I was at my sister’s last weekend, for mum’s 91st birthday (don’t tell anyone – she pretends, and looks, much younger!). My sister said ‘art collector Art Bunce has hung a painting of yours in the old family house he’s just bought, and put it on Facebook”. I didn’t recognise it. I must have been 15 when I painted it for his aunts. I was no child prodigy when it came to Art – I just enjoyed it, but at first glance I was surprised by it – it wasn’t s awful I thought it would have been. I hadn’t seen the painting since I did it.
I loved his aunts, as everyone did, and I loved this house – though it doesn’t have Ivy growing on it anymore as it was damaging the chalk.
I didn’t judge my art then (I don’t think?) – and I wonder if that’s what kicked in after art college in Plymouth, when I stopped painting – or whether it was just that life took over, or moving to London offered too many distractions.
I started painting again in 2012, just after volunteering for the Olympics. After 4 months rehearsals, and the opening night (what a night!) I booked a trip to Beirut, and spent one of the best weeks of my life soaking up that beautiful country, and taking thousands of photographs (for the picture library I’m with). When I came back I signed up to an outdoor painting class with the Mary Ward Centre, but not enough people registered, and the teacher wasn’t interested in letting me recruit enough people to keep it going. So I assembled a smaller group of friends, and met the amazing Angela, my painting buddy – and we went out painting, in a different spot in London, every Saturday for the next two years.
I still judge myself, and think I’m pretty rubbish compared to the art I like. I used to get embarrassed when we were out painting, in Kew Gardens or Trafalgar Square, when tourists would gather round and say ‘that’s amazing!’. I don’t think it was amazing – but one day, on the tube, I got it: Angela and I were carrying all our gear, and someone in the seat opposite said “you paint?!”. In that moment I realised how odd that is – and how unusual it is to be so odd. As kids at school, we all paint – the whole class. No-one is left out. When we’re adults, how many people do you see painting? Was it educated out of us – or did something happen when our brains developed, or our social behaviour?
Even when Angela and I were in Marrakesh, where every 6′ has a different workshop, when a man crafts leather, steel, wood, silver – or some other amazing handicraft. We sat in a square painting one of the amazing gates all day – ten or twenty people would be gathered around to watch us! The barber even brought us hot Moroccan sweet tea and a rug to sit on. I’ve never been in a town so creative, and yet the sight of two pale tourists painting was a strange site.
I guess I always wanted to be an artist. Seeing Art Bunce, an enthusiastic art collector, hang one of my painting in a house full of masters, gave me the confidence to start this website. So here it is. Afterall, I paint for fun, relaxation and meditation – and the boards and canvasses and building up in the cupboard – many unfinished. So this will, hopefully, be an opportunity to get rid of some. Also, I joined up again this year to the Mary Ward Centre – this time to do experimental printmaking. Something I’ve been wanting to do for years. I’m impressed with all prints, I don’t judge them as harshly as paintings, I think the texture that the print making process produces is just gorgeous. So here they are too.
Photos © Art Bunce