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We were going to be having friends over for a meal to celebrate New Year as even though Richard had a cold over the Christmas holiday, he was much better. Then on Friday having been feeling rather pleased with myself for having avoided it, I suddenly start to feel the tell-tale symptoms and I know I have succumbed to it. So sadly had to postpone a get-together. We haven’t had a New Years party for several years - since the little boys have been coming as especially when they were small they often used to bring a virus when they came for Christmas. But they were OK this year though I think grown ups brought them instead! So like the last few years, we see the New Year in in my studio (with a small glass of ginger wine ) where I’m always pleased to greet the new year at my easel. Speak to Nathan and Clementine at about half past midnight and Henrietta earlier in the day.
I count my blessings but hope for peace and a better world for those who are homeless, hungry and displaced, a better deal for the have-nots and better health for the unwell
Its a nice sunny day and good light working in the studio. Back on the Australian commission and excited that he is also commissioning a much larger work in four parts based on the four seasons, particularly after seeing the Portuguese commission. .
R goes to Bristol and meets Martin en route to hand over the painting. They meet at Ikea as I decided there were a few things I’d like him to pick up for us.
R carries over the large ‘Walking the Dog’ canvas for me to work on as Jess would like to show it at Art London and there are a few changes and refinements I would like to make.
David Carpanini calls to collect his paintings that R collected from the RWA for him in December.
Still making changes on ‘Walking the Dog’.
Up to London as its Samuel’s birthday. Its lovely to see them all and one of Samuel’s school friends Karl. Before going out we give them the birthday presents - tripods for the new Christmas cameras which they both seem very pleased with and Karl comments that they are cool.
We all walk down the hill to the Royal Nepalese Restaurant, which is a favourite of Samuel’s. Isaac tells us they usually come once a month. Richard mentions that its Samuel’s birthday so after the splendid meal they bring him an ice cream cake with a candle in - they and we all sing ‘Happy Birthday’. Karl entertains us with a rather brilliant tick ripping up the after eight mint paper envelope and sticking two longish pieces to his eyelids which he expertly flutters to hilarious effect.
We leave Henrietta’s at about twenty past eleven arriving home at about 2.30am when I recommence on Walking the Dog so that Richard can take a photograph for Jess in the morning……
….before he collects the big hired van he will need tomorrow.
Repeat the through the night session and go to bed just as he is departing.
Don’t rise till Richard’s back from London.
Paint small postcard sized work as one of the three I’m doing for the Jack and Jill charity in Ireland which helps care for sick children.
Back on the smaller Australian commission and some more refining on the Goodwood commission.
Jane and David come over for brunch; we’re really pleased to have the chance to see them before they’re off to Australia next week to suss out the new house etc. Shortly after they go there’s a nice chatty call from one of my former dealers, Robert Sandelson, whose children were very young at the time and it seems amazing to think that his son Angel is now studying on the Foundation course at Camberwell. We chat for about half an hour and then just after I put the phone down the doorbell rings and there carrying lots of beautifully made frames is lovely John who has constructed all these out of pieces that were left over from the larger frames he has made me during the year. He’s a wonderful multi talented craftsman, who also makes theatre sets and I am blessed to have him as a friend and collaborator. Then we set out to London as we are going to see the Rauschenberg exhibition at the Tate tomorrow and taking Henrietta and Isaac with us. We travel on the motorway and arrive in Blackheath just in time to pick up some provisions and presents at Marks & Spencer. Today had been the day of Samuel’s birthday party with all his chums (fifteen of them) who went to a trampoline centre. Tonight he’s got one of his school friends for a sleepover - he’d had thee of them last weekend too. We have a lovely salmon dinner that Henrietta has prepared - Kev is having to work upstairs as the design company of which he is a director has a project that has to be in by tomorrow midnight - he does woke incredibly hard. Meanwhile the three boys are watching a film and eating popcorn!
When we arise Kev has just heard that all three boys’ separate football matches have been postponed due to the frozen ground, they are up early and buzzing with energy. I get Isaac to create a Jackson Pollock type painting in the kitchen - his Mum comes in and looks pretty aghast. When he starts and realises how it is created his face lights up and he enters into the action wholeheartedly. He then does a pencil drawing with Henrietta before Richard drives the four of us to Tate Modern, taking the route that Isaac will have to take to his new school in September. At the Tate I get him one of the audio sets to wear and listen to as we go round the Rauschenberg exhibition so I’m not sure if he’s standing in front of the right paintings or not ( but am sure some of it goes in as later he recognises the postcard of the long car tyre print on a postcard that I have bought ) and there is my favourite Rauschenberg, Monogram 1953, the angora goat with a tyre round its middle, set on a base of a collective of large wooden letters used by printers. Also the famous wall hung ‘Bed’ “Rauschenerg and Jasper Johns/ bless the bed we lie upons” (Adrian Henri). Both very evocative of their era. Later in the Tate shop Isaac comes running up carrying “The Children’s Book of Art” which looks like a wonderful concise trip through art history but I am amazed when he turns it to a page where there is a large reproduction of my painting “Deadline” . He is so excited to learn that I did not know about it although doubtless it will a have been on one of my statements from the Bridgeman Art Library.
