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P. Roy Wilson

B.Arch. 1924
October 16, 1995
Interview by Harry Mayerovitch and David Covo

Here we are, Roy, on a very special occasion. It seems as though McGill University School of Architecture this coming year is going to celebrate its centennial. Now, I don’t know whether the belief was that you and I were probably there at the beginning, although that may not be true, it’s very close to it, I think. And I believe, also that you are probably the first graduate, or at least one of the first graduates, extant. And so there will probably be some great interest in what I will be able to dredge out of your memory regarding the school, what it was like, and what differences you see between what it was and what it is today and so forth. So I know we are in the midst of admiring your marvelous watercolours, which represent another aspect of yourself, your many varied activities, but of course, your main interest has always been architecture. And so perhaps we can sit down and have a little talk about the old times.

Certainly.

Okay.

Yes. Well, do you want me to tell you all the failures I had as well as the successes or should we just forget about them?

Well, they say that confession is good for the soul but I don’t feel you ought to press that too hard. Well, why don’t we sit down where it’s comfortable…

Surely.

…and carry on.

[1:43:00]

Well, here we are, Roy, many, many years after our student days and it might be fun just to look back. Perhaps you can tell us something about your actual enrollment in the School of Architecture, when that was and what happened at that time.

Well, I had been, you might say, a failure at Upper Canada College. I was very poor at the schoolwork there. And when I came down to McGill, I got in because of the drawings that I had made. In those days, you had to present drawings and you would pass depending on whether they were good enough or not. And I managed to get in. Well, getting in to McGill to me was like opening the Gates of Heaven. I’d been such a failure at Upper Canada, and then I was able to draw things that were fascinating for me and the teachers seemed to think I could do it fairly well. So it made a tremendous difference. One of the first things I remember about being a student, that is just in the faculty of Engineering, is that we had to take Surveying. And we took part in the last Surveying School on the top of Westmount Mountain. That was the fall of 1920. And we actually had to sleep in tents and it was really roughing it. It went down to freezing some nights. And that was the first thing we did when we got back that semester. Well, as far as the mathematics goes, I was still very poor indeed. But the drawing was the part that I really enjoyed and I think excelled at.

[4:01:23]

Obviously, you did very well.

So that was my interest. Now, unfortunately, in the spring, I got sort of a pneumonia and I had to just give up and then they found that it was measles. So I just had to give up, I just couldn’t possibly be at the exams and do the supplementals in the fall. And I had the three mathematics and physics to do. Well, unfortunately, at the sups I failed the three mathematics and then had to take sups again, you see. Then at Christmas time, I was horrified and amazed to hear that I had also failed physics. Now if the authorities had known that I had failed four subjects, I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to continue. But they didn’t realize that. So it allowed me to go on. And if I hadn’t been allowed to go on, I wouldn’t have done something quite extraordinary, that is, I won third place in the Battlefields Memorials Competition, which was nation-wide. And I won this on my first design at McGill, which they handed us the conditions of the competition. And I won one of the seventeen places to go into the second and final part of the competition. And eventually, I got third place and a thousand dollars honorarium, which allowed me to go overseas. And I spent five months traveling around Europe doing sketching and mostly writing. And the whole thing, going over and coming back on the liners, everything included for eight hundred dollars, which is just unbelievable today, of course, absolutely unbelievable.

[6:44:04]

What period of your training was that, what year?

That was between my third and fourth year.

So you came back to finish your course, did you?

Yes, yes, oh yes. But it was a wonderful, wonderful trip. I have been over five times altogether and this, I think, was the best. I had five months which was really-

So you graduated, presumably without the Physics and Mathematics!

Oh no! I got the Physics and Mathematics.

Oh you got those!

Oh sure! Oh yes, I had to go through those. I had tutorial exams from Professor Dodd who was a wonderful chap.

[7:32:12]

Who were the other teachers in the School of Architecture at the time?

Well, Professor Traquair was the head of the school and Mr. Nobbs was head of Design. Henriet Béard taught us Sculpture and Freehand Drawing. Leslie Thompson taught us Steel and Concrete and Philip Turner taught us Professional Practice, Building Construction. So we had a really great lot. And Professor Carless was a-

Oh yes, Carless.

