Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Caganer

The strangest Christmas present I received this year was from my nephew, who lives in  Spain.
He sent me a caganer model for my nativity display but as it is rather big, it will probably end up on my  shelf of curios, in the studio.
The 'Caganer' figure is a typical Catalan image placed in the Nativity to represent  joy. It is shown pooing, to symbolise fertilisation of the soil and  if not included, will bring bad luck to the family who own it.
 Andrew had already sent me a 'Shitting Shepherd' many years ago, which sits discreetly at the back of the scene, facing the heavenly host, so I already have that covered.
The new one is in the guise of Salvador Dali because  for many celebrities, it was considered an honour to have their own caganer . 

Friday, 22 December 2017

Beard Malfunctions

I am always looking for opportunities to advertise Ted Coney's Family Portraits but this time of year it is just the opposite.
I have twice played Father Christmas this season and both times had to fight hard not to be recognised.
On the first occasion sitting in an outside grotto, I had a very scratchy beard which drove me mad. I had to keep pulling it away from my face when the children weren't looking. I endured this for three and a half hours.
Hazel had already put new elastic on the beard for my second outing, a ride around Ely by sleigh. However, the beard was too wide for my face and kept slipping down, just when children were approaching to say hello.
I am all for keeping the magic alive and the children really do believe, but it proved very difficult in the circumstances. I only hope they didn't see me wrestling with the wig, hat and beard and ruin all their dreams.
Happy Christmas!

Friday, 15 December 2017

Remembering the 6th

Johnathan came the other night bringing back two newly framed paintings - 'Against The Light' and 'Bicycle Thieves'. The latter, he had framed the wrong way around, so had to take it back again!
Whilst he was here, I asked him to open todays door on my painting (of the 37 days of our Christmas) 'Limners'. It turned out to be a picture  to represent Leo's birthday on 6th December and was of a blow up birthday cake, which he had been given as a present.
It was fitting that Johnathan should open the door as had made the frame in 1993 and at the time said it was the most challenging thing had had ever attempted.
You can see the painting on page 2 of the PRINTS FOR SALE page on my website.

Friday, 8 December 2017

How I Cope

I've just had my last tour of the season for Ted Coney's Family Portraits and had visitors from Malaysia, Mexico and China in the group.
One person asked me the question ' Why do you paint ? '
After a few seconds, I replied 'It helps me cope with life'.
At the end of the visit he bought a tour guide and asked me to write the quote on the cover and sign it.
 Perhaps it made an impression..

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Blowing In The Wind

Last week an A4 poster blew off a much larger image on my A board whilst it was advertising
 Ted Coney's Family Portraits. I had used it to hide something which was no longer true.
It was stuck over a slogan which had been displayed when  the venture first started.
'Five generations in thirty minutes' it read, both of which have become out of date.
There are now six generations of the family featured in the house and the tour  lasts about an hour.
My new slogan,   'Ely's first pop-up gallery',  is much nearer the mark..

Friday, 24 November 2017

Land Ahoy !

Readers of my blog will know that I have been trying to get more space to display my work for
Ted Coney's Family Portraits tours, for a  few years now. I have  too many paintings to display them altogether.
Four years ago I tried to buy a small room from the house next door (not as crazy as it sounds because we already own a room upstairs, which is part of the other property) when they were completely redesigning the whole space.
I also explored opening up our loft as another room, but  building regulations made it too difficult to do, without spoiling the rest of the house.
I've been looking into putting another floor onto the garage/studio building but feel sure all the neighbours would complain.
However, there is an opportunity we might be able to buy a small strip of land from the company who are building some houses behind us.
Watch this space for more news. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Sooty And The Mexicans

Some of my  Mexican students came for a tour last week. I did think about showing them my painting 'Offrenda' (you can see it on my PRINTS FOR SALE page) as it was inspired by their Day of the Dead culture, but in the end I chickened out.
I had previously  used the hand puppets Sooty and his friends to represent my parents and eldest brother  in the painting 'Duet'.  They lived in the same area as Harry and Marjorie Corbett and their son Matthew, who were the manipulators of the T.V. characters in the 1950s. The Corbetts also seemed to have the same dependency on each other as my family had.
After my mother died, I used the same puppets again to represent various members of the family in the painting 'Offrenda', making them  appear slightly skull- like.
Who in Mexico would have heard of Sooty? I think the group enjoyed their tour anyway, with one student describing it as 'beyond amazing'.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Like A Kaleidoscope

