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(my Tour de Yorkshire journey...)
When I received the phone call to inform me that I had been
chosen as the Official Artist for the Tour de Yorkshire 2020 I had to ask them
to ring me back in ten minutes… I was actually in a carpet shop signing out
some samples for my hallway so wasn’t able to talk. This was so ‘typically me’
I thought, but I was absolutely buzzing. Once my excitement had calmed down a
bit, I realised the enormity of the position and the fact that I was following
in the footsteps of Lucy Pittaway and Mackenzie Thorpe was a little daunting as
I knew this collection had to be good.
When you are faced with a brief as broad as this one, it is
difficult to know where to start. Yorkshire is not exactly a small county. Receiving
the official route didn’t help too much either, in fact my mind was blown. Narrowing
it down to a few chosen locations was no easy task.
First things first, I summoned my dad and we spent 3 days
driving most of the route, armed with camera, map, notebook and sucky sweets.
Following the actual route, really made me appreciate a) how far these athletes
actually cycle which is just crazy and b) how gruelling it must be! I was
shattered just walking certain bits - er…. Shibden Wall??
Back in the studio, it all came a bit clearer. I knew I must
include all four counties in Yorkshire and I also wanted to incorporate town,
countryside and coastline. Yorkshire is so diverse and the more I could
represent the better. I sat with a brew and my notebook and highlighted:
The Cow and Calf –iconic rugged, rocky Yorkshire, Ribblehead
Viaduct – stunning landscape, Sandsend – beautiful coastline, Shibden Wall –
the killer inclines, Barnsley – our diverse, thriving towns and Beverley –
I kept coming back to my notebook, spending time thinking
about the event as a whole. This amazing race, brought about from the passion
and enthusiasm Yorkshire showed during the 2014 Tour de France proves it is
more than just the race itself. It draws people in from all over the globe.
Cycling enthusiasts, young and old from all communities, subcultures and walks
of life. This event does not discriminate, it is for everyone and for those who
don’t even like bikes, it is an excuse to bring everyone together, gather with friends
and have a good old fashioned party.
The ideas behind each painting began to unfold. I am
renowned for depicting real life in real places, sometimes using humour and
vibrant colour. I knew that I didn’t want to simply have packed streets full of
cheering crowds as every picture would effectively be the same - and you
wouldn’t be able to see much landscape either!
I chose to depict a solitary older couple on a bench at
Ribblehead, flask positioned, potentially reflecting on their own relationship
with cycling, hence their old bikes with them. They were possibly once ‘Leaders
of the Pack’ themselves? I also wanted to explore the reverse of this. The
young lad on the trike with his parents thinking…. ‘When I Grow Up’. The focus
is on his relationship with the peloton, being inspired by his heroes which is
why no-one else is in the picture. ‘Setting the Wheels in Motion’ is the start
of the ladies race. The Iconic Barnsley Town Hall with the beautiful spring
blossom. Again, characters from different walks of life have come together to
share the experience. I also wanted to paint from the viewpoint of the cyclists
and Shibden Wall was perfect for this. The passion, the stamina, the grit,
especially when you ‘Hit the Wall’.
Ilkley’s Cow and Calf was actually the first one I painted
and I knew I had to include a sheep in the composition based on personal
experience of a very inquisitive sheep when I had visited. The title ‘Tour Baht’at’
also meant that I had to have one of the characters without a hat on – stands
to reason! Another feature for me was to have a crowd of ladies eagerly
watching the race so Sandsend has them fixed on the peloton just ‘Gearing up’
the brow of the hill with the fabulous coastline in the distance.
Children was also an important element for me to portray.
Having been a spectator for the Tour de France and previous Tour de Yorkshire
events with two very young children, standing for long periods of time,
desperately trying to entertain them can be a challenge. In ‘Hitting the Wall’
and ‘Setting the Wheels in Motion’, there are children… well.... being
Once the ideas were secured in my head, I knew the compositions
and actual painting would be challenging, especially with a tight deadline
looming. It took a whopping 500 hours to complete the collection, building up
layers of colour and immense detail. When you look closely at each piece, you
can start to see the fastener on the handbag, the fair isle pattern on the
jumper, the spokes on the bikes and the time on the clock…..
Standing back looking at the collection completed and
framed, I am thrilled with the results and it captures everything I hoped it
would. It is a huge privilege for Welcome to Yorkshire to have asked me to
paint them and I cannot wait to add to the collection for the 2022 Tour de Yorkshire.
“We had no
choice but to postpone this year’s Tour de Yorkshire but we’re delighted to have
Claire’s incredible art work as a reminder of how fantastic this race is, why
it is loved across the world and how it showcases the county in a spectacular
way. There has never been a more important time to support independent artists
and businesses, whilst celebrating the arts and sport. Welcome to Yorkshire are
very much looking forward to continuing working with Claire as her impressive
Tour de Yorkshire art is launched and we’re delighted that Claire will be the
official artist of the Tour de Yorkshire in 2022.”
Yorkshire chief executive James Mason
Following lengthy discussions between race organisers, Welcome to Yorkshire and Amaury Sport Organisation over many months, it is with regret, that by mutual consent, the 2022 Tour de Yorkshire cycling race will not be going ahead.
Tour de Yorkshire 2022 update