5 June 2017

Artists from Sheffield and beyond are invited to take part in this year’s Portraits of Distinction competition, as part of the annual Art in the Gardens festival.

Back for a 14th year, Art in the Gardens will see around 300 artists and craft workers, exhibiting more than 4,000 pieces of their work, at Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens on Saturday 2 September and Sunday 3 September.

The portrait competition, which this year features snooker commentator and sports presenter Rob Walker as its subject, will be officially launched next Monday, 12 June.

From then, artists can collect a photograph of Mr Walker from the main reception at Sheffield Town Hall and begin work on their portraits or sculptures. Photographs will be handed out on a first-come first-served basis.

Mr Walker said: “Having worked on the last 10 editions of the World Snooker Championship, I feel a genuine connection to Sheffield.

“I was honoured and slightly embarrassed to be asked to pose for the annual portrait competition.

“I’m not a man on TV for my looks, so I’m a touch nervous to see the outcome of some of the artists’ work. My wife is coming to help me judge.

“I know Art in the Gardens will be another great weekend in one of the North’s finest cities.”

Mr Walker was photographed for Art in the Gardens during his time working at this year’s World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre.

He has appeared at major snooker tournaments as master of ceremonies since 2008 and has also covered sports including tennis, darts, boxing, football, sailing and athletics.

Professional artist and photographer Trevor Neal said: “Rob Walker, a legend in sports broadcasting, stood up to the challenge and gave generously of his time fitting us in around his 17-day hectic schedule at the Crucible.

“His enthusiasm as MC at the World Snooker Championship shone through brightly in the reference photographs that the artists will work from to produce their portraits.

“The city centre provided a series of great backdrops for the various photo shoots. These included the Town Hall, backstage at the Crucible, the Winter Garden and most interestingly, Tudor Square, where every few minutes Rob was approached by snooker fans from around the world.

“Some wanted autographs but most wanted the most instant form of self-portraiture – the selfie.”

Previous well-known names who have been the centrepiece of the competition include Pulp drummer Nick Banks, television presenter Bradley Walsh, former Coronation Street actor Bruce Jones, music icon Dave Berry, artist Joe Scarborough, BBC weather presenters Paul Hudson and Lisa Gallagher, the Earl and Countess of Scarborough, Olympic high diver Monique Gladding and BBC Radio Sheffield’s Toby Foster and Rony Robinson.

Each year, visitors come from across the country to view the top-quality work at Art in the Gardens, the North of England’s largest outdoor art show.

The range of creativity on display includes photography, ceramics, textiles, print making, leatherwork, wood turning, glass work, jewellery, and sculptures in metal, wood, and stone.

There is also a dedicated Home and Garden area, music throughout the weekend, an Open Art Exhibition, artists, a bustling market and the gardens themselves to explore and enjoy.

For more information visit www.artinthegardens.com