I knew I had one in the loft but could I heck as find it.
 I had some Chinese visitors coming for one of my tours and I wanted to show them what a kaleidoscope was, as I felt it would better explain my ideas for the painting.
'Grand Tours' is a picture I made in 1992 to celebrate five journeys with five members of my immediate family.
 I wanted to make the point  that a journey is like a kaleidoscope, with each new twist and turn, everything changes. I even used a kaleidoscope lens in the preparatory stages of the design , to make the images appear glimpsed at, rather than too clear. You can see the painting on my website on one of the PRINTS FOR SALE pages.
I did manage to buy another kaleidoscope before my guests arrived  and hopefully it helped.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Trapped In Time

I've just been to the Jasper Johns exhibition and was  interested in the paintings where he had used encaustic wax on the surface. He was influenced by the Romans who used it on their mummy portraits of Faiyum.
The process is described as 'hot when you apply it but dry's to an oily sheen'.
I have used it on several of my paintings, where I wanted to give the impression that the image was trapped in time.
I used a thin membrane of encaustic wax between two images in my painting 'Tea for 222' because I wanted to show what had happened in the past while simultaneously  displaying  the present.
Two great aunts had led exciting lives during the 2nd world war - one we believed had worked at Bletchley Park while the other had poised naked in the Windmill Theatre.
Whilst I used numbers (to represent code breaking machines and telephones)  in  the  bottom layer, the top surface was painted with a typical English afternoon tea to symbolise the Aunt's respectable old age.
The wax helps to show both images at the same time.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Chalk And Cheese

'Chalk and Cheese' - everyone thought it was a terrible title for an art exhibition but I felt the right sentiment was there.
I am going to be one half of a two man exhibition at the Babylon Gallery, Ely in March next year and we are beginning to make tentative arrangements.
Francis Jeans (the other artist) also works on canvas with oil paint but always from direct observation and on location, no matter how difficult the circumstances. I always work in my cosy studio, usually sitting down at my easel.
Whereas he seems to work everything out in his head, I have to have lots of props around me with sketchbook drawings and preliminary paintings to support my ideas.
We are going to have further discussions about the name of the show soon and I'll let you know, when we have a result.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Object As Actor

I've just been to a fascinating exhibition at the Royal Academy entitled 'Matisse in the studio'.
The theme of the show was how the artist used objects in his paintings. So, as well as seeing the paintings we also saw the objects which Matisse had acquired over a number of years and used  over and over again in his work.
He saw his objects as actors and the studio as the theatre.
I won't try to compare myself with Matisse(!) but I also use objects  in my paintings and visitors get to see them when they come for a tour of my pop-up gallery.
An example of this would be the marionette, Mr Turnip - a replica of which I had specially made and used in several of my paintings. The puppet was originally built for a 1950's children's TV programme and always fascinated me as a child.
You can see the paintings (and preliminary drawings) on my PRINTS FOR SALE page in my website. Click on the image to make it bigger
Mr Turnip appears in 'Diamonds', 'The Enigma of the Chinese Mask' and '3001', though you will have to look very hard to see him in the last one as he is laid horizontally across the picture.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Give And Take

When is an auction not an auction? When it's a raffle.
We were asked if we had anything to donate to a charity dance, recently. I had understood that it was going to be an auction so I offered one of my preliminary canvases as they have always gone for a reasonable price at other similar events.
I then heard it was going to be a raffle - quite a different affair. With an auction one has to believe someone really wants the item they are bidding for. With a raffle one might be disappointed with my little canvas as a prize and would have preferred a bottle of wine.
I'm afraid I asked for my canvas back. You can still buy it from my website (click from the
 NEWS AND REVIEWS page) and make a donation to your favourite charity.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Knife Attack