He was an assistant. So we had the benefit of an excellent lot of teachers.

I do remember Carless too, as a matter of fact. When he left finally to go back to England, our class was very fond of him but none of the other classes seem to have been, and we got him a Malacca cane. That was quite an event. How many students were there in your year?

Well, in our year, I think there were five. No seven, maybe seven.

[8:56:05]

Do you remember their names?

Oh, now that’s… Well, there was Cooper, I remember Cooper well. He had been born in Oxford. He was the son of the Dean of Truro, and he was an expert in Gothic. In fact, he came in very useful when Fetherstonhaugh went into the competition for St. Andrew’s and St. Paul’s Church. He had to look around for people who knew Gothic.

Feather wasn’t in your year, was he?

Oh no, Feather was ahead, way ahead of me, oh yes. But Cooper was one of them, now who… Hunter, I forget his first name, and McDougall.

Cecil? Cecil McDougall?

No, no, oh no. Cecil was way ahead of me too. No, but this fellow, MacDonald, or something like that, he was from Nova Scotia. Then there was a boy, a French chap who was always sick and I can’t remember his name, I’m afraid. And Boullant. There was Linden Bouillon. And he was rather- well, he didn’t take things very seriously. He was much more interested in winning the billiard competition more than anything else. And he was wild about professional hockey; he just wouldn’t miss a game. So he really didn’t pay much attention to his studies and therefore had to do a year over again.

So you graduated then, and what happened after that?

Well, I went down to New York. And there, the first year, I worked in the office of H.T. Lindeberg, who was a country house architect, doing great, big country houses. And the reason I got in there, chiefly, was that I knew another student who had been at McGill, Ross Wiggs, who was a wonderful chap. He could draw anything. He was an excellent designer, an excellent architect.

[11:41:11]

He did wonderful houses, if I remember.

Oh, wonderful, absolutely. And so I got into the same office as he was. And Mr. Lindeberg, the boss, was awfully good to me. He gave me all sorts of goodies. Ah yes, he was splendid. And then, the next two years, I thought I’d to go to a bigger firm and I got into York and Sawyer, and that chiefly was because I had known a fellow at Upper Canada who was in that office and he was considered a great success, a great help.

[12:25:11]

They did a lot of Gothic churches, I believe, did they not?

No.

York and Sawyer?

No, no York and Sawyer. There was Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. He did the Gothic churches and I had tried to get into his office but he died a month before I went there, so I had to give up that.

He was one of the great draughtsmen.

Oh, he was fabulous! Absolutely fabulous. But I had some wonderful experience in York and Sawyer’s. What I did there mostly was three-quarter inch details, where everything has to be put together, the plumbing, ventilation, electricity, everything, steelwork and so forth. They all had to be done in these three-quarter details. So that’s when I really had serious architecture to draw. It was a wonderful experience. And I was one of the few people designing. There were two others, mostly. One was Moskowitz and the other was Diamond. And they were splendid. They helped me tremendously. And that’s how, when I came back to Montreal after three years, I was able to do big and difficult jobs like the [Sweesy] House outside Kingston.

[14:02:15]

What office were you associated with when you came back to Montreal?

Well, I went into Ross MacDonald’s for only two months until I got on my feet and then I started my own practice.

I see.

And I was lucky enough to get three really good jobs that were what I loved. One of them was the Sweesy House, which was following Lindeberg. It was his type of thing. Then I had a Tudor job to do and another sort of, well another type that might have been designed by Lindeberg, too. And the architectural association, the R.A.I.C., gave me awards on two of those houses. So I was really very [unclear].

[15:04:02]

What tradition did you feel that you were pursuing at the time? Was it something conscious, architecturally speaking?

Well, I would say, it was the sort of thing, sort of style that the English were following, leaning towards Tudor. Lutyens was one of the great people. So I really was very fortunate to start out when I did.

And what year would that have been?

Well, that was 1927. ’27,’28,’29 and ’30 were really wonderful years for me.

