“SOMETIMES,” says Natasha Raskin Sharp, “you can be up there for an hour, an hour-and-a-half. It’s not a long time, but afterwards you can be exhausted. You’ve been standing in only place and really only moving your arms, but you have been speaking constantly, concentrating intensely, and taking bids from all angles. The adrenalin does come,” she continues, “and, afterwards it does completely crash.” Sometimes, it is all she can do to just “flop out”, unable to immediately function if the auction has been particularly intense.

If you had watched Raskin Sharp in action on Sunday lunchtime, at McTear’s Auctioneers on the Southside of Glasgow, you could well believe her. She got proceedings underway at 1pm and when she temporarily gave way to another auctioneer at 2.15pm, she had auctioned no fewer than 88 contemporary artworks, a rate of more than one a minute.

The bids came from diverse sources: from the audience of art collectors, by telephone (one of her colleagues was on phone duties) and via the internet (Raskin Sharp monitors them via an Apple Macbook in front of her). Other people will have left what are known as absentee bids, having informed the auction house what their maximum bid would be on a specific item. Raskin Sharp juggles all this information while keeping up a running commentary on the paintings. You have to take your time, she reasons, when auctioning something as unique and subjective as a painting.

Her very first lot on Sunday lunchtime was Path to the Field, a pastel on paper by Douglas Lennox. “I’ll start the bidding at £200,” she said. “I’ve got 200, do you have 220? At 200 to me. I’ll say fair warning. At £200 …” there was a crisp, single tap of the gavel on her sounding block, and she was off and running.

Her subsequent 87 lots included a John Bellany portrait of Mary Queen of Scots landing at Seton Sands, which went to a phone bidder for £9,000. There were Peter Howsons, there were abstracts and still lifes, and there was a series of 10 works by the Glasgow artist Gerard Burns, all acquired from the private collection of a deceased collector somewhere in the city. Both the photographer, Michael Boyd, and I express admiration for Avril Paton’s work Headlights, lot 67.

McTears, which has been going since 1842, stages its Scottish Contemporary Art Auction once every six weeks. It also auctions rare and collectable whisky, watches, jewellery, not to mention coins and banknotes, and art and furniture.

Raskin Sharp herself is from Glasgow, and is in her early thirties. Her father, Philip, is a highly regarded contemporary artist. “I’m quite lucky,” she acknowledges, “because I often get to sell his work at auction, which is a bit of a thrill.” Her parents both collected art, so she had the privilege of growing up in a household filled with original artwork. She concedes that she herself isn’t an artist: as her grandmother would observe, she can’t even paint her face.

She studied French and art history at Glasgow and arrived at McTears in 2011, working her way up from unpaid intern to the shipping and paintings department to, finally, auctioneer. In time, her talents saw her being picked up by the long-running BBC show, Bargain Hunt, when a producer saw her on the rostrum in Glasgow and decided she liked her style. “I’m glad she did - I doubt that I’d be here otherwise.”

Bargain Hunt has led to other work on TV and radio. She has appeared on Antiques Road Trip and its celebrity spin-off; she has guested on For What It’s Worth, with Fern Britton, and on Flog It!, with Paul Martin. Her voice can be heard every Thursday on BBC Radio Scotland, and she also does features for The One Show. Her media career eventually reached the point where she decided to go freelance as an auctioneer, but she retains strong ties to McTears.

So what is it like, being an auctioneer? “Quite scary at first,” she says, “because my first-ever auction was, I think, just ten or 20 lots, but my mum decided to come along and film the whole encounter, which was very embarrassing, obviously. She stood at the front of the rostrum with her mobile phone. Actually, thank goodness she did, because I watched the footage back, and it was so bad. Terrible.”

She laughs. “I couldn’t actually equate what I had experienced with what the buyers had probably experienced. So from then on I tried to make it more of a fun event for the buyers. So she really did me a favour by recording me.”

Being an auctioneer is all about anticipation. “When someone is going to bid on an item, even two or three lots beforehand, their body language starts to change. As you look around the room you get a feeling that that person is about to bid. It’s about keeping your eyes peeled, really. I know that sounds silly, but you have to have eyes all over the room.

“You have to be confident in what you’re doing as well. Buyers can sometimes control the auction if you don’t have confidence. They can set the tone, so you have to be very much in control. You need eyes and ears: all your senses need to be engaged. It’s quite nerve-wracking.”

The same thing applies to a first-time auction attendee. She says it can be quite strange to buy something at auction, given that we’re more accustomed to going into a shop and selecting and buying what we want. Here, though, you have the element of competition. For people who are very competitive it can be a real thrill, and for people who the opposite, it can be quite scary. If it’s your first time, you should familiarise yourself with the environment. Turn up early and view the artwork in advance. You need to register as a buyer and get a numbered paddle in order to bid. And set yourself a limit. Then again, personally, I don’t think I have ever stuck to that rule. There’s a lot of maths to do: you’ve got the hammer price, and commission on top of that, so you need to do the sums in advance.”

Art auctions are also a good way of acquiring work by artists who would normally be well outwith your budget. Howson’s large oil paintings can sell in galleries for around £70,000, but at McTears last Sunday there was his Nude Basking in the Moonlight (lot 9), mixed media on black paper. Signed, too. The hammer price was £550.Not every work reached its reserve price, though, including Howson’s own Gallowgate Guest and Bellany’s Boats in Harbour. But there was spirited bidding for many other works, including Alexander Galt’s oil-on-board, Inverkip Beach (hammer price £800) and for Catriona Campbell’s oil-on-board, Setting Off for the Start (hammer price £1,500). Bellany’s The Lobster went for £4,000. The 10 works by Gerard Burns also excited interest from the room, the phone and the internet. One man two rows behind me purchased at least two of them. The first Burns work to go under the hammer, Red Flag, went for £3,100. I felt a pang of regret at having failed to register and get a numbered paddle when Avril Paton’s evocative watercolour, Headlights, came up. “Not a Glasgow tenement in sight,” declared Raskin Sharp from the rostrum. “I have a feeling this could be the Isle of Arran, and for this watercolour surely we’ll see £600.” Moments later it sold to a bidder in the hall for £550.

Her later stint on the rostrum included lot number 253, an acrylic-on-card by Damien Hirst, entitled Rocket. It sold for £4,000 to a female bidder in the room. All told, Sunday’s auction featured more than 300 works.

“Because you’re so alert on the rostrum, you clock every single movement,” she says when asked if it’s possible to make an inadvertent bid by scratching your ear. “Now, you don’t clock every single one of the bids, but you just happen to notice [people’s movements]. Woe betide if someone should actually pick their nose, because you will just see it a mile off. But someone will scratch their nose, someone will scratch their arm, someone will raise an eyebrow. You get to a certain point where you realise they are not bidding, but - and this always makes me laugh - I’ve got to a point where I never tease them about it, because people would obviously get embarrassed. But so often you’re sitting in a saleroom where you’re surrounded by the paintings, and someone might suddenly say to a friend, ‘That’s the one I like, what do you think of it?’, and they’ll point to a painting, just when you’re in the middle of a bid.” She laughs. “I can figure out quite quickly whether or not they’re bidding, but I do think to myself, ‘What are you doing, man?’”