Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Small heavens and long roads.

Two days away, too busy to blog, too busy to read, almost too busy to think. I drove across Wales, picnicked in the grounds of a castle and then across England, to Letworth. I drove along wide roads, Roman roads, narrow twisting turning roads, roads tunnelled by trees and scented by the flowers of elder. I dove high roads and took low roads. On the way there I listened to a cd compiled by Tom Waits of people who have influenced him. I was shocked when "When you wish upon a star" by Cliff Edwards came on, but listened and found that it is indeed so simply beautiful. Good to hear out of context. Love it.
I followed the roads than ran through villages, Cotwold honeyed stone changing to brick and through the middle of Luton where even at 7pm on a Sunday evening shops spilled fruit and people down to the roadside. It took hours. My satnav was old fashioned, a list on a fist.

James and Marie and Gabriel looked after my ragged self and fed me tea and cake and pasta before packing me off to bed. In my room I found a shrine to Moomin.

The next two days were a whir and a blur. Howe Dell School. How can you sum that up? TAlking with Jayne Truran the following day I think she did it for me, so I will try and quote her to the best of my memory. " Howe Dell School is state education at its very finest. That is what all schools should be." So much love of learning, curiosity, energy, respect (teachers for pupils, pupils for teachers, and I suppose I only saw the ones who turned out for the evening event but engaged and wonderful parents too.) It took Debra Massey, the head, almost longer to get me into the school than it took to get the school built, but I am so very glad that I went. Hoping to have an exhibition with them next year, maybe when they have the circus there so that I can brush up on my juggling skills.
And then there was The Frances Coombe Academy the next day and Aniela was fantastic to work with as were all the children. I was very nervous of them at first and worried that they seemed a little shy and hesitant, but we all settled to work and painted together which was great for me, so I hope they enjoyed it. Before I left I saw the sixth form exhibition and the work was strong and astonishing and so accomplished. Both schools are so lucky to have such enthusiastic and committed teachers working there.
At both schools I read The Panda's Child and The Ice Bear and the Panda's Child surprised me because it is quite exciting for a picture book. I frightened a child ( but not too much I hope) and made a very lovely and beautiful woman cry.

Back home along the beautiful lanes of England I stopped at Chipping Norton to call in at a small bookshop I had seen on the net and found myself in Moleskine heaven. Fantastic bookshop. I do love independents. No celebrity trash, just beautiful books. Dangerous places though for the unsuspecting wallet.
All the way home I drove to the marvellous ranting of Eminem. Amazing. Love the verbal dexterity. Don't like the violence. Time to watch 8mile with the Tom and Hannah I think.

At home the garden is confettied with rose petals. Slugs have eaten the small lettice plants but everything else thrives and pea shoots have come up and the beetroot is growing and I found myself peering over garden walls and wanting to paint gardens. I think perhaps I have reached a time in my life when growing things in the garden has become exciting. It is raining now, and I am pleased as the ground has been so dusty dry, and I have work to do.
Shalom did not like my partridge and pear. I have to paint an angel.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Two Wolf's Brother covers and Reindeer People again.

Usually by the time I am at the end of a painting all I can see is all the things that failed to work as they should have worked. Sometimes this falls away when a piece comes back from the printers. Anyway, despite the editors at Harper Collins being pleased with teh wolves I couldn't let them lie so decided to have another go. Result? Now I am dissatisfied with two pieces. Ah well. Just have to let go and move on to the next work, so off down the beach for a short while then time to make presentation for next week's school visits in Hartfordshire.

First painting for cover

Second painting for cover

I will send both paintings to Harper collins and they can choose.


Ice and snow.

Inside the house is all Icebear, snow, reindeer and wolves. Outside the house is all sunshine and sizzle as the sun strips the dewdrops from wild roses and turns the land to dust. But the sky ripples with horse tail clouds that might bring rain.

 Took three attempts to work this painting and I am glad to see that the amber bead does glow.

Reindeer people cover, front and back.

Cloud view from my studio window.I do love these transient drawings.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Winter snow, summer sun and autumn.

Painting reindeer and wolves in the snow while the sun shines outside. 
Slugs have chomped their way along my salad leaf seedlings.

Walking this morning and already the hawthorn berries swell, two days after the middle of summer they carry a portent of autumn.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hare and the moon.

A day of reading, walking, small painting, thinking. In the daytime sky a swelling moon. In the mind a dancing hare kicks at the drum of the full moon.

Loving the luxury of losing myself in a world of words. Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas could have been written for me and there is something very special about having an intimate conection with teh geographical landscape of the novel. It is set around Dartmouth and Torcross, a place where I thought I would live at one time in my life, and a place that I love. A couple of years ago I revisited old haunts and it was every bit as wonderful as I remembered.

The small painting of the hare is for sale, unframed via The House of Golden Dreams.

