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A special lower edition publication to raise funds for the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath, published to coincide with BERYL COOK <I>Intimate Relations</I>, a retrospective exhibition of original paintings at the VAG from 7th March to 6th May 2015. Click on <b>Latest News</b> for more details.
Some very energetic dancing goes on at teatime in the Café de Paris, just a short walk from the Criterion. I have always enjoyed tea-dances - I admire the expertise and love the pretty dresses. This is the second tea-dancing picture I have painted and here I was fortunate in having a balcony and stairs to pack with people.
Hairdressing was one of the last pictures Beryl painted before her untimely death in 2008. It is a wonderful example of her acute observation and circular rhythmic composition.
Beryl had a great love and respect for animals and enjoyed painting them when she could. THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM is her homage to the American folk painter Edward Hicks who painted many pictures on this theme of animals living together in peace.
ANYONE FOR A WHIPPING? is one of the most iconic and recognizable of Beryl’s early works and was specially commissioned by her husband John for his birthday.<i>”He said he wanted a great big nude – with very naughty underwear, really outrageous”</i>
It is probably fair to say that one of the greatest joys Beryl received from painting was knowing that people took great pleasure in collecting her cards, books, calendars and limited edition prints. It was her express wish and that of her family that her pictures should continue to be made available for reproduction after her death and ‘Dancing the Black Bottom’ is the third of the posthumous Official Collectors Edition publications.
This is the second of the posthumous Official Collectors Edition publications after 'Drinkies' and was Beryl’s response to the smoking ban. She regarded the ban as ‘a bit silly’ and although she gave up smoking many years ago she would often include smokers and smoking accessories in her paintings.
It is probably fair to say that one of the greatest joys Beryl received from painting was knowing that people took great pleasure in collecting her cards, books, calendars and limited edition prints. It was her express wish and that of her family that her pictures should continue to be made available for reproduction after her death and ‘Drinkies’ is the first of the posthumous Official Collectors Edition publications.
Shoes also receive minute attention from me, and I’m very interested in the changing styles. I was delighted at the recent return of the three-inch platform soles that were in vogue a few years ago. This style has now come round three times in my lifetime, the first being more than fifty years ago when I wore a pair to my wedding. Now I’m afraid they might be a bit lofty for a great-grandmother
I’m not sure who is winning the game of strip poker, although both men seem very happy. Perhaps the big smile on the face of the dealer means it’ll be the ladies who lose the next hand. Anyway I expect he will want the leopard skin thong to stay exactly where it is, don’t you.
It’s an early summer evening in the centre of Bristol and here are the girls on a night out, dressed to kill in their little black numbers. That man on the bus seems very pleased to see them getting on board. I wonder if he will be a gentleman and give up his seat for one of them. But which one should he chose?
A well-known art magazine asked me to paint a suitable picture for the cover of their anniversary edition, celebrating either 20 or 25 years of publication I think.  I’m not sure exactly what they had in mind but it probably wasn’t these three women who are attacking the excellent cake with undisguised relish. There does seem to be rather a lot of cake to go round, but they look like they have never suffered from any lack of appetite so I expect they will manage.
Two women in their finery enjoying their lunch; but they are not the ‘ladies who lunch’ in smart cosmopolitan restaurants so beloved of the gossip columns.  My ladies may be dressed to the nines but they have brought their own lunch to the pub and they are drinking Guinness straight from the bottle! And they are smoking as well – I expect the PC brigade have me marked down as a subversive influence don’t you.
There are ‘Ladies who Lunch’ and there are ladies who enjoy a little ‘retail therapy’, but these ladies prefer something a little more exciting. Dressed in their smartest outfits and wearing their best hairdo and makeup, they are really enjoying their weekly game of cards. I can’t help wondering if there might be some cheating going on at the back, or maybe all those long sleeves are concealing more than jewellery, as they all seem so very confident. Perhaps it’s because they’ve all got a winning hand!
The ‘Nova Scotia’ is one of Bristol’s waterfront pubs and the interior is full of interesting references to sailors and the sea. One of the bars is referred to as ‘The Snug’ and it is here that the locals come for a drink and bring their dogs. Although all the humans seem very jolly there does seem to be a little canine dispute over the seating arrangements, although I expect that calm will soon be restored and tails will soon start wagging.
We are usually in the pub early for jazz on Friday nights so we can get good seats, and then I watch the musicians get their instruments ready for playing.  Sometimes the customers use the stage as a handy place to sit before the band arrives, and I was much taken by the woman sitting cross-legged with a bottle to her lips.  She had nice shoes too.  As did the girl in the close embrace, with attractive stockings to match.  I had seen them on different nights, but thought they would make a good group together.
