Writer. Drawer. Other.Lee. (Lee Lee). Boulton.
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The. Blunt. Version.
Bristolian. In. Amsterdam.
Creative. Writer. CD.
Look. On. LinkedIn.
The. Deeper. Version.
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There is one image on this site I had no hand in creating.
And I chose it for the homepage.
It’s a portrait of my Great Auntie Betty.
In watercolour and pencil.
I always remembered it from visits to her house as a child.
That and the constant tick of the Grandmother clock.
And down the years my memory of it became like an influence.
The simple composition. That graphic grid. Those muted pastel tones.
A few years ago Auntie Betty passed away.
It’s ok, she was in her late nineties.
Her nephew, Martin, was executor of the will so I asked him about the painting.
Did he remember it? Of course.
Was anyone receiving it?
He wasn’t sure but said he’d find out.
At the funeral he gave a moving eulogy to Auntie Betty.
And spoke a lot about her artistic pursuits - her writing and painting.
And also those of her late husband.
I had no idea she was so prolific.
To me she was just a nice old lady sitting in a chair.
I’ve always been the ‘creative’ one in my family.
They say “I don’t know where he gets it from”.
So what about this creative power couple?
At the wake Martin took me out to his car and just pulled the painting right out of the boot.
So I’m stood in the pub carpark holding her self portrait.
And now it’s suddenly taken on holy grail-like significance.
It’s a missing link.
Plus, it’s mine.
I’d only ever seen this artwork from across a living room and from the perspective of a small child.
But once I was alone with it I could study it properly for the first time.
The faint construction lines, the subtle differences in shade between neighbouring squares.
And the signature.
Who is WOT?
Is it her pseudonym? Her tag?
And then I turned it over.
It wasn’t a self portrait as I’d always assumed.
It was painted by her husband, Robert Watson.
It had been part of an exhibition but he hadn’t made it available for purchase.
This was the limit of the new info it gave up.
That and the vastly increased poignance.
Of my Great Auntie looking at his depiction of her from her favourite armchair for all these years.
I flew home with this treasure excessively bubble wrapped.
But couldn’t stop thinking about what Martin had said about finding many more examples of their work.
In her house that was about to be cleared.
When I got back I wrote him a letter to say thank you and enquire further.
Hungry to see much more like this one.
But got no reply.
I had heard he was unfortunately in poor health, himself.
Research for any of the projects I work on is a breeze.
I can easily find out who Leiomy Maldanado is.
Or look up a mildly offensive Swedish phrase.
But with Auntie Betty and Robert Watson it’s not so straightforward.
If they were active today instead of in the 1960s they’d probably have their stuff on a Cargo site.
But they aren’t, so they don’t.
I’d need to return to my home town, have awkward conversations with some estranged relatives.
Or keep that artistic ancestry a mystery.
Which makes this one artwork all the more sacred.
A singular legacy.
Now it hangs on the wall behind my desk.
I didn’t place it there intentionally but one day when I got up to make a cup of tea
I realised she was kind of watching over me while I worked.
I wonder what she makes of my endeavours.
The stories I’m spinning for brands.
Or the weird vector illustrations (will anyone cherish one of those in 60 years’ time?).
The endless noodling on the elusive first novel (5 years and counting).
And even the building of this website.
You can see from the eyes in the portrait, Auntie Betty was a kindly person.
I like to think she’s a supportive ECD.
Up there with her creative partner, Robert.
Who even had his own logo like me!
Must be where I get it from.
This story is one of a trilogy about pictures I think are worth ‘A Thousand Words’.