In memory of John Walton Hon RP (1925-2023)

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In memory of John Walton Hon RP

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of John Walton, one of the great characters and significant movers of the portrait world. Whilst his spirit was undiminished, his body could not keep up the pace, and he died peacefully at the age of 97.

John was an eminent portrait painter; his work is jewel-like, thought-through and minutely worked, he captured a time and place as well as personality. He delighted in exploring ideas, whether it was experimenting with curvilinear perspective or learning about clock making.

John’s forceful character and intellect were applied generously beyond his own portraiture, and he saved Heatherley School of Fine  Art, perhaps the only place to learn the art of portraiture in the UK in the  1970s,  and the Federation of British Artists in the 1990s through the generous and, in the case of the FBA, voluntary application of his leadership and vision.

We have lost a force of nature who was also a talented, intelligent, warm-hearted and extraordinarily generous man. He will be missed.

John Walton, Dr George Daniels CBE FBHI with the Space Traveller’s Watch 

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Emma Hopkins RP Artist Spotlight


We spoke to Emma Hopkins, one of the younger members of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, about her work that was featured in the recent Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2023, and about her artistic practice more broadly. Whilst the exhibition has closed, you are still able to view the work online.

You studied Make-up and Prosthetics for Performance, how has this influenced your artistic practice and your knowledge of anatomy and the human form? 

During my studies I needed to understand the foundational structures that the translucent layers of skin would adorn as I was taught how to make life like body parts. I would cast bodies, sculpt bodies, attach prosthetics to bodies and then go home and paint them for myself. It is impossible to separate the influence that this training had on my work. I was trained to construct bodies from the bones up and that’s still how I see my subjects now.

Emma Hopkins in her studio.

You often incorporate darker or more graphic depictions in your work with immersive, honest yet sometimes fantastical elements - where does your desire to capture this come from?

I have always seen my art as a form of therapy - it is a tool that I use to explore the world around me and within me. There are often emotions or subjects that I feel a resolve to when I see them reflected back at me through my work. I am also playful in nature and I have a lot of fun when I see an element of the unusual seep through.

Emma Hopkins, Anji and Brian, 122 x 76 cm

Your works in the Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ Annual Exhibition are of Anji and Brian. What is your relationship to the sitters and what were you hoping to capture and convey in your depiction of the couple?

Anji and Brian are friends of mine, a married couple and both artists. I asked them if I could paint them because I find them and their relationship interesting. I wanted to convey the strong bond that they have as partners whilst also portraying their own individual characters. I have to admit too, that I wanted to explore the inevitable push and pull of power that comes into an intimate relationship. 

Your work captures very raw and tender emotions, which is particularly apparent in the piece ‘Anji and Brian (Study)’. How do you go about doing this and do you think this partly comes from your choice to exclusively paint nude portraits?

There is no visible nudity in the Anji and Brian study so I wouldn’t say it comes from that. We express our emotions through our body language and our facial expressions regardless of whether or not they are clothed. The placement and the expression of the hands and faces tell us a conflicting story in this piece, as does the technique used in its creation. There is a closed eyed kiss and delicate hand, but also a firmly clasped fist and a powerful gaze straight out of the picture. The piece began with using charcoal mixed with water, an unpredictable combination that is not easily tamed, brought together with pencils and paint, in a technique that starts out fast, frantic and expressive and is finished with precise and deliberate precision. 

I find a lot of satisfaction in combining opposite emotions with strength and vulnerability because that feels like a true depiction of human nature.

Emma Hopkins, Anji and Brian (Study), 41 x 35.5 cm

How do you effectively display a sitter’s identity when you are painting them nude and with a very minimalist background?

I absolutely adore looking at old scientific illustrations of plants, animals and of course anatomy. I love how the purpose of these drawings was to illustrate to the audience exactly what that specimen was with as much clarity as possible, which has influenced the way I work.

People's minds and bodies tell us endless stories that play out through the imperfections that we accumulate through life, the way that we hold our bodies and how we express ourselves, which is something I aim to capture within my work. 

Your paintings are very bold and powerful, with each portrait making a big statement, how do your sitters approach you or how do you approach them, and how do you make your sitters comfortable with your unique approach?

If somebody sparks my interest I just say to them that I’d like to paint them! There is usually a period of deliberation on their part as it requires a lot of bravery and trust for somebody to pose nude, but I apply no pressure. If that person comes back sure that they would like to go ahead with the portrait, then the next step is to formulate some rough ideas to use as guides for the sittings. 

