Thursday 27 August 2009

GCSE Results Day, And Taking Down of Exhibition in London Day

I got into my studio at 7am today, to put in a couple of hours at my jolly old computer before waking 16 Year Old Son so he can be prepared to send me to get his results. I am not sure whether he will come with me in the car, it may be better to send the servant to get them while he remains out of sight and aloof.

Studio news is as follows. I am putting together 2 exhibitions to run one after the other in Chichester, on 2 desparately different themes. I know I have mentioned it all before, but here it is again. "A Graceful Death" will run from 6 to 12 December in the Friends House, Priory Park, Chichester, West Sussex. This is about the power of the human spirit and the life force that keeps going despite the body disintegrating through cancer. I have painted the last weeks, days and hours of my partner's life and death of cancer two years ago. It is a compassionate, powerful, loving and terrible comment on our mortality. I have also painted little images of how I felt, alone and sad, and some angels feeling glum about his death. "Every Day Angels" is showing at the Oxmarket, Chichester, West Sussex, from the 22 November to the 5 December 2009. This exhibition is a joyful fun and colourful show about Angels living our day to day lives with us. They include Angels eating cream teas, Angels fed up with housework and even a before and after angel after a makeover.

I am painting for these, and putting together the publicity for them. Lots of work and on a good day, I love it. On a bad day I want everyone else to do it and still give me the credit and feed me chocolate and cake on the hour every hour. At the moment, I am all systems go, and can cope without cream teas and pats on the head.

Oh but on the home front. 16 Year Old Son came back yesterday from staying with one of my lovely cousins, his wonderful girlfriend and little girl, and an assortment of second generation teenaged offspring of other various cousins in the Oxford countryside. He had a wonderful time, of course, and was bored stiff here by teatime. My Son I cried. In order for you not to be bored, let me do all your foul washing for you, make you some food and listen to your tales of how much better all other households are than this one. Dear Son, I said with a wise and lovingly compassionate smile, it is good that you came home to your orthodontic appointment because lo! If you had not, as an adult your teeth would be growing out of your ears.

16 Year Old Son doesn't quite see it that way. I'm bored, he said, And I did you a favour by coming back to visit the orthodontist. As I smooth my apron and pull out his meal from the oven, I say And I am So Grateful, My Little Emperor. Or not. He does, as it happens, love the Chinese system where the first born son is the boss and controls all others. I have to remind from from time to time that we aren't doing that system.

Actually, it is lovely to have him back. I have loved being with 12 Year Old Son alone too, and 12 Year Old Son has whiled away his time by teaching himself the piano, with help from How To Play Debussy on You Tube. He is playing football again, is eating like a sumo wrestler and is shooting up in height in order to be taller than me. His single minded ambition is to be taller than me so he can lift me up and place me in different places around the house without me having to walk there. I think it's a boy macho thing.

And 19 Year Old Daughter continues to bring avelanches of twinkles, fairy dust, and fun to all and sundry. She is a larger than life, beautiful Dolly Parton/Marilyn Munro/Audrey Hepburn creature that at a good 5'11" cannot creep around unnoticed. She gave me a bag of pretty goodies wrapped up in tissue and ribbons yesterday, to cheer me up. She is like that, a wonder girl.

So now, on with the day. After GCSE results, I am off to London to collect some paintings from a long running exhibition there. Two years it has been, I wonder what I have up there. Then back for 12 Year Old's Football Practice and to see how 16 Year Old Son has coped with his exam results a few hours on. It doesn't matter though, Alan is taking me away in September for a couple of nights, so all I have to do is get to Departure Date in September and I will be safe. Ha.

Monday 24 August 2009

I Knew Monday Morning Was Coming And I Am Prepared For It

Yes. I am in control. This Monday is a doddle; Art? Yes, of course. When do you want it by? And How many? Plans? Pah! Had them drawn up before dawn. Get-Up-And-Go I have by the Bucket Load. World Domination? Only a matter of time. Give me till tea time, check back with me then.

I sit fresh and perky in my clean studio. The tea in the teapot is absolutely at the right temperature and the teacosy suits my mood. Neon pink and fluffy. Outside, what if the sky is grey and there is a feeling of rain in the air? I can smell the sea, fresh, clean and exciting, like me. My garden has been tamed and brushed and combed yesterday by Alan, 12 Year Old Son and me. There is order here and there is, on quite a few levels, A Job Well Done.

