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Maria Underwood shares her experience of appearing on Sky Portrait Artist of the Year '23

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Series 10, episode 2

I was thrilled to be shortlisted to participate in Portrait Artist of the Year (PAOTY). The hugely popular TV show is loved by both artists and those who have never picked up a brush. It celebrates 'real' artists from all backgrounds selected based on their creative talent, which makes it highly relatable. Amateurs, emerging artists and professionals paint alongside each other. Celebrating its 10th series, PAOTY airs on Sky Arts, Freeview and Now TV.

To apply for PAOTY artists must submit a self-portrait completed within the last 5 years. This year over 1800 artists applied to be on the show, only about 60 were chosen, so the standards are high, and just being selected feels like a win!

This one stopped us in our tracks when we were looking through the submissions - Kathleen Soriano

Maria Underwood artist with self-portrait on Portrait Artist of the Year 2023

Filming at the Battersea Arts Centre, London was an amazing whirlwind. My surprise sitter, broadcaster Nihal Arthanayake. emerged wearing a snazzy patterned suit that I knew I wanted to paint, even if I didn't know how. The competition began. My pencil snapped twice under the pressure but I eventually relaxed, allowing me to soak up the experience and atmosphere for what is was: marvellous!

Behind the scenes with Maria Underwood portrait artist. Filming of Portrait Artist of the Year at Battersea Arts Centre, London

When 'time is up' was called, the audience cheered and I felt exhilarated. Next: the big reveal! Artists turn their easels so the sitter can view their portraits and choose their favourite to take home. This moment felt particularly special as mine was one of the chosen artworks. Winning the heart of the sitter is a precious moment for any portrait artist.

I'm lost for words, but this is so extraordinary. Wow! - Nihal Arthanayake

Nihal Arthanayake chooses his favourite portrait painting by artist Maria Underwood to take home.

Maria's Nihal is just so open and friendly. It's just a very lovely portrait - Tai-Shan Shierenberg

Maria Underwood and fellow contestants during Portrait Artist of the Year, Series 10, episode 2

The judges then selected a shortlist of three, from which the overall heat winner, the very talented Gail Reid was chosen to advance to the semi-finals.

What really made PAOTY special was the kindness of everyone involved, who made all the artists feel welcome and supported. Everyone wants you to do well. I absolutely recommend other artists to apply for PAOTY! Participating in the show is exciting, helps you grow as an artist, and is a great platform for others to discover and enjoy your work.



Gail Reid Artist
Gail Reid Artist
Nov 14, 2023

This is a lovely record of a great day Maria. Your portrait of Nihal is fantastic, you really capitalised on what he gave you with that suit, and got a lot of love from the Facebook fan community too! You are a wonderful sympathetic, versatile portrait artist - one to watch!

Replying to

thank you so much Gail, that's so kind of you, it's so lovely that this portrait and my style of work resonates with you., as a fellow artist, that means a lot

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