Have some bl**dy fun!

By Dressing up, Filming, New ventures, Talking art

I’m going to say it quietly but I have a sneaky suspicion that I’ll look back on these weeks of lockdown with, if not fondness, then a sense of satisfaction. Okay, so the consecutive days of walking more than 10k steps have waned although I did (annoying boast alert) walk to see the sun rise over London this morning. Not only was it was glorious but I did all my ‘steps’ before 6am. Naturally I then went back to bed and was woken up by a very bemused postman. I felt that I had to explain in detail why I was in my dressing gown at 10am. I really, really didn’t!

Anyway, my sense of satisfaction won’t come from a newly honed Olympian-worthy fitness regime, nor from my massively reduced outgoings. It will come from a feeling that I’ve learnt so much about how to do things differently. Sometimes this has come with a realisation that I need to let myself ‘go’ a bit more, in a manner of speaking. Actually, this ‘letting go’ thing wasn’t a lightbulb moment as much as something that was put to me from a friend who has a lot of experience in the entertainment industry. Have some bloody fun, he said, and if it all goes wrong blame it on lockdown.

So, having settled nicely into a way of working with the green screen, I changed everything and started a new version of ‘Pepped up by Paintings’ called ‘Curated canapés and cocktails’. I cannot tell you how hard I find working with props, if you call piping devilled egg filling into perfect opaque white half spheres ‘working with props’. Except that these ‘props’ weren’t perfect to begin with; some of the spheres were so far to the edge that I was extremely doubtful that the filling would hold, and then I completely fluffed EVERYTHING I was supposed to say, to the point that it became gibberish, and had to start again which entailed scraping all the filling out before the next take. Twice. Now you know why I didn’t want to eat the eggs. And also why the bag eventually collapsed.

The biggest revelation from all this was that I shouldn’t try to ‘act’ ever again. A slightly exaggerated version of myself is fine, but I’m absolutely not an actress. Meryl is safe for which I’m certain she’s profoundly grateful.

I suspect that I’ll be tweaking the presentation and production of these videos for some time until I’ve honed my craft to the best of my abilities (!), but for now I’m loving the fact that I’ve sort of been given permission to play. I’m not sure who is doling out this permission but I really hope that the result is something that is fun to watch. And if it goes badly wrong, I’ll blame it on lockdown.

The trials and triumphs of staying at home

By Instagram, New ventures, Talking art

Here we are at the end of April all settled into our ‘staying at home’ routines. To ‘zoom’ has become as ubiquitous as to ‘google’ and 2kg dumbbells are probably selling on the black market for prices you’d normally associate with precious stones!!

I think I’ve finally mastered the art of the Instagram live. There have, however, most certainly been some technical hitches. I lost a couple of recordings and had to redo them without an ‘audience’ which was horrible. You might think it doesn’t make much difference as I can’t see anyone anyway and there’s even less interaction when I turn off comments, but I imagine you all in the room with me which is more of a boost than I can tell you.

The first hitch came about because the internet was properly rubbish and I kept cutting out which was irritating but I couldn’t do much else. The second was a killer because it was my fault… my camera memory was too full to save the recorded ‘live’ once it was finished. Imagine! You could say that I was unimpressed. It actually led to my only mini isolation meltdown to date. I can highly recommend the soothing qualities of a jigsaw in these situations. This one was a collage of photos from a beautiful holiday with some girlfriends from last year so every so often I’d find a piece of one of their gorgeous faces and get misty eyed all over again. But the jigsaw worked its magic – and kept me up until 2am.

Mistakes and meltdowns aside, the thing I love about human nature is the way we adapt. I can’t be the only one to have been wondering what the world will look like for the next few years. I’m guessing, for example, that I won’t just be able to waltz into the National Gallery with a group any time soon. I can’t really process this if I’m honest, but I’ve started to do the next best thing which has been to think about an online offering. It can’t just be about replacing a gallery tour, although I’m happy to get online with you and do that if you’d like me to, but I feel that it has to offer something a little bit quirky. I have a plan. It’s in gestation but I hope that by the time I’m writing my blog next month you’ll all know about it.

So, let’s keep on keeping on but allow ourselves to get excited about all the wonderful innovations that are blossoming because we’ve had to do things differently. It’s really rather inspiring when you get the technology right.

Elevenses with Lynne

By Instagram, Talking art

Every time I write a blog entry I wonder whether I’m going to have anything to write about the next month. Will anything exciting happen? What if it doesn’t? Just a few short weeks ago when I was writing about my first podcast experience, I had no idea that the next entry would be written in semi isolation or that pasta and toilet paper would become semi-precious items.

Man alive, these are crazy times, aren’t they?

