R’s only just put images of five miniatures on the website when one “The Allotment” has sold within minutes, to a lovely collector for up North. Dear Margus in Finland reserves Angels. Then just after we arrive at College Chapel another long term collector bags the White Steamer. Of course all these sales are 100% in aid of the National Star College and Linc, the two charities that are very close to my heart.
The rehearsal at Cheltenham College Chapel where I am reading Amazing Peace a Christmas poem by Dr Maya Angelou at the Linc fund charity (of which I am a Patron) Christmas carol concert organised by Willans a firm of solicitors who have Linc as their charity this year. There are delightful readings by two of the solicitors and a most exquisite choir called Severn’s Eight who although there are only eight of them manage to fill the chapel unaccompanied with just their beautiful voices. It is quite spellbinding when they begin to sing Gabriel’s Message. Their voices also lift up above the three carols. I read after Dr Gill Rouse, director and founding partner of Linc gives her introduction to the charity.
This glorious service is followed by mulled wine and mince pies in the College dining room along with raffle etc.
Andrea phones to say she’d like the ‘Cat Duet’ miniature.
I painted a little snowman yesterday which Richard tweeted in the morning within minutes Miranda e mailed from the Brian Sinfield Gallery saying that she and Joel would like to buy it for their beautiful little boy Oscar. Whilst we’re still replying to her Mark Axtell P rings to say he would like to buy it and Sue (of Sue and Andy) e mails to say the same!
Up very early for the Bishop’s Breakfast meeting I have organised at National Star College Star Bistro, Bishop Rachel’s first visit to the College which I know will be of great interest to her as she worked as a speech and languge therapist for six years before she was ordained; I can tell that the staff really like her and I’m sure the students will too. The Star Bistro have laid out a very good breakfast with lots of fruit, kiwis, oranges, grapefruit etc. Beautiful star-shaped pastries. Bacon or sausage butties too. Kathryn gives a really good presentation on Challenging Perceptions (our response to people with disabilities) she more than most knows how the brilliant Star College and staff enable their student to achieve their many expectations and reach their full potential. I don’t stay for the tour that I had asked the Star to arrange for Bishop Rachel as I seem to have developed a cold so its back to the studio and the miniatures.
When I come out Richard tells me Sue has just bagged ‘Cherry Buns’!
Working on the miniatures as although I’m always thrilled and delighted to sell them so fast, it makes very aware I need new available pieces on the wall at the event.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been working in the studio in the house to create the miniatures whilst Richard is in the studio over the road filling all the holes made from hanging works through the year and repainting the walls white, in readiness for making yet more little holes to hang the miniatures, which are mounting up.
Amidst all the painting of miniatures, Christmas cards keep coming through the letterbox.
Nice e mail from Peter White thanking me for the cheque for the prizes I give at the end of the year to art students at Gloucestershire College.
Send out more Christmas cards then back to the miniatures.
Also another e mail from Nadine who is wanting to commission a dinner party painting.
Back to the miniatures which are growing in number. I keep counting them every morning as if Rumplestiltskin might have been in to make a few more during the night but of course he doesn’t! I’m making it about 24 at the moment but I tend to count with hope those still in progress as well.
E mail from Jess reminding me about Art London, the big art fair in Islington in January and another from Helen who tells me she is very happy to wait until the end of January for their commission as that is when they move into their new house.
E mail from Yukari, curator at the Morohashi Museum of Modern Art in Japan thanking me for the answers I’ve given for her interview etc. and asking more questions.
Filling the hamper basket (which I’d won at the Alderman Knight School last year) with green shredded tissue paper instead of the straw - it took three or four packets to puff it up. I then arrange the two bottles of wine, tin of biscuits, Christmas pudding, jar of pickle and a fruit conserve; after dinner mints, chocolate coins, dried fruits etc tying a large bow around the cellophane. I’m raffling this for the Friends of the Wilson. I’m also selling ‘Planets’ scarves for the Holst, which I display around the shoulders of the pre war mannequin that I painted. The studio’s looking nice and white now that Richard has repainted it.
In the early hours this morning I have twenty nine miniatures and two slightly larger works for Richard to hang in the studio. Its about 5am when we call it a day.
Richard’s up earlier than me hanging the paintings and preparing the mulled wine and mince pies.
