Wednesday 28 October 2009

I Am Covered With Blue Paint an account of setting up the exhibition on the end of a life with cancer, to be held 7 - 13 December in Chichester, West Sussex where I talk of the paintings I have begun in January 2007 just 8 weeks after the death of Steve Shaw

I am covered with blue paint. I used not to like blue, I thought it was a boring colour and only useful when nothing else was available. To me, blue was the lowest common denominator. It was what those who had no passion used to choose when asked What Is Your Favourite Colour? It was what passed as normal in a conversation amongst unimaginative folk when discussing new shirts, new jumpers, new curtains and so on. I had visions of people with not much to talk about invited to a fancy party, and making the effort to go an buy a new outfit. I imagined them going to the Navy Blue Section of the local boutique and selecting, with short gasps of anticipation, a lighter shade of navy blue than they had on at the time, and making the decision to Go Mad and Have It. And then, at the fancy party, wearing the very personally brave Lighter Than Before shade of Navy Blue, wondering if there was a space in the cupboard under the stairs they could hide in until they felt they could deal with the attention they were bound to get as this new and daring Party Animal.

Those who seemed to plod along in this life without much ambition liked blue. Those who liked to play safe chose blue. People like me however, exciting passionate loud and unconventional types, liked Red. And Scarlet and Hot Pink. Colours to do with Fire and Noise. I wouldn't have blue, I said, if you paid me. Not on your nelly. Banish Blue, I told those who would listen, Make A Difference.

Here's what happened. As I made the effort to avoid blue in my life, as I made the effort to shine brighter than the Blue Brigade, I made and sold many paintings. What was the underlying theme of all these paintings? Why, they were represented in the sky. What colour is the sky? Blue. It dawned on me that despite my awareness of the Boringness of Blue, a) it made my paintings colourful and successful and b) everybody liked it. Even the deeply creative types that bought them. Good Heavens. And I liked all the people that bought my paintings, I thought them interesting and full of untapped brilliance because they appreciated my work.

Well. So a beautiful shade of hot light sky blue was the unifying theme of all my paintings. I will accept that, I thought, and maybe that particular shade of blue is good. In my unguarded moments I thought it was wonderful. Then I noticed that when I looked deep into the eyes of each of my children, they were blue. My children had blue eyes. They were not boring, and each child had a different shade of blue. I moved to be by the sea, and the sea took on all shades of blue, grey and green imaginable. I went to a ball and Alan hired me a ball dress. The lady in the shop knew her stuff and handed me what looked like ghastly shades of that Lighter Shade of Navy blue colour that I had previously scorned. When I put it on my skin glowed, my eyes deepened and my hair looked lustrous. Alan said I looked beautiful and the woman in the shop clasped her hands to her bosom and wept with pleasure. Just my colour they said, just my colour.

Today I am in my studio painting the background of the Angels in a mixture I have made from two or three blues in my paint box. Yesterday I covered a large canvas in a shade of blue I could not describe, it is so deep and significant. Around the studio are paintings waiting to dry, of blue angels, blue backgrounds, figures wearing blue and a poignant painting of some blue slippers. I look at my hands and they are blue. I look at my eyebrows and nose when I go past the mirror in the studio and they are blue. My painting coat that I absolutely adore because it belonged to my grandfather, is blue. My kitchen is full of my favourite crockery and lo. What is this theme that is emerging? They are blue and white striped or blue and white polka dot.

So in this world we inhabit, so many things are going on. The M1 motorway celebrates 50 years of existance this year. America is Changing with a new president. Michael Caine is out of retirement and is in a new film. And in Bognor Regis, an artist has had a humbling experience in which she is coming to terms with the fact that Blue is Fab. That she is in fact, a victim of her own narrow mindedness and that Blue is Only A Colour, It Is Not A Threat. That it doesn't take blue to make another boring, blue is not a signal to avoid all contact. And if I like blue now, I am still passionate, I still love Red, Hot Pink, Orange, Yellow and Fire Colours. The new acknowledgement of Blue in my life gives me depth. I am now Deeply Passionate.

