Thursday, 11 February 2021

St Valentine’s Day

 Hola amigos!

This Valentine’s Day I am holding a 25% off sale of artwork. Only available in my gallery. I am hoping to increase my footfall and get lots of people venturing out to find my gallery. Both days I will be open from midday to four pm....tea time! 😂 

If you are local please pop in for a browse or come and make a fuss of Pancho....just don’t get too close to his bed! 😆 

Since A New Life in the Sun, I have been absolutely inundated with messages and email requests. I am quite surprised by how observant people are when watching me on tv. Almost every painting on show in the background has been asked about.

By far the most popular was Consuelo’s three paintings. She has kindly allowed us to sell limited edition prints of her work. They won’t be signed because she does not live near me.

I heard about Consuelo for years when I lived in Arboleas, Andalucia. She is my most famous artist in the gallery. Famous because she creates her stunning artwork with just the palette knife or spatula as they call it in Spain.

So for quite a time people asked me.”Did you meet Consuelo.” And my answer was no.

But it’s funny the twists and turns of life, huh? I started teaching 1:1 a young student called Meili.

Keep an eye out for her. She will be a star! ⭐️ 

One day when I turned up at her home, her mum said to me....”Do you like my new painting?”

Yes! I said and then I saw the signature....Consuelo. “Oh! It’s beautiful! It’s a Consuelo,.”

“Oh yes, she’s my friend. Would you like to meet her?”

And so I did.... and I picked her brains.... She was very kind and generous. She told me she used to hold seminars on how to paint with the palette knife. She said she wasn’t worried about sharing her’s not easy, you know!. 😂 

For me sadly Valentine’s Day only means one thing. It’s the day my mum passed away.

My mum Waltraud is who I get my resilience and tenacity from. She was born in 1930 in what was once called East Prussia.

She grew up living on the banks of the Danube and then moved to Luneburg. That’s was where she met my dad who was in the  army. They met in their teens. She moved to England to get married when she was just 18 years old. When she went to live in Ilkeston Derbyshire, she was considered by my grandparents as the enemy...and they didn’t allow her to use her name, but instead referred to her as Alison. As really just a child that must have taken some strength of character?

She was from the generation where the woman does everything. Plus she was German. (I consider myself to be European not English). My dad would walk past the kettle and flick the switch on...that’s was his share of the tea making task.

Now I am getting older, sometimes I look in the mirror and see my mum looking back at me. 💝

Hasta el fin de semana chicos!

Monday, 18 January 2021


 Back in 2000, I was into NLP and Tony Robbins. My anchor is to hold my right hand as if holding reins. To me it brings back the wind in my face, the sounds of the birds singing, the warmth of the Lincolnshire sunshine on my back, hedgerows of wildflowers and the gentle rolling motion of my horse, Toby beneath me as we canter along the grass verges. That will always be one of my most empowering and heartening memories. A time in the world when all seemed right. I have used my anchor many ties during 2020 to feel heartened in an increasingly strange and isolated world.

Connections is my word for 2021. I am out to look for my people. My ‘who’. People I can connect with at a higher level, spiritually, emotionally and artistically. That’s who I hope my art will reach. As I clasp the reins of my new business venture, I am feeling optimistic, calm and powerful.

For me art is like a language. You practise the craft, you build up your visual vocabulary, and because horses were my first love, I can draw you a horse anytime, anywhere. And I have been using pencils and chalk pencils for many years. I am fluent in them. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to learn the language of watercolour. As similar to chalk as Russian is to French...

As a teacher and life long learner there is one thing that really grates on me. People who say “I am self taught!” Sure, some people have a natural ability, a gift. I do. I get it. But it doesn’t mean I don’t learn, or want to learn from others. No man is an island! To me, it’s a bit like saying I taught myself Chinese. Good luck with that then! Without books, videos, teachers, other people and are going to stay at your current level.  That’s the whole premise of social learning within a classroom. You learn from other people’s mistakes. When you find someone who is really talented, a master, you can learn their craft, if they are big hearted enough to share their secrets. I am constantly learning. I gravitate to anyone who is successfully doing something that I aspire to. If I could I would pick their brains.... So I am the look out to make connections with successful business people, creative artists, promoters, supporters and students who want to learn from me. Thank the world for the internet and the World Wide Web.You can google or you tube anything. As long as Alexa can never wield a paintbrush, I am okay.

