Saturday, 21 December 2013

Busy, busy, busy

Now that my exhibition is well under way I've been able to devote myself to Christmas and get on with the commissions promised before next Tuesday. This miniature portrait of a lovely little 6 month old baby called Felix was delivered to his grandparents the other day. They loved it and told me they intend to give it to the parents.

The other day my young friend and I went to see the latest Hobbit film. I was pleased it was the 2D version as although it would have been quite spectacular in 3D - especially the last half hour when an enormous fiery dragon was roaring its way through a vast underground cavern - but having only one good eye, the 3D effect doesn't work for me, unfortunately.
We looked out for house decorations the other evening. Saw this one in Peppard

But looked for and couldn't find the one I really wanted to see

It's out there somewhere!

Last night my young friend and I took my great niece Kate and her mother Louisa to the pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, in Reading.

It was fabulous. Debbie McGee played the part of the magical Queen of the flower fairies. The costumes, sets and scenery were great - and as for the giant, apparently it is the biggest giant in pantomime. At least 20 feet high, I have no idea how it worked, but it was stupendous. The pantomime had so much colour. Such a happy cast. However the most thrilling scene for me was the dance of the cockroaches! All the performers were covered in shiny black costumes. Great. We had a little chat with Debbie at the stage door after the show ended. Kate had a great time.

Talking of little Kate - she's 6 by the way, this is the Christmas card she painted. It was printed by her school.

This afternoon I took the miniature I've just finished round to Mike Read. It's of his girlfriend Vanessa. Hope she likes it as much as he seemed to. I'll see if I can show it on my blog after Christmas.
The rest of today I spent working on the model of my young friend's garden I've been making in my spare time over the last few weeks. Nearly done, now I just have to wait for the glue to dry to finish it off.

It's nearly Christmas. All my presents (over 60 of them) are wrapped and ready for delivery over the next couple of days. So no more painting or drawing for a little while. Just a few Christmas images - starting with a Father Christmas biscuit tin I designed many years ago when working as an apprentice at Huntley and Palmers.

And here's a miniature I painted of one of my great nephews in Christmas baubles

And finally, for a bit of nostalgia, this old black and white photograph I came across the other day shows my class at school during the war. Our gas masks are under our desks, and I'm standing at the back next to the headmaster. (Creep!)

Happy Christmas to all my followers.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Hiking around Hampstead

Last Wednesday I became an honorary member of the WI for the day when I joined their coach to London. We started the day with a lovely Christmas turkey lunch with steaming hot mulled wine at the King William pub in Hampstead.

Not only is Hampstead the highest place in London, it was - and is - a favourite haunt of many famous people. We were given a guided tour by a very knowledgeable lady who seemed to know every nook and cranny and related a host of interesting stories. For instance I didn't know that the painter John Constable is buried there and that he was derided by the so called experts for painting landscapes in their real colours. It seems that up until his time most greens were painted in 'violin brown'! We were told that he took one of these critics into a field and held a violin up in front of a green landscape to show him there was no colour match, then smashed it on the ground. Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Hampstead. As did Peter Cook and the painter George Romney.

We walked around for about an hour, up hills and down hills, passing many quirky establishments.

And here was established the Hampstead Police Force in Holly Berry Lane. Called The Watch House.

As dusk was falling we were taken on a trip round the centre of London to see the Christmas decorations. I wish we could have stopped at Harrods because their windows were decked out as carriages in The Orient Express. The front window was taken up by a complete steam engine. Regent Street looked good with a reindeer antlers theme.

Then we went on to watch the skaters on a rink at Somerset House bathed in ultra violet light.

A really interesting day. But the trip back to Henley wasn't so good as a broken-down single car on the elevated section of the Hammersmith flyover caused miles of incredibly slow moving traffic so instead of the less than an hour's journey it took over 3 hours to get home!

Now I'm back to painting full time with three miniature commissions to be painted before Christmas - if I can manage it. Starting yesterday with a cute little baby boy. I did finish the rose and raindrops watercolour on Wednesday. At last - as it took much longer than I thought it would. Here's the result.

In my 'spare time' I'm making a scale model of my young friend's new garden. The other evening I made a 3 inch high pergola out of balsa wood and painted it ash green. I'm not so sure I will be capable of making the real thing when spring comes next year.
On Wednesday, together with Jilly, Jane and Brian, I went to a charity evening at the Chocolate Cafe in Henley. It was in aid of the recent Earthquake in the Philippines with Mike Read acting as compere. The evening took the form of a 'pop music' sixties quiz. That meant that I knew absolutely nothing and couldn't even answer a single question. (The reason being that when I went to live in Singapore in January 1960 Lee Kuan Yew had just become prime minister. One of his first acts was to ban pop music - only allowing classical and Chinese music. (I was told at the time that he ordered all the jute boxes to be thrown into the sea!) Then in 1964 I went to Bangkok to live for another 7 years. There they only played Thai music). So at least my ignorance has a logical reason. Jane was the most knowledgeable on our table.

