Working hard on the miniatures ten of which R puts onto the web site at Mark’s request as he is away in London making programmes on world war one. Within minutes he and Julia have selected two - shortly followed by Ren who also selects two then Sue & Andy and Lynda Chandler.
Have sold another couple of the miniatures so we decide we can’t put any more on the web site as we do need to keep some surprises for the Open Studio itself .
Up to London to give a talk to Women in Racing. Call at Alpha Gallery en route to borrow a couple of pieces which R has to take back tomorrow. The event is great fun and lovely Sally Rowley Williams the racehorse owning Chairman wins the tiny Horse race painting that I have donated for their bursary fund auction.
When I come down Richard has laid out a copy of ‘The Big Interview’ in Gloucestershire Echo. Very generous coverage and lots of mention of the Open Studio event for the National Star College, Linc, being President of the Friends and Patron of Artshape. Though Cheltenham Open Studios must have got missed.
Lovely Lynn Amos comes and confirms she wants to buys two of the Miniatures still in progress
Still painting like mad on the tiny works. Sam at Cleeve picture Framing in the village has made me eight small rectangles which R managed to collect last night as he noticed their light was still on even though it was past closing time! R has been busy all day cutting me new little boards and priming them as well as more of his circular constructions.
Day of great activity. Richard is cutting back the ivy on house and studio whilst ‘Finishing Touches’ the window cleaner is doing both house and studio windows; Sarah the lady grass cutter comes at 2 to cut studio and house lawns and the road verges. As she finishes another lady arrives who has asked if she can come early to see the studio as she won’t be here at the weekend.
Whilst I’m working in the evening the radio play is interrupted with the sad news that Nelson Mandella, that wonderful icon of peace and hope who with great dignity managed to achieve freedom for his people in South Africa all without bitterness after his twenty seven years in prison!
I’m now putting finishing touches to most of the little miniatures although I have started a couple of new ones I don’t think I’ll get those finished till Saturday night.
I’d just had a phone call enquiring about the Open Studio from a young woman who wants to come and buy on behalf of her father who is working so I’m five minutes late - when I arrive over there its already full of people and the red spots have been flying on. Within half an hour there is only one little painting left. I’m amazed and so touched by the response. Its such a joy to see so many friends and collectors, some of whom have travelled quite a long way. The day whizzes past with everything now sold , including three of the racing linocut prints that had never been seen before.
Luckily I have three miniatures in progress that I manage to finish by staying up most of the night........
.......I’m just varnishng them when the doorbell rings and there is my lovely friend from student days, Joyce so I accompany her over to the studio brush in hand where Richard washes it before going to collect the three new miniscule works. Joyce generously says she would like to purchase of the tiny circular painting but that it doesn’t have to be that one, giving me scope to sell it and then make another specially for her. There are many people again, mostly friends but some new. The three miniatures and four more lithographs sell. When we count up in the evening we work out that with the five extra miniatures I’m still to paint we will have made about £15,000 for the two charities which is wonderful and very supportive of all the lovely people who came along also buying raffle tickets, cards and books and donations.
Lyn comes to collect her two paintings whilst Phil ( the Father of the girl who rang and came shortly after they all gone on Saturday) is there to see what he missed and take a glimpse at one I started last night with him in mind which he decides to go for!
Painting finishing touches on a couple of the bottoms of frames before Richard packs up and posts to Ren and Lynder's before going to the National Star College for mince pies and mulled wine where I show Kate the miniature Owl painting I’m working on for her and Paul.
Beverly holds a delightful impromptu drinks party to celebrate today's once in a hundred years significant date - I think I feel a newspaper painting coming on!
Back working on the commission for Ian & Maeve again as well as putting grass on the odd miniature bottom!
David and Denys come to collect their Little Card Players miniature I am very touched that David has bought it for Denys’s Birthday and he will eventually leave it to his Granddaughter who was very lucky at the races when she and her Dad joined them there yesterday.
