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 one else) 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 why the bean seller wouldn’t just plant the beans himself – but we are to take no notice of our nagging doubts – let people scoff – for we will soon be standing in the very entrance to the mines of Solomon.
For thirty years I asked every stranger I met if they would sell me five magic beans for a cow – yet no matter how I placed myself in opportunity’s way everyone was hanging on to their beans.
I had all but given-up hope when one day, 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 paying one cow for five unlikely-looking beans to a stranger on a bridge (I see now that the bridge was symbolic because those beans were to make him wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of avarice …and his old hag-of-a-mother a happy and proud woman. I paid my 20p, and walked out smiling at how proud my mother would be of the enterprise I had just carried out.
I began to turn the pages of my new book. Piccasso, it explained, was an artist who made shed loads of money by painting pictures of people with their eyes in unexpected places – like Flounders. The drawings made Picasso look a complete moron – to say nothing of his sitters. At last! …a band-wagon I could climb on.
I bought myself some pastels and a fisherman’s smock – used it to clean up some paint spillage at my local DIY store, and then, posing as a pastel portrait-artist, went to visit the Queen. She was out when I got there which was a set-back from which I’ve never really recovered.
Nothing daunted, 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‘, and that it would take two or three days, they rushed away to get on with their lives. 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 – there weren’t any beanstalks nearby so I shinned up a drain pipe, climbed through a window, and found myself on the renal ward of the Hammersmith and Fulham – the ward 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.
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. On one occasion I myself had the uncomfortable feeling that the portrait on which I was working made my subject look ‘lifeless’, but when it was finished I found that he had actually died – so, as an artist, I knew I was getting somewhere.
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 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 get a bit further up my beanstalk by writing a line or two about your experience of the book – you’d be helping an undiscovered writer (and artist) arrive at his Fee Fie Fo fm moment.
ONE LAST THING – Had you thought of sharing this blog with a friend on account of how brilliant it is?