In order to write this story I’ve ended up surprising myself by spending a fortnight creating a “Lifetime Timeline”. Why? Because I have never been able to nod in social situations and say “Ah yes, that was in 1984”. The truth is I simply don’t have the foggiest idea, in terms of dates and history, it could have been in 1894 for all I would know. Without my timeline, all events simply disappear into the mists of time.
So to help me write the story of Pixie’s Gift, I have created a spreadsheet, laying out before me the chronology of my life. What an extraordinarily great exercise it has been. I highly recommend it. For instance, I now know that in the same year that I met the great Doctor A and his wife who commissioned me to paint Pixie’s Gift last year, Per Lindstrom and Richard Branson flew across the Atlantic and, on a more global extraordinary level, Apartheid finally ended.
I have memories of the events, and now I know it was also the year I left London and moved to Ross to temp for a while. Can you guess the year I wonder? My timeline tells me I was just 26 years old….
So having settled myself and started to make a name for myself as a pretty good PA, I had a call from one of the agencies to ask me to go and “do my thing” supporting a team of 26 structural engineers. I had no idea what that meant, but I found myself at the desk of a smiley, wiry, sparkly man about 20 years older than me at Nuclear Electric’s sprawling offices in Barnwood, Gloucester. This is Dr A – the team leader and all round great good egg. Dr A still talks fondly (or with a shake of fear in his voice, I can never quite tell), about how this fresh young PA rocked up, and within a matter of days had the team of rather crusty Oxford professor-types eating out of the palm of her hand as she brought probably 5-10 years of outdated and inefficient filing mechanisms up to scratch. I remember one particular engineer, let’s call him Adam, who was attached to about 14 dusty cardboard boxes bulging with paper that lurked like a rabid dog under his desk. It was like wrestling the dog from the jaws of a rolling alligator clearing up his space, but clear it up I did….!
From those several months of sorting and filing, microfiche and playing Mah Jong, Dr A and his wife became initially Christmas Card buddies, and eventually firm friends.
Travelling back through the timeline to 2015, Dr & Mrs A were kind enough to go a fair distance to support me in my first major art exhibition since returning to the UK. I held it in Ross-on-Wye at the lovely Royal Hotel, recently taken over by Sally and Matt Perkins, friends and neighbours of mine. I was so excited – and with good reason – by the end of the exhibition I had received eight new art commissions, and to an artist that’s like all your Christmases coming at once.
Over a lovely lunch gazing out towards the Wye Valley, Dr A handed me a photograph. As I looked at the image of their beloved narrow boat, Pixie’s Gift, they told me that they had finally come to taking a big and sad decision – that it was time to sell her. Gulp.
Thankfully Dr & Mrs A were willing to trust me to get on with the job and to allow an evolutionary process to happen. So the painting began.
It was an incredible journey of creation. The undulations of the boat, the sparkles of the water … I learned so much about how to capture the essence of water without over-painting or over-working. The purple of the boat, of course, isn’t just “purple” – rather there are blacks, greys, blues and reflections. What a complicated baby Pixie’s Gift was!
My most favourite moment was bringing those two swans into the foreground. To me, Dr & Mrs A have what so many couples aspire to have - an enduring respect for each other that to me is the greatest gift any couple can give each other. Acceptance of each other’s likes and dislikes, a willingness to give each other space to be themselves, and from there can grow a love that stands the test of time.
I placed the swans right in the foreground, facing each other, creating a heart shape with their necks as Pixie’s Gift gently motors away to her new home. Just as Mrs A’s mum passed away into another realm, so has Pixie’s Gift. But the love of Dr & Mrs A endures forever, and my heart shaped swans are my own personal tribute to two of the nicest people I know.