Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Private Commission - Hugo's Christening

The parents of baby Hugo had given up hope of having a child after no luck for 16 years. When he did arrive they wanted to create a special entrance to the world with a wonderful Christening and party set in their magnificent garden in Staffordshire. They had seen my 'Une petite Exposition' show earlier in the year in the Art Studio, Newcastle-under-Lyme and decided they would like for me to document the event.

We discussed what would be the main elements of the party, and chose a composition that would best describe the day. I had interesting 2 full preparation days painting in the garden setting, adding the marquee as it was erected, and the other furniture and details brought in for the party as they arrived in the garden, one particularly interesting addition was when Hugo's father mowed stripes on the lawn suddenly giving a real added depth to the piece with obvious lines describing distance to the previously flat green area of the lawn.

The painting after Day1

The painting after Day2 - notice the difference of stripes in the lawn and furniture 

This was one of the first few pieces I documented the process of, with the time lapse function on my iPad, and I am glad I did as the piece goes through many phases with new additions as the hosts prepared the setting over 3 days with bunting and flowers culminating in a brief section from the day of the party. Getting the iPad to film from a suitable position is proving difficult, and some of the angles in the time lapse video are confusing.

The party itself was a great success with glorious sunshine arriving just in time after the wettest June and July on record. In the time lapse video of the day you can see the guests arrive for the party and being represented on the canvas. It felt like designing and preparing a theatre set and then adding the actors on the day. This is an added positive to painting on location rather than translating a photograph as the piece has an organic history and many levels to explore. Another piece I produced that was similar to this in experience was 'The British Guild of Travel Writers dinner at Weston' oil painting. Again I started with the setting, this time the extraordinary dining room at Weston Park, then added, on the second visit, the preparation for the event i.e. the set table, and silverware, the lit candles, until finally the main subject arrives and I have 2 hours to depict the writers having their meal. The limited time, I feel, adding to the dynamism of the piece.

Back to Hugo's Christening, I am pleased with how the atmosphere of all forty guests at the garden party has translated to the brushwork. It was quite a spectacle for them, seeing an artist painting first and foremost, but also to see themselves appear in the form of a few loose brushstrokes gave a great talking point and form of entertainment. The final layer to the painting was the addition of the family sat in the foreground. This was started on the day but was finished with some studio work, as unfortunately Hugo did not seem at all content at his party, it is a shame but hopefully when he is shown the painting and photographs of the day he can feel proud of the effort his parents made to celebrate his arrival.

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