Only one month until the images of my miniatures start going onto the website from 6pm December 1st so today I’m busy putting the finishing touches to some of the fourteen I’ve created so far.
Still mulling over yesterday’s announcement by Boris and hoping that this coming lockdown might cut the cases of Covid-19 and allow those who need treatments for other serious conditions on the NHS to be treated. It must be very difficult for wonderful NHS to cope with both the backlog and current cases of serious conditions as well as the vast number of Covid-19 patients.
Hurrah, the Cotswold Landscape public art trail has embraced my idea of having a group of National Star students as one of the creators. Am so pleased with this e mail, though sorry for the Royal West of England Academy as Alison the Director has sent out a message saying that the annual exhibition will be postponed for the second time due to the lockdown that comes in on Thursday. She’s determined that it should be physical as well as online so it is now scheduled to open on 5th December, the same day as my charity open studio
Gill Henry, appeals director at the National Star College, e mailed to say she had left something in the porch for us and when we look it is a cardboard box inside which are three exquisite Christmas decorations each made of glass in the kiln in the art department at the College. A beautiful little Christmas tree in turquoise yellow black and gold standing in a little wooden log and two to suspend from our tree - a toffee coloured reindeer head on a rectangular clear glass panel with a lovely round red nose like Rudolf and the third an opaque green square of glass with a sheep in a father Christmas hat looking a little like Nick’s Shaun the Sheep with his black face ears and legs. Can’t wait ’til we get our Christmas tree to hang these up. So kind of them, it’s made our day.
Early evening Mark comes over from Oxfordshire to collect his ‘Shepherd and his Flock’ . We had planned to entertain them on Sunday afternoon but with the imminent lockdown we had to bring it forward which means his visit is rather brief. We are very sad to hear that they have now also lost Lily their Bedlington terrier. It seems she had been unwell and I dare say she missed Iris, their other bedlington who had also some time previously departed this world. So they now just have Rocco who I think they’d got to keep Lily company.
Whilst working on the miniatures I listen to the radio well into the early hours to see if there’s anything at all decisive about the American election results. But no, it sounds as if we’re going to have to wait until Friday as so many of the votes were by mail due to Covid-19 - Joe Biden had encouraged people not to go out to vote whereas Trump had told his supporters not to vote by mail but to go to the polling stations in person, which seems rather sad when Covid is running so high there and our lockdown came in at midnight here in the UK.
Nathan rang this evening. The big current job that he’s on only has a few days of shooting left though he said some of the later shots will look a bit funny as the shops will closed.
It is quieter when we go out for our walk early evening. The pub that we pass which we have been watching over the past few weeks to try and catch a glimpse of how close the people are, is now shut. Although they are still at work on the interior of the new Turkish Barbers shop they smile as we pass and I imagine they are young Turkish men who will probably be running it. It looks very tasteful with beautiful wooden panelling. The hairdressers two doors up were doing a roaring trade last night and seemed to be working quite late in a bid to please as many customers as possible.
It looks as if Joe Biden is going to win the required number of electoral college votes if in Pennsylvania, his home state, the count keeps going in his favour.
I’ve now got twenty miniatures underway.
Feel elated as all the media have called Pennsylvania for Joe Biden. Overjoyed for all those American people who have been praying for this outcome and wonderful that they have their fist woman vice-president, half Indian, half Jamaican - what could be better. It won’t be an easy task but let’s hope they can begin to repair and unite a divided nation.
Now have twenty one miniatures in progress.
Stayed up working late in the studio to hear the speeches by Kamela Harris and Joe Biden. I feel elated and full of hope that things will get better for America - he has already pledged to set up a group of scientists to look at the Covid pandemic. He says he’s a president for all Americans not just for those who voted for him so I hope that they will begin to heal the rifts that had been created.
It’s Remembrance Sunday today and when Richard and I went on our walk in the dark last night we went to look at the war memorial and were touched to see that there were rows of pebbles placed carefully around it on the ground and the three steps, painted with red poppies each one different, I think perhaps by the junior school children I heard progressing down the Lane between my studio and the house, occasionally with Remember in their beautiful child-like script.
Now on the twenty second miniature whilst Richard is putting screw eyes and wires on the back of some of the round ones for me.
Nice e mail from Cindy, a mature student at the University of Gloucestershire studying interior design who is using me as her muse for an assignment called the boathouse project for which she is designing a retreat for me relax and work in etc.
Phone call from dear friend Lisa, ex Star College student, who amazes me at how well she does shopping in Weymouth’s Tescos in her wheelchair. She tells me she has no heating as people who visited her to play games have mistakenly taken the wrong card. Her life seems to be full of such ups and downs and yet she survives them all. She does have a heater in the living room she says but will sleeping her clothes with her dressing gown on top. I ask if she’s contacted her social worker and she says she has. She’s really ringing me to remind me it’s her birthday in December, as she does every year in a series of countdown calls. She always remembers that whilst Henrietta was at school she made a birthday cake for Lisa’s 18th which is while she was at the Star College and we took her and group of other Star College students to a Pizza Hut in Cheltenham. Her calls enrich our lives and keep us aware of how difficult it is living on your own with complex disabilities probably her greatest gift is her sense of humour which never leaves her however difficult things are. She has been writing her autobiography for many years now and it always proves to be a good source of conversation.
