ANTONIA ROLLS ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE NEWS. An account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis. Worthwhile, but exhausting, so pour the tea and make yourself comfortable...(this painting is a family portrait, about 2'x 3', oil on wood. It is the Ross Family, each family member with items that describe them best. And at the front, on the grass on the right hand side, is a photo of Grandma, sadly missed.)
Friday, 29 May 2009
Sun Is Shining, Hammock Up, Why Am I Not On It?
So today I have joined Freecycle, I have looked at a street map on Slindon, I have chatted to my fascinating painter and decorator and I have sat in a bright pink skirt in a deep pink armchair and listened to Barry Humphries on Desert Island Discs. I have emptied the dishwasher, I have had a shower. I have changed my flip flops from one type of pink to another and back again. And then it is time to go to my meeting in Chichester about Steve's exhibition.
So really, I must have not wanted to lie in the hammock. I am still not peaceful enough. There is a time limit on my time there, and there is a nice man in my house painting and decorating. My 12 year old has a party from 2 till 9, my 15 year old has extra maths from 4 to 6. I have a meeting at 12. Bah. It's not a lazy day at all. It just doesn't have any painting in it. Or to be precise, it doesn't have this particular Secret Commission to be painted in it.
Oh but the hammock looks good. Maybe later this afternoon some time will suddenly present itself as unconditionally peaceful. And I will lie in my pink skirt, my pink teeshirt, specially selected pink flip flops on the large white hammock ( a birthday present from the ever generous Alan) and sway quietly next to the budding sweet peas (pink), peonies (deep magenta) and roses (bright hot pink). But...maybe not. Just had word that my frame is ready and I need to go and do it today at some time. Ah well. Just the thought of lying in that blissful hammock will have to suffice today.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
This is one side of the room, Ladies dominating, and on the right wall, just visible, the Jesus on the Tube collection. This room really is painted pink and white, Daughter did it and I think did it well. It was to make her feel better after she had to return from USA and get on with a real life here.
This is another side of the colourful room that I arranged with my Ladies dominating. In the right hand corner is Steve a few days before his death, on the wall next to the flowers are two portraits of two boys, and above the Orange Lady is a triptych of Jesus Finding Divinity Hard After A Long Night Out. This was a lovely colourful room. My studio, in the garden, from where I work and therefore is a mess, housed my religious and ongoing works.
Today it is still raining and windy, the Hammock moment has passed and I look forward to a gentle day in the studio just fiddling about. Ho Hum. Tiddly Pom.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Today I am slow like my computer. I have nearly finished the painting for the secret presentation, I only need to paint some coats of arms, a dark toblerone and some fishing tackle. Yes, it's that kind of painting. The other Jesus on the Tube is sitting waiting for me to continue, and the family who commissioned it gave Alan and I supper last weekend. They are the nicest people, and on top of all that the food was brilliant. So when this painting is presented on Sunday, and I can tell you who it is for, I will have a day off to have tea with my lovely friend Olivia and discuss her latest book (if I didn't paint, I would want to be Olivia and write like she does). Then on Tuesday I will do the Jesus on the Tube.
It is rainy and windy today. Everything takes me a long time to do. I will drive Daughter to Brighton today and have dinner with her tonight. 15 year old son is in Portsmouth till whenever. 12 year old son is with a friend who is so like him in character I dread to think of what they will get up to.
I feel like lying in the sun in the hammock, except it is raining. I feel like being soft and gentle and I probably am today. And slow.
