E mail from Ann, assistant to the churchwarden saying that the Chancellor is coming to the diocese and visiting St Michael’s on Saturday to look at the work they are doing in the church and discuss the triptych. I reply asking if she would like to bring the Chancellor to my studio on Saturday afternoon.
Still working on a couple of the paintings that I want to have new photographs taken of to send straight to the printer.
Have been working on the altarpiece whilst Richard goes to meet Kev to collect the boys and bring them back here for a couple of days.
A delegation including the Chancellor of the diocese, the Rector, the churchwarden and his assistant from the church walk up the Lane to my studio at 2 o’clock. I take them in to see the Triptych; the Chancellor asks me a few questions about it then after looking at it for some time says “this will be splendid” and turns to Revd Malc and Nigel to say “aren’t you lucky”. which she repeats to them again a little later in the conversation. I am so pleased; I demonstrate the doors and Revd Malc says he is so looking forward to telling children about the stories within it. She also spots Charles’ cheese rolling at Coopers Hill and as we walk back through the first room of my studio she comments that the paintings there ( which include Il Banchetto and late supper) are good too.
Isaac has been asking me if I would paint him. I explain that you have to sit very still to be painted and he assures me that he will. He sits still for a little while and we talk but as his image begins to emerge he can’t contain himself and keeps jumping up from the stool to look at the painting in progress. I have to explain to him that these things take a great deal of time and that to start with the brush strokes are much rougher that how they will appear on the finished work. He tells me the hair is too yellow, more like Samuel’s - I need to make it light brown. We have at first two then three sittings and its really getting quite late when he has to go back for me to do more. So enjoyable being able to tell and show him how an artist works. He takes the portrait up to bed with him.
We have to pack the boy’s things up and Richard sets off with them about midday to meet Kev’s parents near Cirencester, who are taking them on a surprise visit to their cousins.
Working on the little painting that I started before we went on holiday as a wedding present for Venetia and Ben. Also working on the outside of the frames on the works for the exhibition.
Into Cheltenham police headquarters for 10 o’clock for the Aston Project trustees meeting which seems to be very positive. Apart from the dedicated members of the police force, there are only Eammon Aston, Ruth Fitzjohn and me. Really pleased to hear that where they have rolled it out in Gloucester it is proving to be very successful. The major problem is accommodation so I suggest that as an hon vice president of Gloucestershire College I could lease with Peter White, vice principal, to see if there might be any possibility of them being able to offer some space as each are working with very valuable and sometimes vulnerable young people.
Its a beautiful sunny day and Richard and I drive into Cheltenham where I go and have a look at Beatrice von Trescov which Edward had told me about when I had admired his jacket at the 30th anniversary party of the Friends’ where he was the speaker. I end up buying a lovely purple velvet coat which reminds me a little of the one I’d made many years ago which last had an airing at Pump Room in an exhibition of clothes worn by well known Gloucestershire people and included the suit Laurie Lee wore when he walked to Spain during the Civil War). Make few other purchases elsewhere. Then sit in the sunshine on the pavement at Cafe Rouge for a cup of tea before going over to Christ Church, where I am judging an art competition with the Revd Tutor Griffiths, to choose an image to be reproduced on the flyer for the Christian Arts Festival that lovely Nikki Seville is organising next year. It has a great line up of events, including John Ogdon. Its good looking at the works with Tudor, we don’t always quite agree on images but are certainly unanimous on the outright winner and end up commending several others as well as the three prizewinners. Nikki seems to be pleased with our choice which was also the one she would have chosen.
Then its back home to work in the studio.
Up early as Edward is collecting me at 7 to kindly give me a lift to the Bishop’s Breakfast meeting at Lydney in the Forest, an hour away. Delighted to see Lesley in the car who he’s also giving a lift to, looking bright and well after falling down the stairs two or three months ago. This is Bishop Rachel’s first breakfast meeting and its quite a full house considering how far away it is. Rachel talks with great ease and next week will be the guest presenter on Womans’ Hour. She comes over to sit next to me for a short chat when I tell her about the National Star College, where I have organised the next Breakfast (in December) I knew it would be of particular interest to her as she’d worked as a speech therapist for six years before being ordained.
