This week have been exchanging e mail with the Arts & Media Faculty at the University re the prize I give and the form it should take this year. Last year it was divided between five end of first year students which meant that when I was invited to award it at the graduation ceremony it had already been given. So this year contemplating it being one award to a Fine Art student at the end of their three year degree course as I remember it being quite a difficult time for students either going on to MAs or especially those who might be starting to work for themselves.
We walk down to St Michaels and are met by Jacqui. This is the first time I’ve ever entered through the little priest door into the chancel. The wall that will sit behind the altar piece has been built in smooth Cotswold stone and will come up about two thirds the way up at the central point and the triangular tops of the two wings that for the most part will be left open forming a W shape will be silhouetted against the light. There had been some concern that the base of the predella might be too deep for the marble shelf and we are relieved as Richard takes measurements to find that it is more that adequate for the base of the predella (the lower part of the construction). John, who made the construction so beautifully for me, will be greatly relieved as he phoned last night to say that he thought it would be a very bad idea to try and cut the predella down to make it shallower from back to front and he would only do it as a very very very very last resort so we are greatly relieved - he’s made it so that the front panel could be changed with a pnew painting for each of the four seasons. I meet the architect Peter Gilbert Scott of of the Gilbert Scott family who designed St Pancras Station; Battersea Power Station and the red telephone box) a very knowledgable man who is also on the Dioscesan Advisory Committee. He shows me the back of the wall and explains that it would be possible to put a fixing in to hold the painting from that side. He also suggests that I might invite members of the DAC to come and see the painting in progress as they can’t grant a faculty until they see it of course, particularly as I don’t do preparatory drawings preferring instead the whole intensity of the journey to be painted on that surface. Much of our over-dinner discussion is devoted to the altar piece
Continue on the commissions and a new one which I started yesterday especially for an Australian collector.
Working on small commissions for Australian collector
R drives up to London to Art Fair whilst I make hay in the studio on several fronts including the big newspaper commission and a Hare for one of my long standing collectors, Audrey. Start to create a large interior on another canvas and a little to the horse racing painting for Lynn. R’s back about half past nine.
Another nice warm day to have my brunch out on the terrace. Its Bank Holiday Monday and I can hear distant music from the Woodmancote May Day Fair as I sit and absorb the vitamin D and write this Diary whilst Richard trims two of our bay trees. My Mum comes round to tea.
Busy working on Lynn’s painting.
Shippers come to collect my large owl painting ‘Nocturne’ or ‘Owl in the City’ to deliver it to its new home.
Into The Wilson with Rodin’s Dance Movement E that I am giving to the Art Gallery & Museum for the people of Cheltenham and Gloucestershire to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum. Listen to Holst’s Saturn movement from The Planets Suite which is celebrating its centenary this year on the vintage telephone in the corner. Coincidentaly as I’m doing so, Laura the curator of the Holst Birthplace Museum comes in with a journalist from BBC Music Magazine.
After filling in some paper work about my gift we have a quick look at the Open West exhibition and phone Jane at Winds of Change to say we will be half an hour late. We manage to park in the square in front of the church and walk down to the gallery past the White Hart on the other side of he road, where I will be giving a talk. The Gallery is delightful, quite small but totally charming. Jane introduces us to Jean Bray who is giving a talk on the Tuesday evening. Jean was a journalist who also worked for Marilyn Monroe and Errol Flyn and most recently she’s been the archivist at Sudely Castle. The gallery has recently shown an exhibition of her late husband’s railway posters and at the moment there is an exhibition of some of his small paintings.
After Richard’s taken a few measurements we walk down the High Street to Charingworth Court, a large fascinating and very unusual house, which has a big garden where most of the sculptures for the art trail are going to be shown. As we are standing in the middle of the lawn surveying the grounds the door opens and the owner Susan Wakeford comes out. She looks familiar and then she reminds me that we met when I opened the new building at Cleeve School and she was chair of the governors. Susan will be exhibiting some of her quilts and hangings in the orangerie with other friends during the Festival. She tells us that the garden had been a wilderness and the house almost a ruin when they moved in twenty years ago so it is a vast achievement. We call in at the gallery again where we meet Malcolm, Jane’s husband, who will help her with the hanging etc. He kindly offers us a cup of tea but as my Mum will be coming round for Richard to take her to skittles we sadly decline. Jane then takes us over to the White Hart to show us the large room in which I’ll be giving my talk. Richard checks plug sockets etc for the projector. On our way back I phone my Mum and she’s already been and gone back home so I tell her Richard will come and collect her for skittles so she doesn’t need to walk round again.
