Reading Robin Hobb

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This morning I turned the page. There was nothing there. I was at the end of the book. And the trouble with Robin Hobb’s books is that you don’t so much read them as live them.

Finished.

Over.

One more book to go and that won’t be out for a couple of years.

Sometimes coming to the end of a Hobb book feels akin to having been pulled through a skill pillar and only those who have read her books will know what I mean.

Brilliant.

I wondered how it would be possible to love Fitz more. After all his blood is made of ink, his bones are only paper. And yet he lives and breathes.

And all of the places I love, here, in this book.

There is an alchemy about these books. How they join people from around the world, how they link readers, how reading them is something more than it is with other books. She has a pen of an Elderling, and imagination that is immense, a heart that can be hard as memory stone.

As ever between the covers, everything I wanted and much that I never knew I desired.

And so, a question. I love Fitz. He is stubborn, wilful and though he is loyal he bows to no-one and heeds his own council and is ruled by his own conscience. And I love the enigma that is The Fool, Amber, Beloved, Lord Golden.

So who is your favourite character from this epic tale of The Six Duchies, The Rainwilds and Bingtown, and what is it about them that you love?

Leave a comment below and now and again I will pick out a comment and send cards, postcards, notecards and on 25th August, my daughter’s birthday, I will send a copy of Fool’s Quest, doodled in by me, to one person picked at random from the comments.

So, let’s talk about Robin Hobb.

yes @RHI need to talk to her about the next book. She’s writing it now. I need to be thinking of the cover. I need to know what happens next.

Meanwhile, what to read?

Luckily I have this: from Manda Scott. Who is also brilliant.

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A tale of two books

newbook1Today I received my first copy of The Wild Swans. It is always a strange feeling when you first hold in your hands a finished book that you have, with your publisher, created. There is something about this one that is more special for me. But it is really a long story, a tale of two books.

Years ago, maybe in 2004, I wrote a text for a novella, a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I wrote it because I have loved the story for as long as I have known it but there were parts that puzzled me, that I didn’t understand. I thought by writing it out I would gain a better understanding. And then I spent 7 years trying to find a publisher. I had some wonderful rejection letters, most saying that they loved the book but it didn’t fit on their list anywhere. Eventually it found a home with Janetta Otter-Barry Books. Janetta and Frances Lincoln didn’t have anything like it either, but she loved the text and was willing to see how it went, and despite the marketing people saying it would be a difficult sell it sold out in 6 weeks. Since then it has been reprinted at least 3 times and it was nominated for the Carnegie award.

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It’s a book about leaving home, for the first time, about love, about honour, and perseverance. I dedicated it to my daughter and my friend. To find out more about the book have a look here.

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newbook2 newbook4Now there is a companion volume, a retelling of The Wild Swans, published in October. Written many years later, illustrated throughout I dedicated this book to Janetta and Jude, my editors, for this would be the last book I would do for them at Frances Lincoln. We worked together for 20 years. In modern publishing that is very unusual.

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The thing is, Frances Lincoln, which used to be an independent publisher, was sold to a large company, and FL is now a small part of The Quarto Group. New logo, new website, Quarto new staff, new look.

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Jude retired from the company ( and is now freelance) and Janetta has moved on to set up her own company, Otter-Barry Books, which I know many people are exited about. Her list launches in May and I am very pleased to say that The Seal Children will be on that list, re-launched as a hardback, with a new cover. So, The Wild Swans is my swansong with them at FL.

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I hope The Wild Swans is a fitting companion to East of the Sun. There were parts that came easier, others that were harder and all of the work was produced at a turbulent and uncertain time in my life. It wasn’t easy, but I hope that like a swan gliding on water, working hard beneath the surface, the struggle doesn’t show.

There are characters in the book that haven’t finished with me yet. The Queen, who runs with the wild hares. She manages to have the last word, or perhaps I should say ‘image’. And Eliza’s youngest brother, gentle Cygfa, who loves to fly.

whitequeenTogether Jude, Janetta and I produced a quite a few books. Many were translated into different languages. Some brought comfort to lost souls and magic into people’s hearts. I hope that this, our last together for Frances Lincoln, will become a treasure for people who love stories.

newbook3There will, as ever, be a launch for the book at Solva Woollen Mill. This will be on Saturday September 19th from 10.30-4pm. I will be painting at the mill and also will read from parts of the book whenever I am asked, and talk about current work, past work, dogs, cats and nonsense. So, if you can come, do come. And signed books, as always, will be available from the Mill.

