…and the story of how this painting came to be.
I had an online acquaintance with a certain rather notorious member of British parliament. Nothing serious. Taking the position of devil’s advocate, I wondered if the media had been a bit hard on him and I posted something friendly and jokey about him on my blog. He must Google himself a lot, because he found me after that.
He was very friendly and nice, at least at first. He took an interest in my art and showed me some paintings he had collected on his many travels.
I’ve lately been doing a kind of series in which I ask people to name three colors and then I make an abstract composition with them. I was about to start a new painting so I happened to ask this person to name three colors. He said, “Red, purple and green.”
So I sketched a design with red, purple, green and some other colors. He thought there should be more red. So I diminished the other colors and made it really red. He also had other ideas about how it should be, e.g. landscape not portrait, and that the composition should have a feeling of calm about it. Red and calm was not an easy combination, but I saw it as an artistic challenge.
He was delighted with my design and said he would find a way to display it in his office, as a screensaver or a desktop background on his computer.
Sometimes I give my paintings to friends. So I asked him if he would like a version of the painting that he could actually hang on his office wall at the House of Commons. Again he was delighted by this idea.
He wanted a really large painting – twice the size of the canvas I was planning to use, so I had to use the one big canvas I had that was earmarked for a different project. I warned him that shipping the canvas would be difficult and expensive, but he told me not to worry, that he’d arrange to have it Fedexed from my place to the House of Commons.
I spent five months off and on, working on the design. I kept getting frustrated because it wasn’t red enough, and it was hard to balance the bright orange-red he wanted against the purple and the green. So the painting got very thick because I was putting on more and more layers, trying to get it right.
Five months is a long time, but I was working on other projects in between too. During this time we kept in touch by email occasionally; he didn’t always answer, but nothing seemed to be wrong. I figured he was just busy.
Finally I was close to finishing, so I contacted the MP to see about having the painting Fedexed to him as he said he would. He never answered. I emailed a few more times and sent him tweets, thinking he must have not gotten my messages somehow.
I wondered if the whole thing had been some kind of joke on his part, though I don’t know why anyone would do such a thing. I saw him on Twitter talking to other people like nothing was wrong, but I got no answer. Then I knew he was ignoring me on purpose, but I had no idea why. That made me angry, so I berated him over Twitter. (I later deleted these tweets). Then there was a long silence.
Sometime after that we made up. Somebody had written something satirical about him in the paper and reading it made me sad, so I told him so in an email. He emailed me back in a friendly way and we ended up having a friendly talk on the phone, though not a very clear one as the connection was poor. I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying. I did hear him say that he loved the painting, though.
I soon finished the painting and let him know. No answer. I began to realize he had no intention of having the painting Fedexed, so I had to mail it to him myself at my own expense. To do this, I had to remove the painting from its support and roll it up. The process of removing the staples from the back and rolling up the canvas damaged it slightly, but there was no other way I could afford to mail the painting unless it was in a reasonably small box. The painting is about 30 inches by 40 inches. It took me the better part of a day just pulling out the staples.
Wrapped and mailed, it took only 5 days to reach the UK, and I saw that it had been signed for, so I know that it arrived safely. I emailed him to let him know it would be coming – again no answer.
And now that the painting has been delivered, still no answer.
The painting is worth more than 1500 pounds sterling. It was a gift with no strings attached; I don’t live in the UK and there is nothing this MP can do for me professionally. I gave the gift because I like giving gifts; it’s just that simple. But he didn’t bother with a single word of thanks.
And for that reason I have dubbed him Ungrateful Oik.
Though the rest of the world calls him Eric Joyce.