contemporary art vs Sarah (and her first competition)…

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09/01/2011 by Sarah Ritchie

You are probably wondering “Sarah has just had three weeks off work and I haven’t seen another painting. What’s the story?”

Good, valid question. for the first half of that time I was recovering from a tonsillectomy I had the week prior to Christmas. This operation was elective and something I have been waiting for my whole life (literally). The recovery took somewhat longer than I had anticipated, so I spent the first half of my summer break confined to bed.

Since then (interspersed with temptations from books and sunshine) I have been painting…though not for Canvassing My Friends (“boo, hiss”, I hear you cry).

I have decided to enter the Estuary Artworks 2011 competition. This is going to be my first painting competition, and the first opportunity to sell my work. Last year, this competition attracted around 90 entries and 40 were chosen for the exhibition (from which the winner was selected, and pieces sold), so my aim is to create a piece worthy of being in the exhibition.

The competition exists to bring attention to a bird sanctuary and conservation reserve called “Tahuna Torea”  (which means “gathering place of the oystercatcher” in Maori). The artwork should reflect the reserve in some way (cultural, ecological, physical, etc).

I took a trip to the reserve and hit upon an idea…to paint one of the nesting boxes (seen in middle of the swampy lagoon) with a Pied Shag (bird) sitting on top. Enter in the major problem…the composition is “nice”, but boring. It ticks the box of highlighting the conservation aspect of the site, but you end up yawning when you view it. I have spent the last week and a half thrashing this painting until I cannot thrash it anymore and it still looks like something a high school student would have produced.

Last night, Simon and I did some brainstorming. Simon is a great sounding board, idea-generator and honest critic. Emphatically (Simon) and reluctantly (me), we have decided to ditch the bird. I can’t believe I am turning my back on a painting, but I guess it had to happen sometime! I now have a grand total of three weeks left to produce a masterpiece. We have a couple of ideas, and I think we can still complete the piece in time.

I am reading a book titled “Seen This Century: 100 Contemporary New Zealand Artists, A Collector’s Guide” by Warwick Brown. I could be wrong, but the feeling I get is that to be a successful, contemporary artist in New Zealand (who actually sells their work) you have to be sitting in one of two camps: producing art that is innovative/weird/conceptual/thought-provoking or producing photorealism pieces. I have no hope of being a photorealistic painter (nor any inclination in this direction), so I think I shall have to lean towards the weird and wonderful.

I will post the finished piece as soon as it is completed. I promise that you will see it before the judges do!


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Sarah Ritchie
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Finalist, Estuary Art Awards 2011
Exhibitor, The Original Art Sale 2011


© Sarah Ritchie 2014

Please do not use copies of my original artwork for profit, however you are welcome to share my artwork images as much as you like!

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