What happened after that?

The Depression came along.

That old thing!

And then it was that I was thankful that I knew Professor Nobbs, because he asked me if I would like to be his assistant at McGill.

I see!

So that filled the gap and gave me something to buy the groceries with, you know! And that gave me this marvelous interest too.

[16:34:20]

Well, I think our paths crossed at that time, because I think I was in my graduating year or so when you came on the staff.

Well, when did you graduate?

’33.

Well, you see, this was 1930 that I-

Oh, you got there ’30.

And I started teaching third year and you were in third year at the time. And we had a - they were a brilliant lot. They were nine students.

Nine of us, that’s right.

And they were all good.

We were marvelous, I agree! So how long did your teaching career last?

Until ’44.

‘Till ’44!

Yeah.

And had you found, well, did you feel you made a special contribution in the sense that, naturally, the school would have changed its character as time went on. And was that change appreciable as far as you were aware?

Well, I never thought about whether I was making a contribution, I just did what I felt I should do, that’s all.

You were in design, of course.

Yes, oh yes. But I started out doing Domestic Houses and Watercolour. They were my two subjects. And then, as people fell by the wayside, professors got old and had to retire and so forth, Chambers and I took on the whole school. I did regular Design, Building Construction, I stayed away from Steelwork and Reinforced Concrete, but most of the other things I did. Professional Practice, and of course, kept on with the Watercolour.

[18:41:18]

When did you finish your teaching career?

In ’44.

In ’44.

The war was still on.

Right.

And I was all the time during the war, I was busy doing munition plants or gate vessels at Halifax, or aeroplane, I was with Norline Aircraft.

That was on your own-

Well I was-

-or were you associated with a firm?

Ross Weeks was the architect for Norline, and he told me I was assistant-architect. So, of course, that was just pure engineering, it couldn’ t be called architecture. But it was a contribution to the war effort. That was the main thing. That’s what everybody had to do.

Well, it had to be done and fortunately, you were there to do it.

Well, one of the greatest interests I had at the beginning of the war was when Clarence Gagnon asked me to join him in the design of a French Canadian village, which I worked with him on that for about two years. And when the war started, he said- I said, “I just got to give up, I’ve got to do war work. I can’t possibly just do this French Canadian village”. And he thought that I was giving up; I should never do that, I should just continue with my work on his project. But I felt I had to give up.

[20:35:02]

So that lasted ‘till the end of the war, or close to the end of the war.

And then, lucky me, I got some big jobs. I was architect for the Chanteclair Estates and I had a big stone job up at Saint-Jovite, and various other things, I just, from then on, I was quite busy.

And you remained in practice for how long?

Well, I would say officially ‘till1968. Because I know then, I started doing- keeping tab of my watercolours. And since 1968, January ’68 is when I started writing down the ones I was doing, and I have now done 1356.

Really! So eventually, are you suggesting that you eventually gave up architecture, did you, in the sixties?

Well, yes, yes.

And you have concentrated on watercolours and have done so ever since, is that correct?

Yes, yeah.

I imagine in the early days, Professor Nobbs would have been very much interested in your watercolours since he himself was quite a brilliant watercolourist.

Oh yes, sure, oh yeah. In fact, I know this, that the CPR sent me out West to paint the mountains in 1946, spring of ’46, just after the war. And when I came back, he said, “You’ve been out West, haven’t you? I would like to see what you’ ve been doing”. So I went to his house and he said all sorts of nice things. So one he wanted particularly was looking down on Banff. So I said, “Well, look, you take it”. So I gave it to him and he reciprocated a couple of weeks after by giving me one of his famous drawings that had been in the lecture room at McGill. Remember?

[22:57:11]

Ah, great, great, great. I imagine you still have that, do you?

Oh, yes, sure. It was the Angel Choir at Lincoln that he had done for the- what was the prize that he won as a young man, you know… Sloane? Was it the Sloane Scholarship?

No, I don’t recall. Well, you must have found then there was quite a relationship between the watercolour work and your architecture.

