My first close encounter with an artist, outside the family, was at the age of seven, when I had my portrait 'done'.

I was not a good sitter!  In my eagerness to see what was going on, I apparently kept jumping up to peep behind the easel.  The unfortunate artist was a Scot, John Roy of Glasgow, with a record-breaking moustache. The work was in pastel. I was eager to play with his children and eat the big tea, with cakes, to be provided afterwards!

My next encounter was with a charismatic woman, but a terrifying artist, at my school.  The still life was interesting, but challenging; painting the cauliflower florets drove me mad. 'Why have you left so many white bits?' I quaked with fear. A sobering baptism.

Beautiful and amusingly drawn Christmas cards in pen and ink would appear each year from the artist Harry Riley and his family. I marvelled at the drawings of the family members, including the model.  Riley was a creative spirit, working in a wide range of media - his posters for British Rail were bright and compassionate, as well as being perfectly constructed.  At his death, his studio was opened up to the family circle of friends. I was allowed to browse through his portfolios. The extent of his work was breathtaking.  I was young and impressionable.  His pastel paintings caught my eye.

At the Central School of Art I had the good fortune to be taught by a range of talented artists including Shelley Faussett (who had worked with Henry Moore), Shelley, Derek Boshier and Moy Keightley.  For a short time we were taught by the visiting artist Rudy Leenders.  At Birmingham there was also a fine collection of tutors including the kind and talented William Gear R.A., Derek Southall, Alan Miller (of whom Tracey Emin spoke so highly) Abell and Halliday. Ken Quickenden was an inspirational history of art lecturer. Occasionally I would see the fleeting figure of the sculptor John Bridgeman. I agree with the filmaker and artist Ian Emes that we were lucky to have had such vital tutors and such good resources at Birmingham. Golden years.

Some years ago, I stumbled across the work of the printmaker Merlyn Chesterman in Hartland. I fell in love with a large woodcut of cliffs looming over a wavy sea. Her cat helped me buy it!

Earlier this summer I met Helen Feiler in her gallery in Newlyn. I quickly became aware of the presence of a highly gifted artist with a profound and wide ranging feel for the arts. Her jewellery is personal and unique. We both share a love of the work of John Piper. It was good to talk!

I intend to keep this piece of writing open and unfinished. The idea of 'work in progress' appeals to me - it is an extension of the creative process and will thus take its own time to evolve.




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