Monday, 16 September 2019

Harold the dog wins art prize

Harold the dog wins art prize

A DOG was among the winners of this year’s Whitchurch art and craft exhibition.

Harold, a three-year-old collie-cross owned by Nick Brazil, of Hardwick Road, took first prize in the under-six category for a piece called My Paw Prints.

He “painted” it several months earlier while with six-year-old twins Tess and Scarlet Higley, whose mother Katherine is an old friend of Mr Brazil and lives in the village.

The theme of this year’s exhibition was dogs and the girls wanted some authentic paw prints to cut out and decorate their entry, a collage of a dog’s face.

They set up several sheets of paper on their driveway and encouraged Harold to walk up and down them after covering his paws in a special non-toxic purple paint.

The result wasn’t as good as they had hoped so they didn’t use his efforts but put the painting aside for safe keeping before persuading their mother to enter Harold in his own right.

Mrs Higley agreed but told the exhibition organisers that it was the work of a dog and she didn’t expect a prize.

However, the judges didn’t know this as they were invited from outside the area to ensure impartiality and only knew the artist as “Harold Brazil, aged three”. When it was revealed at the prize-giving ceremony that Harold was in fact a dog they decided the result should stand.

Mrs Higley said: “Harold wasn’t terribly compliant, even with the help of an entire packet of biscuits, so I joked that we’d enter him separately and thought nothing more of it.

“But when I was putting the girls’ entries in, they brought it up again and I said ‘yes’ but warned them it probably wouldn’t win and I definitely made clear to the organisers that it was a dog’s work and a bit of a ‘wild card’ entry!

“I did think it would be funny if Harold won a prize but never thought it would happen. The girls thought it was hilarious and were giggling and really thrilled.” Tess and Scarlet accompanied the dog to collect his prize at the ceremony in the village hall and were also jointly awarded a trophy named after Mr Brazil, who is a film-maker, for the best short video.

Scarlet entered a clip themed around autumn and Tess entered one based on remembrance featuring war memorials in the area. Both shot their footage on their mother’s iPad and edited it on her computer.

Mrs Higley said: “The girls were obviously delighted with their own prizes but thrilled to bits that Harold’s paw prints had stolen the show.

“I’ve known Nick for more than 20 years so the girls know him and Harold as well as the dog he owned previously. Harold is a lovely dog and they enjoy playing with him whenever they can.” Mr Brazil, 72, adopted Harold, who is named after King Harold II as he is blind in one eye, from an Irish sanctuary for strays a couple of years ago.

He said: “The girls love Harold and were pleased for him as it was all his own work — they didn’t guide his paws or anything.

“I’m very proud of his victory but hardly surprised as he hails from the land of artists, writers and poets.

“I’m so delighted that such a good-natured dog has been recognised as he’s a wonderful friend and I will, of course, be framing it.”

Show organiser Sally Woolhouse said: “The judges were completely in the dark. They knew it was a dog’s paw prints but assumed ‘Harold Brazil’ was the child who’d entered. All three concluded independently of one another that it was the best in its age group.

“I think they felt it was more authentic because it didn’t look as though a parent had given any help to make it.

“Everyone was very amused when they realised what had happened. We were very happy to present the prize as it isn’t against the rules but we might have to look at that in future years.”

There were almost 200 entries to the exhibition, which the Whitchurch Society has held every year since at least 1972.

Whitchurch Primary School and pre-school and the Oratory Preparatory School in Goring Heath all had dozens of entries.

There were also self-portraits, both realistic and abstract, and drawings and paintings of flowers, landscapes, Egyptian pharaohs, fireworks and geometric patterns.

The primary school children decorated a piece of netting with paper poppies to mark the centenary of the Armistice.

The adult entries included ceramics, knitted animals and papier mâché models.

Lucy Seal won the popular vote for her canvas of Charlie, her Bichon Frise rescue dog, as well as the Butterworth Cup for the best new entrant.

Mrs Woolhouse said: “We had a high number of entries, including many from newcomers, which is always refreshing, all to a high standard and in a wide range of media.”

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