AB Thinks  →  31st January 2017

A new perspective

Nicholas Dawson

Last week I was at Earl’s Court Tube station to see artist Alice Hall add her finishing strokes to her oil painting of the District line platforms there.

She’s hoping to feature the work in an exhibition later this year, and perhaps sell it on after that. One customer even asked her for a price while I was there.

Seeing her at work made me wonder to what extent a landscape painting is like creating a good news story.

There’s the background work of researching the story, crafting the angle and some interview questions, as the painter visualises their piece and sketches the outline of the main shapes.

Alice prefers to work en plein air (outdoors), taking her easel and palette to the place where she can actually see the view she is painting. Likewise as a reporter, it’s always preferable to be where something is happening, even if it‰’s simply in an office where the team you are interviewing is based. It immerses you in the context, shapes your choice of wording – helps you know which shade of colour you’ll need.

Using oil paints has the advantage that you can go over sections, which Alice found useful for the finer points of the roof and rails at Earl’s Court. A story also often needs clarifying and amending as the specifics emerge. This second wave of work after your initial research is always worth it – it often teases out the most interesting and informative bits for your reader.

And of course, there’s those special moments of flair, when the artist‰’s individuality makes its mark on the canvas. I hope a fair few of my readers appreciate my ‘puntastic’ headlines and succinct standfirsts (those initial lines between the headline and text of an article).

So, perhaps my enjoyment of Alice’s painting was down to more than the fact I go through Earl’s Court every day on my way to work. I’ve heard it said that journalists ‘craft’ stories, but never that they are artists. Maybe a picture really does paint a thousand words.

You can view Alice Hall’s work at: http://www.alicehall.co.uk.