Send an e mail to Gill Rouse to apologise that I will be giving this Zoom talk on the same day as Linc’s poetry event.
Another e mail from Marion re the commission to paint a work in memory of her late husband Jarig who died late last year and one from Amy at Art Shape with the Zoom invitation and password for our technical run through tomorrow.
Sad e mail from Dr Gill Rouse saying that her beautiful daughter Claire had been taken into hospital as an emergency on Thursday with a bowel obstruction. They operated on Friday and found in was cancerous and so removed quite a lot of her colon. But the good news is that she was up on Monday and walked around the ward and was starting a light diet today. It is hoped she will be home by the end of the week. They won’t know if she needs more treatment until they get the histology.
Richard’s managed to get the studio into a really good setting for my zoom talk to the Art Shape students and even got a good signal using his booster. When Harriet and Amy Zoom in we think we’re all set for the practice run only to discover that the signal fades and so do we. So we make a quick dash across the Lane back to the house and find there is a good signal in my upstairs studio here, it’s just not quite as spacious being only one room with a pointed ceiling and circular window. But after some to-ing and fro-ing and advice from them both we seem to have a set up and Richard and I will do a practice run tomorrow.
Beautiful New Year’s greetings from Olivier, one of my Parisien friends and collectors. Olivier is a film maker and writer; the card uses a photograph of him sitting on a jetty with a boat on its mooring frame on a quiet wide river or lake.
Sorry to hear in Janet’s letter that she had sadly lost a neighbour and close friend who lived opposite, to Covid. His wife is devastated and they can’t think where he got it from as Janet says they were careful and sensible people. He was only in hospital for five days. A fit man and larger than life character who had been a pilot. She says they know twelve people who have had the virus including members of her daughter in law’s family. Likewise we probably know a similar number including the daughter of my sister Gill’s partner Ian who probably contracted it from their little boy; especially dangerous as there are now so many variants trying to outwit us. But our brilliant research scientists and medics are doing a valiant job and on BBC’s News today it says that there is a new vaccine that will cope with the new variants by the Autumn.
Today’s the day of the talk for Art Shape and its students. After Tuesdays fiasco when there wasn’t a sufficiently good signal in the studio over the Lane, we set up in my upstairs studio here where Richard has carried The Outsider, Al’d’y’riah and three of the 3D works. We join the meeting fifteen minutes in advance at quarter to two when Harriet and Amy are also connecting with their students and letting them in. We show slides of about 40 paintings as I talk about them and how I work followed by a question and answer session then a beak just after 3. Then show the GloCorama film of it being made in my studio and finally installed. I then set them my assignment for which I’m offering three prizes the deadline for which s 4th March.
Concentrated effort today in the studio on the two commissions which I’m hoping will be near completion by the end of the month.
Last night on our walk we dropped the timber for a small newspaper painting commission off outside John’s door.
Hear from Dr Margus that UPS have contacted him to say his package has arrived at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and should be delivered in the diplomatic bag in two weeks time to the Embassy in Moscow.
Continuing to work intensely on the two commissions.
Richard notices that the City Museum in Gloucester are distributing 300 creative educational packs and on the front page there’s a reproduction of Mes Enfants, my painting in their permanent collection - a little bit of biographical detail then talking about the way I use the frames etc.
Package from Trev Turley (at Turley Towers) with a copy of his new limited edition CD
Thank you call from Martin for his birthday presents that had arrived today and to mention to Richard that he had just sent the cover and page designs Simon had done using Richard’s illustrations.
Working back in the studio after our walk when receive calls from both Nathan and then Henrietta. Nathan has some very exciting projects coming up and things are moving with the house purchase in Ramsgate.
E mail from the RWA asking whether I would like to give a Zoom talk to a group of their visually impaired visitors about my work that is currently on exhibition at the RWA on what they call the ‘described tours’ for their visually impaired visitors which I did a couple of years ago. They were a delightful group and it was such a brilliant idea.
