An Artist’s Story
1984 found me in Castries Provence, at the lovely home of Maggie Skeaping, four years widow of John Skeaping RA. The door on John’s atelier had not been closed behind him, and as the almond blossom arrived in the garden so did the painters and sculptors. Maggie announced a painting day had dawned, adding to me, ‘we can’t leave you out, can you paint, come on’. That day is engraved on my mind.
I was given oil paints, brushes, rags, turps, linseed oil and a palette, all strangers yet to me. Maggie put some oranges on an old green Provencal plate before me, friendly simple shapes it didn’t look too daunting, but, off she went again, and returned to deftly drape a damask cloth under the plate, letting it fall in horrors of pleats and folds, declaring ‘Always pose yourself the maximum problem’. That, is the only instruction I have received, I’ve hung on to it and it has been a sound work ethic reaping its own rewards.
At the end of the day’s work, everyone gathered around my painting, there was great hilarity and teasing, Marco Bronzini declared it a masterpiece and because of the blue background, entitled it ‘Oranges at the Beach’. Maggie said under her breath, “** you can paint!”
I was hooked. On the flight home I was deep in thought, I needed time to learn to draw faster and better, but I couldn’t wait to paint. I needed something that kept still, Still Life, still life with personality enough, to fire the imagination. TOYS! So, out of a cupboard came the old friends
who duly sat absolutely still.
I took four paintings to London, my last call was to the Stable Gallery. I displayed before them, bear and doll taking afternoon tea, monkey, the card sharp, bear conducting Berlioz, and hare reading The Sporting Life. The gallery invested in the tea party, and asked if I could add fourteen others for a forthcoming exhibition. I thereby received the greatest gift of all, confidence. My toy stories hung next to Robert Heindel’s wonderful ballerinas, and they all sold. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
My father said ‘If you can paint that bear you can paint my dog.’ An easy transition, this terrier, in my mind’s eye could easily have been straw filled standing on a red wheeled platform waiting to be pulled along, and so the commissions and exhibitions began.
Stable gallery, London. 1986
Society of Equine Artists, Christies, London. Drawing Prize. 1996
Century Fine Art Gallery, Windsor. Leading equine artists. 2004
Salar Gallery, Hatherleigh. ‘Inspired by the horse’ 2005
Solo shows in home county.
Artists and Illustrators Magazine 1996 ‘How to characterise and paint dogs.’
Ken Bromley Art Supplies.
John Skeaping RA sculptor/painter all time wizard of capturing the horse in all its paces, due to his sound knowledge of the skeleton and the working muscle around it, and his sparing and seemingly effortless draughtsmanship.
Maggie Skeaping, third wife of John, also painted and sold her work in Paris. One of a set of triplets she began her life in the top drawer of a chest of drawers, her two brothers occupying the others. In 2002 these babies gained their place in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest living triplets.