Once I was at someone’s house where there was a bit of a gathering (better not mentioned names) I was descending the stairs and was in the hallway with doors leading off it. I overheard the woman of the house say to her husband in a low voice, “You don’t look at me like that anymore.” They mustn’t have known I was there so I silently climbed up a few stairs then came back down again doing a fake cough. With saying a word the husband of the house went into another room, closing the door on his wife. Her strained face framed obvious hurt. I suppose this painting depicts this moment.
This wasn’t the first time someone didn’t know I was there. Once I went in a large local joinery shop. The counter was badly placed for the two women at the till to see the full measure of the expansive shop. They must have thought the shop was momentarily empty but I was browsing in the marble top section. They started arguing about a comment someone had made. It was obvious they were related by a marriage by some of the barbed bruising comments. I felt uncomfortable and left swiftly. They were arguing so intently I could have slipped one of those £500 marble tops out without their knowledge (instead I just took some brass castor wheels.)
Once I overheard a couple who had a heated argument when someone misheard something. I was on a bus and two women were behind me.
“Oh you’re so sympathetic,” one said.
“Well you’re not so perfect yourself!” the other said immediately angry, “Why am I pathetic?”
“I said ‘sympathetic’,”
Also I heard someone say, “You know, if I went to sleep tonight and never woke again it wouldn’t bother me.” Sad stuff. Even sadder, a mother shouting at her baby, “You’re a little shit. I wish you’d never been born.”
Also, “Don’t cross your legs when we’re in the pub tonight; its makes you look gay.”
I was in a busy shopping centre in Edinburgh and a woman shouted, “You ruin everything!” and stormed off leaving the man looking red and embarrassed.
At school I was in the toilet cubicle and overheard two boys discussing a girl. One asked if they’d snogged a certain girl. One said yes but “she’s crust.” When the other boy asked what a crust was he said, “She’s like a crust - everyone touches it but nobody wants it.”
Best of all I was waiting for a coach and overheard an elderly woman (also waiting) on a mobile phone, half-shouting, “...and don’t empty the kitchen sink, I’m soaking my smalls in it.”
As you can see from the first photos of the painting the woman’s waist was slim but broadened out as the painting progressed. I must have painted that woman in the background in and out then back into again about three times. I left her with a sort of ghostly face. I was going to put a dab of pink in there but I favoured the ghoulish look. I didn’t know how much detail to put in that back room. I was going to put a fancy chandelier in that room but thought it might deflect attention away from the tension between the two characters.