I haven't used a palette knife for painting since I did some ghastly work about fifty years ago. Of course, I always use a knife for mixing the colours and stripping them off  at the end of a painting session.
However, I decided that my painting 'Forget-Me-Nots' needed  more savage handling in certain areas of the canvas, as all the objects seemed too neat and fitted correctly into their own shape. As the painting is about dementia and memory loss I wanted to create the feeling that everything was slightly out of control and not as it should be.
Although it's not finished, you can see the results so far on the NEWS AND REVIEWS page of my website.
Or better still, book a visit to my pop-up gallery, where you can see the painting for real.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Better Late Than

Last Sunday I had two visitors booked, who had seen my virtual tour on the website and were very interested to see my painting 'In Three Our Kingdom' for real. I decided to do the tour entitled 'TIME' for them and promised that this painting would be included.
I got everything ready - which takes about two hours to organise and waited in the garden for them to arrive.
The start time is 2pm and at 2:25pm I had almost given up. In nine years of doing guided tours I had never been let down before. I felt like an actor with no audience.
Finally they arrived full  of apologues as they thought it began at 2:30!
Anyway, the tour went well and they were very appreciative.
They found the work very moving - you can see it for yourself on the PRINTS FOR SALE or as part of the tour(real or virtual)

Friday, 22 September 2017

Once Upon A Time

One of the most interesting artists I saw on our travels this summer, was a Kenyan painter called Michael Armitage, whose work we encountered at the Turner Contemporary in Margate.
He told stories, often horrific but very moving, through his paintings.
 I liked his work, partly because he was a terrific painter, but also because of his ability to visualise a story. This is something I also try to do  in my work.
I was explaining to some visitors in my pop-up gallery last week, the story behind my painting
 'Snow Angels and No Angels'. 
Queen Eleanor of Castile died in Harby, Lincolnshire in 1290 and everywhere along the route of her cortege to Westminster Abbey, her grieving husband, Edward 1 had a cross erected to mark her passing.
I followed the same route by bicycle in 2008 and placed a flower on the site of each cross to commemorate/celebrate, fifteen female members of my family. This formed the basis for my picture.
You can see the painting (one image at a time) on the HOME page of my website. If you want to see all fifteen canvases together, go to the PRINTS FOR SALE page and follow the link. 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Getting To Know Me

I will do most things to advertise Ted Coney's Family Portraits, especially if they are free. Well, maybe not running naked through the streets of Ely, but you know what I mean.
So an invitation from the local newspaper to answer twenty questions in their 'Getting To Know You' column seemed like a good opportunity.
You can see the results on the NEWS AND REVIEWS page of my website. It's the first article in the REVIEWS AND ARTICLES section.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Disolving Into Darkness

In my current painting 'Forget- Me- Nots', I have been experimenting with different ways of representing dementia.
During a recent visit to Amsterdam I  looked at how Rembrandt made his objects and people dissolve into darkness and deep shadow.
In my painting, this could represent loss of memory and a lack of  understanding.
 I aim to combine this idea with other techniques eventually, but you can see the results so far, in the NEWS AND REVIEWS page on my website

Thursday, 31 August 2017

New Recruit

I made a painting a few years ago entitled 'If The Boats Come In' - you can see it in the
 OPENING TIMES page on my website.
 In it, I represented all the family by their toy sailing boats, returning  to the annual family gathering in Sheringham. The toy boats out at sea (family members in foreign lands) were painted as if knitted and the question I poised in the work was,  are they beginning to unravel, or were they been drawn into the pond?
This year, it was a great delight to take Sebastian, the newest family member, to the shop in Sheringham to buy his boat. As he is only three months old, I am not sure how much he will remember of the ensuing races, but hopefully he will enjoy this family tradition in the years to come.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

For Our Convenience

We've just been visiting Sheringham, staying in a very interesting building which David had rented for the week.
It was right on the sea front and was formally a Victorian public convenience . It has now been converted into a very desirable residence, so it was nice to make use of it for a few days.
I had two attempts at the drawing it, one using watercolour and the other, sketching with a ball point pen.
I made it look a bit like Norman Bate's house in 'Psycho', although it was rather sinister when we approached it at night.
p.s. (It is called the 'Wee Retreat'

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Get Real

We came back to Cambridge from a school trip by a strange route I'd never seen before. The architecture looked more like Pisa or Florence.
Hazel came to meet me in  the Morris Minor and I was horrified to discover how rusty and damaged it was. I then realised we were loading up the wrong car. Mine stood gleaming in the sunlight on the other side of the car park.
I then woke up from a dream.
Over fifty years ago something very similar happened for real.
I had been out drinking with other students and we all dived into my Morris for a lift home. I couldn't get the car started but suddenly my eyes cleared and I realised that I didn't own a leopard skin dashboard !
There must be a painting in there, somewhere.

