Getting ready for the cruise, we bought some new outfits and thought we looked quite smart. We were not expecting to sit around the swimming pool all day, wallowing in the sunshine, and, as it happened, the pool was full most days. We were surprised that more people did not get off the ship and take part in the sightseeing trips.
As Bob was still not quite himself and sleepy, we decided to take a city tour on alternate days. What we really wanted to do was to visit the art galleries. It was difficult to motivate my son to get up early, but he managed it, and slept on the coach. We booked tours to some of the important cities, such as Barcelona, Rome, Genoa, Marseilles, and Naples and managed to visit the galleries in most of them.
We went to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City, which was amazing. The massive space was full of people and every so often they were asked for silence, as people couldn’t help speaking louder and louder.
In Barcelona, Bob was delighted to come across a large painting by the American artist, Phillip Guston. He decided there and then that he would be writing his dissertation on this painter. Guston was an interesting artist because he was known for several styles of painting. Bob particularly liked his later style. Grotesque cartoon-like characters, painted thickly in oils on large canvases.
We tried to see the remains of the city at Pompei, near Naples, but, unfortunately, we did not arrive in time, as we had made our own way there by train and missed a connection. There were other compensations, ‘though, as we found yet another art gallery to visit.
In the evenings there was onboard entertainment on the ship and lots of food, so we enjoyed ourselves. On the days when we hadn’t booked a trip, we explored the local ports at our leisure.
Shortly after returning home, we enrolled on our courses. I began the first year of my degree and Bob started on his final year. I was given the task of making 500 drawings in one week. I don’t think I was alone in not quite managing the full amount of drawings, but I gave it a good shot. Bob, on the other hand, was concentrating on drawing Philip Guston’s paintings in his sketchbook. He made so many drawings that I began to think he was being obsessive and became a little worried about him. There was no need for concern, as it happened. It was his way of getting to know the works of art.
As the year progressed, we were both working hard, attending lectures, seminars, exhibitions and doing our art work. We also spent many hours in the university library, researching for our written work.
Bob began a series of paintings based on objects which he carried around with him, such as his wallet, a watch, coins and pens. These were quite small paintings in comparison with his final works, some of which were 8 ft (2.44m) x 5 ft. (1.52 m). When it came to his final show, I remember holding one of these mammoth canvases up at the wall, while he stood back, deciding, at his leisure, whether it was straight or not!
Occasionally, I thought the pressure of work might have affected him, but he managed to pass the degree well enough to enable him to join a taught master’s course the following year!