Sunday, 28 February 2016

Kevin and his Cat

When I paint in oils, because there is such a small space to work in, I have to be so careful that I don't slosh paint over everything. Currently I'm working on my largest painting ever. It's nearly finished - another three or four days I think. Then to wait until the paint dries before it gets varnished and I take it to be framed. It's quite strange when I look at the black cat on the sweep's shoulder its eyes stare at me and the sweep seems to look away a bit. But when I look at the sweep his eyes follow me round the room and the eyes of the cat look away. 

I'll put a picture of the final painting on my blog when it's all done.

Last Saturday my young friend and I drove over to Cookham to deliver a number of prints, postcards and a jigsaw puzzle of my painting "Swan Uppers in Marsh Lock" to David Barber, the Queen's Swan Marker

David will be taking them all to The Vintners Hall in London on Monday where the original now hangs in 'The Swan Room'. This is a painting of David with Her Majesty the Queen which I painted recently.

While we were in Cookham we visited the Stanley Spencer Gallery. He's one of my favourite artists. Of all his many paintings the one I like best is of Christ Teaching at Cookham Lock. He died before he could finish it, but the way he drew everything out in incredible detail really intrigues me. 

In the museum is a half hour video of his life. Well worth seeing. Here he is walking around Cookham carrying his easel on his old pram. 

And in the museum his actual pram is on display.

Yesterday we drove to Cranleigh to see Paul and Jackie Eaton. Paul is a jeweller and also wins many awards for his bronze, gold and silver small sculptures. The reason for the visit was to take the two tiny miniature portraits I made of the Sultan of Pahang for him to fix into the elaborate gold and diamond brooches. They will soon be worn by the Sultana on ceremonial occasions. I must say the portraits sparkled when surrounded by diamonds.
 On the way home we stopped at the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Museum. It's quite small but contains several fascinating items to do with the early days of flying. For example this is a jet engine developed by 'The father of the jet engine' - Sir Frank Whittle.

Another really interesting display is of Concorde. Here you can see a number of trial shapes for this iconic aircraft. 

Wind tunnels have been used to measure aerodynamic forces on models since before the days of powered flight. Here at Farnborough there are several wind tunnels ranging from large and small low speed facilities up to large supersonic tunnels. In this case at the museum you can see some of the smaller models tested. 

In one of the rooms is a pavilion devoted to the life of Samuel Franklin Cody - Britain's first pilot.

Here there is a full size replica of the British Army Aeroplane Number 1A. It was flown by Cody at Farnborough on 16th October 1908, this being the first recognised powered, heavier than air, controlled and sustained flight in Great Britain. 

And this is a close up of the engine itself.

This aircraft flew under its own power for 27 seconds and covered 1390 feet and counted as the UK's first flight. This replica was unveiled to the public on the centenary of that first flight on 16th October 2008. Cody went on to build seven more aircraft, but on 7th August 1913, whilst giving a pleasure flight to a Mr W. Evans, a recently retired Hampshire cricketer, something on his aircraft broke, causing a manoeuvre so violent that Cody and his passenger fell from the aircraft whilst at 300 feet and both were killed instantly. Cody was given a full military funeral and is buried in the Aldershot Military Cemetery. 

I mentioned on my last blog that my watercolour painting of the boatman will be on display at the Royal  Institute of Watercolour Painters from the 3rd of April at the Mall Galleries in London. We'll be going to the Private View on the 2nd so I'm hoping it will be hung prominently. However I'm really excited about another event coming up soon. Each year The National Portrait Gallery in London holds the world's most prestigious portrait exhibition. Called the 'BP Portrait of the Year' only about 35 paintings are selected for a two month long exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Artists are only allowed to enter one portrait each and the top portrait artists throughout the world submit their work. This year nearly 4,000 entries have been received. So I was delighted the other day to be told that my oil painting - 'Alan, the Boatman' has been selected for the final stage.