Michael Copeman died on Christmas Eve aged 88. He was an old family friend, he paid for one of my boys to be privately educated. He was a treasure and a gentleman, a wonderful man. Never married, no children, last of his line. Fabulously wealthy. Sothebys are starting the auction soon of his estate, and there are two paintings I have always wanted. It makes me sad I shall never have them, I am not in this league - auctions at Sothebys. I wish Michael had had a psychic sixth sense and bequeathed them to me. They are portraits of his Mother and Aunt when they were young. I knew Michael's mother too. The portraits show such young and healthy society girls, painted with care, gentleness and the kind of painterly quality that I envy. Oh they are beautiful. I would need about three thousand pounds to even start the bidding. Why does Michael have to lose these paintings which wouldn't mean anything like as much to someone who didn't know him, or his mother? Sob. I want them. Sob. Michael should lean down from Heaven and pluck them from Sotheby's tonight, and have them in my studio waiting for me in the morning. He should also leave a little ghostly note to tell Sotheby's what he has done and not to worry. However, this is a little lesson in how life is not fair. Or perhaps life does not play by my rules.
I don't think I can paint today so I will go and take daughter to Brighton early.
Friday, 22 May 2009
I was thinking about the state of Being Alone. It is not loneliness, which is a thing you want other people to put right. Being Alone is more than being by yourself, and it involves a degree of self knowledge. If I am lonely, I want some other person to make me better, I want someone to come and give me the ingredients I feel I miss. If I am lonely, depending on my degree of loneliness, I will probably make that someone responsible. They have to provide the answer.
Being alone though, is different. It is about a choice. Within reason, I can choose to be alone. It is not being islolated, it is a better state than that. I am alone at the moment, which has very little to do with my family and friends. My feeling of being alone right now is about the fact that Steve really has gone away. I am not distressed, I am not in pain, I am just Being Alone while I recognise the emptiness Steve has left. I can do this now it seems, because I am ready. It is a very quiet and necessary process. I am surrounded by life here in my home. My children, my work, friends, Alan, so this Being Alone is only a small part of my make up. It is running concurrently with the rest of my life. It just feels like an important step especially when I am very quiet and there is no one around.
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Perhaps stung by admitting how distracted I become at certain stages of painting something, I found myself ironing my painting skirt before I put it on this morning.
I have a pink gypsy type skirt that has become visibly mended and patched up. So I use it for days in the studio because it doesn't matter if it gets paint on it. It is a flouncy, lovely skirt, and in days gone by when it was new, I looked fancy and pretty in it. Now it is reserved to make me feel fancy and pretty in the studio, but it needs ironing. In the old days, I would iron it and step into it with anticipation of turning heads and making other rather rather expressive arty types want one too. So this once glorious skirt, needing ironing, used in the studio in a rather haphazard way to raise the Artistic Self Esteem, gets worn and washed and worn and washed and it has become the norm for it to look crumpled and rather slap happy.
This morning I picked it up, newly washed, and had one of those little insights into one's psyche. If, I thought, I iron this skirt, and wear it in the studio, I will feel lovely and fresh and who knows what amazing painting I will do as a result.
So I ironed it. Carefully avoiding the rips and mends, and going lovingly around the paint stains, I produced an item that when I had finished, looked glorious, elderly and elegant. So I put it on still warm from the ironing board, and today I feel I can do anything.
As a result, my day today cannot faze me. The painter and decorator arrives at 9am. The plumbers at 10am. Doctors appointment 11am. Kids coming home at 4.00 and 5.00, lured home today by the promise of a real dinner cooked by me. (What? Your mother will do that for you? Goodness, mine doesn't. Tell me, what kind of skirt is she wearing?) I am going next door now to start to paint the People in my Secret Commission. That will give it away should anyone who knows them see it. Unlikely, though, in my neck of the woods.
So now I flounce away, in a swirl of pink, ironed, stained and patched majesty, to my table to paint in detail three figures, two dogs, a dark toblerone, a fishing rod and some reference to racing. I have painted the enormously complicated architectural background, and this is the easy stuff now. But I would say that wouldn't I, wearing a magic skirt like this.