From working on all these miniatures I occasionally turn back to my day job and add a little more thought and work to the commissions on other easels in my studio, one larger and one smaller.
Some of my time has been taken trying to remotely open a bank account to replace the one that I had originally with the C&G, now TSB, dedicated to the three charities National Star College, Linc and Friends of The Wilson with an annual prize to a graduating student at the University and one to Gloucestershire College that is usually split. It needs to be completely separate as 100% of the income that comes into it is divided between each of the three charities and two places of learning. I am aware that I could forego the painting of the tiny pictures and the Mulled Wine, Mince Pies and Miniatures event and give a lump sum instead but I’m also aware of the need to spread the word about the charities and so many of my wonderful friends and collectors come along and support and we see it as our annual Christmas party. There’s always such a lovely warm and friendly atmosphere imbued by the aroma of Richard’s mulled wine and mince pies. I think we would all be sad . It’s also great being able to introduce people from the Star and Linc to the friends and collectors some of whom have gone on to support them themselves. And as what I do is always very solitary it’s glorious to be surrounded by so many dear friends and supporters.
I’m just starting work in the studio again after our evening walk when I get another call from Lisa. Bless her, she tells me she’ getting a new electric wheel chair but will have to work out what the instalment payments will be and will have to cut down on her Amazon account spending. I ask if she finds it difficult to budget like most of us and she tells me that she receives two payments one every fortnight and the other every month. One is her government disability living allowance and the other is the mobility allowance. I enquire whether she has her heating back which she pays for on a card that she tops up and I think to myself how difficult it must be living on your own as she has for all her adult life after leaving the Star College, without the secure family structures that most of us have the good fortune to experience and she has the added problem of being severely disabled, so I’m not surprised when she again reminds me that it’s her birthday next month and I feel it’s a privilege having such a friend.
‘Phone call from Alana of saying she is very keen to take up my second suggestion, the first being the National Star College, of Art Shape students participating in the painting of one of the giant kingfishers for Cotswold Landscape. and will just have to run it past the Board. So I feel elated as they, like the Star would add such an all encompassing community aspect to the project.
Perusing the Christmas tree presents we have purchased I wonder at and admire the bright pink silvered balloon dog, a take on the Jeff Koons and I muse on the fact that he has made sculpture mimicking life, by basing a work on the blow up mouldable sausage-like balloons that dogs and animals have been made of for years for children and that John Lewis have then mimicked art, turning it into life as a Christmas trees decoration. They are extraordinary like his and it makes one ponder that particular question and the validity of the way we create and then put different values on the creations. And R points out of course that as with most sculpture Koons won’t have actually made it, just a concept he will have given to those who manufacture it for him.
Ian ‘phoned asking if it’s too late to put in an order for one of the miniatures, particularly as they hadn’t been able to go for a second trip to Australia this year and that their first was cut short by the Covid pandemic he wondered if I might be able to do a painting of two Australian Blue Penguins. He and Maeve are such a delightful couple who have again been very generous with their gifts to the National Star College this year. They are also patrons at Helen & Douglas House the children’s hospice in Oxford. When he asks if I’ve heard from Gill at the Star I tell him about the beautiful little glass Christmas tree decorations that the students had made and she had left in the porch and how I had managed to encourage Cotswold Landscape to enable the Star students to paint one of the giant kingfishers for the Cotswold Landscape Kingfisher Trail next year. It was a prerequisite for my painting one! He said that they want to buy mine to add to my Herr Schubert who lives in their beautiful home.
E mail from Alana saying that they are keen to go with my suggestion that we invite Art Shape and its students to create the work on another of the giant kingfishers. I’m so excited about this too as Art Shape is a brilliant charity that helps the disadvantaged, those with mental health difficulties and the excluded etc. through art therapy courses and workshops.
I’m now on my twenty seventh miniature and still trying desperately hard to decide whether we can risk making it the usual event with people coming for mulled wine and mince pies as well as to buy the miniatures. It’s always so good to see everyone and has a lovely atmosphere but the R number is still really high even though the numbers are fractionally rather better. Such a dilemma. Wonderful Cotswold Life did a beautiful column about it with a reproduction the little hare and tortoise but of course it and all the others will be online….
….In the early hours we order two pavilion-type deep red tents without sides so that if it rains or snows on the weekend of the 5th and 6th December there would be a canvas roof above and that any mince pies will be help yourself as we will only be able to have one or two people go into the studio to look at the miniatures at a time. I’m now on the twenty eighth miniature and Richard’s very efficiently fixing them into their frames, taping the backs and putting the screw eyes and picture wire on which makes it so much easier that leaving them all to the last minute. He does this in between working on a room in the top of the house that was Nathan’s but had become a glory hole or dumping ground for anything we want to put out of the way. He’s completely redecorating and is going to lay some rather beautiful sisal flooring down which arrived during the week 5 metres long and exceedingly heavy - the lorry driver needed help with it - and two large rolls of recycled underlay which Richard has already started to put down. But getting the sisal mating up two flights of stairs with two bends is going to be the tricky bit.
