When work becomes so beautiful.

Years ago I was told by all, from teachers to parents to other relative, “you can’t make a living as an artist”.

Well, it’s not been an easy road to walk. Long hours, no holidays, no money, no sick pay, oh, and no pension. But…. having recently finished a very intense period of work for Hamish Hamilton, for The Lost Words, written by Robert Macfarlane (too lazy to write my own books these days), I have begun to play again. It’s what I intended to do as after 30 years of full on push ahead, book after book, always with deadlines, mortgage etc, I decided to take a sabbatical.

So, I have been playing with stones, while writing a book. (Oops, forgot I wasn’t working). And I have almost reached a point where characters set sail, so, when Ffion said she was off to Skomer for an evening on the water, did I want to come, What could I say? It’s research, after all.

It seemed that she had Sam Hobson on the boat, taking pictures of puffins, but no one else, so off we went. I left my laptop guarded by small things, dressed warm, and left the land behind, venturing out across St Bride’s bay with Falcon Boats.

We stayed around the harbour of Skomer for a while, and it was wonderful to see all the puffins. Hoping Sam fared better with his focussing than I did. So many puffins they turn the cliffs into something like a pepperpot.

Ffion did some crew training with Ben Sutton, so that he would learn the guillemot song, by John Hegley. Please listen. It’s such a perfect thing.

John Hegley – Guillemot from CLPE on Vimeo.

But it was the journey back where the light was just so awesome.


The peace of the wild, and the peace of the ocean. Sea like a mirror to the sky all twisted pewter, mercurial majesty.

Back at teh land we all went home to mine where Hannah had prepared a feast for us and we drank too much gin and wine. Then next morning, a short walk up the hill with The white Cat and raggedy hound pack. I took Ffi to visit the stone.

And unable to resist the pull of the tides, back out on the water, where I read to the passengers, from Hrafen’s Ey, unpublished, but, having crossed the Sound, past a raven’s nest, and porpoise, while skylarks sang and swallows skimmed the land, it seemed the perfect setting. Seals swam around while I read.

Here is the story, as yet unpublished, without the accompaniment of sealsong this time. I think it might be the beginning of something. AND, we will be doing trips like this, with Falcon Boats, so if you want evenings with stories and shearwaters, and supper, or bring your own, then contact Falcon Boats.

It was Pi’s first boat trip. She loved the birds, and was intrigued by the phshush of the porpoise breath.

I looked rather like a country lady with my Barber and my Pi.

Rosie loves Hannah sooooo much. 

So, research done, stories read, I guess what this post is trying to say is that you can make a living as an artist but it’s not easy. But by doing so you can make your life your work. And instead of spending money, you can spend your time, in beautiful ways. And now it’s time for me to go away to where the skylarks sing and dwell upon what it is like to be out on the water, and write the next piece, stepping stone, chapter, towards a new book. Because I forgot I was having a Sabbatical. But I will still play.

And I don’t think I have expressed myself very well here. What I am trying to say is, more than 30 years in to being a professional artist, I love my job.


About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to When work becomes so beautiful.

  1. White Bear Woman says:

    Love this post Jackie. Love Pi, esp. the ear parts, love the guillemot song, love the whole beautiful mish mash of the adventure. Thank you for sharing yourself so generously with us. Know you are loved deeply.

  2. WOL says:

    Sometimes when there is no way, when no one has blazed the trail, when the general consensus of opinion is, “You can’t get there from here,” you have to just start moving in the desired direction, take the terrain as you find it, and blaze your own trail. And if you can’t get there from here, get there from someplace else. And if you are lucky, you learn pretty quickly as you go along, that it’s not the destination that’s important anyway because, sooner or later, everybody ends up at the same place in the end. It’s the journey and where it takes you. Who you meet and what you find along the way. So, wear warm socks and sturdy shoes, and bring a friend along to share it with. Oh, and watch out for rainbows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *