Tally Ho!

The other day I heard a clattering of hooves in the distance and as it got louder I looked out of my window to see a marvellous old stage coach go past, fully loaded with passengers and pulled by four horses. In the hope there would be more I grabbed my camera and just managed to take this picture as the second and last coach went past. What a lovely sight – wish I’d been one of the passengers. It reminded me of a scene from ‘The Pickwick Papers’. I can just see myself as Mr Pickwick going off for a ride around the country.

I enlarged my website the other day, by adding a page devoted to pencil drawings and including another one featuring Trompe L’Oeil paintings. Also there are one or two other additions. If you are interested click on the words "pencil drawings" and "Trompe L'Oeil" above to see the pages.

Rolf Harris is currently exhibiting new paintings at the Clarendon Gallery in Dover Street, London. I was invited to the private view there on Saturday afternoon. Jilly came with me and we were lucky to find a single parking space within a few yards of the gallery. But instead of having to put coins into the meter you had to dial a number and pay by credit card. What a rigmarole that was! Because of the noise of the traffic going past I could only intermittently hear what was being said at the other end - partly a real person and sometimes to a recorded voice. After I’d entered the car registration number and the meter’s numbered location I had to enter my credit card number, expiry date and all sorts of other information. Eventually I think they had what they wanted, but have no idea whether I really completed the transaction. So I wait either a hefty bill on my credit card, or a fine for not paying the parking charge for the two hours we were there. I’m sure it’s really very simple – but not for me on that particular occasion. The exhibition was really good however – after a half hour wait in the cold till it officially opened. When it was my turn to go in it seems they hadn’t included my name on the official list so a big black-suited guy complete with earpiece refused to let me enter the gallery. But I managed to persuade him that I was a mate of Rolf’s and he finally let me in. Here’s a picture I took recently of Rolf in his studio painting one of the pictures on display.

Yesterday I was in London again – this time to attend the opening of The Royal Society of Miniaturists Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries. In addition to displaying what was, in my opinion, one of our very best shows, a special loan exhibition of Royal Portrait Miniatures was mounted. We were very privileged as these miniatures included a watercolour miniature portrait of Henry VIII by Lucas Horenbout painted in 1544.

Horenbout (or Hornebolte) was the father of the art of miniature painting and is credited with producing the first portrait miniature as an independent work of art. Previously the miniaturists art had been confined to making portraits that were integral to manuscript documents. Altogether there were about 35 miniatures on display, many framed by glittering surrounds of diamonds.

The RMS’s Gold Memorial Bowl is the highest award that can be won by a miniature painter. Each year a replica is also given to the winner to keep. The 22carat gold bowl itself was destined this year to be returned to the bank immediately after the private view because with the rapid recent rise in the value of gold it is now worth a staggering amount. Those of us who have been recipients of this award in the past can appreciate that our silver-gilt replicas have tripled in value. (Not that anyone would ever consider selling them!). Here is jeweller and talented sculptor Paul Eaton and his daughter together with the gold bowl and its replica.

There are now eleven awards given out each year by the society. Amongst them is my ‘Mundy Sovereign Portrait Award’ for the best portrait in the exhibition, in my opinion. This award was inaugurated in 1984 – one year before the gold bowl was inaugurated. 

This year I gave it to Iain Gardniner for his splendid miniature ‘Reflection from the Portrait Restaurant’. It’s so good to see such excellent work done by younger artists. Here is Iain having been presented with his award by Dr Stephen Lloyd FSA who opened the exhibition.

The other day my young friend invited me to the 60th birthday party for one of her colleagues to be held at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley on Friday evening.. “You won’t know anyone there” she said. Nevertheless I was happy to go along and got there at the appointed hour. No one else seemed to have arrived so I wandered into the Thames Room where the party was to be held and saw just three people standing in the corner. As I approached them, the youngest of the trio – a very tall girl – cried out “It’s Bill!” It turned out that Joceline – for it was she – was the daughter of the guest of honour. Joceline was worried that she’d know no one at the party and here was I, who’d know her for nearly three years - Joceline being the girl I’d painted many times. When the rest of the party arrived my young friend (who’d met Joceline in the past but had no idea she was the daughter of her colleague) was astounded. Incidentally here is the large drawing I made of Joceline recently.