It was February 2005 as I drove along the north coast of Cornwall under a leaden sky with a keen wind blowing. I’d seen 5 artists already that day and I was a bit disheartened; Valerie Davide was last on the list.
Val’s studio was at Gwythian Towans, a wooden chalet nestling in sand dunes with panoramic views out across the Atlantic.
It is a place of such unspoilt beauty that I wondered how anyone could ever get any work done with such an ever changing and expansive view, not to mention the three mile long beach along which she used to walk her dogs and cats.
I was greeted by Daniel, Val’s husband, Spot her terrier, and Merlin her voluminous cat. If I ever come back to earth as an animal, I want to be one of Val’s as they lead a life of unparalleled luxury with nothing more taxing to think about than jockeying for space in front of her wood burner.
Their little chalet was adorned with wonderful charcoal drawings, portraits of the family as well as nudes and her goofy animal studies. I immediately knew that I was in the company of an artist of such singularly unbridled talent that my scalp prickled. Val was nowhere to be seen, something that was to become a common thread of our early meetings. She was holed up in her studio wondering why anyone would be interested in her ‘silly scribbles’ – her words not mine.
That Val’s work was important I knew the very first time I saw one of her drawings. I also knew that people would either ‘get it’ or they wouldn’t – not everyone sees the funny side of a large pair of nostrils or a dog’s bottom for that matter, but I figured that a lot of people would. She was British after all – we invented eccentricity for goodness sake.
Val’s home very much reflected her personality, the kitchen cupboards were adorned with papier maché moulded into strange patterns and the window ledges were lined with abstract objects – I describe them thus as I haven’t a clue what half these objects were! Even her travel luggage was hand painted with animals and flowers!
Importantly though, given how painfully shy Val turned out to be, I found it endearing that within the confines of her home she expressed herself so freely.
But that was back in 2005 when our relationship was in its infancy and her work had yet to be properly unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Those intervening years have seen her propelled into the hearts of an adoring army of international collectors, a concept she still struggles with.