BP Portrait Award winner’s ‘whirlwind’ week

A University of Brighton graduate who won a world-renowned art award has reflected on his “whirlwind” week – and said he can’t wait to get back into his studio.

Charlie Schaffer, who graduated in Fine Art Painting in 2014, was presented with the highly coveted BP Portrait Award by Sandi Toksvig at a ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery. He received £35,000.

Charlie’s painting ‘Imara in her Winter Coat’ triumphed over 2,538 entries from 84 countries. Imara, the subject of the portrait, is a close friend of Charlie’s and he said the painting helped them both in periods of depression. “It became our therapies,” Charlie said of the work, which took him four months to paint.

The judging panel praised the painting for its “combination of different textures including faux fur, hair and skin”, producing an image that is “traditional but clearly contemporary”. It is the second time in two years that a University of Brighton graduate has won the award following Miriam Escofet’s success with ‘An Angel At My Table’.

Image of woman at a table

An Angel At My Table by Miriam Escofet

Speaking about the award, Charlie said: “It still hasn’t really sunk in yet. Since it was announced it has been non-stop, so I haven’t had the time to think about it just yet.

“The money is obviously a fantastic thing in that it allows me to not have to take commissions or other jobs that might take me away from the paintings I want to do, at least for an entire year.

“The ironic thing is that now it is happened, what I really plan to do is try and forget it’s happened in a way, get back to the studio and close the door and get back to painting.

“It’s all been a whirlwind but the main thing I want this to allow me to do is carry on painting, so that’s what I will try and do.”

Of the process of completing ‘Imara in her Winter Coat’, Charlie said: “This painting took four months, three times a week for three hours at a time, and occurred during a time in which both of us were going through quite a severe depression. This painting become both of our therapies, our saviour, our reason to get up in the morning and carry on.”

Charlie added that his time at the University of Brighton was “golden” and that his experience of the Fine Art Painting degree was “fantastic”.

Charlie sitting on the floor with paintings

Charlie Schaffer, with his graduation work 2014

He said: “You were expected to go into the studio, with no brief and to just make work, teaching you the importance of self-motivation, something that is integral to one’s future life as an artist.”

Charlie’s work will be displayed with the shortlisted entries at the BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition which runs at the National Portrait Gallery until 20 October 2019.

Chris Stevens, course leader of Fine Art Painting at the University of Brighton, praised Charlie’s commitment, talent and personable nature.

Chris said: “I’m absolutely delighted for Charlie. It’s a fabulous painting and he richly deserves the award. I remember when Charlie began developing his ideas about portrait painting during his studies with us at Brighton.

“At the time I was really impressed with his desire to work with his sitters rather than rely on photographs; the belief that face-to-face contact is a vital part of portraiture. Since graduating I know his dedication to his work has been remarkable.

“Also, I couldn’t imagine the award going to a nicer guy, I still miss seeing his face around the painting department corridor. Well done Charlie.”

See more of Charlie’s work

Find out more about Fine Art: Painting

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