As us old ones leave the city centre pubs on Friday evenings, the young ones are flooding into the clubs for nights of drinking and dancing.  I see them all through the streets, the girls in the tiniest of dresses and high heels, no matter what the weather.  We sometimes stop on street corners to enjoy all the activity going on and one night, as the rain started, these girls passed by.
We couldn’t get into The Train Bleu the first night we arrived in Paris, so we booked to come back the following evening. As we walked in admiring the ornate interior and dodging the waiters, all of whom are terribly proud of their restaurant, my eye was immediately drawn to a couple and their huge plate of snails. Every now and then the man offered one to their poodle quietly sat next to him who would eagerly devour the delicacy, enjoying every morsel. How very French!
It was a wonderful evening at The Tobacco Factory in Bristol. A whole night of jazz performed by Rod Mason’s marvellous band. The sousaphone player, standing there with his instrument wrapped around him like a suit of armour fascinated me. He also played the trumpet very well and sang beautifully. The audience responded enthusiastically to every song and danced the night away. I of course just sat and watched (and sketched and made little notes about everyone’s clothes). I particularly liked the shoes worn by the lady in the green top.
This is a friend having a hen party. Her mother arranged for Tarzan to appear during the proceedings, but as she is nicely rounded I don’t think Tarzan managed to throw her about as much as he’d planned. She is wearing her special hen party hat. I always enjoy these rituals and like to see the groups of girls going through the streets singing and laughing. They are often so loud we know they’re on their way before we see them.
I haven’t been to one of these parties although I have been invited. I’ve heard quite a lot about them and how much they are enjoyed. Are the undies hanging on the screen perhaps a trifle small compared to the size of the ladies? I expect it’s just perspective.
I gazed in here as we passed it and took such a fancy to the underwear I decided to paint it. Whilst discussing this with a friend, I learned that portly gentlemen often escort their lady friends into the shop to buy them something nice. I expect they need portly little gentlemen to do all the purchasing as it all looked lovely but very expensive.
I’ve been to several of these, but although I’ve bought many a little gem for 25p I have never found out later on the Antiques Roadshow that one of them was worth thousands of pounds. This is rather a satisfactory painting for me because I succeeded in arranging five car boots in a fairly small space. I didn’t have far to look for junk to be tastefully arranged in the boots, since it’s all around our house, crying out to be painted. A friend obligingly removed her trainers for me to use as models for the ones worn by the lady seated in front of the painting.
These lucky ladies are each smoking a nice big cigarette. Reluctantly, I had to give up this habit a few years ago, but one troublesome day, when I really felt like one, I sat down and drew this picture instead. In my room, kept handy for such occasions, is an ancient ashtray with quite a large selection of ash, old dog-ends and half-smoked cigarettes, relics of the smoking days of yore. These I use as models when I’m adding a touch of realism to a gutter or pub floor. However, these are ladies, holding cards which I hope are suitable for bridge. Actually they are the cards with the least number of spots, because I grew tired of painting them in the end. Of greater interest to me are their little black dresses, which I think would look nice for an evening card party.
And here is a fairy picture with the big green leaves and water lilies from our pond. I blame Mabel Lucie Atwell for these paintings – her desk has been in our house for some years now and it must be sending out vibrations.
The other side of the Plymouth Arts Centre signboard shows a serious trio enjoying some chamber music. I felt I really must get the instruments right in this case and borrowed a book from the library to assist me. It did take me some considerable time writing the music for them and I hope it is in keeping with the exquisite pleasure they are feeling.
Some years ago we decided to go to Buenos Aires especially to see the tango, the most exciting and seductive of dances. As we were having a drink in a bar on the night of our arrival this couple got up from seats at the back, the piano and accordion players took their positions, and they all gave an absolutely stunning display. For two weeks we spent every evening and sometimes afternoons as well watching and listening to the tango, which is not just dancing but songs and music as well. It is the dance, though that excites me most of all.
This is something we saw quite often – a bride-to-be being escorted from pub to pub by her friends, pausing for a drink in each. The friends make the bride a hat (in this case a large cardboard box covered in silver paper and saucy decorations), and there is much singing and hooting as they go through the streets. I am interested in these customs and learned that a bride getting married for the second time will also have a hat, but a much smaller one and more subdued.
My son found a handsome firescreen for me at a boot sale. I decided it was an ideal size for a fairy picture for my granddaughter Sophie, and as she is very fond of the pair-of-hands vase we bought from a market stall I used it to hold the fuchsias from the garden. I don’t often paint flowers –it’s mostly great big green leaves that I like – but these aren’t bad, are they?