And that is the appeal of an artist such as myself. The personal connection. The humanness. The story behind my art. The personalities; whether it is people or pets. The CONNECTION between people. And that is what I have missed during my Covid 19 isolation. 

Thursday, 7 January 2021

New Year’s Eve is always a time when you look back and reflect

New Year’s Eve is always a time when you look back and reflect. I think the whole world had a rubbish year in 2020. We were all in doodo , but some of us were in deeper than others. So I won’t dwell on what was quite frankly a shit year.

I will look back over my teaching career though and think about what a patchwork it was. Some amazing experiences, and some not so amazing!

I think what triggered this was the fact that I am still being remembered fondly (and supported) by girls (now women) from my first ever form class from Helenswood Maplehurst School in Hastings back in 1985. I guess I do have a legacy, and have already touched so many lives. Sally Peckham, as was, gave me my biggest ever commission so far, when she asked me to make portraits of her mother’s spaniels. Here are Millie, Woody, Annie & Ginny.

I am entirely grateful and absolutely thrilled by the stunning review she gave me afterwards.

Following my probation year in East Sussex, we moved even further away from my home town of Ilkeston...just a little bit! We went out to Zimbabwe and worked for a Catholic Organisation called CATORUZI, which stands for Catholic Ancillary Teachers Of Rural Zimbabwe.

Oh, what an adventure! Exciting and sad in equal parts. I worked in a very poor rural school, teaching poor African children in a school called Mutemachani. Which means, whose is this black thing? I taught Cambridge O level English to “children” who couldn’t even spell English, let alone write in paragraphs.

One “child” I taught was 29, one year older than me. His education had been disrupted by fighting for Independence for Zimbabwe so it was no longer the colonial stronghold of Rhodesia.

For the children from the Mutemachani Primary School next door, I was the first white woman they had ever seen. I remember being out in the school grounds surrounded by a circle of hundreds of curious children. Close...but not too close. One or two behind me were brave enough to stroke my hair. They had never seen hair that grew downwards before. But like my mum used to threaten me: the bogeyman will get you, they had been told: Behave! Or the white man will eat you! Nobody came close....

The children all showed so much respect to me and all their other teachers. If they filed into the staffroom to hand in homework, they crouched a little so their heads were lower than mine and proffered their book with both hands.

I had classes of sixty. Four children to one textbook. Nobody talked when I spoke. When I stood at the front of the class and cleared my throat to speak, you could literally hear a pin drop. Nobody ever quarrelled over which page they were on. There was no bickering, no backchat, no shouting out.

My best student was a guy called Trusty Mapfoche. Trusty by name, and trusty by nature. I think now of some of the gifted and talented students I have taught in my long career, and he was definitely one of them. How the dice was loaded against him! Despite all of this, he achieved a B grade in English Language and in 1990 I had a pass rate of 67%. So that means that forty out of a class of sixty achieved a grade C “O” Level. I wonder whatever happened to Trusty Mapfoche, and where his life led him. I wonder if he ever thinks about Mrs Parker?

And then at the other extreme from the days when I was so respected were my days teaching at a school in Swindon. I moved from teaching small groups of troubled teenage boys at Swindon Pupil Referral Unit to teaching at this school which was the bottom school in the new OFSTED league tables. I won’t name it, and I won’t use the actual names of children there.

At the time, I was teaching graphics and three dimensional design in the workshop. The graphics studio was entered by double doors which were padlocked shut. If I was slow getting there, one of the boys had manipulated the padlock and broken in. “Do you want Lewis to show you how to do it, miss.” I had the local cat burglar in my lesson.

In the workshop for the first practical woodwork lesson with the year 7s, the bell was about to go, so I positioned myself between the double doors of the exit and said:”Right! Time to clear up. Put the tools away and sweep the benches.” They laughed. “You are not going out to break until you have cleared up.” They laughed some more....
What did I know?! They climbed onto the workbenches around the room, shimmied up the windows and squeezed out of the narrow top rats off a sinking ship. Gobsmacked, I was.

