Claire Baxter | Fine Art
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Tour Baht’at

 (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 – historic architecture.  

 

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 children!

 

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.

 

Claire Baxter

November 2020

 

 

“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.”  

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive James Mason