Earlier in the year one of the Whisky Distilleries here on the Isle of Islay had an open day and invited me to be one of their attractions: they suggested I park my sailing boat at their pier, invite their guests on board for a ‘wee nozzy’, and set up a table-sale of my artwork, and book on the pier head. I knew I’d find it humiliating.
I took it as a bad sign when less than a minute into the voyage to bring my boat to them I hit a rock …mounted it actually.
At the show I set up my display with a growing sense of shame; for an hour no one walked onto the pier, then came the moment I’d been dreading – a visitor. It’s very generous of her, I thought, to come out of her way – but I hope she makes short work of it, looks through my prints, says something kind, and then moves on.
As she approached, I sauntered away …well, she didn’t want me breathing down her neck – did she? She put her bag down on my un-manned table, and when our eyes met, called a cheery ‘hello’.
She looked through my prints one by one. My stomach churned – had she nothing better to do?
‘Where did you draw this scene?’ she asked holding one up. I told her …I even managed to stop myself from apologising for it in some way.
‘I like them all,’ she told me, ‘…but particularly this one.’ She held it close-to, then far away, back and forth; before finally getting out her purse. ‘Yes! – this is the one I’ll have, I think..’
I wanted to say to her: ‘Listen, you don’t have to do this.’
But if I didn’t stop her from buying it I’d be able to answer the inevitable after-show enquiries with the words: ‘Yes – as a matter of fact someone bought a picture.’
I was just giving her some change when a Japanese man purposed up to my table and began flicking through the prints. He bought two. And by the time he left with his pictures, and his change, and had had his picture taken with me and his friends; a small crowd had formed. Arms reached in from all directions grabbing prints, and copies of my book. Not only that, but so it continued for the rest of the day. It was a sell-out; it was thrilling, and immensely encouraging, too.
At the risk of cheesing my story – I notice that it’s nearly christmas, the time when we all buy shed-loads of interesting pressies for each other – if you know someone who’d like one of my mounted Maritime Limited-Edition Prints – which are £48, normally – tell me which one you like, and I’ll send it to you for £29 – including UK postage. The quality of the ink and paper remains the same ‘collectors’ standard. Hmmm, sounds interesting. Overseas, postage may be another fiver or so, by air mail.
And if that’s not what you’re looking for – I’ve got a Weimaraner you can have for nothing; and I’ll pay the postage on him to anywhere in the world.