Friday, 11 August 2017

He's An Artist

My six year old granddaughter is always drawing and painting and completely took over my watercolour sketchbook while we were on holiday, recently. I didn't mind as it's lovely to see her being so creative.
We were walking along the beach together when we came across some people painting the view on small canvases.
We went over to say hello and see what they were doing.
Poppy stiffed and remarked  'My grandpa is a proper artist'
I gave an awkward smile and we hurried away.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Three Way Stretch

I've just done another interview for Star Radio, which you can hear on my website - just scroll down to the RADIO section on the MEDIA page.
It went well I think, but I  forgot to say that Ted Coney's Family Portraits had been described as a cross between a gallery, a museum and an open studio, which is a good way to publicise the experience.
However, this three way theme is developed visually when you click on the radio page. There is a painting of me with three heads (and only two eyes), made recently by one of my talented students. Well, he had been looking at Cubism.

Haka Powhiri

I have made a few tentative steps towards preparing for my next painting about Leo going to work at the other side of the world.
Last week I made some drawings of the old beams in our 300 year old cottage (laid on the floor so I could look up at the ceiling) to represent the UK and I shall contrast these with a structure of a maori meeting house to symbolise New Zealand.
Haka Powhiri is a chant of welcome when newcomers come ashore and maybe the title of my new painting - we'll see how it develops.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Finding Happy Families

Last Thursday I did three tours of Ted Coney's Family Portraits for twenty three French students and their teachers. It was pretty exhausting as I had to keep it lively and interesting on what turned out to be, a very hot day.
I had already decided to show them a painting of mine from 1982 entitled 'Happy Families' which illustrated the state of play in our family at the time. I had used the card game by the same name  both for stylistic reasons (large heads, small bodies) but also  to show the image a game being played as the subject matter.
Although I had  a pack of the cards at the time, somehow in the move to Ely they got lost. I felt it was important to show them to the French students so they had a better understanding of what I was doing.
I got very blank stares from an assistant when I tried to purchase a new set in W.H. Smith's but I went into Cambridge and finally managed to find some.
I shall enjoy playing the game again when we next meet up with our grandchildren.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Growing The Business

Yesterday I attended a course entitled 'Grow your business through Innovation'. As it was free and only a couple of minutes from the house, I decided to go and see if it could be useful for developing Ted Coney's Family Portraits.
I wondered whether I might be to old for this kind of thing (all sharp suits and brief cases) but I needn't have worried - it proved to be interesting and everyone was very friendly.
We were put into groups and had to explain what innovations we might bring to our own business and then the team had to choose one, to work on.
My team chose my pop-up gallery - whether this was because it seemed the most interesting or everyone thought I was most in need of help, I'm not sure!
I've already had a helpful Email from a guy who was keen to show me how easy it would be to put pictures on my blog (watch this space) and some advice from another delegate who wants to help me restructure the business.
I came away in a whirl - but the bacon sandwiches saved me from having to make lunch.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Centre Stage

I polished the brass surround of the windscreen on my 1931 Morris Minor until it shone. It's always amazing  how this makes the whole car look clean.
This was in readiness for the next tour of Ted Coney's Family Portraits but also for it's appearance at a local festival a few days later.
On a tour of the house, after seeing  the Morris,  I also pointed out the painting 'Golden Jubilee Ride', where the car appears in all six pictures.
One of the visitors asked if he could photograph the Morris and ofcourse I agreed.
A couple of days later at Aquafest,  by allowing people to take photographs of themselves with the Morris I was able to make some money for charity. I saw the same couple again who had been on  my tour and  they wanted another photo of the car but this time with me.
Afterwards, I was glad to get home safely, as two years ago the Morris had failed to start and I had to call the A.A.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Oppotunity Knocks

I was never going to make my fortune doing guided tours around my pop-up gallery but I do seem to have missed some good opportunities to make  money, of late.
I've had three separate groups wanting to book Ted Coney's Family Portraits recently and I've had to turn them all away. Either we had family commitments or I was working and couldn't do a week day.
One nice lady wanted to bring her husband as a birthday treat but she promised not to wait another year before they try and book again.
 I've just had a booking for three tours - all on the same day, which I will be able to do. It's from a summer school for French students. I must have done OK last year as this is a return booking.
As I remember, it was very hot  and I had to give them iced water to keep them going.