Edward drops me back home just after 10 am.
Stay up late finishing the little painting for Venetia and Ben.
We don our glad rags and drive over to the little church of St John the Baptist, Huntley for the marriage of Venetia and Ben. There are lots of ushers lining the path to the church, which was built by the same architect as Hunley Manor in the 1860s. Ben is standing in the porch and thanks me for my card. We sit next to Zim or Peter, one of Venetia’s friends from when she was at Cirencester. The church is full has a very friendly and lively atmosphere, and it doesn’t seem long until the arrival of Venetia, looking exquisite on her father Tim’s arm; followed by two young women bridesmaids in blue and there are two tiny little blonde girls in white who I suspect are nieces of Ben’s from Holland. The Order of Service is thus printed in both English and Dutch and Ben’s father also gives a reading in Dutch.
After the service we watch Ben and Venetia depart in a beautiful white carriage drawn by white horses followed by a second white carriage also with white horses for Tim, Doreanne and Ben’s parents and a third for the bridesmaids. We drive back to Huntley Manor. Progressing through the house to be greeted by the bride and groom plus the two sets of parents in the Hall. I tell Dorianne she looks beautiful and am not surprised when she tells me her outfit is also from Beatrice von Treskov it is full length navy blue with exquisite red embroidery and a hat that they made to compliment it. She also says to me “wait till you see the hanger where the evening party s taking place, its a homage to you, with lots of reproductions of your tango paintings around the walls”
Tim tells that he’s hoping to have Minton tiles rather like those in the vestibule extended into this beautiful room that houses not only the grand piano but the two lovely staircases and mezzanine and that he doesn’t know what is under the carpet.
As I give Venetia the wedding gift she can obviously feel through the wrapping that its a little painting as she asks “is this one of yours?” say yes, plus a little contribution to your piano and she says I should have a look at the mood board. She also tells me that she and Ben are learning the Tango almost as if she knows the subject of the little painting which of course she doesn’t. It wasn’t until later that we spotted my painting Tango Tea Dance hanging on the wall opposite the mood board for the piano marquetry. Entering the beautiful marquee we see the tables elegantly laid for the wedding feast with enormous golden candelabras in the middle of each with candles flickering in the breeze. We mingle and talk to various people including Izatu exquisitely dressed in one of her own creations, she is a young black fashion designer from Sierra Leone who invites me to her opening at London Fashion Week. She also tells me that there’s a charity auction for the Amos Bursary Trust so I say I will try to find something for it.
As Venetia and Ben process in we have formed a colonnade between which they walk as we throw white rose petal confetti interestingly we discover that it is grown and produced by our friend Charles Hudson of the real flower petal confetti company.
At the meal I find that I am placed next to Zim who is a wonderfully life-and-soul-of-the-party, entertaining man. Charles Martel is also sitting on our table and asks if I’m a member of the Honourable Company of Gloucestershire where he’s obviously spotted me. A very nice man there with his lovely wife Sasha and little daughter who is in the children’s tent. I discover he is the inventor and maker of Stinking Bishop cheese and he tells me that they are also making one in honour of Bishop Rachel called Unstinking Bishop. They also make double and single Gloucester and a series of other cheeses plus a Calvados and a pear spirit and perry.
The meal is superb. Langoustine soup served in tiny coffee cups to begin, followed by wild Scottish salmon and leaves which felt like the main course. Next came venison from Scotland and red cabbage with apples from Huntley and finally a lovely fresh berry salad with a chocolate mousse.