I get over to the studio at what I think is 12 o’clock but its already full of lovely friends and collectors who ave come in a little earlier. It smells glorious with the cinnamon and spices in the wine filling the warm air. I’m amazed to see that even Ren, who has travelled all the way from Luton, is here. Fascinatingly there is some friendly bartering going on which concluded with everyone getting exactly the painting they wanted as Pete N has fallen in love with one of the two options I was offering to Caroline and Simon who prefers the circular one which Lucy decided to change for the greenhouse. And Mark decides that if he goes for the smaller round snowman he’ll be able to buy the tiny Angel and lovely Kathryn, Principal of the Star then buys the larger snowman. Sue and Andy the one with robin which I painted with them in mind after Miranda of the Brian Sinfield Gallery had bought the first online for Oscar her beautiful little boy. Sue and Andy had already bought Cherry Buns and A Bigger Fish; they are lovely long-time collectors, friends and supporters. Morag and Wallace come in and before they leave they tell me they have added A Seagull Ate my Sandwich to their collection. Dear Lyn A from Winchcombe has gone for The Handyman and Ren who had reserved the ‘Tobogganing’ also has ‘Angels & Trumpets’ and ‘How Charmingly Sweet You Sing.’ Dear Bob and Sylvia buy a tiny circular Owl & Pussycat. The wonderful Ian and Maeve have added the ‘Hare and the Tortoise’ as Ian points out they didn’t have tortoise in their collection. Richard C, Henrietta’s friend Emma’s Dad pips others to the post for ‘The Shepherd and his Flock’. Mark and Julia, who had inspired the Allotment painting, but missed it, asked me if I would consider painting a similar work for them. Likewise Lynne N. And later when Councillor Lise comes and asks if she can buy the black cat and owl which the brilliant Dr Gill Rouse the founder and director of Linc has already bought, I volunteer to paint a similar work for her. In the midst of all the activity the photographer from GL Magazine comes to photograph guests for a double page spread.
I’m so fortunate to have so many very loyal and supportive friends and collectors. By the end of the day everything has gone.
Back to the studio where I finish a couple of tiny circular ones and paint a new little ‘Hat Shop’ .
When I arrive Richard’s chatting to Duncan and whilst we are doing so, Sue Billington artist and founder of Deepspace Works, which works with many disadvantaged groups including those with learning difficulties and her husband Len come in. Its great to catch up with her and she tells me about a marvellous project she has been working on with her students with learning difficulties creating a Wishmas tree where each person is given a tree branch on which to hang their wishes for the New Year, many of which are quite profound; they then build the branches into a tree in the middle of Deepspace’s studio. So touched as Sue decides to buy the circular Pea Green Boat and says she never thought she’s own one of my works. Whilst they are still there Patricia comes in and is surprised that I remember her name - she bought and Angel and Tiger painting the year before last and snaps up the other tiny circular seascape. The studio is quite full again when Pete who has driven over from Gloucester having cycled thirty miles this morning, comes in and buys two of the Holst scarves for which he goes out to the cash machine. By the time he gets back Graham and Eileen who do so much for the Holst are in the studio and Richard has put out a further two scarves. Their faces light up when Pete and says he will have those too. He takes a selfie with Herr Strauss and the artist and like most, chuckles at the name. I’m really pleased as he has been much admired
Work all day and on through the night on Her Strauss who I have had in my studio since October. I’ve got him almost there but he still needs more work so continue through the night …………
……until UPS come to collect him which they are doing voluntarily, to deliver him to Ireland where he will become one of the Hares on the March and auctioned for a brilliant charity called ‘Jack & Jill’ for sick children, founded by two of my lovely collectors, Jonathan Irwin and May Ann O’Brien (of the award winning Lily O’Brien chocolates).
Three collectors come to collect; Caroline, Lyn and Jess the latter shows Richard how they fold the raffle tickets when doing a draw at the WI, before drawing the two winning tickets for us. Interestingly the hamper has been won by Joyce who was an art student with me and has been so supportive during all the interim years.
I’m now painting small works for people who had missed miniatures and requested a similar piece. Lise Noakes’ husband Keith comes to collect their painting.