Thursday, 22 June 2017


We've just been to Amsterdam and spent lots of time in all the wonderful galleries there.  One of my favourite places of the trip was visiting Rembrandt's house.
Although most of the original decorations, inside structure and furnishings have gone, they have tried to put it back to exactly how it was when Rembrandt owned it.
The space that particularly intrigued me was his room of objects. Things he had collected and often used in his paintings. Apparently, his collecting got completely out of hand and he spent too much and couldn't pay the mortgage. He end up selling most of them and had to go into rented accommodation.
A salutary thought. Ofcourse I have a room of objects which I have used in my paintings and are shown  as part of my guided tours around Ted Coney's Family Portraits.
I shall need to be careful, though even the puppet theatre only cost £5  in 1970.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Univited Guest

There is a new feature about Ted Coney's Family Portraits on Spotted In Ely and you can now see it on my NEWS AND REVIEWS page.
If you click to the original version you will see a photo of the labyrinth of mirrors that I used for my painting 'David's Journey' several years ago. It contains the figures of Muffin the Mule and his friends, who represented different members of the family in the picture.
I was reminded of the year I did Open Studio in our house in Great Shelford and I had it on display alongside the painting.
We had two cats then, so I carefully covered the labyrinth with a cloth, ready to open to the public the next day.
I came down to utter carnage. The cats had jumped all over the cloth and broken some of the animals, many of which were made of paper mache and clay. I quickly mended as many  as I could and opened the house  as planned.
 People seemed very interested in both the painting and labyrinth. It was only after everyone had gone that I realised why the cats were so intent on attacking the model.
Inside was a dead mouse which must have experienced a horrible time running along  walls of mirror before it expired.
Did anyone  notice? Obviously to polite to say.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A Yorkshire Connection

I've just had the owner of  the online newspaper 'Spotted In Ely' around  to take a series of photographs for a feature on Ted Coney's Family Portraits.
While in the studio, I explained about the visits I'd made to five Yorkshire sea-side towns last summer, to do research for my latest painting 'Forget-Me-Nots'.
He noticed the names of the towns on the brown luggage labels which are attached to each suitcase in which I had collected the objects.
His eyes lit up, as he too remembered all the places he had visited in his boyhood.
Infact it turned that we had lived near to each other as children, though not at the same time.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Prodigal Son

Recently, we were at Corsham Court, in Wiltshire, which was the home of my old college when I studied Fine Art, over fifty years ago.
I was back to look at some of the paintings in the state rooms (I never did look, as a student) using an old catalogue, friends had given me for a birthday present.
I was particularly interested in the painting 'The Prodigal Son', not so much for its subject matter, but more in the way it was laid out.
It was like a very early comic strip, in that different parts of the story were being told within the one picture.
It has given me  ideas for the composition of a painting I want to do eventually, where Mr Toad represents all the greed and wasted potential that existed in my family.
His downfall and subsequent punishment mirrors exactly what happened to certain members of the Coney clan who drank their way through a small fortune, a hundred years ago.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Strawberries And Selfies

I did a tour of Ted Coney's Family Portraits for some of my lovely students the other week. I hope they enjoyed the experience and they did write nice things in my Visitors book (well they would, wouldn't they?)
They also brought me a punnet of strawberries when they arrived.
I noticed that they took a lot of photos with their phones, both of themselves and the paintings - without asking.
I didn't mind, but no wonder I didn't sell any postcards!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Monkey Business

