A new day, a new year, a new beginning It always feels like a good start to be in the studio working on new pieces. I’ve already received e mails from two of my dealers requesting details of works for the January Art Fairs.
Learned a few new tricks on the computer, under Richard’s tuition, whilst editing all the photographs I’ve taken over Christmas.
Lovely e mail from Henrietta saying that they were woken at a quarter to nine this morning by their neighbour John as Erin had gone into labour. Kev drove them to the hospital while Henrietta looked after Megan their first born until the Grandparents arrived. A very close thing as an 8lb 8oz little girl was born by 9.30 am! What a wonderful way to start the second day of the New Year.
Working on the new pieces plus Ian and Maeve’s commission and the outstanding miniatures!
Very excited about sponsoring a poem in Martin Kiszko’s new book ‘Verse for the earth – more green poems for a blue planet!’ with wonderful drawings by Nick Park.
Still head down in the studio
Twelfth Night so its the undressing of the tree which has been brilliant as it doesn’t seem to have dropped many needles. As we take each decoration off and put it into a box to pack away, they bring back memories. There are those made by Nancy Simmonds each with a photograph, Henrietta and Nathan as children still looking very young; others that we have exchanged with Janet my dear friend from college days over the years - always fascinating as chosen with her artists eye; those we brought back from far flung places. Our first trip to New York in ‘89 for my exhibition there brought the set of wooden angels and a Father Christmas or two and metal baubles; the angel on the top of the tree came from Ghent when I was showing at the art fair there in the 90’s; a little doll in traditional Estonian costume a souvenir when exhibiting there plus two angels that Margus sent to us; a tiny metal Father Christmas from our late dear friend Margaret Green who we always remember with affection. Many of them are from the Simmonds over the years and now our annual exchange with Henrietta, Kev and the little boys, this year a beautiful large red glass bauble that Isaac chose from the Tate shop.
Likewise with the cards we save all those that have been made by the artist or are reproductions of one of their images such as Bishop Michael’s of kim Hill’s and Dame Janet’s of Linda Sutton’s. For years we have been treasuring those made by television producer Marcia Wheeler witty, quirky and coloured by hand; Leonard Mennassah RA who was the just previous president when I was on the Council at the RWA - his cards are always dynamic and full of colour. He must now be a similar age to dear George who at 97 had painted us a beautiful water-colour snow-cap; Alexander Thynn Lord Bath moving autobiographical scrapper board print which shows him now in his early 80s using a walking frame as always accompanied by his two dogs; Nick Park’s brilliant linocut of magpies; Nigel and Jenny Caseldine’s part linocut but mostly drawn by hand in black and white; Maurice and Beverley Juggins’ exquisitely folded music manuscript paper of Good King Wenscleslas forming a pyramid; Lovely Lisa Webb of Artworks 12 Days of Christmas water-colour, digitally printed onto water-colour paper; Susan Beaulah (Richard’s cousin) delightful water-colour of a polar bear posting a card at Wawne Stores which is the village shop; Nikki Seville’s handmade card reproducing the moving piece she made for the Presentation at the Temple exhibition; a jolie Robin by Mollie Casey Tannock, a Star student reproduced by the College; a reproduction of one of the dear late Gillian Whittaker sent by her husband John who says it was spotted in an antique shop by one of her friends only three months after she died from where John bought it back; one by Roger Matthews a talented signwriter’s roundel with an angel; a reproduction of Ronald Green’s beautiful water-colour of Winchcombe Church. Last but not least a vibrant Robin print by Henrietta and a lovely monotone Christmas scene with Santa, reindeer, angels and sleigh from Samuel and Isaac.
As the Big Give e mailed me yesterday to say I could now pay the amount I’ve pledged to them for Linc, it seems like a good time to send all the moneys made (£16,000) plus the 50% of the painting auctioned in November for Paintings in Hospitals. So write to both Linc and the National Star enclosing the two cheques; as we do so, remembering all the lovely people who came along to support.
Working on Ian and Maeve’s commission...........
.....which Richard takes to the photographers’ first thing. But I still do more work on it when it comes back until we leave to have dinner with them in their glorious ancient barn which has made The most beautiful home. Glass of champagne in hand Ian takes me through the long interior to see where the new painting will be hung and see those that he already has, including the Owl, a Hare and Badger which are all hung quite high in this exquisite double height part of the building below the mezzanine at one end. We also passed on our way in the Owl and the Pussycat and their two most recent acquisitions from my charity Mulled Wine and Mince Pies event; they are very good people and do a lot to support the brilliant charity Helen and Douglas House hospice (of which they are Patrons) for children in Oxford, which is how we got to know them when Brian Sinfield helped organise a charity exhibition for them in London to which I donated a painting. Its very touching as Maeve has prepared a meal especially with us in mind including a delicious fish pie and roast beetroot after a tricolour starter suitable for latecomers with a fresh fruit salad prepared by Ian in hollowed out melon halves, which is wonderfully refreshing and very pretty to look at.
