I realize you might think this daft, but from a very young age I had a problem accepting my name. ‘Melvyn’. My mother chose it. My father would have called me ‘Never Satisfied’ or ‘Cocky little Know-all’, which is what he called me most of the time anyway.

I was the only kid around called Melvyn. Why couldn’t I be called something normal? No other kid I knew had that name. I felt tagged. Although… on the one hand it was kinda cool to have a unique name, but on the other… it made me self-conscious. And being self-conscious can be very inhibiting to a kid who wants to get up to no good with the guys. Segregated by my name. How could I blend in with a name like Melvyn..?

But I grew up and given time everything blends in, including me, and a lot of people are now called Mel, mostly girls. But I don’t mind that, it’s good company and my feminine side is a nicer person anyway.

So, signing my artwork. Should I use the name I have, or create a new one, how should it look? Oh how I pondered. Although it was bound to look rubbish eitherway as I’m an untidy writer. But I wanted an impressive signature – and one that I could live with.

I’d once heard, that to sell paintings in England, it was best to have a foreign sounding name (don’t ask me why. It shouldn’t make any difference. I’m just telling you what I heard. People are funny). So I thought about this, and years later I was still thinking about it… which is why some of my paintings are signed ‘Melvyn, Melvyn Grant, Mel Grant, Mel’, or nothing at all. I guess my dad was right when he called me ‘Never satisfied’. Nothing I could think up appealed for long. French and Spanish names can sound good but mostly sound better on a bottle of wine, although I do have French ancestry. But the Italian sounding names seem to roll off good and associate well with art – at least English collectors seem to think so. Names that end with, etta, iano, inci, gello, especially if pronounced with a flourish. If you take Leonardo da Vinci for instance, it only means Leonard from Vinci. Good old Len, slapped a bit of paint on a couple of canvases. Lived down the road in Vinci. Went to Florence on a day-trip and stayed over. But put the Italian way makes it sound so much better to English listening ears. Possibly it’s the reverse for Italians.

Send No Evil By Melvyn Grant

Four Wise Chimps


There once was an artist who was given a new name. George Higsbottom was his original, but, for some reason, everyone called him Weird George the Halitosise Kid. George badly wanted to be famous for his artwork, but success in the art world had not smiled on him and he’d gradually settled into a life of personal painting and semi-alcoholism, but he never gave up on his dream.

George did his best with all aspects of life, although he was not to hot with hygiene and sometimes had the lingering scent of a vagrant yogurt. He lived in a tacky old tar roofed hut he called ‘Me Studio’, tucked away just behind a small scrap dealer’s yard at the back end of Winchelsea, a small village on the South East coast of England. George was an easy-going guy who looked at life from a slight angle and always claimed a connection with Saturn – and looking at George, this might well have been true. He was always talking about strange twilight places and people with poorly co-ordinated footwear, but nobody took much notice. He had a likable and amusing personality, but always seemed to be accepted with a whispered footnote – he wears odd shoes.

George had always known he was an artist right from the year dot, wore a beret and everything. He even had a lucky brush called Anthea, a skinny old tar brush he’d found in a skip somewhere, sometime way back. He kept Anthea proudly tucked behind his right ear, and she in turn, always kept his beret at a jaunty angle. George thought the world of Anthea and lovingly called her ‘Me Muff’. She was a brush with real attitude and went everwhere with him. Often he would sit quietly and smooth her bristles.

George did his best work with Anthea and they produced endless paintings of other people with odd shoes. Dingy daubes of discarded household paint and stuff he mixed together on a large old wooden toilet seat cover he called ‘Me Palette allabum’. George liked to paint on pieces of sailcloth and driftwood, and odd stuff he’d find washed up on the beach. And to be honest, George’s paintings had got a certain something about them… Mostly the consistency of stuff and odd shoes.

When he wasn’t in his studio painting or sitting up on the roof communing with the sky, or the rusting pile of metal over in the scrapyard, George and Anthea could be found in the ‘The Flying Dog’s Tackle’ he’s local pub, scrounging drinks and telling fantastic stories. To his fellow drinkers he was good entertainment, although sometimes they made cruel comments and you could see it hurt him. But George had a big heart. They were his friends, so if it made them happy… and anyway, he had another full glass.

