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NEWS > Alumnae News > Gabriela Cohen Through to Semi-Finals of Portrait Artist of the Year

Gabriela Cohen Through to Semi-Finals of Portrait Artist of the Year

Innovative young artist Gabriela Cohen, Class of 2016, won the sixth heat of Portrait Artist of the Year on Sky Arts last night and is now through to the semi-finals.

The judges loved her highly original portrait of space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who presents The Sky at Night on BBC FOUR. Judges Kathleen Soriano said: “We have here an artist who uses technology in a truly creative way.”

The other judges Tai Shan Schierenberg and Kate Bryan praised Gabriela’s distinctive painting style and beautiful colour palette, describing it as “inventive and playful and a tantalising promise of what’s coming next.”

Her artistic process is a unique combination of Polaroid photography, digital art and oil painting. Gabriela says: “I think Polaroids bring a soft romanticism to an image, combined with digital editing to manipulate the colours of my reference image, the paintings often come out as if they are from a parallel world.

“It gives them a dreamy quality which allows me to capture the sitter’s personality while also presenting a magical, fairytale version of them.”

After leaving LEH, Gabriela did a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at the Arts University Bournemouth, and went on to achieve first class honours for her BA in Fine Art there in 2020. She is currently working as a freelance digital content creator/ graphic designer, with a year-long residency at spudWORKs, an artist community based in the New Forest.

Gabriela says: “Taking part in Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 was such a wonderful opportunity. It was an experience I’ll treasure forever. Maggie Aderin-Pocock was so warm and friendly and a pleasure to paint. I wish I’d had more time to talk to her about the moon and her profession.”

Filming took place at Battersea Arts Centre back in April, shortly after lockdown, and Gabriela says that made it feel a bit surreal initially: “It was great to be surrounded by all these incredibly talented artists. It was absolutely the best way to be reintroduced to the world. At first it was difficult to get started while feeling so observed but as the time ticked on, I quickly got into the painting zone and managed to adjust to all the cameras and people. Ultimately it was so inspiring to be around so much creativity.”

In the sixth heat, nine artists were challenged to create a portrait of one of three celebrities: historian and presenter David Olosuga, space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock and ballet star, actor and model Sergei Polunin.

Gabriela adds: “It was a huge shock and delight when the judges picked me in the top three and then to get through to the semi-finals! Mostly it was a great affirmation for me to believe in my capabilities and to not be so hard on myself. With my portraiture I like to see the world in a different way, and hopefully I can produce something in the next round that the judges really like too.”

The semi-finals of Portrait Artist of the Year will be on Wednesday 8th December, at 8pm, on the Sky Arts channel which is available on Freeview and NowTV. Those who make it to the final will be within touching distance of a £10,000 prize commission to paint internationally renowned violinist, Nicola Benedetti, for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Gabriela!

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