse in London. We had 10 days from filming the last episode to think about the challenges that lay ahead.
During those 10 days life pretty much went back to normal for me. I had a family and pets to look after, a freelance project to complete, and some practice and preparation to try and cram in!
We knew we would be asked to paint in oils, which I was quite happy about, as they are my medium of choice when painting portraits anyway. However, anyone that paints in oils will tell you they take an age to dry! So the technique that we would be using was Alla Prima (all in one go!). This meant that the glazes and layers that I usually lay down to create depth and luminosity would have to be sacrificed for a more immediate method. I did some research and found some really striking paintings by contemporary artists that used blocks of colour to describe contours and light/shade, so after a little bit of practice and strict discipline I found that I could achieve a good likeness and the look that I was after.
I wanted my Self Portrait to be an honest depiction of how I see myself, so I wanted a warts and all approach, enhancing the bags under my eyes, the size of my nose (its big, but it's not THAT big!). To create visual interest, I chose to use a 'prop' that had relevance to my background in textiles, so I chose a scarf that reflected the colours of my skin and hair. This should enable me to limit my palette and give a more cohesive look to my final piece.
During my practice run, I found the hardest thing was getting enough down in the time given. 3 hours is not long when you are also under the press of adding ad hock narrative to your painting's progress and trying to convince the judges of your ability and determination to make it work, plus any dramatic disasters en route to a masterpiece! I worked quietly and steadily and was quite relieved that I didn't have too many interruptions…
As the "Times Up" call came I had painted everything except my background which was still the Yellow Ochre base that I had put down in Acrylics! This to me was a mistake - even if I had quickly painted a colour already on my palette it would have been better than the huge expanse of canvas to the left of my face! But once you are told to down brushes you live with the knowledge that it will be used as a big negative when you stand in front of the judges for the critique. Sure enough it was the one thing that the judges felt let the painting down - however, thankfully the edit of that particular episode failed to show Daphne slating that aspect! Instead she said my painting didn't do me justice and that I was prettier in real life! "Thanks Daphne" I simpered (they showed that bit!!) and shuffled back to my stool. Lachlan's comments reflected his understanding of what I was trying to portray through my observations…worried expression (it was a worrying experience, plus I feel that as a Mum I am always worrying about something!) and my use of colour! Thumbs Up! Hooray!
After sitting on the stools for what seemed like eternity we were dismissed until they were ready to film the Quick Draw Challenge!
What's that I hear? A bad workman bla bla bla! All I can say is that it's a good job none of us were suffering from piles! (well I don't think we were…Anthea?)
After a few appreciative murmurs it was on with the show! I quickly covered the base of my canvas with yellow ochre acrylic and set about plotting my composition. I wanted to make it look like Rudolph was relaxing whilst maybe watching himself on TV - well I don't know - he might be lucky enough to have SkyPlus! The armchair bothered me - only because I knew that if I didn't get it right - perspective, proportion etc, then I would get him to look relaxed within it. Mistake! I took so long getting the damned armchair right that I hadn't left enough time for poor Patr…Rudolph! With 10 minutes to go I had his body in but not his head - hell I have never been fortunate enough to paint black skin, and I hadn't given myself enough time to get it wrong!
I started inwardly panicking but outwardly telling the microphone that was shoved unceremoniously into my face, that this was a deliberate ply to keep him looking fresh and not overworked. Unfortunately for me, at this exact moment, Claire (Parker) was having 'amateur dramatics' to quote Lachlan, about adding, or not adding a blue background to her portrait, so I guess a last minute panic to paint the celebrity you are there to paint didn't make good telly! That said, I wasn't too disappointed with my painting. It isn't painterly, which is a shame, but it is considered. Patrick wasn't disappointed with it either, (though he does have rather good acting skills!) and that for me is all that counts!