AN OXFORD artist with a self-confessed 'obsession' for faces has been offered a coveted place in the BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition.

Lucy Stopford, a mother-of-two and chairwoman of the 125-year-old Oxford Art Society, was among 2,580 applicants from 87 countries to submit a portrait this year.

Following an exhibition in London's Docklands, the 47-year-old's painting was one of 53 selected works that will feature in the National Portrait Gallery from June 22.

Now in its 38th year, the BP Portrait Award is considered the most prestigious international portrait competition of its kind and has a top prize of £30,000.

Mrs Stopford said: "I'm delighted, and enormously honoured. It's going to be an unusual one and I'm looking forward to seeing it in the gallery."

The painter, sculptor and workshop leader began her career at the then-North Oxfordshire Technical College and School of Art in Banbury.

She went on to study fine art at Leeds University and attended courses at the Slade School of Fine Art and at the Florence Academy of Art.

She said: "I am obsessive about faces. I've always painted faces. I recently moved down to the neck but faces are fascinating; they're an endless exploration.

"I like the tension you get from having a person in front of you, and I like to work fast. I'm quite ruthless; sitters aren't allowed to plug in their headphones."

The portrait was created over four half-hour sessions in February using a varnish brush 'alla prima': in which wet oil paint is applied directly over other wet paint.

The sitter, Dr Tim Moreton, is a retired collections registrar from the National Portrait Gallery who has sat for group and individual sittings in Oxford.

The pair met several years ago when Dr Moreton showed Mrs Stopford her favourite painting by Tai-Shan Schierenberg in the gallery.

She said: "Portraiture is very collaborative. Tim is very intellectual and thoughtful, and very interested in the process; he recognises it doesn't have to be passive."

She added that there was a 'nice symmetry' to the pair returning to London for the private viewing: "He's excited about being on the other side of things."

The winner of the BP Portrait Award will be announced on June 20 ahead of the exhibition, in which Mrs Stopford's is one of 25 portraits by British artists.

Selected portraits will be available to view at the National Portrait Gallery until September 24.