Lady Painting at the BeachbyEgmontGrigor2011©
"Yes to all of that and you will have checked that I was a graduate."
"You are a clever young lady Nikki as well as being a gifted artist. At our board meeting earlier this afternoon I was instructed you to invite you to become a member of our board to replace a retiring member who is patron of the local arts society and to invite you to become a member of our acquisitions committee."
"What little old me?"
"Oh I'm honored but I only received acceptance of my membership of the art's society on Monday. Wouldn't they wish their new patron to be the successor of the retiring patron?"
"This is confidential Nikki but the president of the society sits on our board and she said it was their committee's intention to propose you as the new patron, er after approaching you. God please Nikki, don't say I leaked this to you."
"But I'm just a young woman, Cheryl, only thirty-one. Patrons are generally well into the wobbly age."
"My dear, be that as it may, you are being recognized by your peers."
"I take it that's total acceptance?"
"Good then please drop in here at 12:30 tomorrow Nikki for the presentation."
"Yes we are having a few people here to watch you formerly gift your paining of Sandy Cove to the gallery to be followed by lunch. By the way, your father came over and paid for new framing at cost."
"Um about this presentation, I guess I shouldn't dress in a bikini?"
"That could create a lasting impression and establish a new low for dress code in our gallery dear."
Bob was ripping into the roasted beef sirloin as if his late mum had cooked it.
"Jesus Nikki, I don't think mum could have produced a better roast dinner and that's saying something."
"Oh Bob, it does and it humbles me. I'd accepted that your mum was even a better cook than my mum."
"But as the sun also rises and so shall a new and superior cook emerge."
"Omigod Bob, is that you talking."
He grinned and called her a cheeky young bitch and Nikki accepted that as another accolade.
As they finished mains Nikki said impulsively, "Let's row out into the bay with a bottle of sweet wine and dessert."
Bob frowned and looked at his watch.
"Nikki it's late and..."
"I arrived at Sandy Cover and hit you like a gust of fresh air. You were lonely and bored. Very well, you go to bed and snuggle up to the latest edition of Farmer's Weekly."
"Oh Father, I have sinned," Bob intoned.
His voice became deep. "Thank you son, your punishment is to go out on the bay with the most vibrant young woman in creation and eat and drink and be merry and to bring her back to your bed and fuck her until her eyeballs are almost popping."
Mouth opened, Nikki looked at Bob, most impressed.
"That's not bad for a farmer's son eh?" Bob grinned.
Out on the water Nikki invited Bob to lunch at the gallery next day for the handing over of her painting.
"So it's been accepted?"
"I knew it would and I applied no pressure."
"Thanks darling. Oh I suggest you don't wear your polo, jeans and boots."
"No that stuffy outfit has a dress code that indicates they are up themselves but I suppose it allows control of the riff-raff element."
"You mean farmers in jeans and boots."
"Cheeky young bitch.""
Next day when approaching the gallery, Bob and Nikki were swept in amid a crowd of arriving people.
"The gallery is busy today. It must have a lunchtime concert or something."
Rather overwhelmed, Nikki didn't reply. Then she saw her parents.
"Oh god, my parents are here. This will be the first time you and my father will have come face to face socially since your successful reconciliation."
"Yes but it had to happen. This is as good as place as anywhere."
"Bob there is no other function. These people have come to watch the presentation."
"Jesus but why?"
"I can only guess someone has decided it's a big deal occasion."
"It that why you are dolled up."
"Oh this little black dress and my maternal grandmother's silver necklace is my usual dress-up at midday. I was told a few people would be coming."
"How large a group is a few people/"
"Keep calm darling. Size is only a matter of perspective. Cheryl is probably used to bigger occasions than we are."
"You call our stuck-up director by her first name?"
"Only because she invited me to call her Cheryl."
Cheryl rushed over and kissed Nikki and said good afternoon Mr Hill to Bob as if he were from another planet, rather than just being a Big 12 donor.
"Cheryl please kiss Bob. He's great at kissing and call him Bob. That will make him feel more comfortable. He's rather shy of full-on influential women."
Cheryl hesitated and Bob kissed her and said hi Cheryl and she said hi Bob. They both pulled away looking quite astonished that such a thing had happened.
Checking the time, Nikki said to Bob, "Go and join my parents, Cheryl will want me to line up with her."
They walked off with Cheryl briefing Nikki.
After Cheryl introduced herself and welcomed everyone to such an 'auspicious occasion', Charles Drake, chairman of the Gallery Trust Committee, said it was wonderful that Nikki Wells, who he'd known since she was a school girl, had returned to Radcliffe as a hugely talented and mature artist and since her return had completed a painting she wished to donate to the gallery.
"We were dumbfounded," he said. "The painting little Nikki... or the young lady Nikki is giving us is a hugely significant acquisition and is approaching the upper end of works we have in this gallery of our small city. We have had the painting independently assessed and the valued placed on it for insurance cover is $9000."
People clapped and looked as if wondering how an unknown local artist could produce a painting worth that much.
There was a flurry at the doorway and a TV crew arrived closed followed by a newspaper reporter and photographer.
