My Secret Life: Maggi Hambling, artist, 63


My parents were ... complicated, snobbish, sexually ambivalent. I've forgiven them, as they forgave me. Life is too short.

The home I grew up in ... was a tall townhouse in Hadleigh in Suffolk, where I climbed on the roof. My father had an office with tiny magical drawers built into walls, which I messed up most days. There was an apple tree at the end of the garden and every day a battle would take place between me and the boy next door, to decide who would be Robin Hood for that day and who would be Maid Marian. I was always Robin Hood so I ended up getting the apple tree.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... a Wren Admiral. I liked the idea of being the boss and I liked the uniform. All the other girls wanted to be ballerinas.

The first time I got drunk ... was after a grown-up drinks party. I collected the dregs of all the glasses into one glass, drank the lot and felt extremely ill.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I'd have Marlene Dietrich's legs.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... extremely unfit tennis.

You wouldn't know it but I'm no good at ... patience.

At night I dream of ... work, or sex with people I haven't yet slept with.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... eyes still mysterious, the rest, horribly, all too clear.

My favourite item of clothing ... is my first T-shirt, depicting one of my drawings of George Melly, currently available from the National Portrait Gallery Shop.

I wish I'd never worn ... the Little Bo Peep costume I was forced into by my optimistic mother for fancy dress.

It's not fashionable but I like ... my now discontinued and therefore very rare Herbert Johnson thick furry felt black Borselino.

I drive/ride ... I am at present between Bentleys. I have a big bad Chrysler saloon, pimped to perfection and in two-tone black and white, with extra chrome everywhere. It's possibly a little bit bling. The latest acquisition is a new number plate which reads HI 0 GAY.

My house is ... maximalist. I'm an obsessive collector. In London, I have a bathroom of parrots, and in Suffolk, a staircase with rising wooden birds.

My favourite building ... is a tiny chapel in a village near Hadleigh in Suffolk, with a dirt floor, no glass in the two small windows, and just a small wooden cross on one wall.

My favourite work of art ... Impossible: Rembrandt, Rothko, Van Gogh or Jackson Pollock.

A book that changed me ... was 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. I asked for the complete works of Oscar Wilde for my twelfth birthday. My parents found it a little strange but I'd trained them by then. 'Dorian Gray' was the first novel I ever read. It opened up life.

Movie heaven ... 'Some Like It Hot'.

The last album I bought/downloaded ... I don't buy any.

My secret crush ... Lux, my black and white two-tone Tibetan terrier, for whom my car is a fashion accessory.

My real-life villain ... Do-gooders.

The person who really makes me laugh ... 'Absolutely Fabulous' or Dame Edna.

The last time I cried ... was watching my godson Alfie Bradstock horse-riding. Beating the Australians in the last test at Lords.

My five-year plan ... To stay alive.

What's the point? ... Beauty.

My life in six words ... Dismal/ecstatic, energetic/arthritic, fat/thirsty.

A life in brief

The painter and sculptor Maggi Hambling OBE was born in Sudbury in Suffolk on 23 October, 1945. Her best-known works include a 4m-high steel structure entitled 'Scallop' on Aldeburgh beach, and a series of paintings of George Melly, currently on show at London's National Portrait Gallery until January 2010. Hambling splits her time, with the artist Tory Lawrence, between London and Suffolk. Her forthcoming show 'The Sea: Paintings by LS Lowry & Maggi Hambling' begins at the Lowry in Manchester in October

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