RA Summer Exhibition, a Wedding and New Work

RA Summer Exhibition, a Wedding and New Work

I think it’s fair to say the last few weeks have been quite busy. Some things were entirely foreseen – my daughter Helena was getting married on 24th June. The date had been fixed a year earlier and the ceremony was going to happen in Italy. Other things were unforeseen – my soon to be son-in-law, artist Ruaidhri Ryan, suggested we both enter a work for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. I thought the process might be fun and instructive but was astonished to be selected. The painting, ‘A Sense of Touch’, immediately acquired a red dot and a life of its own, demanding visits and promotional posts on Instagram. Ruaidhri meanwhile, had been too busy to submit a work, as he was getting married.

I have been chosen in ‘favourite selections’ of critics and bloggers and am now featured in the August issue of Artists & Illustrators magazine, as one of six first-time Summer Exhibition applicants, from the 498 in the exhibition.

I am also making sales because of the attention, which has all been very encouraging. As was this feedback from my artist friend Lisa Joffe: “Your images are so fresh and arresting. The expressive hands and fabric remind me of things I love about Egon Schiele, although very contemporary”.

It’s now two weeks since the wedding and life is starting to return to normal. The day itself went like clockwork and we managed to fulfil most of the happy couple’s demands. The weather was sublime and the next day a good proportion of the guests returned to the house to hang out and extend the celebrations. We spent the next week returning things and by the following Monday I began to think about painting again.

I had not been able to pick up a brush for what seemed like months. Looking back I realised it had been months, and when the moment arrived, facing a newly prepared board with freshly mixed paint on my brush, I felt like I had never painted a picture before and would have to begin again. In fact, I was quite pleased with the first ‘warm-up’, and pressed straight on. Reusing old panels that I had sanded down was fine for these first ‘stretching exercises’ but to produce saleable paintings I needed to restock with new boards.

Deciding how big a painting should be is one of those thorny issues all artists wrestle with. I have been thinking a lot about going bigger and how that might affect my pictures. There’s a lot to consider – how much room is there on the walls of the homes of the people an artist sells to? Pricing larger works becomes difficult too, with materials and time at the easel both increasing. For now, I am gradually scaling up.

Big paintings certainly have impact, but that might not always be a good thing. Just before the pandemic we were in the Frari church in Venice looking at Titian’s vast altarpiece, Assumption of the Virgin. It is nearly seven meters tall, painted on 22 poplar boards and is the largest wood panel painting in the world. The version we see today underwent a fair bit of rethinking as the friars who commissioned it felt uncomfortable with the larger than life size figures in the original.

Finally I highly recommend an exhibition that has just opened at: The Mill Studio, New House Farm Barns, Ford Lane, Arundel, BN18 0EF.


‘Herd’ is series of landscape paintings of cows by Nick Bodimeade, exploring the concept of herd mentality and personal space through the depiction of cows in various formations. The cows sometimes represented with just a few angular brush marks; a dark body and some patches of white on their backs, the very essence of cow, distilled with stunning economy, no two cows the same.

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