Sky Arts and the art of content production

Posted on Friday, January 2nd, 2015 by

How can you put your campaign, your brief or your message into the hands of another and be sure that you know when a great job has been achieved?

We’re in a golden age of online video – everyone is doing it! Not because it’s more engaging than text and graphics alone, but because it’s so accessible and ‘cheap’! We predict 2015 will be the year brands realise they need to be doing more with video. As I’ve found out,  it ain’t the canvas being painted that ticks the box – its who’s doing the painting.

william tell

Recently, I’ve been immersed in Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year series. It’s a made-for-TV competition that pits 18 artists head-to-head to create a portrait of a celebrity sitter in only four hours.

Some contestants attack the canvas like it’s a wild dog in need of taming. Others nurture it and discover the portrait as it slowly emerges from its initial abstract form. Each portrait represents a vision, a unique approach to the craft and completely individual narrative of the sitter.

Separating art from arty-farty

Frank Skinner, best known as the lad’s lad in the times of Born Slippy (lager, lager lager), Loaded magazine and working-class socialism, is one of the presenters. Skinner, in reality a non-drinker and self-confessed lover of opera, is actually better placed as a presenter than you might at first think. 

Although not offering any extra value to the understanding of the medium, he does succeed in humanising the whole thing. It’s not ‘art’, darling, but the contestants are most definitely artists.

He talks to the competitors with his trademark unpretentious, softly spoken, brummy appeal, which results in candid conversations such as:

‘So are you going to get round to doing the hair then?’

‘Er I dunno, haven’t really thought that far ahead!’

Bringing a vision to life


This series removes the highbrow, elitist concepts of art, and encourages us all to ‘see’ the world as an artist. The skill of each contestant is actually understanding how best to use the medium to share their vision. It’s an incredible insight into visual communication and having multiple (and incredibly objective) interpretations of the same moment.

There’s plenty of technical knowledge provided by the trio of judges (an artist, a curator and a Director of Exhibitions). However, to be able to say ‘he is better than she’ is a tricky debate.

However, the series offers a wonderful doorway into the mind of the portrait artist and the potential that a skilled practitioner of the medium can offer an audience. Through time-lapse video (and also relying on a touch of celebrity voyeurism), each episode reveals the process of life being captured on a canvas.

This process rings so true with what we encourage our clients to understand when seeking content production. I’ll try to keep the painting simile going. You have a canvas that needs painting and yes, paint is cheap and its easy to hang your canvas for plenty of people to see, and yes, you CAN get a low-cost decorator to do it – job done – tick!

But if you want the results to live and breathe, then you’ll need more than just the right colour. Successful communication needs to transcend the medium itself and reach out to the viewer to encourage them to give some of themselves into the process. What better way to do this than ensuring that you’re commissioning an artist, rather than simply a painter?

About Outlook Video

Outlook’s Video team create content for brands that need support in the production of their marcomm strategies. We stick to our belief that video has a leading role in integrated marketing plans, and that it should achieve value in its own right, rather than simply act as a sum of parts.

Let us focus on the delivery, so you don’t have to! Get in touch for more information.