Thing thing that made me sad about watching this episode is that I didn't get to be part of it. The body, the human form and movement are my strongest skills. I absolutely adore looking and drawing the human body. They're a set of challenges I think I would have done well at. If only Blenheim Palace had come afterwards, not before I'd had a chance to prove myself more..........
Tough challenges though. The human body is fabulous - all curves and colours where sometimes you don't expect them. Very classical poses, with the spear and loin cloth. It would have been great to get my teeth into drawing those lovely muscle shapes, the curved back, shapely calves, sinewy veins, making sure the head was in proportion, getting the foreshortening on the arm holding the spear correct. A 2/3rds pose allowing a little zooming in to focus on skin colour would have been great.
I thought they all did pretty well, especially as I know some of they guys struggle with figures. I love the fact that Amy chose inks to use and Anne used watercolour, layering her colours up. I liked Claire's painting, even though her model did end up with one very large leg (how did that get past you, Claire?). And.... I just noticed that Claire paints left handed - that might be the reason why she makes those lovely indiosyncratic marks. I liked Anthea's too, even though the head was a bit big. I thought it looked very tribal.
The human form in movement - that's really challenging. Exciting though! With this kind of drawing you need to sit back and observe first before starting to put anything down on paper. Look for the rythmn, look for the repetition and decide how you're going to capture it on paper. Not easy to do. Definitely not easy to do when you're being interviewed and have to stop what you're doing to talk to a presenter (which also breaks your concentration). It would have been nice to see Lachlan sketching a moving person in his 'how to' section, rather than just a balloon though......
I used to do fashion illustration classes a few years ago, where the models sometimes moved, or at least, only held a pose for a few seconds before changing again. I loved it. It's amazing what beautiful (and accurate) lines you can capture on paper when you're really concentrating. Personally, I always found I needed a warm up, something you don't get time to do on the BPC. I've also sketched models coming down the catwalk. There you really do have to co-ordinate your hand and eye quickly, capturing the look and detail of the garment as accurately as you can so you can convey it to the head of your design team afterwards.I thought they all did well considering the circumstances and I have to say I thought Anthea's was really very nice, even though it did get pretty knocked by the judges. I certainly didn't think it was worse than anyone elses.
The flamenco challenge - wow, a difficult one. To capture the movement, the sexiness, get the proprotions right, the colour, convey the feeling...... I thought it was very brave of Amy to start her work again with only a short while to go and it definitely looked better the 2nd time around with some great twisting movements and I love the way she put her colour down in heavy strokes. I thought Paul's worked really well as it had a very sensual feel to it, whereas Claire's had lots of energy. I think keeping things like facial details to a minimum so you focus on what the body is doing would have been really important. Perhaps that was part of Anthea's downfall on that challenge - the details in the faces were distracting. I loved the intense colours of Richard's which I think echos the way he paints and I thought Anne's figure placements.
They all worked really hard and it was so sad to see Anthea go (although I already knew she had come out in that round). It was strange watching them on tv and wondering what it would have been like to be part of it, sweating over the challenges, getting nervous, getting bored in the long breaks between filming and larking about, eating too many sugary snacks......
I had been out myself for a week by then and missed them all so so badly.
So that's episode 5 done. Only one left to go. Time seems to be speeding up and the programme feels like it's whizzing by. In an blink of an eye it will all be over. I feel sad about that. I'm enjoying watching it on the tv. It is strange to not be included as a painter, but we're all so connected now, good friends, still with a common goal which is our forthcoming exhibiton. I want it to go on a little bit longer. I'd like there to be more challenges and I'd like to join in again! I'd even paint some architecture!!!
I've never had the chance to visit Liverpool yet. I know it won the title, City of Culture a few years back. From what I saw of it on the programme, it looks like a very bustling vibrant city.
