The SAA 2018 Poppy Challenge

This year, being the 100th Anniversary of World War One, the SAA decided to mark the occasion by holding a Paint a Poppy Challenge. Partnered with the Royal British Legion, it is a way to say “thank you” to those courageous men and women who served and sacrificed for our country and freedom. The idea is to gather as many poppy paintings and drawings as possible together to create a unique art exhibition to be held later this year at their headquarters in Nottingham, as well as raising funds for the work the Royal British Legion does, by monetary donations from those taking part in the challenge.

The challenge was open to everyone, in any medium on any paper as long as it measured exactly 125x125mm (4.9×4.9 inches). As well as individuals, SAA art groups were able to send in group entries. Being a member of SAA Frome Valley Art, based in Winterbourne, South Gloucestershire, I decided to take part. I love a challenge, and this was undoubtedly one.

As much as I enjoy painting detail, producing a small painting is a lot harder than one imagines. First, was deciding precisely the image I wanted to create. I wanted something different from the usual poppy flower scene, one that not only reflected the simple beauty of the flower, but also the immense emotion evoked by this memorial event.  I’ve painted several poppy pictures in the past and wanted something different, one that had meaning. I thought long and hard, and unusually for me, painted many draft pictures until finally deciding on the one that for me, worked.

First,  a black background – to represent death and mourning as per the black-bordered telegrams families of those fallen often received. Also, a using a black background accentuates the flower’s vibrancy, popping it out of the image. It called for a poppy in bud to represent the young age many of our soldiers were when called up to arms during conflict, some as young as sixteen.

I wanted a poppy in full flower, representing parents and families of those left behind, and I wanted falling petals, to represent those fallen in battle, a reflection too of the millions of petals dropped in various war memorial services, in mind particularly those dropped at the Remembrance service at  Royal Albert Hall, London.

Lastly, and for me the most important part, I wanted to add falling teardrops from the adult flower: tears for a son, husband, brother, uncle, grandfather who never came home.

After many weeks, my challenge attempt resulted in “Tears for the Fallen”.

“Tears for the Fallen”

It’s doubtful I will be able to get to the exhibition although it will be available online at a later date (I’ll keep you advised).

As a mark of respect too by the Frome Valley Art group, we are aiming to hang all the walls in the room we use with pictures of poppies during November. For this, I am hoping to recreate “Tears for the Fallen” on a larger scale.

Addendum

6.11.2018. Was delighted and honoured to have this painting and its story featured on “Yesterday Uncovered” blogspot. Thank  you, Pauline Barclay.

 

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“Rosanna’s Garden”

On rare occasions, I am so moved by a photograph I simply cannot rest until I have painted that image. This happened back at the beginning of 2015 when, trawling the Internet for inspiration, I stumbled across the work of Rosanna Castrini, a professional landscape and garden designer, botanist, writer and photographer who lives in near Turin in Italy. This beautiful lady’s photographs are simply stunning, imaginative, and blew me away. Therefore I was not surprised to learn that the photograph I had fallen in love with, “My Prairie Garden” had, in fact, won her the title 2014 International Garden Photographer of the Year.

That photograph stayed with me to the extent I was moved to make contact with Rosanna to request her permission to use some of her images as reference photos for my paintings and in, particular, the award-winning photo. Rosanna agreed, saying she was honoured by the request. That was back in November 2015.

Life and welcomed painting commissions intervened until last month, I was able to start work on the painting that had been sitting on my shoulder and in my heart, screaming to be unleashed. Progress was slow, the detail intricate; it was certainly a piece not to be rushed, and I enjoyed every brushstroke I put down on the 56cm x 46cm canvas.

Yesterday, I signed the work as complete and promptly sent a photograph of it to Rosanna in Italy, wishing for her to see the painting before going public, hoping she wouldn’t be disappointed with my efforts. On the contrary, she was delighted with the result. I am so thrilled and proud now to send “Rosanna’s Garden”, as I have entitled my interpretation, out into the wide world. I hope you like it too.

"Rosanna's Garden"
“Rosanna’s Garden”

Addendum:

In July 2018, “Rosanna’s Garden” was awarded Second Place by the Society for All Artists, in their July Challenge.