Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Shampoos, Hospitals, and Uncle Rufus....

"Forest Light"
I had occasion to visit hospital today to see a consultant and this was not going to be as straightforward as I thought.
In the first place my wife insisted that not only did I have to have a shower - I could agree with that, but also I had to wash my hair - I couldn't quite see the point of that as the consultant would be looking at my knees not my head.
However as an experienced husband of over thirty years I knew better than to argue so there I was in the shower contemplating the range of shampoos. The old outside toilet has been converted into our shower room and unfortunately the central heating ends in the kitchen. This means that the shower room is  as cold as if still  outdoors - even on a good day you can see your breath - and this is the middle of November which is not a 'good' day.
We have a large range of shampoos from organic 'top of the range' to the highly toxic 'cheapies' that the grand-kids bring to use as they don't like Grandma's organics. I chose a 'mid range' combination of shampoo and conditioner following the simple formula that they were the only ones I could get the lid off. The snazzy looking container informed me that I was washing my hair in a gentle but exhilarating solution that contained apricots. Apparently apricots will leave me with a lasting shine....what more can I say.
We have a metal stopper that fits over the drain hole. It fits extremely tightly and does an excellent job of keeping the bugs out. Unfortunately it also does a very good job of keeping the water in and when the water level was somewhere round my knees, I realised that I had left the darned thing in.  Putting on my dressing gown, soaking wet, and with my hair plastered in apricot conditioner I  had to get Merice to rescue me. She gave me a knife that I used to prise the grate off and allow the water to run away.
The next hurdle to negotiate was what to wear to see a consultant. It seemed a moot point as I would be removing my trousers anyway but I was instructed to put on my 'best' ones. The last time I wore these was in January to visit the Royal Academy - now that was worth making a fuss of, but dutifully I demurred.
So dressed in my 'best' and with hair shining we finally made it to the hospital.The first thing is to find somewhere to park. This I eventually did but it was so far away from the entrance that I decided to wait for the hospital shuttle bus!
Remember I had an appointment with a consultant about my damaged knees. I don't suppose he just dealt with knees but probably all kind of arthritic ailments that made it very difficult for his patients to get about. That being the case you would have thought he would be given suitable rooms near the entrance to see his hapless patients - but no. His assigned rooms were right at the back of the hospital and this meant another long hike down endless corridors following the green line for me and other poor sods caught up in the treadmill.
The consultant though was very pleasant. He seemed to know what he was talking about and looked the kind of man you could trust to stick a knife into you....as if!
He asked me if I was happy - I said "yes"- "Good" he replied "come back and see me just before you get miserable and I'll sort your knees out then."
My kind of medical lingo, and my kind of consultant.
Uncle Rufus never went to hospital and he did not wash his hair for the last thirty years of his life. You wouldn't know it though for after a while his own scalp oils worked their magic and his hair was luxuriant and shining without the assistance of apricot or anything else. He died aged 94 after a long fulfilling life. He only gave up then because his beloved Mary had gone and he didn't want to live without her.
I hope I do as well.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Of Baths, Barbers and Beatle Cuts....

