On the 23rd May Summer came to Bath with the arrival of the Olympic torch. My painting elsewhere desperately needed sun so I was not there to join in the atmosphere of school children and parents and grandparents, etc.... lining the streets in anticipation. Apparently it was great. It marked the beginning of shorts and sandals and, for us, signing up to the local outdoor pool. After 2 days we never thought it would rain again and we started to worry about the garden and desperately tried not to say out loud:
"But it's too hot!"
I am currently trying my best to paint a commission for the Draper's Company of the pageant. I had decided on a view from London Bridge towards Tower Bridge. I had set up a lovely sunny day from there previously with lots of foreground space for the tall hips and the relevant boats to stick in from sketches on the day... but sun did not happen so on the morning of the pageant I set off at 4am and got to London Bridge at 6am to set up a rainy scene. After weeks of being very apprehensive I had put myself in a positive state of mind and was up for it. When I'd parked up and arrived at the bridge I was faced with three yards next to the balustrade cordoned off, guarded by those fluorescent jackets. A deep breath, a smile and my best attitude was not good enough:
"Just an hour,.. half an hour,.. in and out and I'll be gone..."
I was pleased that I did not shout at him and took my temper out on the security fence when no one was looking later on (a small kick - oo Pete). I painted what I could from behind the fence - the top three feet of the masts and the balustrade while I watched them put plastic seats out for the nobs and the media. I did not find the watercolour jokes and the 'put me in it' jokes funny for that hour and in the end I left to paint a pageant unrelated wet street in Borough. 2 Hours later I'd calmed down and drove to Lambeth to do a tiny quick sketch of the building crowds on the embankment before going to a concrete pontoon at Battersea under the kind invite of Melanie and Mark 'The Organic' who live on the craziest catamaran houseboat I have ever seen! There were lots of people there with food and fancy dress invited by various residents and the atmosphere was great. We heard cheers from crowds over the river watching the big screen and I worked on a 10 x 15 looking at Vauxhall bridge with the great heights of the Shard disappearing into mist behind. The boats were great and the colours, I thought, better on a grey day than a sunny one. My depiction of the boats consisted of dots and splodges. My companions, Jonathan and his son Ludo were great company and Jonathan's knowledge and commentary on the passing boats it seems far exceeded that of the BBC who apparently banged on in the usual show biz obsessed style. When most had passed we drove up to London Bridge so that I could catch the tall ships at last from the bridge but the commoners were still forbidden from the view. Jonathan and Ludo went off to get a closer look at the queen and I found a great view looking over that slated ground around the 'Crash Helmet' looking towards London Bridge. Whether the painting comes to anything we'll see. The firework volley off the top of Tower Bridge was a great surprise and in the following seconds the smoke engulfed everything as the bridge disappeared. I was quite calm now getting steadily soggier and people chatted to me about their day and where they'd come from and it was lovely. My companions phoned to say they were off as Ludo who'd done so well was tired and wet and shortly after wetting my pants laughing at the lady in her union flag dress singing in the rain as she danced through the water feature 30 yards to my right I packed up and squelched back to the van. I drove home in bare feet warmed by the heaters ironing out the soggy wrinkles and at 10.30 shared some crisps and a glass of wine with Lisa before sleep - ahh lush!! I am not too sure quite how to proceed with the commission and as I sit here I am debating whether to drive up on the off chance that the tall ships have not left but I reckon they probably will have..
A great weekend though confirming my belief that people are good natured (excepting the odd knackered artist at 6am on a rainy morning at London Bridge) complete fruitcakes!