Working on finishing The Trainer for Lynn.
lovely Lynne comes to collect her painting The Trainer. Such a nice person she has been very patient waiting for me to finish the piece and seemed to know as soon as she saw it when it was still in progress that it was the painting she wanted. I’m so touched that when she’s leaving she says that if ever You need any help, and I mean that,
Photograph from Lynn showing The Trainer hanging on her wall.
As well as working on the large newspaper painting commission, I’m working on a couple of smaller pieces.
Richard comes back carrying four copies of the Echo and there at the top on the front page is a four inch high photo of me saying PJ Shares her Daydream in Weekend Magazine. In Weekend there is a very nice column flagging up the talk on the 23rd, the horses (one of which is called Daydream) and the paintings in Winds of Change all at the Winchcombe Festival
Put some finishing touches to a couple of the Planets Suite paintings which I had mainly given a coat of matte medium to last week. R fixes them all within the frame back onto the backboard.
R takes the seven small circular paintings based on The Planets, assembled on a backboard, to the Holst Birthplace Museum, where they will be on exhibition until October during which time there will be a silent auction ( to benefit the Museum).
In today's post comes a beautiful sizzling orange envelope and on the flap a big round black seal on which the letter ROCK have been stamped which immediately gave me a clue as to its contents, a beautiful fuchsia pink card, the colour that way back when was called shocking pink and letter pressed type inviting us to the official Rock the Cotswolds party for the 75 who were nominated and unanimously voted for as being creative, cool individuals or firms that Rock the Cotswolds such as the Cherry Press who printed the uber cool invitation, Giffords Circus, Cheltenham Festivals, Kate Moss, Katie B Morgan, Damian Hirst, GCHQ, Lilly Allen, etc.
I'm working on the large commission whilst Richard delivers works to the gallery in Winchcombe.
The Little Removal Company comes. Three strong young men and a truck to take the two horse sculptures one of which, Daydream, they carry in to St Peters Church and place under Jane's supervision then take the large canvas to the gallery and on to Charingworth Court with Nightmare where they again position Nightmare in the place Jane instructs them. Jane and Susan are impressed with how efficient they are.
Work late finishing off the commission.
Up to London to deliver the commission then over to the gallery before walking up to the National Gallery to see the Veronese exhibition. It's a magnificent and very comprehensive show which encompasses the allegorical, mythological and biblical ranging from small and exquisite Pharoe's Daughter Finding Moses in the Bullrushes which was so popular that he and his studio made many versions on different scales to the monumental canvases covering a whole wall of the gallery. There was a quite magical moment when the sun shone through the roof lights which suddenly illuminated the Madonnas and child as if lit by heaven.
We drive to Worcester to dear friends Janet and David's for a special Birthday lunch they are having for lovely Joyce who was a student with us. We sit in their beautiful garden as it is a wonderfully sunny day for an exquisitely prepared lunch the salmon en cruet was a work of art it looked and tasted fabulous as did the carrot cake. It is always a joy to to be in their company surrounded by Janet's brilliant paintings. Finishing off three tiny paintings for the Winchcombe Festival show...........
Which we drop off at the gallery in Winchcombe where they have hung the small exhibition very well as it's an old and listed building there are things they can and can't do. But Malcolm and colleague seem to have excellently.
We then drive up to London to Henrietta, Kev and the boys. On the Sunday after the boys have been with Kev to play cricket with other Dad's and school mates in Greenwich Park, and we have done some planning of the order of the images shown during my talk on Friday, we drive over to the Olympic Park with Henrietta and the boys. The boys start off on the helter skelter which is £3 each a go! We then find a large tyre swing which would accommodate at least three children at a time. Samuel and Isaac have a nice West Indian boy join them. After a waffle with Nutella where we all sit on a swing bench whilst the boys eat we go to the splash pool which is a large flat area out of which hundreds of fountains erupt and die away at intervals. there's lots of screaming particularly when they first erupt. Although it's gloriously sunny and hot again today the boys still feel very cold when we dry them when they come out.
