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Last Updated: Friday, 15 April, 2005, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Artist to capture campaign colour
By Laura Smith-Spark
BBC News

With a few deft brush strokes, painter David Godbold will seek to capture the highs, lows, follies and celebrations of the coming weeks.

David Godbold - copyright Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, 2005
Godbold hopes to show marginal as well as mainstream candidates

As the official 2005 election artist, he will trail anyone from Prime Minister Tony Blair to the most marginal of candidates.

But the politicians are not guaranteed to like the results.

Godbold, who describes himself as "politically engaged", already plans to focus on trust and the Iraq war - issues which may well ruffle feathers.

He hopes to catch the battlefield air of the wider campaign, in the spirit of the war artists.

Satirical tradition

The Dublin-based artist was selected by an all-party parliamentary committee from a list of some 30 artists - all potentially controversial.

"Frankly I think it's pretty amazing the committee didn't walk out in horror," Godbold says. "The artists ranged from the provocative to the really provocative to the quite unacceptable."

It's like a cross between joining the circus and going on a school trip
Jonathan Yeo
Official election artist 2001

He puts himself in the satirical tradition of artists like Hogarth, and relishes the chance to be in the thick of things.

Using scraps of printed material - anything from discarded leaflets to speakers' notes - he will create a series of 18 pictures.

The campaign trail is likely to prove gruelling and at times frustrating, he says, with access to the three main party leaders tightly controlled.

Portraitist Jonathan Yeo - son of former Tory frontbencher Tim Yeo - recalls a dizzying month of battle-bus sittings as he chased Tony Blair, William Hague and Charles Kennedy across the UK in 2001.

Better Bad than Average - copyright David Godbold 2004, courtesy Kerlin Gallery, Dublin
Godbold places himself in the satirical tradition of Hogarth

"It's like a cross between joining the circus and going on a school trip," he told the BBC News website.

The culmination was "kicking back on Blair's election bus at 5am drinking champagne" after the result came through.

As the first official election artist appointed, Yeo's initial challenge was to overcome the politicians' unwillingness to give access.

"The Lib Dems were the easiest, the Tories were a little more suspicious and Labour would be totally controlled," he says.

"But by the end I was sitting in a room at the back of a bus chatting to Tony."

'Extension of war'

The scheme - brainchild of Tony Banks, chairman of the parliamentary arts advisory committee - was dreamed up as the only way to persuade Mr Blair to sit for a portrait.

The result was a differently sized painting of each main party leader, a joke on the idea of 'proportional representation'.

Tony Blair, part of Proportional Representation - copyright Jonathan Yeo
Jonathan Yeo says it took time to break down politicians' suspicion

"My idea was to present them as I saw them and hopefully as they will be seen in 50 years time," Yeo says.

"I saw Blair as an evangelist, Hague as his heels dug in, very stubborn, and Kennedy looking slightly less like he was enjoying the whole thing."

Godbold is more likely to be found stalking the likes of George Galloway, Boris Johnson and Robert Kilroy-Silk - and does not rule out a BNP picture.

Of course, his subjects may not get what they hope for - but then that's all part of the election experience.

"In Tony Banks' words - politics is the extension of war, so elections are the most specific extension of war of them all," Godbold says.



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