We pop into Carluccio’s to pick up a hot chocolate for him and beakers of tea for us to take away. He asks I he can have a cookie too and when I agree he points to the most enormous chocolate merangues which looked at least 9 or 10 inches in diameter. On the drive back Henrietta phones Wagamama in Greenwich as its now dark and she’s worried about getting the boys to bed on time so she orders a selection of meals for us all, (on our card). When we get back Samuel’s looking a little bored as his Dad has had to work all the time; I give him the Roy Lichtenstein print to hang in his bedroom, ‘Wham!’ and Isaac had chosen ‘Mustard on White’ and the small sketchbooks bearing the same images on their covers. After we’ve enjoyed the meal I get Isaac to do an oil pastel of a banana which he does beautifully. Richard sticks it into Isaac’s sketchbook along with the shoe prints he had done with them a couple of weeks ago and the Isaac’s Pollock-type painting which we manage to dry with the heater.
Richard’s packing the car when he realises it is very icy and becoming foggy too, so Henrietta invites us to stay another night and return home tomorrow.
Travel back, driving the same route past the schools and stop at Chiswick House for a walk in the grounds, admiring its Palladian architecture with its dome in the centre and portico with six pillars to the front. And the fascinating sets of steps that turn to either side rather than a central entrance. The huge plinths with stone urns and cyprus tree placed between each and the sphinx. The grounds today are full of Chinese fairground type rides and a red lantern avenue; here I imagine to celebrate Chinese New Year. It feels like something from a fairy tale or film set being devoid of people on this chilly, frosty day although nicely lit by winter sunshine.
Shortly after we return home we go to visit the charming John Baker to deliver the little white steamer painting he purchased from my charity Open Studio just before Christmas. As we park he comes out greet us and we are warmly welcomed and introduced to his lovely friend Ann who I had met at The Wilson when judging an art competition there. We spend a delightful evening being shown around his beautiful collection of Victorian watercolours and miniatures which he had collected with his late wife Barbara. He also has a fantastic collection of small cars and Mauchline Ware on which he had written a monograph. All useful little objects such as match boxes, snuff boxes, stamp boxes, letter openers often decorated with tartan. He generously gives us a copy of the book. After the tour he feeds us a supper of little pizza and small warm chocolate cakes. But the highlight of the feast was a slice of his Bara Brith, a traditional Welsh fruit loaf that he has cooked himself. We are all amazed when it suddenly seems to be half past midnight, John is such a brilliant and entertaining conversationalist and lovely Ann is fascinating too and am thrilled when she tells me her grandson won one of my awards at Gloucestershire College.
Working on the Australian commission.
Nice letter from Mick Rooney telling me about the Hepititis C Trust wanting to eradicate this debilitating virus and that he has suggested to them a project for artists decorating ukuleles and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will do a concert at Wilton’s Music Hall, the instruments will be catalogued and auctioned and the artists will have fun. He says if I fancy decorating one he will send an instrument along. It does indeed sound a delightful way to help the Hepitits C Trust.
We drive over to Alscot near Burford in the winter sunshine for lunch with Mark and Ben as this is Mark’s birthday weekend and also to deliver the small angel and tiger painting that Mark bought from my London exhibition. He comes out to greet us as we drive up and guides us into their drive. I comment on how much bigger the house looks than I remembered it and he explains that the beautiful wing at the back which looks as if it has always been there in its elegance is a recent addition designed by Ben, who is busy in the kitchen cooking an amazing whole salmon for us and the other four champagne drinking guests. When we go into lunch it is in the new part of the building, a stunning hall with exposed beams going up to the apex housing a grand piano in the centre. Such an elegant room, with two of Josh Ewer’s paintings - he is in his final year at the London School of Fashion. The man sitting opposite me says he has known my work for many years and really wanted to buy one particular painting of musicians from the Brian Sinfield gallery but it was too expensive but tells me that one of his friends does own two.
Just as we’re passing Burford on the way back, an e mail comes from the Brian Sinfield saying their client would like to buy the little painting that we’d sent them an image of (at the clients request). So when we get home I work on the outside of the frame so that Richard can ……
…… deliver it to Burford first thing.
Tonight we have Drs Charles and Emma coming for dinner and to stay after the Races; and Sue and Andy who are also collecting the two pieces they bought from my London exhibition. They arrive first and Andy is really pleased with his little elephant painting which he hadn’t seen in reality before, just an image sent to him in the cockpit of his plane that he was piloting out of the Congo (before he’d taken off of course).They get on very well with Charles and Emma and compare notes on their collections of my work! All such good company.
Emma and Charles leave about 1.30 after a visit to the studio.
Its now the big heads down trying to get the annual tax returns finished! Richard’s been working on them for months off and on.
Working on all fronts.
In the morning a big truck arrives with 50 metres of freshly turned (to my design) Italian yellow poplar. The delivery man says the light rain won’t harm it as he and Richard carry two lengths at a time ready for R to slide one by one through the upper window of his print workshop to lie across the beams in the roof. This enables us to work out the sizes for three new frames. Richard cuts a couple of pieces into the appropriate lengths and puts them in the car to take in to John in the morning.
We were hoping to go to Anthony Green’s private view and book launch tonight but still ploughing through the tax returns so don’t think we’d better risk it. I manage to get mine in and paid about 10pm and R his at just before the midnight deadline!