An attempt to understand.

I wish I could go back in time and walk the streets in Syrian cities. I wish I could drink in cafes, talk with people, share food and stories. I wish I could shop in bright bazaars, listen to music in the streets. I wish I could visit with artists and talk with writers and get to know the people, the place, see the museums.

I did this a couple of times in Paris, a beautiful city also.

This weekend I have sat listening to people talk of how Conservative members of parliament would contact Labour members to try and change their minds when it comes to bombing Syria. I wish I could phone the Conservative members of parliament and say, how can you ever think that further bombing can be anything other than an act of revenge? Has history taught our species nothing? Maybe this is my ‘open letter to David Cameron?

I’m an artist, what do I know about politics? It’s a game I don’t understand, but I have to say that for the first time in years I feel I have someone in office, Jeremy Corbyn, who has integrity, isn’t afraid to upset the media and stands by his life long beliefs.

So, this is what I think:

There has to be a better way to attack the criminals who seek to bring terror to our lives. How can we say that bombing Syria, an act that would kill civilians, will keep us safe on our streets here, so far away? Children will die. Men and women will die.

In Paris a man writes a letter denying the criminals who murdered his wife the gift of his hatred.His letter shows such courage.

Meanwhile in the UK only weeks after the Saudi government have sat and dined with our members of parliament, only weeks after our government have hosted an arms trade fair in London our Prime Minister says that we must bomb Syria. And yet he makes no case for why, how this will bring justice for those who have died in Syria, in Paris. And who funds ISIS? Among others are countries in the G20 it seems. Why not, instead of bombing civilians, in theatrical gestures where blood and life and limb tangle in ‘newsworthy images’, why not go after the money? Why not end the trade in arms instead of supporting it? Why not punish those who finance the violence and terror in order to maintain the status quo? Why not end the illegal trade in conflict oil, diamonds etc? Because it is too difficult? Surely not. And surely if we want to make our streets safe then cutting off the money for violent thugs would be the best way to go.

To bomb Syria would not only be a mistake, it would be immoral. Surly these people have had enough of bombs. Time perhaps, to look at where those bombs were made, who finances their purchase.  To turn the attack on those who fund Isis Daesh funding would have far more impact. One of the best articles I have read recently was in Esquire.

Last word goes to Harry Leslie Smith. We should learn from history. I stand with Harry. Wanting to do something because you feel powerless in the face of terror is not a policy that should be pursued or encouraged. No one ever wins a war. People say to me, well, what would you suggest then? We can’t just sit here and do nothing.

Well, spend the money we would spend on bombs welcoming the refugees from war to our country. Make their land safe again by removing the funding received by these insane criminals. Take away their theatre of war.Refuse to play by their rules where violence breeds violence. Stop doing business with regimes who have the most appalling human rights records. Use heads and hearts when it comes to making policy and listen to those people like Harry, like Mr Leiris.


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Bags and books

Sending some books to Scaramanga to do a special giveaway together. I’ve tried many bags but always come back to the saddlebag, which fits sketchbook, writing book, pen etc. Thinking about waterproofing it with beeswax. I write out and about. The Scottish book trust included something of this on their blog recently: Walking helps me think.


So, Scaramanga and I are going to be doing a promotional giveaway together, but for now I am sending signed books, wrapped in a parcel, with cards to include in a bag. Watch this space for more info. And meanwhile they seem to have a bit of a sale on…..

bookscardssignedwithdrawing2twobooksAnd, as always, you can get signed and dedicated copies in Solva Woollen Mill.

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Eight: Almost Finished

Eight otters juggling stones.


Dark and outside the wind is howling. Inside is warm. But I have a cold. Almost finished the counting book, head full of ideas, much to do.

Collective nouns for otters; a family, a bevy, a romp.

eight21 22 nortyotter catweaselotter1

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Finding tags

12307561_10153313756451314_7233086364555830223_o A question, found on a tag, beneath a sand glass hour timer.

On the will crag of an eerie not far from here, in the crook of a raven’s claw is the other half of…..?

I walked to the high crag, to ask the raven.

She told me;

“A locket, open, two pictures held within, but one gone..

The Promise of rain,

An opal,

A jewel,

A white swan’s feather.

A golden crown, small as a thimble,

A wish,

A shoe, worn, small as a baby’s fist.

A stone.”

And I said, ” Raven, you are a trickster, so tell me true, which of these things do you hold in the crook of your claw?”

And she said,

“The darkness of a starless night,

The curve of the new moon,

The seed of a star,

A dream.

Sorrow, I hold in the crook of my claw.

So, what will you give me if I answer you true?”

I sat. I thought.

“Respect,” I said.

She nodded, then leapt for the sky and away she flew.

