Thursday, December 31, 2009

Walking in nursery rhyme world.

New Year's Eve and tonight a full, blue moon. So far looks like clear skies. Outside, cold. Inside, fire and sleeping cats and dogs, tired from a walk. It doesn't take long before the world begins to fit into the book I am working on. With Ice Bear, no polar bears here but a constant reminder of ravens. Today, Humpty Dumpty's wall, a cow to jump over the moon and all the pretty horses. Oh, and a flock of blackbirds that must have come out of a pie rose up from the winter bracken with a whirl of wings.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Doodle do......

There was an old woman tossed up in a basket seventy times as high as the moon. Where she was going I couldn't but ask it, for in her hand she carried a broom.

Tomorrow I hope to pick up a brush and paint.
On the beach today, wind and rain, sand and feather, a sad tideline of plastic beads.

At home, Martha decided to do a 'Durer's cat' impression. Very good.

Nursery rhyme time

My brain is waterlogged by all the rain falling from the sky. Rain slides down the windows, hammers on the roof, flows down the roads.
Nursery rhyme time. When I was little I had a book, bought for me as a present by the lady next door whose name was Ann.  I was so young that although I could write I couldn't spell my own name. I loved it, with its odd, wide eyed children.

 Some days I struggle to find focus, to settle to work. This is one of those days.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Drawing and Dreaming

Cold. Trying to get back into work. Thinking. And while I think, drawing Durer's hare in my sketchbook. The hare was painted over 500 years ago, a brief life caught so beautifully in watercolour. She was beautiful then and is beautiful now, so still, lost in her own hare thoughts.
John Clare had three hares, brought to him as leverets. They lived with him for years, followed him, sat on his knee like the woodcats they are. William Cowper  wrote a beautiful elegy to a hare.

In my studio, with the itunes on shuffle I drew, and then I took the idea of drawing and dreaming a little too seriously. I begin to doubt the wisdom of having a sofa covered in cushions, inviting, comfortable, in my studio. 
Robin came into my studio, where I had told him I was working, caught me in the act of working in my sleep.


On the beach today, four feathers from the fallen wings of Icarus.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A day of birds

It has been a day of birds. In bed this morning, sketching the tangle of roses and thorns outside the bedroom window, small birds threaded through the woven tangle. Then three great swans flew past. Later ravens hung over the dogs, buzzards rose slow into the sky, a hawk flew low along the hedges.
I drew some of the broken shards of my favorite mug, now my favorite broken mug.
Later visited a friend who has one of my gold leaf paintings on her wall. The rooks keep bright mischief eyes on the passing of time.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The wonderful world of Moleskine sketch books

I have been nosing around in other people's sketchbooks, a thing I love to do. Have loved Moleskines for ages but have only used them for writing in for a while now. I have this compulsion whenever I see them in shops to buy one. They are so satisfying, in shape and weight and paper. Small books of perfection. I have a Moleskine page a day diary that I use to write in most evenings, take something from each day that has been good and use a few words to hold it is time. And when I was at college I drew all of the time. So now and I am drawing again, on the smooth, cream paper bound in black. In my studio there are shelves of Moleskines, most with writing in, some new, all that are used with something precious kept safe in the pocket at the back, an angel, a feather, the card from someone I met somewhere, bus tickets, train tickets, theatre and cinema tickets.
And here there are other people's books to look through.
More examples here 

Drawing and dreaming, and a new toy.

For Christmas Robin, fed up of me saying "I wish I'd brought my camera with me", bought me a tiny tiny Pentax Optio WS80, waterproof and with 10 Mega Pixels ( whatever that means) and HD movie and also, amoungst its other all singing all dancing features, a way to stitch pictures together to make a wider angel. Oh fun!
So, here is the best view of my new studio that you can get without standing in it!  Note the new sofa festooned with cushions, for the moments when I am dreaming rather than drawing. 
Camera came from  the Celtic Camera Shaman, Ivan, at Celtic Vision, who is great with advice on what you need for the job you want your camera to do.

Christmas day, sunshine, rain, thunder and lightening

Christmas, peaceful, calm, quiet, bright sunshine beach walking, warm fire cozy cats. Christmas dinner with Glyn and later, watching Buffy slay vampires ( very seasonal) listening to the heavy rain on the roof and drawing cats. It seemed that the cats had plans of their own for Christmas day, which mostly involved melting in the warmth from the fire.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The language of fire

I rise early to find that the fire is still warm, the wall behind it, still warm and in the ashes bright embers glow. I feed the cats. I feed the fire. First with the fire, small pieces of card then tiny twigs and scraps of bark. Life and light and warmth begin to dance from it as kindling and the smallest logs are fed and flames dance. And all the while cats twine around, wondering why this creature is being fed first.
Yesterday Jude came round. Jude, who has had a log burner for years and was telling me how it was possible to keep one going all night. All I could say was, I tried but I can’t. Doesn’t matter what I do. And she told me how you stack it up then close down the air feeds, and I said yes, I had tried, but it just went out. So, last night I tried. This morning, the house still warm, without the chill of winter at its heart, the fire a sleeping animal waiting to be woken.
Listen more, talk less. A lesson I keep reminding myself I need to do.
But at least I listened enough this time. Thanks Jude.

I love the language of fires; wood, ember, kindling, smoke, spark, flame, warmth, ash.


The Guardians in-situ and the dreams of birds

Cold and outside rain is falling. I was sent this photograph today from a friend I was at college with. The print came back from the framers and onto the wall in minutes I think. Looking forward to visiting it, but in the meantime it is lovely to see where it is. I love seeing my paintings in their natural habitat, or maybe I just love having a nose around other people's houses.

