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Rosso: Stoke Newington painter to appear on Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year

PUBLISHED: 11:33 25 February 2019

Paku and Gaia portrait by Rosso Emerald Crimson. Picture: Rosso.

Paku and Gaia portrait by Rosso Emerald Crimson. Picture: Rosso.

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Rosso Emerald Crimson has gone from a steady career in marketing to competing on Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year programme in the space of five years.

Rosso will appear on Sky's Portrait Artist of the Year on March 19. Picture: RossoRosso will appear on Sky's Portrait Artist of the Year on March 19. Picture: Rosso

Born in Sicily but a resident of Stoke Newington since 2004, the 40-year-old painter trained briefly at Prince Drawing School and London Atelier of Representational Art (LARA), but is mainly self-taught. She will appear on our screens on March 19 as part of the popular show’s fifth season.

Rosso says the experience “was very different to what I’m used to! As artists, we tend to spend many, many hours in our studios alone, so to find ourselves with thousands of lights and cameras around was a bit intimidating – I had a lot of adrenalin, it was almost trippy.

“It was all done in one full day; something like 12 hours non-stop from painting to doing interviews, having photographs, talking about ourselves and our lives. We didn’t have time to eat which was a shame because there was an amazing buffet!

“Although it was a full-on experience, I enjoyed it. I would do it again.”

Yomi Adegoke - Vive la Revolution. Picture: RossoYomi Adegoke - Vive la Revolution. Picture: Rosso

Rosso paints mainly with oil, and says here interests vary between classical portraiture and “more committed, figurative paintings with stronger narratives.” She’s particularly keen to celebrate female subjects, and themes like identity, sexuality, relationships and motherhood are central to her work.

But her talent for art could so easily have been wasted. “I had a passion for drawing as a child,” she explains, “but then I got completely derailed and did something very different.

“In my 30s, after working in advertising and studying politics, I realised I wanted to be a bit more creative. I started going to community courses in London; I did some life-drawing and slowly realised that I felt a call. I wanted to do more and more and more.

“I got in to the technical side of it, learning more about oil painting – which is what I specialise in. Altogether it took three or four years for me to understand that I wanted to spend most of my time doing it.”

'Lost Identity' self-portrait by Rosso Emerald Crimson. Picture: Rosso'Lost Identity' self-portrait by Rosso Emerald Crimson. Picture: Rosso

So for how long exactly has she been painting seriously? “Painting seriously still hasn’t started!” she laughs. There is an energy and an easygoing humour to Rosso that makes you feel good.

Rosso has featured in a number of group exhibitions and solo shows at venues including the Mall Galleries and The Strand Gallery. In the Holly Bush Emerging Woman Painter (2017) and Emerald Winter Pride Art Awards (2016), she also has a couple of prizes to her name.

Which of her paintings is she most proud of to date? “I do a lot of self-portraits. There are three or four (that I like) and one in particular that is with me and my daughter.

“I don’t know why but I really love the portraits where my daughter is a subject. (In the one) where I’m posing with her, I like the technique, atmosphere and message; and the feedback has been very positive.”

Rosso is to put on shows at Zebra One in Hampstead Heath and Underdog Gallery, near London Bridge, in the near future.

Firstly, though, she has the opportunity to showcase her talent to a national audience, as she paints a portrait of a currently unspecified famous person on the Portrait Artist of the Year.

“When I got selected for it, I was told we had four hours to paint this person, so all I did was practice doing portraits of my friends and other artists in the studio. That was the easiest part.

“The real challenge was (dealing with) hundreds of people, these many interruptions; I was unprepared for this challenge. I could see the other artists looking at each other in disbelief, but it was still a good experience!

“It was like going to Glastonbury. It was so full on, busy, with lots of colours and shining lights. I was running on coffee and adrenalin.”

Watch Rosso on Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year on Tuesday March 19, from 8pm. Read more about Rosso on her website.

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