Only 63 Days to Christmas!

Each year I paint and print my own Christmas card. It costs a fortune as I send out almost 300. Many of my friends collect them so I feel I have to carry on. At the beginning of the year I thought I'd get ahead of myself and painted a stained-glass window design and invented a couple of side windows with glass snowflakes. But the final result looked too real - not like a painting at all.
Then in the late summer I worked out a design based on a nice snow-covered tree I'd seen by Marsh Lock in the winter. That took another 10 days - and I still wasn't sure. So last week I painted a couple of clowns I'd met at Debbie and Paul's party and by adding a red Christmas hat to one of them and a holly and berry design to the pointed white hat of the other. This card took all week to paint, but still I'm not 100% happy! So I'll probably end up by using my Carousel painting now as the time is drawing near to start printing them off.

Last Monday morning I'd booked a midday slot at the Tate Modern to see the new Gauguin exhibition. It was a lovely sunny morning as I emerged from the tube at Mansion House and made my way across the Millennium bridge to the Tate. Gauguin's desire to start a new life in the South Seas has always intrigued me. In fact I very nearly emulated him in the late sixties when I first visited Bali. There was just one hotel on the island then and because of the infrequency of flights, hardly ever more than 250 tourists were there at any one time. The whole ambience and real mystery of Bali overwhelmed me. I met the famous Dutch artist Han Snel and Ari Schmidt, but most of all an artist called Blanco. His work was superb and you approached his castle - yes castle, over a rope bridge spanning a deep ravine.
I was so intrigued with Bali - all the Balinese are artistic - painters, woodcarvers, dancers, musicians - I very nearly resigned my executive career in an international advertising agency to become a painter in that paradise! So I could so easily understand Paul Gauguin's infatuation with his tropical paradise. These are two of my favourite Gauguin paintings:

I wasn't overly impressed with the earlier drawings and paintings but just loved his use of colour and design in the Tahitian and Polynesian work.
Later that day I made my way to the Mall Galleries for the opening of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters annual exhibition. It was good to meet so many old friends there. Rupert Maas opened the exhibition at 3.30 and presented most of the prizes. (Among his many attributes Rupert is the picture expert on 'The Antiques Road Show'.) I was awarded the Bonhams prize by Jennifer Tonkin - Bonhams miniature expert.

The award reads in part - "Bonhams is delighted to judge and award this prize in recognition of an artist whose work best upholds the traditional values of miniature portrait painting"

I mentioned in a previous blog that I'd donated a miniature the other week at an auction on Temple Island at a lavish lunch in aid of Henley's Kenton Theatre. Well I finished the painting last week. It was of Barry Wood's 7 year-old granddaughter, and he loved it. Here she is (with his permission).

A couple of evenings ago Val and I went over to Wokingham to have dinner with Jill, my cousin, at her daughter Samantha's home. There's nothing I like better than a good home-cooked meal. No fancy names either. So Jill's lamb stew went down a treat. Mat, Samantha's young son joined us. Such a good looking and intelligent lad, he was talking about a recent school trip when they visited the battlefields in Europe. It's good to know that these periods in history are being covered in such a practical way. Mat was intrigued to learn about some of the battles of World War One while actually standing on the very site of the conflicts.

So Paul was voted out of Strictly Come Dancing last week. Shame. I think the judges just didn't understand the reason Paul and Ola injected humour into the Rumba. They thought that as Paul is so much older than Ola it would have appeared a bit unseemly for them to appear raunchy together as is so often portrayed in this dance.

A fantastic new book about miniature portrait painting has just been published. It's entitled 'The Arturi Phillips Collection' and illustrates the work of over 400 portrait miniature painters. Starting with Nicholas Hilliard in the 16th Century it is so brilliant in that each artist is illustrated on the left hand side of a double page spread with a write-up about the artist, the sitter and method of working. But best of all on the right hand page is a real close up of the face. This means that we can fully appreciate the different styles of working. Amongst the old masters illustrated I was delighted to find that of only three living artists one of my portraits was there. It's of an old friend of mine - Jimmy Kelso - a very fine artist and author.