Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Big Painting Challenge Week 4

As if the task wasn’t hard enough the artists were based in the intimidating atmosphere of Tate Britain and I am not even sure Judy would have had a little peep in to see what all the fuss was about. I don’t think she’d be a big fan of this ‘dumbed-down’ painting show.


The first challenge was to create a static still-life drawing of a semi-nude male life model. There were two of them who looked kinda jungle tribal especially with the spears in their hands and their brief attire. The judges Lachlan and Dorothy were looking for anatomically correct figures, accurate proportions and realistic flesh tones. The medium was up to the artist to choose.


I thought this was the easiest of the three tasks but the finished work suggested otherwise. None of the contestants got complimentary remarks and all because they made some fundamental errors.

Paul, whom I would rate as the most accomplished artist of the bunch bottled out of giving his model feet. He had the room to, unlike Claire and Anne who worked from top to bottom and suddenly discovered there wasn’t enough room to ground the poor man so their legs just got chopped off just above the ankles. Claire was also guilty of giving her model an enormous thigh while Anne thought hers should have a supersizeme head. Richard blotted his recent improvements by poor composition. He worked far too small in an effort to get the complete spear in. Amy fell down big time by giving her bloke a permatan and being poor generally.

They would all have been troubled by the scathing remarks of the judges to up their game! Their hearts must have dropped when told what the next task involved! 

Out skipped a rhythmic gymnast who danced her way through a series of moves with a long red ribbon that made circular, snake and spiral motions in the air behind her. 

The artists were to work in coloured pencil. I think Anthea expressed it best when she described this 30 minutes as torture. She had probably never come across this exercise at the art club she belonged to. 



 The secret was to discover the repeated gestures the gymnast made and draw the one they felt most comfortable with provided they could snapshoot it in their mind! Most of them made a decent fist of it. Claire in particular did an excellent drawing through her use of little marks and suggestions which conveyed the movement of both the gymnast and her ribbon. No wonder she was beaming afterwards. Paul also got commended for clever use of his orange and blue coloured pencils. Richard and Anne did rightly. The only black marks were reserved for Anthea whose effort was described as ‘wooden’ and Amy who got accused of ‘being self indulgent’. Both these remarks were justified.

Amy certainly drew without any reference to what was going on in front of her - it was just a series of representative swirls that didn’t really cut the mustard. She would have been disappointed and I guess she’s now plunged into the ‘going home’ zone with Anthea! Anne might have saved herself with her effort.


For the final drawing the six were taken to an unnamed London theatre to make sketches and notes for 30 minutes as three flamenco dancers put on a fast and furious routine. 

The artists had to capture the essence of what was happening, the wildness of the dance, the story of the two girls fighting over their strutting man and put it down on paper with soft chalk pastels.

Pastels!!!!! The said pastels! I don't believe it... pastels got a mention. For the first time in the series my favoured medium got a mention without the planets all crashing into each other! I was all eyes to see how they would get on.

I was interested in seeing what make of pastel they were using: Unison, Sennelier, Rembrandt or Schmincke but typically BBC they were anonymised. They returned to their Tate Britain studio to create a picture based on what they had observed. This would have been the first time they would have had to use their imagination to recall the dance they had just witnessed. The previous two tasks gave some idea who would do well, who would struggle and who learnt from their critique and in the main that’s how it turned out!

I would have thought the story of the dance and its passion, vibrancy and drama would have taken centre stage so it was poor that both Paul and Richard only dealt with one character while the four women answered the brief better and included at least two of the dancers. 

Amy, rapped on the knuckles by Dorothy previously, was struggling in this three hour round too. The television cut suggested she discarded her first painting with only 15-30 minutes left so she took quite a risk in starting again! Credit to her – this effort was much better and that gamble paid off as she really was one foot out the door. Hard to believe what she achieved in so little time so I have to question if the producers were making a drama out of nothing? She even got complimented on the corkscrew effect she gave the female’s waist and the strut of the pouting male!

Richard wished that he had the balls to have started again but then again he wasn’t on Amy’s sticky wicket! His painting was too pigmented, too static and  there was no idea his woman was in a dance off with another over a man! His forte has always been his storytelling ability so on this count he failed badly!

Claire whose piece is shown here excelled and for someone who probably had never used pastels before she did great. She does use very expressive short bursts of colour very well and she’s a cert for the final now. Can she win it? She’ll have to get past Paul first!

Paul like Richard came up short. His initial sketches were good but he just didn’t deliver on the main drawing. One rather static female dancer was not enough! He was the only one to include the ornate and smokey backdrop but that was window dressing and I’m sure he knew that he for the second time that day had bottled it.

Anne did OK. Like Paul, her initial sketches were probably better than her finished piece which she went on to overwork. I think she may be safe though as Anthea was heavily wounded in her critique when Dorothy called her effort a cartoon! Lachlan was only slightly more forgiving congratulating her for answering the brief of including all three participants! Anthea knew she was past her sell-by date and that indeed was how it turned out. 

That’s five left and next stop is Liverpool for a day down by the Mersey. Paul and Richard will probably be relieved that there will be very little figure drawing involved as this appears to be their weakest suite. Claire on the other hand will want to bring it on! 

Meanwhile one person still has to leave the process. I’m thinking it’s either Anne or Amy and I am not sure which one will miss out on the final!

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