My sittings are playful and organic but hard work as I will relentlessly pursue a moment that captures something special. I'm not always sure of what that is until I feel it. 

What are your favourite commissions to work on, and how would someone go about commissioning you through the RP?

My favourite commissions are those of open minded people that are not in pursuit of flattery but instead see the worth in my art's ability to express human nature in its raw form. To go about commissioning me through the RP, you would need to contact Annabel Elton, Head of Commissions at the RP, who will then speak to me. You can learn more about the RP’s commission process here.

Emma Hopkins in her studio.

Who are your biggest artistic influences? 

There truly are so many. I love many artists with vastly different approaches but there are some favourites that I always come back to. To name but a few; Käthe Kollwitz, Egon Shiele, Euan Uglow, Frida Kahlo, Lucian Freud and Louise Bourgeois.

How did you first come across the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, and what attracted you to the society and wanting to become a member, especially as you are not the Society’s usual demographic? 

In 2015 I was working behind the bar at the Chelsea Arts Club. I took part in a staff exhibition where I painted the portrait of a member, Billy Murphy. Many of the members of the Chelsea Arts Club were impressed with my portrait of Billy and began, en masse, to encourage me to apply for the Bulldog Bursary. The bursary was being awarded by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters to an artist at the beginning of their career. I gave it a shot and I won! 

The support that the Society and Mall Galleries then showed me literally blew my mind. I had always been discouraged from pursuing painting as a career and so I had painted mostly very privately until that point. After winning the Bulldog Bursary I was given a joint show at Mall Galleries called ‘Inside Portraits’ and then awarded membership in 2017. If it wasn’t for the RP and Mall Galleries I wouldn’t have had the confidence to be who I am now.

Whose work have you most enjoyed seeing in the annual exhibition

Honestly, the whole exhibition has been wonderful! One of the things I appreciate most about every one of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ Annual Exhibitions is the range of different approaches to portraiture displayed. It is as diverse as we are and there is tremendous beauty in celebrating it all in one space.


We hope you enjoyed learning more about Emma Hopkins and her wonderful work with her unique approach to portraiture. If you are interested in learning more about commissioning your own portrait and the range of exceptional artists the RP has to offer, make sure you take a look at the commissions page of the RP’s website. Here you are also able to contact us to view available portfolios including Emma’s

View the RP Annual Exhibition 2023 Online


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Image courtesy of Emma Hopkins

Painting Sir David Attenborough with David Cobley RP


The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition is open now until Saturday 13 May.

David Cobley, member of the RP, has created an incredible portrait of Sir David Attenborough. The Study of his painting for the BBC, is featured within the exhibition. The BBC approached Annabel Elton, head of commissions at the RP, who advised them and helpfully guided them through a selection process, until they found the ideal artist to work with.

We asked David Cobley about his experience of painting the legendary Sir David Attenborough, and spoke to him about his work more broadly:

David Cobley 

It must have been amazing to be selected to paint Sir David Attenborough! How did you prepare in advance? 

As soon as I heard the BBC was thinking of asking me to carry out the commission, I did everything I could to get it. I dropped what I was doing to trawl through hundreds of photos and videos of him online, looking for something that showed him communicating his knowledge and enthusiasm for the natural world. By the following morning I was able to send Annabel a couple of mockups to show the BBC what I thought might work.

An early photoshop composition mockup

How many sittings were there? 

I met Sir David at his home in Richmond with Robert Seatter, Head of BBC History, in early 2019. We were there for a couple of hours. When you speak to Sir David he looks you in the eye and listens to you with great intensity - as if you were the only creature left on earth after a major catastrophe! I had a camera with me and took one or two photos of him inside the house and in the garden. I suppose I already knew that I would be basing my portrait on images of him already out there on film, so it was more to record my visit. It was the only time I had with him until the unveiling at Broadcasting House earlier this year.

You have captured him in a very animated way as if he is in the middle of telling the viewer about an amazing animal discovery - how did you decide on this pose? 

Isn’t he always in the middle of telling us something interesting? The BBC wanted a portrait that celebrated Sir David’s contribution to broadcasting. When I shut my eyes and thought of him, I saw him in the act of explaining why this or that aspect of the natural world was so ‘extraordinary’. I could almost hear his voice.

David Cobley’s study and portrait, in his studio, November 2019

How did you decide what to surround Sir David with? 