On Thursday the little piece on my Art Sessions For The Nervous that I wanted to go into our local paper went in, and was just right. That felt good, and I was amazed at how straight forward it all was. And the photo was very flattering which made me think I must get a hair appointment and have my hair dyed the colour the photo made it. And on Saturday my next two canditates for the Art Sessions arrived and were not only terribly intelligent and good company, but were good at what they decided to do. I thoroughly enjoyed having them and cleaned and hoovered my studio up before they came, making me realise that I must keep it tidier, as it looked bigger and more exciting without all the wood shavings and paint blobs on the floor and walls and ceiling and chairs and windows and so on.

We ate our lunch outside in my garden on Saturday. I laid the food and drink out on the trampoline and we sat on kitchen chairs in my overgrown garden in the sun. I even put a jug of flowers on the trampoline to make it more sophisticated. I think it worked.

On Sunday Alan, 12 Year Old Son and I transformed my garden from a Rousseau jungle to a pleasant green and tranquil place of repose. I can now get to the trampoline and hammock without a stick to beat the vegitation aside. I can see the flowers in the pots I placed around the studio. I don't need to send a child out to find the garden gate first with a map and compass, I can see it now. And what's more, I can open it.

Add to this, an email from another journalist who is interested in my Jesus on the Tube painting for his magazine. And a possible offer to take the Steve Exhibition to Manchester. And a wonderful harrowing beautiful painting I did on Friday of Steve in his final bath, 3 days before he died. All his bones showing through his skin and his face trying to remember where he was. And a list of the Every Day Angels I want to paint for the other exhibition in November - I am so ready for today. This Monday is, as they say in the Carry On films, An Absolute Hoot.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Dull Sky, Dull Painting Overalls, Washing Out In The Trees To Dry

Done the housework for this morning. I woke wearily today to a grey overcast sky, a basket full of washing to dry and the memory of yesterday. I came back from Birmingham from visiting my elderly aunt with my not so elderly mother. What has become a nostalgic memory even though it was less than 24 hours ago, is the bright sunshine and smell of the sea as I pulled up into my house. After unpacking I put on shorts and teeshirt, covered myself with suncream, and went for a bike ride to Somewhere Else.

The sun was not too hot, my shorts and teeshirt gave me a feeling of physical freedom and my flop flops had red and white polka dots on them. Within seconds, I was in both a French Art film (cycling silently in the sun with no luggage and my eyes half closed - except that they weren't or I would have crashed - and the sound of the pedals making a hypnotic and deeply important point. Whatever it was) and a Famous Five book by Enid Blyton (chirpy artist whizzing through the English countryside with only the thought of ginger beer and cream buns to keep her going, frowning at all those nasty baddies lurking in the hedgerows wanting to steal some jewels).

I cycled to Pagham and joined half the population of West Sussex on the beach. I stood and watched every kind of shape and size of person, from beetroot through to puce to pink to white, in the sea and eating ice cream. Having decided I loved them all, in the way the Dalai Lama might, I cycled home. Once at home I decided, after a shower, my cup it overfloweth. Jolly good.

And today, oh it is so grey and windy. I have lit an Apple Scented candle in the studio, and am looking forward, in a grey windy kind of way, to painting Steve and Angels and not doing office stuff at all. Well, I will have to do one or two things, but if I get my state of mind right they can be slipped in without me noticing. And cycling today? I will go, in my stained painting boiler suit and today I will be in a Russian Soviet Realist film. There will be shots of me struggling on my bike in the gloom, in an industrial workers outfit, the cameras lingering on the clouds gathering and shaping grey in the sky. No one will smile on the Pagham beach. All will be thinking of the Party and concerned only that their welding equipment and Ladas are working. And all the while a balalaika will play moodily just in case you thought there was any hope.

So today is about getting the paintings done in the studio. About cups of tea, apple scented candles, and radio 4. It is about not going outside, until perhaps later, and just making the most of it all. Like a plucky Famous Five character would do.

Friday 14 August 2009

Sin is necessary, but all will be well and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well

Julian Of Norwich. This is to day's theme, that Sin is Necessary but that All Will Be Well.