Given that the National Gallery is currently closed, it feels almost cruel to mention the Titian exhibition, but ‘Titian: Love, Desire, Death’ sparked a frenzy of activity in me that I am grateful for in ways I couldn’t have possibly imagined. It’s only three months ago that, out of an unfeasible fantasy (mine), the idea of making videos was born (my friend’s). See my post ‘Making movies (in my kitchen)’ for the progression on that one!

Anyway, if the exhibition hadn’t excited me enough to make videos exploring the works, I wouldn’t have the equipment that I have today to make little videos, and without the little videos, I very much doubt that I would have come up with the idea of ‘Elevenses with Lynne’, an Instagram ‘live’ born out of our strange new circumstances that I’ve started doing every Monday and Thursday.

Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this but I feel as though I’m flying by the seat of my pants. I’ve done two now and I’m learning all the time. There haven’t been any major incidents so far apart from a mini melt-down joining my own chat the second time round:

Me (my brain): Oh, I’ll put my phone on ’do not disturb’ in case someone calls or I get a flurry of messages whilst I’m online.

Me (my brain): Where’s ’do not disturb’? Oh yeah, done!

Me (my brain): Right, deep breath, here we go, get on line… the bloody ‘stories’ button isn’t clicking, damn, damn… oh, here I am, good. Right, go to the bottom of the screen, scroll across, where’s the ‘live’ button? WHERE’S the ‘live’ button? OMG WHERE IS THE LIVE BUTTON? What have I done? Is this what I did before?

Me (my brain – another part of it): It’s 11am, it’s 11am, it’s 11am, it’s 11am

Me (my brain): Okay, start again, no, I’m sure it’s in ‘stories’, is it in ‘stories’, THINK. WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE?

Me (my brain – another part of it): It’s 11am, it’s 11am, it’s 11am, it’s 11am

Me (my brain): Oh no, people are going to join and I won’t be there and they’ll all go away and they’ll think I didn’t do my ‘live’. Where is that butt… oh, wait, has it got something to do with putting the phone on ’do not disturb’? Let me try that.

Me (my brain – another part of it): It’s 11am, it’s 11am, it’s 11am, it’s 11am

Me (my brain): Where’s ‘do not disturb’? Okay, there it is, switch it off. OMG, stories button won’t work again, oh it works and…..

Me: Hello! Good morning!

So, folks, the takeaway from me this month is don’t put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ and try to go ‘live’ on Instagram because it doesn’t work. The ‘live’ thing works in so many other ways though; technology is wonderful when you know how to do it, and my goodness, we’re all going to learn quickly.

The green screen, by the way, is also being put to good use. I’m planning a video a week which will be posted on the gallery and media page. It’s not the same as being in a gallery, of course, but it has it’s merits; not least of which being that I can re-take and edit, unlike another platform, mentioned above.

And in a second, ‘by the way’, I don’t have any worries about not having anything to write about next time. Covid-19 will ensure that we have a new experience almost every day I should think – just in ways we could never anticipate!

The photos are screen shots taken just after my panic. Don’t I look relaxed?! You can see the full ‘live’ which is all about St Sebastian on my Instagram feed.

Invigorated by ‘The Art of Dying Well’

By Podcast, Talking art

My kitchen has finally returned to normal. No more lights, green screen or huge tripod for my phone. I finished filming The Rape of Europa, the last work in the ‘poesie’ series, last week and it’ll be posted on social media shortly. Ironically I did the whole of the last video straight through from start to finish on the third take which NEVER happens. I’d like to think that may be as a result of me honing my presenting skills over the last six weeks, but it was more likely just a bit of luck!

I was certainly digging deep for the gift of eloquence on Valentine’s Day. Thank goodness I’ve kissed the blarney stone, and it was a smacker I might add, I don’t do things by halves. But this had nothing to do with my love life, unless you count my passion for art. No, I am delighted to share the fact that my first ever participation in a podcast was recorded on 14 February and has now been launched into the world.

I was asked several weeks ago whether I’d be willing to participate in a piece about Memento Mori for the award winning ‘The Art of Dying Well’ podcast. Of course I was delighted to accept and added a note to do some research to my to-do list. Fast forward to the week of the 14th and I get a call to say that they’d like to record that Friday; cue a frantic revision of said to-do list and off I tottled to Ecclestone Square to chat to James Abbott armed with plenty of ideas and no real clue as to what the afternoon would bring.

