Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2022 news

Get all the information and behind-the-scenes gossip for Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2022 in our guide to series 8. Read on for all the latest news from our favourite arts show

Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year judge and presenter
Published: December 20, 2021 at 8:01 am
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As the Series 8 final hits our screens with an explosion of brush strokes, colour and heart, the most relaxing TV show ever known to man (it's official) comes to an end this week, after two months of glorious time lapse portraiture and creativity. Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 climaxed last week with a show-stopping paint-off between the final 3 artists who made it to the final – Christos Tsimaris, Mark Oliver and Calum Stevenson.

Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year season 8 hit our screens in October 2021 and it's been the comfort Winter TV viewing we all need in our lives. Episode 1 aired here in the UK on 13 October 2021 and we were instantly obsessed with its weekly dose of watching artists at work.

Get ready to immerse yourself in the world of gouache, oil painting, etching, sketching, as we recap the weekly highlights from series 8, when a collection of the UK and Ireland's artists have battled it out in the gentlest way possible to win the crown of Portrait Artist of the Year.

This really is a show like no other in that the portraits the artists are all beautiful works in their own right. If watching brushes on canvas doesn’t soothe your soul, nothing will. From the time lapse shots of the portraits coming to life, to the leisurely stroll around each artist as their portrait forms before your eyes, Portrait Artist of the Year is our ultimate Autumn-Winter comfort viewing.

As the brush strokes and pencil marks come together each week, we've seen the artists' portraits develop layer upon layer of depth throughout the hour's television. You’ll find yourself fighting the urge to run off and sign up instantly for your local college painting course.

This year's competition has been be better than ever and thanks to the pandemic more and more of us across the UK are discovering our love of painting and drawing. If you're looking for more painting and drawing content, head over to our Art section here on Gathered which includes free painting, drawing, and printing tutorials. We've got guides to watercolour painting for beginners and pencil drawing for beginners plus for more creative TV content head to our best craft TV shows, Sky Landscape Artist of the Year or Grayson Perry's Art Club articles.

Want to try painting a portrait? Take a look at our watercolor portrait tutorial for lots of expert tips and advice.

To celebrate the show's return we've answered all your burning questions right here.
Images © Sky UK Limited

When is Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the year on TV?

Portrait Artist of the year returned to Sky Arts on Wednesday nights from Wednesday 13 October 2021. The final aired on Wednesday 15 December 2021. It is still available to watch on Sky Arts and the streaming service NOW.

Portrait artist of the year judges
Kate Bryan, Tai Shan Schierenberg and Kathleem Soriano are judging the new series

Where can I watch Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year?

You can catch up on the past 7 seasons of the show over on Sky Arts. The show was originally Artist of the Year and included five series of Landscape Artist of the Year making around 12 series. Excitingly Landscape Artist of the Year is also due to return! Production is underway and the show will be returning in early 2022.

Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year is shown on Sky TV on channel Sky Arts, Freeview channel 11. This channel was previously known as Artsworld and Sky Arts 1. You can also watch Portrait Artist of the Year on the streaming platform NOW.

Where is Sky Portrait Artist of the Year filmed?

The show is filmed at Battersea Arts Centre, and each series the finals are filmed at the National Portrait Gallery.

National Portrait Gallery

Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2021: Welcome to series 8

Stephen Mangan and Joan Bakewell are back in their quest to find Britain and Ireland's best portrait artists. They're joined by returning judges: artist Tai Shan Schierenberg, independent curator Kathleen Soriano and art historian Kate Bryan.

The show covers lots of different techniques, mediums and subjects every week, with each contestant taking a different approach to the challenges.

I never cease to delight in presenting Portrait Artist of the year: once again the series brings a galaxy of famous faces and reputations, their faces as varied as their careers… each one challenging our eager competitors. The whole thing mixes talent with pleasure, effort with entertainment.
Joan Bakewell

Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 includes several rounds of painting competitions, where artists are challenged to paint portraits of famous sitters. The artists are given 4 hours to create a portrait that captures the essence of their celebrity subject. Each week one winning artist (chosen by the judges) was chosen to go through the semi finals, in a bid to get through to the final, which was filmed at the National Portrait Gallery.

