I have painted easel pictures for a long time, more than fifty years I suppose, though my output has varied year to year. When I was younger, in my twenties, I took it quite seriously and exhibited stuff at the annual open exhibition at the city gallery in Hull, the Ferens Gallery. At the time we lived in Holderness, the level plain which stretches eastward from Hull to the sea.
I remember one occasion when I sold a painting directly from this annual show. At the time, I was painting in heavy impasto, lots of paint; at least I would have used lots of paint, had I had the money. Instead, what I did was to underpaint the boards I worked on (I started to make canvas stretchers later) with a kind of loblolly made from linseed oil and powdered china clay, scrounged from a paint factory. So, I made a blodgy substrate with this glop, and when the skin was dry, I painted over it with thin oil paint. It looked like heavy duty Frank Auerbach impasto, but cheap, cheap.
The trouble was that this stuff took months to dry completely. The particular painting that I sold had been made in this way not long before the show, so that whilst it looked OK on the wall of the gallery, it was in fact a kind of quaking bog of glop encased by a thin membrane of dry paint.
As I say, I sold the picture and the gallery paid me the money. The man who had bought it collected the painting somewhat later. Outside the gallery, as I was informed (I didn’t see any of this), the man managed to wrestle the largish picture into the boot of his car but in doing so he caught the surface of the painting on the corner of the boot lid, tearing the thin paint skin. Apparently the whole affair slid messily off the board into the boot of his car.
It seems that what worried him was that I might be upset by this act of vandalism. He didn’t think to ask for his money back, fortunately.
Another anecdote. Some years later, a fire broke out in the house of my friend Jonathan Harris. One of my paintings, another big picture, which had been hanging on his living room wall, was consumed entirely, leaving only a large pale rectangular patch on his fire blackened wall. He put a spurious value on this painting when he came to make an insurance claim. The company paid up without comment. I am not sure that I had ever actually sold a picture for that amount of money.
Later again, a few of my paintings were destroyed by an irate husband, in circumstances that I won’t go into.