Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Big Painting Challenge Series Two Week Three

I came into this programme following the startling revelation that my Wednesday night SERC tutor Mary Doran once had Jennifer as a student! I’ll say nothing more on this staggering confession, save that I am off to get some hair extensions to use in a painting tomorrow. 
The Pretty Flamingos - that aren't pink!
Whipsnade Zoo in Dunstable, Bedfordshire is one of Europe’s largest wildlife conservation parks and home to nearly 3,000 animals, many of which are endangered in the wild. The artists were lined up to paint pretty pink flamingos and large plodding greyish elephants, eight hours of animal portraiture ‘en plein air’ and in weather more suited to painting than that endured in Hastings last week. No animal is ever going to model for an artist so I’m not sure why David was getting frustrated at them turning their back on him.

Ruaridh got the colour wrong and they were fairly flat!
The two hour task was to draw a flock of flamingos milling around in their pond. These iconic and oddly shaped birds stand on tall, bald, stilted legs with knees that bend backwards with every step taken. The artist’s task was to give the birds a sense of life, and through observation draw them accurately in terms of shape, colour and if in a group picture, composition. Where did the cliché pink flamingo colour come from? They definitely appeared more orange on my television so an artist should never ever assume colour! The eight made their customary pencil sketches that probably didn’t stand up to much critical anatomical scrutiny and then set to work on their finished piece.
Jennifer just about got everything wrong!
I was disappointed in most of their efforts. Jennifer really hasn’t a clue how to observe, compose or sell a picture – the craic is apparently that me, the judges and most of the UK can’t see what Jennifer is seeing. Alan works too flat and wooden while David appears scared to leave his comfort zone and is merely content to keep the judges happy. Suman and Ruaridh did OK and I am warming to Angela yet again!

It was interesting that Daphne contradicted her fellow judge David twice in the judging of the flamingo round. Makes me wonder again why a third judge is needed, particularly someone who hasn’t the same professional painting pedigree as Daphne and Lachlan.

The Elephants
Before tackling the Elephant Showstopper Pascal led them in an observation exercise – 90% looking and 10% painting which in this case meant sixty seconds looking and only seven seconds making quick descriptive brush marks of an elephant. Suman starts off the most confident composing a baby elephant large scale on her canvas. It’s clear she knows what she wants to achieve. Ruaridh and David are both unhappy with their first offering and start a second one while Camilla cops out and paints an elephant’s arse with her palette knife! Angela’s is looking rather twee because she’s painting too many small, undetailed and insipid elephants. Less is definitely more! Jennifer is doing what she does best! Hair extensions, paint splattered randomly on the canvas and moved around trying to make something out of her ‘observation’. And I can see what she’s trying to achieve once she explains what’s what… but it’s not clearly recognisable as a lumbering elephant. Not yet anyway!

Choose the Pascal inspired one on the left David – or your own! 
Pascal calls David’s canvas busting elephant a masterpiece but none of the judges agree, which calls into question Pascal’s mentoring input. If I were David I would tune Pascal’s voice out. It’s clearly at odds with his own (and mine). And no you wouldn’t see it in the Saatchi Gallery Camilla! Wise the bap! Ruaridh also followed Pascal’s advice and he too got less than complimentary words from the judges. Camilla’s three legged elephant didn’t get any rave reviews, nor did Angela’s wimpy effort nor Jimmy or Alan’s. I got to say I love Jennifer’s final canvas - the trunk and the eye were brilliant – easily the best she has produced so far but it’s not in the same league as Suman’s who offered us the best painting in the series so far. The judges agree with me as did the immunity panel made up from zoo workers who give Suman a quick-pass to next week. Well done! Jennifer must have been close to a hat trick!

Suman's winning canvas
Camilla was asked to leave the process as Daphne considered her naive and unable to move on to the next level. This competition is as much about development as ability, and you can see the evolution and a willingness to learn in several of the painters (Angela and Ruaridh). Some are more stuck in a rut (David, Alan and Jimmy) while Jennifer with a bit of skilled drawing application could improve dramatically.

Jennifer's best painting of the series so far!
Next week is portraiture. I see Angela Rippon is a sitter. Getting a likeness will be a real test for some of these artists. 

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