As we are entering Cheltenham coming down the London Road about 3am, we see a very large badger running across the road. I wonder if this is due to the recent culling or whether he was just sent as an inspiration like the exquisite fox we saw shortly afterwards basking in the moonlight and enjoying a good scratch.
Richard collects a recorded delivery letter which must have come whilst we were away. Its from lovely Nick Park asking if I’d like to take part in a secret project to raise money for childrens' hospitals and hospices, a charity of which he is Patron. Nick was very kind in painting a Wallace and Grommit for the exhibition and auction I did in 2006 for the National Star. Watch this Space!
As I sit on the terrace enjoying the warm September sun I hear a conversation between two toads that have secreted themselves amongst the potted plants and the crevice in the wall behind them. I did catch a glimpse of one of them three or four weeks ago but they are pretty good at keeping well hidden when we are around.
Whilst we had been way in France had a very nice e mail from Graham Lockwood, chair of the Holst Birthplace Museum, asking if I would allow them to reproduce the Planets painting on Beckford Silk scarves. They have someone who is going to sponsor it. So today have been exchanging e mails with Victoria at Beckford who have worked with all sorts of wonderful artists like Sandra Blow; Craigie Aichison; Philip Sutton; Grayson Perry etc and most of the top museums such as Tate; RA; National Gallery; NPG etc. So will be very exciting to see how they turn out. And I now know what I’ll be buying people for Christmas this year.
Still working on the pieces for Jess to show at the 20/21 art fair at the Royal College next week.
Cheque arrives from Brian Sinfield Gallery for the painting they have just sold to the Japanese couple.
After a day in the studio in the evening we go to Gloucester Cathedral for the opening of Crucible 2, a sculpture exhibition curated by the Pangolin Foundry and Gallery. It includes works from Lynn Chadwick - this is the centenary of his birth so it seems wonderfully fitting that there are two sets of his figures near the entrance and others within the Cathedral. - right through to the YBA Gary Hume, Sarah Lucas and Damien Hirst’s two angels., the Fallen Angel which has taken Canova’s Repentant Magdalene and placed a srynge and spoon next to her before having it cast in silver and plated in gold. The Anthony Gormley relates to the much smaller piece we saw at Nicky and Karin Mander’s. A beautiful David Backhouse figure greets you in the porch and there are two delightful Anita Mandels - both Dodos. She’s a lovely woman who started out as zoologist. The Gary Hume, a coloured bronze of what looks like a figure asleep in a sleeping bag.
We chat to a few people before coming home to continue work.
Working very hard trying to finish one of the paintings for Jess to take to Art 20/21 at the Royal College as R is delivering them to London tomorrow.
Can’t believe it is only a week ago I stood in Monet’s beautiful bedroom enjoying the view of his wonderful garden.
The weather’s still beautiful so I’m able to sit in the garden for my brunch.
Giving halos to SS Michael and Jerome and the infant giving equality to the main protagonists as Revd Malc said there had been some discussion about BV Mary being the only one with a halo when the PCC saw it. Actually I had just been trying it out to see if it would enhance or detract from the composition.
Revd Malc and Nigel the Churchwarden come at 4 saying they have had lots of positive discussions on the altarpiece triptych but there were just a couple of smaller things that someone had wondered about like halos, whether Mary should have one. strangely enough at the stage the PCC saw it only Mary had a halo and this seemed to have caused some discussion about whether it was too Roman. The interesting thing is that as an artist one learns as much about Christianity and in fact all religions through that which is created by man to glorify them whether it be the written word, music the architecture or the history of art. I somehow don’t feel the divisions that others feel and perhaps find it a little baffling that one branch of Christianity in this case, can feel that if Mary is venerated she overshadows Christ. But how much less would this world be without Handel’s Messiah or the myriad of paintings creating what for me is the most iconic image of all, the Mother & Child. Every woman who has the privilege of experiencing that relationship knows that the greatest bond is the bond of love. Its the bond that last through the whole of life. Whatever the culture country or creed, it is the image we should all remember in life and art.
