I’ve always enjoyed art just for art’s sake but having begun painting and really studying art I found that my appreciation increased if I knew about any hidden meanings within a piece, or a part of the story of how a piece came into existence, for example, one of my favourite paintings is Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon), and originally titled The Brothel of Avignon.

1907. Oil on canvas 243.9 cm × 233.7 cm (96 in × 92 in).

Apparently Picasso painted this in a basement by lamplight.  That alone amazes me.  Having painted by electric light and then seeing how different the colours look in natural light, daylight, how on earth did he manage it?

One time, on a visit to the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, a friend explained that a painting that made no sense to me (an abstract) was in fact the painted equivalent of an up-close photograph of a forest floor.  As soon as she said it, I could see it.

Having had that explained to me, it went from something I wouldn’t give a second glance, to something I really appreciated in terms of the thought that went into it.

Study of Mme Gautreau by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)

On another visit to the PHG, I saw this painting by John Singer Sargent, again, I appreciated it for what it was but then reading the story behind it and the subsequent scandal it caused made it more appealing to me.

Some time later, I had an idea for a painting.  When it was finished, I gave it to my sister as a Christmas present (thankfully she liked it) and she duly took it home.  Some months later she told me that her husband didn’t really want her to hang it up because ‘it wasn’t right’. 

As he regularly visits the USA and likes it a lot, I saw  his point and said to my sister ‘tell him the story behind it’.

“What story?”

I’d forgotten to tell that whilst walking along the high street one day I realised I could be in ANY high street in the UK.  If you paint, you’ll know how easy it is to end up with a brown sludge when trying to mix a certain colour and that’s what I think we’ve ended up with a brown sludge of city high streets across the country that all have the same shops selling the same stuff.  Everything is homogeneous.

And the flag? Well, mixed in with the sludge of our high streets are the symbols of the USA.  Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, KFC, Subway et al.  and add to that all the american shows on TV, you begin to wonder is the UK losing it’s identity?

However, it’s actually a tribute to the USA.  Both myself an my sister were born in the USA and still carry american passports.

The flag is missing 6 stars as a ‘nod’ to the (at that time) 6,000 troops who had lost their lives in the Iraq/Afghan war and two stripes are missing to represent the World Trade Centre towers now missing from the iconic New York Skyline.

My sister duly returned home, explained the reason, or my story behind the painting and it now hangs proudly in their home for all to see.

That made my day.