Monday, June 4, 2012

Diamond Jubilee River Pageant

Me on the Millennium Bridge, painting the crowds before the boats came

Let me tell you all about yesterday!! I know that most of you watched proceedings on tv and saw for yourself how beautiful the boats were, and the amazing atmosphere with the crowds lining the river bank waving their flags! And the weather... hmm. Not exactly what you'd expect in June (British summertime, no?) and not exactly Pimms and strawberries weather!
There were twenty artists chosen by the BBC to paint the event, unfortunately they couldn't take any more than that so we all felt very special to be chosen.
We assembled and met the tv crew at about 10am and then spent the next two hours huddled around a table in the Tate Modern cafe, while the rain poured down outside! It was so great to meet some new painter faces! The only person I knew previously was the amazing David Pilgrim AROI.
When we went out to the bridge the rain had eased off and our half size french box easels had been assembled and lined up. We were allocated places and then we had a little shuffling around as some of us wanted to paint the boats coming towards us and others preferred the view on the other side of the bridge, looking towards Tower bridge.
David and I had a problem straightaway with the easels as they couldn't hold a canvas or board any shorter than 35 centimetres! If you look at the photo above you'll see the masking tape at the top of my board holding it on!
This was such a surprise to me as most plein air painters paint on a small scale in order to work quickly before the scene changes too much!
Having said that though, some of the artists on the bridge had enormous canvasses to work on! One guy had half a door! The lovely lady next to me, Gillian Burrows, was painting on her iPad!
There were others using oils, acrylics, watercolours, pen and ink and gouache. Quite a variety!
Everyone got cracking straightaway. The atmosphere was fantastic! I could hear the BBC coverage playing from a big screen somewhere nearby but couldn't see it. There was a lovely smokey smell from some food being cooked outside that was making me feel hungry!
I decided to get a painting done of the crowd lining the river and have a little practice painting the bridge, before the boats reached us. This is it, exactly as painted on the bridge and relatively unscathed by the journey back...

Crowds lining the river, waiting for the Pageant to start
At that point, the Pageant had begun although it would still be a little while before we would see the boats and so I started my Pageant painting. I decided to look towards the other side of the river as the buildings over there made for a more interesting skyline, such as the Post Office tower which is apparently called the BT tower now. The crowds got livelier as I painted in the bridge and the buildings in the distance and sky. Then we saw the boats coming under the Blackfriars bridge. When the boats came, they were in groups. For example the rowing boats were first, led by the beautiful Gloriana.
I had to work fast! The drizzle turned to rain which got heavier and heavier. My Jullian umbrella (possibly the best painting accessory of all now!) was worth it's weight in gold that day!
The wind was also getting stronger, so I had to hold my umbrella the whole time I was painting, in case it flew away with my easel!
I didn't have time to take any photos!
I looked up, looked at one particular boat, tried to capture it's main shape and colours in my mind and then tried to place it on the river in my painting, using only a couple of brushstrokes. Repeated this method over and over again.
This is why my painting is a medley of boats from the different sections of the Pageant. I have the Gloriana, some rowing boats, the Royal Barge 'Spirit of Chartwell', a lifeboat, a narrowboat, a gondola (? not sure but it looked like a gondola to me!) and anything else that caught my eye!
The rain was coming in sideways and underneath my umbrella and my palette was getting wetter and wetter! The canvas was getting a fine spraying, and water was swirling around my feet!
Some of the artists started to leave as their work, anything on paper particularly, was suffering too much.
Easels started to fall over. I held my umbrella as close and as low as I could!
One of the crew asked me if I would do a piece to camera with Anneka about 'soldiering on', I said of course. Then my umbrella had to be lifted away from my painting for the cameras, and my canvas started getting really wet.
After the interview, I couldn't add much more despite my best attempts to dry the unpainted parts of my canvas with my sleeve! The oil paint just wouldn't stick because of the water - it was like wax resist, but in reverse!
Here's my painting now, completely untouched since I left the bridge -

The painting as I left the bridge!
You can see the difficulties I had with the paint with the nearest boats, and the red was running down from that disappearing red boat on the left!

This is the view from my umbrella!


I've decided I will work further on these paintings but only very little, as I'd hate to lose the spontaneity of the piece. That's what actually being there in person does for the painting, and it would be a travesty if it ended up looking as though I'd painted it in a nice cosy studio! I may try to do another more finished piece though, based on these ones.

