Tony Lewis, by Jamie Routley, is shortlisted in this year's BP Portrait Award
The BP Portrait Award returns to London's National Portrait Gallery again this summer to celebrate the best in painterly talent - and we know who's on the shortlist.
The award is known and loved for its inclusive competition policy and invariably fascinating and beautiful entries, and with big-money prizes up for grabs, it's hardly surprising that over 2,000 painters sent in their efforts for one of just 55 places.
Anybody over the age of 18 is able to enter the BP Portrait Award, and 2012 will see an artist aged between 18-30 awarded BP Young Artist of the Year for the fifth year running - an achievement three of 2012's shortlisted four are eligible for.
So who's made the grade?
2012's shortlisted artists are Aleah Chapin for Auntie; Alan Coulson for Richie Culver; Ignacio Estudillo for El abuelo (Agustan Estudillo) and Jamie Routley for Tony Lewis.
The four shortlisted entries epitomise the eclectic nature of the exhibition as a whole, from Estudillo's psychologically-inspired greyscale painting of his grandfather, to Chapin's up-front nude of a family friend.
Speaking to HuffPost Culture, Coulson said that being shortlisted was like "a daydream come true". It's the third year the untrained artist has been selected for the exhibition, but he says to be shortlisted is an "added bonus."
His portrait is of fellow artist Richie Culver, "he's similar to myself", Coulson tells me, "in that we've been floating around not knowing what to do and have recently followed a creative path." Coulson says the portrait is "slightly more confrontational than any other submissions [to the competition], although not in an aggressive way."
The artist says that it was Culver's appearance that made him such a good sitter. "He has a lot going on, there's something quite honest and sincere about him which I wanted that to come across. There's a lot to discover just by looking at him, an intrigue, and that's what I wanted. He looks a bit like a Hasidic Jew that's gone off the rails."
By contrast, Routley's entry is of a man who has become a friend through the painting's creation. Tony Lewis is a newspaper seller and owner of a wine shop at Baron's Court Tube station - where Routley's studio backs on to. "He's really part of my community", Routley says. The painting took place over two months of Lewis sitting for Routley in his studio every other day.
"I think we both love the effect the painting has had," Routley says. "Before Tony came here, he had never really stepped foot inside a gallery, and now he's read all of my art books and goes to the National Portrait Gallery, which is a big deal to me."
"I paint such a variety of people, and painting Tony was more about him as a person and getting to know him."
Routley's relationship with Lewis is the reason behind his entry being a triptych: "It happened very naturally - after we'd finished the first painting we realised there was so much more to say about him."
As a result, Routley's work is one which depicts a developing friendship and knowledge of a person, the second panel depicting Lewis's "colourful and quite sad" past, and the final being one which looks forward as the sitter realised what he needed to change in his life.
While these four artists will anticipate the announcement of the winner on 19 June, we can't wait to see the other 51 entries hanging on NPG's walls all summer. Check out the winners from previous years, as well as the shortlisted entries, in our gallery below.
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