I needn’t have worried. Despite electing to remove the belt from my dress in case I panicked and my breathing got erratic (I know, but you’d possibly do the same in a similar situation….or not?!), I knew everything was going to be fine when James remained good natured and utterly charming even after most of my notes ended up on the floor next to the belt, I had to pause proceedings to find a lip salve and a minute later was compelled to rootle in my handbag once again. On that second occasion the object of my desires was a pen and since I was unsuccessful, I briefly continued my search on what I can only assume was his desk in the neighbouring room before realising that my pen was, in fact, also on the floor with my belt and notes.

So, did I feel terribly grown up and important in this proper studio with an ‘on air’ light, big boom mics and earphones? Of course I did! What an experience, and what’s more once I settled down I absolutely loved it. We talked skulls and skeletons and vanitas paintings with allocated moments for paper shuffling and a couple of re-starts on various sections when my words came out in the wrong order. To be honest they may not have even been the right words at one point, but we’ll skim over that. I’m really rather proud of the end result, and can’t thank James enough for making me so welcome and for his wonderful final edit.

If you’d like to hear me talking about how the idea of Memento Mori, (which translates as ‘remember you must die’) permeates the world of art, there’s a link to the podcast on the home page.

Making movies (in my kitchen)

By Filming, Instagram, Talking art

My kitchen is now masquerading as a film studio for half the week. Seriously, I have lights, a green screen, microphones and a big sturdy tripod with a bracket for my phone. It’s hard to open cupboards, the fridge is out of bounds and if I turn on the gas hob it’s likely that something will either catch fire or melt. But a challenge is a challenge and this is a challenge!

I had the crazy idea to start filming at home at the end of last year when the gallery made it clear that they were less than delighted with me coming over all Sofia Coppola in their hallowed halls. I get it, and I certainly don’t ever want to fall out with the National Gallery, so you won’t see me there with a microphone any time soon. At around the same time, I was chatting to a friend about their upcoming exhibition, ‘Love, Desire, Death’. It will bring together six Titian paintings that I adore and, as such, I was waving my arms around excitedly and gabbling about going full on crazy cabaret in reverence to them… I wanted to write a show, and find a location, and make it award winning and completely fabulous.

After a deep breath (it may have been a sigh) my friend said:

‘You’ve got three months until the exhibition opens, have you started this project? Umm, it’s quite big!’

‘Well, not exactly. Actually, no’

‘Okay. Well, maybe scale it back a bit? How about making a start with little videos about the paintings for your website and social media?’

Eh voila!, the plan was hatched. Six paintings, three videos a painting, all launched into the world to a strict timetable at regular intervals with the last video planned to coincide with the opening of the exhibition in March. I had three weeks to get ahead of myself – until I got ill and spent two and a half weeks staring at daytime television with glazed eyes and my mouth open!

So, fully recovered, this has been my regime for the last two weeks: research, write scripts, film, edit in paintings, edit out the bits where I’m going ‘durrrr’ (thank you dear editor, these videos would be absolutely rubbish without you), fiddle around with Instagram and YouTube on the appointed day until they have been successfully posted. Do it all again. Thanks to my January cold I am only filming a week ahead of each launch date… eeeeek. It’s a bit stressful and ridiculous and huge fun and immensely satisfying.

I am, by the way, thinking of making a full length feature film of the f*** ups. Believe me, there are enough of them. The photos are stills of yet another take biting the dust!

Anyway, if you’d like to see the fruits of my labour, head to the media and gallery page. Goodbye gallery films, hello green screen. It’s a brave new world and I love it.

Twenty minutes to go, two paintings down

By Art Tours

What you need when you curate a tour of six paintings is for the paintings to be on the wall. In the gallery. And to know where they are, obviously.

A week or so ago I had an afternoon DIVAS! tour but I’d neglected my usual checks until about 30 minutes before I was due to meet my guests. The first two works were perfect – still in the Sainsbury Wing where I’d left them a few days before. I then bustle into room 9 to check a Tintoretto and the bloody thing’s not there! Ironically it’s been replaced by a painting depicting Zeus abducting Ganymede which was one of my original choices for this tour but as it wasn’t on display, I didn’t learn it.

Now, it’s completely normal for the National Gallery to move paintings or even remove them altogether for a period of time. Amongst other things, it keeps the experience fresh for regular visitors. I wasn’t, however, necessarily up for a challenge at that particular moment, so picture the scene when, after finding works four and five in situ, the doors to room 45 were shut. What’s in room 45? Mme Moitessier my sixth and final diva, although arguably that accolade should go to the French artist, Ingres, who took 12 years to paint her.

Seriously. One room closed. Two out of six paintings down. Twenty minutes until the start of the tour.

So, I had a little panic and got that over and done with, and then set about scrolling through my mental rolodex (look it up if you’re under 35) for paintings that wouldn’t just do, but that would maintain the energy and diversity of the tour. Of course there needed to be diva action, but I also wanted narrative action of the juicy variety – how else do you replace a story about the origins of the milky way?!