I would have surrounded him with every one of the animals, plants and insects he has brought to our screens if there had been room. It was important to have at least one creature that was representative of the air, of the land and of the sea. The orangutan seemed particularly important, as the logging of ancient rainforests has had such a devastating impact on its habitat, and because we are such close relatives. The same forests are also home to the brightly coloured Sun Conure - its posture suggesting it has been startled by the fall of another tree nearby.

What have been people’s reactions to the painting and has Sir David Attenborough commented on it? 

Everyone seems to like it very much. Sir David took the trouble of writing to thank me, and said that he was flattered that I included Darwin’s notebook in the composition.

How do you go about capturing someone’s likeness? 

Drawing is key. Anyone interested in rendering the physical world in two dimensions has to start first by looking, and then by drawing. I could go on at great length about why drawing from life is so important. Leave your phone, camera and other digital devices at home, pick up a pencil and paper and go outside and start drawing what you see. It's all there, before your very eyes!

You have a wonderful record of impressive commissions, which portraits have been your favourite to do? 

Each one has been special and I have enjoyed them all. For the brief time you are working on a portrait, you and the sitter become the very best of friends. It is remarkable how open we can be with each other. It was wonderful to spend time backstage with Sir Ken Dodd. I had a unique insight into the life of a comedian at the top of his game, as well as a glimpse of the man behind the performer, but working on the one of Sir David has been particularly memorable, for so many reasons.

David Cobley, Study for the BBC, 97 x 81cm

How do your celebrity commissions differ from others? Is there more pressure since it is such a familiar face that thousands of people around the world can recognise? 

I hate the idea of celebrity. We are all celebrities in a way. You are a celebrity, I am a celebrity. We have the starring role in our own particular soap opera, mini-series or feature-length film, and are at the very centre of our own very special universe. I treat every painting as important as the next, whomever the subject might be.

Are there any other commissions you have recently worked on that you have particularly enjoyed? 

I was asked by the parents of a young man in the prime of his life, if I would paint a portrait of their son - a husband and father of two, who had died suddenly and unexpectedly. One feels very privileged to be asked, and a great sense of responsibility to do the very best one can.

Your other painting in the RP annual exhibition, Serenade, has a very painterly feel to it, with the interior being the focal point of the piece, and light playing a beautiful role - what is the story behind this painting? 

A delightful couple invited me to their house in Gibraltar to paint their portrait. This is a study for a larger painting that hangs on their wall at home. Despite appearances and the sobering effect of experience, I am still a romantic at heart, and watching her listening to the sound of his guitar made my heart strings flutter. I particularly love working with oil on canvas as I have access to every pigment under the sun and the freedom to constantly make changes.

David Cobley, Study for 'Serenade', 41 x 31cm, £1,450

What would you say to encourage someone to visit the RP Annual Exhibition? 

At the RP exhibition, you never know who you might meet, either in person or on the wall, or both, and people are absolutely fascinating!

The RP's impressive history and royal patronage means the society carries a certain authority. Its commissioning service, headed by the brilliant Annabel Elton, makes it very easy for someone with no previous experience of commissioning a portrait to find the right painter to carry out the work. Visit the RP website to learn more about commissioning a portrait.


We hope you enjoyed hearing from David Cobley, and get the chance to see his impressive painting of Sir David Attenborough, amongst a multitude of other fantastic portraits hanging on the walls of Mall Galleries. If you can’t make it in person, don’t forget that you can also browse and buy the works online.

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David Cobley Study of Sir David Attenborough for the BBC

Royal Society of Portrait Painters | Award Winners 2023

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Royal Society of Portrait Painters | Award Winners

Meet the award winners at the RP Annual Exhibition 2023 - congratulations to all!

The exhibition continues at Mall Galleries until 13 May.


The William Lock Portrait Prize

​£20,000 for the most timeless portrait with a real feeling for paint and its aesthetic potential.

Saied Dai RP NEAC, Charlotte, 80.5 x 60.5 cm (90.5 x 70.5 cm framed)


The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture

​£10,000 plus the Society’s Gold Medal awarded for the most distinguished portrait in the Society’s annual exhibition.

Toby Wiggins RP, Winter's Work; Russell Woodham at rest while laying a hazel hedge in the Dorset Style, 121.5 x 151 cm (125.5 x 155 cm framed)


The de Laszlo Foundation Award

£3,000 plus a Silver Medal for the most outstanding portrait by an artist aged 35 years or under.