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
This means I am concentrating on doing the paintings. To really do that means I resent and am phased by everything else. I dream of uninterrupted time, really, without boundaries, in the studio. I dream of early morning in here, and afternoons and late evenings and nights. What commonly makes me leave the studio, under normal circumstances, is the cooking the washing, talking to and interacting with the kids. Shopping (always for more food. Going for a foraging exercise in Tesco), normal household family things.
The slide into the Scruffy Artistic Mindset looks like this. I am distracted in my normal dealings with the kids and friends. I don't like coming out of the studio for anything other than my own needs. I can't think straight so I find preparing a meal impossible. Here is the really interesting bit - I don't want to have to bother with physical things at all so I don't want to undress at night or dress in the morning. I don't want to bathe, to wash, to do anything that means taking my mind off the studio. So I look like Mary Hickey from the Marshes, I sleep in my clothes and wake up in my clothes and go through that day, the next and so on until I have had enough and the painting is finished and I have a long bath and a new book as a reward.
I do however still get the kids up and ready for school. I do welcome and love them, but a bit distractedly. After a while, for them, it is like being looked after by Wurzle Gummage.
This morning I broke the pattern and had a shower and put on clean tee shirt. Then I put on the old studio jeans and cardi and thought, gosh, I look a million dollars. However, I am back in the studio now. I will plug away at this secret commission and make it work. I will have tomorrow and Thursday uninterrupted in here, but on Friday it is half term and so I will be required in the world outside, washed polished and in control. Bah Humbug.
Friday, 15 May 2009
I did it. The boys and I ended up in a kind of squashy love thing on the sofa watching a Disney film last night, all forgiving and jokey. How? Well, it was a thinking-outside-the-box job, and after lots of false starts we finally made some progress. Actually, I phoned Alan in Greece and he talked me through things. So Alan had quite a lot to do with it.
Now I don't want a temper tantrum. I want to be deeply solicitous and say things like Ah, I See Your Point, and hand out Joy and Flowers.
My paintings are, funnily enough, going well. All this madness and mayhem with Sons has not affected the paintings. I am glad about that. So will my clients be.
So, today is thus. Paint now, listen to radio. Hair cut at 2pm, boys on train to Brighton (together. Riot shields away, other passengers, it will be safe) for 5pm and then me and a big empty house till Eileen gets here tomorrow morning. Oh joy. Don't know where to begin. A party for one in my own home. Telly, films, takeaways (plural), bouncing on the sofa, having baths with the door open and the radio on DOWNSTAIRS. Not answering the phone and singing along to whatever whenever, going to bed in the wee small hours and not waking up till Eileen gets here.
Well. How things change. This time yesterday there was only trouble and despair. Now there is life and love and everything is possible. Just because there is unity again in the family. Gosh.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Yes. But not you. You can read about other people and situations that should really take the honourable route and Blog Off. Here we go.
- 15 year old son. Of course. He is ignoring me because he does't approve of my mothering. Even, he says, With all those parenting books, you are still dreadful and can't do it. I think Hmmm. No book could cover you, my sweet little Visigoth.
- 12 year old son's school trip. At about 9.30pm last night, I was told Oh Mum there is school trip tomorrow. I think. Yes, I am certain. Perhaps. So I ask, do you need home clothes? Packed lunch? Where are you going? Shouldn't I have known about this? Don't I have to sign a form? Why Me? And 12 year old son says There's a form in my bag and hands me a piece of paper that lists telephone numbers for various members of staff. As un-school trip a piece of paper as there ever was. Oh it is in my desk then he says, unconcerned.
- So I send him off in home clothes, packed lunch, bit of spending money with a wave of my snowy white hanky at the door. I have just received a text from him saying Trip is Off and I need school clothes. Goddam, I mutter. Why me?
- 15 year old and 12 year old sons have to get train together to stay at 19 year old daughter's tomorrow for the night in Brighton. She lives with utterly wonderful Uncle, my brother, who rented her a room in his swanky Brighton pad. I don't mind them being in the flat, I worry that one or the other will contrive to have one or the other arrested on the train on the way up. I am only secondary on the 15 year old's list of People to Loathe. His 12 year old brother is first. So how will the commuters cope with these two on a Brighton train? Without armed guards?