Its now getting a little cooler and two of the men on the table (one an ex Christies specialist, the other a Russian PhD student writing a dissertation on religious theme parks) take off their jackets to give to their wife and girlfriend. After the coffee, an English sparking wine for the toast which is very good, there are the speeches. Tim is eloquent and witty as he speaks in his gentle and laid back voice, which adds greater effect to the humour. Ben’s speech is equally charming as he tells us how he and Venetia, both studying for their Phd’s at Oxford became friends and eventually got together and announces that four days ago she did her viva and is now Dr Congdon, which is quite an achievement at 24. The best man, a philosopher, one of Ben’s childhood friends, tells us also that Ben has an IT company that he started some years ago which even though he’s still studying, employs ten people and gives him his income. He dedicates his speech to the Fox who knows one thing and the hedgehog who knows lots of things. It is funny and informative. He tells us how Ben played in a heavy metal band, founded and conducted a gospel choir, and is passionate about his garden in Holland. When the radiant Venetia gives a little speech she tells us how Ben encompasses all that he had looked for, intelligence, 2 BAs, 3 Masters and currently finishing his PhD. Tall blond and handsome but she thought there might be another commitment in Holland and she discovered there was, it was his garden.
There is an hour before the evening party so decide to go home to change into something warmer. When we arrive back its dark and magical in the artificial lighting. When we enter the hanger we are astounded to see so many of my paintings reproduced as large giclees around the walls and even on of The Bar above the bar. As Dorianne said there is the best Cuban band in the country playing on stage. The music is infectious and the very nice kilted tv producer we had met earlier in the day leads me onto the black and white checkered dance floor which echoes the floor in Tango Tea Dance, which is great fun. A bit later the lovely lady who had been nurse to Dorianne’s father takes me to introduce me to Rachel whose daughter is one of the two bridesmaids in blue. Rachel trained as a civil engineer She is Jewish and they fled from Iraq forty years ago. but she was never able to put her civil engineering qualifications to use as for a woman at that time it was difficult get employment in that field. Then the nurse comes back with Rachel’s husband who she leads me onto the dance floor to have a little dance with and another very nice man who I think is a friend of Tim’s. Richard decides to join me so I find myself dancing the evening away in my very high black suede shoes. The band is very picturesque and the singer feels as if she might be from one of my paintings often leading the dancers on the floor to shimmy down, managing to shake parts of her flesh in a very unusual and erotic way, as did the female half of the two demonstration dancers. I was great fun trying to follow their movements but rather more difficult than it looked. The last dance was particularly for Venetia and Ben who have been romantically entwined on the floor for a lot of the evening. After which it is the torch lit procession to Wishing Well Cottage.
We make our way into the Manor to say thank you and goodbye to Dorianne and Tim for inviting us to share in these enchanting celebrations and he generously says they are hoping to come to on of my private views.
Back to work.
Nice e mail from Caroline who has just spotted Il Banchetto on the website which Richard had only put on in the early hours. She wonders if they might use it on their Christmas card in return for a donation to my charities.
Write to Peter White at Gloucester College re looking at if they would have any space that might accommodate the Aston Project. Peter, vice principal, reponds wonderfully quickly to say he’s very happy to have a meeting with the police of the Aston Project to discuss this.
Working round the edges of the canvases that are obscured by the edge of the frame and also sides, tops and bottoms of the frames.
We are addressing envelopes and I am writing notes to accompany catalogues, which don’t arrive until about a quarter to five, driven over from Colchester by the Printer himself as the courier’s van had broken down en route. Nevertheless Richard manages to post some, especially the American ones, by driving them into the general post office in Cheltenham.
Spent all day putting finishing touches to four of the paintings which Richard will drive up to London tomorrow; continue to work through the night…….
……till Richard leaves at about 11am with five of the works. I’m just about to go to bed when receive call from dear Ken and Nancy who would like to buy Elegant Fowl for Nancy’s forthcoming birthday. Just gone off when receive call from someone in Iszitu’s fashion company re collecting the print I’m donating to the Amos Bursary trust which is to encourage young black boys into further education.
R arrives back just as I’m getting up and goes for a nap after which we go over to the studio where he moves some of the other paintings for me to work on, which I do until about midnight when we have a belated dinner and then start writing more notes to go in catalogues for Richard to post in the morning.
The historic inauguration of Bishop Rachel in Gloucester, the first female diocesan Bishop.
Write more notes to go with the invitations.
