Pintar Rapido, Chelsea 2013

Oil painting of The Albert Memorial, London by Helen Davison

‘The Albert Memorial, London’. Oil on gesso, 30cm x 20cm

This is a rather belated post about Pintar Rapido, a plein air art event that I took part in last weekend.

You can read about it in more detail on the accompanying website. In a nutshell though, any artist interested in creating a painting in a day could register for £10 (with space for 400 artists on a first come, first serve basis). The event started on Saturday morning with participants taking their canvases (or other preferred supports) to Chelsea Town Hall for them to be stamped, ensuring the work was completed that day. Then, off to any location within the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to create a piece of art to be delivered back to the Town Hall by 8pm the same evening. Work was then hung overnight, and a one day exhibition opened on Sunday, where all work was for sale.

A quote from Roger Beckett, founder of Pintar Rapido London, really sums up the intentions behind the event…

Pintar Rapido is going to be a celebration of art and the city backdrop that inspires artists of all styles to create a painting in a day. I want them to capture the spirit of city – from its parks to its architecture, industrial locations to a river scene. The chaos and the calm and the people who breathe life into it. But most of all I want it to be a fun and exciting event for all those who take part.

I had thought about registering for weeks before I finally bit the bullet and signed up. My main motivation was to rise to the challenge of doing something outside of my comfort zone – both in artistic terms (I don’t paint buildings or urban scenes) and also on a personal level. Setting up to paint means rooting yourself to the spot for a period of time, which in turn means you have to interact with any number of strangers and potentially uncontrollable scenarios. I had to draw on reserves of confidence that I didn’t know I had in order to stay focused and get on with it. It did me good to push myself in this way.

So, how did it go?

Well, it was HOT. This made the day physically more tiring, but it also made the atmosphere in the city palpably optimistic and kind of magical. I scouted the area on Friday evening, and set up for my first painting on Kensington Church Street, choosing The Churchill Arms as my subject. It’s an amazing looking pub, almost totally covered in flowers. I thought it would be colourful and potentially give me scope for hiding sloppy painting should things not go well.

Lots of people were interested in what I was doing, and many stopped for a chat. Everyone was very friendly to me. I don’t know if I was lucky, or if painting on the street brings out the best in passers by (like walking a dog, which I have also found to be a great ice-breaker with strangers). I was the only artist painting in this spot, and it lead to the realisation for me that the Pintar Rapido event had given me the impetus to paint in this busy, public space, but that I was actually on my own and could do this again any time I want. Kind of like when you’re learning to ride a bike, and you discover that the person holding you steady has let go and you’re cycling free and unaided.

The painting itself wasn’t great. I thought it was sickly and twee, and just not very good. So, after a couple of hours I packed up for a new location and painting. I settled on The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens. I found a place in the shade and got going. It was a very relaxing space. I also met a couple of other artists who I enjoyed chatting to about the event and art in general.

Anyway, I was happier with this painting, so returned it to the Town Hall. The exhibition the next day was great, with lots of people and interest (which is always inspiring). I also caught up with some friends, one of whom is Jennifer Sendall, who sold her painting within the first five minutes of the opening, which is fantastic. Sadly my little painting didn’t sell, but apart from waiting around to take it back home, I didn’t mind. I got so much more out of the weekend on a personal level than I could have expected. A sale would have been the icing on the cake, but that’s all.

I don’t have many photos of the event itself, but I’m not the only one blogging about it. Notably, you can see the work by Adebanji Alade that won the Best Painting prize here. As for my paintings… well, you can’t keep everything. I decided to scrape my panels clean and will reuse them. The day exists now in memory and these few photos.