Series 8 featured backdrops with rich colour palettes inspired by nature.

Portrait artist of the year 2021
Alicia France paints her portrait of Grace Neutral.

This year, the artists were competing for the prize of a £10,000 commission to paint the incredible Scottish-Italian classical solo violinist, Nicola Benedetti. Their work will then be exhibited at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Joan and I have had the difficult task, once again, of watching a raft of talented artists paint portraits of a bunch of fascinating celebrities. I wanted the show to be Joan and I painting portraits of artists while being watched by celebrities but apparently ’no one would watch that’. Whatever, Sky Arts.
Stephen Mangan
Portrait Artist Of The Year
Nicola Cummings paints the pop star Gabrielle.

Meet The Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 contestants and sitters

Caution: this section includes spoilers

A mixture of the UK's top amateur and professional painters have been chosen, and we'll meet a fresh batch of new faces each week. With a mega prize and one well worth competing for, we're already blown away by the talent, skill and flair that the contestants in the first few weeks have shown on screen. Those self portraits! The skill and detail and flair for colour and composition!

We always love the range of personalities who sit for their portraits, and Portrait Artist of Year 2021 will feature an exciting collection of celebrity sitters. So far this year we've seen:

Episode 1

  • Gabrielle
  • Jacob Fortune-Lloyd
  • Grace Neutral

Episode 2

  • Gyles Brandreth
  • Karen Gibson
  • Sophie Cookson

Episode 3

  • Nish Kumar
  • Alexa Chung
  • Philip Glenister

Episode 4

  • Lydia West
  • Celeste
  • Alastair Campbell

Episode 5

  • Kelly Maconald
  • Hugh Skinner
  • Polly Walker

Episode 6

  • Maggie Aderin-Pocock
  • David Olosuga
  • Sergei Polunin

Episode 7

  • Chris Packham
  • Ali Jawad
  • Arlene Phillips

Episode 8:

  • Ian Hislop
  • Daniel Mays
  • Emma Dabiri

Episode 9: Semi Final

  • Nick Mason

Episode 10: Final

  • Barry Humphries

Episode 11: Winning commission

  • Nicola Benedetti

This year's winner

23-year-old Calum Stevenson scooped this year's prize with his beautiful portrait of Barry Humphries in the final. In earlier rounds he wowed the judges with his realistic portraits of Kelly Macdonald and Pink Floyd's Nick Mason. His painting of Nicola Benedetti will be displayed at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

The Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year Episode Recaps

This article includes a weekly update on each episode, which we've reviewed as they aired. We share our favourite piece sof artwork, favourite lines from the episodes and have added a short summary so you can recap the show's best bits this year.

Week 1 – on air 13 October 2021

This week’s celebrity sitters are pop star Gabrielle (was ever a person made more perfectly for modelling for portraits?), actor Jacob Fortune-Lloyd (star ofWolf Hall and The Queen’s Gambit and owner of a much-mused-upon handsome jaw line) and presenter, tattooist, former ballerina and true icon Grace Neutral (yes, even her eyeballs are tattooed).

Episode 1 is inspired by coastal tide pools – with the background colour palettes inspired from kelp to mussels.

We're already all-in for this series as we watch the portraits come to life minute-by-minute to create a hugely varied and skilled range of artworks.

Highlights of the week

  • Jacob’s confession that “I think of myself often as a kid in grown up clothing” is a mood we can all relate to.
  • We also enjoyed Grace taking about moving into her 30s and seeing herself in a more womanly way through the portraits.
  • We could watch Joseph inking up and pressing into his Perspex slate to make his etching for hours – his process is fascinating.
  • Tony’s reaction/surprise on reaching the judge’s shortlist was a joy to watch.
I feel like the ultimate boss in this picture
Grace Neutral

Favourite piece of artwork

We're with the judges on this one – Kat Hughes made it through to the semi final this week with her fish eye portrait of Jacob. “I usually don’t have much confidence in my art and the fact that I’ve just got through to the next heat is just… the best feeling ever.” The 20-year-old from Liverpool is studying for a degree in film making and her eye for composition shows in her finished painting. “For me portraiture isn’t about making a pretty picture of someone," she muses, "so I’m going to try and warp his features into something less statuesque.” Mission accomplished.