Well, I jolly well hope so. When I have misunderstandings with Sons and Daughter, I have a nose dive into worry and self examination. If I had breast fed my infants, would they have a clearer knowledge of right and wrong? If I had not allowed 16 Year Old Son to make a bed for his best friend (youngest child of very rich parents who had every conceivable luxury) in his bedroom wardrobe at the age of 7, and said friend had come for a much looked forward to sleep over - would my little angel have a higher IQ and say What - Another Exam Mother? Just Up My Street. And did I ever, in my unguarded moments, give the impression that I don't care about manners and kindness and courtesy? (Don't mind her, that's just my mother eating her dinner from a trough on the floor. Her cursing and swearing isn't personal, please let it wash over you).

Who knows. You can only do so much as a parent, and I certainly wonder at the way my wonderful childrens' minds work and the paths they take. Their independance and thinking is very like mine but I am teetotal and very healthy. If you read a list of my likes and dislikes you may well get in your car and come round and rescue my sweeties from one of the most boring uneventful mothers you have ever come across, and you may well take said babies of mine to a pub and fill them with fatty foods sprinkled with sugar and washed down with a long slow pint of gin and tonic drunk through a straw. It is true that I am a non drinking, non smoking, non drug taking, exercise-loving vegetarian. It is true that I am an artist and terribly creative (and therefore to my kiddies a little eccentric) and it is true I don't like telly very much and I love an early night...but I am open minded, loving and full of sympathy and wonder at their dreams. I encourage independance and support their experiments in finding their feet and their mad attempts to find an identity.

And out of all this comes the quote from Julian of Norwich. Even out of context, not read as part of her spiritual writings, it is stangely comforting. I will end on it as well as begin on it. The quote means that our disagreements and bad days are necessary because in the wider perspective, we will be alright. We will manage.

"Sin is necessary, but all will be well and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well"

Wednesday 12 August 2009

I Love Doing Tax Credit Stuff

No I don't. Not really, not at all. Today is about having so much fun and getting so much jolly stuff done that I don't notice I have slipped all my tax credit and child benefit updates in front of myself and am doing them. I aim to distract myself with Art, Music and Breakfast. I intend to dance from one exciting task to another, like a Disney Princess singing and smelling flowers in her garden, and when I realise I am on the phone to a nice lady at the Tax Office I will throw my delicate hands up in a gesture of utter surprise and say "Oh, my!" in an American accent.

That way I will not put off the dreary job of making myself up to date at the Benefits Office.

Then, I have two exhibitions to prepare for. One on Angels and one on Dying. I think I will have to have one end of the studio respectfully quiet and lots of white flowers and gentle church organ music playing on a loop, and the other end full of images of Angels doing the shopping, Angels in the bath, and harp/whale music on a loop. I will adjust my expression from soulful seriousness as I cross over the invisible dividing line, to beatific splendidness, and walk a couple of inches above the ground.

And later, at lunch time, I have sweet teeny (4'11) old family friend to stay. She is really 16 Year Old Son's friend, and is appropriately for any friendship with him, coming to stay for his advice. She will receive it. With bells on. And even later than that the Chief Exec is coming for a flying visit (Alan. Used to be a Chief Exec in the NHS and I see him as James Robertson Justice at all times in my imagination). The Chief Exec is very very busy, absorbed in high level Serious Case Reviews and can only come out to breathe when he can no longer remember who the current monarch is.

So, people. Oh, just noticed. On the list today is Tidy Desk. Ha. Spotted that one. On my desk under all the papers, is the Tax Credit Stuff. Thought I could fool myself there and sneak it in that way. Ha. Can't fool me.

Monday 10 August 2009

Shall I Work? Shall I Print Photos? Shall I Make Another List?

I am printing photos from yesterday's big family party on Brighton Beach. 19 Year Old Daughter only needed to ask a few fabby cousins and their fab kids to join me and my three brothers and my three kids my nephews and neices and my parents and Alan and Eileen and we have become a gipsy encampment. All we needed were horses and bonfires. It was truly a sunny and magical day

Nearly missed the left hand photo and had to sprint.

Flung myself next to my lovely cousin Charlie on the stones for the right hand photo. Can't keep me out of a photo.

So, having done the Facebook and Photo thing, what is left of importance? Breakfast is done and lunch isn't here yet. If I was a hobbit I would have my second breakfast now but I am not a hobbit I am an artist and am filled with wonder and inspiration and only truly need one breakfast a day. So far.