It’s strange. Holding the finished copy of the book in my hands it sends shiver up and down my spine. Magic. I love books. Joanne Harris says, in her Hay Festival podcast, that writing is ‘ the closest thing to magic there is’, ‘like voodoo’. I hope when readers hold this in their hands they feel that same shiver.

 

 

 

 

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Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb; a review?

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It came, at last. The weight of the book in my hands was satisfying. The finish on the cover, the design, beautiful. I was nervous as I approached the pages.

vial piedcrowNow, on page 494, I rip myself away from between the pages to write a review. What can I say? I read in the morning, on waking, and in the evening before I go to sleep. If I wake in the night I feel fortunate to be able to read a little more. When I am not reading it I ache to be back with the book, in the Six Duchies, with Fitz and the Fool. And yet I want to read slowly. But there are times when you can’t. You just can’t and you gallop through pages only to surface breathless from the book, startled by the world around.

I have cover art to work on for The Rainwilds books, and other books to illustrate. I find myself gravitating to the book, orbiting it.

I have to go now. I need to read.

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Influence, copying, time, distance #2

oneandoneSo where did the cheetahs come from?

My studio is stuffed with things ( including cobwebs- tidying up a bit today while paint dries, I realised I need to tidy up a lot). I have pictures stuck everywhere, cards I have bought and never sent, that I love. There are books everywhere.

I’ve had this zebra since I was at college ( 30 years ago now) The colours from the card above will come out in a painting some time, if they haven’t already. The card on the side was a thank you from a small child for some books.

ceilingThe cheetahs came, I think, from medieval manuscript and Mughal painting. Also from portraits of hunting cheetahs. This book has also lived with me and inspired my art since the time I was at college in Bath, 30 years ago.

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There is a wonderful zebra in my Mughal book also. Just beautiful.

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The falconer has lived in a dusty corner of my studio for years too.

hawkingAnd longdogs feature both in Mughal art and medieval manuscripts.

longdogpicAnd then there is Pisanello who painted perhaps the most ‘copied’ hare in history ( I did a version in Song of the Golden Hare) His drawings of animals are sublime. Utterly beautiful.

pisanello-cheetah-leap-jpgAnd there is this, anonymous, maker lost in time as we all will be.

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Why cheetahs and cherries, I really couldn’t say.

I first began using gold leaf after seeing beautiful Japanese screens that had lustrous backgrounds of gold leaf squares. I think I had been to the Royal Academy and seen an exhibition of Japanese art. Again beautiful drawings, wonderful dragons, glorious design. So much to learn from a world history of art and then to take on and make my own. Which I hope is what I do.

titlep4onechAbove, title page; One Cheetah, One Cherry.

Below, two older pieces.bowlofcheetahs boc2

 

 

 

 

 

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Influence, copying, time and distance.

mydeskjuly2dogs2balls I am working on three new books at the moment. One is a delight to play with, a book of numbers. One Cheetah, One Cherry. It’s a little anarchic, but not in the flow of the numbers ( 1-10) but in the imagery, which is rich, influenced by my adoration of the medieval scribes and artists who laboured so many years ago decorating manuscripts and doodling in margins.

I know that in the past some people have criticised my books as being ‘too good for children’. It’s a criticism I am happy to try to live up to. My belief is that nothing is too good for children. But I try to design books for grown ups too. I know parents spend a great deal of time with these books.

Number two is: Two dogs, two balls, one big, one small.