Here I sit at my computer then, covered with blue paint. I am wearing my grandfather's blue coat with utmost pleasure (it reminds me of him) and drinking tea from my blue and white spotted mug. My children gazed at me this morning with their blue eyes and I am thinking the once unthinkable for the paintings I am doing at the moment. Only Blue Will Do.

Monday 26 October 2009

Troubles Melting Like Lemon Drops (away above the chimney tops etc etc) (talking about the Graceful Death paintings 8 weeks after the event) (for you to donate to St Barnabas House Hopsice)

Now. On to the Day To Day Life Of An Artist.

I have not kept you informed of my art recently. I have told you in depth of the highs and lows of being me in my little world. I have told you exactly how I feel at any given time and linked it to my working day, so that there are no boundaries between me and what I do and that is fine. I have even made bullet points to emphasise my points (always concerning me. And, Why Not? you cry. Indeed I reply, I suspect that most of us feel the same way much of the time. I am really only itemising the Human Condition in a general and average day to day way, not as I had hoped, touching on unique and fantasically original personal experience. I am, I am reminded, just the same as everyone else. Bother.)

So here is a picture of my studio with much of my current work in it.

It is a very lovely space in which to paint. It is a wooden cabin in my garden and is fully weather proof and has electricity. There is no running water so I have to go over to the main house for Tea, Washing Brushes, More Tea, Baths etc. In here are some of the images I am working on for the Graceful Death exhibition and the Angels exhibition. I like setting aside whole days to paint, I like bypassing the computer which is in the office bit by the door into this Studio, this Place of Jolly Nice And Often Intense Endeavour. Here is the office

Note the cup of tea on the table. I am sitting in this place now writing this account of Where It All Happens. It is here that I try and send sensible emails and receive information to further my painting and creative life. It is here that I sit and droop on the mornings that I don't find The Path easy. It is here that I sit and Whoop With Joy when everything is going well and I know what I am doing. My Art in Progress is as follows.

  • The Every Day Angel Exhibition is coming up on the 22 November. I am not exactly ready for it, but I have time. It would be best to set aside whole days to paint these lovely creatures, but I keep having to do other stuff like talk to the kids and feed them.
  • A Graceful Death has a life of its own. It is something that I love and need strength to do. I am amazed that so many people are interested and helping with it. I will never have enough paintings for this, I am never going to understand the process of dying.
  • I am applying to the Arts Council for funding to take the Graceful Death to different places. I have 2 venues ready, in Bremmen in Germany and in Birmingham. There are more in the pipeline.
  • I decided yesterday I need to draw more. Spontaneous black pen drawings of whatever takes my fancy. I often see faces that are inspiring and long to stare at them. How did they get that way? What is the structure, for example, behind a big nose and little eyes?
  • I think that is it. The rest of my artistic life is here in front of the computer doing PR and research into who to talk to, what about, where to go next. Blah blah blah Hello Antonia Rolls here, Artist Extraordinaire. Yes. Extraordinaire. Yep. Artist. Artist, a Painter. No, I don't do wallpapering, no - what? Can I do pebbledashing? I think I have the wrong number.

I do have a commission that is on the back burner at the moment, a lovely still life of flowers in an urn. I will do this painting, I had better do this painting. I am on a roll with Death and Angels and that must not take over my life (Oh Yeah?). Tomorrow. I will do it tomorrow.

Friday 23 October 2009

Oh Goodness. Who Made It Friday Already

It is Friday. It is raining. Oh. It's stopped. It's not raining. I have been to the Lake District with my three brothers for a wonderful walking holiday to celebrate my oldest brother's 50th birthday. We were away from Sunday to Thursday. Now here I am with lists and lists of lists and paper and notes to self and piles of mail and only me to see to it all.

I am a one man band. There is only me to do the whole damn lot and today I am flummoxed by the amount of Stuff I am facing. Yes I have made a list. No I have not got enough time. Yes I want to go into the garden and eat worms.

It is Friday. Every Friday is the end of the week and goddamit it is the last chance to get the week into some sort of successful shape. I have to pick up the invitations that are at the post office but Lo. There is a blinking postal strike so I can't. What about the press releases? What about them indeed. I can print them out and send them off but I wanted to send the invites off too because there is a great picture on the invites.

