Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book signing, postcards and a bowl of cheetahs.

Days get stolen by things that need to be done. Things that aren't painting. 
Yesterday I went to The Shed to sign books for them. The restaurant was busy and smelled glorious. Back home I had started cooking a bolognaise sauce. Multi tasking. At The Shed I signed the first copies of The Ice Bear, and left them some of my postcards. Made it home in time for the sauce to be perfect.
One of the other tasks in the business of yesterday was delivering paintings to Emrys Art Shop in Haverfordwest. They are showing my work through August and should also have signed copies of books.During conversation, in in confusion I said, "I must go, I want to paint a bowl of cheetahs and a cherry." Slip of the mind leads to new sketch for a painting, the first sketches in my new book, which is heavier than the old and the paper has more grain.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gilding birds

Waiting for cover image with type to arrive from Frances Lincoln and getting on with work. Finishing off two barn owl paintings that I had hoped to gild at Art in Action. Too many people wanted books signed so work was much slower than last year, but it is steady, peaceful work that gives me time to think, and I need that.

Also working on a woodcock painting that is painted with a brush made from the pin feather of a woodcock. Contemplative, meditative work.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Yesterday the postman brought me the French edition of The Icebear. Once again the French publisher has printed the book 25% larger and the simple increase in size is astonishing. I do wish the UK publisher would look and realise how this would make the book stand out above the crowd in British bookshops.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

First pup of the summer.

Summer. Meadowsweet, rosebay willow herb, honeysuckle, heather, golden grass, scabious, tormentil, clover, butterflies and stonechats. And on the pebble beach over the hill, the first seal pup of the year, at least a week old, snoozing by the slow lapping sheltered sea while its mum hangs sleepy in cool water.

At the Gessail we sit for a while to watch for porpoise. Three bright gannets move across, fast flight, not hunting. Then a school of porpoise move across, breaking the surface with fins shining. They are moving through towards St Davids Head, hunting for fish. And on the water three young cormorants.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Finishing things

Finishing the fox. Almost done. Glows in my studio.

While staying with Judy Dyble I found many a lurking lurcher in paintings, small statues and even a Wiz on the sofa, so have a small series of paintings inspired by her house. The above was begun at Art in Action where people kept disturbing me to sign books, so finished at home and destined for The House of Golden Dreams and then on to The Imagine Gallery in Long Melford for exhibition in September.

Wizz on the sofa next to Judy's piano and below the art cover work for Talking with Strangers. 

Confessions of a late starter

When I was young I would visit my Aunty Win and Uncle Wes a great deal. I loved them both.  Uncle Wes seemed a giant of a man with hands like shovels. Aunty Win used to knit until artheritis bent her hands so that she could not hold the weight of wool. She tried to teach me to knit and I would watch her threading a single strand into intricate patterns of arran, but though she was patient, try as she might to teach me, the secret of how to knit evaded me.
When I was young I struggled to learn to read. I could read, but slowly. Words would jump around and I failed to catch and hold them. I would borrow books from the library, pretend to read them and take them back. School could be tricky sometimes. I still remember being given The Grapes of Wrath to read when I was about 14. I was supposed to read it then talk about the book for 5 minutes in front of class. The book was dirty, the type so close together, pages thin as tissue so the type came thrugh from the other side. And I was 14. I did try, but found the dense labyrinth of type on the pages inpenetrable. So when it came to do my talk, instead of saying, I tried but I really couldn't read this book but couldn't I made up some nonsense about it being boring. What followed next could have put me off books for life.
I wasn't by any means a bad child at school. I was one of the invisible ones who kept their heads down and got on with work. So to be torn off a strip and shamed infront of the class to the point of tears was awful.

