#SummerReadingChallenge and Dragons

On Tuesday the wonderful 3Lanes Courier company transported a whole whyr of dragons from Torquay to Hornsey Library, where they have settled all over the walls and in the windows.

d2 d hharin hornsey

The paintings will be there for a while and I will be joining them for a launch of the #SummerReadingChallenge on 8th July, 6.30- 8pm. Please do come along, bring friends, tell people. The Big Green Bookshop will have books for sale and I am happy to sign.


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“When we were we were we were young.”

It is #IBW2014 this week. For those not in the book trade this means nothing. Independent Booksellers Week.

So, here is a short story about one, or maybe it’s a book review.

Over the last year and a half I have wandered the country roads of Wales and England visiting indie bookshops, signing books, sometimes painting, sometimes talking, sometimes just simple stock signing passing throughs. In one shop inNorwich I enquired about a book I had been hearing about on the radio. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. Independently published by Galley Beggar Press and winning all the prizes. 9 years to find a publisher with the courage to put something out there, something new, something that respects the reader. Nine years and now published by Faber.

I signed the stock in The Book Hive and then the man behind the counter handed me a copy of the book. When I went to pay he waved my hand away. “No, take it. Read it. See what you think.” Beautiful. Simple typographic cover, French folds, red endpapers. Good to hold. ” Thank you.”


I took it back to the flat we were staying in, started to read and thought “Oh my God, I can’t read this!” For it made no sense. I decided to give it away, to a friend who writes, to see what she might make of it. But I found myself going back, and back, reading over the first few word tangled pages until one sunny day it caught me. Caught and held.

It’s not an easy book to read, not because of the prose style. Four pages in and it catches in your brain and carries you. Intrigues. There is something about how McBride writes and the only way I can find to describe it is that she is the writer who is closest to catching thought in words on paper that I have ever read. The book gets inside you. Inside thought, inside your head, your heart. And it twists your heart so tight. It’s about love, about growing up, about fear, about self, about family. Not an easy read. But one that pays back the reader so much.

There is a beauty to the roll of the language that tumbles into the mind’s eye. And you care. You care about the girl, about her brother, about them. And you drown in the pages every time you find and make the time to pick it up and read until it won’t let you go and you have to read to the end, the very end.

I guess when I was first interested I wanted to find out why the book was gaining so much attention, find out how it was written, see if it was a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Having read it I think not, and I would say it is more of a Cloth of Dreams, but nightmares would fit better. And the word ‘fierce’ keeps coming to mind. A fierce, furious, dark book. Do I understand how it is written. No. But I can see myself being drawn back in again and again, to look and taste the poetic prose of it as I have been with no other book recently. It inspires curiosity.

I saw the book, over and over in every indie bookshop I visited, usually given pride of place. This prize winning storm of a first novel that no other publisher would touch because they didn’t know how to market it, by Galley Beggar did. Every bookshop. So, I want to say thank you to Galley Beggar for having the courage to put this into print and having the respect for readers to know that what is good will find its way. For giving the publishing world a kick in its bland backside where publishing houses are led by marketing and respect for readers is at a low. I will be taking a good look at more titles on the Galley Beggar list, and eagerly wait to see where Eimear McBride will go from here. Where ever she does go she will walk her own path.

I think John Self catches it best in his review. “Terrible beautiful”.



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Desk. Beginning. At the end.

startAt the beginning of this year’s card for Help Musicians I moved my desks in my studio. I do this sometimes. It’s a restlessness. Something to do with settling in to new work after a long period of working. A change.

By the end of the painting new additions had entered the studio. I had been to Fishguard to buy a book. It is, after all Independent Bookshop Week, though few who do not work in the industry would know this. So buy a book from an indie bookshop now.

I also visited the wonderful Edelweiss Antiques and became haunted by a dress. The satin white dress of a long dead bride, dancing forever with a delicate fan in a case of glass. At some point the ghost bride wishes to ride on the tricycle horse, her tiny buttoned boots turning and turning the tricycle pedals.




Also, a pram, a child’s pram.



Inspiration. A wonderful shop.

In Frome I bought a cage for Duck.



Duck now feels safe from the cats, though she says that it is a trifle small and perhaps meant for a smaller bird? I also learned that Frome has a Sunday market on the first Sunday of every month. Hmmmm…….. amazing indie shops, a great bookshop, Owl, where Gladys Paulus exhibits and more, much more.

f6 f5 f4 f3 f2 f1

Love my wedding dress and my pram. Love Gladys Paulus’s stag and doe head that you can just see in the window of Owl. I love that both Frome and Fishguard have an independent bookshop in Hunting Raven Books and Seaways. Long may they prosper.