Seventy years ago I remember playing with a cheap metal figurine, while we were on holiday in the small East Yorkshire town of Withernsea. It rained a lot there.
The object had been bought from a gift shop and was in the shape of  three wise monkeys 'Hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil'.
It sat on a shelf in my grandparents house for many years and eventually my mother must have inherited it. When the house was sold, I finally claimed the object and it has been sitting in my studio for a while now.
It is  one of the 'Withernsea' objects for the new painting I am working on, entitled
 'Forget-Me- Nots '.
You can spot the monkeys at the start of a TV news item I was featured  in recently.
 It appears at the top of the MEDIA page on my website.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Sketching Sebastian

I made drawings of my own children after they were born and some of these images made their way into final paintings such as 'Ghosts' (Yve), 'Lifeline To Leo' and 'Max's Diary'.
Although I also made sketches of my first grandchildren, Barnaby and Poppy, by this time the paintings were using other means of presenting  ideas about the family.
With Barnaby it was a thin slither of gold leaf in my picture 'Minglelands' and Poppy appeared as dawn light in 'Another Year'.
It was a great privilege to be sketching my new grandson, Sebastian last week and I am sure I will mark his birth in some way, eventually. When Max told me he had cut the umbilical cord, ideas started to gather.
You can see all these paintings when you next book a tour at Ted Coney's Family Portraits

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Rembrandt's Squiggles

We've just been to Hull to take part in the City of Culture celebrations. The best thing for me was seeing a painting by Rembrandt from the Royal Collection.
It is entitled 'The Shipbuilder and his Wife' and has the most wonderful bit of painting you could wish to see. When you look closely at the edge of the shipbuilder's ruff it looks like a mass of squiggles of oil paint but when you stand further away - the magic happens.
In my current painting 'Forget-Me- Nots'  I want to paint sections of  objects coming out of the darkness and this trick of Rembrandt's has really inspired me.
 I won't pull it off ofcourse, but what a great example to follow.

Friday, 28 April 2017

A Crab With Dementia

How do you paint a plastic crab with dementia? That's the problem I am experiencing as I start using the objects in my new painting 'Forget-Me-Nots' . 
The picture is about my grandmother and her four sisters in old age and I collected a group of objects to be placed inside the silhouette of each person to represent them.
I am using the objects, all collected from five sea-side towns which I identify with the sisters, to try to convey memories of their lives..
Only sometimes, through memory loss and dementia, one can't always remember what the link with the object was.
How do I convey this in paint? I am trying a few different ways of doing it. The painting will be on my website soon, so you will  be able to judge if I am being successful.   

Friday, 21 April 2017

As Seen On T.V.

To advertise the reopening of Ted Coney's Family Portraits this weekend, I've just had Cambridge TV here to do some filming for a news item.
I was interviewed  in my studio and then they filmed me  painting, opening the advent painting (Limners) and manipulating Muffin the Mule (don't ask).
I did explain at the beginning that I was feeling anxious/excited, as we were awaiting news of the immanent arrival of our next grandchild.
Halfway through the interview the phone rang and I nearly fell off the chair. It was only someone for Hazel but could have been a tricky moment.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Meeting Miss Dupont

We were at the Royal Academy this week and I visited an exhibition of Anthony Green's work entitled 'The Life and Death of Miss Dupont'.
Anthony Green also paints stories about his family, the only difference being, he is an internationally famous artist and an R.A.!
I have met Anthony on several occasions over the years and we once attended one of his parties at his home in Cambridgeshire.
 I remember there was so many people there that I ended up sitting on a bed with about twenty other guests and next to me was Anthony's formidable mother. The Miss Dupont in the painting. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Magic and Mayhem

Last week I had my lovely grandchildren to stay, to help celebrate my birthday. After a splendid meal we did a Sooty's Magic Show to the grown-ups. It got a bit out of hand, with Sooty and Sweep bashing each other, but we managed to make most of the tricks work.
I'd kept all the puppets from when I produced a two canvas painting entitled ' Duet ' many years ago.
The first canvas showed a conjurer making  objects disappear (my mother had hired a magician to perform at her 70th birthday party) which I used to demonstrate that my parents were going to move, after living all their lives in the same city.
In the second canvas I portrayed Sooty, Sweep and Soo as my parents and  eldest brother, whom they were moving to be near. I felt they had the same tense relationship as Sooty's manipulators, Harry and Marjorie Corbett and their son Matthew.
Strangely enough, they also lived in the same area of North Yorkshire.