After our walk the evening devoted to Martin’s birthday party co-hosted by Nick and Mags from Preston. Martin has friends who perform or join in and speak from Spain, the USA, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Yorkshire as well as of course his home city of Bristol. It’s good to catch a glimpse of Arril too who mentions that he as given a talk for Henrietta this afternoon (for her students at Goldsmiths). It was fun packed and went on from 7.30 ’til 11 pm
Making headway in the studio.
Hear from Topiarius Magazine which has seen my painting Passé, Présent, Futur in the Chelsea Arts Club Yearbook and wonder if they might have permission to reproduce it in their annual edition along with a piece about the painting.
Richard is in the process of stretching me a number of canvases so that I have an element of choice for the proposed exhibition in London in October.
Richard’s reading his copy of the TLS which arrived yesterday on the Freelance page and it mentions the Obituaries of Tom Maschler who had sadly died in October aged eighty seven. I had the pleasure of meeting Tom a couple of times at Jonathan Cape in Bedford Square when I went there with Eric Lister who had the idea that I should do a book. Eric was a dear and interesting man and one of my two dealers at the time along with his business partner Lionel Levy, who founded the Portal Gallery off Bond Street. When I’d enquired of Eric how I should prepare he said no, just go with a blank mind; so when Tom asked what my ideas were I said I wanted to work under a pseudonym as I wanted my paintings to remain paintings and not be seen as illustrations. Tom was very accommodating and wondered if I’d like to work with a writer. They thought about Laurie Lee as he was local to me in Gloucestershire but thought he wasn’t always nice to women. Anyway he left it up to me to come up with an idea and also bought the little painting I had taken with me. Eric sent me again with one of my large paintings helped by the girl who worked in the gallery and instructed me that I mustn’t get out of the taxi. But the painting was much too big for her to carry in on her own so of course I did go in and dear Tom had seen us through the window and run all the way from the top of the building. I never did go back with ideas for a book as I decided I wanted to concentrate on painting.
Pleased that Parcel Force collected the parcel that Richard had packed up with our presents for Isaac’s birthday on Sunday. Like Royal Mail, it’s a brilliant service that means we don’t have to go into the post office so worth every penny of the extra charge. There are some things good that have come out of the pandemic such as Royal Mail keeping on 10,000 temporary employees and I know that Waitrose have taken on a lot of the John Lewis employees; drivers have come to the fore and to our aid. We’ve had some very interesting people who are from all sorts of other professions including a young architect and also a disc jockey who says he prefers this because the people are so very grateful and for the part sober. It has been pretty tough on them when there has been ice and snow, two of them recently telling us that they had slipped over when they were carrying boxes up the icy paths.
Interesting in Ginger Gibbons’ chairman’s letter from the Chelsea Arts Club that he mentions the late Nik Powell who he had a couple of financial skirmishes with when Ginger was teaching at the National Film and Television School and Nik was the director. He was a friend of Martin’s and Nick ( Park ) who had been a student there. One of Ginger’s students who was from Hungary had run out of money to finish making his film so Ginger generously told Nik he’d like to donate the wages he hadn’t been paid to the student “….. He had little option but to agree although his language was spectacular. In fact, I suspect that he was as happy with the outcome as I was. So, at last – a successful wage negotiation…..” I sat next to Nik at a dinner at Soho House.
A light covering of snow; the temperature seems to have dropped by the time we went for our early evening walk. I was surprised I could still fit an extra faux fur layer inside my sheepskin coat. It makes quite a difference and luckily it doesn’t feel too icy underfoot.
Isaac’s birthday so we all speak via Facetime though normally we would have been in London sharing it with him. He looks beautiful and he has one of those stupendous cakes like Samuel had on his birthday - several layers of what looks like rich chocolate and topped with pieces of honeycomb etc. Henrietta later sent me a short piece of film of him using his new GoPro camera that we had bought him.