Up to London for further discussions re new commission. We’re a little late as the traffic is bad but the meeting goes well. Then onto the Chelsea Arts Club - during the car journey receive e mail from Silja saying they have just sold copy of the Terrible Twins lithograph. We bump into Jess in the bar who is also waiting for friends and we spot Peter Blake who is going out to the publishers party in the marquee in the garden. We discuss the art fair in January before Richard notices Isabelle Bacon our guest who is French and very kindly collected small circular frames for me from Paris whist visiting her mother there earlier in the year. She and her husband Rick have a big collection of my work which is hanging in their house in Barcelona. It’s Isabelle’s first time at the CAC and she enjoys Richard pointing out the various paintings and sculptures of and by well known former members. She’s very entertaining and has many appropriate related stories as she works and travels internationally.
Working on the commission for Ian and Maeve
Ian and Maeve come to dinner and are drenched in the few yards walking from the car to the door as there is a sudden squall. They notice from the porch that as I’m walking to open the door I stop to cover their commission standing on the easel (which Richard has covered with a piece of brown paper) with a gingham cloth. After we’ve shaken their very wet coats and Richard has poured the champagne and they have warmed by the fire they ask if they might take a peek at the painting. I am so touched by their hugely enthusiastic response - they notice that in the background I have depicted an image of their beautiful ancient converted barn home and are delighted with the horse whose ghost lingers on and all the references I have made to the things in their life there together. I couldn’t have wished for a better reaction as they say it is even better that they had anticipated which is a great relief as I always worry about getting it right with commissions. After that the evening flows by as they are such good company.
We arrange to meet Pete Bungard with his two paintings at the Alderman Knight School where we have been invited to the carols and Christmas lunch. Its a delightful occasion which Pete really enjoys too as they invite him to stay. They are the most delightful warm and friendly children who sing so happily and I really enjoy being sat on Richard the art teacher’s table with children of all ages, the youngest being Jess sat to my right who is a tiny adorable chatterbox and the oldest in her last year and hoping to study childcare at Gloucestershire College Cheltenham campus in September of next year. After this we pop home to collect the parcels and cards we still have to post followed by a quick visit to the garden centre where whilst Richard is parking I manage to select two box trees, several plants and a very handsome Christmas Tree. Then on to Catriona’s to deliver & hang the little Boating Pool painting that she bought from the Open Studio in aid of the Nat Star and Linc. Then onto Beverley’s with ‘The Florentine’ which she came up to London to buy at the opening of my show 24th of October as a present for her lovely son Tom. We then do some late night Christmas shopping at Waitrose and John Lewis - its quite nice shopping late as there are fewer people.
At ten past one in the morning receive e mail from Silja at the Alpha Gallery today they have just sold my Running Hare. What a brilliant week having made three more sales.
R goes up to London to collect what works remain at the gallery as sadly it is closing due to the redevelopment of Cork Street.
Meanwhile I’m decorating the Christmas tree and writing yet more cards.
R does brilliantly well and is back in time to take me late night shopping again.
Robert and Toyah arrive about 5.30; its lovely to see them both looking so well and happy, Robert bearing a bottle of already iced champagne. We spend an enjoyable couple of hours exchanging news, reminiscing and discussing plans for the future. Toyah never ceases to amaze us, she’s been training with Tom Daley, learning to dive from high boards and will take part in ITV’s Splash on 11th January. She is extraordinary in her courage and determination. She also tells us she is going to Estonia for the Estonian Tourist Board to make a promotional film for them.
Early evening Henrietta Kev and the boys arrive in time to meet Lucy and Andrew with their little boys Joe and Charlie who come to collect the small painting they had bought from the Mulled Wine, Mince Pies and Miniatures Open Studio for Nat Star and Linc.
Tuesday 24.12.13 Christmas Eve
How lovely, a card from dear friends and collectors Drs Emma and Charles Slosberg containting a cheque for £250, a donation for the two charities. We take Isaac and Samuel to a midday performance of Aladdin at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham whilst Henrietta and Kev take my Mum out to lunch and shopping. Its a very entertaining production with Tweedy the Clown once again playing a major role. We’re always particularly interested in the sets which John the lovely man who makes my frames is involved with building. After I’ve made the boys’ lunch and whilst R is collecting Nathan from the station and H and K arrive back, before they return. I’ve just warmed mince pies for them all sitting in front the of the fire when Gill my sister arrives from Bedfordshire bearing a big basket of goodies - we all enjoy a lovely hour chatting before she goes off to my Mum’s, returning for dinner with her later that evening. The boys are very excited that Father Christmas will be paying a visit during the night and before they go bed we leave a glass of sherry& mince pie for him and a carrot for the reindeer. Richard and I are still doing some last pieces of wrapping after they have all turned in.
