S3 RX1 Presenters- Joan Bakewell, Frank Skinner Judges- Kathleen Soriano, Kate Bryan, Tai Shan Schierenberg Sitters- Richard E Grant, Sue Perkins, Nina Sosanya

Phoebe with portrait of Sue Perkins

I caught up with local artist, Phoebe Cripps, congratulating her on making it to the semi finals of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year programme.
Phoebe progressed through to the semi finals of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year, which has been captivating viewers over the past few weeks. Despite her portrait of BAFTA winning actress, Imelda Staunton choosing her picture as her favourite, she missed out on making the final.
In a previous episode Phoebe impressed the judges with her romantic approach to oil painting, translating a very excited Sue Perkins into a poised subject against a wash of earthy greens, again her painting was chosen by the famous sitter to take home to keep. Phoebe studied at The Florence Academy of Art in Italy for three years before returning home to New Romney, Kent where she spent her childhood and now lives with her husband.
We caught up with Phoebe to find out more about her time taking part in such a strongly contested competition, she told The Looker: “I feel so very lucky to have been a part of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year. I had watched all the previous years and loved seeing different artists interpret different recognisable faces, so it was very exciting to be chosen to be part of it. It was such a brilliant experience, if a bit surreal at times! Meeting other artists, the very friendly crew, and getting to paint Sue was very special. I was so chuffed Sue picked my painting, as well as being chosen as the heat winner. It didn’t sink in for quite a while.”
Watching the programme every week we noticed that Phoebe would paint straight to canvas without taking photos and working from them as some of the other artists do. We also noticed that she would spend a lot of time working on the eyes, Phoebe told us: “I think it is natural to be drawn into the eyes when first looking at someone. However, I realise you don’t need to have all the detail and information of your sitters features to have a likeness. In capturing a likeness, it is not caught in just describing the individuality of someone’s features, but the distances between them and where they sit within the face and head.”
Phoebe then took the time to answer some more of our questions
Have you always painted with oils?
I was introduced to painting with oils by my art teacher when I was 16. My mum paints in watercolour, so I had no experience with oils before – but once I started I was hooked! I fell in love with their versatility and vibrancy. They can be used so differently from artist to artist, from canvas to canvas, and I know I still have so much to learn in the way to handle them.
How do you balance painting with your everyday lifestyle?
I take portrait commissions, but also work 3 days a week, which takes the pressure off finishing paintings quickly to cover the bills. It means I can focus on producing my best work, as well as giving me the opportunity to paint practise portraits of friends and family, which allows me to resolve problems and learn from my mistakes, refining my technique all the time.
I paint in my living room at home, whereas my husband paints in the ‘studio’ (meant to be the dining room). I paint most days, however my painting routine varies. I love working with the TV or radio on in the background, as it can stop me from over thinking. I can distract myself very easily, so strangely by having the deliberate consistent distraction of the television it is like a continuous noise to keep me focused. A strange way of looking at it, and not explained very well, but that probably sums it up! It is comforting, and it is in that safe place I feel happiest to paint. Painting at the Wallace Collection certainly made a change from painting in my living room! I dream of one day having a real studio space where I can leave all my painting things about without feeling guilty of cluttering our living area. Having canvases and faces everywhere can make it hard to take a real break from various paintings. Although I love being able to cover our home’s walls with my husband’s beautiful landscapes, finished or unfinished!
If you would like to commission a portrait by Phoebe or see other examples of her work, please visit her website at www.phoebecripps.com