Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 news

Get all the information and behind-the-scenes gossip for Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 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

It’s official. The most relaxing TV show ever made is back. Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year season 8 hit our screens tonight (on 13 October 2021) and we are already obsessed with it. Get ready to immerse yourself in the world of gouache, oil painting, etching, sketching, as we watch an amazing collection of the UK and Ireland’s artists battle it out in the gentlest way possible for the prize

We’re huge fans of the show and have watched all the past seasons, including their popular lockdown spin-off Portrait Artist of the Week on Instagram, religiously. Not only is it filled with the joy of gentle slow craft (even the challenges span 4 hours), it’s 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 Autumnal comfort viewing.

As the brush strokes and pencil marks come together each week, expect to see 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.

Images © Sky UK Limited

Portrait Artist Of The Year
Shane Berkery paints Gabrielle in episode 1 of Portrait Artist of the Year 2021

This year’s competition will 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 or Grayson Perry’s Art Club articles.

To celebrate the show’s return we’ve answered all your burning questions right here.

When is Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the year on?

Portrait Artist of the year returns to Sky Arts on Wednesday 13 October 2021. It will be shown on Sky Arts and the streaming service NOW.

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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: What to expect

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 will cover lots of different techniques and subjects 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

Throughout season 8, we’ll watch several rounds of regional competitions where artists are challenged to paint portraits of famous sitters. Each week, the artists will be given 4 hours to create a portrait that captures the essence of their celebrity subject. Each week one winning artist (chosen by the judges) will go through to the semi finals, in a bid to get through to the final, which is filmed at the National Portrait Gallery.

Series 8 will feature backdrops with rich colour palettes inspired by nature. Episode 1 is inspired by coastal tide pools – from kelp to mussels.

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

This year, the artists are 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

A mixture of the UK’s top amateur and professional painters has 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 week 1’s contestants have shown on screen. Those self portraits!

We do know that Portrait Artist of Year 2021 will feature some exciting celebrity sitters, including:

  • Celeste
  • Kelly MacDonald
  • Gabrielle
  • Lydia West
  • Nish Kumar
  • Alexa Chung
  • Alistair Campbell
  • Ian Hislop
  • Hugh Skinner
  • Daniel Mays
  • Gyles Brandreth
  • Emma Dabiri
  • Sophie Cookson
  • Jacob Fortune-Lloyd
  • Polly Walker
  • Philip Glenister
  • Chris Packham
  • Ali Jawad
  • Arlene Phillips
  • Grace Neutral
  • Maggie Aderin-Pocock
  • Sergei Polunin
  • Karen Gibson
  • David Olosuga

The 2019 semi-finalists were Kofi Ferriss, Sally Ward, and Curtis Holder with Curtis snatching the well-deserved title. You can read an interview with him here.

Portrait Artist Of The Year
Jacob Fortune-Lloyd sits for Tedi Lena and Tony Robinson

The Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year Episode Guide

We’ll be writing a weekly update on each episode here in this post. We’ll share our favourite piece of artwork, favourite line from the episode and write a short summary so you can keep up to date with the show. Warning: this section contains spoilers.

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).

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.

Portrait Artist Of The Year
Judge Tai Shan Schierenberg talks to week 1 contestant Tony Robinson

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.

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.

Favourite line from the episode

“I feel like the ultimate boss in this picture” – Grace says of Joseph’s etching.

Find out more about Portrait Artist of the Year

For more update, head to the show’s official website: https://www.skyartsartistoftheyear.tv/portrait/ 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.

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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.