Given that she took 40 hours to complete her self portrait, we're pretty impressed to see what she Kat can whip up in a mere 4 hours.

Portrait Artist Of The Year
Katie Hughes working on her winning portrait of Jacob.

Week 2 – on air 20 October 2021

TV’s most satisfying show returns with nine artists compete for a spot in the Semi Finals today. This week sees 7 amateurs and 2 professionals of all ages and from across the UK and Ireland.

From fabric to marker pens, alongside plenty of paint, this week's artists bring an array of media to their portraits and the results are dazzling from the off, as we see their self portrait gallery. The sets this week celebrate the colours of the sky – with the background colour palettes inspired by a stormy November sky, a bright daytime sky and a rich sunset.

Week 2's celebrity sitters are:

  • Gyles Brandreth – author, broadcaster and former MP (donning his impressive robes of the Chancellor of the University of Cheshire)
  • Karen Gibson MBE (aka Britain’s godmother of gospel) – the award winning conductor and leader of London’s The Kingdom Choir
  • Actress Sophie Cookson – star of the Kingsman films and The Trial of Christine Keeler.

Watching the three strikingly different portraits come to life for each sitter is always a treat as we see the gradual revealing of nine different artistic visions and processes. When the show does the time lapse sections to reveal the paintings unfurling before our eyes, it really is better than any TikTok or Instagram Reel.

An hour in, even watching the varied pace of work is fascinating – while some portraits have already come to life, others take their time drawing and planning their composition.Capturing the sitter’s essence while also working as painting in its own right is the challenge. They talk about how their paintings don’t always come together in the way they imagine as they begin. In fact this week saw a lot of nerves in the room.

Highlights of the week

  • It’s so refreshing hearing these talented artists talk about the everyday challenges that may of have when drawing and painting portraits “Ears aren’t my favourite part” or “I leave the eyes until last.” Given their immense talent, this is hugely heartening and encouraging for everyone who loves to create art at home.
  • Painting under pressure on camera adds a huge extra challenge, even to this calmest of TV art contests, yet watching them overcome this challenge is strangely relaxing as a viewer. Watching how they create compositions and energy in their portraits, using their composition and skill handling their chosen mediums – it's the perfect Autumn TV show for us.
  • We’re always curious if at the stated half way point, there really is half an hour left or if it’s all tinkered with in the editing. Either way, the last section of painting where you suddenly see highlights and layers of depth bring the portraits up a level is captivating.
  • Karen talks eloquently about the feeling of being a sitter, and how she will be perceived: "I think some people see the stage and the leadership and they miss the vulnerability” she muses. “What was it somebody once said to me? A force of nature … I hope what I see today will tell me something about myself that I didn’t’ see before.”
Portrait Artist Of The Year
Ruhkia Johnston paints her winning portrait of Karen Gibson MBE

Favourite piece of artwork

We’re torn this week. 19 year old medical student Ruhkia Johnston is hugely deserving of winning the judge's hearts and scooping her place in the Semi Final – the addition of wax print fabrics and gold leaf bringing a fresh depth to her portrait of Karen.

On a personal level (and judging this show it's hard not to be subjective as what works for one person is never the same as another with art), we also loved Trudy Atherton’s portrait of Giles capturing his spirit, while Robbie’s painting of Karen also had incredible depth and colour.

Portrait Artist Of The Year
By wearing the chancellor’s robes I’ve created a possibly unnecessary challenge. The robes are in a sense a uniform and the challenge for them is to get a touch of the uniform and a touch of the person, and I like everyone else in the world am not just one person, I’m lots of different people.”
Gyles Brandreth

Week 3 – on air 27 October 2021

This week sees a fresh group of amateur and professional artists take on the challenge of creating a portrait in 4 hours. Their celebrity sitters are:

  • Comedian Nish Kumar
  • Actor Philip Glenister
  • Designer, writer, presenter and model Alexa Chung

We love every detail of the process in this week's show – with some artists sketching their initial compositions before reaching for their paint brush, while others used paint instinctively from the off to freeform their subject's shapes and shades straight onto the canvas.

