Live painting is a strange animal. Part performance, part fine art... yet not fully one or the other. I've learned a few things about it over the past couple of years - here are some takeaways:.
1) It can be a centerpiece on the stage with a solo artist or an event between other artists. Both have their unique strengths. When you paint solo, the audience can watch your entire piece unfold over the course of minutes or hours. Things like Art Battle while billed as "competitive painting" are not very cut throat. At the end of the day, I think we all just want to paint at our best and hope it pays off, but knowing that there are so many variables that are out of our hands.. The audience gets to watch many pieces come together and compare and contrast different artist's interpretations.
2) People respond very differently to paintings they have seen created live than to ones hanging on a wall. They pick up more of the layers and underlying order. There is usually a more emotional reaction to a live piece, almost as if by watching it unfold they have participated in the creation on a deeper level.
3) Live does not always mean 100% spontaneous. If you know that you have only 20 minutes to complete a piece, it can be wise to practice a little on what to expect in 20 minutes or to have a few sketches ingrained in your memory to go from. In the case of painting along to a speech or a choreographed event, having timing cues worked out in advance can go a long way to finishing a piece at the right moment.
4) Live sometimes means 100% spontaneous... that can be very interesting to participate in. Having group feedback to guide the artist, a surprise theme... it can really push an artist to take all their imagination and skills and just create in a flash of inspiration. Going blind into a painting event can be a real test of an artist's mettle.
5) Painting live can be one of the most terrifying or exhilarating things a painter can do. Pounding music. The unpredictable response from the crowd. The potential for chaos. Paint moving in ways you didn't plan. Time limits. Being completely vulnerable in your art.
6) You don't always know what you will end up with. Oftentimes live paintings look very different or unpolished from an artist's usual body of work. That can take some time for the artist to get used to. Once you can accept that a 20 minute live painting is a very different animal than a 4 week studio piece, you can see them as apples to oranges. There is also a loose quality that you are almost forced to have that is beautiful in its own right.
It isn't for the faint of heart Not every painter is suited to it either. Just because someone is amazing in the studio, doesn't mean it will translate into live work the first go around. Live painting takes work, experience and practice to not only produce beautiful pieces but to be fun and interesting for the audience to watch. (and all painters do that differently)
My biggest takaway for me in all this is that I love painting live. I'm glad I can do it on occasion. I'm always reminded of a quote some might remember from the movie "Chariots of Fire"...
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast!
And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
- Eric Liddell
Painting live might not be my chief aim in life or as an artist, but I relish the chances that I get to do it because during those moments I feel so alive.
Anyways, long post to say that I'll be painting live at an upcoming Art Battle 370 in Olds, AB. If you'd like to see this for yourself, I'd love it if you could join us! Information and tickets can be found by clicking this link. I also get inquiries from time to time about painting at events. I'm happy to put together a quote based on some variables (travel, painting time, canvas size, material costs etc) feel free to drop me an email if you would like to see if we'd be a good fit.