Richard makes a short video of me for Nikki Seville who organises the Christian Arts Festival to show in the Gardens Gallery congratulating the seven winners, two highly commended and two commended artists though I go on to say I commend them all. The theme is particularly good for this era of global anxiety for climate change, the raging Covid-19 pandemic, social unrest and conflict as it has the optimistic title of Eden-Paradise Restored. It was a joy to see in how many different ways people had been inspired to interpret this theme.
Lovely call from Henrietta in the evening. I also get to speak to Isaac at a distance and Samuel briefly and even Kev who sends us photographs of their glorious new kitchen extension which looks beautiful with its ceramic floor tiles and beautiful big roof light and bi-fold doors which look straight out over the garden. Her new job lecturing at Goldsmiths seems to be gradually falling into place under the very difficult circumstances of having to do so much remotely.
Whilst doing my morning workout I hear Richard saying “could you help me please” and as I come out of the bedroom I see the most enormous roll protruding at the top of the stairs and some way down below, he is supporting it having pushed it as far as it will go. He just wants me to angle the top towards the bathroom so that it can change direction to go up the second flight of stairs. This manoeuvring takes a lot of effort on his part but he eventually manages to get it up the second staircase where it is now resting on the steps pointing at Nathan’s room.
Richard’s managed to hoick the big roll of sisal floor covering totally into Nathan’s old room now.
Finishing off and refining the twenty eight miniatures only six of which are in the ‘ready to be photographed’ category so far. R did a trial run of photographing some but has decided they will do best on the wall in daylight. He’s also spent time gradually smoothing the sisal floor covering of over the underlay as it acclimatises to the atmosphere in the room .
Have parcel collected from the porch by Royal Mail to our dear friends Dr Margus and Tiina Laidre. Although Margus is now ambassador in Moscow we send it to the foreign ministry in Tallinn from where it can then go in the diplomatic bag.
I’m now on miniature number twenty nine but also trying to finish and refine the other twenty eight!
‘Phone call from Chris Sandys, producer at BBC Radio Gloucestershire saying they thought I’d be a good person to help launch their virtual Christmas market programme early morning on 1st December which of course coincides with the day that my charity miniatures will go online at 6 in the evening. So apart from being able to talk about that I can talk about how other creatives and makers are reaching their audiences. Jane Ware, who was artist in residence at a pop up Christmas shop in Tewkesbury has just gone onto Etsy with her wonderful leopard print face coverings with accompanying small tissue holders (I’ve just ordered eight of these at only £5 each) which is a favoured platform by makers and craftspeople; others through their websites like Katie B Morgan an incredible fairground artist who has done everything from murals at Sudely Castle to beautifully painted slipware, textiles and has recently become renowned for her beautifully illustrated maps in Cotswold Life; Tracy Spears, writer and illustrator who is just about to embark on a PhD who has the most exquisite selection of greetings cards often with biblical quotations. She loves to combine the written word with the painted image - I recently bought a selection of these from her website.
Lovely Skype call from Henrietta who showed us around their beautiful new kitchen extension which looks stunning. They have had to go through a lot of intense dust, noise and upheaval with no kitchen for the past three months but it is now almost complete. She looks so happy as her job lecturing post graduates at Goldsmiths is becoming enjoyable; she’s been on a steep learning curve having to do meetings seminars lectures tutorials all online. But she really likes her students and all her colleagues. We discuss Christmas when they will come and stay in an hotel and we will employ our perspex-type screens again so that although we will be able to see each other we will not be breathing the same air as we will also have windows all open so they are going to wear their ski wear to keep warm. Nathan and Clementine will come and visit at another time and Kev’s parents will spend Christmas with his sister and family. So we will all only be seeing one other household and Henrietta is going to make the Christmas pudding.
Still busy refining the penguins that Ian and Maeve have commissioned. Inspired by this I have also painted an Emperor Penguin in the snow on a vertical rectangle, in contrast to the blue penguins that are on the sand by the sea in a circular format.
Isaac’s off school this week so is doing his lessons remotely as three in his year tested positive for Covid-19. I’m just putting the finishing touches to four or five of the miniatures so that Richard can photograph them bringing the number up to thirty.
R sends images of the circular Australian Penguins to Ian & Maeve to check that they like it before we mark it as sold; as an after thought I suggest that he sends the Emperor Penguin too as an alternative. Only moments later my ‘phone rings; it’s Ian saying if it’s not being greedy please could they have both as they also love the Emperor and his regal stance.
I try to get to bed a bit earlier so that I will sound awake on the Mark Cummings Show BBC Radio Gloucestershire at 8.15 tomorrow morning after jotting down to recall what some of my favourite things about Christmas markets are and talking a bit about instead of our mulled wine, mince pies & miniatures open studio how this year it will be all thirty little paintings online from 6pm tomorrow. Have no idea how it will go as we usually only put about eight on in the week prior to the Christmas gathering for people who can’t make it or who won’t be here early enough to bags the one they want.