Working on all fronts in studio
Up early to travel to Bristol where I’m giving a talk to the Friends of the RWA. Jane and Ann are there to meet us and to help unload and whilst I remember it Jane takes me to Alison Bevan, the director’s office, to deliver my ‘secret postcard’ for their charity auction - they will be hanging the works next week. They are both very helpful in assisting Richard to carry paintings, easel, projector, laptop etc down into the lecture room. they are are lovely group three of whom are friends that I haven’t seen for some years.
We leave promptly to drive to Gloucester Cathedral for the funeral service for Bishop Michael. Even though Richard drops me off at 8 minutes to 2 the main body of the Cathedral is full, so I’m directed to the Choir. I walk along with a very nice man who was a chorister himself as boy and his sons were also choristers. I ask him if he can look out for Richard but after a while he says, do you think your husband’s here and I ask if he thinks its OK to phone him, which I do surreptitiously. He has it switched off but feels it vibrating in his pocket so bends down to answer it in a whisper. I say I’m in the choir and he replies he is too. I stand up so that he can see me. This is all witnessed and much to the amusement of Stephen and Tony who are sitting on the opposite side and can see the two end in which we are. I’m very pleased R joins me as I didn’t have an order of service. It’s a very beautiful service with tributes from each of Bishop Michael’s four daughters. There are over a thousand people in the Cathedral including thirty bishop’s and fifteen deans plus representatives of the order of Franciscans. At the end all of us in the choir move to stand in the archway to view Bishop Michael’s last procession as they carry his coffin out of the Cathedral. Later outside we meet Edward and Alyson who tell us it was a rather wonderful sight to see the archway fill with people. As we are walking back to the car we hear a car beep and draw up - its Ian Mean who like Edward and I, was part of Bishop Michael’s breakfast group.
We then drive to Melissa and Paul’s magnificent house in Hillfield Gardens. Its a glorious building, Italianate rather like a smaller Osborne House. The view from its tower extends across the county in every direction. They have achieved a tremendous amount of work in turning back this historic building into a home. During the First World War it had been used as a hospital for fifty patients and more recently by Gloucester City Council.
finishing the newspaper painting.
Richard comes in looking pleased with himself as he’s just bought a copy of the Echo as it has a big reproduction of the newspaper painting and another with me working on it.
Whist I’m in the bathroom Richard has taken a phone call from Niki Whitfield the brilliant co-ordinator of Cheltenham Open Studios, who is also helping the Art Fair organisers. Dom Joly isn’t able to come to sit for a portrait by the Sky Arts portrait finalist Gerry so she and Arabella had suggested that I might sit; which means we need to be there earlier. He has a self portrait and one of Imelda Staunton. I take my own little Art Deco chair. Gerry is set up on the balcony; he takes a series of photographs of me he and his wife deciding on the angle he likes best but it’s not until I’ve been sitting for some time that I realise he’s actually working from the selected photograph on his I pad which is connected to the easel, rather than me. There is a programme that has a grid over the photo and he has drawn a corresponding one on his canvas which he had already underpainted in subtle hues of terra cotta and greens, suitable for flesh colour. This isn’t at all the way that I have ever painted portraits so I am mildly surprised. I seem to be sitting half an hour out of each hour. Lady Arabella’s stand is almost next to where we are whereas Panter & Hall are downstairs so I only get brief chats with Matthew.
The Fair has been well organised although many of the galleries are new to me.
Outside the entrance, Peter Blake’s Pop Art painted bus greets you. We see a few familiar faces but don’t recognise most so we are interested in what sort of audience it has attracted.
Gerry doesn’t quite manage to finish the portrait so says he’s going to do so in his studio.
When we return home we look up the Sky Arts portrait programme and are amazed to see that all the artists who seem to be selected to take part are like Gerry, using iPads or telephones using the same grid system and app, painting people like Ian McKellan.
It doesn’t seem at all like the real thing where a portrait catches something about the sitter that a photograph can’t convey and expresses something about the artist too.
After a few phone calls, checking that Ronald is still in Gloucester Royal Hospital. We go to visit him and are both struck by how good he seems after his second mild stroke of a week ago, on the day they were going to attend his sister’s funeral. You wouldn’t believe he is almost 90 still articulate and witty. He even gets off the bed and demonstrates, with the help of a stick, a couple of sideways steps. We reminisce and laugh a lot. He’s certainly in much better shape than any of the others in this ward, fully dressed and hoping to be discharged after his full scan earlier today.
Busy in the studio, working on all fronts, especially the large painting for the Aston Project.
Working in the studio when Richard comes up and puts his arm around my shoulder and says we have just had an e mail from Arril to say that Joan died yesterday. “ I was alone with her holding her hand constantly and talking to her. The door to the Hospice garden was open and a sweet breeze and birdsong wafted in. It was all we could have hoped for under the circumstances and the fact that all the fighting, fear and pain has eased away is what I most wished for.” I’m overcome with sadness but relieved like Arril that she is suffering no longer. Joan was such a good caring and encouraging friend to me when I needed one many years ago. I write a short note to poor Arril.
Phone call from the London office of an auction house telling me that Jackie Collins’, who sadly died recently estate is being auctioned. Amongst her extensive art collection are three of my paintings, two that she had bought directly from my London gallery and one that she commissioned. Later I get a call fro the auctioneer himself in Los Angeles. Its very difficult with auctions working out the real price as on top of the hammer price there is the auction house’s buyer’s premium the 5% import tax plus shipping.
The shippers arrive to collect the four paintings that have been purchased by the Morohashi Museum of Modern Art in Japan.