Friday, 31 March 2017

I'm Worth It

I just announced on my website that Ted Coney's Family Portraits will be reopening for the new season on Sunday 21st April with bookings taken from 1st April.
As this is my 8th year, I have decided to put my prices up from £3 to £5 for adults and £2 to £3 for children and students.  Each tour lasts about an hour and as it takes me  two hours to set up and take down all the signs etc. this seemed like the right moment to make changes.
Several visitors had said they thought it was too cheap, and as I can only take a maximum of six people at a time, I wasn't even earning the minimum wage.
 Of course I do it more for love than money  but there are limits.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Brief Encounter

Many years ago I made a painting entitled 'Family Funeral'.
 It focused on Churchill's funeral, although I used my family to represent the ordinary people at the event. Although it was a pretty awful painting, it was the beginning of making use of my family to make images.
A couple of weeks ago we revisited Laycock and by chance went into a local pottery, to fill a bit of time before going onto Bristol.
We got talking to the potter (he hailed me as a fellow duffle coat wearer) and it turned out he was the grandson of Churchill via his father, who was illegitimate. Something to do with an Irish maid in the dim and distant past.
We had quite a chat but I forgot to ask him if he went to the funeral.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Wall Painting

Last weekend we visited Max and Sarah in their new home. They had stripped the walls and while we were there, we helped with a little decorating.
I normally dodge DIY but as their baby is due, I joined in, by painting around the edges of the walls, while they  steamed ahead with a roller over the larger areas.
The week before, I had been painting walls of a very different kind in my current painting
 'Forget-Me- Nots'.
Using a shaper (that's a stick with a rubber on the end), sponge, tissue and sandpaper I tried to get the impression of an old, peeling wall to act as a background to the images of the five sisters who will be placed on top.
I am not sure which was the most successful.

Friday, 10 March 2017

New and Old Styles

When I am publicising my pop-up gallery - Ted Coney's Family Portraits, I try to spend as little as possible on advertising. If it is free, even better.
For the last three weeks I have noticed that this weekly blog, which is also on my Facebook page reached over 140 people for three consecutive weeks. Before that it averaged about ten people a week. Hopefully, some  will visit when I reopen in late April
As well as the power social media to spread the word, I also use old style advertising because it can be just as effective in a more personal way.
For example, I attach one of my posters to my 1940 bicycle which is seen around Ely and when I travel back and forth to Cambridge on the train, for work.
I do get some quizzical looks, though.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Green and Crinkly

When the old £5 notes go out of circulation later in the year I want to keep a few back for an idea I have for a new painting about the family.
It is said  that E.H. Shepard used the interior of Ely Courthouse for his inspiration for the scene in 'The Wind in the Willows', where Toad is hauled before the Magistrates.
In my painting I see Toad as a symbol for all that is greedy and excessive about some members of the family. Unfortunately they had access too much money to early on, and any family fortune we had, is now lost. Most of it used to buy alcohol.
And the £5 notes? I want to use them to build up the texture of Toad's skin, so hopefully you only see what it is made of, when you look closely.
 I also hope to use the original courtroom in the picture.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Emerging At 73 ?

You often read about a young artist as 'emerging', which suggests they are just starting out but in a promising way.
Is it possible to do the same at my age -73?
I have been painting all my life (mostly work using my family as the subject matter) but until ten years ago I taught Art fulltime so my practise was  on the backburner. It was always important to me though, partly to keep me sane but also as my research into what the boundaries of what painting could be.
In the last ten years I have still taught three days a week but have had more time to develop my pop-up gallery - Ted Coney's Family Portraits and have a retrospective at the Babylon Gallery, a couple of years ago.
I have also had more time and energy to develop my ideas for painting .
In that sense, as I also look for different venues to display my work, I will hopefully be 'emerging' in the next twenty years or so.

