1st August. Woke up with two headaches, one in my head and one in the world of computers. It would seem that I have a problem with the catblog as it has been flagged up as a potential spamming site and locked down. If it is not fixed it will be deleted within 20 days. The message on the blog this morning reads, "This blog has been locked due to possible Blogger Terms of Service violations. You may not publish new posts until your blog is reviewed and unlocked. This blog will be deleted within 20 days unless you request a review." So, with a book about to come out and a publisher interested in doing a book with the cats and blogger support being impossible to contact this is a bit of a problem. Lets hope they don't delete my poor cats. Whiskers crossed!
2nd August. Would seem that there was some sort of glitch on blogger yesterday, so the gingers weren't really about to be arrested by the blog police, which is good. Glad to hear they have not been violating terms of service with their gentle ways and inter- species harmony (cat and dog, not mouse and bird).
4th August. On August 2nd the annual Round Ramsey Boat Race took place from Whitesands Beach after days of watching the wind and the weather with fingers crossed, early morning water watching by Tom, up at 3 am to check on conditions. It was windy and a bit choppy but the sun was shining when the boats headed out to catch the tide. We were there on the beach to see them return, anxious to be sure everyone had made it safely back to the beach. When I saw how Claire had mashed up her hands it made me cry.
Whilst painting Dragons had a call from Vivian French to say that Singing to the Sun was reviewed in The Sunday Times as the Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week. Lovely review, many thanks to Nicolette Jones for this.
Singing to the Sun: A Fairy Tale by Vivian French
The Sunday Times review by Nicolette Jones
French’s delightful and moving fairy tale is about a neglected boy whose aristocratic parents don’t believe in love, only in wealth and power. His sole companions are the jester and the cat. When he is sent, with these two friends, to choose a bride from three princesses who will offer, respectively, riches, might or happiness, his choice is perhaps predictable, but the outcome is not. Jackie Morris’s watercolours on cream paper show the influence of Italian Renaissance landscapes and medieval illumination. The faces are pale, haunting and sombre, the pictures have a unique and fantastical quality and her great strength is the well-observed depiction of animals — cats, dogs, donkeys and birds. Some of the story is told in the pictures, notably on the endpapers, which show what became of the minor characters. This picturebook is a beautiful, resonant, lyrically told lesson in values, including the importance of social justice and wisdom, while reminding us of the power of music
Singing to the Sun by Vivian French, illustrated by Jackie Morris Egmont £10.99
5th August. Rain and drizzle and the trees bowed low with the weight of water. Had my eyes tested and need glasses at last, and the optician gently tried to tell me that it is my age. Nearly 50. Half a century. My younger self would think this so old and yet I still feel very much like a child in the universe, naive, curious. When I could I spent the day hatching dragons from bright pebble eggs. The cats slept, curled in ammonite dreams and the dogs waited to walk and when we did sluggish moths and butterflies struggled from damp grass and overhead peregrines fought for sky.
7th August. Yesterday was a day with a mizzley morning. Dropped Hannah off at work and was amazed by the wonderful exhibition of ceramics and tapestry by Dan and Amanda Wright, pictured below. A beautiful blend of colours and textures it is hard to know where to look. The exhibition is at The Cloisters Gallery in the Refectory of St Davids Cathedral and closes on August 18th. Back home painted dragon hatchlings until it was time again to collect Hannah.
Late afternoon the sky turned blue and I walked the dogs, quickly so the cats wouldn't follow, up the green lane where the ferns and grass bent low to touch the earth, heavy with the weight of water from the day's rain. On top of the hill three peregrine screamed at the sky. The seal pup is almost molted, dark gray coat hiding it against the stones of the beach and a slow worm slinked its shining way through the emerald blades of grass, perfect creature, so beautiful.
St Davids in winter is old cars and mongrels, in summer posh cars and pedigrees. So packed with people is the town, but here on top of the hill where life is beautiful there are only wild things.