I am putting on another exhibition in Chichester to run two weeks before Steve's one. This will be on Angels, every day Angels. It feels perfect to have an exhibition on one side of Chichester in the Oxmarket Gallery on fun and fancy angels, to finish the day before the other exhibition on a Graceful Death begins, on the other side of Chichester in the Quakers Friends Meeting House. I have often felt worried that I can't pin myself down to one particular type of painting style or subject. After speaking to a very kind man at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester I thought perhaps I didn't need to worry. It wasn't a problem, and he was very generous in his thinking about artists having many different ideas and ways to paint. So the Angels followed by Dying exhibitions were decided upon. I can't wait. I shall be back in the studio with much to do and loving it.

Saturday's Workshop for Artists Feeling Blocked went very well. My first lady was way above average intelligence and experience. A real privilage to spend a day in the studio with her. She is coming back this Saturday and I shall enjoy having her follow her imagination in paint, again. I hope more people will come and take part. It is really worth it. I get so much out of interacting with other creative people, and love the fact that we all find Getting Down To It difficult. Often impossible.

Heigh ho. 12 Year Old Son and 16 Year Old Son are still asleep. Breakfast for them will be this afternoon when I have my lovely Jesus on the Tube client come with his partner to collect his painting and have a cup of tea. This nice man has had teenagers in his household once too, so being being grunted at at teatime by two stumbling gangly tousled lads who's hair looks like Russell Brand's after an electic shock, won't faze him. There will be much clashing of crockery and filling of kettles heard from the kitchen, and many lids being raised and replaced clumsily on saucepans and rattling of packets and strange glooping noises, until both come out of the kitchen holding bowls of cocopops and somehow, every saucepan in the house has been used to make cocopops, and every surface is swimming in Stuff as a result. I will of course, have got a tea tray ready in advance and my dear client and his lady will only guess at what is going on beyond the parlour door.

I did make a list. It never says
  • 1. Return Max Clifford's call.
  • 2. Reassure Tate Modern the works will be installed next week
  • 3. Remember to put lottery winnings in bank account
  • 4. Tell Hello they are too late, OK got in first.
  • 5. Tell staff to mow lawn, do washing and have banquet ready for 6pm.
  • 6. Tell the Dalai Lama and Lionel Blue I can fit them in for tea next week.

    My list says things like
  • 1. Blog
  • 2. Twitter
  • 3. Plan something
  • 4. Email orthodontist
  • 5. Paint something
  • 6. Make sure the boys are still alive upstairs

    Ok, done blog. Time to Twitter.

Friday 7 August 2009

What? Friday Already? How Did That Happen?

Friday is Bin Day. I did the bins, that is good. Tick that off the list. Next on the list, Blog. Doing that, and after this, change tee shirt. I can do that, yes, and what is next - call a friend who thinks he has swine flu. Well! We all know the cure for swine flu is chocolate, and 19 Year Old Daughter has had swine flu here already so I am immune and so no problem there. Next on the list? Mum's Halo. I did a portrait of my mother, see below, and put a halo on her. She became in an instant not only very holy, but an image of the Virgin Mary as an OAP. I thought this made

perfect sense. That's handy, I thought. Mum and the BVM all rolled into one, age and portraiture and theology and wit etc all in the same picture. But Mum has asked for the halo to be removed because her friends are confused by it and she is at a loss to explain it. I think mum has tried to accept it as art but feels she is not really the Mother of God and it may be a bit above her station. And as a good Catholic, it is a little like identity theft. Or Ego Mania. So I will remove it, and it will be just Mother and we will have to be content with the memory of the halo and all that it signified.

Next on the list, oh yummy. To reply to the most intersting lady vicar in Manchester who I painted a while ago. What a strong lady. Here she is below, with all her significant representations of her life. Those are 4 hand made stoles she had made for her ordination. She

writes poetry too. Anyhow, we will discuss another possible painting and an exhibition. Yes. She is very inspiring.

Next on the list, Go to Bosham and Chichester. Avoid Marks and Spencers and Waterstones and put up posters about the Art Sessions I am offering on Saturdays during the Summer for Artists and Creative Types Who Feel Blocked. I know how that feels and I am really looking forward to doing this. However, I also have some Jesus on the Tube posters to put up. That may be more difficult, most people need to see the website and catch on to the JOTT Thing to understand it. I run the risk of looking normal until I hand them a poster asking if anyone wants their portrait done with Jesus, and morphing into a Wierd I Have Direct Contact With The Messiah Don't Mess With Me person.

