Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A Fair Swap

A number of years ago my dentist recommended I have a gold tooth fitted in the back of my mouth. After enquiring about the considerable cost difference between National Health and Private Patients gold teeth it seemed the quality of gold was the main influence in price. So I suggested I supply a gold sovereign (costing about £50 then), which, being 22 carat gold, is better even than Private gold. Robin, my dentist, had never had this sort of request before. Nevertheless I ended up with a superior tooth and paid just National Health price for the dental work involved. ( I was even given change in the form of a small nugget – which unfortunately I’ve lost). Time went on and a couple of years ago I had the gold tooth removed and returned to me. Here it is

But now the time has come to turn it back into a sovereign. Each year I give a prize at the Royal Miniature Painters exhibition in London for the Best Portrait . It's called The Mundy Sovereign Award and is in the form of a gold sovereign mounted on to a framed and calligraphed certificate. However the price of gold has escalated so rapidly in the past year (cost today is £285) that I hope my tooth will go a long way towards buying a sovereign in a swap.

Two very good American friends of mine – Wes and Rachelle Siegrist – are wonderful miniature artists. We meet up each time I go to America to attend the Miniature Artists of Florida Annual Exhibition. (Rachelle also writes a great blog, which includes photographs of their latest work). We last met up in January this year. The other day I decided to paint a miniature of Rachelle – she has such a serene disposition and compelling eyes. Here is the result. I’m hoping it will be accepted for exhibition in the MASF Exhibition in January.

I did a silly thing on Sunday afternoon. Visiting friends who’s garden backs on to the Hennerton Backwater and wanting to row the short distance across to the island at the bottom of their property, I was assured by Tony that his little work dinghy was quite stable. I’m used to jumping in and out of my dinghy – which is not that stable ( and why Trevor, the boatman, fell out of it earlier this year’ sinking the dinghy on the way!) so stepped on to the stern of his boat. My big mistake was to choose the very squashy cushion to step on as it immediately wrapped itself around my legs and caused me to fall headlong into the dinghy! I avoided capsizing it by a couple of inches but landed on my face, crushing my glasses in the process. Tony said my fall looked to be in slow motion, but I was shaken, and a bit stirred. All ended OK with a slightly bruised face and hand, and of course a pair of strangely distorted specs. Nevertheless I still managed to take a few nice photographs of their beautiful garden – after a refreshing and recuperative glass of wine.

Talking of beautiful gardens, on Saturday evening I was invited to Brian and Jane’s house for a small dinner party to celebrate a significant milestone in Brian’s journey through life. Here’s a little glimpse of a corner of their garden

And here are the other guests, with the birthday boy hogging the limelight. You can just see their dog, Ollie, sprawled out at his feet. Lovely evening. We dined in their conservatory and Brian cooked the lamb on his new barbecue.

Last Wednesday I drove into London to see my old friend Katie Boyle and her sister Margherita who was visiting from Geneva. Although Katie is confined to her home now she is looking really good and has a very caring group of people there to look after her.
Rolf has a new wooden clinker built dinghy. At the moment it’s submerged in the river as it’s been out of the water for a long time and a good dousing for a week or so will let the timbers swell. I don’t want him falling in the river – he’s working on so many paintings right now and when I called in on Saturday morning he had three big oil paintings drying on the AGA.
A client picked up the two drawings I’d made of his grandchildren the other day. I always try to paint or draw children as soon as I can because they change appearance so quickly. Normally within the month if they are drawings, or a bit longer if they are paintings.
It will soon be time to send off my entries to the USA for the upcoming MASF show. I am allowed to enter four miniatures. In the past I’ve always sent four portraits but this year have decided to submit just two (including the one of Rachelle) plus a miniature of flamingos ,and this small 3-inch by 2-inch painting of a snow scene by the river in Henley.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

After collecting my two paintings on Saturday morning which had been on exhibition at the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery in London (where they told me that my pencil drawing entitled ‘Le Derriere de Joceline’ attracted many admirers, and had it been named ‘Pippa’s Bottom’ it could have sold many times over!) my young friend and I threaded our way through innumerable road-works and heavy traffic back over the river to the Park Lane underground car park. We were hoping to meet a friendly guy who calls himself ‘Eveready’ in view of the fact that he is always there ready to drive us anywhere in central London. But he was nowhere to be seen, so after a long walk through a menacing tunnel we eventually emerged at Marble Arch to be confronted by an unexpected shower of rain. It got heavier so I ducked into a shop in Oxford Street to buy (yet another) umbrella. By the time we had walked the length of Oxford Street to the Palladium I discovered that a hole in my shoe had landed me with a completely wet foot!