Then there was the time in the graphics room.... the furniture was ancient lift up school desks. Very rickety. I positioned myself between the doors. “Clear up, and stand behind your desk.” One fourteen year old girl, who was built like a young carthorse, ran around the room jumping from desk to desk like some sort of grotesque mountain goat. I was gobsmacked and relieved in equal parts. How could such a lumbering lummox be so agile? And how the hell did one of those rickety desks not buckle beneath her?

So these days, my teaching is on a wholly different level. I even manage to get through my whole lesson plan, and there is chatting but it is pleasant banter. And my students thoroughly love doing their homework. I am so blessed that my students are some of the nicest, sweetest people on the planet. They have become firm friends and they continue to support me, and are my greatest advertisement.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Dec 2020 - I sure hope karma exists!

As I stumble from one day to the next, I always try to be kind. I shop locally at the little shops where I can. I buy food at the supermarket and gift it to the beggar outside the door; I sponsor various people overseas...and likewise, I have people who look out for me, advise me, support me and mentor me in my business. Tell me good books to read, about negotiation and human nature, after all….I am a teacher not a hardened business woman.

Business these coronavirus days are having a hard time, so many are going bust, or just struggling on, hanging by a thread. Even the massive companies are downsizing, laying people off, putting people out of work, placing families on the breadline. Small businesses with all the overheads are struggling to break even. Desperate times. More important than ever to be kind.

But there are some things you just need to put down to experience. Live n learn…..

Obviously not everybody who looks at paintings is arty, knows about the legalities, or even knows about how a painting is created. Obviously lots of people think it must be very easy… they don’t want to pay too much. I need to take that as a compliment….I obviously make it look very easy.

So when somebody asks me to copy another artist’s work, I have to explain that you can’t do that. It’s plagiarism, forgery….and is kind of rowned upon. I can do my own version, but I need to change it.

If you have never painted, you wouldn’t know that although the actual canvas might be

relatively cheap, you need to prepare the surface with gesso. Three coats at least. Oil paint in particular is expensive….so the bigger the canvas the more material cost it has before the hours of work and artistry can even begin to be taken into account.

And of course, when you paint you put a little bit of yourself into that painting, or drawing. It feels very personal when it is rejected.

So imagine after putting your heart and soul and lots of time, effort and materials into a project, the person who commissioned you, who stole your precious time then decides actually it’s not good enough, it wasn’t what he had envisioned then it is kind of personal.

And to add insult to injury demands all the money back, so you have lost your time, your energy, materials and kind of enthusiasm for art, and you are out of pocket. And then he repeatedly threatens to denounce you because the colour is not right.

I have faced the painting outwards from the shop. I hope someone will be drawn to it, …’s still not finished yet, if I ever muster the energy and will to do so. I think I will offer it to a local charity for auction. Hopefully, karma does exist and it will speak to someone else in this world of the love, creativity, vibrancy and general awe of the world that was in my heart when I first started.

I have found an amazing amount of support from random fb friends, virtual strangers. But my biggest supporters, I have to say have been the people who have known me the longest….school friends from my school days as a child. People who were in awe of this gift that I ,kind of, take for granted. And pupils, children I taught ...some of them 35 years ago, who have grown up into adults who still remember me fondly and who want to support me. Wow! That’s amazing!

An old school friend put it all into perspective for me. He had lost millions of euros in Spain, had over 500 ‘denuncias’ against him, had death threats...yeah! That kind of puts it all into perspective. And he was kind enough to let me know, to chat to me after all these years and help me to keep my chin up. I love his phrase: would the dog worry about it? Because I know that my dog worries only about me, my welfare and where I am if I go away from him. I know this because he shows me, in the way he is overjoyed when I return, even if it was just two minutes to put the rubbish out. How he follows me to the loo, and gets behind my legs, between me and the toilet. 🤭🙄

So, in retrospect I need to tighten up my legalities and keep my dog close at hand.

...Come along karma, kick in soon please

Oct 2020 - Almost six months in….time to reflect!

I actually can’t believe I have been in this for six months. It seems so unreal!

On the plus side; I have learnt a lot. A lot about human nature, and a lot about myself.

