Judged by a cockatoo named Maude
"As you know, I love combining comedy and art, so I was really excited to learn that there was a competition which does precisely that."
Dave Blumenthal made a spur-of-the-moment decision that has paid off big time. Blumenthal, also known as Sandwich Bag Dad, noticed an advertisement for the Bald Archy on social media. It was just two weeks before the deadline for submissions.
One problem he faced though is that it was Sandwich Bag off season – school holidays. On annual leave for a week, Blumenthal figured he could dedicate a bit of time to giving it a go. If nothing else, it would keep his drawing skills sharp.
“I had been toying with the idea of entering the Archibald competition for a few years now (and probably will have a go eventually), but the Bald Archy is definitely up my alley,” he told The AJN. “As you know, I love combining comedy and art, so I was really excited to learn that there was a competition which does precisely that.”
The Bald Archy, parodying the Archibald, gives artists the opportunity to create portrait paintings of humour, dark satire, light comedy or caricature. It was founded by Peter Batey and is hilariously judged by a cockatoo named Maude. According to the website, Maude’s number-one rule is that it must be funny.
“Her idea of humour, according to a 2015 interview, includes ‘wit, slapstick, satire, vulgarity, farce, black comedy, irreverence and everything else that falls between high and low comedy’,” the website states. “On the other hand, Maude loathes ‘hate portraiture’, or ‘soap box art’ as she calls it.”
The prize has been on hiatus since 2019 but is back in 2023 for its 27th year.
Blumenthal went with a great subject for his artwork, Hamish Blake.
“The rules of the competition require the entry to be a comic or satirical portrait of an Australian distinguished in art, science, letters, politics, sport or the media. So a pretty wide universe,” he explained. “I knew I didn’t want to do anything political – I prefer to keep my art light and fun – and figured an art or science entrant might be too obscure.”
Blumenthal said that he’d always been a fan of Blake’s comedic style, especially alongside Andy Lee, and so the former immediately came to mind.
“It didn’t take long for the idea to then morph into Amish Blake (I do love my puns), and what could be more Amish than Grant Wood’s iconic work, American Gothic? As I started painting, my wife suggested adding a lego theme to the female subject and to the background, so it all just sort of fell into place as I worked on the painting.”
Blake is, of course, host of the Channel 9 series Lego Masters.
The painting took about a week to complete and thankfully, it was finished a mere three days before the deadline, with Blumenthal receiving a congratulatory email a few weeks later.
“The email came through at the end of a really challenging day at work, so it really was a lovely surprise.”
While Blake is yet to see Blumenthal’s work – “hopefully he’s an avid reader of the Jewish News” Blumenthal quipped when asked – the artist explained that there is still time to view it, with the exhibition going on tour across 10 galleries for about a year.
“I’m hoping to meet up with ‘Amish’ at some point,” Blumenthal said.
Keep up with @SandwichBagDad on Instagram. The Bald Archy is currently on show in Canberra until March 12 before travelling around the country. For more: baldarchy.com.au