Artist and tutor at Strathclyde’s Centre for Lifelong Learning, Gareth Reid, has been crowned Sky Arts' Portrait Artist of the Year 2017, winning a £10,000 commission to paint TV presenter and comedian Graham Norton which will hang in The National Gallery of Ireland.
As well as winning the competition, Gareth was surprised to discover he is a distant relative of Graham, as Gareth’s great grandmother and Graham’s great grandfather were siblings. The happy coincidence was only revealed when Gareth met Graham for the first time to begin painting his portrait, and their conversation revealed they both had family from the Northern Ireland town of Ballymena.
Gareth beat 54 artists to win the title of Portrait Artist of the Year. He won his heat with his portrait of TV presenter Adrian Chiles, before impressing the judges again in the semi-final with his portrayal of award-winning actress Imelda Staunton.
In the final, Gareth demonstrated his skills with two pieces: a detailed portrait of actor Tom Courtenay completed in charcoal, watercolour, pencil and pastels and a commissioned portrait of The Hon. Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb, a judge of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, and the first Asian woman to serve as a High Court judge in the UK.
On winning, Gareth says: “It’s great to receive the affirmation of the award, but I know that on another day it could have easily been someone else so I feel, as ever, very lucky. There was so much serendipity involved - for a start having Adrian as a sitter, who was perfect for what I wanted to do, then getting Bobbie Cheema-Grubb as the final commission was a total gift. I couldn’t have asked for a better match.
“The most important thing for me was the privilege of having a painting in a national public collection.”
Alix McDonald, Head of the Centre for Lifelong Learning, said: “We’ve been following Gareth’s process through the show very closely and we are thrilled that he won. He’s an extremely popular tutor at the Centre and we hope he’s inspiring people to pick up their paintbrushes and revisit an old hobby or try drawing, sketching or painting for the first time.”