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Cut off in his prime

I love the beginning of a painting, when the sheet of paper has been stretched on a board, flat, crisp, even. Blank, and waiting. And then I start drawing, pencil in hand, knowing where the lines are going to be, where the focal point is, and the other lines leading to it. The more I draw the more excited I get about it, as the image comes to life, creating the bare bones of the painting. Ready for the flesh of the paint to be hung on it.

I knew that I would want to start the drawing today when I woke to a cold crisp sunny morning, it always encourages me to want to paint, bright sunshine.   And after the second discussion regarding the painting for Stuart, with him this week, I am fully aware of what he wants, although he is more than happy to let me make a lot of the decisions, I needed to fine-tune them to ascertain exactly what is in his mind for me to to that. All questions answered, primed and ready to go (me, that is, not the paint surface!). But, I must admit I was amused at the photos I’d taken of him, when I got them home and looked at them on the large monitor screen at home, I hadn’t realised the message they were inadvertently giving, because of the fore-shortening angle of the camera. I’m going to have to move his left art out a  bit from his body, as the way the photos look, it looks like his left hand is playing with himself, which isn’t the point of the image, and particularly when he’s holding an open pair of secateurs in his right hand, also at groin height. There looks like there may be a nasty accident, with more than the roses pruned! None of which I had noticed when I took the photos, since it was his face I was concentrating on, and getting the right expression there, as well as getting all his body shape in, at the right height. But, then that’s the point of photos as far as I’m concerned, they are for reference, not for copying slavishly. I knew he’d be amused when I told him about it afterwards!

So, the painting of Stuart has been started. He will be naked in it, to the left hand side of the painting, holding a pair of open secateurs in his hand, and he will be situated in the garden of his last house, the one that he and his wife designed and created from scratch. She will also be in the painting, working in the garden, but clothed, not naked like him. And there will be various items within the painting that relate to his long life, and interests, cricket stumps and bat, an apple for the green grocery business he ran, bookmakers odds for the years he worked as a bookmaker, music, reading and writing, and roses because of his love of horticulture, and roses in particular. Some of the items will be obvious, and some more hidden within the foliage of the garden. And I know that who ever looks at this painting, whether they know Stuart or not, will be intrigued with it. Because its got to cause intrigue by the very nature of the subject matter, a 75 year old man naked in a garden, with various things happening and depicted around him. Its got to prompt the “Why……..?” question more than anything. And, I hope, it should get the point across that its a celebration of his life, of his achievements. That’s the purpose of it. But, now its started, I’m happy, because its the start of the exciting stuff now, as the picture comes together, melding ideas to one cohesive whole.  

So, today is a happy day.

But, its also a sad one.

I’ve just heard that an old mate of mine has died, in a terrible car crash, a head on collision. He didn’t die instantly, but a short time afterwards. Sad times. He and I grew up in the same village, he’s a couple of years older than me, and I remember his love of life, his ability to befriend so many people, and give good down to earth practical advice, along with smiling humour and  the huge enjoyment of being around people, at work, and in the pub. He’ll be sadly missed. And as always, these things bring a numbness with them, a shock, and also a reminder of living a life, the best you can. Here’s to that. Cheers, Nigel!  

 So, he was cut off in his prime, and looking at the photos of Stuart and his secateurs, he almost was too!