I never did art at school, don’t even remember there being much of an art room. I got the painting bug in my 20s when my husband gave me a smock, an easel and a book called Step by Step Art School. I painstakingly went through all the stages in the book and then unleashed my new hobby while on location in Australia filming for the travel programme Wish You Were Here. I painted Ayres Rock. I tackled Sydney Opera House. I tried a kangaroo. I was pretty hopeless but completely hooked. I started taking the odd evening class when my schedule permitted and carried on painting at home whenever I got the chance.
My good friend, theatre designer John Napier, decided to open up his studio on Thursday evenings for a group of friends and we met up regularly for several years. We got in a life model and opened several bottles of wine. We then all sat down for chicken soup afterwards to discuss life and art. It was inspiring to be in the company of such talent. The other painters included the theatre designer Es Devlin and actress Imogen Stubbs and we all worked our schedules around the Thursday evening.
Around the same time I decided to take a sabbatical from my chaotically busy television career and spend more time at home with my young family. To fill the void I applied to Chelsea College of Art to do a two-year fine art course. I loved my new life. The children went to nursery school, I went to college. When we all got home we talked about our days and compared artwork. Meanwhile, Madame Tussauds melted down my waxwork which had hung in the foyer.
A few years ago I had to interview Maggi Hambling for a television programme. She was fierce, terrifying and wonderful. When we had finished and the crew were clearing up their kit she told us to "bugger off, I’ve got to get ready for my Master Class”, I blurted out “can I come”. She stared at me for some time and then said “10am. Bring charcoal”. I’ve been there ever since and now have the most amazing “family” of fellow artists. I’ve found my tribe.
I’ve been reluctant to ever show my work as I have zero confidence but I was coerced into the Exposure Exhibition at Hampstead Theatre by Ed Hall and Issy van Randwyck. The idea was to try to show the vulnerability of performers, the essence of exposure, theirs and mine. I worked closely with life models, I sat in on rehearsals at the Central School of Ballet, I set up my paints in a box at the Harold Pinter Theatre to paint the Kinks musical Sunny Afternoon live.
Painting has brought real joy to my life. Not only because of the lovely feeling of losing myself in a tub of acrylic and a pot of fresh coffee, but because of the epic friends I’ve made, the the galleries and exhibitions I’ve visited, and the weird and wonderful places I’ve ended up in, whether perched on top of a cliff in the Isles of Scilly, or in hospital capturing the moment my Godchild was born.