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R drives over to the Tower early so that he can park outside and take a tall ladder in for hanging Tony’s beautiful winged man. Hannah is also going in early with white sheets to cover the circular tables on which to stand her box plinths to display her sculptures. Adrianna continued to write and put up labels. Meanwhile Robbie and his family come to collect me; I sit in the back with his two delightful children Harris 5 and Abigail 10. It is all looking very good when I arrive and Richard and Hannah have continued from the end of one of the screens to the kitchen doorway stretching a sheet taunt so that it feels a bit like another panel, to obscure the chairs and furniture we weren’t using behind it. A large plate of his cakes cut into fingers are offered with mugs of tea. Luckily the sun is shining even though there is a bit of a chill breeze and people start to come in. The first sales had actually been made last night when Su Billington had bought two of Hannah’s little figures and Mike’s dad bought one for Izzy, Mike’s youngest sister.
Good to see Lyn Amos from Winchcombe with her daughter, who is very taken by Robbie’s work. They are shortly followed by Sue and Andy who particularly relate to Alison’s painting looking down into the tailors’ windows in Saville Row, where they are working on military uniforms which have a particular resonances with Sue as that is where her uniforms are made, being a wing commander in the RAF. I’m touched and delighted that she buys it and in this case 50% of the money will go to LINC.
Wallace arrives from Devon and as always is good value as he makes a point of talking to everyone and particularly enjoys hearing about Mike’s work. I’m delighted as he decides to buy my little fisherman, with its two large fish leaping up from the water around the frame. Su Billington talks to and introduces me to Rosie Dalton whose husband had founded Linc with Gill. She buys a little lino cut by Beth Jenkins. Her husband sadly died of cancer himself only four or five years after founding Linc and I think the centre in Gloucester is named after him. What a wonderful legacy to have left.
We are most touched as when Stephen and Tony arrive, Tony buys the beautiful garden etching that Mark Unsworth had donated 100% to Linc. And our Tiger, Angel and Dove wood engraving.
Su buys Tony’s Temptation etching and we buy Tony’s etching for Richard’s room - all at 100% for Linc.
Ian and Maeve who are great supporters, being Patrons themselves of the wonderful children’s hospice Helen and Douglas House in Oxford, (they are always very interesting to talk to about that). They buy my little diamond shaped Pussycat & Owl to add to their collection.
Richard has started putting the cheese and mustard on the potatoes before heating them in the microwave and adding smoked salmon. He then goes off to collect Martin and Maggie from where they had parked a couple of streets away, as Martin is going to perform his green poems. We were going to wait for Toyah but as Ian and Maeve are going to dinner at Carluccio’s I persuade him to start and he’s then on a roll so continues. Caroline Simon and Kate arrive in time to enjoy most of the performance as does lovely Toyah who had also found us difficult to find. Its a brilliant performance, as usual and Toyah tells me how much she learned from his interaction with the audience turning as he did to involve us standing behind him also. Everyone comments on how amazing he is and how much they have enjoyed it.
Really touched as Toyah buys my little Sailor for Robert’s forthcoming birthday and Simon and Caroline the Petit Cirque and Toyah’s Seeds Will Shoot watercolour plus one of Hannah’s (Simon’s sister) lovely pieces.
Really good and successful evening. Its particularly nice to meet Claire (Gill Rouse the founder of Linc’s daughter) and her husband Gavin, who also bought one of Hannah’s sculptures.
See more nice friends and supporters through the day and photographer comes from Gloucestershire Media at about lunchtime. Weather isn’t quite as good this afternoon but see the lovely Lesley and Richard Chatham, Anne and Jeremy Davis, Maggie and Allen and John and Ali amongst others. Also Marianne Sweet from Damselfly Communications who is the person who asked me to front the Longfields Hospice Big Heart art event this year. She’s also a friend of Hannah’s and goes home looking very pleased having purchased her ‘Fledgling’.
Very lucky as lots of people come to take down the exhibition and help dismantle the screens including Su and Len; Tony and Stephen; Mike from Artshape and his Mum Jackie; Hanna and one of her two sons; Russell Haines was there too, interestingly he became an artist after art therapy with Art Lift after suffering a stroke. It was much quicker dismantling than it was assembling!
One of the wonderful things about this little exhibition has been the bonding between artists.
Lovely friend, collector and neighbour, Lucy, comes to pick me up from the Tower as Richard has our Land Rover full of all the Artshape exhibition screens. They always go out of their way to be so kind and helpful.
