Still life challenge
I had a bit of a career crisis in my mid forties (who doesn't!) which felt like a gradual awakening from a dream where you feel like you are wading through treacle, trying to escape from impending doom! Fashion! It's great! When you are young, carefree, and quite frankly don't give a shit about the planet, or half the people who live on it. Let's face it - it's great to cheer you up on a Monday morning when you see someone hobbling into work in the latest crippling shoe design, or wearing a wacky item of clothing. But I was in management towards the end of my career, and saw all too well how the industry railed against every principle I had come to hold dear. Screwing the factory for one more penny, knowing that would have an impact on the employees; shouting on an email about how unacceptable it was that a shipment was late! Who cares about a sodding Tsunami! Not the shareholders in head office that's for sure!
So, disheartened and disillusioned by the corporate aspect of my life long career, I went back to being hands on. The sewing machine came out and Alison's Wonderland was born. I made clocks, bags, doorstops, chalkboards, decorated flower pots, made jewellery and sold them at craft fairs and via my website (which I designed and set up too).
The first painting I did in oils was my cockerel 'Marmaduke'. It was the turning point for me. I posted the painting online and immediately got my first commission, an Antiguan Sunset. From there, my second commission, Bamburgh Castle, and then dogs and horses. I never looked back.
So getting back to my Still Life, the ceramic chicken was for me, a symbol of getting back to nature, my role as a mother, and it is a container for one of lives mysteries - the egg! The birth of something new! The tape measure signified my journey, and I focussed on certain numbers on it - the ages that I made life changing decisions. The paint brush - my new found purpose, and the green ghost! They didn't like that did they? The little green ghost was given to me by my lifelong friend Lorraine Pickles. I wanted something to symbolise what friendship and support was to me - and that reflected my sense of humour and fun. Something that showed that art is about getting back to reality, recognising the joy in everyday things, and events, having fun (you're only here once!). Mmmm, if I could work that into a painting and poke fun at the snobbery of art without anyone being offended then great! I arranged the objects so that it looked a bit like Alton Towers does The Archers…the little green ghost was going to slide down the paintbrush onto the back of the chicken…Weeeeee!
The first Challenge of week 3 in the competition was a disaster for me. That plus the fact that I was missing my daughters birthday to be there - I was an emotional wreck by the time we got to sit and draw giant chess pieces on the lawns of Blenheim Palace!
QUICK DRAW CHALLENGE
I love the quick draw challenges - getting your eye in early is the key to it - and really looking at the relationships between objects in terms of position and how they relate tonally.
I saw that with about 5 minutes to go, my relationship between my chess piece and the checks on the board were wrong! I quickly made an attempt to alter it and kept my fingers crossed. You really never knew if it was going to be picked on for being wrong, or praised for an attempt to get it right! Luckily Daphne plumped for the latter approach and gave me a good critique - but in hindsight she was probably being kind, and trying to allow me to leave with at least half a feather in my cap.
BLENHEIM PALACE - CAPTURING THE DRAMA
The artists by now were all tired, but excited by our last challenge of the day. We knew it was going to involve the amazing Blenheim Palace but had no idea what they had in mind. So as we were led through the archway into the area where we would sit, with the enormous gates and landscape behind us, and in front the architectural splendour (nightmare) of the Palace itself. We had specific places to sit, and I was right in the middle. The first thing that struck me was the sweep up to the Palace and the symmetry of the building, the orangey yellow sandstone and the intricate detail in the mouldings, statues and shapes. This was going to be a massive challenge. I could have chosen to pick out one area, but that for me wasn't what Blenheim was about. It was that view of the splendiferous facade that struck me and that was what I was going to paint - even if it killed me! I wanted the drama to be in the sweep through the foreground, which I wanted to take up 2/3rds of the painting, to the building itself. That was my first mistake - If that was what I had intended, then nothing could have been further from the truth in the final piece. I should have paid more attention to the time and allotted more than 5 minutes to that area of the painting! I wanted the reality of that first view of the palace to be reflected in my painting. Not a tower, or an arch - the whole thing! My second mistake! I got so bogged down in how one window sat next to the one next to that and the one below that and so on, that after about an hour I had lost the will to live! At one point the Duke of Marlborough (RIP) came out to see how we were doing. I asked him (respectfully) how his window cleaner coped with all the windows. His reply was to ask our producer "Where on earth did you got these people from". Well at least he was honest! Hahaha!
I hope that if you have managed to watch The Big Painting Challenge, you have enjoyed my participation in it. I am back in my studio getting ready for a very exciting joint exhibition with the other contestants, and I will tell you more about that very soon.
Next week, I will be watching from my sofa, with a big glass of wine in my hand and an objective view of everyones response to the challenges set before them!