And phone calls. I have some phone calls to make and I have some applying to do for funding. But, in order to apply to find funding I have to know what I am doing. Oh what am I doing? It all seems too much . Only a few days away and I have forgotten what I am supposed to be doing here. OK. Enough of all this and here are the solutions.

  • Follow the list.
  • Get an Overview
  • Do One Thing At A Time.
  • Go cycling

Actually I am going cycling this afternoon. I am going to see Olivia in Chichester who will go through my article and teach me how to write it better. Then I will cycle back and I will feel better.

I will do the invites on Monday and bite my thumb at the postal workers who are not there today to give me my invitations and actually, won't be there to deliver either them when I try to send them . However. Monday is a long way off and Friday is still here and in order to face Monday like a trooper, I will have to make today work. Just one bit of success and I will be happy.

Actually, I feel sick today. My morning tea was not very satisfying and my appetite has gone. Maybe the whole dissatisfaction and dislike of today is because I am not finding any comfort in tea and thinking about my next meal. Maybe being an artist and doing this exhibition is not what is wrong. Maybe I am just not hungry and that is so catastrophic that my world is crumbling around me. How can I not be hungry?

So Today is a bit of a minefield for me. You have been very patient in reading this far. Please don't go and slit your wrists, I don't intend for you to catch this gloom I am feeling. Rather you should feel relieved that you have such a bracing approach to your Friday, and your Lists are Do-able and Concise, and that your success this week is simply highlighted by your Friday today. Your Friday is the icing on the cake for this week, you are satisfied and breathing a sigh of contentment as you see your red ticks by the list of Terribly Important and Big Things To Do. Only one item left unticked? Is it the Email Antonia And Tell Her She's Doing Fine entry? Better do it now then and your whole week will be complete.

Friday 16 October 2009

Another Fleeting Blog

Here is a list of things I am doing.
  • Shielding my eyes from the sun. It is blinding me. Is it a metaphor etc etc
  • Designing invitations to the Graceful Death exhibition. I believe they are being paid for by a long suffering friend who does many things for me and has no ego. We get on fine, obviously
  • Registering 12 Year Old Son to various schools none of which he likes because there is not much chance of smoking behind the bike shed and putting bloomers on the school statue's head in any of them. I think he thinks he wants to go to something like a Young Offenders Unit, his hormones are kicking in and he has an inflated idea of his powers of rebellion. He is 13 in two weeks.
  • Contacting Spirit FM to see if they can be interested in a serious artist from Bognor Regis who paints the dead.
  • And Angels
  • At the same time
  • Painting a million paintings at once in the way only a fragmented artist can. I am bound to say that each of the paintings will be brilliant when finished so you will never know I was once in the studio like a Japanese Robot with 6 arms each with a paintbrush painting furiously in 6 different styles.

I am off now to try and make my blinking Invitation Design work. Seems I can't have the design I want and the help desk takes two working milennia to come back to me.

This exhibition I am preparing, A Graceful Death, is something I am compelled to do. I have suspended my commissions until it is over and am doing it out of love. From December onwards I will be able to do all your portraits, Jesus on the Tubes, fancy angels, pets, children and so on with great love and care. Thank you for your patience. And come to both exhibitions please.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Angels Today. Put Death Aside For A Few Hours for a video of me talking about these paintings 8 weeks after Steve died St Barnabas House Hospice is supporting the exhibition. I have set up this page for you to donate whatever you can to this amazing hospice, that concentrates daily on helping people like Steve and me.


So. Angels today then. It slipped my mind that I have another exhibition to prepare for, and that is dreadful. I couldn't run the country if I got bogged down with only one topic at a time. Today, after doing my blogs and eating my breakfast and tidying up and wandering around dreaming and wondering who to phone and chat to, I am concentrating on Angels.

Every Day Angels, to be held in the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester from the 22 November to the 5 December, is GOOD. I like doing Angels and the Oxmarket is an established gallery. I am only exhibiting in the foyer, which I think is very apt. My little Angels will dot themselves around the foyer and inspire people to Smile and Have A Nice Day. Then they will cross over to the other side of Chichester and go to A Graceful Death exhibition and have to revived with smelling salts. Such is the life of an artist.