Lots to talk about there including big and small.

belle ivineThe background for this work was inspired by a small illustration in a book I have, Medieval Dogs, by Kathleen Walker-Meike published by the British Museum. The painting in the book was painted around 1340 in Spain. Even so I have not copied the image but used a part in a similar way to decorate my painting. Even separated by time I feel it is only polite to do as much honour to the original, possibly Spanish anonymous artist by crediting him/her with that influence over my work. I love the beautiful paintings of this period, the colour, the pattern.

patternRecently on facebook I have seen posts. People show someone’s work, often crafts people, sometimes painters. They say “I like this, can you make me one like it?” The answer from the maker they are asking is often “Yes, I can, and cheaper”. It should be, “No. Go to that maker and ask them to make a piece like it for you. It’s their art, their idea.” Sometimes I see work that is very derivative of another artist with never a comment or a recognition of any influence to the original maker. Once I saw a comment that it was “Ok to copy someone’s work if they live a long way away from you.” How far? How far is far enough to make the theft of ideas ok? 1 mile, 50 miles, another country. It’s nonsense. I see people copying the style of inventive facebook people, down to the very made up language they use, taking their ideas for promotion, not changing them at all, speaking in someone else’s voice or voices, a strange jekyl and hyde of other people’s ideas.

Be original. Follow your own voice. Have faith in your own voice. Whether that be in words, or images, whatever your craft. Yes, we are all influenced by things around us, by work that has gone before ours. I owe a huge debt to all those anonymous scribes who laboured in cold cells to make beauty, all those Egyptian craftspeople who sculpted and painted, to Brian Wildsmith and his glorious watercolour work who taught me by looking at his work to free some colour from my soul, and many others. But I hope I have a language of my own, both in words and pictures.

There’s a strong line between influence and plagiarism. Not a fine line as some think.

I love it when I see my work popping up, shared on people’s facebook pages. I love it even more when they have tagged me, or credited me, so when images wander off, and they do, to have a life of their own, there is something that leads that stream back to the source.

( Two dogs are Ivy and Belle, sisters, Crab Hound and Eel Hound of great beauty, who posed rather elegantly whilst demanding biscuits.)

 

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Something to share

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A box arrived. Mary and Little P and Leopard opened. Inside they found cards.

They decided that it is traditional that they show the cards to people. So, here they are.

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sl5 sl4 sl3 sl2 sl1Mary and Leopard and Little P said that cards are for sharing. They said people buy them to send to people, and I said that sometimes I buy cards to keep because I like the pictures.

So Panda and Leopard and Mary said that we should share some of our cards. Mary suggested that we give away a set of the cards. This is what Little P said.

” Let’s ask people to share this blog post, if they want to, on facebook or twitter or blogs. Or they could talk to their local bookshop about the cards, or just tell a friend about them. Let’s ask them to leave a comment on this blog post. Let’s give a set of cards to someone who posts a comment on this blog post. Let’s get Leopard to pick a number and then count the comments until we get to that number and then send them 1 set of all the cards.”

And I said, “Yes. Let’s do that.”

And Mary said, ” You like writing letters, Jackie. Why not pick a person who comments, now and again and send them a card, with a note or a story in.”

And I said, ” yes”.

So, if you want to win a set of the cards leave a comment between now and August 12th and I will pick a winner some time around then, with Little P and Leopard and Mary’s help.

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The cards are available to buy, in good independent bookshops in the UK including

Cover to Cover, the Mumbles

The New Hedgehog Bookshop, Penrith

Sam Read Books, Grasmere

The New Brewery, Cirencester

Liz Hurley Books, Mevagissey

Singing Soul Gallery

Blue-ginger , Cradley, near Malvern

Lion House Gallery , Lavenham, Suffolk

Edge of the World Bookshop, Penzance, Cornwall

Labyrinth Bookshop Glastonbury

Little Feathers Gallery St Agnes, Cornwall

Hunting Raven Books  Frome, Somerset.

And also from Graffeg who will ship anywhere in the wide wild world.

( Little P and Leopard and Mary were made for me by Celestine and the Hare)

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Above photo is from Liz Hurley Books in Mevagissey in Cornwall.

 

 

 

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The Names of the Hare

On Friday I travelled to Cirencester to do an event at The New Brewery. The event coincided with The Names of the Hare exhibition, a wonderful show by many artists who use the hare to inspire work.

The show was beautifully collated and hung by Tracey and the New brewery is a wonderful venue. I hadn’t expected to meet the glorious Sophie Ryder hares and hounds outside. Such a delight. A small curled hare woman of Sophie’s sleeps on my desk where I work, amongst my paints, always dreaming.

