There have been, on a few occasions, calls for posts-that-aren’t-about-music. This is one such.
Some of you may know that I paint. I can’t describe myself as anything other than an amateur, but I don’t like to describe the activity as a “hobby” or a “pastime”, because those terms seem to imply that I’m doing it to while away the hours. It’s more than that. It is, at the very least, a creative urge. Even during the dark periods (unilluminated by paint) when I wasn’t actively painting, I’d still “paint” in my head.
But I rarely get paid for doing painting.
Art is like that.
However, I’d like to tell you a story. A true story; it happened on Saturday. A story of serendipity, ancient hills and cheap art.
I took my paints to a new hill on Saturday. A hill I’d been to before, but that they hadn’t. A hill that was just that little bit further away than my usual painting haunts, far enough that, if I had walked, my painting time would have been severely curtailed. So I drove. But there was still a decent walk to get to my target hill.
The hill is called Ladle hill. It actually has a hill fort on it – one that the archaeologists reckon was never inhabited (but it’s also never been excavated) – and it was the fort that drew me there. But I took a detour onto unfamiliar paths and mislaid my way slightly – with the result that I approached the hill from a new direction. A very steep direction.
And, also, a very attractive direction.
I decided that the steep slope, with its hollows, and its wild flowers, and its stunning view, was my subject. I’d finish my climb later. I found a flattish area to set the easel up on, and got to work. Some might say it was lonely up there – I hadn’t seen anybody since before I’d left the car - but it doesn’t bother me. I was starting to think about finishing (there weren’t any white bits of canvas left, and the image was looking pretty much like the scene in front of me) when I heard a cheery “Hello” from behind me.
Company! How lovely. I wondered if they would stop to talk, or leave me to it. Some people feel awkward about interrupting; others are interested and will stop to talk. I don’t mind either way.
It was a couple walking their dog, and they were feeling chatty. They told me that I was the first artist that they’d ever seen on this hillside, and asked whether I was going to include the white house at the bottom of the hill in my painting? Yes, I was – it was small from here, and it would be a final detail. It transpired that that was their house, and I felt more inclined to try and make it look like a house rather than the white blob it could have been (I paint with a knife on the hills; it’s a crude instrument, but it stops me getting hung up on fiddly details). We jived about whether these downs were better than the ones closer to my home, and I told them how to find my art blog, promising that the post featuring this painting would be up the following day.
They went home, and I smeared some more paint around for a bit before going home myself. I took the route up and over the top of the hill, admiring the hill fort in the late afternoon light and regretting – not for the first time – that I had left my camera at home that day. As I walked, an idea percolated in my head. Maybe I should pop a business card through their door. It’s really difficult to remember stuff like the name of a strange artist you meet on a hillside. I was sure that they’d like to see the final picture, with their house in it! (I suppressed the hope that they might want to own the painting.)
So, to cut a long story short, that’s what I did. I printed a close-up of the house as it appeared in the painting, scribbled a note on the back and put it through their letter box on the Sunday afternoon along with a card bearing my blog address and telephone number.
They rang the same day. They were a bit anxious that the painting might have been sold to someone else. Could they buy it?
(The paint is still wet – oils take a long time to dry even when you don’t plaster it on like I do – and I’ve been asked to frame the painting, too. So it’s still in my possession, but as far as I’m concerned, it is sold.)