Took large prints in to The Pebbles Gallery (at the top of The Pebbles, on Cross Square) where I am having an exhibition and watched in amazement as Graham hung one of the largest by rock climbing the face of the wall above the stairs. Only a small gallery in a cafe but the pictures look lovely there and downstairs there is a treasure trove of jewelry and ceramics and textiles and books. By the end of this week they should also have signed copies of Singing to the Sun and the new edition of How The Whale Became.
8th August. Whilst painting dragons I had not noticed that the wonderful illustrator Pauline Baynes had passed away. Still working right up to her death she was a great illustrator. She will be much missed.
9th August. Wandered off to paint another dragon and received some very good health and safety advice from a friend, Philip Ardagh ( tall man with beard who writes ) on how to paint dragons.
1. It's best to paint them when they're asleep.
2. Use a paint roller rather than a (tickly) paintbrush when painting around their nostrils. (You don't want to trigger a flaming sneeze.)
3. Keep the paint pots well clear of their tails. (They may twitch them in their sleep.)
4. Use paint that/which allows their scaly skin to breathe easily through it.
5. Use non-flammable paint.
10th August. A weekend of solid painting interrupted only by walking with dogs. Listening to Seth Lakeman and The Fleet Foxes, Loreena McKennit and Bob Dylan, and late Sunday evening Last Word on Radio 4 with an obituary of Pauline Baynes. Amazing to think how much of Middle Earth and Narnia is seen through her paintings, her imagining of what the creatures, from Hobbits to Aslan and the White Witch looked like. Such iconic books. I remember being shocked by the fact that all of the Narnia images where done for a flat fee and that despite their integral relationship to the stories, despite their printing into their millions, despite the visualization of the films resting heavily on her images, because that, after all, is what Narnia looks like, she never received a penny more than that original flat fee. What a shame her talent could not have been appreciated more by her publisher, as indeed it was by her many fans and the people who love the books. I had never realized before that the cover of Watership Down was her design. She was painting right to the end of her life and she died peacefully in her sleep. I could wish the same for myself. The photograph of her desk, at the bottom of Brian Sibley's posting about Pauline Baynes, Queen of Narnia and Middle Earth pulled me up sharp. I had taken a photo earlier in the day to try and sneak a look at the dragon on my drawing board, and here was Pauline's work space with the paint still wet on the paper looking as if she had just popped off to the kitchen to get a cup of tea.
14th August. The bees have been drowsy with cold, clinging to soaking flowers. Butterflies have been grounded by rain. The wind has ripped and slashed against the house, building waves to a frenzy of white horses. Meanwhile I have been trying to get used to wearing glasses for close work, for the first time ever. It seems that one day it is easy to thread a needle and the next hard to even find the needle, never mind eye.
Yesterday a wonderful small book arrived in the post, Recipes from an Old Farmhouse by Alison Uttley, illustrated by Pauline Baynes. A treat I bought, partly I suppose to celebrate the passing of such a shining star. Not sure if celebrate is the word but she seemed to have had a life well lived, so maybe it is. And the illustrations are just wonderful. A gem of a book. Today whilst painting listened to the afternoon play about John Steinbeck and King Arthur. Wonderful play and now I have to go looking for Steinbeck. Years ago I was put off his writing by being expected to read The Grapes of Wrath by an over zealous English teacher. The book meant nothing to me and was impenetrable and the teacher's wrath at my failure to read the text at least taught me the meaning of one of the words in the title. Now I know I need to go back and read him, and read his words about writing.
Some time ago I was asked to contribute a piece of work to a book being published by Frances Lincoln for Amnesty International to celebrate the International Declaration of Human Rights which is 60 years this year. The book has 30 illustrations, each for one of the rights, written in a way that makes the rights accessible to children and it is being published in 27 languages, distributed all around the world. So far I have only seen a proof of a couple of pages, but it looks great.
