Work by Lizzie d'Alessandri, BA Painting.

Last week Wimbledon welcomed visitors from members of the Worshipful Company of Painters-Stainers, a city livery company who generously offered a £10,000 bursary to one first year BA Painting student in recognition of their painting work.  This is the first time they have offered the award to a Wimbledon student, and the lucky recipient for 2016 was Lizzie D’Alessandri.

This generous award that will be given to Lizzie over the next two years of her study was awarded by judges who formed a panel of representatives from the Company: Chris Twyman, Clerk of The Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers was joined for this process by artists Ken Howard RA and Ben Sullivan.

We spoke to Lizzie about her practice, and what winning the prize means for her as she comes to the end of the first year of her course.

Lizzie d'Alessandri with judges artists (l-r) Ben Sullivan and Ken Howard RA.

Lizzie d’Alessandri with judges artists (l-r) Ben Sullivan and Ken Howard RA.

Can you talk a little bit about your painting practice?
I am a portrait artist and I work by using my own photographs as my references. The photos I capture are normally headshots of faces that interest me, but I focus on interpreting the photograph in my own way and not copying it, I want to show what paint can produce. I study hyperrealist artists such as Robin Eley and Mark Dargas, but I also get a lot of inspiration from the Renaissance period for techniques such as chiaroscuro.

Please tell us about your winning painting?
The winning painting is of a girl that I lived with in the past year so I know her well and I’m familiar with her face. Before painting I drew up a grid with nearly 400 squares measuring 3 x 3 inches and I measured the original photograph on Photoshop. From there I sketched the portrait up free hand using coordinates. The painting is oil on canvas and measures at 195 x 130cm – it’s taken roughly three and half months to complete (600-700 hours). Even though it resembles the original photograph, in certain aspects the final piece is also in some ways a self-portrait: there are areas of my personality in the work that I have subconsciously painted there, too.

A photograph of Lizzie's winning painting in its early stages.

A photograph of Lizzie’s winning painting in its early stages.

How did you find out about the prize and what was the application process like?
An internal panel of tutors nominated five students from first year BA Painting for the scholarship and I was lucky enough to be one of them – I was just so happy to be chosen and for my work to be acknowledged.

When the day came for the judges visit on Friday 3rd June I was so nervous. I hadn’t prepared anything to say and just wanted to speak naturally about my work, as I don’t think you can plan these things. I spoke to the judges about my process, artist inspirations, mediums I’ve used, how I feel about the piece, what painting I’m going to do next and what my own aspirations were for the forthcoming year. We all went in singularly and had to wait for each other to finish. Each person was in for around ten minutes but it felt like forever! After the last person was done we waited a while for the judges to deliberate and then we were all called back in and the result was announced.

What do you plan to do with the prize money?
I want to be able to buy better paints such as Old Holland so my work is of a better quality. I want to paint on linen now where before I couldn’t really afford it. I’d also like to do some of my own exhibitions and hire a space to get my work out there. I’m also going to invest in something so I can remember this scholarship after I’ve finished my degree!

Find out more about BA Painting on our course page.

Come and see work by students graduating from BA Painting, along with Wimbledon’s other courses, at this year’s Undergraduate and MFA Summer Show which opens tomorrow!