Sledmere is a small village in the midst of the delightful Yorkshire Wolds. The village is part of the Sledmere House estate. This magnificent country house and its extensive grounds are open to the public. There is a circular walk that takes in all the attractions of the estate and this is part of it. The woods are quite extensive and full of ancient trees. I like to paint old trees especially those situated in dense woodland. Because of the competition they have have to grow tall and straight to get the light they need. These are pretty impressive beeches, some of which must be over two hundred years old . There is nothing finer than a quiet stroll through these silent sentinels who have witnessed so many changes during their lifetime. There are lots of myths and legends surrounding trees so here's a question for you - why do trees lose their leaves in winter? You might think you know the answer but please check out these wise words.......we can all learn something from them!
I sold this painting today which of course, is always good for any painter - the best critic is the one who parts with his hard earned cash! I painted it during a workshop at the Orangery in Sewerby Hall. I knew that Merice had made a couple of small videos while we were doing the workshop and I wanted to find them to send to the buyer. With me so far? Good. I'm at an age where I soon get distracted so of course as soon as I began the search, I forgot what I was looking for. Some of you will know just what I am talking about..and if not..you will eventually!
Anyway, after a nice ramble round YouTube and a dip into my old photos I was left with a nice collection of memories themed round my spell as Artist in the Park at Sewerby Hall. This naturally led me to my time as Artist in Residence at Burton Agnes Hall. Don't I move in elevated circles - not bad for a kid from a council estate near Leeds. Have you heard the people who say they used to live in these grand houses in another life? You must have. What amuses me though is that they were all Lords and Ladies or Princesses or the like- never the servants. Have you noticed that? Well I know my place - I would have been in the stables shoveling horse..oops there I go again - getting distracted! Back to the matter at hand - I'd like to share a couple of these memories with you.
I had the privilege of being artist in the park at Sewerby Hall for the first two years of the scheme. I live literally just across the road from the Hall, so this was a very convenient arrangement for me. The sunny days were spent strolling round the grounds, sketchbook in hand, chatting to the visitors and having numerous tea breaks...sometimes it rained - so then inside, sketchbook in hand, chatting to the visitors interspersed with numerous tea breaks...yes a very pleasant way indeed of passing a couple of weeks.Now no-one could ever accuse me of being a workaholic but I thought I'd better make some effort to justify my existence. I decided to do a painting of the house. So I set up the easel directly in front of the imposing facade and made a start. A very talented East Riding artist called Walter Goodin had painted a very similiar view of the house in oils. Although I was painting in watercolour I didn't want to compete with him, so decided to paint the house by moonlight. It took me several days and I was often surrounded by interested people as well as other artists so it was good fun. I was pleased with the result and presented it to the Hall manager. She loved it and it was proudly displayed in her office. Sadly, although very young, she died suddenly. I was pleased to discover that the painting she loved so much had been donated to her family to keep as a memorial of her time at the Hall.
Being Artist in Residence at Burton Agnes was an altogether different experience. Because I lived in York at the time, Merice and I were given a flat without any charges for a whole month - we literally were artists in residence. I had this privilege for several happy years sharing the summerhouse with my one time mentor and good friend Tony Hogan. Click on the painting for the story behind it. Here's a couple more paintings from those happy days- Burton Agnes Hall by day and night from almost the same location. You will notice that after the big painting of the Hall, I always made sure there were plenty of trees to obscure it!
I included the iPad painting to highlight the different effects you can achieve with this exciting new medium...and it's a lot easier painting buildings with it! That's all for now. I would just like to say thank you to all readers who got this far without getting distracted or wandering off.
This is a cautionary tale for all artists especially of the 'starving variety. We all need the money but....be careful! I painted this watercolour to form part of my contribution to the "Colours of the Wolds" Exhibition held at Bridlington Spa in August 2012. It was a selling exhibition and I always maintain that the best critics are the ones who part with their hard earned cash, so you can imagine my delight when I received an email asking to buy it. The customer was named Peter Reich and he had seen it on my Fine Art of America webpage. I had uploaded all my images onto that site on the same day we started the 'live' exhibition. He said he had seen it there and what was the best price I would take for it. Now a sale is a sale - so we negotiated £400 unframed plus postage. He said he would send me a bankers draft for an amount to include that plus enough to cover postage and packing. He had a 'bone fide' collectors page on Fine Art of America and I had no reason to doubt that things were kosher, so I removed the painting from the exhibition and waited for my money. It took about a week but finally an envelope arrived with a postage stamp from Trinidad and inside - a Barclay's Bank Draft for £800. Yes - £800. Now let me see...£400 for the painting..why that left £400 to cover the shipping costs. Mmmmm...very strange. I took the the draft down to my bank who pronounced the draft as genuine but just to get final confirmation I also called in at a Barclay's branch. They too said it seemed like the real thing, but if I would like to leave it with them overnight they would check it out for me. The following day they rang me and guess what....it was a fake.
So what's the scam? Apparently although my bank would have accepted the draft, it takes 21 days to clear. In the meantime I would have sent the painting and the balance of his money, after deducting shipping costs, to his nominated address and have been well and truly out of pocket! Good job we followed the old Yorkshire motto - "If it sounds too good to be true...it probably is!".
Finally, click on this link and enjoy some 'proper' music - a good old fashioned rocker from the Beatles.
Warning - this blog contains passages of explicit nostalgia probably unintelligible to anyone under fifty!
Over the last couple of days I've had the great pleasure of spending time with some old friends. Inevitably our conversation turned to the 'Good Old Days' when we were younger. Stan comes originally from the US of A but he married a lass from Hull and his wife remembers the days when Hull was a thriving fishing port. While the men were at sea, the women would congregate together and help each other. Jo said it was a not uncommon sight in those days to see a house emptied of all its contents while the women got stuck in and gave the house a real good clean! Another time it would be the turn of someone else to receive the help with their home.While this was in progress all the furniture was just left in the street but as Stan ruefully stated "You couldn't do that now - it would all be nicked!". Of course there was a darker side to Hull too. Ozzy is an ex policeman and he remembers that as a young bobby he had to very careful when searching houses for stolen goods. Razor blades were embedded in airing cupboards to slice the fingers of an unwary bobby! But in general we all agreed that none of us had any particular desire to be young again in these times. In our generation nobody had to lock their doors and us, as kids, had a degree of freedom unimaginable to young ones today. For instance did you have a 'Blue Beck'? Of course you did. Everybody had a blue beck or somewhere similiar - the place where we jumped the streams or fell in, where we splashed in the water or climbed trees.Looking back - weren't some of the leaps dangerous? We had names for the different jumps - 'two stream crossing', 'iron water', and the most fearsome of all - 'Devil's End'! I bet you had one like that too. So my painting is not a real place. It's a distillation of childhood joy and pleasure, of jam sandwiches and whole days spent in the great outdoors without fear - happy days. Stan left me a parting gift - the second 'coolest' hat in England! He has the 'coolest' of course but I can live with being second. This hat came from Minneapolis or Minnesota - I can't remember which (Stan- if you read this, please let me know.) - and is definitely cool. Do you want to see it?
Now how 'cool' is that? Have a great visit to your 'Blue Beck'.
Professional artist now semi retired and enjoying being eccentric!