Sir Lenny Henry poses for over a thousand artists, setting an official GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year

Tuesday 31 October 2023

 -Over a thousand artists across the world painted portraits of Sir Lenny Henry during a live portrait painting event this weekend 

-The event at Lindley Hall, London set a new official GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the most people painting online and in a single venue simultaneously  

-The record marks the 10th anniversary of the nation’s favourite art competition, Portrait Artist of the Year, on Sky Arts 

All images available on SEAC.  

Over a thousand keen artists of all abilities from across the globe picked up their brushes to paint portraits of national treasure Sir Lenny Henry, setting a brand-new GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title. 

The live portrait painting event at Lindley Hall, London was hosted by Sky Arts to celebrate a decade of the nation’s favourite art competition, Portrait Artist of the Year.

Each of the participants had just sixty minutes to complete their portrait of Sir Lenny Henry on an A3 canvas, using acrylic paints.

200 people took part in person, travelling from as far as Yorkshire and Glasgow to play their part in the portrait painting celebrations. An additional 1150 art-lovers painted along online from across the world, via a livestream broadcast on Facebook and TikTok hosted by presenter, Yinka Bokinni, with people tuning in from Norway, Portugal, Canada and the US. Livestream participants included students from Art-K, an art school for children and adults with studios across England and Wales, as well as schools who have participated in Sky Arts’ Access All Arts Week initiative.

Recently crowned Portrait Artist of the Decade, Gareth Reid, was also on hand to offer his expert advice, helping people of all ages and abilities try their hand at painting, with many painting a portrait for the first time.

Sir Lenny Henry said: “The record attempt was amazing and surpassed all my expectations. It was inspiring to see so many artists of all abilities and ages come together. Seeing 200 portraits of me in person was quite a moment – they were so varied - and I loved chatting to the artists about their work. What a great way to celebrate Portrait Artist of the Year’s tenth anniversary.”

Miriam Amankwa was one of the artists taking part at Lindley Hall: “I really enjoyed myself! My favourite part was getting to know the other artists, seeing their work at the end and how people translated their art styles through their paintings.” 

For the past ten years, Sky Arts has led the charge on finding the best portrait artists in the UK, with the help of judges Kate Bryan, Kathleen Soriano and Tai Shan Schierenberg. Last year, Morag Caister was crowned the winner of the series, and was invited to paint a portrait of actor, comedian, and writer, Sir Lenny Henry for the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.

Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, said: “It was lovely to welcome so many fans and aspiring artists down to Lindley Hall this weekend to celebrate the tenth series of Portrait Artist of the Year. It was fantastic to have Sir Lenny back sitting for us, and to see how much the artists accomplished in an hour - we definitely had some stars of the future in the room.” 

Portraits painted as part of the record attempt can be viewed by following #PAOTYWorldRecord on social media. The event was also supported by art materials supplier, Cass Art.

This year’s series of Portrait Artist of the Year, now underway, sees aspiring artists compete to win the title for 2023, with an array of celebrity sitters from the worlds of stage, screen, sport, literature, and politics sitting for portraits. The artists are battling it out once again to impress the judges across seven heats.

Taking the sitter’s chair this year are: Emma Freud (Broadcaster), Richard Curtis (Screenwriter), Fleur East (Singer), Ainsley Harriott (Chef/television personality), Rory Stewart (President of “Give Directly” and author), Rob Delaney (Comedian), Jay Rayner (Critic), Nihal Arthanyake (Presenter), Susanna Reid (Presenter), Phillipa Perry (Author), Alan Titchmarsh (Presenter), Sue Barker (Sports personality/presenter), Josh Widdecombe (Comedian), Nicky Spence (Opera Singer), Shirley Ballas (Dancer), Vanessa Kingori (Conde Nast Chief Business Officer), Mishal Hussain (Presenter), Nigel Havers (Actor), Lenny Rush (Actor), Joe Sugg (writer and YouTube personality) and Daryl McCormack (Actor).

Each heat winner will go on to paint British pop icon Emma Bunton in the semi-final and the three finalists will battle it out to take home the title, painting broadcasting legend and Portrait Artist of the Year royalty, Dame Joan Bakewell.

This year’s winner will receive a £10,000 commission to create a portrait of world-renowned conservationist Dr Jane Morris Goodall DBE, which will be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in December.

Portrait Artist of the Year airs weekly on Sky Arts, Freeview and NOW.

Notes to Editors:

For more information on the record-breaking painting event: 

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