It started with a text from a friend .. 'hey you should apply for this' ... Erm, reality tv? I don't think so lol. But then ... friends and family started to encourage it ... 'ah sure it won't do any harm to apply' etc etc. .. Pauline Mc Lynn is hosting!? ... ah g'wan so.
I applied and I got through a few interviews. At this stage I wanted it, badly, I saw how much others wanted it too. Made the top 25! We met in a hotel function room for a camera test and a series of drawing challenges. Ooh pick me please!
A week passed. I was convinced I hadn't made the cut. I had heard through the grapevine that Sinead Mc Carthy had made it through. Surely, they can't have two Sineads from Cork in the top seven I thought to myself? Doesn't that break the rules of reality tv?
Two days before filming started, I got the call. You're in! Woohooo .. what next?
I met the other 6 artists, what a bunch of great people. Let me introduce them.
Agnieszka Ryan a.k.a. 'The Boss', this lady is soft as a marshmallow at her core but she can put the fear in you with a look. Agnieszka is competitive but her dry wit, a cheeky grin and a glint in her eye allowed her to get away with it. Agnieszka's style of painting is a fascinating frenzy of strong expressive strokes and bold colour.
Sinead McCarthy a.k.a. 'Magic Mac', she laughs so much she hurts. This one would go to the moon and back for you. A complete dote, with a dirty laugh and a heart of gold. We called her 'Magic Mac' because she always used creative license to improve a composition. Sinead's style is wonderfully compelling, soft brushstrokes and warm tones, creating nostalgia and atmosphere with a lot of heart.
Alan Ryan a.k.a. 'Doc Rock', because he is steady, strong and a geologist. I think it took every ounce of his Iron Man strength to listen to my constant babble when we weren't filming. Alan's work always jumped out at me, I was fascinated by his meticulous yet expressive brushwork and muted palette. Alan was also great for the ol one-liners. This guy sure can paint!
Louise Treacy a.k.a. 'Wiki Lou', named this because if we had any kind of art question, she was our go-to. Her knowledge on the subject of painting is simply encyclopaedic! Louise is a force of nature and is born to paint en plein air. She travels around in her camper van 'Thelma' and paints, paints, paints. Her work, much like her personality is vivacious, energetic and colourful. She kept us going.
David Monaghan a.k.a. 'X', affectionally called X because of his x-tremely calm demeanour and also because a small white patch of hair was reminiscent of the x-men. David was always smiling. If I was stressed or worried, he calmed me. He was never flustered, took it all in his stride and is just one big dote! His work really struck a chord with me from the very beginning, it speaks it's own language.
Kevin McCann a.k.a. 'FreeRange', mainly because we couldn't keep him indoors for long. With long hours waiting around Kevin was always at hand to raise spirits with a song or two or an interesting anecdote. His life is art itself. The nicest punk I've ever met. Kevin's work is beautifully detailed and stylised and he paints in a very meticulous manner. His work could be studied for days, full of skill, laden with hidden meaning mixed with a drop of wit.
After the meet and greets we were pretty much thrown in at the deep end, although we had 30 minutes of filming us walking through some doors over and over first. We must not have been doing it right.
'You have 90 minutes painters and your time starts now!'
The challenges started quick and fast. That was pretty much it. Paint for your life, don't think, just paint. Each half hour episode took about two 12 hour days to film which I imagine is no mean feat to edit. On each episode, our first challenge was usually 90 minutes and the second one was 2-3 hours depending on medium, which was prescribed. One day we could be working with our strengths in a medium we were comfortable with and the next day it was all on its head, but it kept the show fair and was very much a level playing field.
What was interesting was, as a group, there was more of an air of camaraderie than of competition. Art being such a solitary pursuit, I think it was a novelty for all of us to have company to share the view and experience.
Exhausting? yes! Stressful? Yes! Fun? Oh the craic was mighty! Would do it all again in a heartbeat!