One sunny day, I wandered outside to paint. I am not an expert and am practicing, or stumbling through basic watercolour use and abuse; not always pretty but always productive. I’m learning – usually daubing and making shapes, nothing more, but it’s great to see some sunlight while I mess around.
I settled down by seafront, where there was an inspiring sky: grey clouds shot with pinkish light and dotted with fluffy white baby clouds. Oblivious to much else, I started to paint and soon a small knot of people were openly staring at me and my work.
It didn’t occur to English-speakers that I am English, or to others that I speak several languages. Diligent readers might recall that one of the stated aims on starting this blog was to hear someone say of my work: “a bloody two-year old could do better than that.” Within minutes, I had achieved one of my ambitions, although that said, they were fine words from a man with breasts larger than my own wearing knee-length socks with open-toed sandals.
Everyone assumed I was painting for their entertainment, and that it was perfectly acceptable to peer over my shoulder and comment loudly, even tilting my sketch pad so they could see my painting. It’s also intriguing that my work was being assessed solely for how much it might be worth. Some observers made it clear that they believe all artists are paid Damien Hirst-amounts of money, when I want to shout that I make no money at all.
They discussed the art they show at home, which - intriguingly - was often acquired on holiday or while travelling. I thought: make me an offer, which I know is unlikely as I am playing with colour, experimenting with contrasts and combinations. ‘I like that one,’ smiled a German woman, hurried away by her husband with the word ‘bier’ pre-imminent in his destination.
Next I tried mixing colours, while some slightly more appreciative Dutch pensioners smiled politely. It was unnerving. I felt unable to play. I gathered my pots and stuff to sit elsewhere, but it was like art-busking. I ran out of water, and moved on the fill my cup under the beach shower, but someone followed me. I put some distance between myself and my ‘fans,’ settled down and started to paint again. Because people had to make an effort, and couldn’t just sticky-beak as they pass, I found some peace and quiet. When I looked up, however, three more passers-by were staring. They obviously felt they had the right to watch, as if I should actually move round so they can see. Still, at least they were quiet.
And then at last, a Russian billionaire arrived. Well, I say billionaire, but I mean a daft bloke with a orange plastic blonde to impress. He asked how much to buy my paintings. I said he can’t afford it. He offered five hundred Euros. I said, come back with three hundred in cash and it’s yours. Off they went.
I never saw him again. I am sure you are as shocked as I was.