The more creative souls in the England football set-up may have been encouraged by the words of Fabio Capello this week. "Above all, I trust the artist," he said, raising hopes that watching future performances by the national side might become at least vaguely entertaining, as opposed to bleak and coma-inducing (let's face it, the concept of winning ugly is worthless when you're just as likely to lose ugly).
The bad news is that he meant "artist" literally, as in dead sharks, unmade beds and, just occasionally, paint applied to canvas. The England gaffer had been roped into a project for Sport Relief, in which he and a few other sporty types sat for one of a charity-loving bunch of premier-league artists ( Sporting Portraits, BBC1, Monday and Tuesday).
An art lover with an apparently impressive modern collection, he chose Stella Vine. She's the former stripper who shot to fame a few years ago when Charles Saatchi sent her art career into overdrive by acquiring her notorious picture of Princess Diana. Her gaudy expressionism, which feeds off celebrity culture, tends to polarise opinion: her paint, an expert enthuses on the programme, "is splashed straight from the psyche on to the canvas", although another critic – not on the programme – has dismissed her as "a brainless, rotten, painter". I really like, though, her depiction of a doe-eyed but shifty-looking Jose Mourinho accompanied by his dog and the inscription "I will always love you".
Capello had heard about her at the time of the Diana picture and clearly knew what to expect – "It'll be interesting to see what she gets from my face," he said.
"He's got very pretty eyes," she observed. "I imagine he must have been quite a looker in his early years – still is, of course."
Her first attempt was pure Vine, if not pure Capello. It didn't look remotely like him but was a good painting, if you're into all that modern stuff. "I like it," he said with a nervous laugh.
Another artist used to being critically lambasted is Jack Vettriano, who was getting his knickers in a twist about working with Zara Phillips. As they discussed it on the phone, he was thinking jodhpurs and breeches.
"I find it a very sexy sport," he said, as she harrumphed mildly. "If you look at the outfits you wear, the jodhpurs..."
"Oh," she moaned, "you're not going to get me wearing an outfit, are you?"
There was a shocked silence from Vettriano, who held the phone away from himself. "You're damn right I am," he finally managed to spit out. He didn't get her out of her civvies but he was pleased with the finished article. "I'm just going to call it 'The Olympian'," he told her. "Is that all right?"
She smiled ruefully. "Let's hope I get there."
The caricaturist Gerald Scarfe was enjoying himself doing Ricky Hatton. "He's got a fabulous face," he said. "He's like a bit of carved rock – he's a gift to artists. He's sort of a cross between Wayne Rooney and Jim Davidson."
Not quite the kind of artistic combination that would appeal to Capello, you feel.Reuse content