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:
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…