HEAT 2 WILDCARD WINNER – HELEN MCDONALD MATHIE
Hi Helen, congratulations on being selected as the Heat 2 wildcard winner! Tell us about your experience on the day.
The grounds of Compton Verney are beautiful and well worth a visit. I was lucky enough to find a position which suited my style with loads of green in front of me and acres of reflections. I painted two A1 size boards to make sure that I could include both the amazing cedar tree to my left and the bridge to my right. It was exciting to see Joan Bakewell and Stephen Mangan come around and chat throughout the day to other wildcards. The judges were lovely and passed through our area regularly. Being an artist can be a lonely existence and I was encouraged by our chats and their positive comments. The atmosphere, I felt, was like that of an art festival.
I was gobsmacked when Tai said congratulations and that I was the winner! I probably cried; I can’t remember. It didn’t feel real, my paintings which I’d splashed paint on, scraped it off, applied more texture with my fingers, brushes and even a feather were then treated with great care and taken off by the production team. What a day! I can’t recommend the experience highly enough so if you are thinking of having a go then just do it.
You produced a beautiful and loosely painted diptych on the day which was impressive! How did you capture the sense of light in the piece?
The minute I decided to paint a diptych I knew I had to link the two canvases in some way. That led to using my wash brush and me sweeping colour across both canvases in quick motion. I then moved onto a two-inch brush and, using horizontal marks, I painted in the tree to the left and the bridge to the right. Having positioned my darks with phthalo deep green mixed with ultramarine, some dark browns and purples, I then had the opportunity to create contrasting lighter areas to enhance the sense of distance and space. The light kept changing all throughout the day. I suppose I tried to chase it at some points throughout the day, an impossible task!
I concentrated on painting some lighter tones in the foreground, and this enhanced the effect of the light reflecting on the water. Colours in reflections add to a sense of shimmering light on water too so I used light greens, yellow ochre and Kings Blue Deep mixed with white near the bridge at the right-hand side to show the light coming in over the bridge and onto the water there. Deep tones under the bridge completed that area of the painting.
What are your go-to materials that you simply can’t do without?
The materials are the main ingredients of any artists work and as you say artists have their personal favourites. I like square ended brushes, Daler Rowney system 3 Short Flat and System3 SH Skyflow, which are much wider. I also use Cass Art Grey Synthetic acrylic and oil sets. I’ve recently started experimenting with Cass Art palette knives and I’m enjoying the extra textures I can achieve with them. For paints, I like the Michael Harding oil paint range in particular the Kings Blues, I also regularly use Ultramarine blues, Cadmium and Ochre yellows, Alizarin Crimson. Also, Winsor & Newton Winsor Blue, Magenta, Chrome Yellow, Naples Yellow, Sap Green, Phthalo Deep Green, Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Violet. I often start my oil paintings with acrylics and for that I prefer System Three large pots.
I mainly work on canvas and canvas boards like Cass Art triple packs for smaller paintings and Winsor & Newton artists canvases for larger pieces. I also like Cass Art natural linen 11.3 oz exhibition grade.