Christmas. Jigsaws. Books.

Over Christmas lots of people sent me pictures of their jigsaws and books they had received. Lovely to see where they get to. And lovely to hear how many jigsaws were done.

So, if you have pictures send them to me. Say where you are and maybe who gave you them, even where they were bought if you know and i will try and build a blog post of gifts, giving, books and jigsaws.

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Above, Cathy Cooper’s, bought for her from Blue Ginger. Below, Alison Milton’s bought from Solva Woollen Mill, by her husband Hugh who also made her the most beautiful sewing box.

 

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Below, Katherine Knupp with notebooks, and smile. Beautiful.

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Below, Sarah Blenkinsop’s trove of jigsaws, from Jade Winged Dragon to Help Musicians. I think bought from Book-ish and Help Musicians themselves.

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Below, Anne Dunn. I have this one too, but in 750 pieces and am scared to take out of the box as it will be too much of a distraction. Next year I hope to do bespoke jigsaws with Wentworths with my own cut. Also talking to them about doing an ‘Easter Special’. Maybe get people to put orders in for those.

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And more:

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And now, whenever I am asked out to supper people ask if I can bring a jigsaw. So, here’s what happened at Helen’s when I took All the Bears in the Wild Wide World out for supper. It was difficult!

 

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Tattered wings; or scraperboard in progress.

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When I was young I loved Tarka the Otter, by Henry Williamson, illustrated by Tunnicliffe. Also My Friend Flicka by Mary o’Hara, also by Tunnicliffe and also using scraperboard as a medium.

The text for A Hole in the Sky is now almost done. The gold leaf paintings are finished. I have 10 scraperboards and am amazed at the expressive quality it is possible to work into this black and white medium. I want to try it with ink drawing and tone combined next, see what happens. I think I became bored with painting, and yet too cautious to try something new when deadlines are screaming at me. So, playing with scraperboard has been fun. Looking forward to seeing how they reproduce.

Meanwhile outside it is cold. The fire has just been lit. I have managed to get through the day in pj’s, more interested in working and thinking about work than in getting dressed. The cats are curled downstairs, finding their own warmth.

1c 2cThere are rumours that there will be prints from this book, maybe same size as the artwork. Some images have been scanned and I hope to see them soon.

Meanwhile, time to think about swans and hares. But I have enjoyed learning a new language and will return to play with it more often I hope.

 

 

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Studio

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Working in my studio, finding peregrines in the scraperboard, tidying up, while Mary and Little p read Mister Finch’s beautiful book.

My hare arrived. She’s beautiful. From Mike Gadd. I need to draw her. I need to paint her. The rest of the year next year will be birds, wings, feathers and mice with teapots.

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Gathering thoughts, and peregrines

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I bought these in an antique shop in Fishguard. They have been long dormant. I wonder whose they were and what images they created, and once more, what happens to artists materials when they die.

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Gilding a peregrine.

On Saturday 6th December I spent the day in the Gardens Of Wales Gallery gilding a peregrine. I had the good company of a few people while I worked and met Carl Stringer, photographer for the gardens, who watched and took photos while I worked.

Now, I hate being on what i call ‘the wrong side of the camera’. Taking photos is fine. Being photographed? no way. But you have to get used to it when you do what I do.

Carl sent me some of the images through that he had taken. Amazing. Beautiful pictures of me working. So, for those who couldn’t make it, this is how the day went. Gilding a peregrine ( I had painted the birds before hand. The rest I did there using white gold transfer leaf.)

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In between times I talked with wonderful people, including Paul, about drawing and painting, and signed a few books for people.

It was a good day.

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A hawk on the glove.

It is evening. Downstairs the fire burns.

This has been my day.

Waking early with words tangling in the mind.

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Prepping prints for a gallery who have waited patiently and walking the dogs on the beach while the gold doodles dry.

At the beach the wind and the sea are wild. On the way small birds were flung around. Now oysetrcatchers rise and ride the wind, and a redwing wanders the beach. Storm blow-ins. The sea-foam makes mountains and a dragon rests, shoulders arching from the sand, now covered with seaweed he has slept there for so long.

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Back home I head for the mill with packed up prints for the courier, sign books, sign jigsaws and Robin calls to say he won’t be home. I have been enjoying the solitude and peace of mind where-in I have been chasing the words for a story but am sad to hear his news that his mother may be dying, in her last days. She is old. Not the easiest of lives lived.