Australian collector Paul comes with his partner. After chatting and a cup of tea ( it is the first time we’ve met ), we go over to the studio. He’s already been to see the five pieces at Panter & Hall and of course the one he homes in on in my studio that I’ve been working round the edge of the frame on is Il Banchetto which already has two reserves on it. And he asks if the gallery would allow him to put a reserve on it too.
I work through the night again finishing it, Time Table, Internationals and the two Midsummer Night’s Dream inspired paintings as they have a client coming to see one tomorrow.
I go to bed somewhere between 8 and 9 when Richard receives a call from Ireland, from the wife of one of my collectors. They want to buy a painting for their daughter’s birthday; she tells Richard she makes award winning chocolates named after another daughter Lily O’Brien, which they sell in Waitrose. She’s just about to go into a meeting but will confirm which painting later.
At about midnight Richard notices that May-Ann has texted to reserve and buy Journey by Moonlight
E mail from Jonathan, Mary-Ann’s husband, asking if I would paint one of the hundred hares they are having cast to auction for their brilliant charity Jack & Jill, for sick children which they founded after sadly losing twin boys one at birth and the other just before he was two. But they turned this tragedy into a charity so wonderful that it has raised over €50 million for sick children, truly an achievement to be proud of. Which reminds me that my Shaun the Sheep for Nick Park is coming up for auction on the 8th October, likewise for his brilliant charity Wallace & Grommit which again benefits sick children.
I’m up again through the night putting finishing touches to the Bar painting which is being shipped to Canada to my other dealers, the Loch Gallery in Toronto who will be showing it at the Toronto Art Fair in October.
Richard drives The Bar to the shippers in Luton
So sad to hear on the news a few days ago that I have lost one of my lovely collectors, the writer Jackie Collins had sadly died. Jackie had bought one of my card player paintings from the portal Gallery and commissioned a large Casino painting. On the Radio 4 news they had combined two recordings, one of her speaking in a beautifully cultured and rounded voice about her life, her writing and her time in Hollywood with that of Brian Sewell the art critic who also sadly died this week in his wonderfully affected and somewhat eccentric voice. Wallace later points out that he remembers seeing Brian Sewell’s signature in the guest book at the Alpha Gallery during one of my shows with them.
I’m now on the home run putting the finishing touches round the edges of the paintings still here in my studio.
The weather has been glorious for the past three days and am able to have my brunch in the garden. It bodes well for the opening on Tuesday too.
Work right through the night until Richard leaves for London with the rest of the paintings, calling in at the Darkroom to have two more transparencies made, as I’d done rather more on a couple of the paintings since they were photographed for the catalogue.
When I get up I commence the finishing off on the last two little paintings
Just before we leave for London discover that Ron, a long term collector from the USA is adding Ikebana to his collection. A wonderful man who has been collecting them for many years from different exhibitions in different galleries in different countries. Traffic is quite bad in town so I’m a few minutes late but delighted to see Alyson from Gotherington talking to Ronald and Lyn who have also traveled up from Winchcombe. Then speak to Philip a theatre critic who bought my large Punch & Judy painting at auction. He particularly likes the two Shakespeare paintings and asks if I do commissions and if I know A Winter’s Tale. Then I’m introduced to a delightful couple, Mark and Maria, who have just had a red spot put on Time Table. I’m so touched as Maria tells me it has been Mark’s lifelong ambition to own one of my paintings which he has been following for years. He enquires about the title and we discuss some of the possible interpretations. Its such a joy to meet them.
Then spot lovely friend Cressida who tells me that she particularly likes the corrugated work.
The exhibition is hung and lit really well on the black walls which throws out the colours beautifully.
Its a great evening seeing lots of friends and family including Henrietta with Jules and Ali; Nathan with a group of friends; Gill and Ian. Many of us end up in the Three Crowns off Jermyn Street which is great fun and good to have time to chat more to Nathan and his friends.
Always feel a bit like a washed out rag after the opening and all the months and months of hard work, probably having used up more that my quota of adrenalin. But go over to the studio after having brunch out in the sun filled garden, to work on a couple of commissions. Richard comes in excited asking me to guess here a new red spot has landed.