Ollie Simmons at Work
The following article was part of a series of “…a day in the life of…”  in the Western Morning News. 2007.

A day in the life... Oliver Simmons

I'm not one of those ordinary flimsy bodied painterly lady types in a large hat and Bohemian style open toed sandals…I'm a large 49 year old bloke, about 20 stone of excitable molecules, some of which are in the 'grip of art', the rest having a hankering for beer and a curry.

After I have risen, I get my disabled friend up and fight off a ravening dog; finally coming awake with a mug of tea. I have a notepad by my bed and I read the scribbles I have made during the night. Ideas for a painting, ideas for the house, a funny idea for a sketch etc. Only half is legible, half of that is bizarre and the remainder is convincing evidence that I come from the shallowest end of the gene pool.

An idea for a painting comes to my bleary head and I chew it over with toast. The dog is looking at me with those crossed legs 'puddle-right-here-mate-if-you-don't-act-quickly' looks, so I let him out. Lovely sky, building clouds…ideas…

I move my painting gear into the kitchen and onto the big table…muttering hateful comments about those lucky enough to have a studio. I turn on the radio. Radio Four, something to do with feminine hygiene, makes me desperately queasy. I turn to something else. On another station, according to an announcer, wittering on with self-importance, it's Isla St.Clair Awareness week. I bail out and go for BBC7, an eclectic mix of comedy, stories and drama – about sums me up.

Choice of watercolour or acrylic. Cats or dogs. Acrylic is like a dog, faithful: go there, it does…stay…it does. Dependable. Ok so not much like my dog, “Gimme food Dad, I'm all ribs (belly resting comfortably on floor).Given a chance he'd phone Childline  claiming maltreatment, only 50 treats a day and two walks…

Cats. Well watercolour is alive, dances, interacts, luminous and entrancing. Turn your back on it for a moment and it changes on you, what was smooth colour now separates into a granular form or it dries back for a mutant cauliflower effect (fine if you're struggling with shrubbery but not so great for skin, unless you're after that 'years of British Sherry and working long hours in a tannery yard' look)

I opt for acrylic as I want to be 'big' today, expansive and to sweep colour across the large canvas. I just begin squelching out the colours when my friend asks what's for lunch and the dog is looking at my legs as something suitable to chew. Grumbling, I cover over the paint with wet kitchen paper, make sandwiches for my friend and lob another treat at the smug dog. Back to painting, radio whiffling something about donuts…my mind veers off, so easily led by the temptation of easy calories.

Painting through the afternoon, going well, and mixing paint is so satisfying, when a colour comes up trumps and looks good on the canvas, it's addictive. I do my scraping off of the paint to form the undercoat layer of colours and begin again.
Finally the urge to make a mug of tea makes me stop. My back is killing me and my legs are aching so I walk around the house. Coming back I look at the painting…

My shoulders slump, it's a pile of proverbials. What was so exciting close up now looks like the backside of an arthritic hippo. I can't paint; this is hopeless (ok – stronger than that !). But I have learnt to sit a while, take a longer look. OK what does work? Occasionally I have turned the canvas upside down, reversing the horizon line and hey presto, a new story is itching to come out.

Is it 6pm already?  Dog and friend pining for supper and I am running with the painting, full flow and loving it. To stop is incredibly frustrating and I share my feelings generously. “Another 10 minutes….another 5 minutes, please…another minute.  8pm and murderous looks from friend and dog, I stop.

Make a ghastly supper and I can't even remember what it was, dog fed, out to poo in garden, usually where the Postman treads. I come back in and look at painting and ……...I feel good. It makes me smile. Maybe I can paint !