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Starlight Blog

December 08

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snow leopard, from front cover of The Snow Leopard by Jackie Morris

Into the past, 2008

Further back in time, 2007

Dim and distant past 2006

Only a memory 2005

 

studio table with Starlight sketches, January 2009

1st January. Cold bites and the earth is hard. The pool by the house is frozen fast with thick ice. There are lapwings over the house and blackbirds come to the bird feeder as the ground is too hard to search for worms. Ffion and Debs asked if we would check their horses because they had gone to Ramsey Island for New Year, so we walk across the frozen fields to smash the ice on their water trough, and somehow Larry manages to find the only place in the world where the mud is soft and sinks into a pit of slurry and mud in a field of cows, to emerge the dirtiest dog in the world. A paper boat blows over the ice pool by Penberi, watched by Rosie who licks the stone hard water, confused. And Robin wears my hat to keep his ears warm.

In between all I paint, make bread and venison casserole.

Penberi and the frozen pond with a paper boat

Larry, springer spaniel and dirtiest dog in the world

Robin Stenham in an inappropriate hat, keeping his ears warm

2nd January. Went to the hills, Tom's favorite walking place and found the world was golden and ice covered. Streams that ran down the hillside were silent and thick with ice. The sunshine played on golden grass, the air was clear, sharp and cold. In one place i found water music and a tiny waterfall with ice fingers dipping in a dark pool. We saw snipe and buzzard, ravens and a kite as well as redwing and fieldfare. On the way home called in at the butchers in Newport to stock up on pheasant and venison and bought rabbits for Tom to cook in cider. Outside the butchers a sign encouraged customers to order early for Christmas, so I tried, but they seemed to think January 2nd was a little too early! And around walking in the hills squeezed in some painting.

on top of the hills, Pembrokeshire

frost on stone, Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire

thick ice frost crystals in the Preseli hills in January

Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire in sunshine and frost

Tom Stowe in his natural habitat trying to make his old mum stomp across hills

ice fingers reaching down into a pool of fresh water in the hills

rabbits and pheasants and a sign encouraging people to order for Christmas at the butchers in Newport, Pembs

5th January. In the garden broken snail shells decorate the path and stones, brittle remnants of feasts for blackbirds. At the beach in the evening the dogs throw long shadows.

broken snail shells

sunset at Whitesands beach

6th January. The day has been full of birds and the sound of feathers. On the way up the hill with the cats a peregrine put up a field full of redwing and fieldfare. In the shelter of the green lane they did not see us, so swooped so low overhead to escape the ruthless hunter. So many birds, plover and lapwing, small waders on the beach and the fieldfare and redwing, all seeking shelter from the cold. And outside the blackbirds flock to the bird feeder as the earth is still hard from frost. In the garden I photograph pheasants in the hope of finding time to paint them on gold leaf. Meanwhile I continue to work on Starlight and hope by February to be finished.

pheasant feathers, male and female, close up on a sunny day

7th January. Today I left the camera at home. The beach was wide, the sea rolled back so far. We walked on the beach and I found

that the horizon was wrinkled with waves

over the sea white birds hunted, hundreds

small fish cut the roof of the sea with slender fins

a cormorant hunted close to shore, a frenzy of feathers

stones and shells drew patterns with water on the sand

a tunnel through the rock, secret, sculpted by water,

and though the dogs ran through I could only discover one end to it

a curtain wall of icicles at the cliff's end, fresh water dripping down to reach the salt of the sea

a perfect ginger scallop shell, a jewel from the seabed

water like opals

cliffs lit gold by the rising sun

deep pools lined with pink plants that love the salt

peace and space

a wall of iceat the end of the beach at Whitesands, Pembrokeshire

8th January. Two days could not be more different in light for while yesterday the sun set the cliffs to blaze with gold today a cloud shrouded the sky and the cliffs were dark black monochrome.

In the early morning light curlew flew in a flock overhead, calling. I sailed a paper boat in a pool carved out in curves by the sea.

paperboat in a pool on the beach in the early morning light

Yesterday Daf taught me to pluck and draw out pheasants, (the cats helped) not the kind of drawing I usually enjoy. Today I cooked them and they were wonderful, just roasted simply with strips of bacon to keep them moist, the recipe from an old old book found in a second hand shop, from a time when recipe books told you how to cook and were not all sexy photos and too much fussing. 'The Creda Housecraft Manual, a treasury of recipes and household information', simply said to cover the breast with fat bacon and cook at 375 f for 40-50 mins. There is also a chapter on how to do the washing. I think my children would like me to read that!

The Creda Book of Household Management, with recipes on how to cook without making some kind of drama out of it

Tonight, in the dark, lapwing took to the air and a fox barked a frustrated plea for wings to the night sky.

In the winter in St Davids strange things can happen. I find myself getting through the days singing Roy Orbison songs. Robin, who is lovely, yesterday sent me flowers to celebrate our anniversary. Seven years. Today 'The very Best of Roy Orbison'. The man is a glutton for punishment!

10th January. Yesterday I saw a barn owl, bright white, caught in the car headlights sitting on a fence post eating something. All evening whenever I went out into the nighttime garden I could hear her hunting and calling, calling, calling, as if something had been lost.

Both today and yesterday were full of birds, around the bird feeders and out in the fields. Today it as if the night is trying to keep back the daylight. After days of stillness the wind is rising, rattling and clattering the bracken bones. Snipe and lapwing rise from the fields as we walk and already the lapwing are beginning to dance. From the bracken a pheasant rises, calling alarm calls, looking like a flash of fire. In between walking I paint.