So, feast your eyes and fill your soul.

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It had been a long drive to Cirencester, via a meeting with Graffeg and book signing and chocolate brownie at Tetbury. I was greeted by Karin, sitting outside eating scones, and then the beautiful wall of blue in the gallery. And the gallery and all the work just looked wonderful.

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The glorious pots are by Michele Cowmeadow and someone should snap them up because her work is ridiculously cheap and very very beautiful.2potsbrew1

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Below are paintings from Song of the Golden Hare and Celestine and the Hare’s wonderful felted jackalopes and leverets.centres llh canteloupes

Below is my  ‘Hare who plays with the moon’.hareplay kates

Below is glass from Tamsin Abbott. I do love her work.tamsina

Catherine Hyde’s paintings below. Have loved watching her working on her latest book.brew2

Eleanor Bartleman’s secret winged hares. Wonderful.brew3 brew4 brew5

Below is Hannah Willow’s silver hares.brew6 brew7 brew8 Below, Karen Green’s copper hare. Tracey said she was stopping working on weathervanes. Karen made the bear who flies in the wind over my house. I love my bear. And I love this hare.brew9

Below, Dinny Pococks magical witty felted hares. And Dinny, who was wearing a necklace that I covet. Love the way she thinks.brew10dp12dinnypdinnyp2

Below is ‘To Be’ by me.brew12

And Karin, who is a real person, not me, though people muddle us up and I am not sure how because she’s younger and prettier and far more daft than me, for I am serious and lyrical. And taller.artistladyweaselhatAnd below is Jen Heart’s Papercut art, which photographs so beautifully with it’s shadows and details. Jen makes t-shirts and mugs using her papercut designs too. Just lovely.

brew11 brew14 brew15 brew16 brew17There was more, so much more, but I was trying to focus on the event I had to do. Mostly I read from The Wild Swans, which may seem odd, but there are hares in the book. A woman, who is neither bad nor good, with white hair and fur slippers she keeps tucked tight under the bed, hidden. For when she puts her delicate feet into her white slippers she has the power to become a wild white hare.

I would like to thank everyone for coming to the event. Such a lovely audience. So lovely to meet a few of the artists, and to finally meet Annie, who used to work for Greenpeace and now works at The New Brewery. Annie introduced me. And it was only in those few moments as she was speaking that it dawned on me that I owe my career in children’s books to Annie. You see, Annie wanted to work with me when I was with Paperlink, a card company. And we did work together, though the card company were careful to ensure we never met. And Caroline Pitcher saw the cards I did and wrote a story and sent it to Bodley head with a few of my cards and a covering note asking if I could be the illustrator. I’ve not looked back since, and have such exiting things on the near horizon, so good to meet, take stock, enjoy such a wonderful exhib.

On the way home, tired from driving Ivy and I stopped at Drwslwyn Castle. I wish I had had time to sit and read Robin Hobb’s latest book there. It’s fantastic. And the castle, well. What a magical place. Ravens circled and danced in the clear blue. The river meandered below. The walls were thicker than I was tall, and the ghosts so numerous. At one time a small settlement had occupied this beautiful place. Now the grass is thick with grasshopper and cricket song.

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At Cirencester and at Toppings in Bath Ivy stole the show. She’s going to get her own book soon. For these are the days of the White Cat and the Grey Dog.

 

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Hunting with dogs

Morning walk, hunting with dogs. Today we were hunting hut circles, porpoise, heather, harebells,  and sunshine.

We found the porpoise rising beneath the white birds. Like us they were hunting too, but both gannet and porpoise were hunting fish.

The harebells were beautiful, delicate flowers, blown by a cool wind, hard to photograph.

And I was hunting images too. Tigers and swans, owls and elephants.

circles whitebirds sisters islandhead harebells4 stone heathersea

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Cards

There is something wonderful about having a new range of cards available after years of working in books. For years I tried to get Frances Lincoln to make cards from my books, or a calendar. Eventually I was given back my merchandising rights, as they had no plans to use them ( rather a foolish move on my naive part to sign them over to the company in the first place, but very grateful to have them back). Graffeg, who published Cat Walk were delighted to add these cards to the range of Robin Hobb cover images they already produced of mine.