We return home at about midnight then do another three hours on the works for the art fairs.
During the evening call from Gary of the Alpha Gallery to discuss a possible deal. They are shortly to open a grand Rodin museum in Valetta, Malta.
Working in the studio listening to Radio 4’s Last Word programme and am sad to hear that Terry Biddlcombe the three times champion jockey and racehorse trainer who was born in Gloucester, has died. In ‘94 Terry visited my studio with presenter Tim Russon and TV crew from Central. A very amiable man he put his lovely daughter Laura in touch with me who was at the time studying at University and wrote her dissertation on me. His third marriage was to Lady Henrietta Knight with whom he trained horses including Best Mate. A very charismatic and colourful figure in Racing he will be sorely missed.
My lovely friend Joyce comes to collect the tiny painting she bought from my charity event bringing Holly with her, an adorable four year old (Kyla's little daughter) who we take to see the studio too - an enchanting child.
Then its back to work on the newspaper painting for the art fair.
R goes to London with the four paintings that I had been checking and touching up last night, to deliver them to Jess, whilst I continue on the n/p canvas which we’ll be taking up tomorrow.....
....until 5 am, delivering it to Islington about 3.30. Then we drive over to Blackheath getting a good view en route of the Annish Kapoor, in partnership with Cecil Balmond of Arup the engineers, sculpture Orbit Mittel for the Olympic park sponsored by Mittel for £16m and costing over £19m. which interestingly bore a lot in common with the large cranes that we had been admiring set against the London skyline but this was made up of curves and circular motions rather than the horizontal and diagonal uprights of the cranes. It is an observation tower that fulfils the vision of Boris Johnson and Tessa Jowell.
Arrive just before 4.30 as its Samuel’s 6th birthday. He and Isaac race to the door to greet us. Samuel’s had a lovely day at school after his bowling party yesterday. Today he took in little cup cakes beautifully made and iced by Henrietta and Jai and wearing his ‘I am 6’ badge. After a cup of tea and cake we try to help the boys with their homework though it is quite difficult getting Samuel to concentrate. R goes off to collect Nathan from Stoke Newington at half past five. Its a lovely evening and Samuel enjoys opening his presents and Isaac too; they include a reproduction of a Victorian bagatelle which gives everyone a lot of fun
Back in the studio as well as catching up on some paperwork.
Unfortunately I miss Professor David Carpanini when he calls though Richard is here. David was an art student in Cheltenham at the same time as me. He went onto the Royal College and rose to eminence becoming President of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers. He spent most of his life painting compositions based on the Welsh valleys and mining communities, often portraits of figures silhouetted against rows of Welsh terraced housing. Sometimes single or sometimes a group of two, three or more figures. His work is in many collections including National Museum of Wales, Newport Museum & Art Gallery, HM the Queen. He’s generously brought me a catalogue for his forthcoming retrospective exhibition at Royal Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum 24 January - 21 April.
In the afternoon Anne Strathie comes to collect the tiny painting she bought from my charity Open Studio. She’s on her way to Stratford to see the stage version of Hillary Mantell’s ‘Wolf Hall’
Earlier in the day I had received an e mail from Niki Whitfield bearing the sad news that Bob Freeman had died - he was such an important part of the Cheltenham art scene. His warmth, friendship and support will be greatly missed by all. He contributed so much to the setting up and running of the Gardens Gallery and his brilliant online newsletter. He seemed to manage to be at almost every arts event and was such a major and constant part of COS and the Cheltenham Group - always gentle, smiling and encouraging to others.
Nice e mail from Jane re the Winchcombe Festival in May, confirming the date of the talk that I will give after our discussion when she rang last night.
Day in the studio but in the evening work on one of the paper hearts for the Heart Foundation for Judy Crouch. Laurence and Jackie Llewelyn Bowen and Bob Champion have all done one for me - Laurence’s is a beautiful little angel, Jackie’s dog and Bob Champion’s a wonderfully primitive horse and three figures. So I make mine a kiss with two heads and Richard also does one for me with hearts and roses. I think the Heart Foundation are either selling or auctioning them for Valentine’s Day. The Heart Foundation is a wonderful charity that raises lots of money to help people with heart conditions, buying things like defibrillators etc. and Judy works tirelessly for them.
Working in Studio.
Busily adding a little to the paintings that R is taking up to London for Rob to show at the Fair next week. It always takes longer than I anticipate so its about 5 am when I call it a day.