This week’s nature-inspired colours are inspired by the sea, and the celebrity sitters have such a great range of characters and shapes to inspire the artists.

“I’d prefer to paint Alexa than a haggard old man,” confirms Kevin, under questioning about how enjoyable she is to paint.

“Some people really hate my comedy, and I always think … you should see my drawing.”
Nish Kumar

Liam's admission that “I would ideally like another 10 hours” at the end of the week's challenge sums up the artists challenge – so often mused in this show – of painting to a deadline while resisting the urge to overwork a portrait that already works to fill the time.

When I start painting, I usually panic for about 10 minutes.. and then I usually do an acrylic base
We can all identify with this feeling Liam

And what a week for showcasing the huge array of mediums that artists use – the episode will go on to see a watercolour, oil painting and lino cut coming together for the judge's shortlist, with Sarah's beautiful watercolour portrait of Alexa scooping the Semi Final slot.

Highlights of the week

  • It's amusing to watch Nish fidget after drinking had lots of coffee before his sitting. Alexa is more used to modelling for cameras, “It’s actually very relaxing,” she says, “I’m pretending I’m on a long haul flight and zoning out.”
  • Watching Michelle Fernandes use her hands to form areas of paint and colour on her canvas, to the others who create more considered compositions in pencil first, its miraculous seeing fully formed paintings emerge within the 4 hour challenge. We read that Nish brought her painting after the show was aired.
  • Watching Sarah Harvey speedily layering up watercolours bleeding into each other is a joy to watch, while Lucy Bartholomew’s lino cutting process is also fascinating to behold, from her initial sketch to transferring her design into thousands of lino cuts, and adding the ink – it’s just so soothing (even if it probably didn’t feel so for her at the time doing so in front of cameras to a time limit).

Favourite piece of artwork

OK so we did write this before the winner was picked, honestly, but we agree with the judges – we’ve fallen head over heels for Sarah Harvey’s beautiful watercolour painting of Alexa. “I love this blindfold situation – like a masquerade ball,” reflects Alexa after seeing the portrait for the first time – fantastic.” We also really loved the life and paint play that emerged in Will’s painting of Nish.

Portrait Artist Of The Year
Sarah Harvey's watercolour technique was a joy to behold

Week 4 – on air 3 November 2021

We're getting well established into series 8 now and the weekly doses of oh-so-soothing artists at work are already a high point of our week's TV. This week's artists are tackling the 4 hour portrait challenge using a range of reused materials – from pre-used canvases to brown wrapping paper, and the usual array of media, from charcoal to pencil, acrylic to glue and oil paint. This week’s backdrops are based on the colours of flowers, from daffodils to roses.

Week 4's celebrity models are:

  • Actress Lydia West
  • Singer songwriter Celeste
  • Journalist and broadcaster Alastair Campbell

This week we learn that Alastair Campbell can’t put his phone down (is it just us or this bad portrait model etiquette?).

Highlights of the week

  • It's interesting how the models show different levels of comfort in the situation their initial pose. Some wriggle and chat awkwardly, others settle in and own their situation.
  • Yet again we’re struck by the show is so universal – bringing together painters and models of all ages and backgrounds to share a common love of art.
  • And yet again we’re reminded how subjective art is – while one judge finds Rob's work cartoonish, another finds it subjective. In a way this is the impossible competition to judge as many viewers will have a different favourite.
I feel like you’ve seen into my soul, through my eyes

Favourite piece of artwork

We have a few... Lucy’s portrait of Celeste is beautiful – sad and thoughtful and strong all in one portrait. Emily’s honest portrait of Alistair Campbell captures his personality perfectly. Holly’s drawing of Lydia is so strikingly constructed

Lucy Threlfall wins for her stunning portrait of Alistair Campbell – the colours and sense of personality captured stood out against a backdrop of portraits from an amazing bunch of artists.