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Mary and the Leopard go to the Circus

Mary said, “What’s this?”


And I said, “it’s a very old tin of paints, Mary. From when I was a little girl.”

And Mary said, “Yes, but what is this a picture of?”

And I said, “It’s a circus, Mary.”

Mary looked at the tin for a while. She loved the colours and the lady on the horse and the little dog with the strange ruff around his neck.

And I watched and saw how much she loved the colours and I said, “Mary?” And Mary said “Yes?” And I said, “I have a book about the circus. Would you like to see?” And Mary said, “Yes please.” And Leopard came too.

circus lions

It was a big book. Full with all kinds of pictures. And we talked about how the circus would travel around putting on shows, and how people would come from miles around to see the jugglers and acrobats and animals and the beautiful ladies and the clowns. Huge crowds of people.

leopard bigtop queenoftheair

And Mary said, “Can we go to a circus?” And I said, “Yes. There’s a circus I have wanted to go to for such a long time. It’s called Gifford’s Circus. Let’s go and see them.”


And so we went, and Tamsin came too and all her family.

And Mary bought the tickets, and it wasn’t long before she was inside the ticket hut helping the beautiful lady to sell tickets.


There were circus wagons and a tent. There were clowns and tumblers and a man who was so strong. He climbed up high on balancing chairs and we watched as his shadow made patterns on the roof of the tent.


And men juggled with fire.

juggling juggling2

At the interval Mary and Leopard helped to sell refreshments and played on the wagons. Mary climbed the ropes that held the big tent up. It was so exciting.

ropes atthecircus

c2 c3 queue interval

After the interval we watched as a beautiful lady rode a spotted horse. And just for a moment all the world lived inside the canvas walls of the tent and time stood still. It was beautiful.

c5 horsesanddogs


The horse moved so fast he was like a giant blur. A gentle giant in a sawdust ring. And a lady spun around making patterns in the light. And men jumped up high and balanced and tumbled.


It was all so exciting.


And on the way home Mary said, “I’m glad there were no tigers. Or leopards. Or Bears. They didn’t look happy in the pictures in the book.” And I said, “Yes.”

Leopard yawned, worn out by the adventure.

Mary said “The circus is a bit like walking into a dream.” And I said, “Yes.”

And Mary said, “Will you paint a circus?”

“I might,” I said.

Then Mary said, “Tonight I am going to dream of the circus.”

Sweet dreams Mary.



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For the last two years or so I have worked hard and none stop, producing paintings for Song of the golden Hare, Something About a Bear for Frances Lincoln, book jackets for Robin Hobb’s books for Harper Collins, card designs for Help Musicians and Suffolk Wildlife Trust and calendar pieces and illustrations, written a book and compiled the photographs to accompany the text, as well as working on paintings and wandering the country from Cornwall to Penrith working in indie bookshops and galleries. I have pushed hard to meet deadlines, sketched, re worked covers, sometimes 3 or 4 times to get them right, promoted events, talked about books.

Today I have finished the last piece of work in what seems to have been a marathon of painting and talking and doing.

Tomorrow I have to drive to Torquay. The exhibition at the museum closes this week and I am doing 2 talks on Tuesday, and a day with schools on Wednesday.  Contact the museum if you are interested in coming along. Will be signing books on both Tues and Wed.

Going to leave the painting I have just finished to rest for a few days then send off to Help Musicians for repro.

And this evening I am going to have a rest and read a book. After I have finished packing.

The card has creatures and characters woven through it. The book monkey is there, sitting on my drum that I still hope to get restored. The fox from The Strawberry Fox is there two, but is now in love with cherries. The eel hound is wandering, and the angel cat has grown a halo to match his wings. He still rides the strange wheeled horse. Inside the floating house a minstrel lives, and the flying tiger from Cavalcade has returned, bring the peacock and an owl. And always, hares. Much Smalt was used in the making of this painting. I will leave it to settle then finish hen I return. Sometimes you just have to walk away for a while, to get a sense of the bigger picture. I feel a little fragile.

mbf2014detail2 frontdetail1 detail4 detaileel detail5 detail6

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This book changed my life.

I was 14 years old, home from school, avoiding school dinners, watching Pebble Mill at 1. Nicola Bayley came on, painting and talking about her book, Tyger Voyage, written by Richard Adams.

I had wanted to be an artist since the age of 6 and been told all the way along that I couldn’t be. I was miserable, 14, unhappy at school, with exams looming.

I decided there and then I wanted to be an illustrator.

