‘Tell me what your passions are, so I can blog about them.’
It’s Saturday afternoon, we have no work today and The Artist is sitting in his dressing gown, rendering a digital Steampunk Racing Camel, on his iMac. (Yup.)
Eventually he senses that I’m waiting for something.
‘What are your passions?’
‘Mmm…’ Stroking stylus across graphics tablet, he stares at the computer screen
I wait – and, reluctantly, he shifts his gaze to look at me, confusion clearing.
‘You!’ He beams, proud to have come up with – what he thinks is – the right answer.
‘O..kay. I’ll put that at the end. What’s the next most important thing?’
He’s not joking. I rarely touch the Dyson at home and he does the most of the ‘hoovering’ at school, while I wipe down desks and rub graffiti off the walls. And, in his other job, as a Personal Assistant for older people, he often does housework for those that cannot manage.
‘Yes… But that’s your job. I’m talking about your passions – the things that make you who you are. Those things you can’t not do.’
He mentions a couple of well-known computer programmes, then changes his mind.
‘Motorcyles, I’ve been riding since I was seventeen…….’
‘So motorbikes are your primary passion?’
‘Yes! No. Wait a sec…’
He catches me looking pointedly at what he’s working on.
‘Oh!…..Art! Yes, of course… Art. I’ve been doing that …for as long as I could hold a pencil. My mother used to buy me rolls of lining paper to draw on. I designed a really complicated machine when I was eleven – I might still have it, somewhere….’
Finally! He’s stumbled upon the reason I call him The Artist. (Only in the Blogosphere, of course. In real life I call him ‘Babe’, a reverse-sexist nickname we coined in the ’90’s, when a magazine article complained that men patronised women by referring to them in infantile terms.) He calls me ‘Mrs King’.
1. When we met he was a mature student, studying Illustration at the world-renowned Falmouth College of Art and Design. He was working on a course assignment at the time – a water colour, ink and wax-resist picture of architecturally interesting buildings. It was instantly recognisable as being of Plymouth’s oldest quarter, The Barbican, from where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America in 1620.
I could see that he was good. It was only when he moved in with me, over a year later, that I realised how truly talented he is. A firm believer in travelling light, he brought with him one bag of clothing, a tool box full of painting equipment and more than twenty years worth of artwork, in black rubbish sacks.
‘I don’t know why I’m dragging this around,’ he said, ‘If I never set eyes on any of it again, it wouldn’t bother me. I should just chuck the lot. It’d make life so much simpler.’
I persuaded him to let me look at his collection, before he consigned it to the dustbin. And I was stunned! There were literally hundreds of pieces – some more than twenty years old. Sketches, drawings, paintings, even doodles, in diverse styles, techniques and media – some traditional, others that I’d never come across before.
I was stunned. From this cursory glance, I felt that he should keep it all. This didn’t seem to please him.
‘So, what do you suggest I do with it?’ he asked, almost petulantly, ‘What use is it to me now? When I did it, I did it for a reason. But now it’s done, I’m not interested any more. On with the next thing!’
I couldn’t quite believe him – if that was so, why hadn’t he disposed of it as he went along?
It turned out that he’d already burnt anything he wasn’t satisfied with. And, as his skills improved, he became much more critical of his earlier work – focusing on the ‘faults’. Anything that wasn’t ‘perfect’ had to go.
He also had a more personal reason. Much of what lay strewn about my living room carpet that evening had been executed in troubled times. Moving into my tiny cottage and making our relationship official, prompted him to erase the past completely. To start afresh.
Luckily, I managed to convince him to take more time to think about it – although I’m sure that quite a lot was later trashed without my knowledge. There’s so much to describe, that I’d struggle to do it justice. So, we’ve decided to use this blog to showcase different pictures on a regular basis. Watch this space!
2. As you might have guessed, The Artist is a keen motorcyclist. It was the iconic film, ‘Easy Rider’ that – quite literally – set his wheels in motion. Over the years he’s owned seven different Harley Davidson’s, the latest – and he swears the last (yeah, right!) – being the 2000, 1200cc Sportster Custom, which featured in the previous post, about my passions. Here’s a snap of him, circa 1980, embracing his ‘wild side’, once he’d left the Royal Air Force:
Throughout his riding career, he’s bought, ridden and sold hundreds of machines and can reel off each make and model, even remembering the registration numbers of a few. (It’s a man-thing.) He photographedl the later ones, but owned quite a few before he thought of that. Here’s the first he ever took a picture of, a Kawasaki S1C:
3. His final passion at the moment – apart from me, of course – is remodelling our kit car, an NGTA. Using the donor chassis and engine of a 1964 MGB roadster, (making it a classic) it was originally designed to replicate a 1930’s Aston Martin Ulster. Bought as a part-finished project before we met, it has already ‘risen from the ashes’ twice:
Apart from using it as his every-day means of four-wheeled transport, The Artist drove us in it, from the registry office on Plymouth Hoe, when we married, in 1998.
It even took us abroad, on honeymoon to our longere in Brittany, where the neighbours laughingly declared, ‘c’est drole!’. And we later travelled across northern Europe, arriving – bang on schedule – at the stage door of the German theatre where my son was appearing in the musical, Starlight Express.
And how can we forget the time we visited the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, when the driver of an original T35 Bugatti saluted it as we passed on the road.
Transformation number three has just commenced – the plans will radically alter it’s appearance, make it like no other car on the road. This, in itself, is art as much as mechanics – I’ll keep you posted on developments.
First and last there’s me. A long time ago, The Artist’s mother warned him that he’d never find one woman who would suit him – but I have proved her wrong. To him, I’m perfect. Whew! 🙂