The mysterious acquisition

It all started with a posting in ‘Maidstone Past’ – a watercolour of a hurried looking gentleman walking through the aisles of the Corn Exchange in Maidstone. At the time I was unsure about posting: artists are always full of self-doubt.  

After some time in the doldrums awaiting the admins approval the image is eventually released to the gentle folk of Maidstone. Then the ‘thumbs ups’ start to ping on my device. Artists shouldn’t need affirmations about their work, but it all helps. 

Then the comments start to come in. First of all a couple of ‘Its nice’ remarks. I don’t do ‘nice’ paintings, but this will have to do for now.  

But as the comments start to come in, people begin to open up. The picture prompts memories about the Market Buildings (Corn Exchange) – memories revived from childhood. 

“I’m 74 and have lived in Melbourne since I was 21. This lovely print takes me back to many Saturdays as a child Maidstone shopping (from Sutton Valence) often followed at ‘the pictures’ Granada or Ritz(?) in King Street – sometimes both. No. 12 bus. The market buildings had a public toilet with huge (to me back then) iron turnstyle gates to get in to ‘spend a penny’” 


Other stories about Pettit’s joke shop, the dance academy and the old fire station form part of a growing number of shared experiences. One reader remembers her ladybird t-shirt, another the smells from Dockrills in the Fifties – meat pie and cabbage. 

My decision to post ‘The man in the blue suit’ was surely vindicated. Art has the power to evoke memories in a way that photos cannot. Even the old black and whites only remind us of other-worldliness. Art evokes feelings, smells, and other sensations by virtue of its demand for you to ‘fill in the pieces’.  

“A photograph to me is always a reminder of how the person was on a certain day in that certain light fixed. When I look at a watercolor of that same person, it seems to me alive, more open than a photograph.” 

Francesco Clemente

I retired to bed reading the late night comments and fell asleep awaiting the ping of early morning facebook discussions. I might make little money selling prints but at least that painting has brought the past to life. 

Early morning and there’s an anticipated ping. But this was from the mailbox. It was an enquiry about whether the original of ‘Man in a blue suit’ was for sale, or whether it was just the prints.

Where was this mysterious query from? Was it a spammer, an online salesman or perhaps an artist trying to gauge prices? Besides, what’s wrong with my prints? I’ve spent weeks colour correcting each one and sourcing the printer. After printer costs I might even make some money. Glass half full-mood! 

Yes I guess the original ‘Man in a blue suit’ was for sale. I’ve grown fond of it. Just like I’ve grown fond of several of my paintings. I’ve witnessed their birth into the world. 

Man in blue suit – first wash

Then of course, the next question ‘How much? 

I’ve read online articles about how to price your artwork. It goes something like: 

‘Diddly-squat’ multiplied by ‘number of hours of working = ‘a big fat diddly-squat. 

Artists it seems are often involved in a race to the bottom. 

I’ve got a slightly different approach to pricing based on the ‘opportunity foregone’. How much does it mean to me if I lose it forever? This however is slightly offset by the knowledge that it might sit on top of someone’s fireplace (not in it). 

I identify a price – a fair price. I think about this quote to guide me: 

The good watercolors take a lifetime – plus a half an hour.

Toni Onley

Well do I charge for the half an hour (in my case with feeble hands its two weeks)? Or do I charge for the lifetime? I put in a considered price and send. His name is Ulrich. Lets see what this mystery enquirer thinks of that. 

Time passes. Has Ulrich choked on it? Has he moved on? Yet more time passes and I forget. Then a ping. Its another message from Ulrich who indicates that he probably wants to purchase the original! What an honour!

…glass half empty. I’m nervous about the ‘probably’. But after a few email exchanges we’ve done a deal. The ‘Man in the blue suit’ is going to reside in Frederic’s where it belongs. Ulrich it turns out is the affable proprietor of Frédéric Bistro, a place of renown in the middle of Maidstone: an establishment depicted in the painting.

As for me, I can rest easy in the knowledge that I can always order a limited edition framed copy of the original that I intend to place aloft the fireplace. 

Edward Finch has been reborn as a watercolour artist. In a previous life he was Professor in Environment-Behaviour research and coauthor of ‘ Creating Emotionally Intelligent Workspaces: A Design Guide to Office Chemistry’ published by Taylor and Francis. 

Man in a blue suit
Man in a blue suit – completed watercolour

2 thoughts on “The mysterious acquisition”

  1. It couldn’t be more fitting, Frederic’s is the perfect place fore it. I look forward to seeing it when I’m next in there.

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