I have done a group of Elderly Angels Waiting At A Celestial Bus Stop. I have done a Make Over Angel Diptych, a frumpy Before Angel and the Sassy After Angel. I am going to do more today and really enjoy it. I can play with colours and ideas and be amused as I do them. I will listen to Radio 4, put on the heater in the studio, and feel utterly invincible. Here is a piece about Angels I wrote for the exhibition. Put on your glasses, pour your tea and put on your best fluffy slippers and concentrate -

Every Day Angels

Every Day Angels is just what it says. Angels who live alongside us in our daily lives, with daily lives of their own. The things that we do, they do. This exhibition celebrates the Divine as Normal, and the Normal as Divine. For example I have painted a Make Over Angel. Before her make over, she is dumpy, miserable and unglamorous. Her body language says it all. After her make over, she is dressed in a slinky evening dress, glossy hair up on top of her head and masses of mascara. She is very sexy indeed. And she knows it. Her body language says it all.

There is the tiny wooden block of wood painted with an angel happy in her pink and white spotty apron amongst all her teapots. There is the rather larger framed painting of the Domestic Angel, who is standing rigid in her yellow marigold washing up gloves against a red background, with an expression of utter fury. She has Had Enough. Ask her to wash up one more item and she will hit you.

I love the painting of a group of Elderly Angels waiting at a celestial bus stop, sitting in a row together. I like the idea that there are buses in Heaven and that there is a parallel system up there where old people still queue up in bus shelters in an orderly manner, waiting to go Heaven knows where.

The inspiration for this exhibition comes from my belief that there is no real distance between the Divine and the Mundane. Angels, messengers from Above, are a wonderful and acceptable link from our world (the Mundane) to the Divine (Up There). Even those of us with a reluctance to engage with spiritual and religious matters are seldom affronted by Angels. Angels are too close to fairies and are therefore harmless. But there are those of us who really need and believe in Angels. Angels are the able to hear us, help us and carry our anxious requests to Up There, they are on our side and want to help. Countless stories are told of critical situations saved by a stranger who vanished once the danger had passed. Could these could be Angels? In human form, doing human things and appearing in an hour of need in a manner that is not alarming in order to set things right? My Every Day Angel exhibition is about this wonderful other world of celestial beings that in order to understand us well, experience our joys and sorrows with us. I have painted many Angels with human characteristics only to find that the person that buys it does so because they know someone just like it. Now doesn’t that say a lot.

A final thought which was put to me once – do Angels have belly buttons? Interesting. I will have to paint a picture of a gorgeous Belly Dancing Angel and think it over

Every Day Angels by Antonia Rolls showing at the Oxmarket Gallery, Chichester, West Sussex.
22 November to 5 December.
Going to go and have fun now. See you at the exhibition.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

A Blog In Passing. Blink And I Am Gone

Well I am so so busy that I can hardly move. Today I have to get 12 Year Old Son's macaroni cheese ready for him when he comes in from school, and a tea and a map.

I am ahead of myself. Today, Alan and I are going out and coming back at about 9pm. I will pass 12 Year Old Son coming in from school as I go out, at the front door. He has to find the kitchen, eat the sandwiches, change out of his school clothes into loose trendy Acting Clothes and walk in the cold dark night air to his acting class. Then, as his mother is still out gallavanting he has to wearily plod home along the busy dual carriageway to our big empty family home, let himself in, heat up his dish of macaroni cheese, and watch Simpsons on TV. He can't wait. Meanwhile my neighbours are coming to sit in the house while he is out and will creep out when he gets back. He will never know that he is not Macauly Culkin in Home Alone, and his mother has arranged everything utterly perfectly.

Last night he became quite agitated about how abbatoirs killed cows. He was concerned that it was the same method as killing chickens (how he got to this idea I don't know.) I imagined trying to wring the neck of a cow, or shooting a chicken in the temple. We had a talk and it turned out that he had got the idea from The Simpsons. Oh I thought. I wonder what other vague and dreadful misconceptions he is hiding in his young brain.

So now I am off. To get ready, to cook, to have a final cup of tea before I am whisked off by Alan into the blue yonder. Poor little hard worked 12 Year Old Son will have to get all his rebelling for the day in before 9pm when we come home. Poor little mite. Byeeee.

