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BBC Arts has announced a new series for BBC One and BBC iPlayer that explores the art of portrait making. It will see everyday heroes from the general public being immortalised in art, exploring portraiture’s ability to communicate without words.

The series sees musician and passionate collector of art Tinie (formerly known as Tinie Tempah) match members of the public with extraordinary stories to a selection of distinctive and celebrated portrait artists. The artists are then challenged to turn these personal and powerful experiences into compelling portraits.

Tinie says: “I wanted to put a spotlight on contemporary British heroes; to hear their stories and help create an opportunity where the world can learn about them and their experience through art. Portraits are powerful, and a great way of achieving this, but historically they have been reserved for ‘high society’.

"When a portrait of mine went into the National Portrait Gallery I remember the immense pride, inclusion and acknowledgement I felt. It was unquantifiable - it made me feel like I was part of a change in the narrative, and so I hope the extraordinary people I have met making Extraordinary Portraits feel the same way.”

Suzy Klein, Head of BBC Arts, says: “Portraiture has traditionally been a way of commemorating the figures we think of as significant or powerful. What makes Extraordinary Portraits different is that we shift the focus to everyday heroes - shining a light on incredible people whose bravery, courage and good deeds make them truly special, and who we feel deserve to be celebrated.

"Portraiture has the unique ability to capture both the life story and the soul of a subject, and the portraits we’ll see in the series reveal so much - and that intimacy and trust built up between the subject and the artist is something we rarely get to see on television. We are delighted to bring these heartwarming stories, along with Tinie’s passion for art, to a prime-time BBC One and BBC iPlayer audience as part of our commitment to ensuring everyone has access to arts and championing the best of British creative talent.”

Each episode follows the process of working in collaboration with an artist to create a portrait which captures and celebrates these extraordinary individuals, using different mediums of art, from underwater photography to street art. They culminate in Tinie and the artist unveiling the final piece to the sitter and their family and friends. Will the artists succeed in turning powerful, emotional and very human stories into extraordinary portraits, and how will the subjects react to seeing themselves through the eyes of an artist?

Episode one: Roxana Halls and Georgia and Melissa Laurie

Artist Roxana Halls is known for challenging how art depicts women. She has been given the task of depicting not one, but two sitters as she explores the unbreakable bond between Georgia and Melissa, twins who survived a near-fatal crocodile attack whilst swimming in a lagoon in Mexico. This traumatic event has left its scars and changed their perception of body image, family and their own inner strength.

Episode two: Christy Lee Rogers and Cee Cee

Celebrated international photographer Christy Lee Rogers helps Cee Cee, a model with albinism, on her journey from self-proclaimed "ugly duckling" to elegant swan, as she shares her struggles with how she is perceived by the outside world and her own self-belief. Christy helps Cee Cee to love herself as she is and find the natural beauty she hid for so many years in a breathtaking underwater photoshoot.

Episode three: Dale Grimshaw and Patrick Hutchinson

Dale Grimshaw, famed for his street murals with a fine art approach, builds a special bond with Patrick, a personal trainer from South London. Patrick was photographed carrying an injured English Defence League member to safety during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in 2020 and was propelled into the media spotlight both here and around the world. This powerful image and act of kindness was hailed as a symbol of unity and humanity. Armed with spray cans and oil paint, Dale learns more about the man behind the headlines and aims to use his unique skill and vision to create a portrait which captures the real Patrick.

Episode four: Artist Caroline Pool and Sitter Alec Burrough

Portrait artist Caroline Pool paints Alec Burrough, an 88 year-old dairy farmer from Devon who refuses to slow down. Despite having worked on the farm for 70 years, Alec continues to get up at dawn to care for his cows and ride his tractor, working alongside three generations of family. Caroline is known for creating allegorical portraits that capture the character and personality of her sitters; she believes it’s more important to capture someone’s individuality over an accurate face.

Episode five: Thomas Croft and Mark Ormrod

Thomas Croft, the artist behind Portraits For NHS Heroes, meets Mark, a former Royal Marine who survived an explosion during a foot patrol in Afghanistan in 2007. The injuries Mark sustained resulted in a triple amputation - he lost both legs and his right arm. Despite this traumatic experience, Mark has become an inspiration; he is a charitable fundraiser, mentor and a role model to other amputees, and is an ambassador for the Royal Marines Association. Thomas is renowned for his ability to tap into the emotions of his subjects, and together, Thomas and Mark explore how we perceive bravery, masculinity, and family.

Episode six: Kelvin Okafor and Catrin Pugh

This match sees Kelvin Okafor, a hyperreal artist who specialises in pencil portraits, draw Catrin Pugh, a survivor of a bus crash that left her with burns across 95 percent of her body. Kelvin goes to Wales and meets Catrin’s family and speaks to them about how they supported her during her physical and mental recovery. Kelvin describes Catrin as the phoenix that rose from the ashes. After 650 hours of work, is Catrin prepared to see every detail of herself through his eyes?

Extraordinary Portraits is a six-part series starting on Monday 14 February 2022


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