Oh, indeed, I did, yes. But luckily, I come of an artistic family, that is, my great-uncle, James Bateman, he was my grandmother’s brother, had nineteen pictures in the Royal Academy. And he was a chum of the great Edwin Lancier, who, he-

The great animal painter.

The animal painter.

Right, right.

James Bateman was an animal painter himself.

So you come by your sins honestly.

Well, I hope so. And he shared a studio with Lancier to start with. And they were good chums, all the time. So, and then I- from my mother’s side, she took lessons at the Royal Academy, and her drawing was absolutely beautiful, just lovely. And she had four brothers and they could all draw, so I had got it from both sides, which is really great.

[24:43:16]

Oh, that’s very fortunate that you had this family tradition. Over the years, Roy, you have seen architects come and go and buildings come and go, and you must have had some feelings about the course that architecture was taking. Do you have any conscious- or would you like to make some conscious expression of what’s been happening?

Well, one of the things I can say, this Harry Lindeberg that I worked for when I first went down there, and I only worked for him for seven months, and after, he sent me his book, which I have here, this fellow, and with it, a lovely letter. And from then on, he wrote me about four other letters. Now I was a junior draughtsman, I had just got out of McGill, and he was so good to me in this way. And he wrote, in one of his letters he said, “You were so fortunate to be working in New York at the time of the Golden Age of American architecture”. And I firmly believe it was and I was so very lucky to work for the architects I did work for.

[26:06:18]

And how does the change in architecture- how do you react to it?

Well, I think the glass boxes are absolutely criminal. I think they are frightful. And on the whole, I don’t like modern architecture. But now, things are changing, so they are getting a little more shape and thought into the glass boxes, by putting decent shapes on them after all. That’s what I feel.

When you look back on- I don’t know whether you’ve been close to what the School of Architecture is like now, or not, whether that period had gone by.

No, I’m afraid, I’ve let things go too much. I’ve had quite a lot to think about, doing both watercolour and architecture.

Right.

That’s the only excuse I can make. And then, of course, my other interests, such as skiing and sailing. I’ve been sailing for seventy-five years. And I invented the rolling jib, for instance, which, that was- in these parts. Now, undoubtedly, it’s been done somewhere else, but mine was the first on this lake.

Isn’t that exciting.

Yes, a big help.

[27:43:15]

Well, you have, how old are you now, may I ask, Roy?

Ninety-five.

Ninety-five, so you’ve got an awful lot to look back on and no doubt a great deal to look forward to as well.

Well, I hope so. I’m still enjoying life tremendously. In fact, I don’t think I’ ve ever been healthier than I am now.

Well, it probably bespeaks a virtuous life.

Well, perhaps!

Well, thank you very, very much, Roy. This has been very illuminating and I’m sure that for generations to come, that it will be interesting to see the sort of people who came out of the School of Architecture. And one of the characteristics of which, I think, is that they tend to become well-rounded people of all-embracing interest, and perhaps, that is what an architect should be.

Well, I took the opportunity of being in the hospital after a slight heart attack to write my autobiography. So if anybody wants to know any more, then can look in there!

[28:56:27]

Have you had that published?

Oh yes. It was published the day before my ninetieth birthday.

Oh, that’s just amazing.

So, that- it sold pretty well too.

Well, I hope that when the School of Architecture celebrates its second centennial, that the examples of this first generation will stand them in very good stead.

Good. Fine.

[29:31:11]

Roy, one of the things that always interested me, and I know it’s interested you, is the actual relationship between architecture and the other visual arts. And it did seem to me, and your comments would be very useful, of course, that when you train to be an architect, you simultaneously train to be other things. And I wonder whether your experience leads you to a similar attitude.

Well, what I feel, the difference between my young professional days and those of people today is that we felt, we were told that architecture was the mistress art. It was the boss of all the other graphic arts. And-

Pretentious even if true!

Yes! But today, the poor sculptors don’t get a chance. In my early days, I used to employ sculptors sometimes and stained glass. I’d have had the chance to employ really good stained glass people down in New York and that sort of thing, and mural painters. They’re all things that the architect could give employment to other artists. But today, it hardly ever happens.

Fewer and fewer.

