Dr Mo Mowlam

"The temptation to look at the paintings was great; I nearly got in once but was stopped by somebody that came along. It was asking for a great deal of self control, which I'm not sure I have."

As far back as I can remember I have always loved painting and drawing people. I have very early memories of sketching my brothers and sisters as they lounged around at home and then, during my years in college, I was lucky enough to have good friends who spent long, uncomfortable hours posing for me.

My finished paintings at that time were usually oil on canvas, although my box of watercolours was never far away and most of my sketches and preliminary drawings were done in this medium. Painting in watercolour is very satisfying. You have the freedom to splash the colour on, letting it run and drip, but also the potential to achieve great detail and intricacy.

On graduating from college in 1991, I rented a small room over a taxi company to use as a studio. During the following three years a selection of my portraits was short-listed for the Arnotts National Portrait competition, and in 1993 I won an Arnotts award for my oil painting of Jack Russell. Although things were going well I needed the security of a regular income, so in 1995 I went back to college to study for my art-teaching diploma. Soon after qualifying I met my future (Scottish) husband on holiday in Greece and a year later I moved to Edinburgh where, in 1997, my first daughter was born. Continuing to paint, I soon began teaching art part-time at the local high school. I rented a studio/gallery with an artist friend and we had regular exhibitions. When my second daughter was born in 2003, I rented a studio closer to home in Roslin.

The whole 'Star Portraits' experience was very exciting. I wrote to Hotbed Media in summer 2004, enclosing samples of my work, in the hope that I might be chosen as one of the artists to appear in the second series. In September I received the final phone call confirming that I had been selected. The programme was to be filmed in October. Time passed quickly and soon I was flying to Belfast for the first stage of the portrait. From the beginning everyone involved, without exception, was very supprtive and encouraging, which made the whole experience a lot easier to deal with. The most nerve-racking part was waiting to actually start the painting. We arrived at Stormont Castle at 9am but it was 11 am before it was revealed that Mo Mowlam was to be our model. I was surprised but delighted and looked forward to getting started.

Mo Mowlam was a great model - lovely to paint and very down to earth. I was reasonably happy with the progress by the end of the first day and left with a camera full of photos to work from. The following week Rolf Harris arrived at the high school for my 'work in progress' interview, causing great excitement. He is as good-natured and genuine in the flesh as he appears on TV.

The second stage over, I just had to get the painting finished in time. My husband took over all duties at home, leaving me to work each day into the early hours. When painting Mo's portrait, I tried to capture the quality of each individual area of her face, setting down the shape of every subtle change of colour with carefully applied layers of paint. By the end of the week I was satisfied that I had done my best and it was a great relief to pack up the painting and head off to Kent for the 'reveal'.

I loved Rob and Robbie's portraits. Mo had a difficult decision to make, and when she chose mine I felt honoured and a bit bewildered. It was hard to believe and it is still sinking in really.

Mo Mowlam by Aine Divine

Portrait by Aine Divine.

Mo Mowlam by Rob Beckett

Portrait by Rob Beckett.

Mo Mowlam by Robbie Stuart

Portrait by Robbie Stuart.