This is a picture of my son and daughter-in-law’s café, in which they serve sausage sandwiches, amongst other things. It was the first time I had heard of these tasty items and I questioned Teresa closely about how they were assembled and how many sausages were used. Here you see one about to be tackled by the lady in front, with Teresa enjoying the view she had of one of the many handsome marines who frequent the café, for they are stationed in barracks just around the corner. In the summer they sometimes arrive in sporting gear, like this vest and tiny shorts. Dogs go in with their owners as well and they often get little treats from the leftovers.
If only the outdoor pool was still humming with activity like this. It is very nicely placed on the seafront and years ago it did a thriving trade, with children playing in the fountains and deckchairs laid out all for us onlookers. But a few bad summers and a lot of foreign holidays closed it down. When it seemed likely this would happen I thought I would paint it in happier times, and include the girl wearing the cutaway swimsuit I’d recently seen on a nearby beach.
A friend told us to hurry along to this pub one night as the barmaids would shortly be dancing on the bar. What a treat.
I used several of the plants in our garden for this painting. I had been cultivating a large privet chicken for several years (which later gave birth to half a dozen small ones, grown from cuttings) and the lily regularly made an appearance despite being cruelly cut back. There is something very soothing, and expensive, about a visit to the garden centre and it was a popular Sunday afternoon outing down our way. Half way through all these plants I asked myself if it was really necessary to paint each leaf separately. The answer was yes – because I have never been able to find a better way
I was very taken by the dress with points that this girl was wearing in the Ladies. The three of them were leaning forward to add the final touches to their make-up, getting ready for whatever amusement the evening would bring. A last flick of the comb through the curls and the girls departed through the door, the many-pointed skirt shown off to full advantage when its owner did a little dance on the disco floor.
Dogs of all sorts come here and I’m always pleased to see them. They aren’t allowed in many pubs, for reasons of hygiene, I think. I’d rather have more dog and less hygiene as in France, where they are fed titbits from the restaurant tables and happily lounge about on chairs in bars. The one in this picture arrived beside our table and stood gazing into space for some time: he was so good looking that I took his photograph. When I began to arrange the picture I remembered these two girls passing by, wobbling a little on very high heels, and so here they are to make a rather nice background.
I think these two may have been to the underwear shops in Soho. We found an ornate oval frame in Bermondsey Market, and whilst lying on the bed in our hotel one afternoon I started to devise a picture to fit. Later that day I saw a little girl in a pub lean forward and place a cigarette in her friend’s mouth, and this little incident I added to the sketches already made.
Down near the docks one morning we entered this nice old-fashioned pub, the Queen, for a well-earned drink, and a cheerful voice called out, ‘Are you strippers?’ The friend with us is in her eighties and I am a great-grandmother so in fits of giggles we settled down to a half-pint of beer and a doorstep sandwich each. To our surprise a lovely girl suddenly appeared and, dancing to music, peeled off most of her clothes. This was only a teaser, and a round of drinks later we had the full performance. What a bonus – and we’d only gone in to rest our feet for half an hour or so. Refreshed, we left to continue our journey.
Girls in a Taxi
Very rare silkscreen
Probably the most famous Beryl Cook image
Call for framing options and prices
Bar and Barbara
Call to discuss framing options and costs
Time flies by in the street markets near Canal Street, so does money. Most of the treasures we had to leave behind on the stalls, I’m sorry to say. There were lots of little lookalike dogs, part poodle, part Pekingese and part terrier. Now this combination is not easy to depict, as I found when I came to paint them, and the more paint I added the messier they became. The man in the big hat was very tall and good-looking. He was outside the station when I saw him, but thought he’d just fit in here.
How absorbed in their music these girls are, playing away in the serene summer countryside. I rather like musical instruments, and especially the hands which play them. I learned how a cellist would sit, and the correct place for the fingers, from a newspaper cutting I have of Paul Tortelier. The violin I found in a book from the lending library, a most useful place for all sorts of things I suddenly decide I need to draw. But the pianiste may not be on the same musical wavelength as the other two, for she is taken from a drawing I did of a jazz player energetically attacking a honky-tonk piano, which I changed to something rather more upmarket for this scene. A Steinway perhaps.
I’m fond of fairies and this is the first picture I ever painted of them. I used plants in the garden for background, inserting the marrows for the audience to sit on while they watch Poppy dancing. It was only when I’d finished that I realised Fairy Dandelion had come out without her knickers!
This is one side of a signboard for the Plymouth Arts Centre, and stems from the stories my mother used to tell us of her experiences of evening art classes she joined at a rather advanced age. They made her laugh so much I doubt whether she can have learned a great deal, but she enjoyed the few she attended. And this is how I feel some of the results might have been greeted.

Bowling - (2015)


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at Gallery 105
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