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Graduate paints Richard E Grant on Sky Portrait Artist of the Year

A Wimbledon-based artist and one of our graduates has painted acclaimed actor and director Richard E Grant on Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year 2017.

Emma-Leone Palmer, who graduated from UCA Farnham with a Fine Art degree in 2005, spent four hours painting the celebrity as part of the series, which sees artists compete to be named Portrait Artist of the Year on Sky Arts.

An experience that she describes as a fantastic career boost, Emma-Leone says: “Painting a portrait in four hours under such scrutiny was the hardest thing. As artists, we are used to working alone in our studios on a piece over a number of weeks or months. The most pressure I would say came from myself, and wanting to paint to the best of my ability within the constraints of the show. The day flew by so fast, it is all a blur – but what a fantastic experience.”

Each round of the competition saw nine artists chosen and divided into groups of three with each group given a celebrity sitter to paint in four hours. Featuring in the third season of the six-episode competition, Emma-Leone says: “I like to say I paint expressions, not just what is on the aesthetic surface but the dialogue of what’s underneath. I shy away from being pigeon-holed as a portrait artist, not least as it conjures up images of stuffy busts and that’s not really what I’m about.

“The Paint Play series, which is currently what I’m known for, uses paint, lube, glitter and water, amongst other things, which are smeared, dripped, flicked and splashed onto the face as a prop to trigger honest reactions, expressions and emotions. I am not interested in painting bowls of fruit, but rather living, breathing, expressive human beings.”

Since graduating from UCA, Emma-Leone has gone on to establish herself as an award-winning artist, and has shipped paintings globally, had celebrity buyers and muses, and been published in magazines.

“Fresh from graduation I was doing large abstract canvases, concentrating on paint application and layering subconscious mind fragments,” she explains. “It took me years to find what was true to me. After a number of crazy-fun years painting in my Old Fire Station studio in Surrey, numerous exhibitions and awards, and setting up various creative projects, I shut-up-shop and went to paint in Italy with a rucksack full of art supplies.

“My love of figurative oil painting grew whilst living in Umbria and painting alongside an Italian artist in Raffaelo’s Perugian studio. When back in England this culminated in a prolific solo exhibition at The Watts Gallery. Since moving to my Wimbledon studio, the exhibitions and commissions have been flowing.”

And as her career continues to go from strength-to-strength, Emma-Leone says that new graduates should take advantage of every opportunity they come across. “You should enter your work where you can as you never know what audience it will get to or the exposure it will gain. I didn’t think any more of my entry from the moment after it was placed, so it was a massive surprise to have the phone call inviting me to compete!

“There is no set path or formula for succeeding artists. You need to paint, multi task and indulge your playful side. Take risks, paint, market yourself, paint, work through creative block, paint. Remember to be strict with your time, believe in the face of rejection, enjoy it and paint, paint and paint some more.”