Starting a career as an artist is a daunting task for many young graduates entering a highly competitive creative sector.

But for one 23-year-old, a dream was realised when he was accepted into a prestigious exhibition alongside some of the country’s finest artists.

Charlie Schaffer, who grew up in Totteridge, applied for a place in this year’s Royal Society of Portrait Painters exhibition, but never thought he would be picked from more than 1,000 hopefuls.

“I didn’t really believe it, to be honest,“ says Charlie, who lives in High Barnet with his family.

He continues: “I literally just applied online. I got through the first round and delivered them the actual painting and then got the email saying it’s actually in the exhibition. I guess I was quite lucky.“

But it seems luck wasn’t the only factor involved, as the University of Brighton graduate is clearly talented – a fact cemented when he was named Young Artist of the Year 2014 by The Mall Galleries in central London.

The portrait accepted into this year’s show is an oil painting of Charlie’s friend, Stephen, who he met at his Woolwich-based studio.

“He’s a writer of art and philosophy and spends his time mooching around the studio,“ he explains. “He’s just a fascinating guy, he’s probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and unbelievably kind at the same time.“

And it is an interesting personality Charlie looks for in his sitters. That and an ability to sit still for a long time – the portrait of Stephen took 30-hours to complete.

However, all the hard work is worth it. “I’m very excited about it and hopefully it will bring in a fair amount of work as well,“ enthuses Charlie, who originally considered a career in architecture.

“It’s going to be hanging up beside some very, very great artists of our time.“

Annual Portrait Exhibition, The Mall Galleries, The Mall by Trafalgar Square, until May 1. Details: 020 7930 6844,