Richard points out to me that Hilary Simpson, the former chair of the Friends of The Wilson, had put a piece on Facebook celebrating Peter Gabriel’s birthday. Many years ago he bought one of my paintings from the Portal gallery in London and not that long afterwards came to visit the studio
Receive a copy of the beautiful Topiarius magazine as they are using my painting Passé, Présent, Futur in May’s annual edition. I was fascinated to notice when browsing through it that there was a big spread on Jeffrey and Mary Archer’s garden at their house ‘Writer’s Block’ in Mallorca where there are a lot of beautiful barrel cacti and 100 year old olive trees. Several years ago I was commissioned by Mary’s sister Janet, to create a painting her and her late husband Peter’s 25th wedding anniversary and at the celebration luncheon she placed me next to Jeffrey as he’s always been a great art enthusiast. He spoke very knowledgeably about art and a particular painting in Florence, Christ Preaching to the Masses.
I then write my short piece for Topiarius to accompany the painting.
After spending the day and evening in the studio and our walk, Richard cooks buckwheat spinach pancakes a recipe from the vegetarian cookbook he had as a student which is now held together by an elastic band. So filling we could only eat one of those each so have to save the rest for tomorrow; likewise with my banana and raisin pancake. I’m reminded to tell Richard the news whilst eating them that today there has been an announcement that five young pancake tortoises have been born at Longleat Safari Park. An endangered species in Kenya and Tanzania where they are sold as pets. They often live for twenty five years in the wild but up to thirty five in captivity. because of their flatter shells they can run fast and hide in crevices from predators. I think our dear friend Alexander, Lord Bath, who sadly died early on in the pandemic of Covid last year would have been wonderfully proud as it was he who grew the Safari Park as well as Centre Parc on the Longleat estate
Working in the studio when I receive call from Lisa (ex Star College student ) who is very excited as her new wheelchair has arrived. She says it’s quite tall so thinks it might be quite difficult to get on and off busses so will perhaps use this as the indoor wheelchair for manoeuvring around the flat but also enable having one on charge whilst using the other. This morning she visted a psychiatrist with her social worker so it looks like some mental health treatment is being rolled out well although I know there are very many young people waiting for appointments. Then a couple of hours later when we’re going to have tea, she rings again to say she has just met her new home carer who she allowed to sit in her wheelchair while she completed paperwork. I don’t know if Lisa’s unlucky with her carers as she always tells me she has problems. It’s a difficult one - most carers I have met have been very kind but Lisa thinks that they sometimes take advantage of the situation.
Richard points out that on the BBC website that a charming Banksy mural of a girl hoola hooping with a bicycle tyre on the end wall of a shop in Nottingham painted last year, referencing Nottingham’s cycle manufacturing history, has been removed. It was done very early this morning unbeknown to the shop keeper a large rectangle of brick wall had been cut out and boarded up, purchased for a ‘six figure sum’ by an art dealer called John Brandler. He bought one of my paintings many years ago and I have done a couple of charity paintings at his request. But I think it’s a great shame that he has done this, presumably for commercial gain, depriving the people of Nottingham of what was a simple gift on a gable end wall for the residents of the city to enjoy and take community ownership of. It was obviously the owner of the building who was persuaded by John to part with it, which during this time of lockdown seems even more inappropriate and crass. It reminded me of the late Carel Weight the artist who had been professor of painting at the Royal College and made rather wonderful slightly unworldly figurative paintings from whom John often bought them directly at very favourable prices. He later sold them to a big London dealer who was putting on a large exhibition of Carel’s work at hugely inflated prices from which Carel didn’t receive any share. When he found out and was upset (for all his greatness he was a modest and kind man) the two dealers sent him a box of wine.
Just paid nearly £200 in VAT and duty on my brushes from Germany. That’s on top of the £800 they cost. And an extra £25 charged by my bank for doing this international payment bringing the total to over £1,000. Just one of the small penalties and inconveniences caused by Brexit. I’ve noticed the same applies to items I now send to other parts of Europe. They are taking several times as long as the five days service that people like UPS usually offer. One of the sad consequences of Brexit, though it pales into insignificance with the tragedy of losing so many lives to Covid due to late and poor decision making etc. and the ineffectual border controls particularly early on.
An e mail from Tiffany at Panter & Hall yesterday re arrangements for my exhibition opening there late September giving the dates by which they would need images for the catalogue and when they would need the actual paintings by. Thus I woke in the night thinking about it and ideas for the title
Nice e mail from Ann Jessop telling us that she and Tony, one of the churchwardens had closed the doors on the altarpiece on Ash Wednesday so now the scene is that of the Agony in the Garden. Although the church is not open for regular services it is open for private prayer three times a week for which I think the Agony in the Garden would be most appropriate.
