It was a stiflingly hot day and I wasn't sure what would be appropriate to wear for a 'do' like this. Tentatively opening my wardrobe and scrutinising what treasures hang within, I found that I seem to have acquired a different dog walking outfit for each day of the week plus various old bits of biking gear (those were the days), the next level up being my 'funerals and weddings' suit but very little in between. After much rummaging about I managed to find a few half decent shirts to choose from and a pair of reasonably presentable cargo pants. Coupled with my blue M&S cotton jacket my smart/casual look was complete. A symphony in blue and khaki! I've always been at the cutting edge of fashion me.
This time I travelled from Ipswich station as, for the return trip, the late trains cease to venture out to my neck of the woods after about 9PM. The first thing I managed to do was get a bit lost in Ipswich (how difficult would it be for them to put a few signs out to help out of towners like me find the train station) but I got there in the nick of time and boarded my train with seconds to spare.
The temperature seemed to rise by the minute and by the time the train reached London and I emerged into the giant greenhouse that is Liverpool Street Station, I was a hot and sweaty mess. It's always been the same with me, I could leave the house looking like James Bond in a DJ but within minutes I resemble RAB C. Nesbitt after a lock-in. Ah well onwards to resume battle with the tube.
As the afternoon progressed nobody announced the winners as had been expected, it was going to be kept a surprise until the presentation later in the evening. However, I got chatting to a lady who turned out to be one of the judges and she let slip that I had nearly won the 'Wildlife In Action' category. Nearly! So no prize for me then. Later I spoke to another lady who had been present at the judging and she confirmed how they had deliberated quite a while before David decided on the winner. It crossed my mind that once it got really crowded I might be able to sneak up and knee him in the goolies for that, but I let it pass.
I had about half a dozen photographs taken of myself with my painting by a press photographer. I'm not sure where they will be used, perhaps in the newsletter or on the website. I had a nice long chat with Hazel Soan, a lovely lady and watercolour genius who was very complimentary about my meagre offering. (I reckon she just fancied me really)
As five thirty approached it was time to keep an eye out for my guest for the evening. Jenny was unable to make it so I had thought it a good opportunity to invite one of my internet artist friends along. Some I have known for several years via various forums and social networking sites but never actually met. So I had chosen the lovely Tina Ashton to be my substitute WAG. Due to train disruptions, she almost hadn't made it but thankfully managed to get herself on a coach to London and arrived on time looking stunning in her new outfit, putting me to shame. Never mind, it was brilliant to actually meet after all this time and we instantly got on like a house on fire. So we got ourselves some champagne (the first of many, I like to make a profit where possible) and set off to inspect all of the exhibits in detail. The standard of work was extremely high in most cases and we were struck by the diversity in styles, media and subject. A really good exhibition. Thankfully Tina was able to take some more pictures using her phone camera. They are a bit blurry but hey! the champagne was free
After a couple of hours, feet throbbing, voice cracking, it was time to find a seat and do a bit of people watching. We spotted David Gower, Robert Lindsey, Robert Powell, a few faces we couldn't put names to but the highlight of the night was when this elderly, smartly dressed chap slowly made his way toward us and as he turned we were thrilled to see it was Frank Thornton. Yes indeed! Captain Peacock himself! Now we are really mixing with the 'A' list. He paused to study my painting for quite a while (although he may just have been getting his breath) I resisted the urge to yell 'I'm Free!' Tina got excited that he might actually buy it but no, sadly he moved on. It's one for the CV though, Captain Peacock once appeared to think about buying an original Williams!
Then came the time for announcing the winners and the prize giving. David Gower kicked off with a speech followed by David Shepherd who spoke with passion about the foundation and some of the projects they have undertaken. He is quite an inspirational man and it's easy to see why the foundation is so successful. Prizes were announced by Robert Lindsey, details can be seen on the DSWF website, the over all winner being a bronze sculpture, 'Sinking Feeling' by Adam Binder. I liked it although I preferred his other piece 'Vantage'. Perhaps the polar bear pinched it by being more endangered.
We then went for another circuit of the gallery, chatting to one or two of the artists. Suddenly I spotted across the room one of the treasured red dots being applied to my painting! Great stuff! I wonder who bought it! Could it have been the Captain himself? It turned out to be a nice couple from Sark who came over for a quick chat. We didn't get their name but in retrospect the man looked suspiciously like Lord Barclay.....whereas his American wife looked suspiciously like one of the Desperate Housewives......I wonder............
We spotted that they had used my image on some of the publicity too, which was nice.
The evening had cooled pleasantly as we took a slow stroll back across Trafalgar square, down the Strand to Charing Cross where Tina got in a cab and I got on the tube. I was sorry to say good bye, it would have been nice to spend a bit more time chatting but it was getting late, I didn't arrive home until about midnight as it was.
So, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and evening. I found it quite inspirational to see so much high quality work in one show and it also helped me to get a better idea as to where I fit in to it all. I learned a lot and the experience gained will be very helpful in the future. I didn't feel too out of my depth and in fact I'm encouraged to put up my prices on new work from now on, and won't be doing any more commissions. It's exhibiting live for me now.
A couple of large Glenfiddichs in the peace and cool of the garden finished off the day a treat. Here's to next year!