Being little, I loved colouring and drawing. I remember being obsessed almost with pencils, paints and felt tips. My favorite present at Christmas were some pencils with my name on them. Daft, it may sound, but I still have them now! My Mum and Dad had a friend who was an Artist, Mike Presswell. He had painted two oil canvases which hung in our living room. One of a chessboard with ghost like chessmen and the other, a Centurion striding through a tunnel of flames with a sword held high. I couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 when we were invited one evening over to his house for Dinner. He had just redecorated his dinning room and it had taken a long time to finish. I was a bit excited, this was my first proper dinner party invitation. I was in no certain terms told to be on my very best behavior.
When we arrived we walked through into the dining room. The large wooden table was set beautifully with linen, candles, fine china and sparkling glasses. The room was painted a deep red, with a high white ceiling. As a kid this was a sight to behold. One wall drew my attention away from the table. Across it was painted a large Dragon with flowing scales and enormous but graceful wings. It’s whole body was as living as you or me. It looked right at me, with eyes so engaging, that I purposefully moved around the table, just to see if it was still following. In fact wherever you were in that room, the Dragon watched you. Not with any malice. More like some lost soul from another world who was just passing through, maybe hoping you knew the way home.
Mike who was passionate about his work, spoke to me about his painting and my own drawings. He took time to sit with me, trying to teach me some simple techniques that I remembered. He encouraged me to have a bit of faith in my own talents, to allow my imagination run riot; he gave me the inspiration to practice, because that’s just what he had done.
Before I knew it the evening was over. I didn’t want to go home, go to bed or stop drawing. I saw the canvases he painted in a new light. I appreciated them and studied them more closely. But I do remember that Dragon today, clearly, he has stayed with me just out of sight of everyone else. I like to think that he made a home in my imagination and from there at least, he still watches me somehow, with interest.