We meet Henrietta and Kev at Giffords Circus which we are treating them all to. It is another wonderful show, hugely funny especially Tweedy and some breathtaking acts. It's especially interesting for me to see some of the things I have painted come to life, like the act with the doves. And I always love the two brothers who juggle with fire. There was even a turkey playing the Delphic oracle this year, who would gobble its answers. We're again blessed with lovely weather this year so as with last year we go down to the boats on the lake. Richard goes to collect my Mum so that she can have an ice cream with us then he joins Kev and the boys in the rowing boat.
I decided I’d better not attend the Hon Co Arts & Heritage group meeting at 5 as I’m still engaged in the initial stages trying to make headway on the altar piece triptych, especially after having most of FridaySaturday and Sunday off. So I sent my apologies last night as it will give me a run through till Thursday.
Very nice e mail from Danny asking if I would consider selling him both paintings, the one he had commissioned and the one he had borrowed.
Having written back to Danny yesterday, today he makes an offer on buying both paintings which I accept.
Also nice e mail from Diane Hamilton suggesting a couple of dates for her visit to my studio.
beginning to add more to the composition of the triptych including a little scenario of St Michael & All Angels in the distance and a smaller angel in each of the two side panels. I enjoy playing around with scale using both large and very small figures.
Work further into St Michael’s costume and his attributes.
its a beautiful morning when Edward picks me up at ten past seven to drive to Berkeley for the Bishop’s Breakfast meeting at Jane Jenner Fust’s beautiful house. Its a long journey being about forty miles. Whilst we are looking for the turning - Edward has been here once before - we pass Suzette the Chief Constable in her red car who hasn’t, so Edward tells her to follow us. we’re greeted by members of Jane’s family and as we enter the dining room there are already many members here. which is pretty good for 7.45 in the morning. This mornings presentation is by the Very Revd Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester who tells us with a big smile that they have been successful in their heritage lottery bid in getting a grant of £4.5m (if they can raise £1.5m). Project Pilgrim as the regeneration is known, is going to open up the area around the Cathedral on the South side into a beautiful square and make it a much more public space. There will also be a new entrance into the Cathedral and repairs to the masonry. It all sounds very exciting and Heritage Lottery funding has provd to be very successful at re developing so many of our important buildings etc. like the Wilson too.
After the breakfast Jane invites any of us who want to visit the exquisite little parish church that lies within about 50 metres from the house.
Interestingly as a group of us look around it and John stands in the pulpit and comments on how high it is Stephen (the Dean) says that of course it was only the church who could talk down to the family box of the lord of the manor and that the chancel was God’s space. Its beautifully light and charming in scale with well worn grey and black checkered tiles. Parts of it date back to the 1600’s which is about the same time as Jane’s husband’s family began living here. Suzette and I are the last to leave and after saying thank you to Jane I notice Richard driving into the courtyard to collect me. As we drive home I tell him about the meeting and describe the delightful little church.
In this morning’s post there’s a lovely card, note and invitation from the people who purchased my Tango Tea Dance painting and also bought Nocturne, my owl in the city, for their daughter’s 23rd birthday. I’m very touched as they say how she adores my work and would dearly love me to paint her portrait. and also inviting me (with guest) to attend her birthday party later this month. It is always warming to know that the paintings have gone to a good he where they are loved.