R drives the screens back to Artshape in Brockworth where they all come out and help him. He returns for me in a Jaguar which Ebdons have loaned him as in between our Land Rover developed funny noises. I get to the Wilson just in time to hear Hilary (chair of the Friends Committee) tell the story of how they bought the large portrait of Captain Skillingmore at auction as it had previously been owned by the Queen’s Hotel. Capt Skillimore was the man who developed Cheltenham as a Spa Town exactly 300 years ago. The portrait looks very majestic and grand after its recent restoration and was purchased with a bequest to the Friends. My time at the taking of refreshments part where I chat to Julie Finch CEO of the Cheltenham Trust and Hilary is foreshortened by the need to get back to the house as wonderful Ian Richens has just phoned to ask if he can come and collect the painting of mine they bought in support of Linc on Sunday.
Rob Churchill comes to collect his series of portraits of the Queen and very generously gives me a cheque for £50 for Linc which is a very touching gesture and volunteers to exhibit again if I do any similar events.
Back at work on the commissions
R packs and posts Wallace’s miniature, again sold in aid of Linc, to Banbury
painting a miniature as a present for Lee and Jim.
Spend most of the day on the miniature and the evening making large cartoon strips with Richard in preparation for Mondays workshop at Isaac and Samuels school!
Up to London to meet Lee my New York dealer and her lawyer husband Jim, who are over here for a few days, at the OXO Tower. It’s a glorious sunny day and the table Richard had booked is out on the balcony with the stunning view of the River Thames with its magnificent backdrop of St Pauls and London’s cityscape. Lee asks what I have in the gift bag I’m carrying so I present her with the little painting I’ve made to celebrate their wedding anniversary later this month. She’s looking very well after recovering from uterine cancer and they are travelling on to Paris, Venice and Rome. She’s about to do a television series and has at times sold some very expensive paintings. I always remember her completing a deal on a Modigliani whilst she was staying with us some years ago. They are very pleased with the OXO Tower, the quality of the food and the brilliant view.
After we leave them we drive over to Blackheath to Henrietta and Kev’s.
Its always lovely to see them and we are here especially as I’m giving an illustrated talk and workshops at the boys’ school.
Another warm sunny day. Its a beautiful little school full of interesting curios. It feels very special when Samuel’s class comes in and Isaac’s and the rest of their year group plus year 4. After the talk when I explain what we are going to do, which is based on Japanese Manga (relating to my current museum show in Japan) and comic strips. As they have been covering the Egyptians we have decided it would be good to create the story of the Egyptian princess finding Moses in the bullrushes, the plagues and the escape of the Israelites through the Red Sea. So Samuel and two of his friends hold out a long comic strip that Richard and I created on Saturday night with Isaac and his friends holding a similar piece that we based on the Trojan Horse as his year have been covering the Greeks. The first class we work with are Isaac’s who decide they are going to base theirs on Medusa. Their lovely teacher Miss Knight, is very on the ball as she writes herself and reminds them of any parts of the story they are struggling with. Its quite a challenge getting it all done using the big pack of Sharpies we’ve brought along with us, so she continues with them during the rest of the morning. Next we work with Samuel’s class where his teacher Miss Bell is again very helpful and also takes a very nice photograph of Samuel and me together. Samuel’s piece is of pharoh shouting NO! to Moses’ request to let the Iraelites go. Again a delightful group. There’s a dear little girl who comes up to me at the end to tell me that her grandma died this morning so I crouch down to talk to her comfortingly for several minutes and interestingly the other children come round and tell us about losing grandparents. I tell her that I lost my Mum last year. We then move on to the next class and thus the day is spent working with six different groups, spending lunchtime putting together some of their comic strips.
As the boys have various activities and Henrietta doesn’t finish at her school yet, we set off for home, arriving back about 9.30.
Back in the studio working on the commissions et al.
