Monday, 27 August 2012

Oil Painting 35 - Birmingham watches the Olympics

One of the downsides of trying to live without a television on board a narrowboat is when a once in a lifetime event comes along, like the Olympics in your home country, everyone begins talking about it, and you do not have the means to participate.

Imagine our delight then, when we moored up in central Birmingham to find within strolling distance, an epic television bigger than those in even our richest friend's lounges, seating, and even a ready made atmospheric crowd of spectators. Couple that with relaxed 14 day moorings in a secure marina with good facilities and you have an unforgettable few weeks in Britain's second city.

This painting started out life as a quick watercolour sketch from the other side of the floozy in the gacuzzi.

I quickly realised this square had enormous potential in subject matter - iconically Birmingham, colourful flags, beautiful buildings, sweeping curves of the cascading steps and fountain, crowds that were going to be there day in day out for over a fortnight, a pretty complicated multi-leveled space to depict and a ready made plinth to stand upon and be admired producing a painting.

My 'plinth' was the base to the sphnix statue - the statue is a great compositinal device itself relaxedly watching the BBC Big Screen 

Cue purchasing as big a canvas as I could fit through the hatch of the boat, and spending days watching the London 2012 Olympics unfold, whilst chatting with hundreds of people and building up as fine a painting as I have produced.

I like how the 'Year of the Boat' has stumbled across the Olympics, after the nightmare of getting to the capital to paint the flotilla I had written off the Olympics but was over the moon when this project naturally crossed paths. I was able to relax into the Olympics, watch event after event and still be able to do my work.

What is interesting with these crowd paintings is picking out the colour differences between them, my V Festival paintings have a quite a orangey fake tan feel to them, with lots of legs, hot-pants and pink wellies on show, the Stoke football paintings I have done have the iconic red and white striped shirts and the flotilla had the raincoats, umbrellas and union jacks.

Crowd painting at the flotilla - rain macs, brollies and union jacks

This crowd was different once again and actually changed halfway through; it began with a summery coloured crowd sitting amongst the bright colours of the 2012 Olympic branding but then took on another dimension when the event 'Jamaica in the Square' was set up and took place during the course of me producing the painting.

The star of the painting - this lad takes centre stage looking at us from the bottom of the painting

At its peak, there was the Jamaica flag raised in the square in front of thousands of people dressed in or waving the green yellow and black flags. The event was celebrating the 50 years of Jamaican Independence and was another fascinating experience to add to the trip. You can imagine the crowds reaction when Usain Bolt and Blake thanked Birmingham for being such good hosts to their athletic team after Jamaica blew away any competition in the 200m final! Birmingham was Buzzing. We were really lucky to arrive when we did.

As well as the flashes of green, yellow and black the Jamaican Independence Event also changed the scene in another way- the blue smoke from the food stalls cooking up Jerk Chicken and Curried Goat added real atmosphere and distance to the City Hall building at the back. Aerial perspective I think is the technical term.

Our friend Gemma pointing to her little self watching the Olympics

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