"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed on 10th December 1948. It was compiled after World War Two to declare and protect the rights of all people from all countries. This beautiful collection, published 60 years on, celebrates each declaration with an illustration by an internationally-renowned artist or illustrator and is the perfect gift for children and adults alike. Published in association with Amnesty International, with a foreword by David Tennant and John Boyne, We Are All Born Free Includes art work contributions from Axel Scheffler, Peter Sis, Satoshi Kitamura, Alan Lee, Polly Dunbar, Jackie Morris, Debi Gliori, Chris Riddell, Catherine and Laurence Anholt and many more! "
Looking forward to seeing the whole book. The artwork for the book is due to be exhibited and auctioned to raise funds for Amnesty International. Too see the book and order from Amnesty click here. The image below is the piece I did, for "We all have the right to rest from work and relax."
16th August. Worn out by dragons and loosing direction. Cherries are the perfect fruit, coloured to perfection in their tight stretched skin over sweet flesh. Even the hard stone that lurks inside is satisfying in its texture. So instead of drawing dragons I painted a cherry, and then worked a little on the dummy of The Ice Bear. The dragon book is sparking off many more books about dragons.
Today the weather is once more drear and dark and lowering, more like winter. Weather for butterflies to sleep through.
Meanwhile Kiffer has decided that if he licks the puppy enough she may be ginger underneath.
18th August. Yesterday ravens were flying west over the Dowrog, great black birds filling the sky. Perhaps they are looking for an ark.
20th August. Wearied by dragons and waiting to see what the ones I have done so far look like with type, and the right size ( have sent them to Frances Lincon for the designer to work on) I spent a few days working on next book, The Ice Bear, (working title only). Steady rain falls. I have become waterlogged. Around my brain a film of mould has grown and then a thick layer of damp, green moss. My heart has filled with water and the weight has pulled it down into my boots again.
And today Rosie has dug her first hole in the garden and learnt how to pick her own blackberries that she does so love, cats have curled in the house away from the rain and I have worked on a dragon curled around the ear of a child, telling stories from far away, from long ago. Evening walking in the dull light with the big dogs and Pixie and Maurice. The sea is leaden gray and swell rises over the rocks at high tide, a heavy sea. Must be the weight of all the rain that makes it move in such a sluggish way.
21st August. Sunshine warmed the day, dried the washing and brought out ragged butterflies to decorate the garden. Painted all day, a dragon curled around the ear of a Tibetan Princess, telling stories from far away and long ago. Walked the cats. Listened to "The Imagined Village" which has a wonderful modern re-working of Tam Lyn by Benjamin Zephania and other wonderful music. Children and puppy at their dad's and the house is empty, apart from two dogs and six cats, and quiet. You could hear a spider spin a web, when the music stops.
Talking to a jeweller (Sara Lloyd-Morris)who is working on making me a dragon for my ear.
28th August. Hannah's birthday on 25th. She is now 14 already. Little work has been done all week, and the deadline looms for dragons with 4 and a half spreads still to go, one of which keeps evading me. Walking in the gloomy drear of cloudy days where everything seems damp and waiting for summer to come back. Sleep is difficult to find as I wake worrying about all the things I haven't done. Meanwhile in my studio a dragon curls.
I have put new paintings into The Pebbles Gallery where the books are selling so well I can't keep up with deliveries. One is a print on canvas of the three hares, something new. I will do only 5 of any of these, but it is interesting to see something different.
29th August. More time is consumed by not painting. Today I have been to Haverfordwest to buy school uniform and other necessary things for the back to school day. Meanwhile the planners and architect s have been meeting with regards to my studio extension. At first I though this was going to prove to be a problem as I live in a National Park and there are restrictions. A bit more optimistic now, although the plans have changed massively. At the moment although my studio looks good on photos I have very little room to work, and the room next door to it is impossible, full of framed paintings and boxes of books. Fingers crossed, I will have more space.