Thought you might like to see the view on the bridge by about 5pm!

Another scene I'd like to paint!

Before I go I just want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who took the time this weekend to email or text, leave comments on my blog or Facebook or Twitter. You are so fantastic and it made me so happy reading them all on my way home on the train last night! :-)

34 comments:

  1. I loved, loved, loved, reading this wonderful account of your day. Your paintings are brilliant especially considering the weather conditions. Pat yourself on the back, my dear.
    I saw an interview on BBC America, with some of the artists on the bridge but you must have been at the other end. They were battling the wind too.
    The whole experience of watching the event was fabulous and I was so proud to know you were picked.

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  2. Brilliant post, Haidee-Jo and what a difficult task to undertake. Great memory for you, well done!

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  3. Helena MackevychJune 4, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    That's so interesting to read. We'll watch you on our sky box when we are at home. Well done! Love Helena. Xxx

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    1. Thank you Helena! Think I come on just after the three hour mark! xx

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  4. Fantastic! Loved the read and it's just wonderful!

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    1. Thanks Adebanji, I really wish you had been there too - you would have done a fantastic job x

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  5. A wonderful way to spend the day using your talent to the full on such a memorable occasion. Congratulations.

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    1. Thank you Gordon, hope you had a good jubilee party in Spain!

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  6. Absolutely fabulous! So wonderful to hear your personal experience while I have been seeing reports here on American tv. Your paintings are fantastic. Can't believe what you accomplished in that nasty weather. You're an inspiration!

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  7. Many congratulations Haidee! You pulled it off despite the dire weather conditions!! Such an achievement!! Well done.

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  8. I absolutely love these paintings, they capture the essence of what it means to be British......love it well done

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    1. How kind Lee, thank you. You mean how nutty we all are?!

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  9. Il est vrai que c'est dommage que la météo n'ait pas été merveilleuse. En revanche toutes mes félicitations pour ces adorables peintures. Vous avez beaucoup de talent.
    Gros bisous à vous.

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    1. Oui, quel dommage Martine! Merci beaucoup pour votre félicitations! Bisous

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  10. Great to meet you and your family on Sunday Haidee and really nice to see the paintings you did on the day.

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    1. You too Paul, and you did such a great job painting out there in the rain!! Has your canvas dried yet? How can I see your painting?

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    2. Yes, it has dried out now but will need a few little repairs where the paint didn't stick properly. I've posted it on my blog if you want to have a look along with a few photos of the day. http://paulalcock.blogspot.co.uk/

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  11. Well done Haidee, you did it! I bet the Beeb were very pleased they had selected you, you showed real spirit and determination to stick with it and produce some gorgeous paintings. They really convey the essence of the day, the immediacy and energy is obvious and give the work a vibrancy that would otherwise be missing under calm conditions. Will be searching for the clip on iplayer!

    congratulations, you should be very proud of yourself!

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    1. Thank you Nigel! If you're looking on iPlayer, I think I was just after the three hour mark. Look at my horrified face when Anneka started walking off with my umbrella.. well, my painting was getting soaked!

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  12. Well done Haidee - thanks for the photos - and that's an absolutely fabulous account and I'll be sending you lots of visitors to read it!

    I'm only sorry I missed you on the TV.

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    1. Oh thank you very much Katherine! If you want to see my moment of fame and can bear to flick through the lengthy footage on iplayer, I think I come on just after the three hour mark!

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    2. I found it - and it's now referenced in my blog post

      You're now featured in Paintings for the Diamond Jubilee along with David and a few others!

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  13. What a wonderful post. It made me feel so intimate with what was really going on! So much better than watching it on TV! And you are a real trooper! You should be very proud of yourself!

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    1. Thank you Nancy, love to share it with you! x

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  14. Thanks Haidee-Jo, for the wonderful story and the excitment at 2.30pm Australian time to see you painting on Australian TV. It made my day, beacauce you are a very specail artist with a big future. Your painting is wonderful as always. So happy for you that you are reaping the rewards of your talent.

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  15. I think you did a brilliant job - missed you on TV, and up until it rained, wished I was there too! Your post was a joy to read -I've added a link to this blog post on mine.

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    1. Thanks so much Angela, that's really kind! :-)

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  16. congratulations wonderful write up ..must have been quite a challenge love your painting of the boats haidee .

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    1. Thank you! Sorry for late reply, I must have missed your comment at the time!

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