Tuesday, 12 June 2012

BP Portrait Award

So this year I entered the 2012 BP Portrait Award, I have visited the exhibition of finalists in the National Portrait Gallery a few times and have always been impressed by the talent on show.  I had been meaning to have a go myself for the last few years and finally got around to it this year.  Although I had no illusions as to winning, I thought I might get in the top 50, I mean, how many portrait painters can there really be out there?  The logistics of entering were a bit complicated, I had to leave the painting with my parents in London while I was visiting them and my dad kindly took the painting along to one of the submission days. What with the entry fee and the price for the framing of the piece coming to just under a hundred pounds it wasn’t cheap on my measly teacher’s wage, I liked the portrait and although it was simple and had no background I was feeling lucky.  It is of a student of mine here in Salamanca, Juan Blanco Blanco, a guy I respect not only for being a spine surgeon and researcher into non-embryonic stem cells, but also for being a person of strong religious faith in these secular times.

It turned out that there are far more than 50 portrait painters interested in having their work on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery, and no, I didn’t get picked.  The rejection letter goes as follows:

Dear BP Portrait Award 2012 Entrant

Thank you very much for entering this year's competition. The judges have now made their final decision and I am afraid that on this occasion your entry was not selected for exhibition. This year there were approximately 2,200 entries and only 55 were selected for exhibition, including the four shortlisted for prizes, so the competition was very strong. We wish you the very best with your continued practice and hope that you will consider applying to the competition again in the future.

So my dad had to go back into central London to pick the painting up, and I was left contemplating why mine wasn’t good enough, and whether I should give up on entering competitions completely and save my money.  Upon reflection and after having looked at the BP Portrait Award website I have come to the conclusion that I should have tried harder, maybe painted some more of the body, and included a luscious background to boot.  I won’t give up yet, but 2,200 entries is a lot to beat and I shouldn’t be so complacent next time.  At least I can reuse the frame… 


  1. Yeah, totally don't give up. You'll get there. I'm sure you will. Absolutely convinced of it. I want my portrait in a Larcey retrospective at the Tate before I die, or else I will feel I have entirely failed in life. If I get rich I am going to be your benefactor. Then you'll be able to enter all the competitions you like. Gonna work on getting you some commissions too.

    If I may pass comment, having just said on your flickr page that this is amazing and captures him really well, and it is amazing, no doubt about it, but looking again I think I want more from his eyes. Not in a gay way. I can't quite put my finger on it. It's maybe his left eye. It has the making of a portrait that could force its way off the canvas, really in your face, really grab you. You're really drawn into his gaze, but when you get there, it's not what you were expecting. Does that make any sense? Probably not, I've been on the whisky.

  2. Haha, thanks Rob! In that case I can't wait till you're rich. Yes, the left eye doesn't have a sparkle, maybe that's it, don't worry, it's not the whisky :)


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