I am aware that my paintings are expensive. Greetings cards allow people to decorate their walls with my images if they wish, for very little cost.

What is really wonderful about these new cards is that they are designed, printed and packed in Wales. Beautifully designed by Joana Rodrigues, who also worked on Cat Walk and Queen of the Sky, the calendar especially is just lovely.

peregrinecards hares tigers snowleopards littlebearsTo order go to Graffeg’s website. The cards are about mid page, the link with the now leopard face. Graffeg will retail and wholesale. Hope you like them.

 

 

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Taking action.

It was brought to my attention recently that a company called Wallpart.com were selling my images online. They do not have and never have had my permission to do this.

Not only do they have my work, almost 1000 pieces, offered for sale but they also have the work of thousands of other artists. Before you go to their website to see if they have your work remember this, they are a Phishing site. They will gather information, from email addresses to credit card details so DO NOT fill in their forms complaining they are using your images without permission. They know this. They don’t care. And get off their site fast, because you don’t know what forms of malware might be lurking.

I know they have images from Erin Keen, Karin Lillamy of Celestine and the Hare, Nancy Suttcliffe, Catherine Hyde, Jean Haines and many, many others.

It would seem that they have harvested these images from facebook, websites etc. All are low resolution. None would print off to give a viable product, but that’s not really what Wallpart seem to be about.

They run google adds on their website. This will give them a source of revenue. They are also, maybe, just taking payment from people, gathering credit card details etc. Who knows. The very least they are doing is attempting to steal from artists by offering their work for sale.

If you are an artist take a look at their site and if they have your images on the website then report them to Action Fraud, either online or by phone. Talk to your network of artists, friends, make them aware of the site. Reach out to your followers, buyers and supporters and tell them under NO circumstances  purchase anything from Wallpart, explaining why. The more people who take action, the more people who talk about this,  the more chance there will be of shutting them down.

They are a company based in Russia in Kostrom. Their current ISP is ENOM, but they have been moved 4 times already. You can write to Enom, I have, but received no joy there. Spread the word as much as you can to make people aware that these people are thieves. With luck it will stop anyone buying from them. Write to the Arts Council, your local MP, Baroness Neville-Rolfe ( Parliamentary Undersecretary of State and Minister for Intellectual Property).

Why should this matter?

1. I work hard to create the work I do, and am lucky to earn a fair living but many artists struggle in these times, and it is not right for these people to profit from our work. It is theft.

2. I have worked hard to build up a following for my work, not ‘fans’ as such, but people who engage with me as an artist. Along with this comes a level of trust, so when people see these images, know me, and my work, they trust the site. I don’t want people to be lured into parting with their credit cards details.

3. I have publishers who I work with including companies like Graffeg who have invested time and money into bringing out a range of cards, and hopefully soon posters of my work. They pay me a royalty and they have in house staff who depend on their sales for their income. Sites like this can put at risk legitimate companies like Graffeg who also sell online by undermining people’s confidence in purchasing online.

4. I hate to see my work alongside images of soft porn, ugly images.

So please spread the word. At the end of the day I don’t think these people are taking money directly from artists with their business practice, but what they do undermines and demeans us all.

If you have any similar experiences please use the comments here to relate them. If you can think of creative ways of fighting back please add those too. Let’s share ideas. We are creative. There must be ways to stop them. And if you are an artist then DO report them.

The one good thing about this horrible scam is that it is bringing artists together, making connections with makers and galleries all around the world, bringing people into conversation. I feel that the best thing we can do is shout as loudly as we can about it so that people who love our work don’t fall into the trap of sending them card details, ask our trade boards, The Arts Council, The Association of Illustrators, other gilds, politicians and police to do something about it, and then get on with what we do best, which is making art.

I discovered this scam when Wallpart tweeted one of my images, The Guardians. It sat on a twitterfeed surrounded by images of children and also images of soft porn. Sickening. This image is available for sale from me, as an original, as a print, but also from the Syracuse Cultural Workers in USA who have a legitimate licence to sell posters of the work.

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