Last chance to vote for Sue Clayton to make the final for mental health exhibition

Tarred by a different brush: Sue Clayton has used a tar-like paint to create Black Treacle

HURRY, hurry, voting ends tomorrow for York portrait artist Sue Clayton to reach the final of Doncaster Art Fair’s latest exhibition, Art As A Response To Mental Health.

“I’m delighted to have been selected for the longlist, but I need help from people to make the final show,” says Sue, from Wigginton. “Only 30 pieces will be chosen and it’s done by public vote.

“Submissions are from around the world, so I’m hugely excited to get this far. Voting is easy, just go to and click on the heart above the piece to cast your vote.”

Created in lockdown, Sue’s piece is called Black Treacle, painted in response to her partner’s description of when depression descends “the slow descent of an overwhelming, glutinous, self-smothering darkness”.

“As an artist, this was obviously a very personal piece for me to do and not without challenges,” she says.

York portrait artist Sue Clayton

“I knew, for instance, that the portrait I’ve taken time to create was going to be obliterated by the tar-like paint and whatever happens there was no going back, no chance to rectify anything. No scraping back. The tar wouldn’t allow it.

“It was fascinating to me that I had planned for the portrait to be a monochromatic study in subdued tones of either sepia or dark blue. As I painted, though, colour kept coming through. Not just because I’m a colourful artist but I think because my partner has such a vitality and a spark, that I had to paint it! It was also a painting of the man I love and that was hard to suppress the feeling for him as I paint.”

The application of the black paint – black wood stain, to be precise – was “interesting”, adds Sue, who is best known for her 2017-2018 York Heroes project. “As I’ve just said, there was no going back, no second chances. I loaded up the brush several times and just let the stain run down the surface, following its own path,” she says.

“I genuinely found this really emotional, so mesmerising to watch and yet heart-stopping as it engulfed the face. It really felt smothering. Far more symbolic to me than I could ever realise.”

No time to waste. Tomorrow, June 30, is the deadline to cast your vote for Sue’s Black Treacle.