Over to the Alderman Knight School for a wonderful Christmas lunch with the delightful children and staff. Its always a very uplifting and moving occasion especially when they are singing the Christmas carols and songs afterwards. I watch the girl on the next table exuberantly signing her way through them. I am sitting on table number one this year with Miss Potter and next ot a lovely boy called James who is hoping to go into the new post 16 unit that Clare (the Head ) tells me they have been granted provision for and that building starts in the new year. At the moment it will only be for five or six students, often those like James who have anxiety problems, making the transition to Gloucestershire College or similar very difficult for them. I love this school and its ethos and the way it works with the children almost like a big family - every child seems to be well known and loved by all the staff, understanding each’s difficulties. They are truly very special children.
Then over to the Aston Project meeting in Hesters Way. I think I’m a little late as have missed the tour that Hugh and Rosie have been on round the building. Is nicely informal and there are only six of us including Eamon, Nicky and Chief Inspector Stenner, Rosie Hugh and me. Very pleased as the Chief Inspecture tells us he has had a good meeting with Peter White (which I set up) at Gloucestershire College and how they are going to work together. A very nice meeting with mince pies though I am a little too full of Christmas pudding. I give some feedback on the website and agree to have a little look over the shoulder suggesting a few ideas. Its actually very good, especially considering that Nicky operates it her self. But the Chief Inspector has already said there is something he wants to ask me to do later in the meeting. The news is all good as the scheme has now been rolled out in Gloucester and the Forest of Dean and great that they are now able to keep these premises on a permanent basis which had not been the scenario at our last meeting, in September. So after discussing the University led review of the project and the possibility of charity status etc, the CI asks me about painting a mural for them. I guess he’s probably seen the one I painted for the Llanthony Road campus of Gloucestershire College.
I should now be going to the Arts & Heritage meeting at Willans but by the time we’d gone to the garden centre and bought a Christmas tree and wreaths for my Mum, Dad and Henry’s graves, I’m too late so continue shopping before going to Hilary, the chair of the Friends of the Wilson committee, for Christmas drinks. A very pleasant occasion where we all admire the portrait of Captain Skillicorne that she and Jenny bought at auction last week for the Friends Gallery. His wife owned the land where the springs of beneficial water were discovered and were instrumental in making it fashionable to come to Cheltenham to take the waters. They have also arranged to have the painting restored. The purchase and the restoration will be covered by a legacy left to the Friends for just this sort of purpose.
Then home to work on the four extra miniatures that people have asked me paint to try and get them done by Christmas.
Joyce comes to collect the hamper so I introduce her to Ali who picks up the tiny painting, Elephant and Angel that she is buying for her husband John for Christmas
Richard comes home from the shops bearing some copies of GL magazine who have given a very generous two page spread called The Social Network to the Open Studio event.
Still receiving lots of beautiful Christmas cards in the post each day and writing them too. Surrounded by piles of presents we are making our way through the wrapping!
Lovely Kathryn, Principal of the Star comes to collect her miniature after shopping in Cheltenham
Richard’s had to buy a new Christmas Tree stand as we have not been able to locate the one we usually use. So I’m really pleased that when I come downstairs he has put the and tree up and arranged the lights on it too. I decorate it throughout the day and evening. All the decorations have special memories of friends who have given them to us over the years or places we have visited like New York, Ghent and Estonia. In between writing more Christmas cards and bursts of painting of the outstanding miniatures.
Bob comes to collect his little miniature at about three. Such a dear man who has been so encouraging and perceptive over altarpiece. Shortly after he goes we decide to go the cemetery to place the three Christmas wreaths on my Mum, Dad and Henry’s graves although it is now dusk.
Back home Richard and I have a good system with the present wrapping. I pass then to R, he wraps and puts a post it on with name or description and tie the fancy bow, address the label and allocate to stocking or tree. In a similar way I write the Christmas cards and he addresses them. Its always only by the skin of our teeth that we manage to get it all done.
are usually knee high in wrapping paper that its easy not to remember who gave what to them.
Keith comes to collect the little painting for Lise. We are still under miles of wrapping paper and writing cards with a bit of painting of miniatures in the early hours.
Richard collects the turkey and another big shop.
Henrietta, Kev and the boys arrive about 10.30pm the boys full of energy having had a sleep in the car.
Thursday 24.12.15 Christmas Eve
Richard does the final shop first thing.