Charles stopped to allow them to settle, the TV cameraman's assistant setting up the tripod and the cameraman mounting the camera. The two floodlights were switched on and the cameraman waved to the lawyer and Charles said he would now continue.
"Nikki Wells has a master's degree in fine arts from the acclaimed Royal College of Art in London and so we are very fortunate to have her return to settle here in Radcliffe. I can't over-emphasize how enormously grateful that we of the gallery are in receiving Nikki's generous gift to this city of her outstanding painting. I would like to add that because of Nikki's expertise in art and sound knowledge of art history we have invited Nikki to replace our retiring patron of the gallery trust, Mrs Marion Bush, as patron. Nikki has also accepted the offer to become a member of our acquisitions committee."
There was polite applause and Charles then said, "I invite you to say a few words Nikki before you remove the covering from your painting on the wall behind me."
"Thank you Mr Drake. I'm honored to have been invited to serve gallery administration. When I arrived back here I couldn't believe the city had acquired such a fine, modern art gallery during the time I'd been away. Citizens must be very proud to have such a fine addition to city culture."
"To keep it short, I was born and raised in Radcliffe until I went to Auckland to complete my undergraduate degree in fine arts, specializing in painting and art history. I virtually lived on Sandy Cove beach for eight to nine months of the year until my late teens and in the dismal weather in London I used to dream of being back on Sandy Cove Beach in one of our so-called endless summers. After completing my masters I painted my beloved memories of Sandy Cove, my memories jogged by photographs and sold nine oil-on canvas paintings. I checked my records last night and found the four sold by auction and the five commissioned sales netted me £52,760 pounds, so people in London obviously invested their money to in share in the image of such an exotic marine landscape."
"I now live with Mr Bob Hill, who was finishing high school when I was still at primary school. Bob, whose family trust was one of the 12 big donors to this gallery, taught me how to swim, row a boat and to fish and the rudiments of marine biology and about foreshore conservation. I feel hugely privileged to now live right at the western end of Sandy Cove and since arriving home I spent many hours painting that view out to sea past Lighthouse Rock and am satisfied I've captured that immense beauty of that scene as viewed in calm weather. I love the painting and knew I could never sell it and believed the best place for it was in this gallery. And so here it is," Nikki said, pulling the golden ripcord and the cover fell to one side and was removed by a gallery assistant.
People clapped and some gasped at the magnificence of the 40 x 30 oil painting.
"Thank you everyone," Cheryl called. "Don't rush to view the painting because it will be in that position for quite some time. A light lunch is now served for invited guests in the room to my left. Thank you for coming and please enjoy talking over lunch. Mr Bob Hill has kindly donated the choice of Te Henui Estate wines available and the food."
"If you are a donor you must have known about this event before I told you," Nikki said.
"No, Cheryl put the hard word on me soon after you introduced us, unaware I've known Cheryl for years. She and mom were close friends."
Nikki turned to face several people eager to speak to her.
"Thanks generous Bob," she called to her lover.
Within minutes Nikki was pulled away by the news media to be interviewed.
Later the reporter from the Midland Examiner newspaper was chatting to Bob. They'd gone through high school together.
"Come of Bob, give me a good quote about Nikki. She must have been involved in something disreputable either here or in the UK."
"Sorry I know nothing. I'd think she'd be clean."
"Well is she involved in anything unusual?"
"Not that I know of... ah wait a tick, there is one thing. She usually paints topless. That's how I knew she was home from the UK. I saw this lady painting on the sand at the cove and recognized her breasts."
"Oh Bob you cracker. Thanks for making my day."
Bob couldn't understand why he'd added that last piece of bullshit.
Next morning Nikki's mom called early.
"Have you read this morning's newspaper?"
"No Bob's out at the gate fetching it now."
"The story about you says you usually paint nude at the beach."
"It says what?"
"Bob is quoted as saying Nikki usually paints topless and that's how he found out you were home from the UK. He said this lady painting nude on the beach at the cove and recognized your breasts."
"Bob is not very discreet darling. You really need to call him to heel."
Nikki waited for Bob to return, tapping her right foot impatiently.
He loped to her, almost bursting in pride.
"Look at this great photo of you sweetheart with your gallery gift."
Nikki looked and boggled and vanity got to her.
"Omigod, is that really me?"
"Stunning eh?" Bob grinned. "I'm picking you'll get painting commissions out of this. Oh I might have said something to the reporter that I now regret."'
"Oh no worries. I accept your apology. So you think this publicity will result in people offering me commissions?"
"Oh you'll receive more publicity because you'll be on network TV tonight. I had a call from the news editor when I was out at the gate. He asked was it true that you painted in the nude and I said no and I'd like to correct that impression, you usually kept on your bikini bottom."
"Well that's an improvement I guess."
"He asked how could I recognize it was you some years after I'd last seen you and I said it was because one of your breasts droops quite a bit."
"Well Bob Hill," Nikki flared. "If I have a droopy breast you have a big mouth and I'm about to discipline you for that."
Nikki picked up the kitchen broom and Bob picked up a kitchen chair to defend himself because she had him cornered.
"Nikki be reasonable," he bleated.
"Bob Hill, you and your big mouth have publicly humiliated me. I'll show you just how reasonable I am in administering justice..."