Some time ago I was asked if I would agree to an exhibition of artwork at Compton Verney, for the art from The Lost Words. I hadn’t started work on the book then, and it’s quite a delicate time. I’d been working to complete existing contracts. I didn’t feel that I could agree to exhibit artwork that I hadn’t yet produced but felt very flattered to be asked. I’d been to Compton Verney as part of Stratford Lit fest. It’s beautiful. So I asked if I could delay an answer until I knew I could do the book.
A few months later I felt confident ( ha) and said yes, and an exhibition was timetabled in to coincide with the publication of the book. Then I went to visit the venue, meet the staff, and well, just as well it was that way round. We drove up to Compton Verney. What a place. Beautiful gardens, an astonishing house. We were met by the staff, including Antonia, who had instigated the whole thing after her parents visited cheltenham Literature festival and heard Robert ( Mr Macfarlane as I like to call him) speaking about our book. She knew of my work and contacted Hamish hamilton straight away to see if she could secure the show.
Now, it’s been a tough time for me in publishing, with my publisher, Frances Lincoln, being taken over by Quarto, and many changes happening. A very difficult few years indeed. Working with Hamish Hamilton has been an utter delight. The book and the vision of the book is very much led by myself, Robert and Alison, the designer. It’s a collaboration, a close one, with words and images informed by writer and artist and design wound around all of our vision. Hermione and Simon have smoothed our way. The book has evolved in ways that make it unrecognisable from the original vision. It has grown, and changed, but more of that later, when I can show you. But I have to say that when Antonia showed me the space in which my work would be displayed I did have a quiet cry.
And we had just looked around another show that was there, of the work of Picasso. And Quentin Blake will be showing when I am.
So, here is a link to the exhibition: The Lost Words, at Compton Verney
There will be events based around the show and at some point I will be painting in the gallery, probably gilding something. There will be books and prints and other things for sale.
I still feel overwhelmed to be invited to show at such a prestigious place. The staff were all so welcoming, and the show is being crafted by their team to show off the work to its best advantage. And I need to stop typing and go and paint as I have to finish the paintings, but first, just to put my feet back on the floor let me tell you a story.
I was looking somewhere, maybe on the Compton Verney Facebook page, to see if they had put anything up about the show yet, so that I could flag it up. I saw something saying that they had an exhibition by the nation’s favourite illustrator. Goodness me I thought, lovely of them to say so, but I best let them know that that’s a bit strong really…….given how many shops don’t stock my books etc…. Fortunately before I did I read on…. Quentin Blake! Of course! Get your feet back on the ground woman! And get that paint brush back in your hand.
So, come and see Quentin Blake, and me at Compton Verney which is a treasure-house of beauty ( with great biscuits).
And can I just say a big thank you to Antonia’s parents for going to see Robert MacFarlane at Cheltenham Literature Festival.