Home to more distractions that I welcome, brooding on Lottie and a long life lived and then settle beside the fire to write while the dog makes a pillow of the soft white cat and then Kevin sends the file with his news story of Ffion and the hawk, a glimpse into my studio and into the wild eyes of a peregrine. And I keep writing ‘muse’, instead of ‘mews’. But maybe they are the same thing for this book.

And I need to update my website, but for now I will leave you with this. And I will go back to the fire’s side and the slow rise and fall of the cats’ breathing, and I will write, a love story.

 

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Mary All Alone; or, Little P Hibernates.

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It was cold outside. The rain made patterns on the grey windows.

“I’ve decided to see what it’s like to hibernate,” said Little P.

“But you can’t hibernate, Little P,”said Mary. “You would have to eat too much. Pandas need to eat for up to 18 hours a day. and bears hibernate for months. And besides, who would I have left to play with?”

“I’m tired,” said Little P, “and I’ve eaten a lot. I ate three bananas, enough porridge for Goldilocks and the three bears, some choklit and a pie.”

“You’ll be cold, Little P,” said Mary. “And you haven’t got a cave.”

“It was a big pie. Bigger than me. I’ll sleep in the pram. It’s a bit like a cave. And She can draw me a hot water bottle, so I can be warm.”

So I did.

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And Little P and Mary climbed into the pram.

“Will you read me a story?” asked Little P.

And Mary said “Yes.” She was a wise bear.

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And Mary read The Ice Bear and they snuggled up close.

 

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And then she read The Snow Leopard. And Little P’s eyes started to close.

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So Mary tucked Little P up in his warm, warm cave pram, and she kissed him night night and went off to find something to do, all alone.

 

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First Mary found a book. A huge and beautiful book.

And I said, “Look Mary, it’s a special edition, signed by the people who made the book.”

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And together we looked through the pages, and while we were looking baby Arctic fox came to see.

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“Look,” he said.”This is where I live, where The Ice Bear lives, on the frozen sea.”

And Mary thought, “When Little P wakes up I must show him this book.”

 

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And Little Fox said, “Look, there’s monkeys here. John would like that.”

And Mary thought, “Yes. When Little P wakes up I’ll show him the monkeys.”

She could hear a soft and gentle snoring coming from Little P’s bed and she quietly wondered if he was dreaming.

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Mary went to see if Little P had woken up yet. But he was fast asleep.

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So Mary decided to do a jigsaw.

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As she put the pieces together Mary thought, Little P would like this. She let Little Fox put the last piece in, because Mary is a kind bear.

 

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And then she went to see if Little P was awake yet. But he was fast asleep.

Then, because Mary is a wise bear, she had an idea.

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Mary went and found the biggest bar of choklit. She hauled it up into Little P’s bed and she broke off a big piece and she started to eat, very very quietly, so as not to disturb Little P’s rest.

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Little P stirred in his sleep. Mary bit of a big piece of choklit, and began to chew. The scent of choklit drifted into Little P’s dreams.

 

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Mary bit off a piece of choklit and began to chew and Little P woke up. He sat up. He stretched and he yawned.

“I’ve been asleep for months and I’m sooooooooo hungry,” said Little P to Mary.

And Mary said, “Oh, Little P, I hope I didn’t wake you. Would you like some choklit?”

 

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And Little P said  “Yes please.”

So Mary shared the choklit and little P ate almost the whole bar, because he had been asleep for months. Well, almost 20 minutes.

And Mary gave Little P a great big hug.

“I’ve missed you Little P,” said Mary.

“And I’ve missed you too, Mary,” said Little P. “And choklit. And my hot water bottle has gone cold. Can you draw me another one , please?”

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A walk in the woods

 

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“Can we go for a walk in the woods today?” asked Little P.

“Yes,” I said. So we did. And in the wild wood we could hear the sea’s roar through the trees, from far away, like a restless lion.

Little P said, ” We’ve been here before, remember? But the wood looked different then.” He looked up into the sky.

“Oh no,” said Little P. “Someone has stolen all the leaves from the trees! Who would do such a thing?”

And I said, “Time, Little P,and the wind’s hand and the turning of the world.”

