Bonnybridge graduate reaches semi-final of Sky Arts' Portrait Artist of the Year

A Bonnybridge graduate who has progressed into the semi-final of a Sky Arts contest aspires to one day have his own exhibition.

By Jonathon Reilly
Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 4:49 pm

Calum Stevenson impressed the Portrait Artist of the Year judging panel enough to secure himself a place in the latter stages of the competition, due to be screened on December 8.

The 23-year-old’s painting of actress Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting and Boardwalk Empire) captured the critics’ imagination.

The show, which was first aired in 2013, sees judges Tai Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano and Kate Bryan travel across Europe in search of the brightest new star of the art world.

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Bonnybridge resident Calum Stevenson has made it through to the semi-final of Sky Arts' Portrait Artist of the Year contest. Picture: Michael Gillen.

Former Bonnybridge Primary and Denny High pupil Calum, who applied for Portrait Artist of the Year after spotting an advert in a Glasgow store, is hoping he can continue to shine in the TV studio and emerge victorious.

The Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) and Glasgow School of Art graduate was previously awarded the Sandra McNeilance Prize for Drawing and Painting at the 2019 DJCAD Degree Show.

Award wins and television contest appearances tell Calum he’s on the right road to achieving his aim of running a showcase of his work.

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Bonnybridge artist Calum Stevenson made it through to the Portait Artist of the Year semi-final after painting actress Kelly Macdonald. Contributed.

For now, though, he’s happy to reflect on how far he’s come since wowing his primary school art teacher with his painting of the Eiffel Tower.

Calum said: “The teacher was quite impressed and pinned it onto the art wall.

“Years later, there was a school fair on and I remember going back and it was still on the wall!

“I was always quite good at art but I wouldn’t say it was something I knew I wanted to do until I was in my final year at Denny High. One of my teachers, Mrs Felton, was quite instrumental in pushing me on.

Calum Stevenson hopes to one day open his own art exhibition. Picture: Michael Gillen.

“I applied for the show just before Covid and things were delayed. I apply for everything that seems like a good opportunity.

“I went down with the mindset of enjoying a one-off experience.

“I’m quite shocked. Being on TV and getting through was pretty crazy. That was a massive experience.

“It was the first time I’d made art in front of people. The only other people who see me making art are visitors walking round the studios in art school. I felt very exposed!

“Watching the episode, it doesn’t really come across as though there are that many people there but there must be about 50.”

Currently using his dad’s Bonnybridge flat as a studio, Calum describes his style as figure-orientated and “quite contemporary”.

He explained: “I tend to distort the figure quite a bit, either through colour or by mixing around with imagery.

“It’s quite unique in the sense it’s not typical portraiture. My recent paintings have combined figures with Scottish landscape in a contemporary fashion.”

Looking ahead to his next Portrait Artist of the Year appearance and the future, Calum said: “I hope people enjoy the work I’m going to create – I give everything I can in the four hours.

“I’m not really sure what opportunities are going to come but more TV stuff would be good. I’d love to have an exhibition of my own.

“I’m building up a body of work that no one has seen for a gallery some time next year.”

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