Painswick Art Couture Bodypaint BlackAdder Monty Python

 July 2012

Set in its picturesque town, Art Couture Painswick is an annual competition where the aim is to create items of clothing from unusual materials. It’s  a little like the World of Wearable Arts (WOW) which stunned me in New Zealand.


The official video gives an idea of the event and all the winning bodypaints etc:

The previous year, Laurence had modelled for a body paint demo there, which proved so popular that ACP decided to host a proper competition this time. A range of experienced, novice and student painters were invited/ accepted, and as it was quite close to Bristol, Laurence kindly agreed to model for me.

I heard about this event via Illusion Magazine, who were trying to help organise the body comp as well as sponsoring the prizes. 

The theme we had to paint was “Celebrating Britain’ and rather than famous people or landmarks I wanted to try something a bit different, so picked British Comedy. (My favourites at any rate). Billy Connolly for Scotland, Monty Python, Black Adder and Dad’s Army for England, the Little Britain ‘Only Gay in the Village’ look for Wales, and Father Ted for Ireland. Laurence kindly agreed to my insane and rther pantomime-dame ideas, and I started making props. 


For once I had rather overstretched myself, and planned into do wayyyyyy too much paintwork. I’d spent a week building a huge paper-and-wire-based Elizabethan ruff, learning all about the real traditional ones and the names of the bits in it – a ‘supportasse’ is what supported many ruffs, i.e. wire wedges or stiffening.


I also created those split doublet hose things from strips of fun foam that I carefully glitter tattooed with a design including all 4 nation’s symbolic plants. I then borrowed a walking-stick Helen Eyre had made for a paint that Jennie had then adapted as a sceptre, and turned it into a royal tea-cup with a ‘dead parrot’ toy. I also got a cheap Ebay wig and with much difficulty, dyed it. Making some Elizabethan head pieces to go on it was very fiddly! 


I had a terrible trip down after a lovely day’s paint at Bewilderwood, as I kept getting stuck in traffic and my A/C had broken. I ended up stopping to buy a summer skirt and sandals to try to stay cooler in the car! I arrived in time to have a charming supper with Nic & Pete some of the other painters I knew, in a little cafe by Painswick church. Interestingly there was no menu, you ordered whatever you fancied! It was fab!

2012-07-15 18.20.10

We arrived for our morning briefing early, as the whole town gets closed to traffic so that all the streets can be filled with crafts stalls and acts. We were all sent to different areas, the idea being we would be spread around the town, indoors and out, for people to find and watch. Nic Shilson and her Pete, great friends of mine, were together with several student teams in a spot just outside the churchyard. Unluckily our gazebos’ hadn’t yet been built, so I was chatting to some of the students as we waited.

2012-07-15 17.43.44OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the overall fashion winner – dress of recycled tents. 

It was sadly not a warm day, so we tried to keep the models as warm as possible. I started painting the ‘Only Gay in the Village’ style front suit, as an Elizabethan corset, in the form of a Union Jack. So Laurence’s front became ‘Queenie’ from Blackadder, with gold-powdered glitter tattoo script saying ‘body of a weak and feeble woman’. Gluing on the huge ruff was a mission neither of us enjoyed!!

Art Couture Painswick painting corset bpc

I then painted his underwear red and stapled the doublet-pants to it (he had 2 pairs on so staples only went on the outer pair).

His legs were striped and ended in painted-on banana boots as a nod to Billy Connolly’s famous outfits.


On Laurence’s back, I had painted the back of the ruff as part of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus opening credits, with added Red Arrows on wires. The red Arrows smoke trails blended into the Dad’s Army map, with ‘Don’t Panic’ stencilled onto Laurence’s pants. The back of the legs had the Father Ted priests and a brewing tea bag, echoed by the tea-cup sceptre.

Painswick queenie chest close.31 bpcPainswick queenie gotch hand.20 bpcPainswick queenie  pout.13 bpc

The public were interested and polite, and the judges (the Illusion ladies and Paul from Charles Fox) circulated asking questions and even bringing tea (it was too crowded and busy for us to get food etc from the stalls, sadly).


We caught the occasional glimpse of costume entries and acts as well as some of the music onstage but were too busy to really look, sadly. Although a bunch of decorated donkeys did enter the town in front of us!

Painswick Cat paints queenie kiss by Jo bpcMINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I actually got pretty stressed for the 1st time which surprised Laurence, but I did finish. Braziers had turned up for the models just before they were led round the side of the church to wait o be judged.

Painswick queenie leads.17 bpcPainswick Queenie yew tree eyebrows.00 bpcPainswick Queenie yew tree blow.39 bpc

Liz had created a very patriotic sparkling design, Mels feather mohican was fab, and Nic’s incredibly detailed Banksy tribute was amazing! Pete even made his own kilt!

2012-07-15 17.18.022012-07-15 17.23.48

After a long chilly wait, we announced our designs on the unusual modern stage set in front of the church,  and enjoyed the appreciative audience (and judges). 

Painswick Queenie & me.24 bpcPainswick Queenie yew tree all.37 bpcPainswick Queenie yew Tam.13 bpcPainswick Queenie yew tree back all.22 bpc

Dr Dawn Harper, presenter of C4’s Embarrassing Bodies was the compere.

Laurence owned it, in full stroppy Queenie character, frowning haughtily and stomping his sceptre!

Art Couture Painswick stage Laurence bpcArt Couture Painswick 2102 Queenie cat onstage sm feet bpcPainswick queenie onstage pic by Jo bpcPainswick queenie onstage back pic by Jo bpc

Kate’s dragon and cake body won, with the unusual entry by in second place. The students had done amazingly too and an extra prize was created for them.

2012-07-15 18.02.062012-07-15 17.43.48 

I was hugely pleased to be announced 3rd place!

Art Couture Painswick 2102 Queenie cat onstage sm bpcPainswick Queenie own catwalk bpc

But we did sulk when we found that all the (amazing smelling all day) food stalls had packed up when we were finally able to stop and eat.

Elizabethan man front bpcCat's Elizbethan Man bpc 

A really interesting event, I almost want to go back just to see the other competitions and browse the stalls!

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