"The Enigmatic Eleanor Rigby
I was born in 1950 which means that I was a teenager in the so called "swinging sixties".
This was not quite as glamorous as it may sound.
Indeed it wasn't until 1961 that we moved to a house that actually had electricity!
Previous  to that my family lived in an old semi detached farmhouse labourer's house. As I said there was no electricity and lighting was provided by gas. We had the old gas mantles and they were very delicate so lighting them with a taper was a very difficult operation best left to grown ups. There was no running hot water and it goes without saying that the toilet was outside about a hundred yards away with hardly any roof left.  Can you imagine having to use that on a cold winter's night...no we didn't either! Bath night was a once a week family occasion in the old tin tub. The house was certainly semi detached - the end wall of the other house had literally fallen down. We were evacuated twice by the fire brigade who immediately condemned the property. However despite it's obvious shortcomings I remember being very happy there and though dark, the house always seemed warm and friendly. We lived next door to a timber yard and as my dad sometimes worked for 'Chippy' Schofield, we were never short of wood to burn. Incidentally bread toasted on a fork over an open fire is quite simply the best toast there is.
However the council had to provide us with accommodation so they pulled out all the stops to make one property habitable on a new building site and we duly moved in - the only inhabitants of Moorland Avenue.
This is not quite accurate as there already existed an old Moorland Avenue but this was always known locally as "Hollywood" because of the number of "stars" who lived there. That is another story for another day!
When we moved in we had no carpets but at least we had electricity and I remember my sister and me being enthralled by the light switches, switching them on and off to our amusement and annoyance of mam and dad.
Over the next few years our lot improved - carpets, nice furniture and eventually a telly.
And then in 1963 the Beatles appeared and so began the "Swinging Sixties".
Now to say that my village Gildersome was caught up in this new phenomenon would be a slight exaggeration to say the least. But we did have the most wonderful music of any era before or since and we had the Beatles which meant we had to have the Beatle Cut!
Our village, as every other small village in the old West Riding of Yorkshire, was self sufficient so we had our own barber's shop and incumbent barber - one Clifford Pitts. Clifford or 'The Barber' as he was universally called had a small shop attached to the local village pub (another story or stories some day!) and of course he cut men's hair only - unisex had not yet been invented. He opened on Saturdays only.  He was a cloth cutter at one of the mills in his day job and this constant practise with the sharp shears ensured he was well qualified to cut the hair of the men of Gildersome.
So off we went as thirteen year olds, down to the barbers.
The barber was well used to generations of teenagers asking for different styles through the decades from the teddy boy quiff to a D.A. (ask your dad!) so he was certainly not phased by a request for a "Beatle Cut please barber". "Reet lad" he'd reply and set to work pausing only to dispense 'something for the weekend' and  tips for the next race to passing males.
The trouble was that no matter what you (or anyone else for that matter) asked for, he always cut your hair exactly the same - short back and sides.
"That doesn't look like the Beatle Cut barber " you might dare to suggest....."It would if they came in here lad!" was the succinct reply!
Happy days indeed and we still have that glorious music to bring it all back to life.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Of Boxes, Hugs and 'Ar' Billy.....

"At Eventide"
Original watercolour
Glenn Marshall

I went to a funeral yesterday. I never met the man but to all of his large family, including my wife, he was simply 'Ar' Billy.
Funerals are funny things - not the most apposite adjective of course - but you know what I mean. People do 'funny' things at funerals and are affected in 'funny' ways.
It's also strange that  funerals are the only occasions where the main character is missing...at christenings we have a baby, at weddings we have a happy couple but at funerals all we have is........well ... a box.
Billy was a poet and songwriter so his box was painted white and decorated with guitars and musical notes - in fact the family called it "The Music Box" as Billy loved his music even more than his beer and fags. The music played was written by Billy himself and performed by his younger brother Steve. It was very moving and very cool at the same time.
After the committal we drove twenty miles to Billy's favourite watering hole - East End Park Working Mens Club. The booze flowed freely and the buffet was good. Everybody told the compulsory funny story about Billy and as the afternoon progressed I realised that I was wrong.
Billy was not missing - in fact he was more 'present' than he had probably ever been. He was the thread that connected this large gathering and each time they mentioned him, he was there. I hope the family keep him present for a long time - he must have been a nice guy.
Of course funerals are times to show emotions. Now my family do not make an open show of emotion and I was not brought up to do so.. which brings me nicely to the subject of hugs.
What are your thoughts about hugging?
I'm hopeless. My wife tells me that my hands are extremely warm. She admits that this is quite nice in some situations but that is another story and we have a licence.
It's the people I don't have a licence for that cause me problems.
Living in Yorkshire the idea of 'man' hugging seldom arises. We make do with a 'manly' handshake or in extreme circumstances (usually the result of some female insistence)  it is a quick hug with minimum contact, perhaps a perfunctory pat on the shoulder, soon over and done with.
But it's the females who cause the hugging problems. Where do I put these red hot hands - on her shoulders,on her back, lower down or what? What about eye contact? Do I give her a peck on the cheek or offer mine to her? It's a minefield and that is just the younger women. What about the older ones, the ones who crush you in a breathless grip - it's very tricky to know what to do.
I say this because I was observing my lovely wife yesterday moving among her family dispensing hugs with such  warmth, so naturally and so gracefully that people were genuinely touched.
It made me think of all the times I wished I had hugged her and told her that I loved her - but didn't..a bit sad this keeping your emotions in check.
So I will now put this right. Merice - this is for all the opportunities that were missed - here's a big hug and "I love you.".
There I told you that funerals make you do 'funny' things..so get a grip man - tighten those shoulders, straighten that back, keep calm and carry on as normal!