- And now something else. My hair needs a cut and I resent that so much. Why can't it just look nice every day and leave me out of it?
- Alan, bless him, is swanning around in Greece because he can. But I want to have a temper tantrum and he is the best and by far the most wonderful person to have a temper tantrum with, because he can cope and is so clever.
- And lastly, my painting needs to be done, and I have to take the uniform in, book a hair appointment, try and rationalise the temper tantrum into a grown up Now then Now then, let's not get Out of Control kind of mood.
- One good thing. I hoovered the house top to bottom today, before 7.30 am. That was to prove I am still able to do something right.
Aren't you glad you don't have to Blog Off? I love all my friends and know that there are probably a billion other mothers out there who are longing to list people and things that Blog them Off, so I know I am lucky. Off to take sweet unconcerned chaotic 12 year old his blogging uniform now. Next time I am writing, my hair will look wonderful and my children will be communicative and respectful and my painting will be under my control. Alan will find that swanning around without me is not cutting the mustard and come back and say Please. Honour me with a Temper Tantrum. I have missed you.
Here I am Wednesday morning in the studio with misty rain outside. Alan has hired a car in Greece to go and do some sightseeing, before coming back dusty and exhausted to his hotel room to rest before his meal is provided and the swimming pool beckons. I am sighing in my wooden studio in the garden, watching the rain fizz gently outside, thinking about the painting I have promised with a merry little grin, to the commissioners, while thinking it is a bit like asking Michaelangelo to Do Something With This Ceiling, You Have Two Weeks. However, as Bertie Wooster would say if he were me, "we Rollses are made of Stern Stuff." I shall go next door in a minute and just do it. Ha.
In the meantime, the 12 year old son and the 15 year old son are at war. It seems to help them both in their offensives to make me the main problem. I think they both get so het up and scream and shout and throw things and suddenly, they think "oops. Can't think what to yell about now, if I stop yelling it looks like I've lost. " So their narrowed eyes focus on me and the instinct that Mum is Always to Blame kicks in and with huge relief they continue to be Furious. I spoke for over an hour to my darling friend in Ireland last night, and thought at the end of the converstation, that perhaps life in my house here tonight is not a reflection of what is going on in every home, every bar, every office. Perhaps it will all blow over and somehow these two Visigoths will learn to live together and they will see that their mum is quite a nice person, on the whole.
However, in case you all think I am miserable, I am not. I am in control, I am a fab artist, I am a nice person and one day I will pay all my bills easily and with a flourish. Darling friend in Ireland made me feel great again, Eileen took loads of photos for my new painting because I couldn't, and did it with utter brilliance as always, Alan deserves nothing but happiness and should be very proud of himself for working so hard and supporting so many people so well. My brother is 50 today and is a very great man. One of lifes true wonders, when things are not always easy for him. And all the flowers in my pots are nodding gently at me meaning, that even if my Warrior Sons tell me I am the pits, it will pass and there are so many silent (Phew) reminders that life is good in that my garden is growning, is green and lush and colourful. And the rain is only drizzle, it means the garden will be even more wonderul and possibly more important, I can't go and lie on the hammock. Now it is time. Wish me luck.
Sunday, 10 May 2009
This is what I have wanted. Now that it is here, I am nervous. It is easier to want to be busy and to think that it would answer all the questions, and that to busy would be a solution in itself. Well, I am busy and it could answer some of the questions, temporarily. Like my bills could be paid for 2 months not just one. My new secret London clients (only allowed to name them when the painting is done and presented - it's a secret gift for someone) will say Wow matey thanks, and put the painting up and I will have to find a new client. So being busy is part of the ongoing process. Being busy doesn't provide me with The Answer but it helps me along. I am nervous in case I'm not really any good and no one has had the heart to tell me yet. I am nervous in case this is the one painting I can't do. However, that has never happened.
