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Jack Vettriano on Forain

Discovery

People associate your work with the Portland Gallery because on the back of every card you'll see their credit. Can you describe how this special relationship developed?

Once I started to get recognition I was showing with a gallery in Scotland, but I was looking for one in London. Eventually I found somewhere willing to take me on, we got sponsors and everything, the opening night happened, and then nobody came. Jack showed in London and nobody knew. After the opening night the place was a desert. I was disappointed because I thought that they would be better tuned in to the art scene in London, but what you need for a successful exhibition is access to a mailing list, and they didn't have one. I think when I said I wanted to show in London they thought "Right, we'll give him a London show and - you know, satisfy him". I was then approached by the Catto Gallery in Hampstead and I had a show with them, but before that even opened I thought, "I don't want to be in Hampstead, I don't know why I agreed to this, I want to be in the West End, I want to be in Art Land, if you like".

Someone I knew in Scotland knew Tom Hewlett who runs the Portland Gallery and phoned him and said, "Look this guy's still looking to show in London", and Tom flew up to meet me. It was quite funny really because I had a painting on the wall which I thought was probably worth about £8,000 - it was the biggest I'd done and it was very good. Anyway, we had a chat about terms and everything and he said he would like to take me on, so I said, "What could you get for this painting?" and he replied that he could sell it tomorrow for £15,000. I immediately said, "OK, right, do that!" The next day a guy flew up from London and bought five, including this one, and I thought "Well, there's somebody who talks from ....", you know what I mean?

Tom of course doesn't talk about his clients - he's very, very discreet and I only tell you that story to illustrate how seductive it was to me - to hear that and to see it actually happening the next day - this guy arriving and saying, "Right - I'll take that, and this, and this ...." As soon as the exhibition was over at the Catto in Hampstead, I just moved in with the Portland Gallery and have been there ever since.

I asked you about being discovered - how it happened - because that's something that we all dream about - that perhaps one day we might do something similar in our own lives - that somebody will look at what we do, whether it's working in an office or whatever, and will say, "You’re capable of doing great things."

Yes it's a wonderful story - coming from that background to this, and everything that's gone on - the failed marriage, the number of jobs, the coming to London twice to live and going back disappointed. But no, it's a great story and I think people relate to it all - there is a sense that I've done it against the odds and so can you.

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