Phoebe-Louise Stewart Carter, Self Portrait in the Winter, 85 x 50 cm (105 x 70 cm framed)

"A self portrait completed in my Florence studio in the winter of 2022. Being very influenced by an Anders Zorn self-portrait, I wanted to appear masculine, authoritative and a bit like I was experiencing a Swedish winter; I was only experiencing an Italian one, but the attire was still practical. I completed this painting from life over several weeks, using a mirror." - Phoebe-Louise Stewart Carter


The Smallwood Architects Prize for Contextual Portraiture

£1,000 for a portrait in which architectural or interior features play an important part.

Martyn Harris, Paul's Emporium, 80 x 110 cm (86 x 116 cm framed)


Raw Umber Studios Prize

Raw Umber Studios believes that the most exciting contemporary portraiture lies at the intersection of technical excellence and creative expression. Their annual prize, inaugurated in 2023, encourages and rewards such work. Value £2,000.

Simon Davis RP RBSA, Warren Ellis, 61 x 51 cm (67 x 57 cm framed)


The RP Prize for the Best Small Portrait

A prize of £2,000 for the best small portrait in the exhibition, measuring not more than 38 x 30.5 cm unframed.

Carles Belda, Study for Something Never Ends, 19 x 15 cm (29 x 25 cm framed)


The RP Award

£2,000 to the artist whose work best represents the year's chosen theme, which for 2023 is 'Clothing'. 

Zac Lee, Sunday Afternoon, 73 x 53 cm


"On behalf of the Society, I would like to thank William Lock, Christopher Ondaatje, Neil Davidson of Raw Umber Studios, The de Laszlo Foundation, Smallwood Architects and the membership of the RP itself for so generously sponsoring our prizes" - Anthony Connolly, President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters


View the Exhibition


Stories behind the Prize Winning Paintings of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2022 - Part Two


We hope you enjoy reading about the artists’ inspirations and experiences behind their prize-winning paintings and are able to enrich your knowledge about their creative processes. This is part two of the stories behind the prize-winning works. The exhibition is on until Saturday 14th May, and we hope you are able to visit in person!

Read Part One Here


The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award for Classically Inspired Portraiture: Frances Bell ‘Gillian’

Frances described the relationship between her and Gillian, and how she goes about capturing a sense of likeness in a portrait; ‘Gillian is a previous client of mine. I’ve painted her sons before, and this was a birthday present from her husband to her. I have also painted Gillian before for her mother, riding my horse sidesaddle! So we had a previous connection of working well on portraits.’

‘I’m a great believer in having sittings from life. I had Gillian for 2 long sittings. We chatted away all the time - I wanted her to look natural and engaged so conversation is vital to getting an expression that represents her character and vivacity.’

In ‘Gillian’ I was struck by Frances’ use of light and ability to create varied textured surfaces within her brushwork and asked if she was able to comment on this further. Frances said: ‘I love fabric textures, almost as much as colours. This is a tonally narrow band of values - it’s all pale. I did, however, have silk which is strewn with highlights and soft wool which is entirely without highlights, it’s matte. So it was an enjoyable exercise chasing the opportunities to find excitement within the fabric.’


The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture: Lantian D ‘Man and a Window’

Lantian described what draws her to portraiture, and spoke about the creative process behind ‘Man And A Window’: ‘I’m drawn to portraiture because of a natural tendency to reflect on our own being and to understand ourselves. To quote Lucian Freud, ‘Painters who deny themselves the representation of life and limit their language to purely abstract forms are depriving themselves of the possibility of provoking more than aesthetic emotion.’ But for ‘portraiture’ to exist in the 21st century, mimesis alone is not enough. My aim is poiesis.’

“Man and a Window” belongs to my series ‘Hortus Conclusus’ (Latin: Enclosed Garden), which is my journey as a modern individual in search of a soul. To paint is to understand the world through understanding oneself. My work is autobiographical and I extract and recompose models, my life and the world I’m in, transforming them into a deep well of meaning that if put into words, becomes misrepresented.

‘The Man’ in the piece was my lover at the time, and I was his ‘Window’. I was inspired by COVID lockdowns, millions isolated and confined. The pandemic has magnified causes of our ‘existential crisis’, and the way people are afflicted by debilitating feelings of insignificance, inadequacy and hopelessness. This social narrative, paralleled with the hopeless situation of my love affair and my own disturbed and confined upbringing, led to ‘Man and a Window’. 

I also asked Lantian about her considered use of empty space and composition. She said she focuses on duality and borders, two essential conditions of being. In ‘Man and a Window’ she expressed opposite elements - individual versus mass, interior versus exterior, silence versus words, warm versus cold, passion versus calculation, liberty versus security and man versus window. To bring out these dualities, she exaggerated certain elements such as the windows’ reflection in the floor and eliminated other elements such as the man’s mouth to bring out impotence, vulnerability and silence, in turn emphasising ‘looking’ and the ‘window’. 

