On the 22nd June 2011, I had the privilege to attend the BP Portrait Award 2011, Private Exhibition and personally meet Wim Heldens, the winner of the most prestigious portrait competition in the world, promoting the very best in contemporary painting”

 The BP Portrait is held at the National Portrait Gallery in London and has been sponsored for the past 22 years by BP. The competition gives many talented and undiscovered artists the opportunity to participate and exhibit their artwork in one of the most respected and influential galleries in the world; just being part of the award is synonymous of quality and success; winning the admiration and respect of important figures and art collectors in the art-world is the best prize, however, the winning prize of £25,000 is not bad either.


The 2011 Winners

Wim Heldens, Distracted - National Portrait GalleryCredit: Wim Heldens, Distracted - BP Portrait Award 2011Wim Heldens, a self taught artist, is the winner of the 2011 BP Portrait Award; his painting titled “Distracted” is a portrait of Jeroen, a friend of the artist; the simplicity of this piece is breathtaking.  My first impression was not the best, I thought there were more outstanding and elaborate artwork which deserved to win but after talking to both the artist and Jeroen, I realized that simplicity and beauty were the main factors that made this Oil on canvas portrait so successful; the extraordinary gentle expression of Jeroen is very intriguing and makes you wonder if he is in a state of thoughtfulness, resignation, sadness or just distraction; this effect is emphasized by the harmonious balance of line and colour.


Louis Smith - HollyCredit: Louis Smith - HollyLouis Smith won the second prize of the exhibition with the remarkable, and one of my favourite, artwork titled Holly. The considerably well-researched portrait is influenced by Renaissance paintings to create the impact desired by the artist; the strength of the colour and atmosphere, contrasting with the model produced the classical harmony of the Renaissance period. The sophisticated style and perspective were exaggerated to emphasis the pain that Holly is going through as she is chained to a rock. The classical myth of Prometheus inspired the artist to produce this beautiful portrait.


Ian Cumberland - Just to Feel NormalCredit: Ian Cumberland - BP Portrait Award 2011Ian Cumberland, first prizewinner in the Davy portrait award was awarded third place in the BP Portrait Award 2011.


The brutal and harsh realism of the portrait as well as the confidence of Cumberland’s subject (one of Cumberland’s friends) made an interesting and honest portrait.


BP Portrait Award Shortlist 2011

Only 55 pieces were selected from the 2,300 entrants that submitted their work to the competition this year. Among the most prominent artists are Cayetano de Arquer Buigas with “Ohh!”, Wendy Elia with “I could have been a contender” and Jan Mikulka with a very realistic portrait called Jakub.


Visit the National Portrait Gallery

You can visit the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in St Martin’s Place or simply enjoy a cultural day out at the Gallery; it houses the world’s largest collection of portraits. The exhibition is free.


Learning How to Draw

Drawing is a simple form of art; however, mastering drawing is the challenge for many of us; it requires time, patience and practice; using the best tools will ensure you learn to sketch and develop your techniques from the basis; and selecting the best pencil drawing technique is fundamental to improve your work of art.