In the evening we go to Gloucestershire College’s Renaissance Restaurant for the Honourable Company of Gloucestershire supper/lecture centred around the wonderful Aston Project. Am touched that all the youngsters who were at the workshop R &I did with them come rushing up as we enter it’s a glorious feeling to be reunited with them again. The presentation by Lea, her colleges and these delightful young people is brilliant. Who could fail to be charmed, moved and amused by little Tom (who is in care) and stood on a chair to say his piece later during dinner pinching th e seat of the Police Commissioner and wearing the Wardens grand medal. The evening was a great success enjoyed by all especially the children their dedicated team of Nurturers. Delicious food served by students from GC’s great Catering Academy.
As I cross over to the house from the studio as I’ve forgotten my painting shirt, I notice a skateboarder whizz past and when I make the return journey I notice that the skateboarder is a young woman. She calls out and I look round but still can’t think its me she calling to. I stand on my studio drive and wait for the figure to come back past and as she reaches the drive she stops and says hello and I suddenly realise its Chloe, Revd Malc’s lovely daughter. She’s recently back from New York where she spent a year doing work experience in an architect’s office and the skateboard is a present from the church in Brooklyn she attended. They’d had a big skateboarding and street art festival. she’d obviously had a wonderful time there. She mentions that her Dad has shown her an image of the big triptych altarpiece so I invite her into the studio to take a look - she says this is the sort of set up she need, a house with a studio opposite. We chat for a while and then Chloe is off on her board again.
Up very early this morning as its a Bishop’s Breakfast meeting at the University. Today Bishop Martin of Tewkesbury leads the discussion with his talk on ‘Leadership in these Difficult Times’ and asks the Group for their advice too. We have some very powerful leaders within the group including Stephen the vice Chancellor who is hosting this meeting; Suzette the Chief Constable; & Ruth Fitzjohn chair of Together services for
After the meeting Richard and I go and look at the display of Stars by the schools and Aston Project, organised by the National Star College for them to create a Star for the Star based on the big star I created for the Star, which is also in the display.
When we get home I receive an e mail from Lisa at Leicestershire’s Artworks Collection saying that they would like to buy the badger painting. She likes the fact that it will be controversial and create discussion within the schools and also asks if they could make giclée prints so that more than one school can benefit at a time.
In the evening hear from Revd Malc saying that the PCC have said a big YES to the triptych altarpiece.
After working in the studio we drive to Naunton to have dinner with Jane and David. Its lovely to see them both and Jane has cooked a wonderful salmon recipe which also included two pounds of tomatoes and some courgettes from their garden, followed by a black current crumble with fruit from their own bushes.
Continue with the large altarpiece
Niki Whitfield, arts co-ordinator for Cheltenham Open Studios and on the committee of Cheltenham Arts Council etc. comes for a cup of tea and to have a chat about the arts in Cheltenham including the wonderful arts bulletin set up and run by Bob Freeman who sadly died at the beginning of this year. Niki has taken over the running of the art Bulletin along with all her other many other roles and positions and has also replaced Bob on the Gardens Gallery committee. Bob was always adamant that he didn’t want artists to have to pay towards receiving the art bulletin and the setting up and running was always a labour of love for him. Niki particularly wanted to see if I had any ideas of how it could be financed to survive - whether I knew of a patron who would like to . At the moment she thinks she might just ask artists or recipients for a small donation which would help. Its a brilliant resource and could be a lasting legacy for all that Bob achieved for the arts in Cheltenham, in which he was so wholeheartedly involved
Work in the big studio across the Lane on the altarpiece, then back to the house and my studio upstairs to work on a couple of pieces that I’m refining for the Toronto Art Fair.
Hillary the new chair of the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum committee comes for a cup of tea and for us to discuss. She’s a very nice warm person who had known Gina (the previous chair) in Oxford where her husband was editor of the Oxford English Dictionary and she worked in government. One of the questions she asks is if I will be doing another Open Studio for the Friends as she said that they love to come and see things in progress, especially bigger things that they might not normally get to see. She also brought me papers on Cheltenham hosting the British Association of Friends of Museums next year and information and a paper announcing the new CEO of the Cheltenham Trust that will be running The Wilson. Pittville Pump Room, the Town Hall, Prince of Wales Stadium and the town’s tourist services.
