First trialled back at the beginning of lockdown, Sky Arts’ new series, Portrait Artist of the Week, is a spin-off from the channel’s every-popular Portrait Artist of the Year, with Autumn 2020’s debut series featuring celebrity sitters being painted remotely from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The series featured some very big names among the sitter list – including Dannii Minogue, Bernardine Evaristo and Noel Fielding – and we were thrilled to see TNG member Catherine MacDiarmid tasked with painting legendary journalist Jon Snow.
“I was excited as well as very nervous when Sky Arts asked me to be a guest artist on their Artist of the Year spin off show – Portrait Artist of the Week,” says MacDiarmid. “I found the whole experience helped build my confidence with technology, communicating and undergoing a commission via a computer screen. Jon was a very interesting and relaxing person to spend 4 hours with, and although I found the thought of interviewing him stressful, the actuality of it was very different. He was so interesting, funny, and engaging. I also have the added bonus of some original Jon Snow portrait paintings of me.”
The new, socially-distanced painting show – including MacDiarmid’s episode with Jon Snow – has been received enthusiastically around the world, helped by Sky’s recent decision to make content from the Sky Arts channel free to watch without a paid subscription. In an article written for iNews, Portrait Artist of the Week co-host Joan Bakewell explained that every featured artist has been “joined by thousands of viewers around the world who paint along with us and send in their work on Instagram. Each week we get more than 2,000 paintings, sent in from places as varied as Canada, India, Australia and Romania. People post in questions and our guests respond.”
While 2020’s lockdowns created a dry spell for much of the art world, MacDiarmid managed to keep busy. Her painting, Behind the Doll Paint, was shortlisted for the annual New Light Art Prize and Exhibition and another of her pieces was a finalist for The Castlegate Prize.