Episodes

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Danielle De Niese20171102

Follow artist Fiona Graham-Mackay as she paints and interviews soprano Danielle de Niese.

Follow artist Fiona Graham-Mackay as she paints a portrait of top opera soprano Danielle de Niese.

The relationship between an artist and her sitter is unique, a bit like being in the therapist's chair - the painter stripping away the layers to reveal the true likeness of her subject. And in the hush of the sitting, conversations meander in unexpected ways.

'The process should be transformative for both the painter and the sitter.'

We eavesdrop on the conversation between the two artists across three meetings as the portrait develops. The programme begins with a blank canvas, and ends with the big reveal as Danielle meets her likeness in the portrait Fiona has painted.

In the opera world, there really isn't anyone like Danielle de Niese. The winner of a TV talent show in her native Australia aged nine, Danielle made her operatic debut in Los Angeles aged just 15 and has been unstoppable ever since. The New York Times magazine has called her "opera's coolest soprano", and the setting for the portrait is Glyndebourne, home of opera in the Sussex downs, where she has lived since marrying Glyndebourne chairman Gus Christie in 2009.

Fiona Graham-Mackay has painted hundreds of portraits, including Prince Michael of Kent, Seamus Heaney and Lord Carrington. In all her sittings she has always been fascinated by her conversations with her subjects and continues to be amazed by how people open up in ways that surprise even themselves. What is revealed goes beyond anything you might expect in an ordinary interview.

Producer: Eve Streeter
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

Edward Watson20171026

Follow portrait artist Fiona Graham-Mackay as she paints ballet dancer Edward Watson.

Follow artist Fiona Graham-Mackay as she paints a portrait of Edward Watson, Principal of the Royal Ballet.

The relationship between an artist and her sitter is unique, a bit like being in the therapist's chair. The painter stripping away the layers to reveal the true likeness of her subject and, in the hush of the studio, conversations meander in unexpected ways.

"It's an adventure - waiting to see what comes out."

While Fiona sketches and paints, we hear about Edward's life as a ballet dancer, overcoming his self-doubt, being an introverted performer, and those lonely moments on stage in front of an audience.

Fiona Graham-Mackay has painted hundreds of portraits, including Prince Michael of Kent, Seamus Heaney and Lord Carrington. In all her sittings she has always been fascinated by the conversations with her subjects and continues to be amazed by how people open up in ways that surprise even themselves as she paints them. What is revealed goes beyond anything you might expect in an ordinary interview.

Producer: Eve Streeter
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

Follow portrait artist Fiona Graham-Mackay as she paints ballet dancer Edward Watson.

Follow artist Fiona Graham-Mackay as she paints a portrait of Royal Ballet principle dancer Edward Watson.

The relationship between an artist and her sitter is unique, a bit like being in the therapist's chair. The painter stripping away the layers to reveal the true likeness of her subject and, in the hush of the studio, conversations meander in unexpected ways.

"It's an adventure - waiting to see what comes out."

While Fiona sketches and paints, we hear about Edward's life as a ballet dancer, overcoming his self-doubt, being an introverted performer, and those lonely moments on stage in front of an audience.

Fiona Graham-Mackay has painted hundreds of portraits, including Prince Michael of Kent, Seamus Heaney and Lord Carrington. In all her sittings she has always been fascinated by the conversations with her subjects and continues to be amazed by how people open up in ways that surprise even themselves as she paints them. What is revealed goes beyond anything you might expect in an ordinary interview.

Producer: Eve Streeter
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

Imtiaz Dharker20160613

We follow artist Fiona Graham-Mackay as she paints the portrait of poet, artist and documentary film-maker Imtiaz Dharker.

Born in Pakistan and raised in Glasgow, Imtiaz was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014. She writes about freedom, cultural intolerance, gender politics, love and loss. Fellow poet Carol Ann Duffy has said, "If there were to be a World Laureate, then for me the role could only be filled by Imtiaz Dharker."

Fiona Graham-Mackay has painted hundreds of portraits, including Seamus Heaney and Sir Andrew Motion. Drawing is, she says, "the flow of life, the soul of life," and "you have to fall a little in love with your subject".

It's a revealing, intimate experience, peeling away the layers to capture the essence of the sitter as seen through the artist's eye. And in this, conversations meander in unexpected places.

Features readings of 'The Conversation' and 'Invisible' from Over the Moon; 'This room' from I Speak For the Devil, both published by Bloodaxe Books. With permission.

Producer: Eve Streeter

A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

Juliet Stevenson20171109

Follow portrait artist Fiona Graham-Mackay as she paints actor Juliet Stevenson.

Follow artist Fiona Graham-Mackay as she paints a portrait of actor Juliet Stevenson.

What does it feel like to be painted, and then see yourself as someone else has drawn you? It can be an emotional, transformative process for both the sitter and the artist.

In many ways a portrait painter is like a detective - looking for clues below the surface to capture the sitter's true likeness. In the hush of the studio, conversations meander in unexpected ways as painter and sitter find out about each other. And as we eavesdrop on their sittings, the revelations go beyond any ordinary interview.

Juliet Stevenson gained fame through her television and film work, such as Truly Madly Deeply, although she is first and foremost one of the most celebrated stage actresses of her generation. While Fiona sketches, we hear about Juliet's itinerant childhood, and taking acting notes from her friend and fellow actor Alan Rickman.

Fiona Graham-Mackay has painted hundreds of portraits, including Prince Michael of Kent, Seamus Heaney and Lord Carrington. In all her sittings she has always been fascinated by her conversations with her subjects and continues to be amazed by how people open up in ways that surprise even themselves.

Producer: Eve Streeter
A Pier production for Radio 4.

Follow portrait artist Fiona Graham-Mackay as she paints actor Juliet Stevenson.

Follow artist Fiona Graham-Mackay as she paints a portrait of actor Juliet Stevenson.

What does it feel like to be painted, and then see yourself as someone else has drawn you? It can be an emotional, transformative process for both the sitter and the artist.

In many ways a portrait painter is like a detective - looking for clues below the surface to capture the sitter's true likeness. In the hush of the studio, conversations meander in unexpected ways as painter and sitter find out about each other. And as we eavesdrop on their sittings, the revelations go beyond any ordinary interview.

Juliet Stevenson gained fame through her television and film work, such as Truly Madly Deeply, although she is first and foremost one of the most celebrated stage actresses of her generation. While Fiona sketches, we hear about Juliet's itinerant childhood, and taking acting notes from her friend and fellow actor Alan Rickman.

Fiona Graham-Mackay has painted hundreds of portraits, including Prince Michael of Kent, Seamus Heaney and Lord Carrington. In all her sittings she has always been fascinated by her conversations with her subjects and continues to be amazed by how people open up in ways that surprise even themselves.

Producer: Eve Streeter
A Pier production for Radio 4.