Published for the first time!
Back in 1995, there was a paleontology conference held in University College Galway. All the breaks would take place in the James Mitchell Museum, within the Department of Geology itself. I thought it would be really cool to hold an exhibition of paintings of fossils from the museum there, in my ceaseless quest to gain recognition for my art, and sell a few paintings. The naivety! All those guys were interested in was the phlanges on some obscure brachipod. Buying art was the last thing on any of their minds.
All except for one.
Professor Euan Clarkson is a jolly, convivial man, who has written many books on palaeontology. His particular interest was in the eyes of trilobites, but he may be best known for his book Invertebrate Palaeontology, which is regarded as the standard textbook for undergraduates. ( I actually didn't really know trilobites had eyes, which is shockingly ignorant, seeing as I actually passed exams in palaeontology.) There was a drinks and nibbles reception on the last evening of the conference. Euan approached and said he really loved my drawings: he said he would like to use one or two for use as frontispieces in the next edition of Invertebrate Palaeontology. "I've had a bit to drink," he said, "but I really do love them, and I meant what I said, and I've told one or two people so that if I forget in the morning they will remind me." I was charmed by his warmth and gregariousness, but I didn't want to hold out hope on the strength of a promise made when in one's cups.
Sometime later I received a lovely letter from Euan with a formal request to buy two paintings, which would be reproduced in the fourth edition of his book. (Heaven knows what edition they're on now.) He was very apologetic about the amount his publishers would offer me, but I was so honoured to be included in his book that I didn't mind. He intended to keep the originals for himself, which flattered me immensely.
A long time later Euan sent me a copy of his book, and there were the frontispieces as promised.
If you check back here tomorrow or the next day, I will dig out that old book, scan the pictures and post them. One was a bed of ammonite fossils and one was a beautiful polished belemnite.
A year later I sold another painting from the exhibition. I was having a party at my house and everyone was getting pretty giddy (we were young). It was a brill party, as it happens. My friend Cormac's mother had a birthday coming up and Cormac asked me if I had any paintings for sale. He chose a really pretty one: it was the inside of the nautilus that you see above, which was coated in a thick layer of mother-of-pearl. I had a new boyfriend at the time. "Don't tell me you're not a businesswoman," he said. "You've just sold a painting at half past three in the morning."
I don't think he's quite so impressed now. In fact I know he's not - we've been married for fourteen years.
The most unlikely sale was to one of the boffins in tweed jackets. He was regarded as being very dishy within the department and lots of girls had a serious crush on him. (I was immune for some reason.) He was passionate about fossil corals and I had painted one. It wasn't a glamorous bit of coral, and the only reason I painted it was that it was covered in tiny striae, which I thought were very cute. Someone bought it for him as a gift, and I believe he was chuffed...no accounting for taste I guess.
The nautilus is the last of the paintings. I'm glad I have it.