Monday, 20 February 2017

The Big Painting Challenge Series Two Week Two

I painted ‘en plein air’ for a week in North Wales a long time ago and I loved it. From sitting on a grassy bank, sketchbook in hand drawing boats in Abersoch harbour and market trader stalls in Pwllheli to capturing life in a disused slate quarry near Nefyn in charcoal. We struck lucky that week as the weather was untypically warm for October. That’s why I felt sorry for these newbie ‘en plein air’ artists. They got clobbered with four seasons in one day weather down in Hastings. 

The refurbished Hastings Pier
I helped out on an RLSS photographic shoot in Hastings around ten years ago so I was fairly familiar with the location and the pier (prior to its refurbishment) though not from the side the artists drew it during the first two hour challenge. I wasn’t very excited with the view though I can see why it was chosen to explore scale, perspective and proportion.If this had been a cricket match, rain would have stopped play and the match abandoned but artists, their mentors and tv crew are made of sterner stuff and the Battle of Hastings had to go on however squalid the conditions, It was crazy stuff as the wind and rain was literally blowing the paint off the canvas so it was hard to make headway! Even Van Gogh would have given up and headed to the nearest cafĂ© and drawn the pier from their window or if no view some sunflowers on their table!!! He didn’t do any Wheat fields in a storm did he!

Jennifer's blitz
David's nuclear bomb
Hard to say who did best as none of them really stood out. Ruaridh captured a great sea and beach but his pier went missing in action. David’s effort looked like it had been hit by a nuclear bomb such was the radioactive colour scheme on the beach. Jennifer – well hers was less nuclear but still blitzed enough for me to believe the pier was destroyed by German fighter planes in WW2. She tried her best but my goodness she’s just not cutting the mustard!

I like it when the two mentors takes centre stage and demonstrate useful tips for the six hour Showstopper painting. Pascal got them practicing simple outline shapes with markers in different colours to represent different aspects of the landscape in front of them - beach, trees and buildings for example while Diana had her artists drawing at arm's length with a stick of charcoal on the end of a cane. Hmmm - not sure about that idea!

This was my favourite. I think Angela's captured Hastings best!
Showstopper time! The seafront of Hastings. Wow! There’s a lot to take in! Pascal’s lot are looking east and have the view I would prefer to have painted, while Diana’s drew the short straw – west! I don’t really get the point of six hours on the one scene especially when the sun (if there was one) and the shadows cast would have moved quite dramatically during that time period. Easier, drier, warmer and more comfortable to grab a few photographs, take them to a copy shop and get a few of the better ones printed up A3 size! Cost a few quid but hey you don’t get frustrated with the damned British weather. And stuff the purists who say otherwise! Interesting that the few artists I have seen demo and heard bleat on about the wonders of painting 'en plein air’ over painting from photographs have paintings on their websites that are 4x3 ratio - around that of a digital print! They're shameless bluffers!

Camilla's banana beach and crazy perspective
Back to dullsville Hastings before the mist rolls in off the sea and out again, and then before you can sing Y Viva Espana, turning almost Mediterranean sunny, but not as in David’s portrait painting of this Hastings seafront landscape. He and Pascal are often at odds with each other - it’s almost like David purposely disobeys the fine art, art school tutoring he’s given by Pascal and goes back to his own tried and tested impressionist style which in my book was wildly off the mark this time around. Camilla has a banana beach thing going on and it’s weird. She’s poor on perspective which is simply bad observation. She doesn’t plan her paintings – just crashes in with a large paintbrush and as I see it hopes for the best!
David and Suman's Showstopper canvasses
Suman interestingly works on a circular canvas – a view as through a porthole of a passing ship. I like it - works for me. Jimmy’s effort looks cartoonish but half decent! Alan and Angela's are at least recognisable as Hastings and the best of the bunch! Jennifer who is painting beside the rest of the group (yes, beside them) has a completely different view of Hastings - she’s more to the right – an awful, awful lot more to the right and she's bluffed this Showstopper with something more sea than land. It looks as if her canvas is painted from the front of a Club 18-30 banana boat speeding up the coastline! But the fine residents of Hastings give her immunity because it reminds them the most of their seaside town! What? Really? Honestly? You're having a laugh! You cannot be serious!  You're not! OK, BBC this joke is going on too long! For me Jennifer failed on a sense of place and composition but I’ll give her the sense of light and because one out of three ain’t bad (with apologies to Meat Loaf Ch1v4) she can stay this week.

Jennifer's madcap view of Hastings seafront which mostly ignored the buildings
Did Maud deserve to go? I think so. For me it was either her or Camilla who like David seems to spend most of her time annoying Pascal! It’s animals next week so that’ll test a few of the painters! I think Jennifer will have her hair extensions out again!

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