In the evening we put on our glad rags to attend the Rock the Cotswolds party at Blackfriars in Gloucester. There’s a car park nearby and as we cross the road to enter the arch into the forecourt, we are greeted by a wonderful steel band and wonderful clowns on stilts who tower above us blowing bubbles and offer a hand to shake as we pass by. We’re given our Rocker name tags and there are Katie B Morgan and Jane from the Winds of Change Gallery who is Katie’s guest. We’re also given a choice of cocktails beautifully presented and as we walk in we see familiar faces. The first we chat to are Laurence and Jackie L-B and Katie Jarvis from Cotswold Life who’s looking extremely slender as she tells me she’s on the 5/2 Diet as she’s due to interview its creator Michael Mosley when he appears the Cheltenham Science Festival. We then start to spot all sort of people we know like John Thurston DL who I’d seen at the Breakfast this morning; Pete Bungard in a beautiful cerise panama hat; Edward who says he’s enjoyed his day golfing in Newbury; Hugh and Rosie Tollemarche who has just stopped being High Sheriff; Stephen Marston vice chancellor and Anne Dawson; Donna Rennay; Richard Graham the MP: Dame Janet the Lord Lieutenant and a really good close up magician who managed to play amazing card tricks on me after I’d signed my name on a card, including pulling it out of a pocket in sealed envelope! Also the owner of Tokyo Tattoo who says he really admires my work and would love me to visit his very sophisticated looking tattoo studio. And many others too. Its a fantastic evening in a fabulous setting with terrific food and drink donated by generous local firms. We then go home with Rock the Cotswolds black tote bags full of goodies.
How strange, I seem to have lost my voice after last nights party!
Gill and my Mum come to supper. Gills come down to take my Mum back with her for a couple of weeks. She's brought me two plants from her garden and I give her two pelargoniums as she always admires now prolific mine are in the porch. She also tells me the four strawberry plants
I bought her last year have increased to about twenty, full of fruit and one of them is red and almost ripe.
My studio seems wonderfully quiet today in contrast with the fabulous Rock the Cotswolds party on Friday evening and yesterday's Echo generously mentioned my name along with Laurence Llewelyn Bowen and Fiona Fullerton being amongst the well known faces. Oli Christie and niki Godding have certainly started a wonderful movement and feel good factor ,among the movers, shakers and creatives in the region.
Adding more to the composition of the altar piece, particularly angels.
Go into Betteridge special school in the afternoon to do a workshop with children from three mixed aged classes and to tell them about the Star College's competition and show them my big Star too. We are met by Grace the lovely young art teacher who invited me there in November to do a workshop and many of these delightful children remember us from that day. Richard has cut a lot of stars in the ends of half potatoes to that we can do potato prints and also stars out of thin card that we can use as stencils. Very soon the room is a buzz with activity and Elliott who had been wonderfully originally creative last time is equally so this. He tells me his star is going to be the star of Jesus which is large and central to his composition and has a smiling face; it's really beautiful as are they all, especially when the teachers supply them with pots of glitter to sprinkle onto the wet paint. I do quite a lot with a lovely boy called Hansa who signs his piece with a large H. It's such fun and we make quite a lot of glorious mess which remarkably all disappears when we clear at the end of the session and seems sad to throw all Richard's potato blocks away. It's wonderful how time changes all and the heroes or pop icons of yesteryear such as. Elvis and Marilyn are totally unknown to these vibrant youngsters.
Back to the studio after catching up on some e mails.
The weather's still good so after brunch in the garden I'm back over in the studio across the Lane. I'm still working there when Richard brings over Jane and David who have come for supper. It's lovely to see them as we haven't seen them since the Panter & Hall second opening. We enjoy a lovely evening with them and a lot of laughter then went back to the studio and did another hour or two.
Have been in dialogue with Morag of the Aston Project and arranged to go in and do a workshop next week.
The weather's still gloriously hot and both the house and studio gardens are full of roses - the rosa filipes Kiftsgate where I am sitting on the back terrace, is just coming into bloom too which will soon, like the Rambling Rector on the front of the house, be covered in a multitude of small white roses.
At the moment I am changing one or two of the angels turning the heads into full face rather than profile and adding smaller elements to the background. Work into the early hours when it is eerily quiet as I'm not listening to music or the radio and trying instead to give my undivided attention to the painting of the Alter piece.
