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Start the month busily employed on the three commissions.
Into the University arts campus at Hardwick for the degree show where we are met by Bob. Its an exciting exhibition with some stunning work. Its very hard to decide as there are so many different criteria that one can use use for selecting the student who will receive my annual award. One of the deciding factors is whether the student comes from Gloucestershire. We meet several people we know including of course Stephen the vice chancellor and separately his partner Tony. Bob also introduces me to the new course leader Katie Pratt who tells me she has her own video and film practice in Bristol and also Jack who I actually met at The Wilson last year when I was speaking at the Cheltenham Open Studio launch. He also knows Nathan from the Slade. I take their council on who they consider a worthy recipient for my award. My Gloucestershire criteria makes the decision easier between the final two. But when they have gathered the graduating third year students together I congratulate all the students on their achievements and do mention the other contenders. Cherish on her moving observations on mental health issues; David on his compassionate canvases preoccupied with the plight of refugees……When I announce that Robyn’s who’s monumental whole wall charcoal drawing ‘Dodgy Dave’ (raw and powerful and very in your face, having a lot in common with graffiti and street art) is to be the recipient she is overcome and tearful and all her fellow students flock round to give her a congratulatory hug and cherish comes to thank me for my words of encouragement as does her father.
Today was the unveiling of Edward Wilson’s pipe at The Wilson. The Friends and the Wilson family have contributed to this purchase. David explains that it is the ordinariness of the item that somehow makes the hero more tangible in that we can relate to his struggle with quitting smoking it. There is a silver band joining the mouthpiece to the bowl with his initials engraved upon it. Dr David Wilson his great nephew has also collected together a collection of other items that will go into the Paper Store including some that he has picked up in auctions etc.There is also a splendid book of bird and plant studies exquisitely drawn and painted; Edward Wilson was such a talented man also a dedicated doctor who worked in the London slums whilst he was training and contracted TB which I don’t suppose the pipe smoking helped. While he was recuperating in Leckhampton he certainly used to go out in the surrounding area looking at the wildlife, plants and fauna. His widow Oriana continued adding things to the book of drawings, paintings and samples after his loss in Antarctica with Scott.
Richard collects me in the car outside the Museum just after 2pm. Back to the studio which he has rehung for me as we have Melissa, one of Henrietta’s friends from schooldays and her husband Paul come to look. There’s just one left that he needs my help with as its large and in a tricky corner. Melissa, Paul and their six year old son Harrison arrive and we spend an hour or two reminiscing and exchanging stories over cups of tea. They’ve bought and live in the glorious Hillfield House of Hillfield Gardens built in 1867 for a wealthy timber merchant and described by Pevsner as the best Victorian house in Gloucester. Its a magnificent Italianate house with arches and pillars and a central glass roof above a magnificent hall surrounded by an internal balcony off which are the bedrooms. The hall has marble tiling in black and white chequers with red surrounds, bathstone toppings to the pillars and arches with birds and animals adorning the interior and an elegant tower from which its first owner would watch the ships coming into dock so that he knew when to go down to meet those bearing his timber.
Working on the commissions in the upstairs studio.
The weather is glorious so have brunch and tea in the garden.
Very excited as R is going to renovate the summer house that he built for me twenty years ago. Though sadly it meant cutting down a rather beautiful cyprus tree that partly obscured it.
We were going to have dinner with Martin Horwood (Cheltenham’s LibDem MP for ten years till the last election) as he’d invited us with a small group as Lord Paddy Ashdown was coming to talk about the referendum etc. But when we arrived at the Spice Lodge Martin is sat in the lounge with just two other people and he explains that all political activity had been cancelled due to the terrible tragic killing of the lovely young Labour MP Jo Cox who was only 41 and mother of two young children. She had been brutally shot and stabbed by a man at her surgery in Batley. Martin had tried to text us on his way back from London but we hadn’t picked it up. So we chat for half an hour over a glass of Indian beer before we all sadly make our way back home.
Richard drives up to London to collect the boys from school and baby sit until Henrietta and Kev return from a wedding celebration where they are the only two guests and witnesses, in advance of the Orthodox wedding in Romania in a couple of weeks time.
Meanwhile I’m painting intensely in the studio as I always try to create enough to impress Richard when he returns (about 2.30am)
This is a day of preparation for Richard who has already made two different ice creams, brown bread and a mascapponi Cointreau for our dinner party tomorrow evening. He makes a wonderful wine and nut pate and defreezes the eleven lobsters.