Portrait Artist of The Year
Lucy Threlfall & Celeste

Week 5 – on air 10 November 2021

This week’s backdrops are inspired by leaves – lush greens and blues alongside Autumnal russets.

  • Actress Kelly Macdonald
  • Acctor Hugh Skinner
  • Actress Polly Walker

As always it’s not just the medium to paper or canvas that attracts about this show. Watching how the artists get to the heart of their model's essence is really powerful. It's not just about their skill with a pencil or paintbrush.

We have some people who are meticulous and exact and then we have other people who are wildly free – what a medley

Highlights of the week

  • Watching the paintings unfurl at different rates and with different approaches to building up the layers and texture of the artists’ chosen mediums is, as always, a delight.
  • Seeing ther model’s reactions is always a powerful moment but Polly’s reaction captures this perfectly.

Favourite piece of artwork

Our favourite portrait this week is Callum’s tender portrait, of Kelly Macdonald – painstakingly painted and capturing Kelly’s likeness perfectly. We’ve all been there with his approach to a deadline.

He's also the overall winner, chosen by the judges – given we didn’t know if he’d even finish at one point it’s cheering to see his intimate portrait scoop him a spot in the next round. “Every single mark deserves to be there and you get this wonderful sense of clarity," summarises Kate Bryan. "It was a fantastic likeness and it was just cool and elegant”

Portrait Artist Of The Year
Calum Stevenson painting his winning portrait

Week 6 – on air 17 November 2021

This week’s backdrops are inspired by snow and ice. This week's celebrity sitters are...

  • Sky At Night presenter – Maggie Aderin-Pocock
  • Bafta-winner and OBE Historian and TV presenter David Olusoga
  • Royal Ballet dancer and actor Sergei Polunin
It’s very important that I try to be me, rather than guess what the judges want. People have different perceptions of our art, so what’s good in one person’s eye, might be something different in anothers
Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Highlights of the week

  • Former picture framer Alex's astute comment that, "“You really want to get the essence of someone, don’t you? Even the way the collar is, and the shoulders sit, can tell something about someone."
  • While we love seeing the new media and printing processes of recent weeks, it's equally a treat to see a week that's filled with traditional painting – 7 of this week's contestants are using oils and 2 using acrylic and it's a joy to see how the different artists approach building their pictures.
  • Charlie’s portrait of David with the swirling, grey background was beautiful to us.
  • Gabriella Cohen wins with her colourful circular-enclosed portrait of Maggie.
I guess one of the things about portraiture is that it can break through barriers, when it’s done brilliantly. I think all of us conceal our inner selves, every day of our lives, so I’m curious if aspects of myself that I recognize but don’t project can be picked up by the artists
David Olusoga
David Olusoga Portrait Artist of the Year
David Olusoga

Week 7 – on air 24 November 2021

This week’s backdrops are inspired by the earth, including the rich shades of an allotment. This week's sitters are:

  • Chris Packham – naturalist and television presenter
  • Arlene Phillips, DBE – choreographer, theatre director and TV judge and presenter
  • Ali Jawad – Paralympic powerlifter
This one is smashing into my heart because my mum died when I was 15 and this could be my mum, looking out
Arlene Phillips

Highlights of the week

  • We really loved Adrian’s painting of Arlene with his use of colour
  • Mark Oliver’s winning geometric painting of Chris with its cubist twist “the colours are cigars and brandy – I can catch a whiff,” observes Chris
  • We love how the other artists rave about how great each others’ paintings are at the end.
Portrait Artist Of The Year
Mary Shepperson paints Ali Jawad

Week 8 – on air 1 December 2021

This week’s backdrops are inspired by the earth, including the rich shades of an allotment. This week's sitters are:

  • Daniel Mays – actor
  • Ian Hislop – writer, editor and TV presenter
  • Emma Dabiri – TV presenter and author

This weeks’ backdrops are inspired by the desert – from the colours of a sun rise to a cacti or sand dune.

