Suzon Lagarde and Yevhen Nahirnyy feature on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019, painting the British actor Geraldine James OBE. Suzon tells us about the experience. 

'I had a brilliant time participating in the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year; it was an incredible experience! A friend encouraged me to apply, so I happily gave it a go, but it was a real surprise when they invited me to be part of the show. I would never have expected to get that, so my friend's encouragement meant a lot. One of my tutors at the time, James Bland NEAC, was particularly supportive.'

'I was nervous on the morning of the filming, but everything was so well-organized and everyone so friendly that I couldn't help but feel enthusiastic from the first moment. The conditions for painting the portrait are very different from the usual classroom set up, which made the challenge even more exciting. I had no choice but to take a playful and intuitive approach. The day was very moving for me, because it brought to the forefront how much I love painting and how much joy it brings me, even under stressful circumstances.'

'For my episode of the programme, I was painting alongside two talented artists who are my age, and also now my friends; Kelly Frank (who just exhibited with the Society of Women Artists), and Yevhen Nahirnyy who's part of Mall Galleries In The Studio project with me. Also painting were Geoff Harisson (recently showing in ING Discerning Eye) and Dorian Radu (who exhibits with the ROI); we're hoping to meet up to sketch together soon.'

'My sitter was the wonderful Geraldine James. I was struck by her beauty and incredible stillness. The way she sat for us had something profoundly generous, and even though she and I didn't know each other, a special connection forged between us while I was painting. I felt so happy when Geraldine chose my portrait to take home with her.'

'I also met an even younger artist; the talented Nua, who is six-years-old. Nua made me feel very emotional when she offered me a beautiful drawing she had done of me while I was painting. Her mother and I keep in touch, and I was very happy to be able to make a drawing for her in return.'

'This experience was as amazing as it was unexpected. It brought me a lot of joy, and I met many wonderful people. I would definitely encourage anyone who feels like they would enjoy such experience to give it a go. There's nothing too loose, and many beautiful things to get out of it! Applications for Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year are open until 22 February.'

Find out more about Suzon and her practice