How I love these days that are scented with honeysuckle and roses and the salt sea

Imagine a valley that lives beneath an ocean of air. On the floor of this ocean the air sparkles with green summer light. Senses are confused by the wealth of life. The air smells of sunshine on bracken, and a rich taste of honeysuckle scent that twists beneath the curled fern fronds. The air is thick with birdsong. Time lingers in echoes, on bone bleached lichen dappled rocks, held in stone circles, so ancient. Between the notes of birdsong even the stones sing.
At one end of the valley, the sea. Waves pull on the sand drawing patterns with a restless hand. Lazy waves n a glassy tumble and above the sea a bright white gannet hunting bright sliver darlings. Beneath the rocks sea caves smell of the salt sea.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Silver and amber and strange pathways

Some months back I was asked if I would be happy to contribute images to the Earth Pathways Diary. I was very happy to be included, and when I received a copy of the diary found some wonderful work in the pages of the diary as well as times of moonrise and other things that are good to know. Among the other artists I found Hannah Willow. Some years ago I bought a beautiful pair of earings from The Bluestone Gallery in Devizes, with hares, made by Hannah. So I looked her up, found her on facebook and after a few emails we arranged a swap. I sent her the text for Icebear and she has made me something wonderful that is like a talismanic amulet.

Not only is this beautiful to look at it is also lovely and empowering to wear with silver animals and amber beards. And being a generous soul she also made me some beautiful cat earrings.

I will be wearin the necklace and arctic hare earrings at Art in Action in July, and before then at an evening event at Howe Dell School in Hatfield where I will be reading The Icebear for the first time, and also The Panda's Child.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A river of wolves ran through my mind

Front and back cover with running wolves for Wolf's Brother by Megan Lindholm. 


In a comment Lizzie asked, "Of all the wonderful things that you have in your life - what makes you truly happy?"
Always a good thing to think about.

And I would answer differently on different days.

The memory of watching sandmartins fly.
 Seeing how my children have grown.
A brief moment after finishing a painting, when it still looks ok, before I notice all the parts that could have been better.
Sunlight and sun scent on a horse.
A row of seedlings pushing through soil in the raised bed, a small miracle.
Seeing the wind dance through a field of long grass.
Being lost inside the pages of a most excellent novel.
Catching the idea for a story.
The excultation of skylark song.
Knowing that I have the very best of friends.

Sometimes it is good to take a moment to count your blessings.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


1. Stack logs in woodshed.
2. Paint wolves.
3. Walk dogs.
4. Take a collection of curious creatures to the cathedral.
5. .Remember to leave space in the day for unexpected happenstance.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Got up. Painted. Went to bed.

Early morning walk on the airfield in sunshine. I saw
a blackbird with a worm
oxeye daisies, gorse
spiderwebs stretched over tall grass flowers
creeping buttercup
crane's bill
wild carrot, skylarks, clover, red and white
marsh orchids, yellow vetch, rattlegrass, knapweed
honeysuckle, purple vetch, cat's tail, speckled wood, plantain
stitchwort, white throats, tormentil and cinquefoil
horsetail, ragged robin, yellow iris, foxglove
and bramble bushes with a promise of berries.
Back home, I painted cats, shot arrows in the field while some paint dried, fell asleep in a pool of sunshine while glue dried a little and gilded. A parcel of books from Harper Collins contained Dragon Haven and paperbacks of Dragon Keeper as well as some treats for Tom and Hannah, both of whom are devouring books.

Monday, June 14, 2010

How I love my studio space.

A strange day of walking and distractions and writing and drawing. My studio space looks so lovely in photographs and having put a picture on facebook and made people envious I decided to take more pictures so that people can have a good look around. My cottage is small, and this time last year it had no roof. Now I have a studio, with two staircases leading to it, that runs the length of my house and has views out across to two islands and even I envy myself. If you look carefully you will see stuffed owls and Jeremy James hares.

I have a space to sit and think and write, where often all these activities turn to sleeping in sunshine. And the herbs hanging from the windows are lemon verbenna, drying after listening to Jekka MacVicar on Woman's Hour, radio 4, talking of tea and tisanes.

Eighteen years of neglect have led to a roof of honeysuckle over the ragged 'outbuildings'. In the evening they scent the garden and lanes around. In the morning they act as a sundial as I wake and know the time from how lit with early morning light they are. In the day they buzz with bees.
From my windows I can watch the flight of birds.

Start the week

1. Make list.
2. Do three covers for Harper Collins.
3. Do powerpoint and facebook invite for school visit in two weeks in Hartfordshire.
4. Roughs for nursery rhymes.
5. Write up panda story.
6. Invoice people for work done.
7. Leave time for unexpected happenings. 

In between times I have to walk dogs and look after big kids and am off to hunt snails. I am learning the names of grasses and hoping to visit some bees.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Canticle to Road Cat

A while ago I bought a book called Old Songs in a New Cafe by Robert James Waller. In the book is a story called A Canticle to Road Cat. You can read this online. It is not the best way to read something so beautiful. The best way is to take a book off a shelf, or send for a copy second hand, find a warm and sunny spot, preferably scented with roses in a garden lit by emerald light and turn the pages. If you have a cat on you knee even better. I would suggest a tissue might be useful too. Few people can write with such precise elegance as Robert James Waller. I will make the time over the next few weeks to read more of his words.


A sleeping beauty

Fish at b&b where mum and dad stayed

Lavender's blue

Four and twenty tailors

Studio table

Partridge, pear.