Then back over the Lane to the studio, working on the altarpiece before returning to the house studio to work up there. Particularly wanted to listen to the results of the voting in the Scottish Referendum as it seems to have reached a situation where both the Yes and the Better Together votes expectation via the polls are very close. and there’s a huge amount of confidence in the Yes camp. But I feel whatever the outcome its a wonderful demonstration of how the democratic process should work when one country or state wants to have its independence. It has excited and galvinised Scotland and especially its young people into voting. Strange that whilst sitting working at my easel and the first result comes through from Circmanukshire I feel myself giving a sigh of relief that they voted No but its close. Though the next two from Orkney then Shetland have a wider difference with the majority voting No again too. Just before 4am when we go to bed the South Larnarkshire comes in - there are over 50000 and although its a majority No the difference is only 83 votes so I feel sure that there will be some areas of Yes……………..
…….but on waking we see that the New York Times headline says Scotland rejects independence. I feel very pleased as I do feel we are better off together and I’m sure that those those who wanted independence will be gladdened by all the promises made to them by the Prime Minister, Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband. But I’m sure it was Gordon Brown who spoke with wisdom and passion who will have reassured the many - far more so than when he was Prime Minister.
In the afternoon we drive into Cheltenham to Bettridge School to present the large giclee print that the National Star College have made of the big star I created for them, to present to the group of youngsters who had created wonderful stars that had then been fixed together to make a larger work. Its lovely as we are going in we meet some of the children coming downstairs to the hall, who wave and say hello, including Elliot whose star was in the middle of their beautiful piece. Its rather a wonderful coincidence that the teacher in charge is also calling out each classes ‘star’ for that week; their photographs are on the board and each of the winners removes their photograph and sticks it to their star. She then explains that its a special assembly as we have come to do the presentation and asks who knows our names. Its a joyful occasion as those who have had birthdays this week are also called out to the front and everyone sings happy birthday. They end the assembly with a dance when those students who wish get up and dance with each other to the music. Afterwards we ask if its alright to photograph the group with their prize to send to the Echo.
Day in the studio but then we’re off to the Everyman Theatre for ‘Strictly Star’ which the Star College had asked me to dance in early in the year but unfortunately I couldn’t commit the time. Ollie Christie told Edward that he will have devoted about a hundred hours to learning and practicing his routine etc. As we enter the foyer at the Everyman, Laurence (L-B) comes over and gives me a hug. He’s just back from China where he’s been promoting his new underwear range, which gives cause to some very funny anecdotes. we make our way into the theatre but he’s at the front and we are further back so arrange to meet in the bar at the interval. We see lots of familiar faces especially of course from the National Star College who this event is organised by as a fundraiser. Because I had declined to dance I had promised to sponsor Kathryn Rudd the lovely Principal who even though she had broken her ankle a year or two ago is dancing. Later in the evening she tells me how grateful she was for it as it had helped very much take her up to her target about a third of which came from me. Our seats are on the end of row M; I see Kate director of appeals who is looking rather perturbed as Countess Bathurst who is going to be presenting the first prize is in the middle of a row behind us. She asks the young people on the end of that row if they would mind moving up but they declined so I immediately offered her our two seats and got a nice nod from CB when she turned from her new seat. Its a fabulous evening, hugely professional. The four glamorous judges are all seated in a wonderful pivoted elongated box like construction rather like a theatre box and we wondered whether John, the lovely man who makes my frames etc might have made it as he makes a lot of such items for the pantomime. Lovely Anita Syvert, chair of Gloucestershire Dance is in the first position and runs a jazz/swing dance school. She used to be editor of the Echo and has her own PR consultancy and has two of my large prints hanging in her home. Next in the line is wonderful Jackie L-B who last year with Laurence came third in ITVs ‘Stepping Out’. What people won’t have realised is that she has a broken ankle at the moment but sitting in the box on wheels it doesn’t inconvenience her. Next is Corraine Collins of the Corraine Collins Dance School and the fourth, Fiona Fullerton, ex Bond girl who lives here in the Cotswolds and now is a writer and also deals in property; she was in BBCs Strictly Come Dancing