And where she had stood was her gift to me,

And so I return it to you….



Tell me now and tell me true, what did she leave on the crag, on the eerie, that she had held in her short sharp claw.

In no more than 25 words, in the comments below. And I will choose someone and send then something…. a card, a badge, a something from my studio.

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Nine white mice, happy as can be, with tiny china teacups and a big pot of tea.

desktop2desktopclosedup thankyou


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The Rainwilds revisited

I first visited The Rainwilds when I worked on the covers of Robin Hobb’s brilliant books. To coincide with the publication of Fool’s Quest a ‘new look’ was commissioned by Harper Collins for the whole backlist. Amazingly I was asked to work on this. So, I got to re-read and rework all the covers, the last being The Rainwilds Chronicles.

Re-reading these books, especially in the light of having read Fool’s Quest and Fool’s Assassin I found new depths. I love the Rainwilds. If ever there was a fictional place I desire to visit it is here, preferably via a trip up the river on The Tarman and then a flight across to Kelsingra.

I’ve worked on Robin Hobb’s books for years now. One thing that has been unusual in the fluid publishing industry is that during that time I have worked with the same wonderful art editor, Dominic Forbes, and astonishing calligrapher, Stephen Raw. Working with Stephen’s lettering is a pleasure. Watch him, here. Mesmeric.

But, well, maybe because these are the last, it became something of an epic struggle.There were 9 previous books and 2 subsequent and these had to fit in with the ‘look’ of all of those.

So: lots of sketches, back and forth. As ever I spoke a great deal with Jane too, Robin’s UK editor. How to catch something of the book. To me the atmosphere of the books is rain and trees and dragon, warm, wet, river. It begins with dragons born sick, unformed, moves though triumphantly. Second time round I loved the books more.

So, sketches. doodling6 doodling5 doodling4 doodling3 doodling2 doodling1

Some were approved, some reworked. Eventually I tried to settle, with amended annotated sketches, glorious flowing lettering.

Part way through the struggle, in Cirencester Waterstones I found copies of The Liveships books which at the time had also been a struggle. They looked wonderful, really standing out amongst the other books in the fantasy section.


So, courage. I painted. Then I sent off my work with fingers crossed, to Dom, hoping he could work magic. Some of it I knew wouldn’t be used. I tend to do all of the art at least twice. All is done with watercolour and a brush, because I am what I believe is called a ‘traditional’ illustrator ( old fashioned).

intocolour onboard deskwithhobbs nope bigK

Somehow he always seems to make my work shine. And well, I do love what he has done. And I hope fans of Robin’s will like them too, and that they will draw new readers into discovering her astonishing world.


Once they are done it looks easy. It wasn’t. But it was a pleasure.

Now, like everyone else, I wait… for the final episode in this glorious tale.


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Six bright tigers, playing pat-a-cake.


I had help with my tigers from the wonderful photo set by Suzi Eszterhas, wonderful photographer of glorious wild things. I was lucky enough to meet Suzi in Seattle. Her patience, composition, artistry are just wonderful. Wander off into her website. Here’s where the tigers are.

suzistygers2 suzistigers suzi

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#PictureBookMonth no 2: Counting on things

Gremlins ate my blog post.

This week I have been working on One Cheetah, One Cherry. I have been painting elephants and tigers and changing swans into pandas and owls into weasels.

audience 5dey2 5det 5five


cookingweasels pandasandp

In between it all there was a random strawberry fox and some doodling on prints.


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Those who create, those who destroy.

History should teach us that no one has ever won a war. The war on terror is a powerful act of stupidity. This passage from Pillars of Light by Jane Johnson says so much.


Vengeance is not justice. Vengeance is just more acts of violence.

So, tell me something beautiful. Show me something beautiful. Make something beautiful. Do something beautiful.

We are living in dark times.


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#picturebookmonth No 1

It seems that November is #picturebookmonth.

As a maker of picture books it is always good to know these things.

As such I have decided to do a few posts on picture books, and have decided to begin with my own.

I just spent the morning at Solva Woollen Mill where I signed a great pile of new stock for Tom and Anna while more orders came in through their online shop. The joy of the mill for me is that they sell my books and make it possible for people to order signed, dedicated copies that they then post out world wide. I could never in a million years organise this, and at the end of the day would rather be painting. Today I signed 5 books that are Christmas presents and a few others.

So, if you want signed and dedicated books get your orders in soon as they are selling a bit fast ( especially The Wild Swans which has been getting some wonderful reviews).

Here’s a link for the web shop. They have cards and jigsaws and notecards and notebooks and calendars too…..

millknittingsheep signed 1b 2b 4b 51b 6b 6b1

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