Finally we had a look round the Tree Barn in Christmas Common. Bought a few decorations there.

So tonight and tomorrow we'll start putting up our own trees.
I've popped down to the River and Rowing Museum a couple of times after the opening. One time Mike Read walked round interviewing me for his BBC Radio Berkshire programme. It was broadcast on Monday afternoon and lasted about 15 minutes. Today the Henley Standard printed a full page of pictures about the opening. I'll see whether this iPad can take a photograph of it.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

My Exhibition

After all those months of preparation my exhibition was officially opened on Saturday afternoon by Sir William McAlpine.

Over one hundred guests attended the event. The Mayor of Henley came, as did George Cole, Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, David Barber - The Royal Swan Marker, Tony Hobbs, and many other local celebrities together with friends and family members - including the youngest - Kate - who's pencil drawing was on display. Paul Mainds - the River and Rowing Museum's Chief Executive introduced Sir William

And I spoke for less than a minute!

Lady McAlpine brilliantly organised the reception and produced what seemed like and endless supply of pink bubbly, ably assisted by her two young helpers, Katherine and Sally.
The Henley Standard had, on the previous day produced a full page on my work and career, which included the embarrassing headline (quoting an American collector and admirer of my miniature portraits) 'A National Treasure'.
A few paintings were sold. The first of which (to a lady as a present to her elderly husband) was a pencil drawing entitled 'Le Derrière de Joceline'.

So that was Saturday afternoon. Later in the evening six of us were invited out to a lovely dinner at 'The Greyhound' - Anthony Worral Thompson's pub in Peppard. The following Thursday I gave a one hour's talk in the gallery to an assembled group of about 25 members of the River and Rowing Museum, which seemed to go down well.
Incidentally, if you want to visit the exhibition it's on till February 2nd next year. And for a glimpse of some of the exhibits CLICK HERE to view each page of the catalogue where you can swipe right to left.
Now I'm back to painting full time and have nearly finished one of a pair of rose watercolours.
However this morning, together with my young friend, we went back to the Museum, this time to attend a very interesting talk by Mark Edwards - the master builder who led the team that built the Royal Barge - the Gloriana. 94 feet long, she was privately commissioned as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee last year. It was completed in record time and took part in the Jubilee procession on the River Thames.

Really fascinating to follow the progress of construction.

And especially interesting to see the fine work in gilding, carving, and painting by the wonderful craftsmen and women.

Mark Edward went into great detail about the construction of the Royal barge. I learned quite a lot. For example how they worked out what the length of the oars should be. And how different lengths were needed to allow for the curvature of the boat. And because of their great length they were hollow. Which meant that, unlike solid wooden oars, curved impressively in a long arc as the boat was propelled along.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Gas Alert?

No, but it is my protection when making the bronze head as the fumes from the various resins and bronze ingredients, when mixed up, can cause real problems. Shirley, my sculpture teacher, found to her cost the other day the effects of the fumes which put her out of action for a while with a splitting headache. This picture shows the two halves of my most recent bronze head encased within its heavy fibreglass jacket.

Most of my time this past week has been taken up with the final preparations for my exhibition this coming Saturday. I did, however go for a blood test and CT scan at the Dunedin hospital in Reading on Thursday - much nicer than previous scans at the Royal Berkshire hospital - they give you a cup of tea and a biscuit after the scan, and I don't have to sit in a windowless and cold cupboard dressed only in a hospital gown. And then on Monday afternoon my young friend drove me to Dr Gildersleve, the oncologist, for the results of the scan. Great relief - my blood is 100% and I'm clear of cancer.
So on to the exhibition. I thought my home would become completely denuded after removing almost all the paintings from the walls, but I still have quite a few left that won't be on display at the exhibition. Here's what my lounge looks like before we transport the paintings to the River and Rowing Museum.

Have a look at this painting. It's called 'Portrait in Time' and is of Royal Academician Anthony Green.

