Alan on tour with Charles
Colaton Raleigh-based international artist Alan Cotton tells Di Bowerman about his time on a royal tour
If, in the future, Prince Charles takes up oil painting instead of watercolours, it might be because Colaton Raleigh landscape artist Alan Cotton has had a hand in it.
Alan has just returned from accompanying the
Prince on his royal tour of New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, and
talked to him about his art.
During a two-hour dinner on the flight home in a specially adapted DC8-72, the Prince "talked of many things" although not of his impending wedding.
Alan said Prince Charles was concerned he would have to have a studio to do oil painting in. "I said surely he had enough room at Highgrove. I think he would relish it."
The request to join the Prince of Wales on
his recent trip was not unexpected. Two years ago Alan had been invited
to join him on an oversees trip after a letter from St James's
Palace, bearing the distinctive Prince of Wales Feathers, dropped
through his letterbox at Brockhill Studio.
Having kept a diary of his trip, Alan can now
recount his amazing fortnight, which began with an unscheduled stop
in Sri Lanka at the Prince's request, to enable him to see areas
devastated by the Boxing Day tsunami.
"The Prince has the ability to put people at
their ease and communicates easily. In Sri Lanka he gave everyone
a lift. I am full of admiration for him. He is
During his whirlwind tour of hospitals, factories,
housing developments and official receptions including a spectacular
one by Maori warriors in Wellington - Alan managed to find time for
sketching, filling a red hard-backed sketch pad "given to me by my
friend Jed Felby from Budleigh Salterton".
Alan soon learned to keep up with the royal
convoy after being left behind at Perth airport. Having kept a diary
of his two week trip, Alan recounts: "I was enthusiastically helping
to bring hand luggage down the steps, looked up and to my dismay
saw the convoy disappearing at great speed.
The whistle-stop tour continued with the Prince
being greeted at Alice Springs by a group of Aborigine women, who "danced
topless and barefoot on the hot tarmac, performing ancient ceremonial
rituals." In the evening the party flew to Melbourne, arriving at
At a reception at Geelong Grammar School, Charles met some of his old school chums from Timbertops where he spent two terms in the '60s.
One of the high spots of the tour was a visit to the Australian War Memorial at Canberra, where Alan was touched by the many thousands of poppies attached to the names of loved ones "creating a peppered design of red against the marble columns."
The tour moved on to New Zealand, to the Royal Albatross Centre at Talaroa Head, where only 60 people a year are allowed to get close to the 17 species of rare albatross and Alan was even allowed to clamber down a forbidden cliff path to sit and draw until the Prince was ready to leave.
"When I was originally invited to become a tour artist, it had been anticipated that we should draw and paint together, but Prince Charles' itinerary was so frenetic that there was never a moment when he was free to join me," remembers Alan.
Armed with his red sketchbook and some new
Indian ink pens bought specially for the trip, he decided to do some
sketching in the vegetable garden at Corstorphine House, Dunedin,
It was while in Wellington that Alan saw what
the Prince had to contend with in the way of manipulated media coverage.
Before moving on to Fiji, the Prince attended
a reception in Auckland for the New Zealand branch of The Prince's
Trust and Alan was moved by accounts from two young people who described
how, after being heavily into drugs and attempts at suicide, they
were rescued by the Trust and their lives transformed.
Fijians have a tremendous affection for the
Royal Family and Prince Charles was given a rousing welcome by thousands
who lined the route.
A local driver took Alan to the mountains and
patiently waited as the artist drew for several hours.
Heading homewards Alan was invited to join
the Prince for dinner and they talked of many things during the two-hour
Alan developed a real empathy for the Prince,
and felt sad about the treatment of him in some national newspapers.
From the wealth of material he has gathered,
Alan will soon begin transforming his sketches into oil paintings
and once finished Prince Charles will have first choice of the series
to remind him of his whirlwind tour.