R’s driven the pieces to London so I’m pleased its a nice day although he says there is some fog on the hilltops. He makes good progress so is back by early evening.
Thomas comes to repair my studio fence parts of which blew down during the recent high winds.
R’s been drawing up a pattern for a new cutter for me to have made for machining timber for my corrugated works, to try and make its assembly a little less complicated than it currently is.
Payment from Jess and feedback on the London Art Fair which finished on Sunday. She says it has been their best Fair since 2008 and this echoes all today's forecasts by the European Bank and the IMF.
Invitation from New York from Lee my agent there to celebrate her birthday in March - a tour around the new American wing at the Metropolitan with a docent followed by lunch in the terrace room. Very tempting although it would fall in the middle of my exhibition in Pall Mall.
Phone call from Kate at the National Star College asking if I might paint a star for them for their special ‘Be Star for the Star’ day. Also whether I would be willing to dance in their Strictly Come Dancing Gloucestershire which would be in September. Although I find it very flattering to be asked I’m not sure I could commit to spending eight days for eight lessons plus the practice, especially as I’ve decided to dedicate from April to my large altarpiece triptych for St Michael & All Angels, Bishop’s Cleeve. So I’ll have to give it careful consideration.
Call from Rob to say he’s just sold one of my big paintings and would like me inscribe a book for the purchaser.
Up to London to deliver the two works for the art fair in Hong Kong to Panter & Hall. Then over to Blackheath to see Henrietta Kev and the little boys.
We take Henrietta and Samuel over to the British Museum particularly to look at the Egyptian collection which is fabulous and takes me back to seeing the Tutenkamun exhibition at the Royal Academy many years ago. And as we move down through the South American exhibits it is again reminiscent of the Gold of Eldorado exhibition also at the Royal Academy. A lot of the native American exhibits etc. look as if they had come from the wonderful Museum of Mankind (an offshoot of the BM) which was at the rear of the Academy and used to make a good extra exhibition when visiting the RA.
We arrive back home in the early hours when I have a quick glimpse of the Hearts for Valentine’s Day on the Heart Foundation site. I’m very pleased to see that Laurence’s, Richard’s and mine have all had bids. I place bids on twelve of them.
Nice e mail from Rachel at the Heart Foundation saying mine was the first to get a bid.
Into Cheltenham in the early evening for the meeting at Willans of the Hon Co Arts & Heritage Group. It was particularly interesting as we had Karen Jones from the Cheltenham Arts Council giving us a talk on how they operate.
Meet Prof Colin Dennis DL, Hugh the High Sheriff and John Thurston DL at the Community Centre in Hester’s Way where we are talking to the police about the brilliant Aston Project “an innovative youth diversionary project run by Cheltenham police at the Hesters Way Police Station mainly with young people who have fewer opportunities available to them and also those who are NEET or responsible for minor anti-social behaviour. Its named after WPC Lynn Aston a policewoman who was heavily involved and committed to local youth work who sadly lost her battle against cancer in April 2011. They arrange local work places based on likes, skills, interests and abilities. Young people earn one time credit for each hour they work - no cost to the business. Aston then converts their time credits into activities and experiences; things which they would generally not have access to. For 10 to 13 year olds they look for activities or clubs where they can earn credits. All young people have to earn credits before taking part in any activities.” Lea, the policewoman who runs it is full of enthusiasm and obviously loves the work she’s doing with the project and youngsters. They have generously laid on a magnificent array of sandwiches and biscuits for us as its at a lunchtime. Reece a very nice student from the University is with them on a three year placement he is shortly to commence work on an urban art project with them.
Working on a couple of new pieces for the exhibition with Panter and Hall in London’s Pall Mall in March
Off to Prestbury for the funeral service for Bob Freeman, the wonderful man who was both a nuclear physicist and an artist. He played such an important role in the art scene in Cheltenham, instrumental in both bringing the Gardens Gallery into being and running it, an important member of Cheltenham Open Studios, Cheltenham Group and was on the Cheltenham Arts Council. Always gentle smiling and encouraging. There are so many at the service, he was only 69. As we are standing outside the entrance to the chapel waiting to go in we hear the sound of the Dave Brubeck quartet playing Take Five. The alternative service which is conducted beautifully by his son in law. All the readings are very meaningful and the music indicative of the sort of person Bob was. Many familiar faces at the service and the chapel is so full that we are amongst those who stand. Some of the moving tributes to Bob were by Niki, Arabella, Nick and Adam White all involved in the arts in Cheltenham and its surrounding area.
In the evening were supposed to be going to the opening of the Paper Store at the new Museum but I’d forgotten that it overlapped with collecting my Mum from bowls.
Have just paid my large tax bill.