When most people sneeze, they reach for a tissue or anti-histamine.
Sarah Beattie grabs her camera and tries to capture the moment – at least a re-enactment of it – and use it as a muse for her next painting.
She seems to have found the perfect inspiration. Beattie has been chosen as the regional winner in the BMO 1st Art! Awards for her painting of a young woman sneezing.
“It’s pretty unreal,” Beattie said. “I didn’t think I had that good a chance of winning because the competition could have been any form of art.”
Now in the 10th year, the BMO 1st Art! Awards is a national competition for artists graduating from university. Entrants are chosen by Deans and instructors based on student skill and imagination.
In the end, one national winner and 12 regional winners – one from each province or territory – are selected by a panel of judges.
The award comes with a $5,000-cash prize. The winners’ work will also be on display at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto from Oct. 3 to 28 and be published in Canadian Art magazine.
It’s critical exposure for a young artist embarking on a professional career and trying to make a name for themselves, said Beattie, who graduated with her bachelor of arts this past spring.
Her winning painting is one of a series of six called Say Sneeze that Beattie painted during her honours studio class earlier this year at Rodman Hall. Each work captures someone on the verge of sneezing that she photographed up to 100 times first.
“A photograph is an instantaneous thing, just like a sneeze,” she explained.
The series is a work in progress and will eventually include a self-portrait of Beattie herself on the brink of eliciting a ‘Bless you.’ Beattie hopes to eventually do a solo exhibition of her work.
“I’d like to have 10 different ones, like a big simultaneous sneeze,” Beattie said.
Prof. Donna Szoke, who taught Beattie during her honours studio class, called her a gifted painter who stands her ground when it comes to how she creates.
“She’s very insightful in her own process and she trusts her process implicitly. That’s unusual for a young artist,” Szoke said. “She’s very determined.”
Keri Cronin, chair of the Department of Visual Arts, said the award is well-deserved.
“Sarah is a hard-working, innovative young artist who excelled in her classes at Brock,” Cronin said.
Cronin predicts there will be more accolades for students, particularly once the new Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts moves to its new space in downtown St. Catharines in 2014.
“We have excellent instructors in the Department of Visual Arts and our small class sizes allow for students to receive a lot of one-on-one instruction and mentorship. This kind of environment plays an important role in allowing students to grow as artists and to achieve their full potential,” she said. “This dynamic coupled with the state-of-the-art facilities we will have in our new downtown building will lead to more of these sorts of awards and honours for our students.”