Maybe just a little bit, but hopefully not in an annoying way.
I’m still me – none of those hoity-toity airs and graces to be found here. Just the kid from the council estate with a keen curiosity for something a little different. I don’t know where it came from, though – this sudden love of paintings. It kind of snuck up on me. Although, I do remember feeling ecstatic when my pastel version of Van Gogh’s sunflowers was put on display in the school corridor when I was twelve.
Not that I developed any further skill after that. I may have peaked too soon, resorting to paint by number kits after my family members erupted in laughter at my efforts during a game of Pictionary (Seriously, it was only meant to be a finger …)
A BBC programme – Fake or Fortune – in 2011 triggered something deep in the recesses of my mind, introducing me to a new kind of mystery: art and culture crime. The series featured journalist, Fiona Bruce and art dealer Philip Mould — dubbed “the art detective” — and, together, they investigated remarkable stories delving beneath the surface of paintings. From Paris and Amsterdam to Cape Town, the banks of the Nile, and New York, the team employed old-fashioned detective skills and the latest forensic testing to reveal compelling tales of lost masterpieces, forgers and Nazi-looted art.
OMG! I was hooked.
I had to have more. And more is exactly what I found in the form of a course about Antiquities Trafficking & Art Crime run by the University of Glasgow. (I sound almost cultured now, don’t I? Don’t worry, it’s all a front – as my mum would say ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’.)
This course was dynamite, firing off all sorts of explosions in my curious mind. I learnt about the looting of cultural treasures from archaeological sites around the world; smuggling networks; the demand for illicit antiquities; high-end art heists; fraud and forgery; art vandalism and thankfully also about repatriation, recovery and return of those stolen, priceless pieces.
Brain overload … yet, I wanted more … and not just a weekly newsletter about the progress being made in finding these lost works of art, or more awful news of another heist or a site being plundered.
It’s at this point my mind did a little flip – and a sequel I was writing (Casualty of Court) morphed into a series.
Hey presto, the Blackleaf Agency was born and my newly qualified PIs were thrown into the murky depths of the art world.
It meant I could pursue my love of writing and combine it with my other unhealthy obsession, that of endless, methodical, jaw-dropping, fascinating research into a topic that had inspired, educated, and enthralled me. Not a bad way to pass the time, is it?
Doing something you love is not always an option, so I’m going to enjoy it while I can.
So, to answer my own question: am I arty farty? Not in the pretentious, snobbish way (I hope), but when it comes to a mystery in that scintillating, almost out-of-reach world then I’m in up to my neck – granted that’s probably only waist-high for most people, but it’s a serious immersion for me 🙂 and I’m more than happy to be there.
Thanks for reading 🙂