That phrase, the mistress art, really meant something in the old days. So, I suppose it was because our feelings went in that direction that we paid much more attention to Freehand Drawing, Watercolour, Design of Stained Glass, all those things that Traquair used to teach, for instance. And it gave us much more fun, I thought, than just drawing squares and rectangles and so forth, the engineering part.

[32:29:15]

Right. Do you think this has partly to do with to the fact that architects, the practice of architecture has become so much more complex involving so many specialties, that it’s difficult for, say, the training of an architect to include everything and have that all-embracing mistress quality that you are talking about?

Oh no, I don’t think that’s it. I think we are capable of working on all these things at once. I think it is that the client just doesn’t think it’s worth the money. If they were more generous, we could still turn out infinitely better work, I think.

In short, you would feel then that architecture had become more of a commodity?

Yeah, when I did this Sweesy house, for instance, I had a client who thought that everything I did was perfect, which was really marvelous!

[33:34:04]

Part of the architect’s job is to brainwash his clients!

I did some of the carving myself and then I did the full-sized drawing of the other carving, the decorated beams and that sort of thing. And I had a whale of a time. I did some of the stained glass too. So I enjoyed myself much more than people do today, I think.

Well, I’m not sure that’s very comforting for the coming generation of architects here. I’m inclined to agree with you that architects today, for the most part, are having a rougher time, and a less enjoyable time in terms of their practice, which is very sad considering how noble an art we were taught to believe it to be.

Well, there’s one thing I firmly believe, and that is that if I were asked to advise a young fellow going into architecture, I would say by all means, go into a small office rather than a large one. I luckily started for the one draughtsman for the first architect I worked for and I learned an enormous lot there. And then going into Lindeberg’s, where there are only five on the staff altogether, including the stenographer and the specification writer, and all that sort of thing. So, we handled all sorts of things, whereas, when I went in the second office, I personally was very lucky in the design work I had to do. But there was another fellow, who had graduated from Toronto University, and he was a good draughtsman, he really knew his stuff, and he got a job at McKim and White. Everybody thought Oh boy! McKim and White, imagine that! But for years, at least for the year that I knew him, he was doing nothing but full-sized lettering on monumental buildings, you know.

[36:08:08]

In Montreal, the Mount Royal Club, for instance.

Yeah, that sort of thing, the post office, and all this and so forth. Just big letters. Can you imagine a life like that, doing that?

Pretty deadening, yes.

Pretty deadening. So I’m all for the small office. You learn far more and you have much better fun. This feeling that, oh, I worked on such and such a building, you know, it really means nothing, at least very little in the end. The great thing is to get the overall, many types of experience. The last thing I did in York and Sawyer’s office, were plans and elevations at sixty-forth scale for the Department of Commerce in Washington, which is an enormous building, of course. And that, well, it was, you would hardly call it- it was designed but you couldn’t follow up your own work after doing work like that, it just meant nothing to your own practice, of course.

No, it would have no relation to normal living.

But having worked for Lindeberg and York and Sawyer really was- I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

[37:50:00]

Well, thank you very, very much, Roy.

Not at all.

And I think in a hundred years when these tapes are going to be looked at by another generation, I’m sure they are going to find some inspiration in your life and your experience. Thank you very much.

That’s good. Thank you so much for being appreciative!

[38:15:12]

[Missing Words: Professor Nobbs] was then writing his book on design. And he needed a student to spend the summer with him to do some typing and do some illustration for his book. So he asked me to join him. And of course, this was, you know, a great opportunity. So I would work all day, and in the evenings, I would sit around and read or listen to radio, or I had joined a life drawing group. And I used to go out about seven o’clock, come back about nine or ten o’ clock. Well, one night I came back from life drawing, and the lights in the house were all out, so he had really gone to bed early. So I took off my- I had a key to the house, I took off my shoes, and I had my drawing picture in one hand and my shoes in the other and I started walking up the stairs in the dark. And suddenly, the lights burst open, and at the head of the stairs was Percy Nobbs with a pistol in his hand!

[39:29:21]

My Lord!

(D. Covo): No sword?