Lantian was delighted to win the Ondaatje prize for the second time. Her series ‘Hortus Conclusus’ has 33 paintings, and she hopes to continue to develop the series and organise solo exhibitions of the project.


The RP Award: Nneka Uzoigwe ‘Narcissus’

Nneka’s self portrait depicts the story of Narcissus. Nneka explains that in the myth, Narcissus sees his reflection in a pool of water and, unable to tear himself away, he slowly dies. A daffodil ‘narcissus’ springs up in his place. In Nneka’s painting, Narcissus is a Dryad-like creature, half daffodil, half man. Nneka explains she has painted herself, symbolised as a pool of water by the swirling waves of her Hokusai robe, as she lowers thread from a golden pool to Narcissus’ reflection. His reflection entices him with the thread to pull him into the pool, with a humorous nod to the idea of an artist spending weeks starting into their own reflection when creating a self portrait.

When asked about her feelings on self portraits Nneka said ‘I love using myself as a model, as when I’m painting myself it feels like I have all the time in the world. It gives me a quiet space to day dream and further develop ideas onto the canvas as they happen. I spend a lot of time not painting and staring at the canvas. With self portraits, I paint them at home, as I tend to work on them every day for weeks, from dawn to dusk.’ She then added that Dorothea Tanning, Antonio Mancini and George Watts are the artists she is most inspired by.

As for her advice to other portrait Nneka says: ‘Don’t talk yourself out of flights of imagination, as naïve as they might seem, as they are in fact the seeds of individuality. Trust your technical ability to not just copy what’s in front of you, but create new ways of seeing.’


The Prince of Wales’s Award for Portrait Drawing: Thomas Arthurton ‘Portrait Study’

Thomas’ drawing has a great sense of reflection. I asked Thomas about the story behind the work: ‘Galina was an elderly woman I came to know in St Petersburg. As I drew she talked of life growing up in the former Soviet Union. She had experienced harsh conditions and this was reflected in her skin which showed an interesting radiance. I captured this by using my fingers to smudge the graphite and hatching, whilst taking the opportunity to create a loose, painterly and relaxed drawing. Galina maintained a strong faith in humanity which I found inspiring. Hers was one of the last drawings I undertook before I had to leave Russia.’ 

I also asked Thomas if he has any advice for emerging artists or recent graduates to which he said:  ‘Draw, draw, draw and be free! I enjoy making quick drawings on the underground. You never know how long you have to capture the passenger’s most distinctive features before they are up and gone!’


We hope reading about the artists' stories behind their works has inspired you! If you haven't already done so, make sure to check out part one to learn about the other prize-winning works within the exhibition!

Part One

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Frances Bell 'Gillian'

Stories behind the Prize Winning Paintings of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2022 - Part One


We hope you enjoy reading about the artists’ inspirations and experiences behind their prize-winning paintings and are able to enrich your knowledge about their creative processes. The exhibition is on until Saturday 14th May, we hope you are able to visit and see these wonderful works in person!

After reading this entry, be sure to visit part two to learn more stories behind the prize-winning works: 

Part Two

The William Lock Portrait Prize: Tania Rivilis ‘Kupka’s Dog’

Tania said she was speechless to win the William Lock Portrait Prize and that it is a huge step for her in her art journey. I asked Tania to comment on her use of colour, as the yellow in ‘Kupka’s Dog’ is so vivid whilst being wonderfully balanced with the dark purples. Tania explains:  

‘I reinterpreted Frantisek Kupka’s self portrait which is painted with absolutely magical vibrant yellow tones. In my expressive style I use gradients, connections, voids, and tense colour fields. In this painted I also wanted to depict Kupka’s love for Orphism (a branch of cubism which abstracts bright colours), the musicality of rhythms through the interpenetration of primary colours and the intersection of surfaces. That’s why the yellow colour field vanishes into the man’s garments, becoming part of his attitude.’

‘The dark fields of purple and black show the rhythm too. Although the portrait looks static, the rhythm of colours shows the storm of emotions inside the subject.’

Tania then spoke about the special bond we form with our pets, and how she goes about capturing the relationships between others in her work; 

‘I’m amazed by the visual similarities between humans and their pets. Pets become our alter egos and we have indescribable bonds. Many of my favourite artists convey these bonds in their artworks, such as Valentin Serov’s ‘Count Felix Sumarokov-Elston’. Or Lucian Freud and his great love of dogs, and Kupka often elevated animals to the dignity of a person.

