A PORTRAIT by University of Brighton student Sophie Williams is on display in London’s National Portrait Gallery after it was picked from more than 2,500 entries from 90 countries.

Flora Thompson speaks to the 21-year-old about the poignant picture of her grandparents eating lunch which captured the judges' hearts.

HUNCHED over a bowl and poised to sip a spoonful of soup.

Artist Sophie Williams chose an everyday scene for her winning painting: her Welsh grandparents sitting down to lunch.

Her aim was to capture the simplicity in their routine, their years of wisdom through their facial expressions and their affinity with each other.

The result was a touching scene entitled Just After Noon which acts as a window into the lives of any elderly couple or grandparents.

So impressed were judges at the BP Portrait Awards that they picked her one as one of just 55 artists to be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery.

She was chosen ahead of 2,748 entries from 92 countries and now her work will be on display in London until September 20, before touring as part of the exhibition in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

At just 21, the fine art student from the University of Brighton, is the second youngest in the competition.

She bases all her work on family, friends and relatives and in this painting focussed on the face, expression, and character after working from a sketch of the moment captured in their kitchen.

The painting is a particularly poignant one, as it was completed not long before her grandmother Joan Williams died aged 92 last year, leaving behind her husband Hugh, 89.

She said: “She had an amazing life. My grandparents are really inspirational. My grandfather was partially blind and my grandmother was partially deaf. They needed each other to live their lives.

“I wanted to capture how as you grow old your life becomes simpler. There is no conversation in the painting but you can tell how close they are to each other.”

The winning combination which helped her to create such a personal image was painting on a board over the canvas and emphasising reflections on the surfaces in the image.

She added: “It is a still image but you feel like it’s a fleeting moment, a moment in time. My grandad did ask why I made him look so old though. I think when you get older you still feel young at heart. I’m going to take him to see the portrait in the exhibition.”

She added that living in Brighton and her course have contributed to her success.

“It is such a great and inspirational place to be and studying fine art painting has been the best possible course and choice I could have made. There is a great balance between painting in an environment that allows you to express your own ideas and subject matter, and the individual guidance and support from our tutors. The course has helped me develop my practice and grow as an artist.”

The Argus: Just After Noon, a portrait of Sophie Williams’ grandparents, is just one of 55 to be exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery as part of a worldwide competition the BP Portrait Awards.Just After Noon, a portrait of Sophie Williams’ grandparents, is just one of 55 to be exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery as part of a worldwide competition the BP Portrait Awards.

Miss Williams, who grew up in Esher, Surrey, and now lives in Brighton with friends, said: “Being so young and being given the opportunity to exhibit my painting among such highly-regarded and inspirational artists is humbling and exciting.

“Having visited the show on a number of occasions, I remember telling myself that one day I hoped I could see my own work at this exhibition. Ever since I was a young girl art was my favourite subject and I loved painting. My skills got stronger as I went to school and grew older.

“As you might imagine, I was overwhelmed when I received the news. This is an achievement I have been working towards ever since I began studying painting.”

She added: “Rather than treating it as some kind of pinnacle, it has given me motivation to keep on improving, to become an artist who can establish a career in doing what I love.”

She starts her third year at the university next month.

* Just After Noon is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London until September 20. It will then go on tour to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh from October 10 to February 28, 2016, and finally to the Ulster Museum in Belfast in March 2016. For information visit sophie-williams.com.