Then one day, George had a lucky break. It was in the ‘Flying Dog’s Tackle’ saloon bar on a hot and barmy day when visitors were swarming. A dotty art dealer from New York, on a day trip excursion, happened to be there with the new boyfriend while George was trying to convince the Landlord to accept one of his smaller paintings for a pint of best with a whisky chaser. It seems the boyfriend noticed the painting and struck up a conversation… and thought old George was ‘the cutest person’ when George swore he’d seen him in a Michelangelo painting – at the top, third from the left.

Then, back at his studio, George shows them all his paintings.

The Dotty Dealer claspes dainty hands together ecstatically, and before you know it, a deal is done and George and Anthea are relocated in New York USA complete with greencard and a nice studio apartment.

And they re-write his name.

Then with a few, well placed, exibitions, he’s famous. A little more promotion and it goes crazy. Within three years, George is world famous and a household name – like the paint he uses. Those rich collectors in New York know their art. And they are all buying George’s paintings now. Prices have exploded.

‘Is that a Win-Chelsea? Wow. Awesome. Oh, thank you. Just a little more red wine.’ – (‘Is that a Higsbottom? A what? A Higsbottom. What’s a Hig? Dunno. – not the same.)

Old Halitosis George the semi-alcoholic, according to the ‘Fine Art’ world, is now the recently discovered, brilliant post-century Saturnic-impressionist. A genius. Unique in any time. His paintings are worth an absolute fortune. And Anthea is just as famous. A large brush manufacturer now supplies a complete ‘Anthea’ range. The fact that Georgio and Anthea are known to frequent all the bars in the vicinity only adds to the legend – after all artistic people are expected to tipple a little. Georgio has such a following in New York now. They hang on his every word.

‘Don’t you just love that accent?’

‘And the places he’s been and the things he’s done. Wow! Win-Chelsea is awesome… And he’s inspiration comes directly from Saturn you know…’

So well known now is George’s fame, it has even filtered down to that little place on the South East coast of England. And all those people back in Winchelsea village see him on TV …

‘Cor! That’s our George. Luv a duck. ‘E’s famous’.

Then Winchelsea’s local Council had an idea. And now they’ve put plaques on buildings and named places Georgio’s this and Georgio’s that. The old tar hut is a museum to Georgio, full of the old rubbish he used to live with. They’ve even renamed the local pub from ‘The Flying Dog’s Tackle’ to ‘The Flying Georgio’s Tackle’. Rescued all those old scribbles of his, from the rubbish tip, and hung them on the walls. And even marked out his favourite space at the bar in gold paint, with ‘Georgio sat here’ on the barstool, complete with buttock outlines. The tourist’s triple swarm now. And the villagers love it. They are making a fortune… and they’ll all drink to that.

George’s paintings are just the same today as they’ve always been, tacky, and the people in them still wear odd shoes. But he’s now a very wealthy and famous artist – and best of all, he also has a name to remember – Georgio da Win-Chelsea.


If you couple a simple Anglo type of first name like Jack, Fred, Frank, Albert, Wally, Dick, with an Italian sounding last name it’s a real winner. One name I considered was Syd Donzaroda. Meaning Sydney, the guy down the road.

Kids at school used to call me Melv. I quite like that now; I didn’t then, it sounds kinda Slavic. I once had a girlfriend who called me Melly, but she was a one off. I was always afraid of sibilance slipping in there. She had a murky sense of humour.

Melvino Granetto, Melvino da Granacia, Mel Icimo, Mel Lifluous… Mella daMighty – no, too much like Attila the Hun. Mel da Whatever. Enough is enough, it gets tiring.

Although, being interviewed on TV, I could call myself ‘da Melvino Onnatelli’ and sign all my paintings Onnatelli. Now that’s getting somewhere. Mmmmm…

But, until that time, I think I’ll just concentrate on the paintings, doing the best I can, getting on with life and continue as plain ol’ Melvyn Grant, Mel or Melv to my friends and just carry on signing the paintings Melvyn as I’ve always done… keep it simple. Always the best canvas.

But on a good day when I’m feeling cool, I might just call myself Mello.

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