I make portraits in which there is always a reference to the other, because only in another’s gaze can the subject be assembled into a coherent image. Otherwise, a portrait would be an empty shell. I try to capture moments in which a person in relation to another person or creature discovers again and again the possibility of becoming whole.’

Tania commented on how friendly, professional and supportive the RP team have been and explained that she is absolutely delighted to be a part of the exhibition. 


The RP Prize for the Best Small Portrait: Simon Davis ‘Taslima’

Paintings in consideration for the Best Small Portrait Prize cannot be larger than 38 x 30.5 cm (15 x 12 inches). I asked Simon about his choice of working on a small scale;

‘I often do smaller studies before starting larger works and this was one of those of my neighbour Taslima. However, sometimes these smaller works have a simplicity and directness that is lost in bigger paintings. In a large show like the RP annual exhibition, small works can be overlooked and are wrongly thought to lack the power and strength of larger work.’

Simon then discussed his process and tips for capturing someone’s likeness saying he incorporates photography within his process, treating photographs as information to be interpreted rather than copied. He says: ‘my advice to portrait painters is to paint as much as you can as this is the only way to learn what does and doesn’t work for you.’

I also asked Simon which artists inspire him: ‘When I first started painting, the Newlyn School of Artists was very influential as a lot of them used the Square-Brush technique which I became fascinated with. I have a show ‘I Am Because You Are’ starting at Panter and Hall in London on the 11th May. This is an exhibition of 30 portraits of artists that have influenced me, ranging from illustrators, painters and comic artists as I have taken inspiration from all of them over my career.’


The De Laszlo Foundation Award: Laura Hope Lloyd ‘Micheal’

Laura shared the story behind ‘Micheal’: ‘Micheal is a portrait artist who lives near me. I met him last year and he asked if I would sit for him. I agreed only if he would sit for me, which he was very hesitant about as he hates pictures of himself. Funnily enough, his slightly awkward nature was something I really enjoyed capturing. I’m really interested in portraying emotion and my sitters’ ‘inner world’. The reference photo for this piece was taken in his living room the day I sat for him, a perfect backdrop as I’m hugely inspired by ‘vintage’ aesthetics.’

I was struck by Laura’s effective use of a limited colour palette combined with her expressive mark-making techniques and asked her to comment on these stylistic choices: 

‘I’ve only recently started embracing colour. I used to be really afraid of it, so I tried using colour but in a very limited way. I replaced my black pencil with a red pencil and then used a blue/grey for darker tones and a yellowy flesh colour for lighter tones. Finally, I added other colours that complimented the piece. Although I studied Illustration, I learnt the most during the years I worked as a Memorial Artist - hand etching and painting designs and portraits onto gravestones. A lot of this work was in black and white, and I was taught in a very step-by-step way. Even though I work in colour now, I still use the same techniques I learnt there.’ 

‘My mark-making is very instinctual and I get my frustrations out about a piece through my marks. I also believe drawing can be just as exciting as painting so I like to show how alive drawing can be. I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember and there is an emotional quality that I haven’t quite found with paint yet. You can really dig into a piece quite aggressively with pencils and crayons, in a way that you can’t do with a brush.’


The Smallwood Architects Prize for Contextual Portraiture: Catherine Creaney ‘Care’

Catherine Creaney’s painting ‘Care’ is part of a larger series of paintings about carers. I asked Catherine to share the story behind the care worker in her painting and her inspiration behind the series more broadly: 

‘This is Jordan Dennis, 30, a full-time care worker at a nursing home. In April 2021, he contracted Covid-19 whilst working with Covid patients, many of whom died. Jordan was extremely ill but passionate about his job, he wanted to get back as quickly as he could to be there for those at the nursing home.  The portrait captured a moment when Jordan was struggling with the trauma of living through the pandemic, the toll of witnessing the deaths and illnesses of residents and the toll on his own health. This painting was my way of honouring all the care workers who tirelessly battled through the pandemic and is an acknowledgment of the mental and physical impacts it had.’ 

Catherines explained she started this series of paintings about carers before the pandemic. Their personal sacrifices and important role is something she’s wanted to honour in her work for many years after witnessing her mother’s partner give up his role as a teacher and devote himself to her care when she was ill with MS for over 20 years. She marvelled at his willingness to take on the role and the sacrifices he made.  Catherine has made this collection to honour carers’ work and to share their stories, drawing attention to their valuable and overlooked contributions to society. 