We then drive over to Nathan's for tea and it's a lovely surprise as Ruth is there a well. The boys enjoy looking at the fish in the aquarium which Nathan calls Fish TV. He makes us a lovely tomato, mozzarella and avocado salad which he serves with triangles of pizza. Ruth shows us photographs of the apartment she has made in the top of a factory building she owns which looks beautiful. We have a lovely time before setting out to Greenwich again to take Henrietta and boys home. Then we depart, arriving back in Bishops Cleeve about 11.30 pm.
Catch up on a lot of correspondence etc before setting out to Winchcombe, calling at the Winds of Change first to see the finished hang and arrangement and meet Lyn one of my lovely supporters and collectors from Winchcombe. After spending some time studying the Star for the Star College and having a competition to see who could name the most stars and between them Malcolm Jane and Lyn seemed to get almost every one. We then walk down to Charingworth Court and as we are nearing it we meet another couple he the man who founded the Festival here and he tells me he will be introducing me for my talk on Friday. As we come through garden I see Nightmare standing at the top in the middle of the lawn. Jane introduces me to Lady Ashcombe who seems to be very nice but perhaps rather shy. I think she'd probably like to go round the garden and sculpture on her own but does at the photographer's request agree to be photographed with me in front of Nightmare. There are some very pretty lambs which have tried to copy some of the lace in Sudely Castle on a much larger scale so they look to be drawn with a metal support and the string stretched over this sheep shaped frame. The artist is a delightful young woman who tells me how excited she was when she heard I was loaning my horses to the exhibition. I also meet Caro a sculptress who again introduces herself and tells me how pleased she is to meet me. I tell her I particularly admire the head with a bird on top she has created. I also meet Katie B Morgan who is a wonderful fairground art artist and muralist although she studied graphics at Bath Academy what she longed to do was work on big fairground rides etc. and passionately studied it under two of the then leaders in the field. She has also worked as a muralist at Sudely Castle and on private commissions of a similar nature. She's a wonderfully dedicated and romantic figure who feels as if she should have been painted by Augustus John. Some of her projects are gargantuan including a Wurlitzer which she tells me she paints in pieces. Apart from Damien Hirst I think she's one of only two other artists who has been voted as someone who 'Rocks the. Cotswolds'. I also chat to. Richard (he and his wife Susan own Charingworth Court and are hosting this event in their beautiful garden) who tells me he will at the official opening of the Museum later this month. As a trustee of the Summerfield Trust who have donated £750,000 towards the redevelopment of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum now known as the Wilson (after one of Cheltenham's heroes Dr Edward Wilson).
As I am hoping to commence work on my big altar piece and have postponed an exhibition in October to try and give myself time and space to contemplate and create this work I decide I must reluctantly cut out as much as I can to allow me to do so.
Working on a small commission that I started a month or two ago and is to go to Australia.
I go into the studio across the Lane to contemplate the triptych so Richard moves the timber that I had turned especially for John to make the corrugated constructions from or Richard who made the last two small ones. Make two or three journeys from the upstairs studio in the house bringing lots of new brushes, gesso and colour to mix up for the underpainting. It's rather daunting as the underpainting that is there, that Toyah wanted to buy and that lots of people have related to of the Good Shepherd with the lamb around his shoulders as one visitor to my studio pointed out, the Pope had recently carried one. But this's underpainting was made at least eight years ago and the triptych itself has now been patiently waiting in my studio for ten years for me to have time to contemplate. So I've had to be quite radical and postpone an exhibition I was due to have in October and also tomorrow's meeting of the Hon Co Community Support Group. Which is sad but necessary especially at the commencement where it needs the whole of my energy, concentration and contemplation. A little bit like being on retreat where one can allow for the spiritual to take over, as I have to give myself up to it completely. Not even listening to the radio or music as even that can intrude. I hope this doesn't sound like a penance as it is totally the opposite - totally uplifting and the challenge of starting afresh but at the same time learning from that which I have already put down both from a compositional and spiritual point of view. It takes quite a lot of physical strength too in the stretching and moving about across its surface which reaches to eight foot high by eight feet wide though less than half the size of GloCorama triptych this has so many facets like the reverse of the doors when they are closed and the predella for which John had made me four different panels so that they can be changed with the seasons. I know this was a labour of love for him in the making as it is for me in the painting.