Busy day. First to Pittville Park where I’m going to walk a mile in Richard’s plimsoles (luckily my own fit inside them) and he is wearing howell’s boots, for Carers Gloucestershire. My dear friend Daphne who is a Carers Gloucestershire ambassador and Trustee is the reason why. I’ve also donated my pair of red George Cox loafers which along with a pair of Zandra Rhodes shoes (as she’s also a friend of Daphne’s, they were at the Royal College together) Mark Lester’s trainers and TVs Dr Dawn Harpers killer heels. are being raffled. I’m very surprised to see there is a photograph of the latter two and me in todays Echo as well a photo of Richard and me in Weekend with Oli Christie at the Rocking The Cotswolds party. Its a beautiful day for this walk and I start out walking with Daphne’s husband Michael Murrel. But somewhere along the route just over half way someone calls out ‘hello PJ’ and its Martin Horwood Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat MP with his delightful son Sam, who has just come from football. So I walk most of the distance with them and part with Kevan Blackadder,editor of the Echo. There’s a lovely atmosphere and colourful with a girl of about nine or ten walking in what looked like her mothers high heels. She’s very good and manages at least half way in those before reverting to her own.
Then we’re off to Gloucester, in fact Quedgley, to try and spot Bishop Michael and his pilgrims on the latter stage of his week long pilgrimage around the south and west of the diocese. But we don’t spot them so drive back to the city as we know that they will be at St Michael’s Tower at the Cross where Eastgate, Southgate, Northgate and Westgate meet. The tower is beautiful and has been standing there for centuries, sometimes having a church attached, or traders market stalls built onto it. A big screen up inside gives a potted history and two lovely ladies who volunteer for the Civic Trust take great pleasure in telling people about the tower and its history. They also serve a cup of tea and a piece of cake for only £1 a head. We learn too that it can be booked as a venue for meeting or birthday parties at only £10 per hour. What a treat it would be to be able to hire this historic gem in the centre of Gloucester City.
We keep popping outside the large open arched doorway to see if we can see the pilgrims coming and on our final look we spot the new lady Mayor and her consort - she’s a lovely Welsh lady with a very jolly sense of humour They have just come from the Gay Pride march that is also taking place in Gloucester today. Then we spot the flag and band of walkers led by Bishop Michael at the forefront. He greets us very warmly and suddenly there are press photographers too. We then move on and walk to the remains of St Oswold’s Priory where Bishop Michael tells us a little of its history, a prayer and a sacred chant which we then continue to sing en route to the memorial to Bishop Hooper who died a martyr as he was executed for being a Bishop of the Church of England. We linger here a little while as our timing is fraction early. We are going to be met outside the Cathedral by Stephen Lake the Dean and the beautiful Cathedral choir. Then we go through the arch into the Cathedral’s grounds singing Alleluhia and stand before the war memorial to those who perished in the First World War and again a prayer. We then walk on to the South door of the Cathedral where the choir in their beautiful red cassocks, children and men stand waiting with Stephen. first a lovely formal meeting and exchange between Bishop and Dean before the choir sing. Its an extraordinary and exquisite moment, the young choristers look particularly enchanting. They proceed into the Cathedral and we follow. Bishop Michael then takes us on a circuit of the Cathedral stopping at particular monuments and tombs including a new carving of St Keneburga by the Cathedral’s master mason. Through the Lady Chapel with it new paintings within the shattered reredos. Next stop is at the tomb of Edward 2nd where we say another prayer then into the Cathedral nave where we sit whilst the Bishop and one of the deacons change into their vestments for the service with the Dean too. We draw near in a semi circle for the Eucharist. A most beautiful ending to their pilgrimage.
On the way back we phone Beverley as its her birthday and arrange to take her to supper at the Turkish restaurant Daphne’s. We meet her there just after 8 and as usual she looks most striking and glamorous and is very good company. The food is delicious and wholesome and the charming owner brings out a birthday card and special key ring with a protective eye charm for Beveley. Likewise a bowl of tiny charms for us to take one too. We were all amazed to see how its all freshly prepared in such a small kitchen.
Our lovely friends Doctors Charles and Emma Slosberg come with their two beautiful children, well actually Daniel’s a young man of sixteen now and every inch as tall as his father. Suzanna too is beautiful like her Mum and a great fan of One Direction. She’s going to a masked ball tomorrow night so they show us the exquisite mask they have found in Marlborough. Suzanna wants to have it on a stick; Richard thinks he might have a thin piece of dowel but it turns out to be much too wide so I suggest using a kebab skewer and cutting the pointed end off which he does then paints it white to match the mask. Its such a joy to see them all and we discuss a long outstanding commission that I have promised to do for them.
