Brighton graduate wins heat in Sky Portrait Artist of the Year

Recent graduate Sara Lavelle is through to the next round of the TV painting competition.

Sara Lavelle, who graduated with first-class honours from BA(Hons) Illustration degree last year, features in the weekly Sky Arts programme.

Watch a time-lapse of Sara’s painting:

Reflecting on the experience, Sara said: “All of the other artists were fantastic and the standard was so high. It was amazing to have my work be validated and recognised in such a substantial way.

“The judges are all incredible and inspiring people and to know that they liked my work actually made me cry.”

Judges Kate Bryan, Kathleen Soriano and Tai Shan Schierenberg ran the rule over Sara’s work after she completed her portrait paintings to a four-hour deadline in front of an audience. The programme is hosted by Joan Bakewell and Stephen Mangan.

Sara said that working to a tight deadline was a huge “challenge” but that she was pleased with the work she produced. Viewers can find out whether Sara progresses to the latter stages of the competition by watching her episode next week.

Sara said: “Before I applied to the show, I joked about how I could never do what the contestants do – paint in front of cameras and an audience. I was used to painting on my own with no interruptions for days with endless tea breaks.

“I can honestly say that four hours to complete a painting with continuous interruptions for interviews and special camera shots was the biggest challenge I have had in my painting career.”

“Having come back to the paintings now I am really surprised at what I managed to do. There are some lovely elements that I am really pleased with.”

Sara describes herself as “shy and self-conscious” and said it took a while for her to get used to being filmed, but the experience made her think more about her work.

“My paintings always go through ugly phases and every time the cameras zoomed in on my canvas at those points I wanted to knock them away,” she said.

“However, it was great for me to be so out of my comfort zone in that way. It made me grow in self-confidence. Also, being asked so many questions by the judges made me stop and think about what it is I actually do. That made me learn a lot about myself.”

Sara, who has her own studio and practice in Brixton, said her time on the show had made her feel optimistic going forward: “I feel really excited about the future.”

Last year Textiles lecturer Phil Tyler was also featured in the competition.

Find out about Sara’s journey from illustration to paintin

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For more information about Sara’s work visit:




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