I thought the first challenge was great - painting an urban scene - and it was lovely to see that everyone chose a different angle to work from. I thought Claire's geometric abstract approach to painting the shopping centre was a very bold and refreshing. It's certaily not a subject I would have tackled. I hate shopping centres at the best of times. All that concrete leaves me cold. I really liked Richard's choice - the 2 converging streets and thought the way he painted it was very lowry-esque and very different from his usual painting style. Anne's choice of the park didn't have such an 'urban' feel, maybe because the focus was the band stand. I've not seen the park so I don't know if there was a different view point that would have fulfilled the brief a bit better. However she tells me it was one of the places they were encouraged to consider, so it seems a bit of a shame that she ended up being marked down for chosing it. Over all though, I thought all the finished pieces were pretty good. I think if I'd been there I would have gone for either the street scene that Richard worked on or the pub which looked like it was in the middle of barren urban land.
The quick draw - well I have to admit I'm glad I didn't have to tackle that. It definitely would have been another Blenheim Palace! Mind you, having tackled a tricky building once, I probably would have been a bit more selective in my choice of area to focus on. Anyway, well done guys. Not an easy thing to tackle in 30 mins with a film crew peering over your shoulder...... All those fiddly bits and all that perspective!
The last challenge, the view across the mersey, well I have to say I loved each painting they created. I've never tackled anything like that before and I'm sure it's not easy to deal with a vast amount of ever changing sky and a vast amount of water, so I take my hat off to them for doing it (a big yellow vintage hat obviously!). Paul's fauve-y colourful approach reminded me of his style of painting from the very first episode - lots of colour and expression going on the canvas. I really liked Claire's - there was a very subtle beauty about it and her mark making and soft tones were very evident. I think Claire's style is definitely becoming more confident with everything she does. Richard's was really atmospheric. Anne approached hers with her trademark bold ground and I thought it was brave of her to include the ferry which she would have had to have painted very quickly. And I like Amy's which was blocky and bold and very Amy.
And then there were 4! Sad to see Anne leave, but as with Anthea, I knew her time was up then. It's hard being eliminated, particularly when it can hang on how you perform on that day and that day could be an off day for you.
So...... 2 days to go till the winner is announced. My lips are sealed!
It's the wierdest thing, knowing when you're going to be eliminated from a competition when no one else does and not being able to say anything.
So many people said they were rooting for me, that they liked my painting and knew I would make it to the final. Knowing they were wrong and that they were going to watch me be eliminated at the end of the 3rd week was so hard. I felt like I was letting a lot of people down.
As always, we had no idea where we were going to be taken for the 3rd set of challenges. We knew we were painting a still life because we had the task of putting it together beforehand. The brief was to create a still life comprised of personal objects that had some kind of meaning to yourself. Now I have lots of 'stuff' but most of it is books and art equipment and music, with a few bits and bobs of jewellery that belonged to both my grandmothers. Working in fashion for over 20 years meant I also had a wardrobe bursting with clothes. I racked my brains for a few days trying to figure out what I could put in a still life that would be interesting to paint and tell a story about me.
I live close to a pebble beach, but didn't want to paint things like shells - I thought it might come across as a bit twee. I didn't want to go for obvious fashiony things like a tape measure or a book on sewing. The things that matter to me at the end of the day are my family but I don't have much in the way of heirlooms. I gathered together a few bits and pieces to play with in an attempt to make a story. A piece of embroidered textiles, my mum's old wedding ring, my grandmother Louise's watch, my grandmother Kitty's necklace. I thought these might be good. There was an immediate link - family through the female line - all strong women. Grandmother Kitty's necklace was a Leo necklace and we were both Leo's. Grandmother Lou's watch was broken and my timekeeping is pretty slapdash so I thought that was quite appropriate. A wedding ring refers to infinity, a watch refers to the passing of time, so time meets time. Perfect! I wanted to reference my life in fashion but didn't want to paint clothing. I love vintage fashion and collect pieces when I can, so I figured a crumbling embroidered silk shawl from the 1920's would be great. A clear reference to my work and my love of colour and texture and again the passing of time. That little pile wasn't enough. I looked around my flat and saw my vintage hat. A fabulous mustardy yellow colour pot style hat from the early 60's. The early 60's was when I was born, so that went into the mix. The last thing I added was a tube of paint in reference to my love of painting and my move away from fashion and into a future that I hoped would be painting. I worked on multiple ways of displaying it all, knowing it had to fit onto a small surface, until I was happy with the layout.