Anyway, one day I saw a knitting pattern for a fairisle jumper. I wanted the jumper and I taught myself to knit, not just with one colour but with many.
And I wanted stories. I think the first 'big book' I read was Call of the Wild. I found that if I held a postcard beneath the lines I was reading it would keep them still on the page. One line after the next until I was lost in a wild wilderness. I still do this when I am tired. And now I read and write though it has taken me years to say, when people ask me what I do, that I illustrate and write books.
So in some way this explanes how I got to be 48 before I read To Kill a Mocking Bird. I heard Meg Rossof talking about the book on Radio 4 and bought a copy, partly because I have always been intrigued as to why it is called To Kill a Mocking Bird. What a piece of perfection it is as a book. I still don't understand the title. I don't believe that the mocking bird is Tom Robinson. More likely it is Boo Radley. Or perhaps it is the incocent trust that children have in adults to do the right thing, always. Whatever, the observation, the telling of a tale, the characters within the book, 50 years after publication sing as true as ever. I wonder, were the book marked with an 'age banding' as publishers wanted to do recently, would it have survived for so long?
I still can't read Steinbeck. Maybe one day. And I do believe that it is a sin to kill a mocking bird.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Still doodling away in my old sketchbook. Both of these drawings are a direct response to a beautiful picture in Judy Dyble's house. I love the way horses do this, resting their heads in trust on each other.

Today has been otherwise, sunshine and doctors, butterflies and rose, painkillers and sleep. I almost walked away from what I hope will be an amazing project as they hit me sideways with an idea that I just could not sign up to, but thankfully have moved on from there now, so I hang in there and wait and imagine and dream, and meanwhile draw. And the pressure is off for a little now. I can loose myself in paintings and preparing for an exhibition in Long Melford in September and Nursery Rhyme chaos and cat book roughs.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Light and time.

At Art in Action a gentleman stopped in front of my table. He spread his hands in an open gesture, smiled.
"I have to tell you," he said, " I am completely in awe of your work."
What can you say to so open a statement but "thank you."
"What is it that you do?" I asked.
" Oh, me? I'm only a physicist," he replied.

Earlier in the day I had been talking to Judy about rainbows and she told me that scientists had trapped part of a rainbow in a piece of glass. I had begun to worry, for if a butterfly could cause a storm across the world with a flap of its wings what might happen if light were alive in ways we didn't understand and a rainbow went to find and free the part of itself that was trapped. A rainbow dragon. Is it right to trap and enslave light?

I am in awe of physicists and wish that when I was at school I had understood the relationship between art and science better.
Later that day, a rainbow, wild and free, arced across the site at Art in Action.

The links above are to an article in New Scientist and other pages on rainbow trapping. There are almost images of the light, held in its prison if you google 'trapped rainbow'

At Judy's Wizz slept peaceful in places. On the wall the cover art from Talking with Strangers shone. And I have now put a page of images from Art in Action 2010 on my website.

A golden line

Almost at the end of my sketchbook. I have two or three, but this one has lots of small drawings, ideas for paintings, some done, some waiting to be done. I bought it in Broadway in 2002 and was intimidated by its pure pages when I first started working in it, so to begin with I stuck down notes from the children, a note from Robin, a picture of a swan. 
The caption here reads 'love is like walking on a ribbon nine miles high'. I drew the sketch a few days after meeting Robin. Love is dangerous, but after eight years, although I fell I have not yet been hurt. ( Still haven't painted the picture from the sketch though.)
With only a few pages left I have been looking for a new book and so when I heard that Rook's Books were at Art in Action I abandoned my stall for a few minutes and headed for the market place.

So, this is my new book and I am still wondering what to do first. The paper is different to the one I am used to. The endpapers are marbled, beautiful. It weighs heavy, smells wonderful.

And although it was good being at Art in Action, hearing people's reactions to the paintings, teachers comments on the dragon book and how it works in class, meeting a lovely young man and then being told that he had 'grown up on my books' ( oh dear, did I feel old? no, just pleased) it is so good to be home, to walk the hills and to be back to work in the glorious solitude of my studio.
I am counting my blessings.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A hare's breath and the quarter moon.

