As a young boy of five I sat next to my father on the back seat of our car and watched the blood gently pulsing out of a wound in his head. He was only partly conscious and he had just had a motorbike accident. I have had a fear of two-wheeled transport ever since but last month, on a little island off the coast of Bali, I managed to overcome it. And that had other unexpected consequences too.
On the island I learned to ride a small 150cc motor scooter, the most widespread and popular form of local transport. Within a surprisingly short time I was able to take my partner Nicki on board as a passenger. As we bumped and puttered around the winding, decrepit laneways, swerving to avoid chickens, goats and other motor scooters, I would feel her arms around my chest and her left hand resting on my ribcage, warming my heart. It felt like it was the most fun money could buy!
Although we were on vacation, from the first day I started trying to paint some of the exotic and beautiful sights that surrounded us. By the end of the first week I put all my pictures out for review. I had been working in watercolour and had been most fascinated by the wonderful tropical colours of the place. My paintings did have something of this but they also looked a bit wilful and dry to me. So that day I decided to dispense with my paintbox and try to simply draw what was in front of me. Remembering the warmth of Nicki's hand on my heart, I consciously breathed into that place. This resulted in an extraordinary clarity of vision and it allowed me to SEE the complex scene before me: the fishing boats bobbing on the waves, the holiday villas and cafés above the beach and the tangle of tropical shrubbery and trees just behind them. I worked simply in pen & ink, patiently centering myself each time in my heart. By the end of the day, when I took my picture back to our cottage, I saw that it had a quality my other paintings lacked: it had Life! It had feeling, it had something of the lush and sensuous feeling of that tropical beach.
After I had finished, I went to sit under the trees in the terrace of 'Café Bali'. It was late afternoon and, as I looked out across the sea, I could see the huge azure presence of Mt. Agung, Bali's sacred mountain. It was as usual wreathed in gigantic ivory, cream and smoky-grey coloured clouds, that echoed the shape of the mountain.
I felt almost unbearably happy...