Artist was great companion to me

Hastings Observer letters
Hastings Observer letters

From: Chris Faircloth, Melbourne Road, Chester

Sent in response to your feature dated April 28 2017 and entitled: Highly-acclaimed artist who inspired many, dies suddenly.

Toni Martina, an appreciation.

I only found out a few days ago, through another former fellow student, of Toni’s death. I quickly found the basic details in the online edition of your paper, detailing the memorial event to be held later this month. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend, due to work commitments and other considerations, however I would like to extend my condolences to Toni’s family and friends, all of whom will miss him dearly.

I drifted out of contact with Toni about 30 years ago, having seen him only intermittently since we both graduated from the Fine Art course at Kingston Polytechnic in 1978. During my time there though, on the same course as him and Tessa, I saw them both on a daily basis. I enjoyed my art college years, partly because I had the chance to draw and paint full-time and partly because of the people I met and mixed with. Perhaps I was fortunate, some people don’t enjoy their student years, but I did and out of the students on that course, there were about a dozen people I associated with much more closely than the rest; Toni was one of them.

He was a great fellow student, a great companion to work alongside, to eat alongside in the college canteen and drink with in the college bar; affable, warm-hearted and gregarious, never tetchy or moody, as much fun drunk as he was sober.

He was also, and remained, a fluent draughtsman and a technically highly accomplished printmaker, clearly able, as his teaching career showed, to pass on his practical skills, knowledge and a love of his chosen medium to his many students.

His early death is obviously a devastating loss for his family and close friends, but it also robbed him of the chance to continue drawing and print-making, which he would no doubt have carried on doing for as long as he was able. I was fortunate in many ways, able to gain a degree in the subject I love without a lifetime of student debt, I was also fortunate in meeting a group of fellow students, all talented and interesting, from a variety of culturally diverse backgrounds, who broadened my horizons in so many ways. I improved as a draughtsman and painter during my time there, but I also learned to dress a salad, to make a few half-decent pasta recipes and even home-made hummus, although I now realise my student curries were, compared with what I can do now, pretty awful.

I can still remember clearly some of the work he produced as a student and the internet has allowed me to see his much more recent work. I’m sure that his memorial event will be well attended, and I’m sure it will demonstrate to his family how well he was regarded.

His warm presence will stay as part of the memories I have of my student years. His family have known him for a lifetime, I can only claim to have known him for a few years, but I enjoyed his company immensely.

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