An exhibition

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.


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments


A while back I put up a post about The Quiet music of Gently Falling Snow. Usually the competitions I put out get more entries. This one disappeared quietly into electronic purgatory, but I did get a lovely entry from Holly, in the comments, so, I’m sending a copy of the book and the very rare one off print to Holly.

I’ll wrap it up and get it out into the post in the next few days.

The past few days I have been trying to finish off paintings, and also signing and doodling prints. Been a strange month, with large orders of prints coming through. Some are heading straight out to customers, some are heading to the beautiful Number Seven Dulverton.

Meanwhile it has rained, and now the sun shines, warm and beautiful.

I’ve so much work to do and need to keep my concentration and my courage. This stage in a book, working on the last few spreads, is so very, very difficult. It’s hard to focus and the news doesn’t help. Social media is a dangerous and incendiary habitat. And so, here’s a suggestion. I want to have another ‘Contest of Beauty’. Have a look at the old one from the link just before this. If you want to take part share this post, on twitter, facebook, blogs, even if it’s just showing it to someone. Then leave a comment on THIS blog post with a link to something beautiful. Art, music, writing, film, book, whatever. In a week or two I will pick a winner and send this small print, again a one off, to the winner. It’s 44 x 16cms. Not sure where it came from or why I have it. But it needs to be on a wall, not hidden in a draw.

Let’s brighten social media with beauty. Show me something beautiful.

Now, time to paint.

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Stepping Stones

This is a short blogpost, stepping stones to elsewhere. I’m struggling, being close to the end of a book. It’s always like this. It becomes a monster.

I was asked to write an article for Folklore Thursday. You can read it here: Folklore Thursday. I wrote it before America, a nation built by immigration, closed its doors to many and tumbled into unconstitutional chaos.

If you follow me on twitter you will find what I found, amazing photographs by John Piper of Maes Y Mynydd. If you don’t you can see them here. I can’t begin to tell you what a joy it was to find them, and to know that my footsteps followed those of John Piper. Wonderful to see the walls still standing.

Meanwhile, I have been blogging on my type writer.

Leave a comment on this thread, share the Folklore Thursday ( if you sign up for their newsletter you may win a copy of the book) and I will pick someone who comments to send the typed blog post to in a few days.


Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

A whisper to a shout

The world of children’s books is, from the outside, a cosy place of cuddly bears and talking animals. The reality is that it’s a tough industry to work in.

I’ve made many picture books, for children and adults to share. Now and again I wonder if someone is snuggling up to a bedtime story written and crafted by me and my publishers. But more and more these days I wonder about children who have no books, no home, no parents.And as someone who works in the industry of children’s books I feel I have an obligation to work to protect the rights of the child. No, that’s wrong. As a human being I have the obligation to protect those more vulnerable than myself.

So I ask you to help me. I don’t know what to do, but I can no longer sit by and do nothing. The news reports when you google lone child refugees are old, but pretty shameful.

24th Sept, Guardian. French hopes  Britain will honour pledges. Did we. NO. We have no honour.


4th August New fears about violence against lone children.

And even if they make it to the UK are they safe? No. As children ‘disappear’ and we have no idea where they are.

Old news. Children who have travelled alone, live alone, are lost alone. Wasted lives, damaged people. If this was your child wouldn’t you want something better? Is this the society we wish to live in.

So, what can be done? We are all busy. I don’t want to sit and wait for someone else to fix it. For now, this is all I can come up with, an attempt to bring those children to the front of the media. This is politics. Not the sham that is happening in our seats of democracy.

Every day I will tweet Theresa May, asking what she is doing, where the children are, when we are bringing more to safety. She can block me. But she can’t block everyone. So if you are on twitter retweet my tweet you can help me make a whisper into a shout. If you want to. And if you want write one of your own. One a day. No more. We don’t want to troll her. Be polite. Be kind. But be heartfelt.

If it was my child out there, vulnerable to child traffickers, and worse I would want someone to help.


I’m still learning about twitter. Have just learned to pin a tweet. I don’t want to use a hashtag, but each morning will pin a new tweet to the top of my page. It’s growing slowly. So please, help me roar.

Once a day, every day, retweet my tweet ( which I will try to do in the morning) let’s bring this back to the front of politics, where it belongs. Use social media to try and bring social change. With kindness. With intelligence.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments


As someone who often does giveaways it’s great to win one. Today a box of books turned up, from #Bookshambles.

Now Shambles helps me amble through my work often. It’s a podcast that pretends to be about books but is about more, and often surprises. I think my favourite so far is still with Noel Fielding, but not sure. It keeps me painting, as does Shortcuts by Josie Long.

So, a box….

Inside, books….. random selection.

Inside books, hidden stories……

And most loved of all this book:

which used to belong to…

and for a moment I thought it said M Thatcher, which made me laugh. I stayed in a hotel once where he was staying. I could hear through the walls the soft tones of his voice as he read his audio diary.  This is a treasure.

And The Good Book, by A C Grayling. Intrigues me. And I wonder if the previous owner made it past the first page as they have underlined two things. Might have to read the whole book to find other underlinings.

So, thank you Robin and Josie. Some I will read and some I will pass on to others, releasing them out into the wild.  And I will keep listening.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Letter to Toast.

