The National Portrait Gallery has some very special models helping out at the BP young people’s summer school. Swimmer Ross Davenport, who represented team GB London in the 2012 Olympic Games, and badminton star, Gabby White, modelled for young people at the BP Portrait Award: Next Generation Summer Schools. These two top British athletes sat for a drawing class for 14-19 year olds at the National Portrait Gallery in August.
BP Portrait Award: Next Generation Summer Schools aim to inspire young artists of the future, from first-time Gallery visitors to those who want to make art their career. The two Summer Schools, starting on 15 and on 20 August, connected young people interested in portraiture with BP Portrait Award-winning artists. This is the third year of the project, which has engaged young people with painted portraiture through the BP Portrait Awardexhibition. The project was part of the 12-week nationwide London 2012 Festival that runs from 21 June until 9 September 2012, giving the opportunity for people across the UK to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, providing a permanent artistic legacy.
Ross Davenport and Gabby White were guest models on the first day of each Summer School, giving the participants the experience of drawing a top athlete from life. The life drawings were then developed into final painted portraits by the participants. In 2011, Paralympian Shelly Woods modelled for the drawing classes and selected portraits of Shelly by participants are part of a special display at the Gallery linked to the BP Portrait Award 2012 exhibition.
Young people from across London, including five of the east London Host Boroughs (Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Newham and Greenwich), applied for places at the three-day Summer Schools which started on 15 and 22 August 2012. Footage from a series of short Taster Sessions last month and artist interviews filmed by a crew of young people can be viewed on www.npg.org.uk/bpnextgeneration. On this project website young people can display and share their portraits via Flickr, go behind the scenes to hear about what it is like to be an artist selected for the BP Portrait Award and also vote in online portraiture polls. Nearly 300 painted portraits have been loaded on the online Flickr gallery so far, a showcase for young artists.
Among BP Portrait Award-winning artists who have lent their support to the initiative (with portraits in the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection) are Tai-Shan Schierenberg (who took part in last year’s Summer School and whose Gallery portraits include Seamus Heaney), Ishbel Myerscough (Dame Helen Mirren), Ray Richardson (Lennox Lewis), Tomas Watson (John Fowles), Victoria Russell (Fiona Shaw).
Swimmer, Ross Davenport (b 1984) competed in the 4x200m Freestyle Relay in the London 2012 Olympic Games. He has represented the UK in three Olympic Games, three World Championships and two Commonwealth Games. In the 2012 Commonwealth Games he won Silver in the 4x100m Freestyle and in 2006 he won Gold in the 200m Freestyle and 4x200m Freestyle relay. In 2006, Davenport won the BBC East Midlands Sports Personality of the Year and in 2004 he was named Sportsman of the Year at Bath University. He is currently a member of Loughborough University swimming club, coached by Ben Titley and an athlete Mentor for the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust.
Badminton player, Gabby White (b 1990) is 2012 Mixed and Women’s doubles English National Champion winner. In 2011 she won Bronze in the European Mixed Team Championships, and Team Bronze medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Now 21, White first represented England at the age of 12.
Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The BP Portrait Award: Next Generation programme offers exciting opportunities for young people. I am very pleased that Ross Davenport and Gabby White supported the Summer Schools this year and I am sure that they were a great inspiration to all involved. We are also grateful to BP for their continued support for the BP Portrait Award beyond 2012.’
Des Violaris, Director UK Arts & Culture BP, says: ‘It is wonderful that the young participants in this year’s Summer Schools had the opportunity to draw from life either Ross Davenport or Gabby White. Working alongside BP Portrait Award winning artists these sportswomen will encourage and inspire the portrait artists of the future. We are delighted to continue our support for the BP Portrait Award: Next Generation project beyond 2012 and hope that it encourages young artists who participate, but also many more beyond the Gallery through the web-sitewww.npg.org.uk/bpnextgeneration ‘
Himarni, a participant in the BP Portrait Award: Next Generation Summer Schools says,’ Before the summer schools I’d only done art at school and I didn’t do Art A-Level. I’ve learnt so much from the artists and it’s now my dream to have one of my portraits hanging in the National Portrait Gallery’.