Still reeling from Art in Action, a busy time blessed with moments of real beauty. As well as art I saw hares in the stuble field, on the way in to the show. Also red kites, owls, a fox, and afterwards egret and heron. So, I have a list of photos so huge to share, and big thanks to give to Judy Dyble ( there is a lovely photo of her in this month's Mojo) who looked after us so well and with such grace, and to Anji who is just a very splendid woman. Also to all the volunteers at Art in Action who make the event the special thing that it is, unique. It is so good to go to a place and feel treasured as an artist rather than exploited. 
The moon shone down on the twilight tents, lit from within, on the evening of the Demonstrator's Supper, and I was glad, so glad that the beautiful glass won, though it was so hard to choose between all the things there that were just so good.
But of all the things made by man that I saw the one thing hat really took my breath away was the hare in the field of gold. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Half way through beauty

Yesterday morning I saw two hares dance across a golden field of stubble at Waterperry Gardens as we drove in for our early morning start.
Two days in to Art in Action and I am tired but hopeful of hares again today. There are so many red kites also. And beauty. The days are so frustratingly busy that I am pinned to the table as my space, signing books, getting little painting done and meeting wonderful people and aware that all around me people of astonishing skill are working away. I want to see them. I want to go and watch and learn and I do I do I do want to get into the jewelry tent at some time. There is just so very much here that is beautiful.
Jeremy Sinclair must be a remarkable man to have not only organised an event that is a celebration of life and beauty but to have done it so well and I am very glad to be a small part of it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

One car, many dragons, a long road.

Packing up work to take to Art in Action and I have lists of lists.
There is
the table list
the list of paintings
the list of tools
the clothes list
the toiletries list
the books and other reading matter list
the list of drawing boards
the list of things that won't fit on any other list and
the list of things to do before I go.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Music from clay.

I walked across the fields to Adam's studio. He had phoned earlier to say that he was opening the kiln. Swallows flew low over the grass. Further up the field a great red bull cropped grass. I walked quietly and quickly and the grass must have been sweet. He did not seem to notice.
At Adam's studio I was unprepared for the discovery that as the pots cool, once the kiln is open, the glazes sing like a quiet musical box. Beautiful.


Most of these pots will be packed up to travel to Art in Action. Two large ones still wait, drying slowly before firing and glazing. And in my garden, the white pot that I saw a few walks back. Like a fallen moon.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Paths that seduce the mind to wander

My intention was only to walk to the hill top. Every time I have walked this week my intention has been only to walk to the hill top and then back. I have so much work to do. But then I thought about Adam's pot that had been on the hill top and decided to go and see what remained. The air was all summer silk and butterflies, light slightly muted by the thinnest veil of cloud.

Where the pot had been there was now only mud, a texture of sand, a pool and a trail of what had been clay flowing over rock and lichen. Here and there a shard still held the shape crafted by skilled hand. A broken dragon's egg. In my mind, the memory of the shape that had been there.

From the top of the hill I watched a young red fox glide swift through green bracken and take cover.

It didn't take long. I walked down, intending to head home but instead a path shoulder high with willow herb and the thought of seals led me in a different dirrection, down to the sea. Two seals floated idle, sleeping in the sea. They have begun to gather. Soon the beach will echo to their cries that haunt the mind. Soon there will be seal pups.

The scent of meadowsweet and heather, salt sea and bracken, the sound of the sea and grasshopper warblers, stonechat chipping and skylark all worked to seduce me further away from home.

And all the way I thought about time, and the brief life of the pot, and the stone walls made by hands that are now no more than dust, and the fact that I did have loads of work to do and that another deadline would whistle past my ears, and I had a proposal to write for a book and a contract to read and paintings to gather.

Back home I pushed it all aside, apart from the cover rough for Nursery Rhymes, and began a painting of a red fox. I will take it to Art in Action and gild it there, along with two barn owls.

 Waiting for gold leaf background to go on. Red gold if I have enough.