We’re of to the midday performance of the Pantomime, Cinderella at the Everyman in Cheltenham with the brilliant Tweedy as Buttons. We’re up in the gods as we booked rather late this year, which seems to add to the excitement. Samuel has spotted the light swords so after the ice creams in the intermission we rush down to the foyer to buy them one each. After the magical and colourful performance has ended Isaac spots Tweedy dolls on the way out so I buy them each one of these too, which they really seem to like.
John, my wonderful maker of frames and constructions who also builds sets for the Everyman pantomime, calls shortly after we are back. As we sit and drink mulled wine with our mince pies John and Henrietta reminisce about the shared memories they have as Andrew his eldest son was in her class at school and she knew Michael and Katy too as did Nathan who arrives shortly after John has gone, having also driven down from London.
Whilst Richard is preparing the dinner and we are having more mulled wine and mince pies, Gill and Ian arrive laden with presents which spill out across the room from the tree. And a big basket and carrier bag of goodies.
I let the boys open a couple of presents from friends so that I can photograph them with them as Christmas Day it is always so full of fast of wonderful present unwrapping when we are knee high in wrapping paper that its easy not to remember who gave what to them.
Friday 25.12.15 Christmas Day
Wake up to hear the boys’ excited yelps and sounds from musical instruments etc in their Christmas sacks which last night they had got into to do a sack race before hanging them up! They both wear their Christmas outfits from Father Christmas for the big unwrapping of presents as we sip champagne with creme de mure after Gill and Ian had arrived from where they are staying on Cleeve Hill and Ian had made the brandy butter. Nathan plays Father Christmas handing the presents out while I try to take photographs.
Richard intermittently checks on the turkey and the preparations he has been making all morning. He’s very pleased as he has been presented with even more Le Creuset including a large deep red casserole from Henrietta and Kev and a paella pan from Gill and Ian. I have some pretty cool presents too including a black leather jacket from Nathan with a polo neck which compliments it in black and white stripes from Henrietta and Kev and some beautiful ceramic drawer knobs with P and J and R and P plus a beautiful large goose down duvet from Gill and Ian. I’m very lucky to have so many wonderful and imaginative presents.
When R takes the turkey from the oven Ian comments “look at that turkey” which is cooked and prepared as beautifully as it looks. The boys and I had a few verses from the 12 days of Christmas as each cracker had depicted one of them and a highlight of yesterday was Samuel playing Silent Night on his guitar accompanied by Isaac. Its a very warm and family oriented occasion with one exception and I raise a toast to my dear Mum who always loved Christmas and being surrounded by her family.
Later we play cards, Richard plays fish with Samuel whilst the rest of us play whist, Isaac remembering his win (where were perhaps all helpful) of last year but this year manages to win under his own steam - he started by sharing a hand with Henrietta but then decided he could handle his own though hasn’t yet learned to risk his winnings by playing another game!
But most would probably consider that sensible.
Saturday 26.12 .15
Breakfast with Henrietta whilst Kev takes the boys to the park, Nathan joins us and we chatter until Gill and Ian arrive having walked all the way down from where they are staying on Cleeve Hill to also collect their car so they can take a wreath to my Mum’s grave. Richard prepared and we all enjoy his monkfish and cod served with a salsa verde he has made to accompany it and roast vegetables; followed by fresh fruit salad topped by meringue and ice cream. Early in the evening Nathan and Richard take Isaac and Samuel to see the new Star Wars film whilst we play cards. Its a lovely relaxing time
Gill and Ian say goodbye late morning to return home to Bedfordshire taking with them the Tiger Lilies we had dug up from my Mum’s Garden.
Followed an hour or two later by Henrietta, Kev and the boys who are travelling to Kev’s parents in Hampshire for another Christmas celebration. But Nathan stays until the evening so we are able to sit and chat about the exciting projects he is working on he is off to Hong Kong early in January for Sky Movies then on his return he is filming with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Back in the Studio finishing the extra miniature paintings requested by people who had missed one.
Jane and David come to supper a belated Birthday and Christmas celebration; it is always a joy to see them especially as Jane and I go back to our teenage student days!
Mark & Julia come for a cup of tea and to collect their little painting they are good friends and very supportive of my Christmas Open Studio for the Star and Linc each year and have quite a big collection of miniatures now.
Working on pieces for Art London.
It seems a fitting way to see the old year out and beckon the New Year in
working in my studio with call to H and N in the first new hour.