A third person who has inspired me in my life is my close friend Brian Collier. I got to know Brian because he bought a house in the street where my family live, back in Brighton.
As I got to know him more I found that he was one of the most amazing and truly independent people I have ever been lucky enough to meet. He grew up in a house with no books and no tradition of academic learning, and ended up winning an art scholarship to the British Institute in Rome. He converted a shelter for animals into two lovely homes in rural Italy. I visited him there and it is one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to- with amazing water from a nearby spring and local wine dropped off outside his front door. Brian is a truly incredible artist but I’m not sure if he has sold a piece of art in his life- if he has then certainly not many. Instead, he lives frugally, makes a modest income by renting out property he owns, and retains ownership of all of his work. He sometimes lends his paintings out. For example in Italy local restaurants would exhibit his work on their walls: we got wonderful service when we visited.
He then bought a place in Orkney and I visited him there too. I have never been somewhere else like it- the sense of space and quiet is awe-inspiring and a great place for him to be able to work. He then bought an old, disused church (as you do!) and converted it into an art gallery, full of his work. He wanted to do this so that he could exhibit his paintings in exactly the light he wanted rather than to leave it to the whims of someone else.
Brian has taught me so many things. He is humble yet brilliant, cultured but not a snob. If he was a more self-promotional man I am sure he would be hailed as one of the ‘best’ artists in the whole country. I’d like to live my life like Brian lives his- I couldn’t live his life because I wouldn’t be good at any of the things that he is so great at. But I would like to make my own choices, the way he has his, and to be something of the man that he is.