I also asked Catherine about her favourite materials; ‘My favourite mediums are soft pastel and oil paints. Each has unique qualities that I enjoy using to create my portraits. I enjoy the myriad of techniques and approaches that oil offers, its versatility and unmatched ability to create realism. I find soft pastel is a more effortless medium which I use to create quick results and love the buttery texture. I couldn’t choose between the two and enjoy each equally!’

Catherine said it is a great honour and validation of her own work to get to exhibit alongside many of her favourite portrait painters who are members of the RP, and she is incredibly excited to have her work on display at Mall Galleries.


Make sure you also read part two to discover the stories behind the other prize-winning works within the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2022!

Part Two

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RP 2022 | Prize - Winners

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Congratulations to the Prize-winners of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters' Annual Exhibition 2022!



The William Lock Portrait Prize

Tania Rivilis, Kupka's Dog

£20,000 for the most timeless portrait with a real feeling for paint and its aesthetic potential.


The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture

Lantian, Man and a Window

£10,000 plus the Society’s Gold Medal awarded for the most distinguished portrait in the Society’s annual exhibition.


The RP Award

Nneka Uzoigwe, Narcissus (Self Portrait)

£2,000 will be awarded to the artist whose work best represents the year's chosen theme - which for 2022 is 'Self-Portrait’.


The RP Prize for the Best Small Portrait

Simon Davis RP, Taslima

A prize of £2,000 for the best small portrait in the exhibition, measuring not more than 38 x 30.5 cm (15 x 12 inches) unframed.


The de Laszlo Foundation Award

Laura Hope, Micheal

£3,000 plus a Silver Medal for the most outstanding portrait by an artist aged 35 years or under.


The Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing

Thomas Arthurton, Portrait Study

£2,000 and framed certificate for a portrait in any recognised drawing medium.


The Smallwood Architects Prize for Contextual Portraiture

Catherine Creaney, Care

£1,000 for a portrait in which architectural or interior features play an important part.

The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award for Classically Inspired Portraiture

Frances Bell RP AROI, Gillian

The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award, established by its founders William Bortrick and Mark Ayre in 2015, is presented for Classically Inspired Portraiture in the RP Annual Exhibition. It is presented each year with a certificate and a prize of £2,000

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Rivilis Tania, Kupka's Dog



The Royal Society of Portrait Painters annual exhibition in honour of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Exhibition Dates: Thursday 5 May – Saturday 14 May 

Explore Exhibition

Our Patron HM The Queen has reigned for over half of the time the Royal Society of Portrait Painters has existed. As one of the most painted figures in history, her epoch has been intertwined with portraiture, and as such, intimately connected with members of the Royal Society.

To mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee the Royal Society of Portrait Painters is honoured to show a curated selection of portraits of our monarch by past and present member artists, alongside our Annual Exhibition.



Throughout her seven decades of service the Queen has sat innumerable times, each painting a unique vista into a remarkable life and person. The selected paintings exhibited at the Jubilee Exhibition 2022 represent her reign to the present day, demonstrating a wide array of artistic styles, sizes, mediums and methods.

Each artist who receives such an illustrious commission confronts diverse challenges in painting the monarch. Primarily, they are presented with a figure of state, embodied in tradition – an emblematic position that transcends the everyday to take a place in history. Conversely, and most salient to a portraitist, each painting looks for the intimate expression of a human being.

A wide range of national institutions have provided steady patronage to our society’s members, allowing them to embark on career defining commissions. A commission of the queen offers a thrilling chance to contribute to the long chain of Royal paintings that thread through our culture and history.

We are very grateful to those institutions whose commitment to painted portraits have provided such an opportunity to artists and to these institutions in particular for lending their paintings of HM Queen for this exhibition.

With special thanks to:

  • National Portrait Gallery, London
  • Royal Automobile Club, London
  • Royal Hospital Chelsea, London
  • Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, London
  • The Rifles

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters annual exhibition in honour of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee 2022.

Discover the other work

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Words of Encouragement from Previous Winners of The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition

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The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Call for Entries is now open!

We are seeking work from portrait artists, to exhibit alongside members of the society at their Annual Exhibition 2022, and we welcome work created in any media, including digital drawings, apart from photography and sculpture. Click here for all details and to enter your work.

We spoke to some of last years’ prize winners to gain some insight into the process of submitting and to gather some words of encouragement, especially for emerging artists who may not have exhibited through an open call before. You can additionally take a look at last years’ featured works to see the sort of work we select.


