My picture of Joan and Eddy, completed back in 2011, is and will always be one of my favourite commissions to work on. It was commissioned by Hayley, after her Grandparents gave her money as a wedding present, with the stipulation that it should be spent on something that would always remind her of them.
Joan and Eddy were married for over 60 years. During that time Eddy proved himself to be superhuman – he was given 5 years to live following an operation and stubbornly lived past the 5 years and on for another 29. “That shocked my Nan sometimes. She often said “I’m not being funny Edd, but why have they died when you are still here”.” Says Hayley.
What made this commission so memorable for me was the huge amount of detail Hayley sent me when we were discussing how the picture would look. The fact that they always linked arms when out shopping; that Joan always brought Eddy his dinner on a tray and then went back for the salt; and the one that inspired the final image – the fact that she put her stale breadcrumbs in an old pharmacy bag when she went to feed the ducks. These details, so unique and personal, are the things I love to include in my work. The things that you forget about over time, that you suddenly remember when your memory is jogged and you are instantly transported to that moment in time, or to be with that person.
Joan and and Eddy lived across the road from a park. If she didn’t have stale bread in her pharmacy bag she had biscuits for the ducks instead. Lucky ducks. We talked about what they should be wearing in the picture. “No green”, said Hayley. Joan, apparently, hates green, which means that Eddy was not allowed to wear it either. So, no green, but lots of jewellery, and “a necklace that’s so big it looks like it should be worn by a rapper.” Brilliant.
What came through mostly for me about Hayley’s grandparents is how much they loved each other. You could see it in all the little details, and in the photos she sent. And, when Eddy sadly passed away in 2013, Hayley told me: “He chose to have an operation with small chances of survival because he didn’t like keeping Nan in the house all the time and wanted to be able to take her out places.”
“The picture you did of him and Nana has given me so much comfort. I’m so glad that I got it done…every time I walk past I think of him and smile.”
With huge thanks to Hayley Beasley and her Nan, Joan.