I am off to London to meet Secret Client That Knows About The Commission to talk about the Secret Client That Does't Yet, Until It Is Presented To Him Publicly At A Fancy Do At The End Of The Month. I am also delivering the other secret Jesus on the Tube today, to the client who will give it as a present to someone.
The Open Studios went really well. I met some wonderful people - oh how I want to put them all in the studio painting. Most people come and look around and then tell me how they would love to paint. But for some reason or other, they have convinced themselves that they can't. They are so afraid to even try. They think they would't be any good that they don't have time that there is no room to do it and so on. All these people. All walking around in their lives, with all this creative talent and inspiration, untapped and unused. How many of them, I wondered, would do the most beautiful work. It is very hard to listen to your creative side but if you do, it is the most healing most awe inspiring experience. Oh oh oh. What they could do, if only they would let themselves do it. They seem to think they need to set up a studio and to produce a sleek perfect piece the first time, or it isn't worth doing. Oh goodness. How many masterpieces of any description, from any of us ordinary mortals, just flow out first time. Painting is about expression, about practice. about trying again and again to get the right result, and sometimes you don't even know what the right result is. It defies words, you just have to keep at it till you get somewhere. I told some of my guests that I find painting very difficult indeed. Which I do, but experience tells me now that I can do it and that it is only difficult for a while. When it suddenly turns, and I pass throught the brick wall, I love it. But it is never easy.
Hope my lovely visitors this weekend have good days today. I hope they trust themselves and do a bit of art.
Friday, 8 May 2009
This is written on the hoof, so to speak. I am so lucky in my life, I thought as I brought my tea to the studio. However, I tend to focus my thoughts on things that are not quite right, as if I can take for granted all the things that work well and are good.
The Open Studios start tomorrow, and I need to get the room and the paintings ready. Thank goodness I have a room, and some paintings. But do you know what I was thinking? Oh this is a mess, and the paintings aren't up to much. If only I could grab each person as they came to me over the weekend by the elbows and gaze with the light of fanatacism into their eyes and say "I am so much better than this. Just give me time and I will show you. I am more than this, I am the best. Just wait a bit and I will show you".
The same thing happens with my weight. I wake in the morning feeling that the weight loss was a dream and since I ate food yesterday I am now fat. That is it, I am fat. I feel dreadful and ugly and eventually step on the scales and of course, I am exactly the right weight. I disbelieve the scales and measure my waist. Same as ever. Not more, not less. Then I am reassured.
My point, I think, is that I make trouble for myself for no other reason than habit. Than sloppy thinking. I am fine, the paintings are fine, the house is a dream, the garden is lovely with the potted plants, food is not the enemy, and I can paint. So with that stern talking to, I will now go and have more tea and get on with the positive things, like another breakfast (since I am a stable weight) and making the paintings I am showing look absolutley wonderful and loved on the walls. Yes. Good stuff.
Thursday, 7 May 2009
Today is a day of organising, gathering thoughts, pulling together threads that need to be pulled together. Get ready now for an advert
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
It went well, thank you. The painting is being commissioned by my old friends as a surprise thank you gift for someone else. It was so good to see them again. A very inspirational husband and wife team who work in the church with the arts. There is something unique about them, something as indefinable as Goodness, real Goodness. They bring out the best in artists, actors, musicians, writers, performers. So of course, out came my best, right on cue.
The painting is going to take me 24 hours a day for 2 weeks to complete, then frame, then get to London for the presentation. At the presentation, I will be scrubbed and washed, nicely dressed and smiling, not a hint of paint anywhere on my clothes or hands. When (if) the recipient says "Thanks, love" I will give a little gallic shrug and say "oh it was nothing." I will look at my fingernails and say with an enigmatic half smile,"it's what I do, sport". While at home, the children will be in filthy rags, unfed and the house will be sinking under dust and decay. The social workers will say "Where is your Mother" and the boys will look at her through half closed eyes and sigh and say "Ah yes, we had one of those once. Ever since she took on this commission she has been gone from our lives. We last saw her getting in the car with a bubble wrapped object, and a wild light in her eye..."
