Recently, I’ve been immersed in Sky Arts ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ series. Essentially it’s a made-for-TV competition made up of regional heats that pit 18 artists head-to-head to create a portrait of a celebrity sitter in only 4 hours. Some contestants attack the canvas like it’s a wild dog in need of taming, others nurture it and discover the portrait as it slowly emerges from its initial abstract form. Each portrait represents a vision, a unique approach to the craft, and completely individual narrative of the sitter.
Frank Skinner, best known as the lad’s lad in the times of Born Slippy (lager, lager lager), Loaded magazine and working class socialism, is one of the presenters. Skinner, in reality a non-drinker and self-confessed lover of Opera, is actually better placed as a presenter than you might at first think. Although not offering any extra value to the understanding of the medium, he does succeed in humanising the whole thing. It’s not ‘Art’, darling, but the contestants are most definitely ‘Artists’. He talks to the competitors with his trademark un-pretentious, softly spoken, brummy appeal, which results in candid conversations such as “So are you going to get round to doing the hair then?”, the response – “Er I dunno, haven’t really thought that far ahead!”.
This series engages viewers by removing the highbrow, elitist concepts of Art, and encourages us all to ‘see’ the world as an artist. But the skill of each contestant is actually understanding how best to use the medium to share their vision. It’s an incredible insight into visual communication, and a powerful demonstration of the difference in having multiple (and incredibly objective) interpretations of the same moment in space and time.
So, how viable is an ‘art’ competition as a process of selecting the ‘best’ way to communicate the artist’s voice and ‘message’? There’s plenty of technical insight provided by the trio of judges (an artist, a curator, and a Director of Exhibitions) but to be able to say ‘he is better than she’ is a tricky debate. However, as a television series it does offer a wonderful doorway into the mind of the portrait artist and the potential that a skilled practitioner of the medium can offer an audience. Through time lapse video (and also relying on a touch of celebrity voyeurism) each episode reveals the process of life being captured on a canvas.
This process rings so true with what we encourage our clients to understand when seeking content production. I’ll try to keep the painting simile going – You have a canvas that needs painting and yes, paint is cheap and its easy to hang your canvas for plenty of people to see, and yes, you CAN get a low cost decorator to do it – job done – tick! But if you want the results to live and breathe and take on more than the sum of parts, then you’ll need more than just the right colour. A successful communication needs to transcend the medium itself and reach out to the viewer to encourage them to give some of themselves into the process – what better way to do this than ensuring that you’re commissioning an artist, rather than simply a painter.About Outlook Video Outlook Video create content for brands that need support in the production of their marcom strategies. We stick to our belief that video has a leading role in integrated marketing plans, and that it should achieve value in its own right, rather than simply act as a sum of parts. Let us focus on the delivery, so you don’t have to! Contact Gary for more information