Come mid-morning this Saturday, John Beatty plans to be deep into his canvas, layering soft brushstroke over brushstroke, with vivid, but calming colours.
Hopefully, the usual tranquility of his landscapes will betray the anxiety of only having three hours to create a piece of art, from start to finish, including signing and framing.
For the fourth consecutive year, Beatty joins close to 100 artists as they participate in the fourth annual Steveston Grand Prix of Art.
“It’s a fun and exciting event, but nerve-wracking as well,” said the Richmond resident and retired teacher. “You’re trying to make the best of a short time period, you’ve got to make quick decisions. Things change on you all the time, and you just have to be able to make adjustments as you go along. There’s always a bit of a scramble at the finish.”
Inspired by the Grand Prix of Art in Qualicum, started by Dan Gray 20 years ago (himself inspired by seeing the event take place in France), Mark Glavina of the Phoenix Art Workshop brought the creative marathon to Steveston.
This year, the exhibition portion of the event has expanded to a full week, allowing visitors to see the finished products at Britannia Shipyard until Sunday, Sept. 29.
“I’m thrilled to see so many people coming out and getting interested,” Beatty said. “I like it when people walk by and ask me questions or talk to me. Sometimes people are a bit hesitant to do so, but for me, it makes it feel like a real community event.”
Beatty has been painting for as long as he can remember and comes by it quite honestly — a relative, John William Beatty, painted with members of the Group of Seven.
Before coming to the west coast, Beatty was the acting principal of the Ontario College of Art and Design.
More than 800 paintings later, he is now part of the Richmond Artist Guild and Men in Hats, a group of local artists who paint en plein air across the Lower Mainland.
“I enjoy the camaraderie of it, both with Men in Hats and at the grand prix,” he said. “It’s a great social experience. I’m always anxious to see what the other artists come up with as well.”
Beatty said last year’s event was the only time he wasn’t completely satisfied with his finished product.
Painting a whale-watching boat by the water, half way through, the boat loaded up and sailed away. He was left with an empty space and a dock.
“Luckily, I took photos of the scene before and managed to get the crew coming down in their yellow suits,” he said. “But the subjects are quite varied, so you don’t know what you’ll end up with when you put your hand in that bowl.”
The Grand Prix of Art kicks off this Saturday. Pre-registration is now closed, but artists can register the day of, $25 for adults and $20 for youth. For more information, visit www.grandprixofart.com.
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