For some Spanish artists, pintura rápida is a way of life, an essential part of their artistic practice.
The competitions are held outdoors and rapid, because you have a day and sometimes just half a day to finish a work from start to finish. And not a small canvas either: 100cm x 81cm is the standard minimum.
Canvasses are vetted for irregularities by officials in the morning and because the whole idea is that the work be done in pubic, hundreds of eyes make sure no cheating (such as swapping work that was completed at home) takes place.
At the end of the day—fried by the heat and anxiety of finishing, but often surprised by a discovery that wouldn't have happened any other way—artists display their finished pieces and a jury of professionals awards cash prizes. The public, too, sometimes votes on a favourite and the jury makes a selection for a longer exhibition. Wheeling and dealing of all kinds then ensues, including for amateurs without the proper academic pedigrees.
I did pintura rápida for years, studying it closely and learning. And when I visit Spain, it’s the first thing I want to do all over again. It's how in many ways I cut my teeth as a painter.
When I look back I realize how unique the experience was. Without the comradery, the informal but serious critiques, and the pressures to work to deadline, I don't think I'd be where I am today, if an artist at all. I owe it and similar open, blind-judged events a huge debt of gratitude.
For some of the prizes I managed to win, check out my CV.