Working in the studio when receive call from the young man in Gloucester who delivered the two pigs to see if we had commenced working on them. I explain that I have also had the work on a canvas to send off to the Chelsea Arts Club charity auction; one to the Royal West of England Academy as well as the Hare for the Cirencester and Cotswold trail and three to the Irish charity Jack & Jill for sick children and the ukulele for the hepitits C Trust.
Start the two pigs, painting in their eyes, later giving the first one a nice portrait-pink face and a red and turquoise cap.
I block in the jacket, trotters and most of the trousers but after supper Richard tells me he will finish the sit-upon part of the trousers and block the jacket and trouser shapes in on the second pig. Also proudly tells me he’s painted the curly tails. I continue on commissions in my upstairs studio.
Working in the studio whilst R is out but when he returns go and look at the pigs and decide to give Tweedledum a cap to match that of Tweedledee the first pig. As I then embark on painting his face and head in shades of portrait-pink, keep poor Richard hanging around when he calls me for dinner, needing to blend the paint whilst the different tones are still wet.
Nice e mail from Anthony, who instigated and organised the art fair last weekend (with his daughter Ellie) thanking me for standing in for Dom Joly sitting for the portrait.
We drive over to Little Buckland Manor for the launch of Sir John’s newly published book on the Norway Campaign of 1940 published by the Cambridge University Press but written whilst he was a Research Fellow at Oxford. We buy two copies, one for ourselves the other as a present for Dr Margus. We are delight to see Sir Henry and Lady Caroline - incidentally Henry’s father, who was later killed in North Africa, won a Military Cross in the Norway campaign. I ask him if he has written any books and he tells me had written a family history for private publication but is currently compiling one on Colesbourne.
Make a start on the ukulele though not sure if I’ll stick with my original idea of two large dancing figures.
Whilst working later at night I am horrified and overwhelmed with sadness to hear of the atrocious bombing at the Manchester Arena where lots of children had gone with their parents and young people to a performance by
Arianna Grande the American actress and singer. There are twenty two fatalities one of them being an eight year old girl who had gone with her mother and sister.
Tragically it transpires that the suicide bomber was British born to refugees from Libya. A university student of 22 who had obviously been indoctrinated by this evil ideology.
work on in sadness
Over to Gloucestershire College for the honorary vice presidents’ lunch at Gloucester campus. We mill about talking to members of staff and one another whilst helping ourselves to the buffet luncheon. I’m really quite sad as Peter White the vice principal with whom I do most of my communicating, is retiring at the end of this term, though very pleased when Sue Stead says she is taking over his role as she’s very affable too. Its interesting to hear about the Ofstead inspection from whom they got a good report and about the new strategy plan and the cutting of A level courses etc. The College continues to go from strength to strength even in these difficult times. The ground work has started on the new campus in the Forest of Dean. Before we leave, Richard takes a photograph of me and Greg sillouetted on the balcony in front of my painting GloCorama. Richard and I then go up to see Robbie Chapman with his year 1 art & design BTEC students. He’s still hoping to bring a group to visit the studio and tells me that his art foundation students in Cheltenham will be opening up their space as part of Cheltenham Open Studios next week.
We then go over to the centre of Gloucester to the large building in King’s Square where Marketing Gloucester is based and Russell Haines’ ‘Faith’ exhibition is up again, after being exhibited in the Cathedral earlier in the year. He’s trying to sell merchandise and get crowd funding to be able to tour it. These are a remarkable group of enormous portraits that Russell has made of people in Gloucester representing various faiths - Hindi, Muslim, Jews, C of E, Sikh, Druid, Pagan, Catholic, atheist, outdoor church etc. All the more remarkable since Russell came to art after being perscribed sessions with Artlift, a scheme set up by a Gloucestershire doctor. He used it so positively ever since and has become a prominent figure in Gloucester’s cultural scene. I also notice the pig he’s painted for the Gloucester Trail so he goes to get Jason, the CEO of Marketing Gloucester, who then takes us on a tour of all the pigs which look splendid in their many different guises, beautifully painted by numerous artists. Richard shows him photographs of our two pigs and we apologise for them not being ready for tomorrow’s launch at the Tall Ships Festival recalling the long list of charity pieces I’ve had to paint since February. He then presents us with small pigs, replicas of the larger models.
Henrietta, Kev, Isaac and Samuel arrive from London. We’re treating Henrietta and Kev to a night in a hotel as it’s their anniversary week, whilst we look after the boys. In the darkness just after we’ve tucked them in I tell them stories of Odysseus’ adventures on his voyage back to Ithica with Richard joining in at times, echoing the Homer he’s been reading to me each evening.
The boys are delighted with the smaller pigs that Jason presented to us for them as copy of the larger pigs we are working on for the Gloucester Trail. They both have their own ideas of the characters they want their pigs to be so we go over to the pavilion studio so that they can paint them in the company of the larger beasts which we are still working on.
Henrietta and Kev arrive back sometime after 2 and we set out to drive to Gifford’s Circus just after 4 arriving at Daylesford after the lovely drive through the Cotswolds and Stow. Its another brilliant performance including chickens this year and seems to be inspired by Handel and Vivaldi and the costumes of the Spanish Court of Valasquez. It is entitled ‘Any port in a storm’. An amazing Russian acrobat and a wonderful witty very humorous finale by all the clowns mimicking speeded up versions of all the previous acts.
They all leave for their half term holiday in Devon at about 11.30 and I return to the Tango painting then on the Ukulele
Work through the night finishing the ukulele before giving it a top coat of matt medium ….
……R packs up the ukulele and drives it to the UPS depot near Gloucester as it has to be there by tomorrow 1st June.