Mary smiled. She was a wise bear. “It’s autumn, Little P, maybe winter now. In autumn the leaves from some of the trees fall to the ground. But first they go golden or red like flames. The fruit and berries on trees and bushes ripen, feast for birds and for bears. Some bears hibernate in winter but first they eat as much as they can so they don’t get hungry.”

“Not all bears hibernate do they?” said Little P. He did feel a bit sleepy from walking.

“No, Little P. Not you and not me. You could never eat enough to see you though a winter, you eat so much.”

Little P smiled. He was hungry already. “I do,” he said. And inside his head he thought, I’m going to see if I can eat enough so that I can hibernate for a week.

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“Sometimes,” said Mary, ” the leaves make a carpet all over the ground, a beautiful pattern.”

“How many leaves are there on a tree, Mary?” asked Little P.

“Not as many stars as there are in the night sky,Little P,” said I.

Mary smiled. She was a wise bear. “It depends on how big the tree is Little P. And not all trees shed their leaves. Some are deciduous, which means their leaves fall in the autumn and new leaves grow again in the spring, fresh leaves, bright buds, sharp green. Some are evergreen. Their old leaves still fall to the ground, but they always wear their green clothes.”

“Like holly, and ivy?” asked Little P.

“Yes,” said Mary.

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We walked on and sat for a while in the mossy shelter. In places the wind had woven dark branches together. Copper leaves still clung tight to tender twigs.

“Sometimes in winter you can see the subtle architecture of birds nest, Little P, balanced in the trees,” I said.

“She means nests,” said Mary. Little P smiled. He loved Mary.

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We reached the beach and the wind blew hard.

“I’m cold,” said Little P, and he put his woolly hat on.

Mary and me and Little P sat for a while and we looked at the sea.

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Then we headed off, for there was work to be done, and we walked along the low path on the way back home, beside the river water as it ran to the sea. Sheltered here from the wind by all the trees we were warm again, but could still hear the fierce sea raging.

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The sun on the winter bone tree branches was beautiful. In the woods jays chased rooks and small birds called to Mary and Little P.

 

 

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Before we went home we went to the bookshop, in Fishguard. Seaways. To sign some books.  Mary and Little P were hungry from walking and Little P said he hadn’t even had breakfast so the lovely ladies of books bought him a cake that he shared with Mary, and as he ate he thought about all the leaves and how the wood had changed.

“It’s always changing,” said Mary. “And it’s always beautiful.”

“Yes,” said Little P. He looked at the cake and then he said, “If I ate all that cake do you think I might be able to hibernate for a week, Mary?”

Mary just smiled. She was a wise bear.

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The Adventures of a Small Tube of Smalt

Some time ago I sent a tweet to Winsor and Newton telling them how much I missed the colour Smalt. It was a colour Winsor and Newton had produced as a special edition anniversary colour. I used it so much in my book The Ice bear, loved its soft tones, missed it. They sent me a message to say they had one final tube in the warehouse and if I sent them my address they would post it to me.

It was so good to have this is my colour box again.

Today I painted dark beneath the savage wings of the Queen of the skies. I had to cut open the tube, wash out the last of the blue in order to do so. I thought I would celebrate the end of the life of this courageous tube of fine milled blue with a short film of some of the many images I made incorporating it into the pieces.

The works include an image for a book for Amnesty International, Suffolk Wildlife Trust Christmas Card, paintings for the fun of playing, to pay for all the bears in the wild wide world, for The Guardian online…..I will miss the smalt. The one I bought recently by another manufacturer is gritty and doesn’t flow in the same way, doesn’t build in layers as I am used to.

The peregrine painting is a wish and a prayer. There is also another wish beneath her wings. But wishes come in threes which leaves a spare wish for you. What would you wish for?

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Waiting for gold

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I painted, with the last of the smalt, the shadow beneath her wings. This is the last of the paintings of the wild hawk, now returned to her home in the sky. Tomorrow, Saturday, I will be adding gold leaf to the background and then work some more detail into the painting. This last image is my wish for her. Fair weather, soft winds, swift kills, warm blood.

This is also the very last of the small tube of smalt sent to me by Winsor and Newton. It seems fitting that the last of the paint should finish with a prayer to the wild gods. I cut the tube open to get every last remnant of pigment from the tube.

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