Skip to content

Conversation stoppers and starters

The invite was for lunch, and we gladly accepted. I knew she did a proper Sunday lunch regularly for her extended family, and was greatly touched that she wanted to include me and my man in that gathering.

We arrived early. Well, 42 hours early to be exact, but that’s another story! And during that time I had been able to show her the painting I’d done of her. She had stood and looked at it, and liked it, and said a few words of praise about it, then fell silent. After the viewing, I wrapped it up again and put it out of the way in another room and that was all was said about it that day.

The following day she made lunch for her family – the kids, her husband, her mother, her sister and her sisters husband, and us. Nine people to feed , lots of food to prepare, so the morning was spent chopping and peeling, as the mouth watering cooking aromas from the kitchen wafted around us and we chatted companionably. The extended family arrived full of good cheer at 2 and lunch was served soon after. We all tucked into the delicious home cooked roast followed by a selection of three fabulous desserts as the conversation ebbed and flowed around the table – talk of people and places, occasions and the minutae of family life, banter and relaxed laughter. At the end of the meal I sat talking with the brother in law who had led an interesting life on foreign shores, and people came in and out of the room, the kids disappeared to their computer screens, the adults chatted and cleared the table and the mounds of washing up disappeared and got tidied back into cupboards. The hostess reappeared eventually, and sat opposite me at the long table. And in a lull in the conversation she said quietly to me…

“Show them”

I looked across at her, understanding her request in an instant but checking that we were in tune.

“You mean………?”

“Yes” she nodded, certain in her request.

I smiled at her, and went to fetch it. I returned five minutes later, and all faces looked at me expectantly as I faced them down the length of the table. They could see I’d got a painting with me, but it was turned away from them, so that they couldn’t see what it depicted. I explained to these people that I hardly knew, and had only known for a few short hours that when I had met the woman before me that she had a certain something that I instantly wanted to paint, and that she had agreed to pose for me – and I’d taken a few photos of her to work from. That the face and the hand within the picture were of her, but the rest was a fantasy picture. I could see from their faces that they were intrigued…..

I turned the picture around for them to see…

And they all looked at it, and without a doubt they knew who was in the picture. They knew without me explaining beforehand, who it was. Her mother was the first to speak – and said how much it reminded her of herself as a younger woman, and that it had made her feel quite emotional to see it. Her sister praised it, and said that she loved it. Her brother in law declared that he liked it. And I was so touched, that it worked so well as a portrait of her.

Then her kids walked in. They hadn’t seen it before, and knew nothing of it even existing, let alone who it was. But they knew, instantly “It’s you!” said the youngest. And the eldest looked at it and declared it to be “Well cool!” which I took to be praise indeed!!!!

Later, after we’d returned home, I texted her to thank her for her hospitality, and she texted back that she was pleased that I’d shown her family the painting, and how very impressed they were with it and that she’d felt moved by it despite seeing it before.

But, for probably the first time ever, I understood how she felt. And how other people feel when they see themselves in a painting by me. Because the day before, she had shown me her first story, and although it was a fictional piece, I could see echos of one of the women within the story being me. And I had been touched greatly by the fact that a character based on me was within her story, and that she had been inspired enough to write it in the first place. And had been kind enough to show it to me on this visit. Because the emotions she was going through, having seen herself within the picture I had painted of her, were the same ones as the ones I felt when I saw myself within the story she had written. I told her she’d got a big talent with her writing, and she said that was praise coming from someone with a talent as big as mine. I told her she’d got a big talent, she just didn’t realise how much.

But it’s ever the case that creativity feeds creativity, and what one can do with ease others look askance at because they know they can’t do it so well.