Sunday, 17 January 2021

The Big Move

The Big Move

After thirty-five years living virtually in a treetop in Amsterdam South, I've now moved to an apartment that has a wonderful view from the ninth floor over the treetops of the East-side park. It's been a emotional experience, having to say goodbye to a gracious house, built in 1914 near the Concertgebouw, with so many happy and sad memories, where my children grew up and where their mother died. She played in the Concertgebouw, where I also painted live kinetic images to many concerts, so it became our second home.  


The move meant down-sizing, saying farewell to my favourite tree outside the window, to innumerable archives and documents, contracts and proposals for exhibitions and performances worldwide, all written or faxed on paper, many of which were successful and some that sadly never came to fruition. At eighty-seven, I look back nostalgically on a very long career, about which you can read in my blogs at

All went well! I'm now living in an Amsterdam apartment block for retired senior citizens, in a quarter where the streets are named after the colonial Dutch East Indies. My address is Kramatplantsoen, Kramat being a small town in Java with a chequered history, but also the term for the burial-ground of a highly-placed person. Duly noted. I've discovered that it only takes me three minutes to climb the nine flights of stairs. 

Artists don't know the meaning of retirement of course. We have an inner need to create, for as long as we can hold a paintbrush. My studio and commissions await, but after this exhausting process, I first need a little break. Here's the fanfare of colours to which I awoke on my first day. Yes, it was a good move.


Monday, 31 August 2020

CBSO celebrates 100 years

CBSO celebrates 100 years!
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

I was born in Longbridge Lane, Birmingham in 1933, in the shadow of the Austin car factory where my father worked. That year Hitler came to power and seven years later he was sending his bombers to hit Birmingham’s industrial centres. Fortunately by then our family had moved to the safety of rural Worcestershire (where the sauce comes from).

After the war, in 1949 I returned to Birmingham at the age of sixteen to study painting at the College of Art and to marvel at the grotesque bombed ruins - fascinating sketchbook subjects. By the fifties, with no money for lunch, I would be popping over to the free lunchtime concerts at the Town Hall by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, where the charismatic Viennese Rudolf Schwarz (who had miraculously survived two Nazi concentration camps) was about to become chief conductor. Thanks to this Maestro and the CBSO I got a significant introduction to classical music – a new world of inspiration was opening up to me that would characterise my life’s work. I began to wonder whether I shouldn’t have studied music. But my instrument was already the paintbrush.

Decades later, the old war-scarred industrial city of Birmingham was changing into a dynamic cultural centre, with a splendid new Symphony Hall for the CBSO. My association with some of those changes and the story of my life painting music was recorded (in 1993) in a fifty-minute documentary for BBC Television: Concerto for Paintbrush and Orchestra. It linked my paintings of great musicians to the sound of the music that inspired them (so that you heard the painting, as it were), then continued with a live performance of my kinetic painting with the CBSO, conducted by Simon Rattle. 

A clip from the 1993 BBC documentary "Concerto for Paintbrush and Orchestra"
And now, on September 5th 2020, to celebrate the Centennial of this world-famous orchestra, Sir Simon is conducting a concert in, of all places, a warehouse in my birthplace in Longbridge! The concert will be live-streamed for all.

After the 1993 televised highlight twenty-five years went by, before my meeting with the new Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla led to another CBSO collaboration. She agreed with me that The Sea by the legendary Lithuanian artist/composer Čiurlionis (1875-1911) would be the perfect work to combine with my fluid lyrical painting, as a total work of art. After forty-five years of live performances worldwide, this concert on February 16th. 2019, appropriately in Birmingham Symphony Hallwas to be my swan song.

CBSO playing the 2019 UK premier of The Sea by Čiurlionis, with my simultaneous live paintings on screen.

I feel so grateful that I can, with considerable nostalgia, scroll through a lifetime of associations with the CBSO and that I found the opportunities to make portraits of four of their Music Directors in full swing, Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo, Andris Nelsons and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. 

 Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducting Mahler 1 with the CBSO in 2017. 
Watercolour 1491 x 1428 cm.
N.B. The CBSO has been nominated for the 
Gramophone Orchestra of the Year Award. Vote here for your support before Sept. 7th!

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Frans Brüggen


My Frans Brüggen (1934-2014)
 has found a good home

It gives me great pleasure that my watercolour of the legendary virtuoso recorder player Frans Brüggen has found a good home in the hands of an excellent recorder player who was one of his many fans. As a young man, he was the idol of would-be recorder players worldwide, myself included!

Painted in 1983, shortly after Frans co-founded the wonderful Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, of which he became such a dedicated conductor. I seized the opportunity to make sketches during rehearsals when my late wife the cellist Vivian King played briefly in the orchestra. Soon after this Frans gave up the recorder to devote all of his energies to his orchestra.
Frans Brüggen, watercolour  61 x 48 cm, 1983

In those years, I was searching for a free way to go with flow, to suggest the movement in a less is more style. The following year I was in Japan, soaking up the freedom of their brushwork. Here's the Link to my blog on that line of thought around 1984.

Frans Brüggen conducting 62 x 57 cm, chalk, 1983

pencil sketch of Frans conducting, approx. 40 x 30 cm. 
(The drawings are still for sale, by the way).

Sunday, 19 July 2020

A deeply emotional encounter

A deeply emotional encounter

I've made many pencil sketches of sleeping babies, but never a painting of such an irresistible personality, only twelve days old. The first time I took her in my arms, I hummed Brahms' Wiegenlied (Lullaby) to her. She became very still and gazed up at me with those alert enquiring eyes. It was love and understanding at first sight. I looked at her very long fingers and thought: Oh yes, she's going to be a cellist, like her late grandmother Vivian, or perhaps an oboist like her grandfather Maarten. I was deeply moved.
                        My watercolour of Liv Vivian Maria Perryman, 21 x 28 cm, July 7th 2020.

In a way, we had met before. When I painted my portrait of her mother Lorena, she was listening, nestled inside. Here's the Link to that event:

Four months later, unexpectedly her mother had to be taken to hospital by ambulance. The Amsterdam stairway was too narrow, so the fire-brigade came to the rescue and Mom was whisked out of the window. Meanwhile Liv was nestling in the safe arms of her father Alex. To sooth our mutual anxiety I dashed off this little card for her, to say that her Opa was also cradling and rocking her gently in the branches of the old tree outside my window. Alex said she couldn't take her eyes off it. My dear granddaughter had become my youngest fan. (Here's the Link to my earlier painting of that tree, as a self-portrait).

Liv Perryman, born June 25th, 2020

Share my tears of joy with that lovely 3-minute Brahms Lullaby