The list goes on. It involves calling people who may or may not want a painting (Hello, Antonia Rolls here, you want a painting don't you? I can fit you in this afternoon Whoops - no I can't, Prince Charles wants another one and has booked that slot. See how busy I am, better agree to one immediately or regret the lost opportunity. Whoops there goes another slot, Pope wants one now). It involves checking the position of paintings I have in a Business Centre in Croydon. And then, it involves running and walking to Felpham and collecting the bike Alan bought me for my birthday yesterday, and riding it back. If I can do all these things, I will be a Very Good Artist Indeed. Oh, and also, my first lady comes to the Art Session tomorrow. Just the one, and I need to organise the day so she gets as much from it as possible. That is fun though. Oh, and my dear dear friend the photographer Eileen Rafferty ( - go see it, you will be impressed) is coming for the weekend. Oh yes, and on Sunday we all go to a party 19 Year Old Daughter is holding on the beach in Brighton for my birthday. Dress Up, she says. Fine, I say, I'll Wear My New Bike.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

I Have Decked Myself Out In Blue Jewellery Prior To Being Deadly Efficient In The Studio

The Blue Jewellery is really important because it is chunky and the right colour blue, and as all of you know if you don't have the right colours near you you grind to a halt. Just like that. So here is the story of the Blue Jewelery.

Last night we got back from Ireland where we were on holiday. We stayed at my darling friend's husband's family hut by the sea far far away. Briefly, because the wind howled like a hurricane and the sea rose like a tsunami, we mostly stayed huddled together indoors and ate as much as we could in the hours available. Actually, we did go in swimming too, and Alan went in every day because he is a hero. We had to go down in groups because we needed people on shore to a) witness the drownings b) go for help c) try and rescue those in the waves.

So anyway, we came home very last night. Me, Practially Perfect In Every Way, 19 Year Old Daughter full of a cold and weak from lack of make up, 16 Year Old Son full of rightness in all he does, 12 Year Old Son needing a full meal every half an hour, 16 Year Old Niece who can't be faulted she is wonderful and Alan who organised the whole thing and even paid for me to have Valet Parking at the airport (worship). The kids went to watch Big Brother and I went to 24 hour Tescoes so that their meals could be unnaffected by me being tired and travelling home with lots of teenagers and bags from Ireland. I spent till 2am shopping, putting away, doing beds, unpacking a bit and finally having a bath with bubbles which was going to be my reward, even if it was dawn and the noise of the water running could be heard all down the silent sleeping Bognor street.

And so this morning. I woke and ran. That alone meant I deserved a reward. As the morning drew on, it was clear I had to go for various reasons to our shops, and so off I went, with my little shopping list. Instead of doing what was on the list I found my subconsious has taken me to New Look where there was a jewellery sale on. Don't mess with your subconsious, I say, so I bought some big blue bracelets, a long blue beady and silvery necklace and some fab turquoise earrings. I then understood that nothing could happen today of any importance unless I had turquoise blue things to wear, so I bought a tee shirt too.

And so we come to the nub of the matter. It seems that I was sent by fate to New Look to buy blue stuff so that I could function at my peak. Since coming home, putting on all the blue stuff, I have been clear thinking, wise, efficient and have given the stunned and now weeping teenagers the house to clear and hoover while I sit in the studio and Do My Work. This consists mainly today of sending out a press release, making timetables, putting the passports away, checking my emails, twittering, facebooking, and printing more adverts to put up around the West Sussex environs about my Art Courses for Blocked Artists every Saturday from 10am to 5pm, in my studio. Lunch, materials, tea on the hour every hour, thrown in. And the courses are for up to 3 people, as more can't fit into the studio and I don't want a crowded studio full of blocked people who want to paint descending into fisticuffs when there is no room and all the pencils are gone.

And tomorrow is my birthday and Alan is getting me a bike. How amazing is that? And 19 Year Old Daughter is giving a birthday party for me in Brighton on Sunday and 12 Year Old Son has tried to keep an Interesting Plastic Bag hidden from me on the the way home from Dublin yesterday, and 16 Year Old Son - well he is a constant source of amazement. Anything could happen. All in all, I deserve my blue jewellery. I need my strength.