So thinking back to the first few days back in June when I was overjoyed to be out of the prison that was my flat, and able to walk down to the gallery into an area that most resembled box city, where I had just dumped everything the night before lockdown in Spain commenced.
My head was spinning. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but it felt good to actually do something. In those first few days surprisingly I had quite a few visitors….
The first visitors I had were the family members of the shop owners. Philip the barber next door, is the youngest son. I affectionately refer to him as Edward Scissorhands. I have my hair cut by a barber…..! He’s the most thorough hairdresser I have ever had, takes hours over my hair, sectioning it and trimming it so, so carefully. Then Philip finishes off with his scissorhands impression and flicks up my hair and snips into it as it falls…..amazing and terrifying at the same time.
I had several artists walk through my door, too. Oh, I am glad you opened a gallery, I am an artist too! I had “The Art Goddess” walk in on the second day. On the third day, the guy who delivered my rose trees wife is an artist! Oh really!!!
Within five minutes she had walked through my door, carrying two seascapes and a photo album of hundreds of her oil paintings.
The first few were very traditional spanish Still Lifes…...quite dark, old fashioned. How do I tell this woman these won’t sell? Was what I was thinking….
I carried on flicking through her album and came across a painting of fishermen on a boat.
Good subject matter for a fishing port like Puerto de Mazarron. The faces were brilliant, the sea was brilliant, the perspective was all good. “Ohhhh , I like this one!”
Oh, that one’s sold. The seascapes look better further away, they do. I took them and paid for them to be framed. I also chose a nude woman from a harem of six or seven beautiful nude women. La Morena de la Noche. She’s the largest and most expensive painting in my gallery, but she does have perfect breasts. Six months on, she has aroused a lot of interest, a fair amount of teenage sniggering and she is still here adorning my walls with her beautiful breasts.

On the fourth day Philip was chatting to me in my gallery, and outside lurked an old Spaniard on a mobility scooter. It was so hot on the street, I became concerned that the old fella would become dehydrated.
Philip popped outside to speak to him. There was no way I could have understood the old gent. Firstly he’s from Murcia, and they swallow the ends of the words, plus he was wearing a mask, making his already mumbled speech even more garbled.
He was an art collector! And had been waiting years for someone to open a gallery, so he could make his fortune selling off his valuable art collection….would I like to see his stash? Well, Philip came with me at the appointed time to his lock up further up the same street to the gallery. He unlocked it and revealed the contents…..
Think of a mixture between Only Fools And Horses and Steptoe & Son.
The first thing that struck me was a huge deep red velvet board covered in about thirty foot high crucifixes complete with Jesus. “He’s really religious!” I Whispered to Philip. He nodded weakly in agreement. We followed the tiny clear path to the back of the lockup. There were old, empty and dusty picture frames stacked up against the walls about ten deep.

The old guy had Guernica,...but not the original, he had the Mona Lisa….but not the original…. I was just trying to think of a good reason to leave, whenPhilip picked up an ancient Artist’s portfolio. In it were some brilliant life drawing sketches in pencil and sanguine conte crayon. Oh these are good! I collected about six into my arms. But that is where the language barrier became insurmountable….he wanted me to pay him for them up front. ( I am not an art collector, or valuation expert. I am an art teacher). He told me my verbal agreement wasn’t worth the paper it was written on…
That’s when I threw my teddy out of the cot. I was affronted and stalked out of the garage to go back to emptying my own boxes.

The next day he popped by the gallery again with his daughter Miren. Francisco was an art collector, owned four houses in the port, was 96 years old, and was an ex lawyer but made his fortune by selling steel. He brought me one drawing.
The drawing is by an artist from Cadiz. José Luis Rey-Vila. I recognised his life drawing by his use of “the essential line”.
José Luis Rey Vila (Cadice, 1900 – Paris, 1983) was a Spanish artist from Cadiz.
He studied at the School of Fine Arts of Cadiz and of Barcelona. In 1921, he returned from North Africa with an album of drawings against politics. In Barcelona, he worked as illustrator and cartoonist for Ford and as illustrator for several art magazines. In 1936, he participated as an artist in the Social Revolution. He realized a watercolor album “Estampas de la revoluciòn española” for the international propaganda. Every drawing is accompanied by a comment in three different languages (Spanish, English, and French). This album was curated by CNT-FAI and became – before Picasso's Guernica – the most famous artwork about the Spanish Revolution. He adopted the name of SIM to protect his family in Siviglia.
His artistic style is characterized by strong and rigid outlines. In 1937, he moved to Paris (for the International Exposition). He opened his atelier in Buttes-Chaumont. He often travelled around Europe, and exhibited his works in Paris and La Havana. He has never gone back to Spain.
So now I have two nudes for sale. They are still for sale six months on.
So back to the now….just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did….
So now the perimeters are locked down for another two weeks. Now at least, I can walk
along the Paseo with Pancho to the gallery. It has become more of a lock in studio. My once thriving art classes are decimated because my faithful supporters just can’t get here any more.