We drive over to Little Buckland where R drops me as I’m judging the Broadway Festival exhibition with Ken Howard and Rod Ashman. Rod had generously offered me a lift there as he lives on Cleeve Hill but we’d already arranged with Toyah that Richard would deliver my little painting she had bought in aid of Linc for Robert’s birthday and a little one that I had painted as a present for their Birthdays and anniversary, so we decide to leave things as they are. There are several lovely ladies helping. After coffee in the conservatory Rod and I look at the sculpture entries. There are a diversity of beautiful things here - really exciting stuff. Ken arrives with John, who has collected him from the London train. We sit at the tressle table with me at the centre with pens and sheets of paper with three columns - In, Possible, Out. Ken glances over to my sheet at one stage and says I am being more generous than he is. I always find this exceedingly difficult as I know how much energy, work and emotion has been invested in each piece, so there are very few in my out column but a great number in the possibles. Again a great diversity of imagery, technique and application. It also includes some rather beautiful photography too. But at times its harder to see how certain people’s relate to the theme, which is conflict. Interestingly when the papers are checked for corresponding votes there are only fifteen works that got all three ticks which becomes the shortlist for the prizewinners. We then adjourn for lunch around a large circular table in the garden as its a beautiful day. In the meantime Richard has come back to join us for this. Some wonderful conversations and repartee. Ken regales us with many fascinating stories including one about visiting his mother on the day that there was a TV programme broadcast about him, he’s just painted the Queen and being elected to the Royal Academy. After watching the programme she told him that it was a shame he couldn’t have found something more worthwhile to do with his life !! He doesn’t have children and I heard him telling Jayne Tricker that he didn’t think he would have managed to have achieved as much if he had. He also tells the story that I often do of how little the artist makes of the selling price after vat, tax and gallery commission (as of course they go to the expense of staging the exhibition). After lunch we judge the winners using a technique that Ken introduces where you each have three pieces of paper that you drop in front of the works you think most deserving. We then go up and look at the sculptures again to see if Ken concurs with the choices we’ve made earlier. Arabella seems very pleased with the results. There had been about five hundred and fifty entrants. The gallery choice winner had come from Berlin. After a cup of tea John takes Ken back to the station and after admiring their beautiful garden and chatting a little more to Arabella we depart too.
Creating the painting on paper for the Royal West of England Academy’s charity auction which Richard posts that evening.
Caroline and Simon come to collect the Petit Cirque and Toyah’s painting Seeds will Shoot which they generously bought from St Michael’s Tower exhibition in aid of Linc as well as one of Simon’s sister Hannah’s sculptures. They also look at a large commission I have been painting for them for the last year or two that I have made some changes to. Its always lovely to see them and there is a lively repartee.
Colin and Libby Wall come to collect their paintings, have tea and for Richard to tell them about the process of wood engraving as they bought one of ours and R’s Tewkesbury Abbey from the exhibition in aid of Linc to which Colin had a special connection.
I work on all three commissions following the muse to which ever it chooses an exciting way of working as one sometimes suggests a way forward for another!
continue in this way!
More of the same!
paint tiny painting for Tim Congdon’s birthday.
Stop work in the studio early this evening as we are off to Huntley Manor for a celebration of Professor Tim Congdon’s 65th birthday. As we arrive we are followed by another car which parks next to us, Charles Martell and his lovely Ukrainian wife Sasha. When he asks if we’ve come for Dorianne’s party and I say no, Tim’s and he teases me that that is tomorrow and I’m just momentarily concerned before I realise it is a joke. Dorianne takes us through to where the magnificent wedding album is displayed. The photographs are enchanting, mostly set here at their beautiful home. Interesting conversation with Dorianne and Venetia ask about the commission I am working on for the Portugese wine maker as of course its an area that relates to Venetia’s Phd which was on Catalonian food. Dorianne thinks we should do a book together using her writing and my paintings. Ben is playing the exquisite piano that we all contributed to as a wedding present - it has marquetry depictions of Venetia playing the harp and Ben the guitar from drawings they had done of each other. It’s a splendid instrument. We then chat to one of Tim’s friends who he had met when they were first applying to Oxford. They had both been applying to Balliol but ended up getting scholarships to St John’s and Exeter respectively. At dinner I sit between Ben and Lipold who had also met Tim at Oxford when he was there as Rhodes Scholar. He lives in a castle on his estate in Germany and like Michael who lives in the UAE has come over specially for this dinner. A fascinating man who also has a collection of Renaissance paintings. He tells me that at a recent Rhodes Scholars reunion he’d observed how Hillary and Bill Clinton could each dominate a room which they came into seperately perhaps for that reason. And how when Nelson Mandella had been there, because of his fragility he was helped on one side by Bill Clinton and on the other by Tony Blair and how moving that had been. He tells me what a superb red wine this is (a Margaux) and that he and Tim had already drunk a bottle this afternoon. The dinner is a rather wonderful experience as the food has been prepared and cooked here by ex Savoy chef Nick Fisher. Its a taster menu so there are seven courses on but he and his wife had added an extra amuse bouche of haddock and carrot puree. Very nicely after each course was served but before we ate it, Nick would describe what we were about to eat. There was a delicious quail consomme, very delicate with a softly boiled quails egg in it. Then a lobster terrine topped with caviar with a sprig of wild garlic that Nick had picked that morning. It was a veritable feast with wonderful company and conversations with Ben and Venitia (across the table). Whilst i am chatting to another guest Mary towards the end of the evening and Sasha Charles and Lipold are having a discussion on the imminent refurendum Charles is for out but Lipold hopes we will remain in!
