One day I was walking along a long road up near the moors in Todmorden when an expensive Range Rover pulled in, the window whirred down.
“Are you getting in a what then?” a man called. He was probably in his mid fifties.
“Oh....er..thanks,” I said and got in. I could tell by the clunk of the door it was a very expensive version of that car. We set off. This was all a bit unusual; I can’t recall anyone stopping to give me a lift in the past. The driver was dressed in tweeds and there were some dead birds on the rear seat. Oh no. He told me he was the shooting instructor for the __(can't remember)__ Estate.
We drove on. He was friendly and quite chatty. He was saving me a walk of about half an hour to get to a junction where I could get back down to Cornholme. It was going dark and I told him it was good of him to give me a lift.
“Well, you’ve got to do something for me,” he said.
Oh no, I thought, was he a sex fiend, wanting me to pour warm semolina over his bare bum then lick it off? Thankfully not. He told me today's shooting party was nearby was the session was coming to an end. He pulled over about every 30 metres and wanted me to help him collect the red flags on poles by the side of the road (these must indicate a shoot is in progress.) I think he had only offered me a lift as he thought I must be one of the shooting party.
Further along the road was a group of men by their Land Rovers and Range Rovers and he pulled over to chat to them. Some were dressed in full shooting tweeds, looking like extras for a period drama. I didn't know people dressed like that anymore. Before me was a sight not cherished by animal-loving vegetarians: many dead birds strewn across the cars bonnets.
Nearly everybody had a gun. There was a man with a ginger beard and he was wearing tweeds of a ginger shade to match.
The men said the shoot had been poor with too much walking involved. Further up the road the shooting manager dropped me off. It was getting dark and I meandered down the road back to the house thinking about those guns. At home I was in the middle of this painting of a man and woman on a bed but had left a space on the canvas for something in the background. I decided it I would have a sinister man stood there brandishing a gun. As I descended the hill back to the village I listened to more music and, as if by magic, Ozzy Osbourne's A Shot In The Dark came on with the lyric "I was paid for the kill." I decided that would be the title for the painting.
So here it is, still wet. As you can see I painted in the couple on the bed and was going to put a table lamp in the space at the top left. Light would be thrown from this onto their heads. However, having seen those guns, I took a photo of myself holding a rifle and painted myself into the space. I once helped out a friend out who needed a flat urgently. I had one free and he kindly gave me a rifle as a thanks. I took a photo of myself with the rifle to get a sense of scale - then myself into the painting. I still managed to squeeze in a lamp.
Three people make a story. Is Mr Gun about to kill the woman or blow the man's head off? Has he already shot one of them? The woman already looks dead to me. I'm not one for painting vases of roses.