Monday, 12 November 2012

"Cottage in the Snow"
Original watercolour
Glenn Marshall

Twas Christmas Day in the workhouse...no it wasn't...it was a cold December morning in Gallery Forty-Nine, Old Town,  Bridlington.
It was freezing  and I was contemplating a long day that would culminate in a music and poetry evening at the gallery followed by a long ride home to York probably in icy fog. Now - music I could probably cope with but poetry! And to make matters worse my dear wife, who was manager of the gallery, had decided that we should make an effort so I would have to change into something 'suitable' for the evening entertainment.
Although I had a lovely studio in the back room of the gallery my demeanor was hardly suited to any worthwhile inspiration.
Fortunately I had a visitor.
Margaret is a friend who took me under her wing and as she knows what she is talking about in all matters concerning art, her advice was (and still is) always welcome.
She suggested that I paint a simple little painting of a cottage in the snow.
She even assured me that it would sell!
I set to work and slowly as the painting developed, I warmed up. I wanted to make the cottage warm and inviting in contrast to the coldness all around. I used a lot of colour on the snow itself to give the impression of reflected light  leading to this lovely warm, safe haven.
Guess what... Margaret was right...the original painting sold that very same evening and since then has been my number one bestseller in prints and cards.
As for the dreaded evening. Well it was great. The gallery was packed with enthusiastic supporters and the performers were brilliant. Pete Bolton, the musician, has become a friend since that evening. But the real revelation was the poetry. To hear it read by the author just exactly how she imagined it was a mesmerising experience and opened my eyes to be more receptive to other forms of art, and even the ride home was safe and uneventful.
"Optimism doesn't wait on facts. It deals with prospects. Pessimism is a waste of time" - Norman Cousins.
Lesson learned.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Robots, Scarves and Private Viewings.....

Whitby Sunrise
iPad Painting
Glenn Marshall

It's official - I am a robot or should that be I...AM...A...ROBOT...exterminate, EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE....sorry got a bit carried away there.
But I am a robot. Google says I am so I must be. This was decided after I failed  to read the scrambled letters that Google said would prove I was NOT a robot. After twenty wrong goes at it - I gave up and decided I must be a robot so there you have it.
Being a robot though does have its advantages. For one thing robots don't get invited to special preview evenings at art exhibitions.
When you first receive that 'special' invitation for you and a guest to attend a 'private' viewing it is always a bit flattering. But as any non-robot knows there are certain pitfalls to be avoided at all costs.
Do not wear slashed jeans and t shirts. This will not make you look like a 'devil-may-care' artist ..it will make you look a prat. The 'real' artists wear white linen with an air of casual elegance.Even if you are in a room full of casually elegant white linen  it is still easy to spot the artist..he or she will be wearing a brightly coloured scarf. This is compulsory even in the middle of a heatwave - artists wear scarves.
Definitely, definitely do not wear purple velvet. An artist friend of mine did but, unfortunately,  his suit exactly matched the plush purple velvet curtains draped so decorously around the gallery. For the whole evening he was called the invisible man and people kept trying to 'draw' him.
Do not stand anywhere near your own works of art..this is too risky as you will always be disappointed by what you hear...especially if you are a 'modern' artist.
It is inevitable that at some time you will be asked your 'honest' opinion of some 'masterpiece'.
In this case honesty is probably not the best policy. Simply follow the sterling example of a great friend of mine Margaret Hockney who has been involved with the art scene all her life. ...look earnestly at the piece for a few seconds, nod your head a couple of times and then say with conviction - "Very interesting and well framed!".
Ah well food calls....now what do robots eat?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Concerning chickens,cakes and commissions...