I soon forgot about it when the show started. We both really enjoyed it – especially the marvellous sets and magical effects. As the original film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was the very first I ever saw as a child, the music brought back many happy memories.

After the show we hired a modern day rickshaw to take us to Covent Garden where I‘d booked a table at Sarastro’s Restaurant for an early dinner. Weaving our way through the London traffic on a busy Saturday afternoon was not exactly a tranquil experience, but it was great fun. At least it was for us – not sure about the energetic cyclist. My young friend was in for quite a surprise when we arrived at the restaurant.

As you can see the whole place is lavishly over decorated (and if any of my readers ever go there pay a trip to the loos – you ‘ll be very surprised by the d├ęcor). A bevy of rather large Hungarian musicians entertained us during our meal.

We travelled to London again yesterday. I had to be there early in the morning as it was the selection day for the Royal Society of Miniaturists. Nearly one thousand miniatures had been submitted this year, which we eventually whittled down to about six hundred for final exhibition in October. There were several good portraits for me to select the recipient of 'The Mundy Sovereign Award' from. (Worth a lot more now with the dramatic rise in the value of gold). Incidentally the exhibition this year will be enhanced by a special addition. Richard Chadwick, a leading historian and researcher of antique portrait miniatures, will be curating an exhibition of a collection of Royal Portrait Miniatures, some of which have never before been seen in public. They include a striking image of King Charles 1 by John Hoskins and one of Queen Victoria, commissioned by the Queen herself for presentation to the explorer, Sir Henry Morton Stanley.

It being a lovely sunny evening we decided on our return from London to pick up Val and take her to the Swan at Streatley for a supper alfresco by the river. You can see how balmy the evening was by the sight of this little launch gliding towards the hotel moorings at the open air restaurant.

‘Red sky at night - shepherds delight’ goes the old saying. So this view from our table towards the decorated barge as the evening shadows fall and the reflection of the red wisps of the sky above hints of a nice day today. Hope so as I’m due to bowl in the handicap second round this evening (which I won’t win as I’m due to play one of the best county players).

My working week saw the completion of the second in a pair of drawings of a client’s grandchildren. I also started a new miniature portrait for the upcoming exhibition in Florida. And I heard last week that I’ve been awarded the Stewart Bailey Award at the Society of Limners 2011 Exhibition for my portrait of the comedian, Jimmy Tarbuck. The award itself is an engraved glass goblet.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Those Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer

This was the venue last Saturday of the Wargrave and Shiplake regatta. Always a popular event, it lasts for two days, ending on Saturday evening with a spectacular firework display. We arrived there a bit late in the afternoon to find all the lanes leading up to the river at Shiplake full of cars so decided to park at the end of the line. This proved to be over a mile away from the riverbank. One of the events exclusive (unless I’m corrected by RG9) to this regatta is something called ‘Dongling’. I don’t know where this word came from but there is a resort near Yangshuo in China which may have something to do with it. Anyway here are a couple of donglers racing each other down the Thames.

I have some good news – after last week’s scan and subsequent blood test I had an appointment with the oncologist on Monday afternoon to be given the results. Hooray! All the cancer has cleared from my body. What a relief – especially as, before I knew the prognosis, and thinking positively, booked a holiday in the Far East for next January (with no possibility of getting the money back if I was unable to go). The scan did show a little scarring at the point in my inside where the colon was re-joined after the initial cancerous growth was removed, which will mean a colonoscopy in a couple of weeks. But no cancer. My state of mind in coming away from the surgery was quite the opposite of what it was on the way there.

You know the story about waiting ages for a bus to come along, only to find that eventually three come at once! Well this has happened to me in the form of self-portraits. Having not done any for over thirty years you may have seen the one I put on the blog a few weeks ago, and then the two silver cup portrait reflections. Well now I’ve made a miniature, which I’ll submit next weekend in London to the Royal Society’s annual exhibition. Here it is. (And it will be the last ever).