 

house sparrow on a clematis tangle outside the studio window in winter light

14th January. Working steadily toward the end of Starlight. I think this is the first time in a long time I have worked so consistently on one book without painting in between times. Walking in sunshine and cloud. A run in with a local farmers wife left a bad taste in my ears. Can't remember ever having quite such a rain of abusive language falling on my head. Tried to shrug it off and walk away and not take it personally, but bad feeling followed me all day. Unpleasant, and on such a beautiful sunshine day. Came home to the peace of a ginger household, a warm fire and work, which went a long way to make me feel better.

the Ram's Nose with waves breaking over in the sunshine

Ramsey Island from fields above Whitesands Beach.

15th January. Gray, dark, raining day, and cold, and the fire won't pick up and warm the house. But I think I have almost finished another spread for Starlight. Whilst waiting for paint to dry today I had an email from Sandi Baker who paints amongst other things, wonderful wolves. She flagged up for me that someone had made a film and put it on youtube with my paintings. Ordinarily there would be all kinds of copyright problems with this, but I am warmly flattered that someone has taken the time to play with my paintings, so here is a link to the film, more of a rolling slideshow.

Glyn's house in the early morning light.

18th January. Much has happened and still I concentrate on painting Starlight.

Glyn is in hospital. David Wilson gave me the right to use a couple of his photos over on the cat blog. A while back he made a program on hidden treasures of Wales. For him Glyn was one of those treasures and his portrait of Glyn in his small cottage in slanted sunlight is one of the most beautiful and poignant photographic portraits I have ever seen. On his website there is a clip from the program that includes a short interview with Glyn.

Yesterday I lazed in bed until nine for the first time in months. Usually I am up and about and down the beach with paper boats and dogs. So I missed the helicopters and location crew and Ridley Scott. They were looking for a location for the new film, Nottingham. Unperturbed by the absence of trees ( if they traveled back in time far enough Whitesands was a forest, but film budgets do not yet stretch to time travel ) they were however put off by the fact that time and tide wait for no make-up crew. Did they need to burn all that fuel to work out that by the sea the tide comes in and the tide goes out. I love his films, especially Blade Runner which will always be a great favorite of mine.

Whitesands beach with the tide out and clouds

I have new prints, this time from The Seal Children. When Starlight is finished I will remake the prints page on the website as I now have loads of prints that aren't included on the page.

dark window of old house

20th January. Days are too busy. Yesterday visited Glyn in hospital. Only a brief visit but so difficult as he just wants to come home but is so so ill. Have written about all on the cat blog.

Painting Starlight and now on the last couple of spreads so I am loosing myself in the universe and stars. Meanwhile, yesterday I was contacted by an artist working with paperboats in Scotland. Beautiful work, very organic, lots of paper, lovely boats and a competition that I will send a boat in for. Browsing her website I found that she had thrown six bottles into the sea with messages inside. So imagine how I felt down the beach this morning when I found a bottle on the beach, and inside a message! Coincidence.

 

message in a bottle, w are really nice, green bottle pink message

glass bottle on the beach

 

I carried the bottle home to open it with Hannah as she was off school. We had to smash the glass to get the paper out, and to get inside and discover the bottle's story. It had traveled from Guernsey in a month, set on its voyage by Chloe and Charlie and Jack. Hannah has written a note and I will put on in too and then we will launch it again into the sea. Meanwhile an email or two has flown across to the three.

The postman brought proofs of Tell Me a Dragon. Sometimes I think they are called proofs because they are proof that you can get to the end of a book, proof that in the past you did do some work. I dedicated the book to Terry Pratchett as a thank you for the wonderful world he made out of words, and to Oliver Postgate who brought such joy to me when I was young.

 

proofs for Tell me a Dragon

the wet path that leads to home

24th January. Even as I write I can hear the rain thundering on the roof, the door ratting and the wind cat climbing in through the cat flap as the storm builds. So much water as fallen from the sky that my house begins to be a moatted house and wellies are required to get from the car to the front door. Soon I will have frogs and toads and newts and need a boat.

Still working on Starlight.

small part of a bigger painting showing a crescent moon and a red dragon and a pirate ship on an illuminated background

Also preparing prints for people by doodling in gold paint to make each individual. My studio seems to shrink with every day that passes and only a careful camera angle makes it look reasonable. When Starlight is finished I will tidy up leaving the studio until last. Otherwise I will tidy up the studio and then sit down and paint and ignore the pit that is the rest of the house. I have new prints now, from The Seal Children, but have to wait until Starlight is done to add to the online print catalogue. They are larger than the originals, but look good.

working table with leopard print being worked on for gold whiskers

the other table in my studio, weighed down by the muddle of cd's and paper and tape and books and photocopies and an owl and a raven, and planispheres etc etc

 

Glyn is still very ill in hospital and his house waits like something in a storybook, hidden behind a high thorn hedge, for him to get better, for him to come home.

Treleddyd Fawr ottage waiting for Glyn to come home, behind a dense blackthorn hedge

28th January. The rain continued and now I have a stream flowing outside the house, clear spring water trickling down the lane and I begin to think of bottling it and designing labels. Still befuddled by stars but only half a days work left to do I think on Starlight. On the airfield the ground is covered with water, reflecting the sky. There are swans, bright white in golden marsh grass, sodden ponies, and water drips holding small pictures of the world on wire.

Today it is warm and the sun shines through a rolling bank of fog. Later, on the beach, I float a boat. The photographs look like something from the Isle of Avalon.

The news of Glyn is not good. The ward is closed to visitors as they have 'a bug'. His confusion of mind continues. We miss him.

 

water drop hanging on barbed wire with a small picture of the sunrise held tight inside

paper boat on the beach at Whitesands, Pembrokeshire, January

 

 

 

 


©Jackie Morris