Friday, 17 February 2017

A Painter Of Nothing

'I am a painter of nothing' replied the Belgian artist, James Ensor, when asked what he had achieved.
Looking around an exhibition of his work recently at the Royal Academy, I don't think that was strictly true but I know what he meant.
I have just started my latest painting, 'Forget- Me- Knots' and I am trying to show how dementia robs people of their power to remember things. I am using the objects I collected at the sea-side last summer to represent memory, so must find ways of painting them to give the impression that  they are fading in and out of consciousness.
I have a feeling that 'less is more' as far as this painting is concerned.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Pre- Queen Prices

I've recently taken my two latest paintings, 'Bicycle Thieves' and 'Against The Light' to be framed and had the usual discussions with Johnathan about the colours and shapes of mouldings etc.
Johnathan has been framing my pictures for about 30 years now and over that time has gradually framed every one in the collection, dating back to 1969.
I know he now does some work for the Queen, though he is very discreet about this.
Luckily, I think he still charges me pre- Queen prices but we don't talk about that, either.
You  can see a short video clip of my meeting with the Queen on the MEDIA page on my website.
Though we weren't talking about framing on that occasion.

Friday, 3 February 2017

In La La Land

One of the paintings I showed  to visitors last year was 'Dear Reginald Owen', which is about a cousin of mine who went to Hollywood in the 1930s to try his luck in the movie business.
You can see it all explained in my virtual tour where I 'appear' to fly back in time in my 1931 Morris Minor to the Hollywoodland of the same era.
The Morris has just been in the garage recently for its annual service (and receiving a new battery) and I was reminded of my flying trip as I sped home in the car at it's top speed of 25 m.p.h.

Friday, 27 January 2017

You Were There

We've just had a visit from two of our nephews and their young families recently, and the children seemed intrigued by one of my paintings entitled  'Lavender and Dead Bilberries'.
This is a very early family painting and depicts our wedding day in 1969. Hazel wore lavender and my suit was a dead bilberry colour, (a sort of dark purple with dust over it) hence the title.
Infact, my best man was the only one in white - well it was the sixties!
Nancy and Iris thought their father looked cute in the painting but Fred and Francis wondered were their dad was.
I had to explain that he was still in his mummy's tummy (Alyson was heavily pregnant at the time) but was with us in spirit.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Family Secrets

I've just finished reading a  non fiction book entitled 'Family Secrets' which appeared in my Christmas stocking this year. (I think Hazel acquired it from a charity shop).
I was particularly interested in the chapter on illegitimacy, entitled 'Other Peoples Bastards' because after my father died we discovered that he was born out of wedlock. This was considered very shameful and must have been a great burden for him to carry all his life.
I made a painting about it entitled 'Namesake' and tried to demonstrate  that this stigma is now irrelevant and everyone wears their name with pride.
I did this by listing all the members of the family, showing some  who chose to keep their surname even when married and others who have partners and keep the name they were born with.
You can see a section of this painting through on of my 'keyhole' logos on the PRINTS FOR SALE page. And ofcourse you can see the real thing when I reopen in April.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Postcard From Sooty

One of my Christmas presents was a postcard featuring the glove puppet, Sooty. The card had been enlarged from a stamp to commemorate 50 years of Children's T.V. in 1996.
Yve had spotted it as she knew I would want to display it in the 'Sooty Pyramid', as part of my
 Ted Coney's Family Portraits exhibition.
The Pyramid looks almost like an art installation in its own right but  infact  is source material for one of my paintings, entitled 'Offrenda'. The painting was made several years ago, to celebrate my mother's life..
I used Sooty, Sweep and Soo (Sooty's two friends) for the painting to represent my eldest brother, Richard and my parents, whom I felt had a similar relationship to the Sooty creators, Harry and Marjorie Corbett and their son Matthew. They loved each other had but had a rather tense relationship.
You can see the painting in the PRINTS FOR SALE page on my website. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Not Just Hot Air

We've nearly completed opening the 37 paintings in my picture 'Limners' as we come to the end of the Christmas period.
 It is based on an advent calendar with each painting covered by tiny doors.
I was reminded of one of the pictures recently, when I got a card from one of our old neighbours in Great Shelford. He used to make a hot air balloon out of tissue paper every Christmas, to fly on the recreation ground opposite our houses on Boxing Day. We all used to go out to watch, to give us a bit of fresh air.
 My painting for that day is of a failed balloon as often it wouldn't fly, for various reasons. Or it caught alight and went up like a ball of flame.
You can see the painting on my PRINTS FOR SALE page.