I recently had the enjoyment of presenting my work at the Garden Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Not only did I have a display of garden paintings, but also for those four days I demonstrated my painting techniques that I had developed in shopping malls years ago. I used photographs that I had taken in England of the Cotswold area as the basis to compose the painting that is shown here.
Standing under brilliant lights, I painted while a video camera captured the process which was displayed on a large screen above my head. Since I was miked, I could chat with the over 10,000 people that drifted through this outstanding garden exhibition.
With the sound system, the lights and the video, I found myself doing a poor imitation of one of those vegetable-slicer hucksters that are to be found at every fair or exhibition. You know the kind of lines they use. “I only throw away the skin of the banana, but even the monkey throws that away.” I must admit that I do find those performers amusing.
Of course, one of the best things about performances, as any actor will tell you, is the reaction of the audience. Over the years, I have had many discussions with professional actors from the Stratford Company about performing. I am always amazed at the ability of the performers to gather themselves for a posted time. I have felt that my endeavours in painting were much easier, since if I had a bad day, I could throw the work away or paint over it, with no one else the wiser, while an actor has his bad day in front of a crowd. “No,” counter the thespians. “We may come onto the stage ‘flat’, but we are able to suck energy from the audience as they re-act to our performances, while you as a painter must supply all your own power.”
It is true that the crowds at the Garden Festival provided me with energy and a few laughs. A couple who watched as I painted this garden theme questioned what part of Britain I was using for my work. When I told them the Cotswold area, the man replied with a strong English accent, “Practice on the Cotswolds and when you get it right, you should do a painting of Sussex.”
I was also amused by a woman’s reaction that followed my offer to the audience, “If you have any questions, I will try to answer them, but if I do not know the answer, I will lie.” She simply stamped her foot and said, “Men!” as she walked away. I think that she had issues.