Having recently won the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious BP Young Artist Award, Ania Hobson is at an all-time high in her work. “It was a very surreal moment, and something I had always dreamt of,” she says. “I still pinch myself about it today.” Taking first place with her piece A Portrait of Two Female Painters, the 29-year old artist has come on in leaps and bounds since her days of sketching animals in the stables of the smallholding where she grew up.
But these humble beginnings in Suffolk are where Ania found her initial artistic inspiration. “Both my parents are very creative so it was something I was naturally surrounded by and grew up with,” she explains. “My mother is good with crafts, my father is a zoologist and adept at painting African birds, and my great grandfather was a well known Polish painter who was involved in the country’s Arts and Crafts movement.”
Over time, Ania’s paintings progressed from farmyard animals to portraits. These were frequently submitted into competitions, strengthening her confidence in her artistic ability and spurring her on. Critique from the judges, who were often professional artists and curators, encouraged Ania to develop her practice. “I always took it as an indication that I needed to change something and I would try to learn from it.” These formative transformations would see her work take on a more contemporary style, increasing as the years passed.
Speaking on her process, Ania says she still paints subjects with which she shares a close relationship. “I tend to mostly paint my family members and friends. I feel more comfortable knowing that they are very familiar with my process and style and won’t be so critical of the outcome.” Working either from life or a photograph, Ania sketches directly onto her canvas using charcoal and pencil. Her pace is fast to keep her brushwork natural and fluid. She helps maintain this momentum with ready-made skin tone paints that she pre-mixes to save time, and often applies them with her go-to technique of impasto.
This swift yet considered method of portraiture, featuring subjects often sporting fashionable clothing and informal poses, results in paintings that feel both classic and contemporary. It’s a style that has earned Ania numerous commissions and offers from many different galleries, including an invitation to display her work at one of the Venice Biennale’s upcoming collateral events with the GAA Foundation. “I hope by exhibiting there, it will bring new things forward and keep the ball rolling,” she says.
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