Thursday 8 October 2009

How Many People Do Read This Blog?

I had a lovely surprise call from a friend in Norway who said We Read Your Blog. I was very grateful, as you can imagine - fancy my blog being read abroad! I wondered, after a while, who else reads this account of Life In The Studio. It made me very happy. And the friend and his wife are coming to stay in November so all in all my cup runneth over.

I am still writing this on my 12 Year Old Son's laptop. My computer is back but needs a Man to come and reconnect it to the internet and my printer and all other things it should be connected to. I had no idea that a) I knew so very little about my computer and the language that goes with it and b) if I don't have my computer, I no longer exist. So, tonight, a Man will come with a head full of Cyber Knowledge and single mindedly Plug It In. Actually, I won't be here when he comes. I will be in London with 16 Year Old Son who has a college evening for me to attend. I think he wants me to come (he wants me to come. What??) so I can bring him his suitcase he has left here, and some green tea which he wants from the kitchen cupboard. And we will have a coffee in Starbucks and that will make him happy, because I will pay for it. So when the Man comes tonight, 19 Year Old Daughter who is still Very Ill, will let him in and I hope, understand his questions. And answer them.

19 Year Old Daughter has perked up since I did a big shop at Tescos. Her Illnesses sometimes depend on the amount and quality of food available, so now the kitchen is full she should be well on the road to recovery. Any day now she will take my dressing gown off, put my pyjamas into the laundry basket, put on her Brigitte Bardot stuff and go back to Brighton full to the back teeth of food and like a ship in full sail, start her spate of night duties. Until she gets Ill again and comes home here and like a hamster, carries half her body weight in food around with her in her cheeks.

12 Year Old Son had his first rehearsals at school as Bill Sykes. I watched the cast practice through a glass door for a while, and saw him yank the head girl, who plays Nancy, around with real gusto. I wondered if I was the only one who suspected that my Bill shows all the signs of method acting, and that the sweet and graceful and clever head girl may need to take a few karate lessons just to be sure she makes it to Christmas.

Work? In the Studio? Well it hardly seems possible to write of work on the laptop. Yes, the meeting at the Hospice was absolutely wonderful. I am going to watch this space. They understood the paintings, listened to what I said, gave me such encouragement and want to work with me. Yes. One of the most wonderful things I think we can do, is to make dying good for those who are dying. Oh goodness, I know nothing, but I want to know how to make a difference. The paintings are progressing, and the Angels for the Every Day Angels exhibition seem to be happy to be painted.

Gosh, look at the time. I have to write a very concise and intelligent list of things I want the Man to do so he thinks I only sound dippy as a cover for a brilliant and razor sharp mind. We are two of a kind, the Man and me, I want him to think. We both have an over developed left brain. So heavy with knowledge of Systems and Cyber Stuff that our heads loll a bit to the left.

I have to print out all the Documents for 16 Year Old Son who needs them for college ( and put the green tea in the suitcase). I have to make sure there is food for 12 Year Old when he comes back from school, and his sister may or may not be able to walk (depends on whether the documentary on Christina Aguilara is over and whether she needs another hot bubble bath or not) so I have to leave a pizza ready for him to put into the oven. Then I will go and report to 16 Year Old Son for the parents evening at his College. He doesn't like having to have a parent, I expect he will have told them I am his aunt and don't get out much, so he is doing me a favour and showing me what life is really like. Better be off now, before the Man gets here and quizes me on what my password to my Internet Power Adapter Microfilter Ethernet Cable USB Wireless ADSL thing is.

Monday 5 October 2009

Late Night Blog Amidst Loud And Decisive Teenagers

Tonight, People, I am in my sitting room on my 12 Year Old Son's laptop. He is doing his French homework in here too as if I had insulted him, all his friends and their grandmothers, and sold his hamsters on Ebay. Such sighing such tutting such waving around of arms and legs as he slides on and off the sofa, such a landslide of French books and papers as he tries to avoid doing any real work. And I tap on, on the laptop, glasses on my nose, in a deeply intellectual way, hoping I may influence him somehow.

