The splendid weather has drawn me out of my little Shepherds Bush compound and I have been soaking up the glories of Sloane Square, South Kensington and Kensington Gardens in early Spring. There is little to rival the excitement of working directly from the subject. But the plein air artist must contend with plenty of hazards, too.
Do I know know the way to the Sloane Avenue? What’s the parking like round here? May my photograph be taken? So, how much do you sell that for, mate? Etc.
One overhears delightful snippets of chat: ‘Yah, ay’m in Slaine Squarrh, Jessicah’s picking me up in the King’s Rade’, and working outside the Colbert restaurant on the corner of Eaton Place, a stone’s throw from where my own Sloaney education began at Eaton House school in the 70s, I have been well looked after by both passers-by and the restaurant itself. I suppose this week I have sort of become their temporary resident artist, and the sight of a waiter yesterday gliding out with a silver pot of coffee, warm milk and proper china cup and saucer- for me!-was gladdening to the soul. It’s all very…French, really. Beautiful people wandering about looking great in the sunshine.
Speaking of French – what is more French than South Kensington? I thought I had retired to a safe distance by the Albert memorial in Kensington Gardens on Wednesday, but at 4pm an army of pre-teens surged through the gates at the top of Exhibition Road and charged me. No, they are not charging me. I’m OK! They are heading for the bushes for a sort of super-charged game of hide-and-seek. One of them for a dare comes up to me and stares intently: ‘allo!’ and then gives me the bird, amid gails of Gallic laughter from the group a few feet away.
See what I have to put up with? It’s not easy, you know.
I have started a dozen paintings over the bright spell, and it might lead to a body of work for the next exhibition. Certainly something here for the Chelsea Art Society, whose Coucil I have recently joined www.chelseaartsociety.org.uk. Making hay, as they say.