Dear Toast
It’s a wonderful opportunity that you are offering to artists.
It would be better if you were offering a fee also.
You see, artists need money to live on.
We have mortgages, and children.
Some of us are single parents.
We have bills.
We all struggle.
So, yes, it’s a lovely idea. And it would be great to hang work in your shop also. Indeed I hang paintings of mine in some very unusual places, from a chip shop, to a fruit and veg shop to galleries, and best of all book shops and libraries.
These are all places I have chosen to hang my work and sometimes they even sell artwork for me.
But if you are offering this opportunity please understand that artists need to earn a living, and your exposure may help them. But it would be better to pay them. Because people can die of exposure.
( If you are an artist and you wish to decorate Toast’s windows for them here’s the link: Toast
If you are an artist and you are a bit hard up and chilly working in your cold studio, pop in and ask them if you can borrow some of their clothes for a bit to give them some exposure.?
Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Time, in days and weeks and months

Working away so hard on The Lost Words and hope that soon I will be able to show something of the books. In the meantime there are 38 calendars at Help Musicians, needing homes. So, I thought I would help them sell them, as many people were asking me where they could get them before christmas and shops had all sold out.

So, here is the complete calendar. 12 big images, all framable, and if you want to use as a calendar, loads of space for this.  If you would share the post, on facebook, twitter, whatever, then we can help Help Musicians sell the last of their stock and raise money for them. And if you do then leave a comment on this blog post. Tell me who you love listening to, add links if you wish, would love to hear who makes your soul sing. And now and again I will pick people to send a card to, and when all 38 are sold I will send a random handful of cards and things, from the last picture here to someone who has left a comment. Not the calendar though. I only have one. Just some cards and things….

Here’s a link to buy the calendar: Help Musicians.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments


Terry Pratchett built a world where lives had ‘lifetimes’. These were like hour glasses, but bigger. When the sand ran through, death came to collect you.

My aunt lost her voice in old age. It made me think that perhaps we were gifted with a finite number of words we could say before our allotted words ran out, so maybe speak less, and more kindly?

Reading again The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu. The second story is called State Change. In the world in which the story is set people are born with a soul that is an object, or thing that they have to keep close, care for. The central character’s soul is an ice cube.

No one expects that she will live long.

The story is beautiful, thought provoking and I love the way there are some writers, who, with so few words, can build a many layered world, and stories that live outside the edges of the pages.

The stories in this book almost seem to be like keys, the words unlocking memories. They flow like clear cool water from the page.

But this one made me think. What would my soul object be? Perhaps a paint box? Or maybe a brush? And still I think……

And so I ask, if you were born in this world where your soul was born beside you, an object, something you had to keep close, keep safe, what might that be? Not an animal, for this is not a totem creature, and animals have souls of their own. Something….

If you would think, and tell me, in the comments to this blog I will pick a person now and again and send a card, or badge or something. And if you would share that would be kind, as I would love to hear what people think….

And if you need a good book then The Paper Menagerie is one such. The title story might break your heart a little. But that can never be such a bad thing. It’s beautiful.

( The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu is published by Head of Zeus)

Posted in Uncategorized | 114 Comments

The in-between time

Two days, beside each other, and yet they could not be more different, though both began with waking, reading, walking.

But first I was tucked in bed, wrapped in cashmere and a warm, dreaming pup.

Soft light met us at the top of the hill when we walked. Pi ran circles, nose down, tail up, scouting for snipe or pheasant or woodcock, excited by every scent.

The bones of heather flowers rattled in the wind. Ivy is the colour of the wind stripped bones of heather.

We found the a songbird’s anvil.

Pi is coloured like the bracken she hunts through. At the bottom of the lane The White Cat walked with Ivy. And this morning the same tree was lit bright against blue sky, sharp in sunshine, woven by wind. How different things look seeing them in a different light.

Today we could hear the wind in the bracken at the top of the hill. Our small part of the world looked utterly beautiful.

Half way down the field I stopped to think, to look at the view and The White Cat jumped on my head. It’s what he does.

Then home to work on The Lost Words. Magpie…..wild magic robber baron, hedge chatterer, killer, pied beauty. And all the while I was musing on the shape of the soul.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Silence Like Intimacy

I painted her in 2002, at least I think it was then. I was emerging from a dark place, the break up of my marriage. I was seeing the world again as the beautiful place that it is, and I had met, or was just about to meet Robin.
She was bought from a gallery in St Davids, for a while lived near Aber Mawr, and then moved to Cornwall. Now, years later, she has come home and for a while hangs like a huge Christmas decoration on the wall by the fire, lit by globe lights.
She is called A Silence Like Intimacy. She was a spell, a wish, a desire, for peace, for calm, for love.

Threaded through her undergrowth songbirds keep guard as the two sleep and dream.

Hares also watch, guardians of the dreamers.

And because Michael had read my blog before he came with the picture he brought me a jar of preserved lemons, grown from his own lemon tree, in Cornwall. Wonderful.

She is welcome back. I will take her from the frame and get her scanned, make cards and prints, and she will be in the next calendar I make, and also in a large format book of stories woven around my bear paintings.

For now, it’s lovely to see her again. Like meeting an old friend after a long absence.

These are her sisters.


Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments