London and the National Portrait Gallery

I’ve started an art class recently, and been learning how to draw and paint – yes, there’s no beginning to my talents.

I’m particularly interested in portraiture as I’ve done a bit through my photography and I really enjoy it. Anyway, this has been a difficult week for Lady Hughes and myself and we were looking for a bit of a distraction, so I suggested a day trip to London to check out the National Portrait Gallery, partly so I could see how the pros do it, and partly because I know how to show a girl a good time – endless pictures of old, dead people.

So, yesterday, we jumped the pendalino to Euston and within a couple of hours we were there.

The National Portrait Gallery is at the back of the National Gallery, which is at the back of Trafalgar Square, so it was reasonably easy to find. One of the rules when you arrive is no photography, which is why I have no pictures of the pictures, sadly – though some people did ignore this rule and were taking pictures on their phones. Not sure how interesting a grainy mobile phone photo of a famous painting will be in the future but each to their own I suppose.

The first thing that strikes you about the Portrait Gallery is that there are a lot or portraits, and I mean, a lot! This may sound stupid, but you very quickly realise that there is a finite amount of portraits you can probably look at, and admire, before portrait fatigue quickly sets in.

The second thing to realise about the Portrait Gallery, is that it’s not necessarily the best place to go to learn about painting portraits. It’s more of a history lesson than an art lesson. Before the advent of photography, a portrait was more of a functional thing than an expression of artistic creativity. It’s not necessarily the painting, rather than who the painting is of, that is the focus. We joked that at times it was like looking at line of celebrity passport photos, which isn’t entirely fair, but you know what I mean – hopefully?

Even after photography was invented, portraits were seen as a status symbol for the elite. We saw various generals, politicians, kings, queens and other high-ranking individuals. It was as though once you’d made it to a suitably high level in the country you were then worthy of a portrait. The down-side to this is that you did feel at times as though you were walking through the establishment hall of fame.

I found the contemporary portraits more interesting as they were more creative and there was more variety in the different approaches.

On the whole it was a great trip, there are some beautiful works of art to see there and the historical context of the subjects is fascinating. After leaving we even had a little time to wander around Trafalgar Square, though half of it was fenced off for an upcoming event. When I was a kid, Trafalgar Square was all about the pigeons, but they’ve nearly all gone now and instead you’ve got various street performers dressed as Yoda, pretending to levitate – where’s their portrait eh?


Goodbye 2015 and David Bowie, Hello 2016

Today is the 12th January, so it’s probably a bit late to write about new year resolutions, but better late than never I say.

Incidentally, David Bowie passed away yesterday, which has also got me looking back and reassessing things, sad day, he was a true original and there’s not many of them around anymore, believe me.

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Looking back at 2015, it was generally, a good year I think. We had a great get-together for Clare and Alex’s 71st birthday party, I finally finished the first draft of my feature film screenplay, we made a few films, had a lovely holiday with Clare in Malta, Alex graduated from University and we’re all well, so we end the year in a stronger position than we started it.

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There was also some tough times for all of us, but nothing, compared to the struggles some people are facing, so I mustn’t complain.

And yet…

Even though I’m only 25 years old on the inside, I’m told that my body is much older – 46 in fact. The technical term is ‘middle-aged’ which sounds about as beige and boring as you can get. Few things with the word ‘middle’ in them ever come across as sexy I’ve found – with the possible exception of ‘middle-earth’.

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Without wanting to sound too depressing, I’m much more aware of the ticking clock. I still have goals and dreams, things I want to achieve and experiences I want to, well… experience. Now in the old days these would have been things like hang-gliding or climbing Kilimanjaro but as great as those things are, they are fleeting distractions from the norm. Brief high points that poke out through the clouds into the sunshine above. What I’d like to do now is improve the situation down here in the gloomy everyday life that I spend most of my time.

Everyone can write up a bucket list of fantastic experiences, few people though, can write down how to fundamentally become happier and more content with their lives. I’m confident it can be done I’ve just got to work out how – it can’t be too hard, can it?

So 2016 will be more focussed on the priorities, family, friends, health and wellbeing. I want to express myself more, get out more, explore more and learn more. I want to devote more time to the important people in my life and have more fun. But most importantly I want feel I’m working towards something of value.

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So Happy New Year to you and anyone who knows me. Stay in touch, and let’s meet up for a coffee or a beer, but not someday, this week, or this month, let’s organise it and make it happen – that’s my philosophy for 2016.

Organise it and make it happen.

Will it work? I don’t know, I sincerely hope so. I’ll keep you updated.