Having an intense effort to try to complete the octagonal commission today as I’ve said I will hope to complete it by March and Tom the commissioner has been very patient. In the room adjacent to the upstairs studio there are paintings in various early stages queuing up to get back in on the easels; one of them is almost six foot square.
Still finishing off and refining Tom’s painting but late afternoon/early evening I get Richard to fix the painting back into the frame and put a wire on the back so that it can be hung in my other studio to be photographed.
When I get back from washing my hands he’s already filled all my easels with the canvases for the exhibition although towards the evening I get him to help me move the almost six footer to a different position where the light is more comfortable to work. So I’m now going through the process of re-engaging with the difference in scale and subject matter.
E mail from Jules at the RWA requesting use of the photograph on my web site front page to send to the BBC as she’s written a piece for them about virtual tours by zoom of the current annual exhibition and I’m giving one on 20th April about my works in the show.
Many metres of picture frame moulding arrive by courier today so Richard’s been busy putting it into the wood store that hangs high above him in his woodwork shop and also puts four lengths into the car that he will take to one of my framers, Sam.
A large box full of jars of paints arrives from Cornelissen’s today. Really pleased as I’ve got some new shelving trollies in my studio which means I have more room to accommodate materials etc.
Beautiful photograph on e mail from dear Margus in Moscow of him and Tiina with ‘Through a Wood Darkly’ which has after its one month long journey via Poland and Tallinn, now arrived in Moscow. Am so pleased and relieved.
Richard seems to be going to the door to receive lots of post and parcels this morning, perhaps because it’s his birthday. He’s delighted with all his presents and cards particularly the folio Society edition of the Count of Monte Cristo from my sister Gill and Ian; a box of deliciousd good for you’ birthday cakes and a collection of beautifully coloured chopping boards from Henrietta, Kev and the boys who have also made beautiful birthday cards for him. An elegant wooden desk lamp from Nancy and Peter and a magnificent box with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and splendid goodies from dear Daphne and Michael who would normally have been joining us this evening for a supper and celebration as it is also Michael’s birthday at the beginning of March. Likewise Richard Chatham’s birthday is about now and he had also sent a lovely card. I had given R a selection of plants from the Royal horticultural Society. and painted him a little angel blowing a golden trumpet. And from dearest Tammy a black leather bound notebook and matching gloves. We’ve known Tammy since she was a student at the National Star College many years ago when I’d awarded her my student prize. So kind and generous she never forgets a birthday, Easter or Christmas.
In the evening Henrietta had arranged for us to do a ‘pub quiz’ which Isaac organises so it the four of them and Nathan and Clémentine it is great fun and there’s lots of laughter.
Richard’s very excited as he notices I’ve had my now monthly statement from the Bridgeman for royalties and he sees that the Italian newspaper La Repubblica has used ‘Preserving the Species’ which is very pleasing. Also delighted to see that Oxford UniversityPress are using ‘Deadline’ on their forthcoming Journal of Occupational Medicine.
Richard’s able to plant the two new apple trees in the corner of my studio garden in the warmth of today’s sunshine. He’s actually there in just short sleeved polo shirt which is somewhat braver than me when I go over to see him in my faux fur and beret. He’s also cleared a lot of the old growth away from both the side and the central beds.
I’m making quite radical changes on the composition of the six footer, still feeling my way back into a much larger canvas.
Another beautiful sunny day. Richard’s pruning the old bramley apple tree when I go out to see him. I help to collect a lot of the dead wood from around the garden and also have the joy of seeing how many of his crocus are now in flower, amber, mauve and white. And blue aconites too. It is magical how the warmth of the sun brings them into bloom and we spot large clusters of the same on our walk through the old part of the churchyard. Then its back to the studio to work on the large canvas which Richard has taken back out of the frame for me as I found it too restricting. ; he’s also sent another sheet of his brilliant illustrations for the educational poetry book off to Martin and the designer earlier in the day after photographing it outside in the sunshine.