Learning a minor celebrity about art.

Nothing Beats a Flat White!


I'm at the hospital as I write this. I'm not staying, I'm visiting the consultant and having a few tests. Well, actually to define my current situation better, I have seen the consultant and now I am number 84 in the queue for bloods, number 4 has just gone in. Apparently I may be bumped even higher because my blood has to be couriered to a lab 17 miles away, requires to be transported on ice, and the courier is nowhere to be found.


So what pearl of wisdom did the consultant come out with today? Well, the conversation went like this...


Have you had your blood test done yet?






Because you didn't ask me to have one.


We need one done quite quickly, these new tablets are very powerful with lots of Side effects


I know. I felt sick after taking them over the weekend, and dizzy.


Did you also feel very tired?


Yes. I slept for 15 hours straight.


Did you feel unwell?


Yes, I mean being sick, dizzy and tired, I was in no position to run a marathon. I didn't eat for three days.


You'll need to get used to that. Occasionally this medication will make you feel quite ill at times. You might also get more intolerant of things.


Thanks, I will bear that in mind. People too?


It will be ok in the end though.


No, in the end I will be 6 foot under along with everyone else. I think what you mean to say sir, is that things will improve in the interim. I think by saying in the end, you're raising expectations.


Ok, I see where we're going with this. Would you like to have the blood test today?


Then I became the number. Number 84. Number 5 has just gone in, number 4 is being comforted with a cup of tea from the vending machine. Number 4 also looks quite pale. Number 3 reappeared after loosing her phone. She found it. It was a Nokia. She was quite angry as she had missed 3 text messages from Dave. I have no idea who Dave is.


A friend of mine, yes I do actually have a few despite any preconceived ideas that you might have thinking that I'm generally grumpy, it's not me, it's the medication. I do though have a number of friends who stick around, have done for years. A couple are actually celebrities but they're kind of normal people, not at all lovey and diva-ish. Generally they chanced on fame later in life, and get just as annoyed as I do with celebrities that insist on only having a bowl of single sized peanuts, 22oz of single coloured M&Ms, and an obscure bottle of wine in their riders.


One of my celebrity, I use the term lightly, he hasn't done much, friends was going to an event. At this event there was to be a quiz which he thought he could handle. The quiz was all about the arts, and his specialist subject was unfortunately going to be identifying art from the masters. It was a charity thing.


Now he wouldn't mind me saying that the extent of his knowledge around the masters goes no further than selecting a print from IKEA. In fact, he's never visited a museum since he was about 8. He also had a traumatic experience when the school bus left without him, having to return a few hours later when someone realised he was missing. I think it was his Mother who finally raised the alarm when he didn't come off the bus to meet her.


My friend clearly needed some help if he wasn't going to look completely stupid. So for three days solid, I sent photos of the great works from the masters to him on his phone. Out of the first twenty he got the first two correct. It appears that was because he had seen a couple of the prints reduced in his local IKEA. The others? He hadn't got a clue. This was going to be one of the toughest challenges yet.


I tried sending more, he mistook a Van Gogh for a Rembrandt, a Rubens for a Dali. This was starting to become painful. What makes it even worse is that he passed his art exam at school with flying colours. One piece that was identified as a real contender for display in a gallery, was as a direct result of him spilling the red paint tub over it, quickly converting it to an abstract, and him saying, that's where my imagination took me. I'm an artist.


Everything I did, every tactic I took, just didn't lead to the right results. By this time even I was starting to think that a Warhol was originally painted by Matisse. I pulled out everything in my arsenal to teach my dear friend to identify the ten most likely works that he would be shown. I started to panic when we met up for a coffee, the poor guy had wide eyes and an expression on his face that was similar to a rabbit in the headlights.


We need to group them. These are the most likely ones you'll be shown, and if not these, the styles are unique. So I set about showing him a range of paintings from each artist. It was like showing flash cards to a five year old.


