How to make a happy new year.

A conversation with a friend made me realise something. He asked how things were going and I said I was frustrated because life was getting in the way of painting. He said, “You are lucky. Some people work to live. You live to work.” Well, yes.

So, with Christmas and New Year and other expectations out of the way I have found time to get back to work.

Last year I painted, but also, for the first time ever worked on a book without first securing a publisher for it.  One Cheetah, One Cherry; a book of beautiful numbers. Now, with the book almost finished I have secured a publisher for it and am pleased to say it will be my first new book with Otter-Barry Books. Hopefully the book will be published in autumn 2016. And in the meantime I have been having fun with the front endpapers. Hidden in the gold are seven keys ( I think. There might be eight. I was tired, lost count.)


oncherry1 onecheetah1

The book is a simple 1-10 counting book. Lots of colour, pattern.

pandapainting thankyouSo, back to work. Thinking. Writing. Changes.

Nicola Davies and I are running a writing course in October at Ty Newydd, Rooted in Nature. Places are limited. There is a 10% discount if you book in January. It is booking up fast. It will be hard work for everyone, but we hope it will be good. I certainly hope to learn  a lot, although I am supposed to be teaching, but that seems to be how it works.

I have 4 or 5 books coming out next year. More on that later.

For now, I need to go and write. For now I need to go and paint. And yes, I live to work, and my work is so very tangled in my life.

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Away from work for too long, and not sure why, but now I strive to return to normality.

So, first, a walk to the beach, with time to think. I have been indoors too much. It has rained and rained. Along the fields you can hear the water draining towards the lowest point, moving towards the sea.

path In between rain, the sky is blue and clear and the path to the beach runs through the green.

greenland There are flocks. First, sheep, who do not welcome Ivy to their field. She is not good with sheep and needs always to be watched so that sheep stay safe.

flock2 Then flocks of herring gulls caught the sunlight on their wings.

flock1 Behind us the sky was deep dark with rain.


Beauty. landseasky



On the beach an alien creature had washed ashore. Goose barnacles on a bouy.

barnacles strangealien As we left the beach the light was deep golden. latelight

Home now. A new year. A book to finish, two books to begin. Time to work.

Happy New Year.

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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.

Watch this, from Nicholas Henin.

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.


Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 11.32.03



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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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