Just so that you know how busy I am, I am doing an Open Studios thing this weekend and next. This is in effect an exhibition of my works in situ and the public can come and go all weekend. I will also have to be nice to them (not difficult, I like the Public generally) and sell them anything they desire. That is for sale, that is. I will not sell them my car or either of the boys. I have a Jesus on the Tube to finish and frame for Thursday ready for the client on Monday. I have another Jesus on the Tube to start this month too, and this big secret London commission that has to be ready for a big public presentation thingy on 31 May.
Onwards, then. It is now nearly 8.15am and time to Do My Stuff. Bye.
Here we go then. Here are some facts and opinions.
- Fact - My cup of tea is at a perfect temperature and consistancy. This is good, it is how one starts one's day. The consumption of tea is a reflection of how one is going to cope with the day ahead. It is an arbiter of one's mental attitude. Perhaps even of mental health. Therefore on this important day my mental health and attitude is excellent.
- Fact - Today I go to London to discuss my latest commission. I can't say too much about it because it is a secret, and will be publically presented at the end of this month. It is being commissioned by someone for the presentation, and I will have to make contact with and involve the victim's family. Who I don't know and don't know if they know what I do or even if they will approve. It will involve four portraits, church architecture and a stained glass window. How I will do this in time I don't know. But I said yes, so I will have to.
- Fact - All the information for the above commission will have to be collected from London. I live in Bognor Regis.
- Fact - the Jesus on the Tube I am doing now is also a secret. Note how none of you know who I am doing it for. Ha. Clever, that.
- Opinion - For a long time the scientists were looking to birds for flu, and while the scientists were looking high into the sky for bird flu, the pigs just sauntered in with theirs. Our medical men will have to look down now instead of up.
- Opinion - We have a pandemic affecting 27 people.
- Question - Are pigs going to become as vilified as black cats in the middle ages?
- Fact - I am going to Lucy's for dinner after my meeting. That will be a lovely end to a quite hard day.
Right. Finished my tea. Time to research my new commission before I even get to the meeting. Got to be well prepared. Here is another fact - my painting is not just sitting down and creating a picture. I do much research into who I am painting, which is easy if they know I am painting them. If they don't know then I have to research online, and with the help of their family. I gather together all the images and facts and items to go into the painting, which will include the setting. Remember the Ross Family Portrait, I had to paint the house and create a pergola and cover it in flowers. To do that I needed detailed photographs of the house, the way the doors opened, the brick work, the architecture, the bricks. Then I needed to find a pergola that would fit in the back patio and understand how it was made before painting it. And then I had to find out how plants grew on pergolas, and how it all worked. So today, I will have to arrange to interview some of the family while the Main Man in the picture is not there, and have whispered furtive meetings in the cupboard under the stairs in case he comes in and finds me there with my camera and notebook and enquiring expression on my face. Once I went to meet a new client and her lots of children who wanted a painting for her husband for his birthday surprise. And as I was sitting at the table at teatime, he came in unexpectedly and all as one, kids and wife and I, had the same idea and I became a long lost friend and stayed for dinner laughing and chatting like we all knew each other. And lovely man, he didn't once question that as a long lost friend none of his five children or wife had ever mentioned me before that day, nor did I quite know the childrens' names. And we were unable to be specific about quite how and where we had met, all those years ago, to make me this long lost special friend. Who had a camera and notebook and lists of his likes and dislikes in the notebook. All was revealed when he was given the painting, and since then we all have become firm friends. Ha. The life of an artist is full of subterfuge.