Nothing much has happened since I last wrote a blog. My young friend and I took a trip the other evening down river on ‘Marsh Mundy’ to Phyllis Court to have dinner. I played in a ‘Colours ‘ snooker match there the other evening, called in to see Rolf harris and looked at his latest paintings on Saturday morning, and went bowling on Monday. Last Sunday we drove over to Bampton to see Joanne. She made a lovely lunch for us all.

On the work front I drew a pencil portrait - one of a pair of commissions – and made this little miniature of a Balinese dancer to enter in the RMS next Sunday.

Thursday, 4 August 2011


“G’day is the title of this larger than life-size pencil portrait of Rolf Harris I finished the other day. (Sorry my photo of it is a bit blurred and on the dark side). Measuring almost 30 inches in height it was fun to do. I seem to be going through a phase of pencil drawings lately – and will be starting on another couple of commissioned pencil portraits of children next week.

Every year, after the razzmatazz of the Henley Royal Regatta and the Music Festival, we locals are able to enjoy our own lovely little regatta. It’s called the Henley Town and Visitors' Regatta. ( The first University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge was held on the Henley reach in 1829, and the success of this led up to the setting up of a regatta which subsequently became known as The Henley Royal Regatta when his Royal Highness Prince Albert became the first Royal patron.)
Developed from the Henley Rowing Club Boat Races, which started in the late 1850’s, its name changed to the Henley Town Regatta in 1887 and the word Visitor was later added to show that the Regatta had been opened to clubs not based in Henley. Following the success of multi-lane racing on the Henley reach at the 1948 Olympic Games, the regatta now offers three abreast racing in all events. (That’s enough history. ed.)
My young friend and I spent a pleasant few hours at the regatta last Saturday, after an early morning visit to the Royal Berkshire Hospital for me to have a chest and pelvic scan. Now that I’m a Regatta ‘subscriber’ it meant that we could hobnob in the President’s tent. Liz Hodgkin has just become this year’s President, and here’s a photo of Richard, her husband, with their little grand daughter.

We had a trip down river to the start on one of the Umpire launches where we followed a coxed four race. Here are a couple of the launches ready to leave, followed by a our view of the race..

And this is one of the more interesting boats we saw on our way – it’s a steam driven canoe.

Later in the afternoon we drove over to Hurley to visit the annual fete, bit it was a bit too crowded for our liking. We did have a couple of ice creams and watched the Sandhurst band for a short while.

The Olde Bell at Hurley is one of the oldest coaching inns in England and was built in 1135 as a guesthouse.

On Tuesday Debbie and Paul invited us to dinner at the Villa Marina – my favourite restaurant where we had a lovely evening. They are both appearing at the Edinburgh Festival now and will be there for the entire month of August. I nearly always have the same meal at the Villa Marina as they do the most delightful sea prawns and their pepper steak is to die for - not literally! It’s also one of the few restaurants to bring round a sumptuous sweet trolley. I think many other restaurants have abandoned this practice – probably because of ‘elf and safety rules.

Apropos to nothing, I was reading the other day about Roman Abramovich’s new yacht - The Eclipse. It sounds pretty stupendous with its 70 staff, missile defence system, armour plating and bulletproof windows. Luckily he’s a very rich man as it costs about £50 million a year to run! The occupants have the option of making a James Bond style escape if things get a bit hairy on board by entering the boat’s own submarine that can dive to a depth of 150ft. Privacy is also ensured as it’s fitted with an ‘anti-paparazzi shield’ that fires a laser beam of light at cameras to ruin photographs. If any of my readers would like to hire it the cost is £175,000 a day. And if you need to fill the fuel tank it will cost a further £400,000!
It will soon be time to send off the four miniatures I am allowed to enter in the Miniature Artists of Florida annual exhibition. Normally I send my latest portraits, but his year I’m thinking of ringing the changes and including a couple of other subjects within my four. To that end I painted this miniature of flamingos last week.

Most of my time lately has been spent painting, drawing and boating – especially boating as the weather has been hot and sunny. On Sunday, together with Val we visited cousin Paul and Jo in Great Shefford. Another cousin, David was there too. Paul took us around some of the fields to see their livestock – especially a young bull, which wouldn’t leave its place in the shade. But here is Paul with one of his horses.

That’s it for today. I’d better get back to my desk.