Tuesday 14 April 2020


Time flies - not least during a pandemic - but I think I discovered the genius of Byron Rogers as a writer around 2014, shortly after we arrived in St Ives. Our love of north Wales had already brought the poetry and life of R.S. Thomas within my sights; Thomas' s biography: 'The Man Who Went Into The West' by Byron Rogers (2006) was an irresistible read. Byron Rogers won the James Tait Black Prize for Biography for that life - 'a masterpiece' in the words of one reviewer.

I was hooked. Next I discovered the writings of J.L. Carr ('A Month in the Country'; 'The Harpole Report') and who should be Carr's biographer but none other than Byron Rogers (2003)  - 'The Last Englishman - the Life of J.L. Carr'. That too proved a 'life-affirming' read in the words of another reviewer.

One of my library shelves has most of the books that Byron Rogers has published, including his autobiography.  'Me - The Authorised Biography' by Byron Rogers (2009) is an unforgettable read. The man is a magician with words. I certainly feel influenced by him even if I cannot match the quality which comes from a lifetime playing with language.

Three book recommendations then to start with - and an explanation for my blogpost title that begins with 'Me'. I decided it would be 1) fun, and 2) useful to have my portrait painted by a talented local artist when the opportunity arose around the beginning of the year. A local art gallery and meeting place for those engaged in creative living - the Redwing Gallery in Penzance (see further details by pressing this link) - had launched a crowdfunded campaign to raise money for the next stage of its expansion. I owed the Redwing a debt of gratitude; more copies of 'The Road to Corbyn' have been sold through Redwing than any other outlet (do press this link here if you want to add a copy to your library or are looking for a present to give in these lockdown times). I donated £100 and qualified for one of the crowdfunding prizes: my portrait painted by Lee Stevenson.  

Me by Lee Stevenson (2020)

Lee Stevenson has a website - press here for the link. We squeezed in the sitting - on Saturday, 14 March 2020 - even as the pandemic began to take it's only too predictable hold.

I am thrilled with the oil painting that Lee has created. It sits on a music stand in my room and I can see it when I glance to the left. I have never fully grasped before the difference between a photograph
and a painting; my portrait in oil paint lives; I can have conversations with that embodiment of a lifetime that the artist has magicked into being. Thank you so much, Lee.

I noted above that having my portrait painted would be fun and useful. Why useful? I have in mind that I can use this painting to help in the marketing of my biography: 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone - Once a Burglar; Always an Artist' (2020). This blogpost is my first attempt; the need is certainly there with many of the usual avenues closed or truncated.

If you have already got and read your copy of Jago's life story, do please consider leaving a review on Amazon if you've savoured the read. There are two 5-star reviews up there already and the more the book gets, the more copies are likely to be sold.

If you haven't bought a copy of 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone' yet, please, please support an emerging writer by purchasing a copy online for yourself or a friend. This link here will take you to the page.  My creative life as a writer began in my sixties and is coming to fruition in my seventies. As my late-father-in-law, Ronald Watkins, said to me a couple of years before his passing aged 90 in 2015, 'So the best is yet to come'. 'Yes', I said at the time, and 'yes' I say again now. I don't know yet what shape the next book will take - but it will be an exciting journey for me - and the reader.  

When I was sitting for Lee's portrait, we talked about our life journeys and I think I made reference to my own early artwork. Most likely, Lee, you won't have seen the blogpost where I showed these two paintings below to the world for the first time. So what follows is for Lee - and any other of my readers who may like a reminder or is seeing them for the first time.  

Just to the left of my portrait in oils on the music stand, there is an oil painting on the wall - a seascape. I painted that in my college room - Staircase 4: Room 12 - in my first year at Catz (St Catherine's College, Oxford) in 1968. Here it is:

Untitled - Rob Donovan (1968)

And even further to the left - I really have to twist and turn - I can see this oil painting that I painted in our Acomb flat in 1971 when my first late wife and I were training to be teachers in York after our giddy Oxford years. Glynis and I married in the summer vacation before our third and final year as Oxford undergraduates.

Untitled - Rob Donovan (1971)

This is the link to the blogpost in which I first showed these works to a wider audience. Press here.

Oil paint is such a strong medium, isn't it.


No comments:

Post a Comment