Today’s the 30th annual general meeting of the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum over which I’m presiding. In the 30 years they have not only supported the Museum, now known as The Wilson with their presence and support at exhibitions etc but also worked as guides and volunteers. Over that period of time they have also raised a great deal of money not just the 250,000 they gave for the redevelopment and the massive £30,000 that they have just given as a thirtieth anniversary gift but as Edward Gillespie pointed out at the Pearl Party organised by Gina, Sally and Marjorie, over that period it amounts to about half a million. Increasing and enhancing the Museum’s collection and supporting exhibitions etc. And I know that every penny and every pound they make for our beloved museum is hard won. They voluntarily give of their time, energy and expertise and any Museum or organisation would be pleased to have them as Friends. Because I am so in admiration of all their achievements I thought it might be nice to give a gift to commemorate the birthday as a tiny token of my affection for them all. So when my American dealer Gary Snell approached me at the end of last year to see if I would consider trading two of my small paintings that he wanted for his personal collection for a cast of Rodin’s Dance Movement E, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. Caroline, our new leader of the collections team has brought the tiny dancer over to place her on the table and now she lifts her carefully in her gloved hands and under escort returns her to the Museum’s alarmed store. The meeting then commences and Keith our hard working treasurer always gets asked questions about very small amounts of the monies as if it were he spending it and I have to point out to the meeting that he does an excellent job in probably the most undesirable role on the committee. But all the committee work hard and Gina shows great appreciation for them in her summary of the year. Jenny gives us a comprehensive review of all the study tours that she and Douglas have taken the Friends on this year and being the longest standing committee member, recaps a lot of the brilliant things the Friends have bought for the Museum. Jan and Marjorie also give reports.
Finally we move on to tonights presentation by Jo Stringer the chair of the new Leisure and Culture Trust. In my thank you address I do make a point about the fact that they should consult & listen the Friends as there is much expertise and experience amongst them and not throw out the baby with the bath water.
Quite a bit of e mailing re the Aston Project and Nat Star. Then into the studio to continue work on the altarpiece.
Hear from Joanna so we arrange to meet for lunch. I suggested I treat her to lunch at the Star Bistro after we watch an hour of the OrcheStar rehearsing.
Continue on the altarpiece Triptych and also the small Australian commission.
Peter Cottingham calls as Hugh has asked if the Roses could support the Aston Project in some way so he’d advised Peter to come and discuss with me.
Over to exquisite Owlpen Manor for the celebration of Amy Rose and Fabian Mander’s wedding. Its a gloriously sunny day - as somebody mentioned it has been for all the young Manders’ weddings at the beautiful little church situated next to the Manor. Its very nice to see Sara again, Nicky and Karin’s daughter who I met when he brought her to my private view at Panter & Hall, in a very beautiful turquoise dress that Nicky said she had designed. Lovely too to see Jane and Stephen Davis who moved from Bownham Grange to a magnificent ancient barn in Norfolk. Karin looks very pretty in blue and is very busy making sure everything is right. There are quite a lot of artists there including Rory who we met at a dinner party at Owlpen towards the end of last year. I ask him about the sculptures he is producing for St Albans Cathedral; he’s been working on them for many years and I remember at dinner he told me that he’s had to cut out a lot of social things to direct his energies more completely to his creative work. Nicky is a perfect host and says he wishes he could introduce us to his friend Anthony Gormley who couldn’t come but does introduce us to his brother who like Anthony (who last year got a knighthood) also received one in this year’s Birthday honours. Nicky describes him as almost a saint; he was director of the Disasters Emergency Committee and previously regional director of Oxfam in various parts of the world.
