Speed painting: an Olympic performance
June 28, 2010
By Nancy Ridgeway
If speed painting were an Olympic event, graphic designer and Bradley graduate Elliott From '90 surely would win a medal.
Even though From didn't compete at the 2010 Winter Olympics, he did perform as a speed painter (also called live painter) in Vancouver, at the invitation of Budweiser. From was asked to paint in front of an audience at an event co-hosted by Burton, maker of snowboards.
About 1,000 people attended the event, held at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver's entertainment district. Among those attending were 2010 gold medalists Lindsey Vonn (alpine skiing) and Seth Wescott (snowboarding); Olympic medalists from previous years, Bonnie Blair (speedskating) and Carl Lewis (track and field); and Jon Hamm from the television series Mad Men.
While From's paintings generally feature celebrities, he painted abstracts of snowboarders on the snowboards themselves. He used four snowboards to create a set of paintings and painted three sets through the night.
"This was the first time I'd painted on something other than canvas. It was difficult, because the paint was not applying to the snowboards like I thought it would. I had to switch gears and go 'old school.' By that, I mean I had to be a little bit more abstract and expressionistic because I wasn't going to get clean lines."
He completes his paintings in five to 10 minutes. From differentiates his work from other live painters, noting he takes an extra five minutes to create a "really nice painting with lots of layers and lots of color. Because I have a fine arts degree, I bring in my training and create a painting that is vivid with very expressive strokes. When people see a painting of mine, they know it's an Elliott From."
From credits Bradley art professor Oscar Gillespie with teaching him the importance of learning basic techniques while at the same time supporting his drive to experiment with different methods. Twenty years after graduation, From still calls Gillespie five or six times a year. He appreciates the Bradley experience, which promotes individual attention from professors.
From became interested in speed painting in the late 1980s when he saw Denny Dent, whom he described as the "grand poobah" of the live painting movement. It wasn't until three years ago, at the age of 38, that From decided to pursue a career as a live painter.
He remembered that as a student, he had told Gillespie that he would be a successful artist at age 40. "I wanted to achieve that goal. I have a niche product, and I knew it could be done if I was patient and met the right people," says From, noting he has two marketing management teams, one in the U.S. and one in Canada, to promote his work. Within a year and a half, he had a steady stream of jobs, working at corporate and charity events, festivals, and other venues.