Back to work in the studio where I make progress on the commission for Jose, the Portugese wine producer. It’s a big canvas so lots of areas to still work out compositionally.
Lovely Candia McCormack arrives to do an interview. Such a talented person, not only is she a designer but also deputy editor of Cotswold Life and the singing half of Incubus Succubus. She has a beautiful and mystical singing voice. She has particularly come to intervew me about the exhibition at Gloucester City Museum, (part of which (the Folk Museum) she worked for, for nearly five years). So I tell her about the works from Gloucester’s collection that will be hanging in relationship to mine, such as Charles Gere’s Cheese Rolling from the 1940s which relates to the 3D painting I completed for two doctor collectors last year and Sicket’s ‘Glencora’s Ball’ for which I’m borrowing the Dance of Time which belongs to one of my collectors in Birmingham also Theresa Lessore’s painting of mothers and nannies pushing their babies in prams round the Serpantine which finds echos in my painting The Guardian Angel. We also discuss the Japanese museum show and the idea of each showing a video tour of the other. We also discuss my time as a student at Cheltenham and then went to look at both my studio upstairs in the house and the one across the Lane.
Whilst she was here Candia said she’s had an email whose PR company is helping the Longfield Hospice with it Art for Life event and comments that she sees that I will be at the Launch this evening, Shortly after Candia leaves we’re off to Minchinhampton. Its a lovely evening so even though it takes just over an hour to get there with magnificent cows that cross the Common and the road at leisure, so we’re a bit late. But in time to hear Sue speaking about how art therapy at the hospice has helped her regain her life and confidence. Anthony the photographer gets us to pose outside together against the evening sunlight. There are several people here we know, including Ali from Brewery Arts who now works at the Hospice and Hannah the sculptress who exhibited at the Tower, likewise printmaker Beth Jenkins
Working in the garden. May is the most glorious month, first the plum then the pear and apple followed by the lilac, the Hawthorn or May blossoms white and pink, the Wisteria and the Honeysuckle; the Clematis and the rambling roses. The views from my three bedroom windows have been exquisite!
Henrietta, Kev and the boys arrive at about 5. H and K are going off to Cowley Manor to spend the night to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Nathan and Clemantine arrive about 9 as they had been to visit her parents en route too. It’s a rather late supper. The boys are always so excited to see them and as usual they like him to pick them up and throw them onto the sofa rather as if he’s a fairground ride., but means they sleep ………
After brunch we’re off to Winchcombe all in our Land Rover where we’re meeting H and K in the grounds of Sudeley Castle for the afternoon performance of Giffords Circus. This year its a Western theme. Its a gloriously sunny day and we buy the boys candy floss before we go into the big tent were Tweedy the clown joins us all with his pet iron called Keith! There are some familiar players and acts including the brilliant jugglers Bibi and Bichu. New This year a gun toting cowgirl who does extaordinary stunts with a Lasso an amazing troupe of women spinning umbrella-like pieces of brightly coloured fabric on toes or finger tips, fantastic acrobats and a male troupe who climb up poles and also do incredible fast moving jaw-dropping stunts. And a high wire hoop act, two young women - extraordinarily breath taking and beautiful. Very balletic and dangerous.
Its still gloriously sunny when we get back and Nathan assembles the barbeque on which he cooks tuna, shrimps and lobster with a few chilli burgers and sausages etc that he has added to the feast. We’re all out their until it grows dark when Nathan, Clem, Richard and I still sit out chatting for another hour after H,K,and the boys go to bed.
Such a lovely day.
Nathan and Clem leave at about 12 and Henrietta, Kev and boys shortly afterwards at 1. So its back to the studio for me.
Last day of May. As always good to be working in the studio to see the month out.