After driving home to change we set out for Huntley Manor where we have been invited to Venetia’s 23rd birthday party and her parents anniversary celebration. I’m really touched as they have used the theme of my Tango Tea Dance painting which they bought from my last London show as the theme. The tables are laid with tiered cake stands, tea pots etc and there’s a huge giclee of the painting hanging as a backdrop in this wonderful outdoor party room. Venetia has organised all the food; both beautiful and clever, she is studying for her PhD in anthropology at Oxford with a particular emphasis on food of South America. Like her vivacious mother Doreanne who after studying fashion at the art school in Cheltenham also read anthropology at Oxford. Venetia’s parents had bought her my large owl painting “Owl in the City” or “Nocturne” for her birthday. There are lots of people of varying ages but many of them young who are camping in the grounds. A fabulous South American band and two brilliant professional tango dancers who soon have people up and dancing. Later the wonderful black male dancer in his white suit leads Venetia in a fabulous dance at which she is brilliant. Venetia’s father Professor Tim is a delightful man who seems charming, gentle and quietly spoken.
My sister Gill comes to lunch having brought my Mum back having had her to stay for fortnight at Blunham. Working on the commission to go to Australia
Create a small watercolour to donate to the RWA charity event then back on the altarpiece
We go to the Aston Project to do workshop with a group of youngsters to enable them to enter into the National Star College’s competition based around the big Star I created. We meet community policeman Trevor May, a very nice man who has a good way of talking to them perhaps as he says, because he has four children of his own. They are a lovely lively group and very prolific.
We run on longer than intended so are rather late for the Linc AGM which is a shame because the speaker is Dr Asher but sadly only catch the end of her talk. Its a smallish meeting made up mostly of Trustees
Unbroken spell in the studio
We drive up to the Star College to return my big Star to them and discuss possibility of an exhibition in Cheltenham of all the works created by schools and young people; also give CD with images of both Betteridge School’s brilliant piece and the Aston Project’s wonderful works. Jo Stringer who I’m taking to lunch in the Star Bistro arrives shortly afterwards and as I’m taking her down into the theatre we meet Paul, director of performing and visual arts who spends a long time chating to us after I’ve introduced him to Jo. We then go to have lunch in the Bistro meeting Kate Green director of Appeals en route. But while we are sitting trying to decide what to order, Kathryn the principal comes up with her big smile. After introduction I tell her I am going to sponsor her for £1,000 in the Strictly Come Dancing, Gloucestershire that the Star have organised as I had volunteered to do this when I had to decline dancing in it myself due to needing to spend all my energies on the altarpiece as it would have meant a lot of practicing up at the Star which I couldn’t really commit to.
Good day in the studio working on giving the imagery in the left hand door more definition and refinement. I work into the early hours so that I will have spent part of my birthday painting which is something I try to do every year.
We drive up to London to babysit for Henrietta and Kev whist they go out to dinner with friends, two of whom are leaving the area shortly. I get a wonderful big hug and birthday greeting from Samuel who gives me a beautiful purple card that he has made with a lovely drawing of an owl on it. A super bag printed with self portrait of him and all his class mates and and a loom bands bracelet which is very interesting as I only discovered this craze that seems to be sweeping the world, when I read about it on the BBC News website in the week. I’d even brought a large ball of coloured elastic bands with me to try and show them but they already have a loom and lots of packets of tiny coloured rubber bands. Isaac also gives me a beautiful card on a red background that he has made, again with a lovely drawing of an owl. When we go downstairs for tea a tempting banana cake festooned with candles and Happy Birthday lettering iced on it which Samuel and Henrietta have made awaits me. A round of Happy Birthday as I try to blow out the candles.
We are rather late getting them to bed as neither boy is keen on going to sleep.
Henrietta prepares a birthday lunch after the boys have been out to play cricket. Richard goes over to Stoke Newington to collect Nathan who is looking very good in his shorts and fluorescent green trainers. Its lovely being all together and after lunch Nathan does his usual fairground type rides lifting each of the boys up over his shoulder and dropping them on the sofa. we all enjoy a lovely afternoon / evening before delivering Nathan back to Stoke Newington and wending our way back home.
My Mum arrives with her suitcase as the decorators have started work in her house.
A book arrives from Oxford University Press wearing my painting Poem on it cover, ‘Future Times, Future Tenses’ which is the second in the series; the first one ‘Time’ came out last year using my painting Time and Time Again.