Art and Design: Elly's Work Exhibited at National Portrait Gallery


BP Portrait Award-winning artist Alan Coulson and Elly Stephenson.

Elly Stephenson, an Upper Sixth boarder in Crossways House, recently returned to school after spending a week at the National Portrait Gallery in London which culminated in one of her paintings being exhibited for members of the public.

During her time at the National Portrait Gallery, alongside 17 other artists aged between 14-19, Elly enjoyed three days of tutorials and guided tours with artists including BP Award-winners like Alan Coulson and Andrew Tift as part of the highly competitive BP Next Generation Award.

"It was absolutely amazing," Elly said of her experience. "We talked through techniques used in a range of portraits with the some of the people who had actually painted them. We analysed things as a group and, on the last day, we started painting."

Elly was invited onto the BP Next Generation Award scheme having been one of several hundred young people to apply. In the weeks preceding she had been at a two week Fine Art course in Florence as a Leonardo Da Vinci Scholar, making for a busy summer of art for the 17 year old.


Elly's work from her time in Florence, photographed in progress.

"In Florence, I was the youngest person on the course by 10 years," explained Elly. "We spent days learning how to mix our own paints using pigments and eggs and preparing the wood to paint on with gesso. Between sketching an image, tracing it and everything else, the process of just preparing the canvass took almost three days."

This stood in stark contrast to the single day that the young artists were given at the National Portrait Gallery.

"There were moments were I felt so insignificant," Elly continued. "There were 15 year olds doing such incredible portraits. They were such a talented bunch."

Elly is now waiting to find out whether the National Portrait Gallery will display her portrait of artist Alan Coulson for a full year alongside works by the likes of Cecil Beaton, William Blake and Lucien Freud.

"I have my fingers crossed obviously, but just the experience I had was incredible," explained Elly. "The National Portrait Gallery has a huge number of resources for young artists and I will definitely be joining their Youth Forum."

Meanwhile, having recently returned to Bede's with excellent AS results, Elly is also thinking about University applications to study History of Art. And as if this was not enough, she is also preparing for London Fashion Week on 20th September, during which she will be volunteering, and is looking ahead to an internship at Sotheby's next Summer.

"It's been pretty intense," Elly says in conclusion, "but one of the best things about it was seeing the way that the National Portrait Gallery supports young artists. It was really inspirational."


The finished article.