Two of the people in our household – Hebe and Alice – work as freelance artists.
They do all sorts of things. There’s a wonderful bed-and-breakfast establishment in our town called St Benedict, belonging to two Orthodox friends. The inside of the house is very richly decorated, and various parts of it have been painted by Alice and Hebe. Like the panels of these folding doors,
and this mirror - painted from the back (so fiendishly hard to do; they had to layer the flowers from foreground to background, counter-intuitive. Then gild over the whole back with white gold):
That house has a tiny jewel of a chapel nestled into a corner of the garden. To made it into a thoroughgoing Orthodox chapel, it recently had a dome added to it that came to Alice and Hebe to be painted. But before that, a canopy where a lantern will hang. This is how it arrived, with just Alice's (or Hebe's) first pencil sketch on it.
Then half finished.
Here it is looking suitably atmospheric by candle light once finished.
Just now, Alice and Hebe have Pope John Paul II and St Vincent Palotti in their studio. This work is for St Mary Star of the Sea in Hastings Old Town. I think they must have a special devotion to St Vincent there, because a commission from a while back was also of him. The statues arrive at our house looking ghostly – here’s St Vincent Palotti when he got here:
Here he is now, with Pope John Paul in the background, waiting patiently for his turn.
Hebe says when she is painting saints they draw near to help her. She says Our Lady is the best – she joins in to make the statue really pretty, every time. Here's a Mary they did:
But Hebe says the worst one is Jesus. He looks at what she’s doing and says with cheerful approval, “That’s fine!” And she asks him – “Should I make the colour a bit warmer – more detail round the eyes?” And he just says, “No, it’s fine!”
It’s a wholesome occupation. Reverent and focused, requiring a quiet eye and a steady hand, imagination switched on and powers of observation firing on all cylinders.