In rain sodden fields that freeze lapwings sleep, but something disturbs their sleep tonight. They call a sharp 'pee-wit' across the fields. Perhaps a fox. Perhaps a lapwing's unquiet dreams of night flight.

Dragons and birds and thoughts that fly.

Walking early with Kiffer and the dogs over the hill. Kiffer walks like a dog, so close at heel he trips you, then bounding ahead. On the edge of hearing, lapwing calls. A flock of lapwings in my mind and then I look up. I count, eight, nine, ten. Rooks, not lapwings. It is good to remember before Christmas that you can't always get what you wish for. Hoping for a peaceful day with my children, a dog walk and some snow. And lapwings.
In my head, small gold hares, running.
In the post, a red dragon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A moment

Last night I watched as a giant hand of cloud held a golden sickle moon just above the sea. It was still early in the night and there was still much darkness ahead before the birds would sing the sun to rise again on a new day. For a while I watched the moon cupped in cloud fingers, bright, beautiful.

Musing on rejection and reviews

Searching through my studio for a picture today I found rejection letters from publishers for Tell Me a Dragon. One said "nice, but too whimsical for the current market". One said, " I like the idea of doing a dragon book with you, but this lacks any sense of narrative drive. The words serve only as a vehicle for what will be stunning images." So, how lovely to find this review, of the same book. Thanks are due to Frances Lincoln Ltd for having faith in both my writing and my painting and being very patient while I worked on The Snow Leopard and then Tell Me a Dragon.

Sometimes when I sit in my studio in my small cottage by the sea I wonder at how far my books travel. There are dragon books in Denmark, France, Sweden, Spain and America. 
And still a small dragon tugs at my thoughts, pulls at my hair. He wants his book now, his story. 
It is quiet. Dark outside and cold. Inside the house is warmed by the wood fire. I am painting  a fox and my hands smell of wood smoke.

I have had the chair where I sit to work for almost 30 years now. Before it became mine it was the barber's chair in Broadway in the Cotswolds. It has traveled with me, from the corner of a bedroom to the corner of a sitting room in Bath. It has been in a caravan in the garden that would rock when the wind blew, so much that I couldn't paint. And then it has moved around the house. Over the years the paint has rubbed off the arms and they have become smoothed and polished by touch.
Today I took delivery of a new chair. Not one to paint in, but one to sit and think and read in.

Ice roads to the sea

On the beach this morning:
A mermaid's purse
A stone like a bone
Broken seaweed wings of a sea witch
A trigger fish
Sticks, shaped and smoothed by water
Feathers from the wings of Icarus, decorated with bright frost beads

On the way home a great fox runs across the winter field, rust red with a dark, almost black bush of tail. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

Two Hares Dance


and in one hare's eye, the new moon, and in one hare's eye, the old moon.
Still working on them and wondering if, when they are framed, they will be bought by the same person, and whether they will always dance together in the world.

Too early

Waking too early I walk the dogs around the village, disorientated by early morning stars that pattern the sky in unfamiliar ways and surprised again at how quickly the world can come to light as it tips the sun back up into the sky.
Later I walk the dogs on the beach as the light begins to drain from the day. The time in between is spent drawing when possible, and making fishcakes. The recipe says, " put the fishcakes into the fridge and chill for an hour ". So, I am chilling out, and thinking of angels, dragons, nursery rhymes and a crown of hares.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Between the land and the sea, between the earth and the stars, we walk along the beach. And the crescent moon makes a wide silver path on the water. And tonight the crescent is blue, but if you look close you can see the whole of the moon, dark beside it. And so many stars shine in the sky and under foot, in water. And moonshadows stretch behind us, me and Tom, and the dogs. And flotsam on the beach becomes monsters in the dark. And the cold bites, carried on the wind, while the sea sings a lullaby to hush the world to sleep.

This is how it is

You expect the day to be a difficult one when you find the corpse of a headless rat outside your bedroom door at 6.30 in the morning. Then when you turn the lights on and the fuse blows and you are left alone, with rat, in the dark. And yesterday the bill came from the vat man, a fine, three times the amount you went over the limit by ( without noticing due to financial ignorance on a large scale ) in February of last year, and that is with a 50% reduction for ' self- registration', and in all of the following months you were below the limit but will have to pay vat on all earnings during that time. And you have to take your daughter, dressed as an elf, to Tescos, to bag shopping to raise money for their school trip to Dubai.

So, walking around the village with the dogs it is a bonus to see a fox loping across the winter field in early morning sunlight. Later, three foxes in the field at the bottom of the lane, brightest red and beautiful. Then on return from the supermarket ( which would have been pleasant as not busy until they spoiled my experience with loud and horrendous Christmas music  made worse by other shoppers singing along ) I found some time to sit and work.
Working on a large drawing of  hares dancing. A diptych. The peace of mind I find in drawing is difficult to describe and I hope to steal hours to myself to work in the days ahead. I know that I should be working on The Ice Bear, but can't, whereas this I can come and go from.

In my head; lapwings, red foxes with bright tails, red kites with wide wings and forked tails, barn owls on hushed wings over golden moors, angels resting with wings spread, a charm of gold finches, a woman with a crown of dancing hares, and the new moon in a hare's eye. 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New Beginnings

Chaos on my table, chaos in my head. Wanting to find time and space to draw. The world begins to take on the appearance of a pencil drawing as sharp winter light falls on wind twisted trees, making all things monochrome in light and shadow. Only when drawing do I find peace of mind.
So, time to make early new year resolutions. The first, to get a new sketch book and draw something, write something, every day. The second, to finish Ice Bear, stop letting life get in the way of painting, take time back into my own hands and meet the deadline for the next book. 
It is out of these two thoughts that the title for this new blogs has grown. 
Yesterday I saw a small flock of lapwings, beautiful white against dark smudged sky.