None of us ever had any idea what the quick draw would be, but I love drawing so had no qualms about it.
The last challenge we knew would be some kind of building of architectural interest but absolutely no idea what building or where in the country it would be. If I'd had any idea at all it was going to be Blenheim Palace I would have syked myself up big time! Only two days before leaving for the challenge did we know we were going to Oxford and only the day of arrival at our destination did we know we were going to Blenheim Palace.
The still life challenge took place in the Orangery. What a beautiful place. Fabulous gardens outside with manicured hedges and statues. The tables for our still life were quite low down, so my view point was much lower than I had planned. Instead of looking at the items, I was now looking down on them. Still, generally I was happy and looking forward to making a start. We were using acrylic to paint. I'd used that in the first challenge for the first time and once I'd gotten to grips with it had quite enjoyed it. I knew I had to work faster in order to get all the details in and the shadows. Lack of shadow had been pointed out in my previous challenges, so I knew this was something I need to address. My initial sketch on canvas was very good, very accurate. Unfortunately it was too low down, so I rubbed it all out and started again, determined to have a better composition. The 2nd drawing wasn't quite as accurate but I figured I could amend that when painting. I worked hard, as we all did. My colour mixing was good. I was going great guns, but as always, time slipped away and when time was up I hadn't managed to get in all my shadow. However when I looked at it I could see it was pretty accurate, full of colour, quite well painted. Most of the others had finished, except for Anne who hadn't finished her tablecloth background. Richard's painting was extraordinary - beautifully painted - and Paul's looked fabulous. He had been practising, he said, and it showed.
I was a bit startled to be called up first for the judging. Usually I'm at the back of the queue. I explained again the idea behind my painting and that I'd run out of time so the shadows weren't all there, but that I was aware of that. I really wasn't expecting what followed. My work was totally torn to shreds! Lachlan said the colour was good, but then proceeded to tear into the subject matter, ranting about how much he hated the hat. Daphne's comments weren't much better - that no one would know what it was about from looking at the picture, which was maddening as that really applied to most people, which when it came to their turn, was considered not a problem.. I was so gobsmacked I said nothing (unusual for me) and just took my painting away.
The quick draw turned out to be drawing giant chess pieces on a chequerboard on a lawn at the back of the house. I found the subject matter dull. But it was all about perspective and that is a good challenge, so once we started I chose my area to draw and threw myself into it. I draw quite fast, so when the perspective was a bit off I had plenty of time to correct it. Overall I did well, although I acknowledged that my white chess piece looked too grey, not white enough.
The last challenge took place very late the next day. I'd had no sleep at all and felt absolutely wretched. I tried getting a little sleep on the floor of the room we used for hanging around in, but I just couldn't. Blenheim is a beautiful place, with fountains and greenery and statues. The front is very grand with multiple columns and windows and very little else. I prayed that we would not have to paint the front. Of course, that's exactly what we had to paint!
As usual, we were given our spot to sit in, so no chance to find a view that appealed. Just paint what's in front. From the moment I sat in front of it I knew I hated it. To me, it was imposing but not beautiful. It was just stone, stone and more stone, with statues (stone), windows, forecourt (stone) and sky. It was a daunting task that never stopped being daunting. It thoroughly intimidated me and I hated it even more because of that. I craned my neck for a better viewpoint to no avail. Nevertheless I threw myself into it. I started with acrylic, planning to finish with oils. I painted a ground colour and plotted the building out in pencil and then started painting. To begin with it wasn't too bad, but as time when on the tiredness I felt was becoming overwhelming and at some point I lost where I was. I almost gave up and asked for another canvas. I toyed with the idea of doing it in watercolour because at least then I could draw it in pen and just add a wash of colour, but when I'm that tired I find it hard to think clearly, so I carried on, painting away and feeling like I was getting nowhere fast. Eventually I began to crumble. I'd had enough. It wasn't working. I hated everything about it. I was totally overtired and emotional and just wanted to stop. I couldn't fix what was wrong and no longer wanted to. When time was called I felt distraught. I had failed to achieve what I thought was a good painting and was frustrated and burst into tears. I felt the judges would rip it to shreds.
