Fiona's Notebook

BBC Radio 4 Programme - A Portrait Of..... Juliet Stevenson

8 November 2017

Thursday 9th November - 11.30am, BBC Radio 4 - Fiona's painted the wonderful actress Juliet Stevenson. You can hear her doing it. Yes, not watch, hear. BBC Radio 4 commissioned Fiona, whose last two portraits were hung in the National Portrait Gallery, to paint Juliet. No cameras. Just sound and uncluttered by TV - it's more than a painting. As the portrait takes shape, so do the deeper feelings of painter and sitter. The result is a masterpiece. Don't miss it.

The BBC also want to hear what you think of the series. The person who commissioned the idea, Gwyneth Williams, would love to hear your comments -

A Portrait Of....Juliet Stevenson

See some of the drawings and paintings

BBC Radio 4 Programme - A Portrait Of..... Danielle de Niese

31 October 2017

Thursday 2nd November - 11.30am, BBC Radio 4 - My portrait of Danielle de Niese snooped upon by the BBC then broadcast. A powerful and sometime deeply moving moment of creation for both of us. Papers said it's the hit of the day. The producers say it's the most natural broadcaster talking to a genius. It all came together on 2 November. I'm painting the genius, Danielle de Niese the girl the New York Times calls the coolest soprano in opera. It is a powerful friendship. BBC Radio listened in. Me and Danny at Glyndebourne. "30 minutes of bliss says Pier Production’s Chief, Peter Hoare. 30 minutes of magic - and quite a few tears. Unforgettable."

Listen on 2 November (BBC Radio 4 11.30am) otherwise catch up on iPlayer

A Portrait Of....Danielle de Niese

See some of the drawings and paintings

BBC Radio 4 Programme - A Portrait Of..... Ed Watson

25 October 2017

Thursday 26th October - 11.30am, BBC Radio 4 - Listening in as artist Fiona Graham-Mackay paints Edward Watson, principal dancer with the Royal Ballet, following the progress of the work and hearing the interaction between the sitter and painter. The conversation covers how Watson overcame his self-doubt, being an introverted performer, and those lonely moments on stage in front of an audience.

A Portrait Of....Ed Watson

See some of the drawings and paintings


1 September 2015

Painters have always been drawn to the exotic, the unusual, the play of light that makes Venice so attractive. It’s hard not to fall into cliches here.

You must not avoid the plastic tack, garish colours, ghoulish masks, syrupy drinks and heavy food, the gondolas and weepy, creepy madonnas. I think of Peter Blake’s obsessive collections and I want to take this junk back to my studio, not one but at least 20, preferably all the same but in different colours. Obsessive. Like painting, a series creates greater impact than a solitary image.

Despite how I think I will feel I am loving the gondolas, the vaporetti-cornettos, the water, the shimmering, splashing frothy water, even the smells. I am on a stage set and a part of it. I walk differently, I speak in a different tone, I feel animated. I know why George Clooney got married here, the perfect stage, the star of his very own production. My body sways and moves with the motion of the sea and I get lost in the narrow streets and countless bridges that take me round in circles.

It's been raining for three days now, what rain! I slop through, trying to stay dry. The water creeps above my ankles. No bag boots for me, where do you buy them anyway? I give up and decide to enter into the spirit of things and head for the fish market.

All undercover today, great swathes of green and red fabric billowing in the wind, hanging from great archways. It’s dark inside but hardly gloomy.

Gelati, pasta, pizza and fish. Prosecco, Applespritzer (the current cocktail in Venice), olives and fruit.

It’s noisy too.

Bags of mussels and muscly men, gutting their catch. Shrimps, turbot, cod, langoustine, crab, and thousands of teenyweeny snails crawling around.

Bodies silhouetted, dripping, vapour and noise rising in the gloom and spirits are high. Langoustine or crab? Sardines and but how many? Pecorino or Mozzarella? Fish, fruit, vegetables, cheese and breads. Mmm.

Friends reunited, babies kissed, lamentations, exhortations, whispers in the dark, arms, hands, heads all moving but with grace, part of the choreograph of the play.

I sit undercover in a little bar with a family sitting in front of me and I order an applespritzer. It arrives with an olive and I realize I am hungry. Here is Grandma, Papa, son and wife, a baby in a pram and a little girl of about 6. The baby boy plays eyes with me, already the expert. Mama goes to buy cherries. She returns with a large brown bag of the glorious, juicy fruit. Delicately held, each one, nibbled to avoid the stone. Eaten with grace and delight. Papa opens a bottle of Prosecco. Toasts are made and the baby will not be left out of the fun. His little sister pops the wine cork into his mouth, a perfect fit.

Daily Mail

8 July 2015

The Daily Mail has followed me to Italy. Nearl a whole page by sassy journalist Kate Johnston in this morning’s paper bringing to life how I teach and who I teach in wonderful Cortona. Many of the students return every year from as far away as Seattle and New York. Biggest surprise, a complete stranger signed in not from NYC nor LA but from here in my Sussex Village! Lots of good people and comfortable to be around them. It’s good to be known as their painting guru. Nice friends.

Worth another read:

Nice piece Kate and thank you. But wasn’t it special to see you can draw after all? Come down to Sussex and keep at it!

Now it is recovery time for me. At last! Back from Italy, teaching since April; Florence, Venice, Cortona, Saragano. Thinking through what we will do in the October and next March’s workshop here at Bayford Studios.

But now it’s time for me to paint. Not only catch up on commissioned work but spend precious hours doing what I really need to do, which is paint for myself, by myself.

Nothing makes sense if I don’t make time in my year to do that.

As I work, ideas and inspirations flood my mind. Already I am planning the workshops. Painting inspires me to carry on and my students will gain the spin-offs from my struggles.

On another note;

Hamish Hastings, the trout hound is now 7 months old and eating his way through our lives. We lament the loss of chairs, coat stands, an assortment of shoes(preferably unmatched) and note I use plural here.

But what really drew breath in gulps was when I returned from London to find in his bed a lump of soggy cardboard and a spring, only just recognisable as my Venice sketchbook. His days may be numbered.

Watch this space!