My haven: The musician and aspiring painter, Chris Rea, 61, draws inspiration from the garden of his Berkshire home
00:33 GMT, 21 April 2012
Chris says he spends lots of time in the garden, and if he's not writing songs or gardening, he's painting
1 ME AND MONET
I’m on the go from 7am every day, just as soon as coffee gets into my veins, and I don’t stop until I collapse into bed. I spend as much time as I can in my garden, and if I’m not writing songs or gardening, I’m painting. My wife Joan taught me; she studied at Goldsmiths. I took it up to keep me occupied while I recovered from pancreatitis ten years ago. Sometimes I explore Monet’s style, other times I’ll include guitars or Ferraris.
2 NEED FOR SPEED
These are my first ever toy cars. I got them for Christmas when I was eight and I think they’re gorgeous. As soon as I paid the mortgage off in 1988 I started racing cars. I had to give up when I had pancreatitis, but I missed it so desperately I returned to the track four years ago. Back in 1997 I got to race a Ferrari at the famous Monza circuit in Italy – a dream come true. As I was flying down the straight I realised I was driving my Corgi toy!
3 BLUES MAN
These two guitars are very special to me. The wooden Dobro came from a specialist music shop in Clarkston, Mississippi, 20 years ago and it’s unlikely you’d find many like it now. It’s particularly good for blues music and I’ve written most of my songs on it. The other is a Yamaha electric classical guitar. It’s terrific because you don’t have to tune it. I used it a great deal on my latest album, Santo Spirito.
4 FOUNTAIN HIGH
My father’s family were Italian ice cream men and the knowledge was passed on, so I ran an ice cream van while I was dating my wife. As a nod to my heritage, I decided I’d sculpt an Italianate fountain. Then I made another. I cast all the pillars, built the spires and did the plumbing. They’re my little piece of Italy at home. I found out recently our derelict old family farmhouse in the hills of Alpino is up for sale and I’m bidding to buy it.
5 MY LITTLE TRUCK
I just love quirky vehicles and I have a lot of fun with this little Italian Piaggio pick-up truck. I spotted it when I was visiting my daughter Josie, who’s studying fine art in Florence, and bought it for 450. It cost me 300 to have it shipped to England. When I was building my fountains I’d take it to the builder’s yard to collect cement and I got lots of offers for it from the tradesmen. Joan thinks it’s an eyesore but I love it.
6 JACK THE LAD
I don’t have a dog, but this gorgeous Jack Russell Valentino, painted by Josie, comes close. She found him in Florence and took him in. I fell in love with him when I was visiting and brought him home. He didn’t have any papers, so he was in quarantine for six months. I went to see him for an hour every day and he’d sit on my knee. But when he came home he was a bit loopy, so Joan decided he had to go to a friend’s. I go and see him every month.
Santo Spirito is released by Rhino UK. See www.chrisrea.com