last year. They look very glamorous, all blondes in beautiful evening dresses. First on is the wonderful Neon Play CEO and founder of Rock the Cotswolds a fabulous colourful start to the evening, he and his professional dancing partner are dancing to ‘I’m so happy’. Next is Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council dressed in naval costume to a rather more historic swing number. There are several CEOs of companies, even of the accountancy firm who handle the Star’s finances. Also Donna Rennie who was head of Cheltenham Festivals dancing the Charleston; lovely Kathryn Rudd, principal of the College is fantastic and at that point has the highest score so far. But then comes TV doctor Dr Dawn Harper who is brilliant and gets a full score of four 10s. But It’s Eddie ‘the eagle’ Edwards who was Britain’s first ever Olympic ski jumper who like Toyah was also on Splash with diver Tom Daley and managed to win that too. He’s fantastic and all the more so as he only came into this six weeks ago. He’s dancing in flying boots, flying helmet and jacket and ends his performance with a very long hand stand. So he too gets the full score. So its up to the audience text votes to decide. Of course all our texts are for Kathryn who comes in at third place, next Dr Dawn Harper and first and foremost Eddie the Eagle who is hugely popular having been born in Cheltenham too. At the after show party at the Daffodil Anita tells me that Eddie has something missing and that is fear. I congratulate Dr Dawn when Kate introduces me to her. We don’t stay too long but Kathryn chases after us to give another big hug before we depart. Whilst we’d been talking to Laurence in the theatre we’d had an e mail from Caroline Cravan and Simon Knowles wanting to know if I’d have time to do an exciting new commission for them so I wanted to get back to contemplate that.
Off to the Pump Rooms this afternoon to the Holst Birthday Concert. Two pianos will be playing all seven movements of The Planets Suite as he originally wrote it. In the first half we have Mozart sonata for two pianos, and a Britten. Its visually very exciting with the two pianos one with lid up the other without, end to end. The two pianists, Tom Poster and Huw Watkins are brilliant and particularly animated whilst playing the Holst. Graham Lockwood who was chair of the Holst Birthplace Museum has worked so hard and its really turned out to be worth every moment of his effort. Just after we arrive lovely the delightful John Baker taps me on the back and tells me how pleased he is to be in the same row having got out of the end seat to do so. He then tells me that he is the person who is sponsoring the making of the Beckford silk scarf of my Planets paintings and in the interval he takes us to show us a paper layout of it which looks beautiful as they have taken the pattern I painted around the frame of Jupiter, the bringer of jollity and made it into a border around the edge.
Receive payment from Bridgeman Art Collection for fees for reproduction
Busy in studio
Busy in studio
Productive day in studio. Weather has been so good through September, it is the driest on record, and i have been enjoying the pears from our tree. Not many apples this year as the rampant Russian vine has overcome them. I like to focus on the garden and studio as the situations in Iraq and Syria are so dire; I pray that our government will make the right decisions in deciding whether to make air strikes in Iraq or not. It seems tragic that these two countries are being ripped apart and that there is so much unrest across the globe -Ukraine etc. when there is a greater threat from the ebola outbreak and trying to contain it. It would be wonderful if all the time energy and resources went into world health and education but sadly war is in our make up.
Simon and Caroline of Cantilever come to discuss the commissioning of the new work. Its lovely to see them bursting with enthusiasm for this new project. I take them over to the studio to look at the possibilities of different sizes and shapes. Its really good to get their reaction to the large altarpiece etc. and Simon asks if this is the one that was sitting in the first room of the studio for many years.
Whilst we’re sitting in the kitchen having discussions with them the doorbell rings; its John my lovely frame and construction maker who is just delivering back one of the wavy constructions that Richard has made and John has trimmed with his more sophisticated equipment
We take a plate of food down to St Michael’s Hall as part of their community lunch celebrating the fact that it now has charity status. With its recent renovations it’s looking very beautiful. I made a print for the school before it closed as Henrietta was at that time in Philip Morgan’s class and he asked for the original.
Putting a few finishing touches to the two paintings going to Toronto so stay up late. Tomorrow morning Richard will be packing them in the specially big and strong box he has constructed for the shipping.
Richard has been very busy constructing an even bigger wavy piece for another commission that has also been outstanding for several years.
Last day of September and its gloriously warm and sunny so sit out in the garden to have my brunch.