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If you were engineering a show calibrated perfectly to knitting, you would eventually create what already exists: Portrait Artist of the Year.

No need to re-invent that particular wheel, y’all. It’s already out there, rolling.

Hear me out.

All you need to know is in the title: this is a competition for portrait artists who want to be crowned that year’s winner. They win an opportunity to paint a big name. (Sir Tom Jones! Sir Ian McKellen! Kim Cattrall!)

The format for the opening rounds is the same across each season, so you don’t have to pay attention to the rules. Each of a dozen (or so) artists is assigned a Notable Figure to produce a portrait of in four hours in the artist’s chosen medium. The judges will pick one from each heat to go to a semifinal, and on until there is just one winner.

Given that the show is produced by the U.K.’s Sky Arts, a fair number of these Notable Figures will be an engaging mystery to an American knitter. Who the heck is Ray BLK? Why do I know Deborah Findlay? Where does professional strongman Eddie Hall find work? How many Dames are there anyway?

There are, of course, familiar folks, like Eddie Izzard and Mark Gatiss and Laura Linney. But the thrill of discovering idols from a culture not your own is too sweet to not savor.

Also sweet is experiencing just how many ways there are to capture someone’s likeness. There are as many techniques as there are artists, even if the goal is the same.

The judges—Kathleen Soriano, Tai Shan Schierenberg, and Kate Bryan—know what they are looking at, have different opinions from each other, and do an amazing job of explaining what they see in a way the audience can understand. You don’t need a PhD to parse their thoughts and might just learn a little something, too.

You can’t not like hosts Joan Bakewell and Stephen Mangan. The same is true of Frank Skinner, who Mangan replaced. None are more warm and engaging.

But what makes it perfect Knitting TV are the artists themselves. There’s just enough tension (four hours is not nearly long enough for this) to ratchet up everyone’s creativity. Most make it to the finish with something in the neighborhood of what they intended. Some very much do not. And a very few just keep starting over again despite the clock’s ticking.

Every episode is a distillation of the creative process, which all knitters can appreciate as they work to make something that didn’t exist before.

The best part: there are multiple seasons on Amazon Prime. Sky Arts is still making more. PLUS there is a sister show for landscape artists, which I haven’t needed to break the seal on yet but take great comfort in knowing it’s out there, waiting.

About The Author

Adrienne Martini, the author of Somebody’s Gotta Do It, would love to talk with you about the importance of running for elected office or about all of the drama of holding a seat on the Board of Representatives in Otsego County, New York. Adrienne blogs when the spirit moves her at Martini Made.


  • small correction, the sister show is for Landscape artists (and if it isn’t sponsored by the Tourist Board then it should be!)

    • Oooops. Not sure what my brain did there. Will make that change. Thanks!

  • Thanks for this suggestion! Can’t wait to try this!
    Sounds very interesting!!

    Ps: no matter how many times I reread it, I can’t figure out what you are saying in this sentence: None are more warm and engaging.

    • Those hosts are the most warm and engaging hosts. None are more engaging. 🙂

  • This sounds fun! Thanks for this recommendation, looking forward to watching.

  • LOVE this! Both shows look amazing. I’ve been in withdrawal since getting up to date on the Great Pottery Throwdown. TY TY TY

  • Thank you! I didn’t know about this show or the landscape version and am looking forward to watching.

  • Very interesting. I must watch it. Thank you.

  • When does PAOTY 2024 begin??

  • Sounds fascinating and right up my alley. Thanks, Adrienne!

    • You are welcome!

  • Wow. What a wonderful recommendation – we had a rainy day today and was thrilled to sit and watch the first 4 episodes this afternoon.

    • It’s like potato chips!

  • I have watched nearly all of Landscape Artist of the Year, and it is perfect for knitting to! Portrait Artist is definitely on my radar.

  • Fantastic information. I cannot wait to tune this in and share it with my fellow knitters and non knitters who are creative in other arenas.
    This morning post is my favorite
    Thank you

  • I LOVE both of these shows! I wish more season of PAOTY were available on Amazon Prime.
    My PBS Passport (Georgia Public Broadcasting) streams 7 seasons of Landscape Artist. Excellent and soothing tv to knit by.

  • I have watched episodes from both series and have loved them! I love Frank Skinner. He is warm and asks questions that I would ask.

    It is hard to knot and watch because you don’t want to miss anything.

    Thanks for sharing.

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