If all the men look like curly-haired women with funny eyes, it’s Caravaggio. We went through a few paintings, he spotted Caravaggios immediately. Now we were on a roll. I asked if he had ever took acid or LSD or some other substance. No came the reply. Should I? No, there's no need but you might want to use your imagination for Dali. Finally he got that Dali's paintings are often a little trippy, and went on to correctly identify two of his works.


If everyone seems relieved that the water boarding session is over, and it looks like the lights have been turned off, that's a Titian. At this point I couldn't believe I was describing some of my most revered artists in this way. My hope is that no one else in the coffee shop could hear me. By this time we had consumed two flat white's and we had now moved on to an espresso.


Have you ever seen Putin? Yes, he's a Russian. Well, if everyone looks like Putin it's definitely Van Eyck. Either that, or its from a Moscow gift shop. More likely a Van Eyck. Progress was going well until I showed him a painting by L.S Lowry, just to shake things up a bit.


Don't give me any clues, I know this one. It's Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs by Brian and Michael. I can even give you the year. 1977. No, that was a song about Lowry. This my friend is called Going To Work, and it was painted in 1959. We ordered another espresso.


Now this painting has lots of small people, the buildings look normal though. I was greeted immediately by that's L.S Lowry. No, it's Bruegel. Now if you get the same painting, but add in a little Dali and some other crazy stuff, it's Bosch. To this the reply was I thought they made power tools. I have their drill and the electric screwdriver. I cancelled one espresso. I could see panic reemerge after I told the Barista to swap one espresso for a fruit smoothie. My friend was in clear need of his five a day.


Have you ever seen homeless people outside Kings Cross station at night? Yes, and I always spare some change for them. That's good, I also buy a copy of The Big Issue, so our thoughts to support those less fortunate are aligned. Remember when Kings Cross wasn't so well lit? Yes, he said, going on to explain that when he was young he had to travel to Kings Cross at night and was always a little edgy. It's very much improved now though, and he especially likes a coffee in Carlucios. Well, imagine a homeless person under a dim light. That's going to be a Rembrandt.


At this point the smoothie arrived. He took a sip and immediately said he had brain freeze. He really got this one right. He had actually had brain freeze for the last hour but only when the cold taste of banana and strawberries hit his lips did he recognise it.


Have you ever seen The Walking Dead? Yes he said, I even went for an audition to be a zombie in season two. I vaguely remember him spending two weeks in the States trying to make it big at one time. Apparently, this was that time. Ok, so imagine The Walking Dead but a tad more colourful. That is Picasso.


Have you ever used Microsoft Excel? Now this was a question, the sheer panic of the thought that I would start introducing algebra and formulas was a picture in itself. Yes, indeed he did use Excel but only to keep a contact list as a backup. He did though do something useful, all of his previous exes were in a red table, his current girlfriend was in a green table, and his future aspirations were in a black table. So that explains Mondrian. A burst of colour in an Excel spreadsheet.


We continued as he sipped the smoothie making bubbling sounds with the straw, and leaning forward as if he was ready for anything. We looked through a few more examples. Looks like a performance from the Royal Ballet, Degas. A ladies eyebrows that merge into one, Frida. We were on a roll. Finally he was getting it.


Looks like a poster to advertise a gym membership from the 1500's it's a Michelangelo. This method was working. Even I was dreaming up new ways to describe art that I hadn't even thought of before. Art started to have a new meaning even to me.


The event came and I received a phone call at around 11:30pm. I got them all right, I got them all right, apart from one. Thinking this was bound to be the Lowry, I wasn't too surprised. Well, which did you get wrong? The reply was almost beyond belief. They threw in a wild card. It looked like an Excel spreadsheet. I was certain it was a Mondrian. It was actually an IKEA PJÄTTERYD Picture, geometric I.


Well no one could have guessed that. My friend was happy and he also won the IKEA PJÄTTERYD Picture, geometric I worth a few pounds at the local IKEA. My work here was done. After all that I had finally got someone to think beyond the art of IKEA.


How do you recognise artists? Do you ever use analogies to describe a painting in a different way, just to remember who the artist was?


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