Start the year as I hope to go on, in my studio. Having spent so much time on the miniatures have to now make a big effort on the large works for Art London 2015 later this month and it does feel wonderful to be working big again.
Michelle, who had e mailed me earlier in the week re visiting the studio to meet me and discuss the paintings, comes. A beautiful woman with a big smile greets me as I enter the studio, R having let her in. We hadn’t been talking long when I happen to mention being a Patron of the National Star College and ask whether she knows it. She does and she then adds that her husband is in a wheel chair in the car to which I exclaim do bring him in we have a ramp; which we are so pleased to use. Richard puts it in place and I step outside to greet Craig as he comes up to the french windows and the ramp that R has now repositioned there. Craig is as handsome as Michelle is beautiful, also has a big smile and a wonderful sense of humour. Its so good for him to be able to see the work in my studio too rather than Michelle taking photographs. I can see he’s a tall man who is doing brilliantly with their hugely positive attitude to the MS that he developed when their children were small.
Anne and Jeremy come to collect their painting and have a cup of tea.
Working non stop on the paintings for Art London 2015
E mail from Ian at the Loch Gallery telling me that they have sold one of the two paintings sent over for the Toronto Art Fair, to someone who fell in love with it at the Fair.
Long call from Martin Kiszko back from his meditation in Portugal
Working on two of the pieces for Art London.
Michelle and Craig pop in and we show them the frame and size of the possible painting. Lovely Peta Hoyle also arrives to collect my elephant drawing that she bought from the open studio on her return from Singapore as a friend is going to deliver it to Sarah, Drummond and their first baby Jimmy there as a christening present. A pleasing lively exchange between Peta and Michele as Peta lives very close to where Michele works as a PA.
I do a couple more hours in the studio before John my wonderful frame and construction maker arrives - when I come down he’s stirring the caramelised red onions simmering on top of the Aga. Jane and David come shortly after for dinner and to collect their little cyclist miniature that they bought at my charity Star Art weekend. Its a lovely evening and they and John seem to get on very well. Richard had brought over one of my paintings that is going to Art London from the studio over the road so that I can work on it in my studio here ( on the top bottom and sides of the frame) and its on a chair in the kitchen having only completed half of its journey. I’m very touched as Jane spots it and says how much she likes it with its very deep frame and that she would be interested in it too; it’s very uplifting for me get such a positive response.
Working solidly on the pieces for Art London - Islington.
Over to Sir Michael’s for an Hon Co Arts & Heritage meeting where he makes us very welcome with a glass of wine and smoked salmon etc. The discussion mainly focuses on museums in Gloucestershire which we might support; I suggest the Holst (which Margaret seems to agree with) but again it is in Cheltenham where we already support The Wilson. But I think Sir Michael is rather keen that the Army museum in Gloucester should have some help. I am very pleased that they agree to sponsor a key speaker at the annual conference of the BAfM held in Cheltenham this year and hosted by Friends of the Wilson and The Holst, which I had particularly asked for ( as president of FCAG&M I am sponsoring refreshments at the actual conference).
Up to London for Samuel’s 7th birthday. As traffic’s bad we decide we don’t have time to see the Rembrandt at the National Gallery but go straight to Blackheath. We meet Samuel from school and are just a few minutes late as there seems to have been a London bus strike and train works going on in the Greenwich Blackheath region. But he spotted us through the window as he’d been to Lego Club after school. He looks so sweet in his school uniform and for such a lively child is very well behaved as we walk across the playground then cross the road to the car.
We’re at the house for about half an hour before Henrietta and Isaac get back then Kev a little later. We prepare the birthday meal and Samuel opens his presents which he seems to love, particularly the large bean bag seat which he drags around with him.
Home by 2am
Working intensely on the paintings for Art London 2015
Break off from the work in the studio to change for the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum party at The Wilson. We’re a bit late as I’m still painting so when we arrive at the gallery they are already on their tour of the new exhibition ‘a still small voice’ which Angus for m the University is taking them round. There are two wonderful Edward Burra paintings, ‘Agony in the Garden’ and ‘Coronation of the Virgin’ and a very beautiful Stanley Spencer, ‘Angels of the Apocalypse’. The 2 course meal cooked by the museum’s in house caters is very good and we sit with our dear friends Daphne & Michael, and Catriona. I present the cheque from my Open Studio to Hilary having already given Eileen one for the same amount for the Holst.
We’re back home by 9 when I quickly change and recommence work on the very large canvas having spent the afternoon starting to paint in a big hound dog. Richard had raised his eyebrows but was very encouraging as he’s got used to me making life rather harder than it needs to be. I call it a day at 4am and …
…he delivers them in a hired van to the storage in Acton where he meets Jess and is very excited as she tells him she has already sold one of the paintings to an American client (from the photograph) - in fact the deal was done whilst the painting was still being worked on my easel! Then to Panter & Hall in Pall Mall where he delivers the others. He follows this by going onto Cornelissen from where he phones for a list of paints I need and is home by six to make my boiled egg ( what a wizard of a man he is ).