Never has Christmas felt so unchristmassy. Roll on 2021….

Aug 2020 - What a year to start a business in a foreign country!

Setting up a business in Spain may seem like an idyllic opportunity but it is NOT for the faint hearted. How the Spanish love paperwork...

If this is something that you are interested in doing, the best advice I can give you is: learn Spanish - you ARE going to need it!

In the beginning of 2020, I had saved enough money, and summoned enough courage, to move to the beautiful seaside town of Puerto de Mazarron. I was already living in Spain, but was set to relocate and had agreed to rent an empty space to turn into my gallery. Unfortunately, just as plans for the opening evening were being finalised, COVID19 hit Spain with its full force and all municipalities were placed into an extremely strict lockdown. I immediately lost money on advertising and printed publications, and spent my first ten weeks in a strange new town unable to leave my home.

Fortunately, I am surrounded by some really ‘salt of the earth’ Spaniards. The people I have been lucky enough to meet and form strong friendships with have gone above and beyond in order to help me, and I am so grateful for that.

The big planned opening night of April 3 didn’t happen, so we sort of limped into existence, stumbling through each day as we went. I had never done anything like this before, and except for my beloved rescue street dog Pancho, I was doing it all alone!

For the previous thirty years of my life, I had been a teacher - and so, I fell back into what I knew… I developed a few four week art courses and as soon as I was able to hold lessons in the gallery I started, taking feedback and improving the courses as the weeks went on. I am eternally grateful for the first students, who gave me hope, whose support became a sounding board, and who are now true friends.

So now, eight months on and COVID19 has still not gone away - we are currently in full force of the second wave. It is not so locked down as before, since we are now allowed to leave home, but freedoms are severely limited. There is an eleven o’clock curfew and you are not allowed to travel to the next municipality. You also have to wear a mask ALL. THE. TIME. Everywhere. (Even if you are walking outside alone in the middle of the countryside with no-one to be seen for miles) 

So you can imagine my terror when I was teaching in my gallery and the Spanish police pulled up right outside… and I was MASKLESS!

The Spanish police are very formidable and not to be messed with - they hand out hefty fines if you break the rules. They have a card reader in the police car or will escort you to an ATM to make sure that you pay the fine immediately.

At the time, luckily my student had her mask on but since I did not I remained seated and pulled my, now empty, mug of coffee tentatively closer.  The burly and hirsute officer entered, looking from person to person and asked for me by name. Shit!

“That’s me…” I said with a weak smile. He handed me an A4 document all written in Spanish and told me I had ten days to present myself to the Mazarron town hall. I became a small puddle of water… I panicked and, much too late, grabbed my mask like some sort of safety device.

The policeman left, and I made an extra strong cup of coffee.

I photographed the document and sent it to my number one go-to person in Spain. Javier, the son of the premises owner from whom I rent the gallery space. Javier speaks fluent English and is a very kind young man. He is not just the salt of the earth, he is a whole salt lamp! 

He advised me not to panic and suggested I hand the document over to my very efficient Spanish accountant, who is two things: totally an efficient account and totally Spanish. No English at all! 

Fortunately, she sorted it all out for me and I avoided the trauma of actually having to go and be subjected to the bureaucracy of the Rottweilers over at the town hall. For now, atleast…

Hasta la próxima mis amigos!


St Valentine’s Day

 Hola amigos! This Valentine’s Day I am holding a 25% off sale of artwork. Only available in my gallery. I am hoping to increase my footfall...