At my recent Open Studio weekend, a funny thing happened.
I had all my work downstairs in the kitchen, as I didn’t want anyone who couldn’t climb the stairs to my loft studio to miss out. It was fun decorating the kitchen as a sort of homemade gallery. Pictures here. I enjoyed the process very much, though it was hard work dragging everything down from the stairs (and back up again three days later! Even harder going back up, as the
slaves kids had lost interest by then).
I’d brought down some painting boards and a palette or two to use as props – just for decoration, you understand, a sort of artistic backdrop to all the (dazzling) work.
All these things are actual real life artist’s kit,* used every day come hell or high water. The fact that I climbed into a builders’ skip to ‘rescue’ the boards in the first place is neither here nor there. No one saw me. No one even cared (I hope), and I ran off with four bits of MDF in various sizes instead of having to go to the timber yard and pay for it.
I’ve been taping or pinning paper to these boards, to make paintings, for about 3 years now, I’d estimate. When I’ve finished the painting, I take it off and what’s left is the bits round the edge. All the colours you see here are genuine, organically grown edge paintings (technical term). I was eating liquorice one day and I think that’s why I wrote its name on there.** A whole load of stuff gets put on there. I guess what I’m saying is that they are the real deal, so original you couldn’t make it up.
So when the visitors started streaming in at the Open Studio, guess what happened? Several times, people grabbed hold of the boards, casting the work aside (the real work, people! The paintings! The ones I THINK about!), and started having serious conversations with their partners about where they might hang ‘this one’.
Stupidly embarrassed, and not wanting to hurt their feelings, but not willing either to part with what is actually to me quite precious (I mean, I climbed in a skip to get that!), I had to go up to them and quietly announce that the boards are mine (MINE!) and sadly not for sale.
Crestfallen faces. Oh well. A painting, instead? Er, no thanks. We just wanted the board. It’s awesome.
Incredulous face from watching Mr M, who is an astute business person (BE MY AGENT THEN), much better than me (this is not hard to achieve, to be fair, the 15 year old work experience guy is too). TRUDE! (pulling me into the garden for a pep talk). Next time say £500! Or £5000! In turn exasperated, and not surprised.
Well, I’m stubborn. The next time, I simply repeated myself. The boards are not for sale. And the next time, and the next. I slept with them under my pillow that night, for fear of robbers.*** People, you can’t have them.
But fear not! Because I’m stubborn, but I’m not stupid. I am on the look out for new skips. When I find a promising one, I’ll go back at night. I’ll climb in, steal some more MDF boards in the appropriate sizes, paint on them for a whole year, write poems and stupid stuff on them, love them, care for them, grow that lovely patina of paint and use and fingerprints on them, and then sell them to you.
Price: on application (which is what they say in flashy property newspapers when the owners can’t quite believe the price they’re asking – which seems appropriate for the art world too).
Have a great weekend. I’m off up North for a few days away. I’m going on the train, standard class. I suppose I’d be going in a chauffeur driven limo if Mr M was my agent.****
*Is there such a thing as a real life artist? Oh, wait.
**I eat liquorice every day, especially if it’s from Holland.
***Quite invigorating, actually.
****But probably not, as I like ambling down to the buffet car to get a cup of tea and a Kit-Kat at Peterborough.