To start with I try to roughly brush in lines to try and work out a structure. It is interesting to recall all the beautiful frescoes and exquisite altarpieces that we saw in Florence, Sienna, San Gimigniano and Richard and I also made a pilgrimage to Assisi to see the brilliant Giottos that tell the story of St Francis. It was also moving to see his tomb and the relics that they hold there. This too was in preparation for the task I now embark upon.
Although I am aware that I must bear art history in mind when I make this painting I am also aware it needs to be my vision and of now. It was also very inspiring to see the Veronese exhibition at the National Gallery last week where many of the works were truly magnificent and monumental.
Following my initial tentative steps I am bold enough to restart on the central figures of the central panel it feels blissful to be here in the quietude and solitude of my studio trying to improve upon them and increase their viability.
We're just driving to the top of Stockwell Lane on our journey to Winhcombe when I get a phone call from Beverley who tells me she's stuck in traffic on the descent from Cleeve Hill as there has been an accident so I tell her we will turn round and go via Gothrington and she says she will do the same. We arrive just in time to set up the projector and screen and for lovely Jim hart from radio Winchcombe to wire me up. I'm so delighted to see people like Ren who has come all the way from Luton and dear Wallace who driven here from Banbury bringing 98 year old George as well as my painting which he own The Angel and THe Multitude and lots of my more local lovely friends too. After my talk which actually goes on for much longer than planned Jane and I invite every one over to the Winds of Change Gallery for a glass of wine or cordial. It has a a delightfully warm party atmosphere with much laughter and chatter by so many people I'm very fond of. There is much excitement when John Turney who relates so strongly to my Quest by Moonlight (only finished three days ago) that he decides that he wants to buy it.It is also very moving for me as he is so perceptive to all that it is trying to saying. He is so pleased with it we let him take it there and then as we do with Ren who has purchased The Kids around the corner for my Charity fund for the Star and LINC. finally it's down to Radio Winchcombe
To join Jim to have a chat on air about this afternoon's events. He sounds as if this is what he was born to do, he is such a natural with his saucy sense of humour and wonderful Scottish lilt.
Today I am determined to try and create an architectural environment around the figures which includes a lot of trying out of colours on the frame so for a while it looks rather patchwork. As I do this I once again become familiar with the way in which John has built it for me - facets I had almost forgotten were there.
I manage roughly to continue the interior architecture over each of the two side panels.
Sharpening and refining the interior architecture. Also working into the figures in the central panel.
After doing some research at the start of each painting session. Start to turn the figure on the right hand wing or door of the triptych into St Jerome. The transition takes most of the day and evening.
It's the first time Richard and I have been to The Daffodil restaurant in Cheltenham since it was converted from a huge antique emporium and of course it was originally a cinema. There was a time when we had six. The Essaldo
which was down the lower end of the High Street, the Colosseum, The Gaumont and The Regal. This was long before the multi screen complexes. But tonight we are here at The daffodil for the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum's Pearl Dinner to celebrate their thirtieth birthday. Such a brilliant achievement. I have the pleasure of introducing Edward as our speaker and to make the toast he is very entertaining as well as offering wise words of wisdom.
Add St Jerome's lion. It's a story I have always loved and related to.
Begin to paint St Michael on the left hand wing of the triptych late in the evening after doing a little more to the lion.
