This week has been busy but not in the sense of putting in the easel hours.
I was selecting work for the Chelsea Art Society’s annual show on Monday, having been asked to be a Council member by Julian Barrow during the course of last year. It was a complete revelation to sit on a hanging committee for the day: submitting work to open exhibitions is very much part of most artists’ lives, and we have all been there- ‘there’ being in my case the Mall Galleries where I have submitted work to the New English Art Club and The Royal Society of Portrait Painters, not to mention the Laing Landscape competition and Discerning Eye, over many years. You pay the entry price, you fill in a form, you wait. Sometimes you get in, and sometimes you don’t: and what I realised on Monday was, so often that depends on whether the hanging committee are hungry or tired (very often they are both), and whether your particular still life or view of the Thames is sandwiched between other similar work, or whether you have done something a little too big to hang easily. In other words, there are many talented artists and many very good paintings, but not everything gets onto the walls that deserves to.
But the process was fun, and I enjoyed meeting my fellow Council members, and having plenty of banter with them over the course of the day. At the private view I was also very pleased to have the chance to meet Ken Howard and have the opportunity to talk with such a distinguished painter. We shared stories about getting our feet wet in Venice due to being caught by the rapidly rising aqua alta (high tides), and my love of William Nicholson’s work – Ken Howard’s studio in Chelsea was formerly that of William Orpen, and the Nicholsons stayed there and were painted by Orpen. Ken is a brilliant painter but he is so lucky to have a fabulous studio (studios in fact) to work from.
The week ended with a talk I gave at Ludgrove, my old prep school. Times have changed, school buildings get rebuilt or improved, but the boys look and sound very much the same, and they were charming, polite and enthusiastic. I talked about how I came to have a career as an artist, then gave a brief painting demonstration.
There was no shortage of volunteers to sit for me for 15 minutes, while I talked through my process for starting a painting. There followed a barrage of questions, ranging from ‘Have you ever been photographed by the paparazzi?’ (my favourite), to ‘Do pictures get better the longer you work on them?’- a question of dizzying brilliance and trenchancy. I answered that the agonising thing is, we never really know. Sometimes they get better, sometimes they get worse. That is the terrible -and wonderful-thing about painting!