I don't remember now all of what they said, except for Lachlan commenting that I'd had a lovely cornflower blue sky which he was disappointed to find I'd painted over with oils in a duller blue, but the sky hadn't been cornflower blue, that had been just a base I put down to work on, so the finished sky in my painting was truer to what had been in front of me. I found that confusing . The other most notable comment was that Lachlan said, when you have a bad painting day, just throw it away and don't get upset. That was it really. No rant. The finished painting didn't look so bad. Some of the others said they liked it and that I was getting upset over nothing. Still, I had a strong feeling in my bones that I was going to be eliminated. I said as much when we were waiting for the deliberation to be over. And sure enough, it was my name and Alison's name that were called. And then it was all over.
We were whisked off for a debrief before being taken for dinner and then we met the other guys for a drink in the hotel bar and breakfast the next day before going home again. I called my partner Matt and told him the news. I think he was glad just to have me back home again and found the whole thing a little cynical. I wasn't sad, which surprised me. I wanted to sleep. I had no job and needed to find work. But, over the course of the next week I found I missed the rest of the gang enormously. It was like having an arm removed. I hated being separated from them and not being there having a whinge about the latest challenge and larking around between filming. They had become a sort of second family. And we're still attached to this day............
Goodness, so behind with the blog! My apologies.
All 10 of us artists from The Big Painting Challenge are having a group show in London 2 weeks after the programme has finished airing. I've been a major organiser of this and it's taken up huge amounts of time. I've never organised a show before for myself, let alone for 10 people. Talk about steep learning curve! I've also discovered that getting 10 people to comment on or agree on something is easier said than done..... I'm definitely becoming much more skilled in negotiation techniques.
Anyway, I'm going to back track a bit to the third episode of The Big Painting Challenge, now called BPC for short, which was an episode on still life and architectural painting........
Oh my god! I have just watched gogglebox with Matt and my friend Sabrina. Now can I just say that it's not something I watch very often. Usually I watch it when channel surfing and there's nothing else on. I've definitely never watched it with Matt before but we knew they were going to be 'reviewing' (I use that term loosely) The Big Painting Challenge. I figured it was one to watch.
What I didn't expect was my portrait of Pam/Pat to be flashed up onto the screen. One of the guys shrieked really loudly when he saw it. I don't blame him - it is quite scary. I have to say I thought the whole thing was hysterical and laughed as loudly as that man shrieked. But now I feel I really must make a point - HER EYES ARE NOT TOO NARROW!!! Here, judge for yourself..........
Well, that's the 2nd episode of the Big Painting Challenge done and dusted! I definitely felt nervous before the programme aired. There's so much edited out you just don't know what's going to end up on screen. I'm getting used to seeing my face on telly and I'm amazed at how calm I look, bearing in mind that I was feeling as sick as anything that day. Is that the magic of tv?
Painting a selfie is hard. Looking at yourself in a mirror for 3 hours is not the most comfortable experience. I'd rather study someone elses face than my own. I've sat for many portrait classes and people always make my features huge, quite often they take over my face. I found myself doing the same thing. I guess it's because I've got strong features but the trick I think is to minimise them a bit. Anyway, keeping your head in the same position's not easy either. When you have to look at the canvas to paint you need to remember to have your head back in the exact same position when you turn back to the mirror or your finished piece will be all over the place.
I wasn't at all pleased with my self portrait, though people tell me they like it. It was rather flat, missing shadow down the right side of the face. Daphne liked it (I'm loving Daphne at this point) although she did comment on the lack of shadow, Lachlan picked fault with my high forehead. I hoped the next 2 challenges would be much better.