Wednesday 25.12.13 Christmas Day
I can already smell the delicious aromas from Richard’s preparations for the Christmas dinner when I arise, after being up late filling Christmas stockings. There are two excited boys showing me some of the wonders left by Santa. My Mum and Gill arrive between 12 and 1 for the exchanging of presents which reach out from underneath the large Christmas tree covering much more of the floor. This year Henrietta and Gill don the Father Christmas pixie hats for giving them out whilst I take photographs of the process in between unwrapping my own which include a faux fur muff and splendid book called Equs - photographs of horses by Tim Flach; a book on Jonathan Yeo; a cheeky black angora cap and from Richard a huge flat parcel continuing containing I know not what ? as I rip the paper wrapping open I recognise from one corner what it is - an Elizabeth Frink lithograph from the 70s, I am hugely surprised and touched that Richard has been able to keep this a secret from me and his secret dealings with Matthew of Panter & Hall, my new dealers.
A lovely day with lots of activity from the little boys building a magnificent machine that Nathan had given and lovingly constructed with them whilst Kev and Samuel make up his Lego racing car. And a turn at the portable basketball set we have given him. We sit down to dinner at about 6.30 the culmination of a lot of preparation and work on Richard’s part with Nathan making the brandy butter and me laying the table etc.
Thursday 26.12.13 Boxing Day
Richard’s cooked pheasants for lunch today and a rather wonderful nut roast pie with a mashed potatoe topping which Samuel calls his Cowboy Pie being perhaps related to the shepherd. In the evening we have Henrietta’s selection of cheeses followed by the beautiful Christmas cake she has made, all it needs she says is a little colour and I am able to bring out two snow men and a little Father Christmas made by the children at Alderman Knight ( where she worked for a couple of years ) with which she and the boys are delighted as they look and are perfect in scale for the cake.
Later after more games when the boys and Henrietta and Kev have gone to bed, Nathan Gill my Mum and I play whist each putting a £1 in the kitty each round which always ignites our ninety one year old Mother’s great enthusiasm, her card skills seem undiminished by the years as I think she is the one who ends quids up!!!
Henrietta and Kev leave early afternoon to drive to his parents in Andover. Richard makes a rather fine turkey curry (and salmon curry for me) for our supper. Its nice to hear the chatter between Nathan and Gill as they don’t see each other that often. My Mum always so enjoys Christmas and for her it is all too soon over as Gill goes back to Bedfordshire in the morning.
Nice chat and brunch with Nathan before he catches the 5.25 train to return to London.
In the early hours of tomorrow have at last edited November’s diary entries and Richard has put them onto the web site.
Back in the studio working on Ian and Maeve's commission and pieces for the Art fairs.
Still paying in cheques from the charity event.
Tuesday 31.12.13 New Years Eve
Working in the studio when recieve call from my dear friend, New York dealer and collector Lee Drexler who has rung from Puerta Rico to wish us a happy New Year. She tells me about the big law case on 6th December at which she was the expert witness. She was acting for Texas University where Farrah Fawcett the actress from Charlie’s Angels who sadly died in 2009 had studied art and left her collection to them. It included two silkscreens of her by Andy Warhol - one they already have and the other has beeen hanging over the bed of her partner Ryan O’Niel who said he had it hanging there because it reminded him so much of her and that he would leave it to their son. But the University of Texas said it belongs to them so Lee was the person who gave it the US$12.5m valuation. She said O’Neil wept during the court case. The Telegraph notes that Lee was paid US$36,000 for her services. It reminds me of the time she was staying here when she was acting as a part broker on the sale of a Modigliani painting - again big money.
As for me, 2013 has been full of joys, friendships and 2014 is set to be one full of new and exciting challenges. But I try to take time to remember that for many thousands across the world 2013 has been an appalling year in war torn countries such as Syria and the disaster areas like the Philippines too. It is all too easy to forget. I also remembe with affection those we have lost like our own dear Howell and Richard Smith.
WISHING YOU ALL A HAPPY, HEALTHY AND PEACEFUL NEW YEAR