One of the most surreal moments of my career to date was having a camera thrust in my face whilst mixing my colours, as I painted the portrait of the musician Baaba Maal.
When the email landed asking if I would feature in Baaba Maal’s music video, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and having been out of the loop whilst being off on maternity leave – Could I even still paint? Never mind having people watch and film me drastically fail in front of them…BUT then I couldn’t miss this opportunity of doing what I love but in a unique and unusual way. I replied….”yes, I’ll do it”, fingers trembling…
The date came, Alicia my daughter all ready to spend the day with my mum. I left the house with all my paints, easel and canvas dusted off and headed off to Brunswick Mill in Manchester – an old cotton mill, mirroring something out of the meat packing district in New York, red fire escape down the side of the building, brown rust and wide open sash-mill windows letting in the light and views of Manchester as the backdrop.
I was greeted by a lovely band of film crew, all set up ready to go. I set my easel up, paints and canvas, and after an hour of waiting, “off you go” they said. “Hold on! Can you mix that colour again?”; “Just hold that pose”; “Look this way” …. To say my palms were sweaty is an understatement! However, after a while the cameras just seemed to disappear into the back of my mind, and the rhythm of painting seemed to take control. The rest is a blur…..
One thing I took from the day….I could still paint (thank god) and how a painting is constructed astounded the film crew. I guess people don’t often have the opportunity to watch an Artist paint a painting. It’s normally an intimate moment between the Artist and the canvas, and people just see the final result hung on a wall. Similar to a Musician, like Baaba Maal pouring his heart and soul into writing his songs, but we only hear the final results. Something we all take for granted when enjoying the arts.
It was a privilege and an honour to be part of Baaba Maals music video and to be part of his creative vision.
Gilli Men is taken off Baaba Maal’s new album ‘The Traveller’. Out now.