Well I started off in Yorkshire wanting a life of Excitement and Adventure. AND, So, school, running away, travel to Africa, London, design school, work, living on a houseboat, romance, retreat to Italy, classical art training, portraiture, start of a career……then PUFF all change. I meet a designer of another type, a boat builder, a world class yachtsman. As he would say ‘ I’m a Caribbean man and a drinking man too’.
So we live in a wooden house on an old sugar plantation on the island of St. Kitts. Philip designs a huge wonderful studio for me in the garden, beneath the volcano, looking out to sea. He builds/designs wooden catamarans and races transatlantic yachts solo. I design silk scarves, fabrics, tableware, cards, large paintings and soon we open 4 shops in St. Barts, Antigua, St. Kitts/Nevis and my work was exhibited throughout the islands. It was a lot of fun as I painted like crazy and loved flying over to Antigua and St.Barts with new prints and originals for the KATE DESIGN shops. Philip built all the furniture for the shops which we transported on a homemade cigarette speedboat also called Kate Design. It had two huge Yamaha outboard engines and was painted yellow. One year we set off in the open speed boat all the way to Canada, via Puerto Rico, South Carolina, up the inter-coastal to Norfolk and out onto the high seas and through Manhattan and onto Martha’s Vineyard and Newport.
The next boat was a splendid all teak 1926 Classic motor yacht called Tiger. She was 98′ with a wheel house and a yellow funnel. She took 4 years to restore and to fit out a studio below deck. Imagine painting the coastline from the deck and having a studio below. That was something. One summer we set sail across the Caribbean Sea to Los Roques and along the coast of Venezuela and up through the island chain painting and partying all the way. Another summer we travelled via Haiti, Jamaica and circumnavigated Cuba. I left Tiger in Jamaica and Philip and crew sailed on to Cartagena but the seas were high and treacherous and she sank in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Philip was saved by the US coastguard, helicopter and frigates to the rescue.
Money was lost but not the appetite for excitement and adventure…OH NO. …..The next boat was built in the yard by the guys in St. Pauls village. She was launched by a priest with a bible and me with a fat bottle of champagne. The boat was high up in the slings of a travel lift and we were transported up onto the deck in the bucket of a Front Loader truck, the priest in his black robes and me in a white hand-painted jacket clutching the bottle. Then we all gently descended onto the water. Philip named her Yacht Kate. She was a splendid all wood replica of a First Rule gaff-rigged racing 12 meter boat and became one of the most photographed boats at the Classics in Antigua.
More races , more paintings and one day a man called Bill Bensley(magnificent architect/designer of the most beautiful hotels in the world) walked into the studio and just loved my work. He commissioned 60 paintings for a hotel, subject matter, tropical fruit trees. This was the beginning of a great friendship and trips to Bangkok, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, We started painting together and his work is wonderful and now his large paintings are auctioned to raise money for wildlife preservation in Cambodia.
Then PUFF……Philip has a fatal heart attack on board Yacht Kate, three miles off the coast of England after traveling 6,000 miles solo without an engine. I retreat to Sicily and with the help of good friends publish his marvelous book ‘More Rain More Rest’ a book about sugar and St.Kitts with 50 of my paintings of the island. Sicily heals my heart and I paint in a small studio with a green wooden door that opens onto the sea. It is 12th century and I feel ‘time’. I walk through the narrow streets with Monster Grief sitting on my left shoulder. Commissions from Bill restored the need to paint and after a while I return to the West Indies, to my purple wooden house where the morning Dove ‘coos’ and the monkeys eat all the fruit in the garden and Presley lights up a ‘spliff’ and the sweet smell of ganja fills the air.My studio is full of work and my spirits are happy and high and I always wonder, am I following the string or is the string following me.?’
The first video is of my studio in St. Kitts. This is the one Philip designed and built. It’s huge. From the terrace I can see St. Eustatius, St. Maarten,St.Barts..The second video is of my studio in Ortigia, Sicily, the medieval building with a small green wooden door that opens to the sea.
My Favourite Quotes
LS LOWRY….’You don’t need brains to be a painter, just feelings.’
GUSTAV KLIMT… ‘There is always hope, as long as the canvases are empty’
A Painter from Wigan, Theodore Major (painted with Lowry)…’I don’t believe in gifts. Thats all nonsense. Art is not a gift , it’s just bloody hard work. You can’t teach Art, you can encourage it but you can’t teach it. The thing that’s missing from abstract art is the spirit of people. Rembrandt knew about the spirit of people. Its something to do with humanity and feeling and spirituality and telling the truth and using figurative to do it -the human figure-people- is the basis of art.
Milton Avery…’When asked about the difficulty in appreciating modern art, which many people find ugly instead of beautiful, Avery responded ‘Olives taste ugly too until you learn to enjoy them.
Van Gogh… ‘The uglier , meaner, iller, poorer I get the more I wish to take my revenge by doing brilliant color, well arrangedresplendent.
Bob Dylan…’She’s got everything she needs,
She’s an artist and she don’t look back.
She can take the dark out of the night time
And paint the day time black.’
Chuck Close…’Inspiration is for Amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work’