Just 400 have reached this far and we are due to take the painting for final selection in a couple of weeks time. It's a real longshot to be amongst the final 35 as I'm up against the best in the world but at least there's a chance. 

And as it's Mothering Sunday today I thought I'd show a photograph of my mother and her two sons, taken during the war. Bob is on the left and I am on the right. Long gone but never forgotten.

Now to get back to the Flueologist and his cat, Costya. 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

A Nice Day Out

It was my sister-in-law Val's birthday on Valentine's Day last Sunday so my young friend and I took her out for the day. We drove to The Vyne near Sherborne St. John where this Tudor house nestles next to a mystical lake and surrounded by lush gardens. 

As we approached the house we saw this summerhouse. Built in 1635, it is the earliest domed garden building in England. It's built in the shape of a Greek cross. 

After a ten minute walk to the house...

...we entered to find that the Tudor stained glass windows had only this week been returned to the mansion after months of extensive restoration. The scaffolding had been left in place so we were able to climb up to see the windows up close. 

Full of interesting rooms - here's one of them

We progressed to a long hallway where busts of Charles I and his arch enemy, Oliver Cromwell, stood together side by side.

Later that evening my young friend made a lovely dinner for the three of us. Val is blowing out the candles on her birthday cake.

It's still February but this year I'm determined to make full use of my boats on the river. Marsh Mundy, the 23ft Scandinavian-made cruiser, is being thoroughly looked over. New carburettors. Filler cap, gaskets, repair of fuel gauge, horn and petrol tank plus several other things which I don't understand - all will be ready for a big spring clean at the end of March. My little wooden dinghy - Marsh Midget - is having its bottom completely sanded, 'leak proofed with'goo' (my technical description), and varnished. So both boats should be ready for the spring (if my money doesn't run out!). 

My workload has varied a lot lately. Currently I've started my biggest painting ever. It measures about 3 feet by 4 feet, is in oil on linen canvas and will depict 'The Royal Flueologist' with his black cat sitting on his shoulder. This is the first week's progress. 

And in complete contrast I have just finished two tiny miniature portraits measuring less than one inch high. They are of a Malay Sultan dressed in all his Royal regalia and will eventually be placed in elaborate gold and diamond encrusted brooches to be worn by the Sultana at official and other royal occasions. I'll post them on my blog after I deliver them to my client and she gives permission. 
However here's something I did ten days ago.

It's a pencil drawing of Michael Eavis CBE. As you probably know he was the originator of the Glastonbury Festival. Each summer this music festival is held on his land in Somerset. Three years ago he opened the Hilliard Society's miniature art show in Wells, and as he is well-known to the local people I have framed this drawing and offered it as a raffle prize in the Hilliard's show this coming June. 
Most of the larger art Exhibtions and Institutions these days, when asking artists to submit work, state that in the first instance they send images by email. Although this may save time and make it easier for the judges, I wonder whether the work can really be appreciated. The Royal Academy and all other Art Societies that exhibit at the prestigious Mall Galleries now follow this practice. What usually happens is that after the closing date for submissions a selected few of the artists are asked to bring their work in person to the galleries. In this way, for example, over 4,000 entries to the RA's summer exhibition final selection for hanging can be reduced to just a few hundred. So I felt honoured that one of my large watercolour paintings reached the final hurdle last week and has been selected to hang in April's Royal Institute of Water Colour Painters exhibition in the Mall Galleries. This is the painting - entitled 'The Boatman'.

We took the painting to the Malll Galleries last Saturday and heard that it had been accepted for hanging by the following Wednesday. So out of a submission total of over 600 I'm rather pleased that my picture was to be displayed amongst the two hundred or so finalists. 

I'll end this blog on a very sad note. My good friend Paul Daniels has just been diagnosed as suffering from an incurable brain tumour. Paul, as everyone knows, is a world- class and most famous magician. He and Debbie have been friends of mine for over twenty years and although Debbie told me the devastating news a week ago it reached the press only yesterday. Apart from being incredibly talented Paul has been a really kind and caring friend.