#ThisBook changed my life.


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There’s a # trending around about Pembrokeshire and I was asked if I wanted to join in. #MyPembsPlace

I have wracked my brain to try and come up with what was required, a picture, holding up a piece of paper, with the place on, like this, from Jane Johnson, below.


But I couldn’t. How could I chose when I can’t think where  #MyPembsPlace is. It’s kind of the whole of Pembs. I love the sea, but also the woods, and the hidden winding streams. I love the hills, and the stone circles. I love the rocks, the lichens, the wind twisted trees. I love the shape of the land and the feel of the air and the smell of it too. I love the sea, colour, scent, taste of it and the cold touch and the tumbled waves of it. I love the heather in late summer, the honeysuckle hedges, the birds, the badgers, the wild of it. I love the small cottages that cling to the land under a sky so big. I love the wild roses, the stonecrop the stonechat, the lark, the birdsinging sound of it. How can I pick one place when every corner of it is so beautiful and so full of beauty?

So much so that I came to visit for the first time 22 years ago, for a weekend, and never left.

So, where, if pushed, really pushed, would I say is #MyPembsPlace?

Well. It’s here. Home. With family, friends, cats. A place to visit,  a place to live. Pembrokeshire. Beautiful.

Where is yours?


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Hound: for Suffolk Dog Day

dogHound, for Suffolk Dog Day.


33cms x 12cms

This piece is being auctioned for Suffolk Dog Day.

If you wish to take part in the auction then leave your bid as a comment below. When there have been no more bids for 48 hours I will contact the last three people who have commented to see if anyone wishes to offer more. Then the piece will go to whoever has bid the most. The winner sends the money direct to the organisation and when I have confirmation from them I will post the artwork ( anywhere in the world.)

The reserve is £75

Please share this post. Thank you.

You will have to click on the title of this post to unfurl the comments and see where the bidding stands.

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Hare: For the World Land Trust

goldenharewltSmall Golden Hare.

Watercolour. 19cms x 6cms

This piece is being auctioned to raise money for the World Land Trust. 

If you wish to take part in the auction then leave your bid as a comment below. When there have been no more bids for 48 hours I will contact the last three people who have commented to see if anyone wishes to offer more. Then the piece will go to whoever has bid the most. The winner sends the money direct to the organisation and when I have confirmation from them I will post the artwork ( anywhere in the world.)

The reserve is £50

Please share this post. Thank you.

You will need to click on the title of this post to unfurl the comments below. Bidding now stands at £70.


( Auction now closed on this piece, and winner of teh auction is Lynn. Many thanks to all for taking part.)

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Two paintings, two charities.

While I was away in Suffolk at The World Land Trust I produced two paintings, one in The World Land Trust Gallery, on the last day of the exhibition. A small golden hare.


The second was at the wonderful Aldeburgh Bookshop where I painted for a day, talked to customers, listened quietly as people browsed, was nosy about what books were being bought, signed books etc. The bookshops was a wonderful place to work. At first it was so quiet which gave me time to concentrate, then all of a sudden I became visible to the people there. And they realised that they knew my work from the cards I have done every year for the Help Musicians charity. By coincidence I had worked on the rough for this year’s design the evening before, while watching Frankenstein on video ( yes, video) in the World Land Trust flat in Halesworth, so was able to show them the sketches in my sketchbook. We soon sold out of all books other than The Golden Hare, of which there was a large pile. And in between conversations I painted.


Usually when I paint I leave the picture with the bookshop, a kind of thank you to them for allowing me in and letting me take up their space. Mary had said that she wanted the picture to be auctioned for the Suffolk Dog Day.

So, now I am offering these two paintings for auction. The auctions will work like this. The two images are posted on two separate blog posts.

Reserve on the hare is £50.To bid on the hare click on the link below and leave a comment on THAT page, NOT HERE! You will also be able to see the highest bid.

The World Land Trust hare is here. (Click on the words for the hare post)





Reserve on the hound is £75. To bid on the hound, click the link below and leave a comment on THAT post. Not this one. You will also then be able to see the highest bid.

The Suffolk Dog Day Hound is here. (Click on the words for the Suffolk Dog Day post)


If you wish to take part in the auction then leave your bid as a comment below the picture you are bidding on. When there have been no more bids for 48 hours I will contact the last three people who have commented to see if anyone wishes to offer more. Then the piece will go to whoever has bid the most. The winner sends the money direct to the organisation and when I have confirmation from them I will post the artwork ( anywhere in the world.

Both are watercolours, original artwork.

Please share the two posts.

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