H.M.: And I stood there, you know! And he just looked at me for a moment, lowered the pistol, and said, “How do you expect to do a day’s work when you spend half the night out!” turned on his heel, locked the door! It was one of the most frightening experiences I’ve ever had!

I bet! Well, that makes me think of something very similar. Shortly after my father died, I heard a noise downstairs and I went down with my father’s revolver and I went into the dining room and I saw a figure silhouetted against the glass doors. And thank goodness I turned on the light. It was my brother!

Oh, that’s funny!

Well, that must have been a shocker for you!

It’s funny, some things, you know, stick in your mind, you can never get them out. So vivid. It’s funny the incidents that you remember. I remember John Pratt, he was there at the time you were teaching, I believe.

Oh yes.

Well, John was a hell-raiser.

Oh yes.

I hope you are not putting this on.

D.C.: I’ve turned it off.

H.M.: This is private.

D.C.: Ignore the light.

H.M.: And he was disliked by some of the other students. And once he did something. He was annoyed, he had a temper and he was annoyed, and he pulled a knife out of his pocket. And, you know I’m sure that he had no intention of doing anything, but the mere act of doing this sort of put people’s teeth on edge. And three or four of the guys lifted him up, and there was a sink in the drafting room, and they dunked his head in the sink. And I remember this because-

[42:25:18]

Wasn’t he splendid? Boy, he was a born actor. I remember when he was a student, well, we used to have a fancy dress dance every year, do you remember that?

Well we had one. Our year, the Flora Dora Frolic, we called it.

Well, we would be assembled in the room, and he would walk in and everybody would start laughing. And he wouldn’t have done anything, it’s just because it was Pratt!

No, he was a real actor.

D.C.: Did he ever practice?

H.M.: He wasn’t a very good architect. He barely got through his course. His father owned a lot of property and he inherited all, and he spent the rest of his life administering all that, then he got elected to office and so forth.

[43:33:01]

Well, one thing we didn’t talk about in our little chat, just now, was the effect that my sports have had on my success. For instance, when the CPR found that I could ski, I used to teach skiing a few times, and I was an expert in the Telemark Ten, which is coming back now as people are getting interested in it. And that gave me a certain amount of, well, people were interested in me, and the CPR sent me out West when they found that I could paint and ski. And they gave me this three-week holiday with my wife, all expenses paid. It was really great! So, and I came back- well, that painting on the left there is one of them that I did.

[44:42:23]

Really.

Yeah.

What year would that have been roughly?

What’s that?

What year would that have been?

That was ’46.

’46.

Just after the war.

[44:51:16]

Usually, you are so busy running around, you know. But what I did, recently, we were in San Miguel, Mexico, in February. So I took a lot of photographs and as a result of that, since February, I have been working on paintings on these Mexican themes, finding little spots in the photographs to start from. And, I’m up to about eighteen or nineteen paintings now.

Oh fine.

So it’s quite amazing. I’ve never really preferred to work from photographs, if I could avoid it, but it seems to be a good-

Well, personally, I can’t understand these people; these teachers who say you shouldn’t work from photographs, because I think, what is the difference today? To look at a thing and have a photograph of it, it’s the same thing. Photography is so excellent. There is no reason that you shouldn’t work from photographs. And what I found that the English portrait painters, the really good portrait painters will take at least thirty pictures of each of their models. So, I mean, if they do it, why the dickens shouldn’t just ordinary people do it?

[46:27:19]

No, I’ve done several portraits for McGill, including one of the Chancellor who’ s on, and I’ve found it’s probably the only way to work. I like to make a couple of little sketches, but there is no way you can get anybody to sit now for thirty or forty hours.

Exactly, quite, sure.

So you have to do what you can with it. And photography being what it is now, it’s so easy to get the record down in a few minutes.

Yes, yeah, right. I mean, we’ve got this wonderful help, the camera, we darn well should use it, it seems to me.

Well, there’s a precedent. You know, people like Dégas used the camera all the time.

Do you know, that I learned the other day that Utrillo only painted from picture-postcards?

That’s interesting.