It's a bit weird being cooped up in a London warehouse all day, which is where we were for the entire duration of filming. Bare creaky floorboards, raining outside at times, lunch warming in hot plates at the side of the room and tons of sugary snacks and coffee. We were all getting a bit skittish, mucking about with plastic cups, playing games, taking the mickey out of the film crew, singing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, linking arms and doing funny walks. You bond really quickly when you're in that kind of situation and we had fast become a group of friends as opposed to competitors. You stop wanting anyone to be eliminated. You all want to be in, but you know in reality someone has to go and you just don't want it to be you. We missed Melvyn. At that point we had no idea that Jan would be the next to go. He's a big guy with huge hands and a warm heart. I told him he would be good at massage because he has really fat fingers. What I really meant was strong fingers, but it came out wrong and I've not been allowed to forget it since! Amy stood on the table and recited a poem, The Man in the Arena, by Theodore Roosevelt............."there is no effort without error or shortcoming......and if he fails, he at least fails while daring greatly......" A fantastic speech. If you don't know it I encourage you to look it up.
I loved the quick draw challenge. Life drawing is totally my thing. I was completely in my comfort zone and finished in half the time.
The last portrait of the day - the celebrity portrait. We had no idea who it was going to be and then there she was, Pam St Clement, aka Pat Butcher from Eastenders. We weren't allowed to talk to her until after the sitting was over. She's very nice, very well spoken and attractive. However that's not the Pam that came out in my painting. The Pam in my painting was much more the scary Pat Butcher. There was a real ferociousness about her.
It was a really challenging session. She sat much further away than you would normally sit a person whose portrait you're painting. I'm at a bit of a loss, painting skin when I can't see the tones properly and, although in reality I'm sure her skin is beautiful it was hidden under layers of foundation and I struggled with it really. I can paint an enhanced version of what I see, but I can't just make it up, and this was a time when I really needed to 'make it up'. My finished portrait was very different from what I would normally paint and Pam commented that she didn't like the way I had painted her eyes. She said they were too narrow. Lachlan made the same comment. Actually the eyes were accurate. I measured them very carefully. Daphne said she really quite liked the painting (good old Daphne!) That's good praise coming from her. Shame that bit didn't make it onto tv.........
My partner, Matt, now refers to me as The Tortoise. This is thanks to a write-up in Artists & Illustrators Magazine who say I am "one to watch" (I'm talking about the Big Painting Challenge here, obviously) and "only time will tell if this tortoise will win the race". Now, whenever I call him on the phone his opening line is "Is that The Tortoise?". He teases me a lot, but I don't mind.
I've spoken to family and friends who all say they're really proud of how I did in the first episode and I'm really glad. I was a bit worried that some of them would find it all a bit cringey, me being on tv in another bake-off style programme, but they don't. I've had so many positive comments and compliments about what I did, especially the painting of the bust.
Midweek I met with a new friend called Diarmuid, someone I met recently at a birthday party, who is a well respected painter with work in the NPG. I'm a bit in awe of him I think. Well, who wouldn't be in my position, the 'amateur painter' who at the end of the day would really like to be him! He got the programme time of the first episode wrong and ended up watching it on mute while he worked out at the gym. As he doesn't have catch up it will only ever be a silent episode. Still he also loved 'the bust' and was very encouraging. He's pointed me in the direction of a painter called Harold Gilman who was one of the Camden Town Group and used a lot of expressive colour in his paintings. I've goggled him and fallen in love with all his paintings. My eye has a tendency to heighten colour. When I study someone's skin tone I start to see all sorts of wonderful colours which affects what I put down on the canvas. Looking at Harold Gilmans paintings makes me feel at ease with my own use of colour.
So tonight! Episode 2!!! I'm nervous. I've no idea what to expect. I saw a preview of episode 1 at BAFTA in Piccadilly a few days before it aired, but I've not even seen a trailer of episode 2. I've no way of telling how my painting will come across. Editing can make such a difference - there's so much more that happened than will ever make it onto the screen. I'm sure when I watch it lots of memories will come flooding back. For now, what I remember most of all is the overwhelming tiredness. Insomnia had kicked in and I had barely managed 3 hours sleep. When I went to take on the first painting challenge I felt hideously nauseous and seriously considered not doing it. But I had come too far to give up that easily and I figured that if I could hold it together for long enough adrenalin would kick in..........and it did!