I do think in colour but it is inspired by the sitter so it’s a relationship between what I see and what I want to say. I think of the lines as because we are all inseparable in a sense from the environment around us as if the figure is emerging from the chaos”

Highlights of the week

  • It’s fascinating watching Robbie’s doodle method
  • Derry-based Terry is painting two paintings and using his own handmade brushes.
  • Karen’s cubism-inspired geometric portrait of Daniel, filled with brushmark texture.
  • Can we pick all 3 of Ian’s portraits? They capture 3 sides of his personality, from the playful to the weighty and thoughtful.
  • Christos’ winning portrait of Emma has a beautiful quality to it, with its melancholic undertones
Portrait Artist Of The Year Ian Hislop

Week 9 – Semi Final – on air 8 December 2021

For the semi final the show's format changes slightly to focusing on 1 sitter for all the artists who made it through from the early rounds. The sitter in question is Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason – more comfortable drumming and racing fast cars than sitting still. The gong that forms his striking backdrop has been part of Pink Floyd’s tour kit for nearly 50 years. Mark Oliver is a little starstruck.

Highlights of the week

  • The final set of portraits are incredible - taking one model and bringing out different aspects of his personality, from the wistful to the jollier and more melancholy.
  • It's hard to pick a favourite portrait but congratulations to Calum, Christos and Mark for making it through to next week's final
Portrait Artist Of The Year Nick Mason

Week 10 – Final – on air 15 December 2021

For tonight's final, the set is transformed into a theatrical set, which is created as a backdrop for the colourful character Barry Humpries – actor, writer, comedienne and artist who is best know for his alter egos Dame Edna Everage. He’s also a painter and a theatrical caricaturist so he knows a thing or two about posing for, and creating, a good portrait.

Portrait Artist Of The Year
The 2021 Portrait Artist of the Year final starred Barry Humphries, the famous creator of Dame Edna Everage

For the final, the artists pair their portrait of Barry with a personal portrait of someone in their personal life, while in the room they create a stunning trio of intimate portraits with completely fresh and different approaches.

“It’s how I see myself – it’s me in a nice friendly manner. Some people think I’m rather cruel and inaccessible but you’ve brought that out rather nicely.”

Episode highlights

  • We enjoyed Calum confessing to Barry that his favourite portrait artist is Sir Frances Bacon and Barry revealing he met him once.
  • While we love their portraits of Barry, it’s their personal paintings of people in their lives that wow us even more. Christos’ portrait of his teenage son riding his bike, Callum’s beautiful life-like and meticulously worked painting of girlfriend, and Mark’s intimate portrait of his stepson.
  • Stephen Mangan sums up these intimate personal portraits well – “It’s like making a friend at work and then you see what they get up to on the weekend”
  • Congratulations to Calum Stevenson, who wins the series with his his beautiful, intimate and skilful paintings that capture life and personality and intimacy with his colour and method.
Portrait Artist Of The Year
Winner Calum Stevenson's beautiful style of painting portraits has been mesmerising to watch, as he creates his portraits from the eyes outward, building realistic and intimate detail through his paintwork, alongside striking compositions.

Find out more about Portrait Artist of the Year

For more updates, and to see when the show will return in 2022, head to the show's official website: or search on social for the hashtags #portraitartistoftheyear and #PAOTY

If you can tear yourself away from watching the new series of Portrait Artist of the Year, why not practice your painting and drawing skills? We have loads of arty tutorials here on Gathered.


We've got everything from how to draw a cat to step by step flower drawing and the best acrylic paints so you can get your kit up to scratch.


Phoebe Burt
Phoebe BurtSEO and Communities Editor, Gathered

Phoebe has worked for Gathered, and our sister magazine Mollie Makes, for 3 years. She manages our Arts & Crafts section and specialises in social media and content strategy. She has a background in all things marketing, a flair for Pinterest and a knack for finding the next big craft trend. Previously she worked as Digital Campaign Executive for Fat Media. You may recognise her name from Mollie Makes Social Media magazine, where she shared her expertise and top tips on becoming social media savvy.

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