I’m on the last leg now working exclusively on the last painting for the art fair which takes me through the day and the whole of the night. Its about 6.30 when I climb into bed
…….and Richard delivers it to the gallery first thing.
Mixing up more colours for Shaun who has been waiting patiently for me to return to the downstairs studio to continue work on him. Mix up a glorious red and start to paint.
Am amazed to hear that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who has just died was thought to be in his 90s. When we were in Saudi Arabia making observations for the series of commissions I was asked to paint I was fascinated by how elegant a man he was as he will was in his early 80s then. In response to the finale of the opera we saw as part of a festival that King Fahd had founded, he did a sword dance in answer to the one that the players had performed. I noticed how easily he moved and swayed bearing the enormously long and heavy sword. He was at that time the Crown Prince but on the death of Fahd I was asked to stop everything else I was doing to paint Abdullah’s coronation. Whilst we were there we briefly met the new King, Salman.
All energies in preparing for tonight’s dinner party. Richard is cooking roast oysters; goats cheese on caramelised red onions; a monkfish beer and bean stew and another pheasant casserole followed my his current favourite the rather theatrical bananas flambée.
Toyah is the first to arrive followed by Peta and Richard Hoyle; Simon and Caroline; Mark (who is going to serve the champagne for me) and Julia; then Martin (lovely Lib Dem MP for Cheltenham) and Shona Horwood then very apologetic because he’s been over to the studio, the sculptor Rory Young and Judith. Its wonderful to hear the excited buzz of conversation filling the rooms and as usual everybody seemed to make friends. Before Dinner we do a studio visit as some like Rory were hoping to see it. Lots of discussion of the altarpiece particularly with Rory as he is currently painting seven life sized martyrs that he has carved in stone for St Albans Cathedral. Martin Horwood homes in on my painting of a demonstration noticing that it was painted before the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris I say that I noticed he had put Je Suis Charlie on Facebook and he shows me the cartoon strip he had made of himself for his newspaper column. He’s a really good cartoonist and the drawing does look like him standing outside the houses of parliament. http://www.gloucestershireecho.co.uk/Cheltenham-MP-Martin-Horwood-pens-cartoon-Echo/story-25838165-detail/story.html Meanwhile Toyah, Caroline and Simon are looking at my big owl painting in progress which they all seem to really like, ( which is particularly encouraging for me ).
I’m sure that being in a fairly small space in conducive to mixing and mingling. Richard’s really touched as half way through the meal Richard Hoyle dings his glass and makes a toast to the chef; we also do happy new year and wish Martin good luck in the forthcoming General Election.
Over dinner Rory shows Martin and me photographs firstly the moth photos we had exchanged via e-mail, his being a most beautiful emerald that had landed on Elizabeth, one of his seven martyrs. Martin is also astounded at how beautiful Rory’s carved figures are and we enter into a long conversation about the painting and carving of them which he is doing layer on layer of thin coats allowing the colour of the coat below to show through. It is wonderful to hear about the great dedication and enthusiasm with which he works. When I ask Martin if he has been calling on people pre the General Election he tells me that this morning he visited a lovely older lady who came to the door in a paint spattered outfit who when he enquired if she was an artist invited him in to see her work and he took photographs of her paints brushes and equipment. I tell Toyah that Mark, who is sitting next to me was the last person to interview Laurie Lee, who she had met at the Chelsea Arts Club introduced by the poet Brian Patten. Later we discover from Simon that he and his mother knew Laurie Lee and his daughter Jessie well as they used to go The Woolpack and he used to buy them drinks.
Rory invited us over to his workshop to see the seven martyrs on completion and before they are installed in St Albans.
Hear Martin (Horwood) talking in the Westminster Hour from Mark’s BBC Gloucester studio. He’s such a wonderful orator because he’s exactly the same as the person we were chatting with yesterday. He always seems unflappable and has a smile in his voice which contrasted greatly with the voices of Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP (Martin is the Lib Dem green spokesman) and Suzanne Evans, deputy chairman of UKIP who both seemed rather more aggressive in their responses than Martin. This is sad as it tends to take the edge off what they are trying to put across. Glad I’m not a politician as I might come across as rather shrill too.
Trying to make headway on some of the outstanding work and commissions I’m embarking on.
My Mum’s still got it at 92! this evening she won the knock out competition ‘killer’ at skittles.
Particularly working on one of the two commissions from Leicestershire CC collection.
There’s nothing like hearing one of your dealers has just sold another painting to put a spring in one’s brush when starting a new piece. Feeling pretty good as that makes sales in Toronto; USA and here so far this month with another on reserve. Particularly as I have to pay my tax bill today.
Having spent most of the week working on commissions have allowed myself to return to the big new work started earlier this month it feels glorious to end the month in the same way that I started it with such a challenge!