When I saw the Duchess of Cornwall unveiling a Portrait of Her Majesty the Queen (not one she’d done herself – it was daubed by some other bloke) it shamed me into realising that it’s hight-time I unveiled some of my own masterpieces, for the enjoyment of nations.
For the avoidance of all doubt let me explain that each of the images you are about to see are of the same person; and that none of them are the Queen – regal though I have managed to make my sitter look.
If not the Queen, who is it? you ask …and I would fain tell you – nothing would give me more pleasure – but I’m afraid my sitter has asked to remain anonymous. ‘If you are going to show that load of crap,’ she said; ‘for Christ’s sake don’t tell anyone who it’s supposed to be – otherwise you can do with them as you please because no one would ever guess – even if they and I were exhibited side-by-side in an empty and desert land - who the f__k they were’. A plea for anonymity if ever I heard one.
I used to read a lot of self-improvement books with titles like: ‘Become the success you know you are’; ‘The one minute millionaire’ and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk‘. It seems that you, me – all of us, in fact – have the ability to make ourselves fabulously wealthy; though not all at the same time. If we would just sign over everything we have in return for five magic beans, we’ll be on our way. You may wonder at this point why the bean seller wouldn’t just plant the beans himself – but we are to take no notice of either ‘doubt’ or ‘doubters’ – let people scoff – for we will soon be standing in the very entrance to the mines of Solomon.
For the next thirty years I asked every stranger I met if they could sell me five magic beans for a cow – yet no matter how I placed myself in opportunity’s way no one ever offered to sell me their beans.
I had all but given-up when one day just as I was turning from the bric-a-brac stall in a dusty charity shop a book caught my eye - ‘Unleash your Picasso’ it commanded. In an instant I recognised that this was the moment I’d been waiting for …these were my beans. It was a fairly tatty copy, so I baulked at paying 20p until I remembered how Jack had hesitated before handing over his cow in exchange for five unlikely-looking beans to a stranger on a bridge – beans which were to make him wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of avarice …and his mother a happy and proud woman.
I know that you will be as surprised as I was that this book ‘Unleash your Picasso’ turned out to be a book about art.
Nothing daunted, following its advice I bought myself some pastels and without any qualification for doing so – nor need of qualification – set myself up as a pastel portrait-artist and went to visit the Queen.
She was out when I got there – a set-back from which I’ve never really recovered.
So I stopped people on the streets of Bayswater offering to ‘do’ them – but people in London are quite busy and although there was an initial lukewarm interest in my proposal, when they learned that I meant ‘do their portrait‘, I found that no one had at their disposal the necessary two or three days it would take for me to complete my work. For a while it looked as though I would fail right there. Then a little voice in my head asked: ‘What would Jack do?’ The answer came to me in a flash – but since there weren’t any beanstalks, I shinned up a drain pipe, climbed through a window, and found myself on the renal ward of the Hammersmith and Fulham Hospital – which was filled with people who had no plans to go anywhere for the foreseeable. Business was brisk, no-one capable of speech declined my offer.
Yet it didn’t make me rich: when it came to handing over my bill I found that my subjects claimed that my likenesses either made them ‘look’ ill, or else it made them ‘feel’ ill - or worse I discovered that they’d died at some point during my work.
I’ve got another unfulfilled ambition that you could help me with! My second book Canvas Flying, Seagulls Crying comes out in about ten weeks and in order to give it the best start in life I was hoping you might do two things for me: Post this link Phoenix from the Ashes onto your FaceBook page (or similar) and tell everyone what a jolly time you had reading it (lying if you have to), and how fervently and earnestly you wished your friends might read it, to obtain all its benefits for themselves; and secondly I have an ambition to get 100 personal reviews of my book on the Amazon review page. Saying a few words about how the book struck you, personally, is highly influential to would-be buyers of the book. At the time of writing there are 46 reviews for it – so if you’ve read the book and not yet reviewed it, and feel you could help me up my beanstalk by writing a line or two about your experience of the book – you’d be helping an undiscovered writer (and artist) find his Giant.
STOP PRESS – Had you thought of sharing this blog with a friend?