Isn’t it?

Of course, he couldn’t have sat up straight in the street, apparently. He was drunk all the time, the poor man. Yeah, he was an unfortunate but…

[47:30:09]

Yes. We were talking about the effect that my sports had had on my success. And the CPR sent me out West for this wonderful three weeks and I had five lovely places to go to, and the skiing was marvelous and altogether perfect. And that had quite an effect on my output of watercolours. And I got to know dealers in Calgary and Vancouver and I, well the first year, I sold twenty-four to one dealer. So that has helped my success in doing mountains and skiers. And then another thing, I’ve always been crazy about skiing. As I said, I’ve been sailing for seventy-five years. And my first boat was a little wreck that I practically rebuilt. It was the only boat, sailboat in Sault St. Marie. And I taught myself to sail. And since then, I have built three complete boats and additions, or changes to two other boats so I’ve done quite a fair amount of boat-building. And it so happened that I was- I sat next to a naval architect, Gordon German, at one of these public dinners where I was at the head table. And I got talking to him and he said, “You know, it’s too bad, our artist who used to paint our perspectives to show the client what the ship was going to look like, died of cancer. And now we have nobody”. I said, “Well now look. I’ ve done several ships. Would you like me to bring one along to show you?” And he said, “Why yes!” So that’s what I did. I took one along and I did at least forty big paintings, twice the size of these for the naval architects. They would give me the plans to work from, and then by architect’s perspective, I would make a perspective drawing of the ship. And the most difficult part was the sea, of course, I mean anybody can draw a thing like a ship.

[50:50:11]

They didn’t have an architectural drawing for the sea!

No, quite. So I had to learn how to paint the sea. And because I had done a lot of sailing, I sort of have in my mind, I have an idea what the sea does, the way the waves behave, you know. So many artists think that when you do a picture you have the same amount of wind blowing over the same surface and it should be a regular pattern of sails. But it’s not true. It’ll be very windy in one place and hardly windy at all in another. So it is not like the old artists used to paint. All these old Dutchmen, for instance, they would draw very rough seas and it was never like that. That was just a tremendous exaggeration. So my knowledge of what the water looks like has been very good for my profession.

[52:05:20]

Amazing. Really quite amazing.

…It was a Georgian house in Repton, which is a sort of educational centre in England. It had a famous public school there. And my father was crazy about ships too and he bought a lot of full-size posters of the Allan Line, the White Star Line, the Cunard and so forth, and plastered on the walls leading to our nursery, you see. So I was brought up looking at these wonderful pictures by wonderful artists like Charles Pierce and Norman Wilkinson and Dixon. And they’ re all marvelous people so that really taught me an awful lot and gave me a love of ships.

[53:04:07]

[Looking at painting of ship] Oh my, yes! Well, they don’t do this any better anywhere! No, that [unclear]. I’m, you know, particularly interested in the water, which is unbelievable. And that’s not concocted, that’s really understood…

Yes. Oh, yes, sure.

…and no formula there.

But I still get a big kick out of this one.

Well, you should! It’s extremely professional. That’s unbelievable.

And this one is when the days of the gold rush and they used to transport the men up in boats like that.

Well, that’s my kind of water, you know, it’s easier to draw than waves!

Yes!

Beautiful!

This is the [Cinderbine].

That’s pretty dramatic. Isn’t that amazing.

The [Cinderbine] always has this little bit of mist.

That’s mist, is it? It wouldn’t have been snow flurries?

No, no.

It’s mist, is it?

Yeah, it’s the highest peak in the Pacific.

Well you know, it’s there, but it’s hard to believe. It’s literally out of this world.

Well, I had a wonderful time there.

Well, you’ve had a great variety of experiences, obviously.

This is the place that I love best in the world.

Of course, it’s Santa Maria de la Salute.

No, this is not. No, that’s Georgia Majore.

I get my religions and my churches all mixed up!

Well, I actually, I just finished one of the back of Santa Maria de la Salute, which most people don’t know about, of course. The front has been done many, many times, and it’s probably the favourite building in Venice because it’s so picturesque.

[55:19:03]

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