Frances Bell RP ‘Self Portrait’  - The William Lock Portrait Prize Winner


Frances Bell won The William Lock Portrait Prize for her painting ‘Self Portrait’. Frances describes self-portraits as a fascinating territory as the influences that typically make up a portrait such as the conversations and the sitters’ ideas and expressions are omitted, so it is a far more introspective process. 

Frances was over the moon to receive The William Lock Portrait Prize, when she received the email explaining that she’d won she said ‘I stared vacantly at the screen for a few minutes then asked my husband to read it too. Only when he looked sufficiently dumbfounded did I believe it!’

She really encourages artists to submit saying; ‘I have a general philosophy of entering everything. This does mean that one often hears “no”, of course, but sometimes you get a “yes” and it is such a thrill to be accepted into a major international show. The competition for places will of course be stiff - you should expect that, so it’s not a failure to miss out on exhibiting, just a fantastic success to be selected.’

‘The Royal Society of Portrait Painters is an eminent, historical gem of artistic culture. We are so lucky to have such a society with its history to engage with like we do. The open exhibition is a fantastic platform, and if you are included it will boost your profile enormously, so you might as well go for it!’


Will Calver ‘Self Portrait in Hat’ - The RP Prize for the Best Small Portrait Winner

Will Calver won The RP Prize for Best Small Portrait for his painting ‘Self Portrait in Hat’ which is a small oil painting on linen, painted during the winter lockdown of last year. Will worked from life using an old mirror in his studio and the piece reflects a sense of stillness and quietude. 

Will says; ‘Entering competitions can seem daunting and it is very easy to choose not to submit your work.’ but he says the process with the Royal Society of Poritrait Painters was straightforward and added that if you are accepted, it will be hugely affirming and motivating. Will said ‘the whole process from start to finish was very enjoyable and it was wonderful to have a painting hanging alongside so many esteemed artists’ work’, and to then win The Best Small Portrait Prize was a huge honour for Will.


Sandra Kuck ‘Portrait through a Prism’ - Smallwood Architects Prize Winner

The Smallwood Architects Prize is awarded for a portrait in which interior or architectural features play an important part. Last year, this was won by Sandra Kuck for her painting ‘Portrait Through a Prism’ where a beautiful Chinese bench that the sitter lies on, is an eye-catching aspect. 

Sandra explains; ‘The Royal Society of Portrait Painters is one of the most important and prestigious groups of painters in the world, so being part of their annual exhibition at Mall Galleries should be a goal for all portrait artists!’

She shared how being accepted into the exhibition was so exciting and gratifying, so it was a shock when she discovered she had also won the Smallwood Architects Prize. Sandra said: ‘winning an award was amazing especially as so few were given! It has become such a meaningful and important part of my resume. The Times also featured my photo when heralding the exhibition.’ 

Sandra went on to exhibit and auction her painting at Sotheby’s Gallery in New York. She says ‘Take every opportunity that is given. Exhibiting at The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries is about as good as it gets - be part of that exhibition, make that exhibition your goal because believe me, it can be life changing!’


We hope learning about the experiences of previous prize winners inspires you to submit your own work to this years’ open call. Find all the information you need to do so by clicking the link below:

Submit Your Work Now

Frances Bell RP | Winner of The William Lock Portrait Prize


I'm delighted to have been awarded The William Lock Portrait Prize at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2021.

I'm just going to say a brief word on the portrait that has won the prize...

It's a self-portrait. Self-portraits are always fascinating territory for me, because I think in omitting so many of the influences that typically make up a portrait - the other people, the conversations you have with them, their faces, their ideas, mixed with your ideas lifted onto the canvas - instead of that, you have yourself. You're on your own, you are the sitter and painter. It's a very introspective and sort of circular atmosphere that comes through, and it's quite different for me.

Personally, I always feel that the atmosphere of self-portraits is sort of a spookier, more introspective thing. And I certainly felt that with this one, the largest one I've done. Technically, that was at times complicated. I painted it on the wall, and I have south light here, so it was actually a question of seizing one's moment because south light is a great deal more variable than north. I grabbed my moments over about a three week period. The posing was a bit difficult, trying to concentrate on the painting, but also managing to fall into the right pose. However I hugely enjoyed it. It is always fascinating, as always a voyage, a bit of a different journey. 

I can't believe that the painting has received recognition, let alone in such company, so I'm absolutely over the moon. Thank you very much.

- Frances Bell RP