Sometimes you create a painting that has a complete story to it and my work Alan's Fido Express has turned out to be just such a piece.
It all began several years ago after a morning church service when in conversation with a friend of ours, called Alan, who was a train enthusiast. That morning he brought in his latest selection of photos from a recent days train spotting. There were many wonderful photos of trains shown to me but all of a sudden one stood out as being that little bit special.
It was one of those 'eureka' moments because I had before me an image that I just had to turn into a painting for the MFPA. It was a striking image in its own right but I was quietly confident that with some artistic licence applied I could develop it into a possible card design. Much to my relief Alan agreed to let me use his photo in my work.
Normally that would be as interesting as it gets, apart from doing the painting, sending it in and praying that it would be eventually printed. But I was soon to find out that this painting would have more of a story to it than some. Shortly after beginning the painting I found out that Alan was suffering from terminal cancer. The question was now- 'could I finish it before Alan died?'
Despite my best efforts, this was not to be the case. But spurred on by his memory I was determined to do a painting that Alan would be proud of. Due to its complexity it was taking quite a time to finish but the further I went with it the more I realised that the extra effort would be worth it.
Many of my paintings these days are what I have come to call 'composite images'. In other words, I tend to use several photos as my source material and construct the final painting from there- and this turned out to be true for Alan's Fido Express. The original photograph had the train with two sets of tracks and lots of electricity gantries. As I went on it soon became apparent that one set of tracks would need to go as well as the gantries. The only question was what to replace them with.
Where the gantries was concerned it was not a problem because the existing trees and all the smoke would easily do the job. But when it came to the other set of tracks it was not so easy. The most obvious thing to me was to replace that area of the painting with a grassy bank on which the shadows from the smoke could play. In the end this worked very well but it still needed the extra note of interest. Originally I had contemplated putting in some workmen but after looking through some of our photos I came across a picture of Trixie, my sister's Springer Spaniel in full flight. Perfect, I thought, and even more so because it turned out that the sun was on the correct side for my painting too.
Once it was finished I sent it in and waited to see if my original artistic hunch would turn out to be right. To date it hasn't made a card but it has been included in a book in the UK, been printed as a book token in Japan and was in a calendar in Canada. But the story doesn't quite finish there.
For one reason or another Alan's Fido Express arrived back here with me rather than going to an exhibition as planned. But I'm so glad that it did. Whenever I complete a painting for the MFPA it gets put up on my website, and from there people can contact me for things like sales requests. A few months ago I received completely out of the blue an email enquiring about the possibility of buying it.
Within the general enquiry was put this- "I was visiting the Ian Parker Website to view Alan's Fido Express. I find it absolutely captivating and could spend hours just looking at it. A truly magical piece."
After sorting out the sale of the painting I went on to ask the purchaser how he had found out about my work, and this was his reply- "I receive an art calendar annually that included a reproduction of this original painting of yours. I loved it from the moment I saw it. So I looked up your website to see if it was available for sale." And where did my painting end up going? Canada!
I love painting, and I love it when a painting is printed, but what makes me smile more than anything work wise is when the public buy a painting and respond like this- "I was meaning to email you prior to receiving yours as I wanted to show you the framing done for the painting. Unfortunately the photo does neither the painting nor the frame justice but, needless to say, it looks exquisite." (Gary Carter- email, 2010.)