Standing Sitting Lying The phone rings, I keep painting and talking, at least two conversations going on, maybe a third with one of the children through the studio door. I am also thinking of how to feed my sitters - lunch, dinner - stuff from the garden always helps, it’s a miracle. A cat at my feet, someone’s dog sitting there. Attention has been a mantra; distraction is closer to the truth. Waking up and realising I can’t feel the thorns on the trees. I tell myself it is all illusion, but I am not listening.
I started using watercolours again on holiday in France a couple of years ago, simple images of family holiday life. The medium is liberating, the pigments intense. I often use watercolour wrongly, thickly from the tube, there is nothing quite like it. In the sunlight in France, I cannot avoid Matisse. A while ago I had seen another retrospective in Düsseldorf. There, only the Odalisques lost me; the Orientalism, the women and all that material. Like a rat to poison, I eat the blue pellet and wait for thirst.
Back in the studio, I continue with watercolours, a new cycle of portraits. As part of this new work I find myself needing to re-visit painting naked people. But I’ve run out of naked friends, lives have moved on. At a gallery dinner I mention this to Josephine: a dinner guest volunteers, I laugh, say yes, thinking it will never happen, it does. And so it continues.
I like painting people more than any other form in art. In portraiture, naked or otherwise it feels like there is so much at stake. The presence of a person and their participation is a gift I treasure. The ‘contract’ to paint galvanises me. Some of these watercolours are unusual - of people I do not know well at all, others are closer. They are not commissions, just images of willing subjects; standing sitting or lying for reasons of their own, bringing a new and different energy to the studio.
In the middle of these, I cannot separate the first in a number of paintings I have made of The Venerable Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche, who I invited to the studio to sit. Maybe it is the robes in which he is clothed, a link to a different Orient or the clarity of his Buddhism in which I feel all desires reflected, but Rinpoche’s painted presence amongst these other works is vital to me.