Into this comes larger than life happy bouncy 19 Year Old Daughter. She has just come back from a weekend of raves etc in Newcastle and has bypassed her flat on the way home so that she can come here and luxuriate in hot bubble baths and eat mountains of healthy food. I will provide all. She will recover loudly and I will gasp at her youthful rate of recovery from about 4 days of all night parties and junk food. Soon, when she can feed no more, bathe no more and sleep no more, she will get on the train to Brighton and back to her life there. To be fair, she is going straight on to a spate of night duties when she returns to work, so she does earn her down time. Back to tonight however, 19 Year Old Daughter has just come in and joined us and is playing jazz on the piano. 12 Year Old Son is in a furious pile of resentment and French homework on the floor, and I just tap on, teaching my children about concentration and application. Teaching them how to block all outside distraction and finish the task in hand. Only later will they find out I am writing a running commentary about them.

To complete this family update, 16 Year Old Son did come home for the weekend. It was clear to him that I had not changed, I had not acted on all his Training For Betterment Of Character Instructions and had probably never intended to obey any of his orders. So there was a small amount of Locking Of Oneself In Bedroom and Refusing To Eat and Storming Off from him, but we all got over it and by Sunday we had some time together cooking and making a wonderful tea for us all.

My computer got a virus this weekend and has been taken to the PG Doctor. I am bereft. All of my personal stuff and pictures have gone with the modem, and I am reduced to using 12 Year Old Son's laptop late in the evening in the house amidst my large expressive children and their highly emotive ways to make sure we all know exactly what they are thinking. And feeling.

Tomorrow I go to the Hospice to discuss the exhibition. Today friends came and gave me feedback about the paintings, and were very insightful. I am glad they came. It has been a difficult day to achieve anything, and by this afternoon I fell asleep as I sat to take notes on What To Do. So now, later than ever before, I am doing my blogs and sorting out my notes and ideas. Soon, oh thank God, it will be bed time and today can fade gently into the past and join all the other rather insubstantial and unsatisfying days I have got rid of. Tomorrow, after the Hospice meeting, I will just go and paint. That will make it all better again.

Friday 2 October 2009

Success And Relief

Our Successes, yours and mine, may be very different. Our feelings of Relief may be very different. So you will be prepared to shake your grizzled heads and put your hands on your hips when you read mine, and whistle through your teeth - Dang it, I knew she could do it.

Here is a small list of successes. Put your glasses on and get your tea ready.

  • The Graceful Death exhibition is going well. Simple. That is all there is to it. It is not a vague mountain of Things I Haven't Done and Things I Can't Do. It's all very nice indeed and I have done a lot. Good Girl.
  • The Every Day Angel exhibition is going well too. It is not a huge affair, it is only tiny and I have plenty of time to create some really lovely little pieces from my heart and put them out there. Not a problem. Oh how clever.
  • I am going to speak on BBC Radio Sussex on the day before the Graceful Death exhibition, about the paintings and my experience. It is on the Faith Programme and so I will enjoy that because I really do like God and Faith and Things Like That.
  • I am collecting 16 Year Old Son from London today for the weekend. The Success there is that it has all gone smoothly and so far he has not had to call me to check up on whether or not I am improving myself and following his strict guidelines on Pitfalls and Weaknesses in my Character. I think his aunt, my angel sister in law, is also not having to review her life choices and buck up her ideas, so maybe he is happy.
  • Alan is a darling. The success is that he is such a lovely man and all mine.
  • I am still a good weight despite eating my own body weight in fried foods recently.
  • 12 Year Old Son loves his mum and gives me hugs. He has also discovered Girls and I think he must be lethal. Gawd. I may have to set up a counselling service for hearts he has broken.
  • 19 Year Old daughter is lovely to her mum and called me publically Marshmellow Mama. That could mean she thinks I am like the Michelin Tyre Man but I know it is from the film The Girl Can't Help It and is meant well.
  • Going to see wonderful friend today who paints landscapes with genius. Please look at and be amazed. Wonderful woman.

I think that is enough success for one day.

The long and the short of it is that I feel a lot better about Life. I can paint, I can do things and I am very lucky indeed to be putting on these two shows. And the ghastly feelings of Not Being Good Enough are just that I need a good square meal, an early night and a different perspective.

So let's hope that I blaze a trail for myself and have nothing but fun from now on.