My old dad told me that a bad workman always blamed his tools if the work wasn’t done right. He was a carpenter. However, over the past few years I’ve found that the quality of the best kolinsky sable watercolour paintbrushes, especially the smaller sizes, have deteriorated. About 50% of them either split in two, bend over, or have an unworkable whispery point. But my biggest gripe of all is about hot-pressed (the smoothest) watercolour paper and board. I’ve just finished a pair of portraits on the so-called very best watercolour board. Very difficult to work on as the paint dried immediately it touched the paper, giving me no chance to move the colour around or to achieve an even wash. I did a bit of research the other day and now believe the reason is that just about all watercolour paper and board sold in England originates in India. Nothing wrong with that country, but maybe the water they use in the manufacture is not pure. I don’t know if that really is the reason, but wish I could get the hot-pressed paper I knew and loved in past years. So I guess I am, after all, blaming my tools!

No such problems with sculpture. Yesterday I worked on the final stages of my great nephew, Max’s, head. It’s quite tiring mixing the bronze, resin, and all the other ingredients. I’m staggered as to how many different materials go to make a bronze head. Here are a couple of photographs of the inside of the shed we work in, so you will have some idea of the materials involved.

Yesterday was ‘handing-in’ day at the Mall Galleries in London for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition. It rained all day long and was quite a problem to carry a large painting (Over 30 inches square) on the train and up to the gallery. My young friend did most of the carrying. I’ve entered this large painting of Kevin Giddings – The Royal ‘Flueologist’ against a background of Hampton Court Palace – one of the Royal residences he looks after. I really do hope it gets accepted – and will know by next Wednesday as they will publish the results on line that day. 

After depositing the painting (kept dry under a big and tough plastic sleeve) we walked up to Piccadilly for lunch in the Richeaux restaurant and a look around my favourite London bookshop – Hatchards. (I'll tell you a little story about Hatchards. When I lived in Bangkok in the 60’s books there were very expensive, so when on home leave, or on a business trip to England, I would browse around that marvellous and friendly bookshop and then order a number of books to be sent out to Bangkok. One autumn I chose about twenty books to be sent to me to arrive before Christmas - sea-mail in those days. As Christmas approached and no parcel of books arrived, I wrote to Hatchards asking if they’d been despatched. In response I received a beautifully hand-written airmail letter apologising profusely and saying that all the books had been despatched, but must have got lost in the post. So they had sent another complete set by airmail! The letter concluded “I do hope these arrive safely and your Christmas has not been spoiled.”)

 I don’t think this sort of service is offered these days, but I may be wrong, as the assistant that came up to us as we were browsing around the art and photographic section, couldn’t have been more helpful.

Next stop was the Apollo Theatre in Victoria where we’d booked to see the musical ‘Wicked’. What a lively show. Marvellous costumes and stupendous sets. Author  Gregory Maguire wrote his novel ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ whilst living in London in 1990. As the original film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is one of my all time favourites, I was very much looking forward to this show. So was my young friend, especially as she’s more in to modern music than I am.

Even the boxes at the sides of the theatre had been completely taken over by the fantastic and intricate design, as you can see here.

The only thing I could complain about was the tiny size of the seats – almost ‘Munchkin’ size. But we were lucky, as the two seats in front of us were vacant, giving us a wonderful uninterrupted view of the stage, and, after the interval, the people in the two seats to our left didn’t come back. I think they thought the show was over at half time!