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ABOUT THE ARTIST


I was born on December 12 1942, near Cambridge, England, and educated first by Ursula Charnock-Smith in Husborne Crawley, Bedfordshire, then at Wroxall Abbey, Warwickshire, and last at Punahou School, Hawaii. 


Ursula taught me to read, spell, write English, sing, and speak French.  She ran a superb 'dame school' and later taught me how to teach, when I took an assistant teacher's job there for a year.


At Wroxall I was lucky enough to be taught music by Nancy M Bennett, who came to Warwickshire for her first job after graduating from the Royal Academy of Music under Reginald Jacques.  Her quite exceptional teaching of piano and church singing left me with an especial love of both forms of music, which have always been a major part of my life. The school, now a hotel, was set in the ruins of an abbey destroyed in the Reformation, with wonderful grounds and a Christopher Wren crinkle-crankle walled garden, surrounded by glorious countryside.  Along with my mother's love of gardens and serious take on botanical accuracy, these influences have formed my approach to my first love in painting, which has always been for flowers.


Punahou School allowed me to take university level courses in literature, writing, poetry, drama, philosophy, comparative religion and American History.  I continued my piano and choral studies, and was taught singing by a professional Korean soloist.  I had a wonderful year on Oahu before it became a mass tourist destination, living with my distinguished grandfather, Dr C E K Mees, (acknowledged in the 1950s as "the Father of Photography" for his work on colour photography as Director of Research for Eastman Kodak) and came home in 1959 with my first pair of contact lenses and a fantastic wardrobe of beautiful clothes.


Thus armed, I asked my parents about the possibility of training either at Music or Art College.  My mother held up her hands in horror:  "You'll be living in a garrett with a bearded artist in no time!" she exclaimed.  So I found myself a job at a lovely prep school in Somerset, teaching the kindergarten class, art, arranging flowers, and doing all sorts of odd jobs, including helping with the music.  I landed this wonderfully eclectic set of useful activities after working there for a year as assistant matron, a job which largely consisted of doing the laundry and sorting millions of pairs of boys' socks.


None of these schools managed to engage me in any sport or convince me that I could understand Maths.  So I married a Mathematics teacher who was a first class Oxford and county cricketer and hockey player - Andrew Corran.  This marriage of complete opposites seems to have worked, as we are about to clock up fifty years together, God willing...


After two lovely years in Melbourne, Australia, we moved, on a temporary basis, to Cranleigh School, Surrey.  We stayed for twenty eight years.


Producing five children in seven years and becoming totally immersed in school life as a housemaster's wife didn't leave much time for painting, but choral music led by the superb teachers at Cranleigh was a continuing joy, and I learnt the main choral society repertoire and also much of the great tradition of English cathedral music, taught by the Cambridge choral scholar and lay clerk Malcolm Knowles.  Wonderful years.


When all the children had started school I dug my paints and brushes out from the bottom drawer where I had hidden them for safekeeping, and began painting again; finding, to my surprise, that almost as soon as they were framed and hung, the paintings walked off the walls in the arms of  the pupils, their parents and other frequent visitors.   This was highly encouraging, so with the help of my parents, I produced sets of Bermuda Flowers for framing, in book form, which, thanks to a friend of my parents who declared that he would like to be my sole agent in Bermuda, sold there; and a book of twelve Hawaii Flower prints, which necessitated returning to old haunts, and one of Cranleigh Flowers, sold to help raise funds to build Loveday House, in the years of Cranleigh's first major post war expansion.


This was all great fun, and I began to exhibit the prints at trade fairs, and to expand the range, diversifying into selling cards, and designing for table mat and tea towel companies.  Becoming involved in the retail industry led me to form a picture framing business and, later, to open a shop in Guildford.  Cecil Bailey, who did the framing, was a superb craftsman: creative, inventive, witty, and enormous fun.  Various friends and colleagues took on the running of the financial and accounting side of the business, most notably Sue Vaughan Johnson and Veronica Payne, without whom I would have collapsed from stress not only from my inability to read a spread sheet, but because Veronica's wise support and frequent hilarious laughter saw us all through a promising start in a large retail venture, to its eventual closure in the recession of the early nineties.


Since 1995, when we moved to Dorset, I have continued to paint, enjoying tackling landscapes, or rather, mostly seascapes, still life, animals, fruit and vegetables, as well as the flowers that have always been my first inspiration.  Under the generous sponsorship of our neighbour, Sam Chalmers, I edited, designed and co-illustrated a large hardback recipe book, Coast & Country Cooking, which raised over £24K for the four churches of the Lulworth Benefice. 


Together with John Holloway, Musical Director, Ian Fox, Organist, and Robert Bridge, pianist, (friends and colleagues from Cranleigh days) and a great local committee, Andrew and I ran the Lulworth Coast & Country four-day music festival for eleven years, raising very satisfactory amounts of money for various good causes and the Lulworth Benefice.  Forming a choir for this led to the foundation of the Nota Bene Singers, who meet for a long weekend of eight-part choral singing two or three times a year, culminating in choral Vespers; we have twice taken this glorious music, written over five centuries by the greatest European composers, to sing in the magnificent cathedrals and churches of south west France.


The Harmonia Singers were also founded to sing services in Parish churches when asked, and to sing in some of the most beautiful cathedrals, abbeys and priories of southern England under the direction of David Bruce-Payne - a huge privilege.  This gave rise, in turn, to the Venite Singers: we sing choral Matins and occasional Evensongs once a month in the Bridge Benefice near Wimborne, originally in the church of Sturminster Marshall and now in Shapwick.  Please contact me on sgcorran@gmail.com if you would like to know dates and times of such sung services.


As a diabetic coeliac I have become deeply interested in nutrition as a way of controlling both conditions.  I have learned a great deal in my researches, and hope to pass on some of this knowledge in the form of gluten free low carb recipes, illustrated with photographs taken of the results of my experiments.  Only recipes that have passed the family 'deliciometer' test are offered...


In 2003, persuaded by my daughter in law, who was recovering from a broken ankle at Tides with our first granddaughter in tow, and egged on by a friend, I started teaching watercolour technique to a group every Tuesday.  Some are complete beginners, others are expert painters who relish the chance to spend a day in peace and quiet to further their passion for watercolours, in the company of like-minded friends and enjoying a sociable lunch.  It is my firm belief that everyone who has always wanted to paint, but never had the time or opportunity to learn, is already a talented artist, and only needs to be given a few techniques and time set aside to become highly proficient.  All those who have regularly come to the Tidal Tuesday art days have sold paintings or have been commissioned to paint something special for highly delighted owners.  Do contact me on sgcorran@gmail.com if you  are considering coming along to a Tidal Tuesday and would like more information.   


We are the proud grandparents of six beautiful, clever grandchildren, you will be surprised to hear.  Each, in various ways, is showing signs of carrying on all the family interests and talents, as is right and proper...


I truly believe that  "Without art, we are not fully human beings." Anon.


I also believe that "To create one's own world in any of the arts takes courage" - Georgia O'Keefe.


And that "Art is the signature of civilisations" - Beverly Sills.


And that Picasso was right when he said that " Art is a lie that makes us realise truth".


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