R’s up early for the big cook. He spends the day making fresh bread, lobster thermidore and a pomegranete salad. Nicky, Karin from beautiful Owlpen and Loofy arrive at just about the same time as John, my lovely framemaker and his delightful daughter Kate (a teacher, mother of three boys and married to a reconstructive surgeon who often works in war torn countries like Afghanistan helping to reconstruct the bodies of children who have been tragically injured in the fighting). Then Robert and Toyah arrive both looking very happy and very well, Robert having brought three special bottles (which he later serves with the different courses). Toyah comes and stirs the paella on the Aga (a little extra R is preparing as I thought the lobsters might not be sufficient!). Followed by Candia and Tony of Inkubus Surkkubus. Lots of laughter, witty repartee, fascinating stories and conversations both before and at the table. I take Loofy to the studio (at her request) as she’s a very creative person too.
As well as working on the commissions, I’m trying to work out a composition on a vertical corrugated construction that Richard made for me a few weeks ago when I started tentatively but now with the Gloucester exhibition looming I need to be decisive.
R’s driven up to London to collect Super Heroes from Larry and Suzanne of the Advertising Archive and on his return journey called in at Professor Ken and Nancy as they are generously loaning Playground, Time is Time Was Times Future and Waiting. He has a very nice catch-up with them as they enjoy afternoon tea at a cafe round the corner.
Meanwhile I’ve started a little pig to accompany a wonderful 19th century primitive Gloucester Old Spot in the Museum of Gloucesters.
R takes the paintings he has collected to the Museum of Gloucester whilst I’m busily painting on all fronts.
Very exciting - we’re burning the candle at both ends. R’s been painting a lot of spots for me on the vertical corrugated piece.
Richard goes to collect the “Caravans from Tewkesbury then drives to Bristol to collect a painting from the Royal West of England Academy collection in Bristol but as the picture store is inaccessible they say they will deliver it to Gloucester themselves on Monday. He collects a lot of picture frames for us and the Great Roberto.
We work until 4am.
Up to London to meet the doctors Charles and Emma Shlosberg who are treating us to dinner and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Globe. A brilliant and witty production with a lively Indian take, directed by Angela Rice who has taken over from Dominic Dromgoole whose father owns some of my work. We went to stay with him in Penkill Castle n Scotland when I was painting a portrait of his second wife June. Patrick had been director of programmes at HTV when he bought my prizewinning painting Portrait of the Artist and Friends. Its a wonderful evening that we enjoy enormously, Charles and Emma are such good company. We get home about 1.30am and do a couple of hours painting before turning in.
R drives up London via Bourton on the Water to collect Sue and Andy’s painting which we had totally forgotten to collect on Friday. Then to Little Venice to collect The Guardian Angel from Stephen and on to Putney to borrow Professor Richard Baillie’s The Deep. On the way back he calls on Wallace in Banbury to collect two paintings Punch & Judy and The Toy Shop. After dinner does some lettering around the Piggy-Wig for me.
R drives over to Robert and Toyah’s who are generously loaning their large Rolinda painting. He also returns the little painting I had made for their anniversary as I’d added a little more lettering to the back and delivers the frames he had bought in Bristol. He then takes the painting straight to the Museum with the works borrowed yesterday and Friday. But he’s back before Caroline and Simon come to see their Goodwood commission which they are kindly loaning to the exhibition along with her Cowboy and Indian construction which they have brought with them.
R takes most of the remaining paintings over to the Museum of Gloucester as he is hanging it with Nigel and David. Meanwhile I’m sill working on the Piggy-Wig and The Dream, which I’d started in January but has now had that extra boost of having seen it again at The Globe on Saturday night with Charles and Emma.
Jane and David for dinner and they bring Jane’s Canal and and David’s Circus Circle. As always its lovely to see them
Works late still on The Dream and Piggy-Wig for R to take ……….
…..this morning first thing. I spend the day on the Sheep and Walking on the Water which he had brought back after deciding where they would hang.
R comes back after the hang and asks me how near to finished my small Tiger painting is ? as there’s a spot that he wants to put it in above the 1890s circus poster form the Museum’s collection. So instead of a somewhat earlier night we’re up till almost 5 whist I am finishing it for tomorrows Opening !!!