John Humphrys caught on canvas

John Humphrys with his portrait by Stella Tooth

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Stella Tooth has now completed her portrait of former colleague John Humphrys.

The likeness of the Today presenter is the first in a series of paintings of broadcast news journalists by the figurative artist, who is a former BBC News press and publicity officer.

The series of ten will also include portraits of the BBC's Kate Adie and George Alagiah (who sat for his colour study in February - a few weeks before he was diagnosed with bowel cancer), together with Sky News' Adam Boulton and ITV News at Ten's Julie Etchingham.

The BBC is looking into the possibility of exhibiting the works early next year.

George Alagiah sits for a colour study George Alagiah sits for his colour study in February, a few weeks before illness forced his break from work

Tooth showed Humphrys the painting after he came off air one morning, her confidence boosted by an early morning encounter with a heavy goods vehicle.

'When I was carrying my portrait of John up the road to Northfields tube, I had to turn him face out as the oils are not quite dry,' she tells Ariel. 'As I neared the station, a passenger in a lorry wound down the window, leant out and shouted, 'Morning John'. John laughed when I told him that.'

Luckily, her subject spotted the likeness too.

'I was rather relieved when he told me that he liked it,' admits Tooth, who was invited into the studio last year to paint Humphrys' colour study while he was at work and to take reference shots from which to make the final portrait.

Kate Adie sits for a colour study Stella Tooth applies the final touches to her initial study of Kate Adie

'John understood instinctively what I needed,' says the former PR. 'Although he didn't exactly sit still, he showed me the energy and camaraderie it takes to co-present a long, live, early morning radio show whilst I was painting, and knew exactly how to engage with the lens for the reference shots.'

Tooth was keen to go beyond face value.

'I wanted to capture John's stock-in-trade: the way he engages interviewees with his eyes and holds their attention with his hand, and have his hand reach out beyond me to the viewer, so that they felt they were sitting in the interviewee's place.

'The hardest part of any portrait is to try to go beyond likeness and to capture something of that sitter's character,' she says. 'With John I wanted to show that, if you're someone in a position of power and need holding to account, it can be an uncomfortable place to be. But, equally, I wanted to capture his skill in setting people at ease and bringing out the best in them.'

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