During the 12-week journey with The Artist’s Way for Retirement, one of the tasks is to treat yourself to a weekly artist’s date. The idea is to schedule a date for you alone, for around an hour, as you would do with someone important, to do something to please just you!  Apparently, for some, this is a very hard thing to do.

For my first date, I decided to visit a special exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry, entitled Face to Face – Portraits Through Time.  This promised to be an interesting mix of painting, photographs and sculpture.  I duly booked out some time to go on Saturday afternoon.

The first interesting thing that occurred was a feeling of excitement as I prepared to set off.  A little like going on a real date, with a real person, as opposed to just myself going to view various staring faces, frozen at a moment in time!  It was good fun to listen to old familiar 80’s pop tracks on the car radio as I set off for town.  In a good mood, I walked in to the hairdressers – a timely cut and blow had seemed in order!  As I sat patiently whilst the hair dresser snipped away, she asked me that time old question – “what are you doing today, anything nice?”   I hesitated momentarily.  Should I tell her that I was about to go on an Artists Date?  Yes, why not!  “Oh, that sounds interesting, she said” on hearing the news…

It is quite some time since I have been to a gallery or museum, so I was interested to note a number of families with young children roaming around The Herbert.  It was also great to see that the audio tour included snippets of children giving their views on some of the exhibits. What a great idea!

The exhibition itself consisted of an eclectic mix of works depicting both famous people (David Bowie, the Beatles, the eponymous Henry VIII, for example) and others who were either “ordinary” folk, or unknown sitters. Amongst the array of faces, two paintings made a particular impact. One, a portrait of Princess Diana at the tender age of 19.  I found tears welling up in my eyes as I gazed at the tranquil portrait.  It felt as if there was such gentle promise in that young, unblemished face. A calm, steady gaze reflecting a time of innocence and hope after the announcement of her engagement to Prince Charles.

rego greer Sue WilliamsIn sharp contrast, I studied a powerful portrait of Germaine Greer. Where Diana was calm and sedate, the portrait of Germaine was ungainly, powerful and bold.  As she herself had commented, this portrait was not about hiding any flaws or enhancing her beauty.  It was a proud demonstration of her intelligence, and her raw, real strength of personality; captured in middle age.  Not your typical, sanitised media image of modern woman.  Cynically, perhaps, I noticed that it was not possible to buy a postcard or find a leaflet with this portrait on, alongside those of Princess Diana, David Bowie and Nelson Mandela.  Was that to do with the uncompromising, flawed nature of the image?!

I left the Herbert feeling pleased with this first date. Not only had it been interesting to view the different styles and characters on view, I also loved how there were children dressing up in old clothes to have their portraits captured in character.

Where would you like to go on your artist’s date?  Please leave a comment to let me know on the blog!