Well, if I was bustling earlier, now I’m whirling through the gallery searching for the perfect replacements. I had a couple of portraits up my sleeve but I only wanted to use one, not both. Then it came to me. Bronzino’s Allegory with Venus and Cupid is utterly bonkers, with a cracking back story and enough divaesque behaviour to compete with a boudoir brimming with opera singers. But guess what? The room was closed for a virginal recital. Naturally.

Two rooms closed. One painting down. Ten minutes to go.

The gallery attendants are there to help and no, I didn’t faint or scream or anything, instead I asked calmly when the room might re-open. Finally, a Hallelujah moment! I was assured that by the time we got to Cupid giving his Mum’s nipple a little tweak (it’s there, take a look), the recital would be over and the painting available to view at close quarters. It was, and as I recall, the virginal had also disappeared. A lot can happen in 90 minutes, it seems.

Anyway, no one needed to be any the wiser that the Bronzino wasn’t part of the original plan, nor that I’d chucked in The Rokeby Venus at the last minute;  I figured that her beauty and the deranged Suffragette who tried to destroy her would fit the diva mould nicely. Except they knew because I told them! I reckon it’s all part of the experience, and I’ve just realised that it was Friday the 13th… should have known.

The photo is a screen shot from a piece recorded two minutes before I met my guests.  Surprise, relief, adrenaline, it’s all there!  The full video is on the highlights tab ‘Before a Tour’ on my Instagram feed.

Insta-fear and fabulous friends

By Friends, Instagram

A couple of weeks ago I did a crazy thing. I ran an Instagram competition for two free places on a tour. I sent out the details which were set to increase my followers, and went off to Pilates. As I rotated and stretched and engaged my pelvic floor I imagined my phone giving a little ping every so often, a comforting affirmation that many people are as interested in my art tours as I am. And so when I fished my phone out of my bag at the end of  the class, I maybe wasn’t expecting the response…

Two people. Well, three if you count the person who replied before I went into class.

Honestly, I’m laughing now that I thought this call to action would trigger if not a frenzy of activity, then at least a steady trickle. The thing is that I am pretty new to both marketing and Instagram so I only had 62 followers as a starting point; OF COURSE I wasn’t going to be flooded. Beyond the Palette is my passion and even though I put my all into creating and conducting great art tours, everyone has a life of their own and stuff to do and frankly no one is just sitting around waiting for my latest social media post to enliven their day.

So, I put out an SOS to friends. Can I just say how much I love you all? People who didn’t even know they were on Instagram (until they were reminded) got involved and the net result was that I doubled my following. But more importantly, the solidarity and support and sheer wonderfulness of not only close friends but of my wider support network completely blew me away. Thank you.

The irony is that the winners couldn’t come in the end but I’ll arrange another date. Support like that deserves to be rewarded.

By the way, the group photo is from that tour, guess which one is my Mum?!

Why dresses matter

By Art Tours, Dressing up

Sometimes you have to sit back and take stock of how far you’ve come. Today I met a girlfriend for lunch and ended up filming the reactions of our fellow diners to my new Bombshell dress which had been sitting primly in it’s box under the table until we got up to leave and curiosity dictated that my purchase was displayed. In the past it wouldn’t have occurred to me to record the moment, but last year I launched Beyond the Palette Art Tours and I’m finally ready to launch my business and myself (in a manner of speaking) into the world. This particular snapshot of life is now on my Instagram highlights. Who knew?

It would be a reasonable question to ask what dresses have to do with art tours, and the answer may well have been ‘nothing’ had it not been for the feedback from my very first group. I remember the tour well. It was all about horror in paintings from the early modern period, a subject that I’d studied for my masters at UCL. I had gathered a group of friends and friends of friends and, as it was a Saturday, I was heading out to dinner with one of them post tour. I have no idea what I would have worn had I not been wriggling off to Sexy Fish later that evening, but because I felt a sense of occasion, I dressed up. And every single person mentioned how I looked in their feedback. So, dressing up, and dresses in particular, have become a thing, and why not? Everyone needs a bit of escapism and theatre now and again, and it’s a lovely thing to enhance what is already a visual treat (thank you, old masters, you are always the stars of the show), with well tailored creations in sumptuous materials and a gorgeous lippy to match.

You only need to stand in Trafalgar Square and look at the staircase leading up to the grand portico at the front of the National Gallery to feel that it’s a building that embraces grandeur and style. What I aim to add is a big splash of colour, both literally and metaphorically so that together we can revel in its treasures with a fitting sense of occasion, and a delicious joie de vivre. A bit like putting on a great dress really.