If, however, you look very closely at the watch on his wrist you may notice the hands moving - and keeping the correct time. David Card, the clockmaker, has attached a real watch movement to the back of the painting with only the centre spindle protruding through to the front.
Friends Brian and Guy have offered to help me take the paintings and drawings to the museum and as we have over one hundred to take there, if we are lucky we may be able to do it in three journeys.
Now the preparations are underway in the museum itself. This is The Lord Kirkham Gallery. And here are the very experienced Matt and Andy fixing the paintings to one of the walls.

Another view as the hanging progresses.

This solid concrete wall took a bit of tough drilling to get the screws in.

Lindsay, the assistant curator, is doing a good job in painting over the brass mirror fixings. I think I'll re-do all the white descriptive labels as they detract too much from the paintings themselves.

So yesterday evening I spent hours printing and shaping all 70 labels - this time in red. i needed the expert help of my young friend to work out how to change the colour as I had no idea what to do. But what a difference they make - the paintings and drawings will not now be in competition with the labels.
Four large panels will be securely locked in place within the lectern cases on the riverside part of the gallery. Too bulky to fit in our cars I hired 'a man with a van' to transport them to the venue. With over 30 miniatures displayed on the panels they needed to be very carefully handled. Here are three of them.

As people often ask how I commence work on a painting the panel above demonstrates all the many stages of my large picture 'When the Queen Came to Henley'.
So at last, after many months of work, all is ready for the opening tomorrow. And here is the result.

If you'd like to have a browse through my exhibition catalogue, either go to my website - www. - and follow the flashing alerts or just CLICK HERE to go directly to the catalogue. From the cover to the remainder of the catalogue you'll be able to turn the pages by brushing your finger to the left from the bottom right of the page. (If you use Apple products, such as iPads, or if you don't have flash player installed, it won't be quite so effective.)
The exhibition opens this Saturday with the Private View at 3pm which will be opened by Sir William McAlpine, and will run till February 2nd next year. The River & Rowing Museum in Henley is counted amongst the 50 best Museums in the world, and apart from my exhibition, 'The Art of Bill Mundy', is well worth seeing.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Wandering in Westonbirt

The only sunny day of last week happened to coincide with my birthday. Luckily we had decided to visit Westonbirt Arboretum near Tetbury in Gloucestershire. Managed by the forestry commission it contains one of the most famous tree collections in The world. Mostly collected and nurtured by the great Victorian botanists it contains over 18,000 varieties of trees and shrubs. At this time of year it becomes a riot of colour.

It was glorious wending our way around the 800 acre estate (we only went part of the way). The arboretum backs on to Highgrove - Prince Charles's country home. Here are a few of the many photos I took on our visit.

And here's one taken of me by my young friend as I was taking photos.

Later in the day we called in to see my old friend Joanne who lives in Bampton. (The venue for much of the filming of the current TV series - Downton Abbey). The day didn't finish there as soon after we got home we were out again - this time for a birthday dinner at one of my favourite restaurants - The French Horn at Sonning. Jane, Brian, and Jilly joined us. This picture taken by my young friend. what a lovely evening.

Thursday was the day of the Royal Miniature Society's AGM so I travelled up to The Mall in London to attend it and to collect the miniatures I'd exhibited. As I walked from Charing Cross station I saw that the latest addition atop the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square is now a monstrous purple chicken.

And nearer to the gallery I came across this splendid statue of a life-size white horse.

Another nice surprise last night. The Miniature Art Society of Florida emailed to say I'd won first prize for portraits in the upcoming annual exhibition. As this exhibition attracts more entries from around the world than any other Society I'm very pleased. This is the miniature. I entitled it 'The Samburu Woman'.

Although there's been a lot of social activity this past week I haven't neglected my work. Still painting the rose on some new very hard white paper which takes detail well but maybe not watercolour washes too evenly.

Saturday evening was fireworks night and my young friend had two of her university - days friends staying with her. So we went to an enormous fireworks display at Sonning Common. Not only was it the best I've ever been to it was the most creative. Set to the muppets music and words every display was exactly in time with every beat of the music. I normally don't like really loud music, but even though we stood right next to the speakers it was quite thrilling. Earlier we waved a few 'monster' sparklers around - gave the last one to a passing boy whose father hasn't managed to buy any. Then to round the evening off (after nearly an hour getting through an enormous exodus of vehicles leaving the firework field) we went to The Greyhound restaurant in nearby Peppard. Best pepper steak I've had in years.

My favourite TV programme is 'The Big Bang Theory' and I just texted MYF to say I'd dreamed we met Sheldon in Waitrose yesterday. She thinks I'm bonkers!

The new Christmas stamps are out tomorrow. They depict a variety of artistic depictions of the Madonna and child. So nice - much better than last year's. here they are.