"Out to Sea"
Original watercolour
by Glenn Marshall

I have been commissioned to illustrate a children's book about an adventurous chicken. This is not my usual genre but it could turn out to be quite lucrative and when I accepted the project it seemed so far in the future that I would have lots of time to look up,  research, learn and practise the various techniques leaving me  fully equipped and confident of doing a good job. Of course I did none of these laudable things and now am faced with having to complete a full series of sketches for next week.
Having a deadline though is not such a bad thing - it means my drawings will be fresh, loose and full of spontaneity rather than technically correct and boring...this is what I am telling myself of course!
So this afternoon I am going to grab the bull by the horns(or in this case the chicken by the beak) and get cracking (no pun intended!).
However this has made me think about commissions in general.
Now it seems almost heresy to suggest that commissions could possibly be anything but a 'good' thing - after all you have a subject to paint and a guaranteed sale for an agreed price. So what could possibly go wrong?
The first commission I received after I became a 'professional' painter turned out to be a steep learning curve for me. I was given a good price to paint two hotels (no not emulsion - do paintings of) for a client in York.
As this was my first ever commission I took a lot of time, and I do mean a lot of time, to get the first one right and when I presented it to the client he was satisfied with the outcome. I followed the same procedure for the second one but when I presented this one he was not so sure. "Leave it with me" he said, "I'll put it on the wall and see how it looks over the next few days"
After a couple of weeks he got in touch and said he didn't like it and wouldn't be buying it. I was too embarrassed to even go get it back and I don't know what he did with it to this day many years later. By the time I worked out the number of hours involved and the cost of framing both paintings, it was very clear that my first foray into this field was not an unqualified success.
Lessons learned but here are some tips that may help you to avoid the same mistakes:
The basic difficulty to overcome is that you are painting someone else's vision. As a painter you will know it is hard enough to paint your own vision, let alone someone else's - so get as much information as possible from the client about what he wants. Talk about colours, seasons, places and always make a series of sketches so the client can choose what he likes best.  I always do a quick watercolour sketch later so the client can get a rough idea of how the painting will turn out and confirm he is still happy with the layout and the colours.
Now this takes time and money so make sure you include this in your price. Above all make sure you obtain a non refundable deposit that will cover these expenses. If you are presenting your painting unframed it is a good idea to get it 'backed and wrapped' with a plain mount - it looks better and only costs a few pounds.
 I hope this will help you to have successful commissions.
My last job before commencing with the adventurous chicken is to bake a fruit cake.
We will be open every Sunday afternoon from 1230 - 1530, here at Finley House on Main Street, Sewerby so if you are in the area please call in and have a look ..there might even be a piece of cake left!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Why we need art.

"Girl by Moonlight"
iPad painting
Glenn Marshall
"An artist is somebody who produces things that people don't need to have." - Andy Warhol

I always think that the best critic is the person who parts with their hard earned cash to obtain a painting. In view of Andy Warhol's quote above, this is the absolute proof that the buyer admires and appreciates your skills.
So I am pleased that the large iPad painting above was bought this weekend and will hang on someone else's wall. I have been asked if I ever feel sorry to see one go...the answer is a resounding NO.
When one goes, it means space for another and this gives a great motive for carrying on painting.
Our open studio weekend was a great success and we will be opening every Sunday afternoon between 12 noon and 4 pm.
Please come along and pop in - there is no obligation - I just want you to enjoy what we do.
In these difficult times it is nice just to take time out and relax - surely that is the point of art..to provide a little escape from everyday life, to stimulate the imagination and to provide the viewer with something to think about.