Today is the official royal opening of the newly named Wilson (Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum) by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. As with all royal functions a huge amount of planning and organisation has gone and is going into it. Whilst we all mingle in the de Ferriers room where drinks and canapés are being served, Dame Janet first greets Richard and then greets me; I ask her how she is as she has made a remarkable recovery after her car accident towards the end of last year. Then Gina (chairman of the Friends) and I go to our places at either end of the beautiful new Friend Gallery. I am stationed in front of my painting "The Smell of the Horse, the Roar of the Crowd" which is part of this exhibition from the permanent collection. While we are waiting it gives me a chance to become better acquainted with two of the newer members of staff, one I discover has actually been there freelance in the education department. Then we're on as the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester are ushered in. First they were introduced to Gina and Caroline and then Margaret Austen brings the Duchess up to introduce me to her and we discuss my painting. I explain how each of the curves is made out of two half curves of timber and then the eighteen or so pieces are fixed to a backboard of timber , covered in canvas then a top and bottom cut to correspond and all primed with white gesso before I commence work on painting it. As she and Margaret move on they are followed by the Duke whose eye is momentarily caught by a wonderful painting, also in the permanent collection, of a ploughing match. After our introduction he is intrigued to know which horse is winning in my painting and suspects it is the one with the jockey in blue. After a few more questions and conversations they move on. After they have exited the gallery Gina and I move back into the de Ferriers where I try to organise the group I am introducing into the horseshoe shape that Jane had requested. I later introduce them to the Duchess, first Jenny then Douglas Ogle who chats to her about one of the Friends' cultural study trips to Holland that they organised. Next to Marjorie Imlah, vice chair of the Friends and finally Richard. Shortly after, Graham gives his speech, the Duke replies and I present the posy to the Duchess and the Edward Wilson print to the Duke. Then they're off to Gloucester for their next appointment which is to open e newly refurbished Soldiers of of Gloucester Museum.
We are then off to the degree show at the University which is this year held in a marquee in the quadrangle of Francis Close Hall where we again meet Ben Calvert, dean of campus with whom we discuss some very beautiful photographs where the colour of the sky has been digitally altered making these photographs of buildings look almost like abstracts. Bump into Sue Billington who is very excited as she has found a new way of expressing herself and her Buddhism through her method of working. As we're nearing a full circle we meet Bob Davison who is Course Leader who says there is someone in particular who he feels would be worthy of my £1,000 award. he tells us how hard she works also doing a cleaning job in the evenings and student ambassador on Saturdays. She's very keen on philosophy and her layered abstract drawings and piece of sculpture convey that intensity. He says she will be getting a First. We then look at the rest of the show before telling Bob that we agree with his selection. He then introduces me to her and I tell her about the award. rather touchingly she says she wants to cry. She says she's also got another cleaning job in the evenings too. She has been saving and is taking a year out to save more and produce work to apply for an MA in London the following year and I tell her the award is for exactly that, to further her career rather being spent frivolously. I also tell her that it will be awarded at the graduation ceremony and I look forward to seeing her again then.
We return home as Henrietta called whilst we were there, to say that she Kev and the boys would be arriving later tonight.
Such a joy to be greeted by the little boys in the morning who have already made up the little boxes of Lego and the dinosaur gliders by the time I come down. This weekend we are celebrating Henrietta and Kev's anniversary our present which includes a contribution from my Mum who is with us too is towards them staying at Cowley Manor tonight. So they depart at lunchtime dropping my Mum off en route? And we set off with the boys for Pittville Park via our village shoe shop to buy them both a new pair of trainers. They each have very particular taste and Isaac didn't actually need new trainers, it was Samuel who had outgrown his, had his feet measured first and managed to select a pair of black trainers with bright blue soles and stitching on the leather. Samuel ended up with a pair of white leather trainers.They both decided to wear them straight away and Frida who owns the shop and served us also manages to sell us three sticks of the pink rock with Bishops Cleeve printed through it that they had made this year for the Street Fair and a programme too.
The park is a great success and we must have been there for four or five hours which also included a trip to the cafe for ice cream and drinks and quite a long spell later playing football with a boy called Ollie who organises them and the goals as his mother tells me, he is aged ten and fanatical about football. But even when they go home the boys are still heartily engaged on the swings etc of the playground. We eventually manage to get them back into the car at about 8 pm when we drive to Waitrose and they choose toys up to a value of £10 each which takes Samuel a long time. We arrive home about 9 where I play word snap with them whilst Richard makes the tea after which I read Samuel his bedtime story and Richard does Isaac's. What a lovely way to end the month.