1st July. Having had a beautiful holiday last month in Devon and on Dartmoor I have found it very difficult to settle in to work again. My head is full of things I want to paint from simple paintings of ducks and geese to twilight herons in flight. But I have deadlines so I started work on Starlight again, only to be told that after 4 months or more after the publishers had had the sample spread that the main character in the book is too young. So I have to start again. Now everything I paint looks clumsy and wrong. Two weeks ago I felt on top of the world, with The Snow Leopard getting the highland book award. Now I feel like a stupid klutz who can't paint! Could it be the new moon? Pmt? Fear of the blank page? Whatever it is I am in the Slough of Despond yet again and don't like it here. The new piece for dragons has come so close to being cut into a thousand pieces to relieve the pressure but has survived by being pushed into the darkest corner of the studio.
So, I walked with the cat down to the cliffs and thought about nothing. Which was good. It will pass and the sight of the first blooms of heather does wonders to ease the soul. Maes y Mynydd is painted with campion and foxgloves and meadowsweet flowers are just beginning to scent the air.
3rd July. No one looking over my shoulder, no one to please but myself, and this heron has been pecking away at the inside of my head for long enough. Still have images of twilight herons flapping slowly past the full moon at Two Bridges and a slow flight of a heron falling towards the river Swinbourne on Dartmoor. The gold (antique gold, thick) doesn't photograph well in the studio. Dogs have waited patiently to walk but the rain stopped me in the morning then found the hours passing in painting so it looks like twilight walking with a new moon.
4th July. Outside in the garden a blackbird is singing. Painting heron all day then off to the refectory with Ann to see Heather Bennett's exhibition. Colour and beauty, gorgeous. The show is on until 14th July and if you can't get there you can still wander the world and its washing lines and shadows at Heather's website.
6th July. Walking at Nevern by the river. Herons on the estuary.
8th July. Steadily working through ideas and sketches for Starlight, and in between the spaces walking and rowing on a beautiful dark slate heaving sea at Porthgain.
10th July. Yesterday the weather was fit only for ducks and snails and slugs and frogs. Butterflies, dragonflies, snakes ad lizards hid and shivered and waited for warmth. Buzzard and peregrine and kestrel and merlin were grounded by the weight of water that fell. Today a pale dragon emerges in my studio and there is a whisper of sunshine and washing on the line.
Sixteen years of living in this house but not gardening and the garden is a little like a stage set for sleeping beauty, all brambles and tangles of twisted roses. But amongst all the chaos islands of beauty persist.
12th July. Today is a day for butterflies and bees, for hawks to sit high and spread wings in the sunshine, a day for the lizard and snake. When I should have been painting a dragon I was walking the dogs, looking at a swathe of heaven scented meadowseet, and so almost did not notice the curled one on the path. Before he could get away with a hissing of anger at being disturbed I stole a photo. Purple patches of fresh heather begin to colour the cliffs. For the first time this year I can hear grasshoppers and crickets singing in the long grass. They may have sung before this year but today is the first day I have stood still to listen. The sound of summer.
14th July. Yesterday watched a glass-winged dragon fly hunting an insect big as a bee, catch it in flight and carry it away. Painted through the weekend and then this evening went rowing on an ink dark sea that was flat but for a few ripples patterning the water. We rowed out to where white gannets flew, where the shearwaters streamed, hundreds of birds, low to the water, barely flicking a wing, then back where a peregrine hunted the cliffs. Bird watching by boat. Bliss and blisters.
16th July. Warm day and walked at Tretio looking for cows. Heron flew lazy from the pool and dragonflies flashed in flocks above the water, rainbow wings. Slow working as I became trapped in the Megan Lindholm book, Reindeer People. In between Dragons and Starlight working on covers for the Lindholm books andtowards the end of the book find it harder and harder to put down.
18th July. Just as I put the coffee pot on the electricity went off and with it went a half hour lounging in bed with the next Megan Lindholm book ( it is work, I have to read the book to do the cover, but what wonderful work it is). So, off in a huff to give the dogs an early morning walk instead and I saw kestrel and chough, heron and buzzard, harebells and heather. The whole of St Davids Head was heavy scented from the fresh heather flowers. Back home the electricity was back on but restlessness lead to little work. The next dragon needed to be drawn but something wasn't right. Hopefully now she will be and I have a dragon and a star princess. Meanwhile I found myself trapped in someone else's blog, The Hermitage, with its wonderful medieval mythological rhyme and rhythm. The images below are pulled from the blog with kind permission of Rima Staines and clicking on them will lead you into the Hermitage, but beware. Make sure you have lots of time.
At home the house is surrounded by roses. While my neighbours opposite cover the unruly happenstance of nature with enough gravel to pave the road from here to St Davids and try and echo suburbia with pots of conifers covering the places where vetch and pimpernel grew, my garden grows wilder and wilder. A hedge of roses snags and pulls at your clothes as you near the house with echoes of fairytale and always the sweetest perfume.
And on the beach over the hill the first pup has been born. Already at least a few days old and at least a month earlier than last years first pup.
19th July. Working out another dragon and trying to put as much diversity into this book as possible, so the Star Princess is now Japanes and hopefully will ride across a starfilled sky with a crescent moon.
Trying to decide on colours for dragon and textiles. Meanwhile Debs came up to clip Bella who gets very hot in the summer with her long black coat. We now have enough spare hair from Bella, who looks a little like a shorn sheep to knit a puppy.
And while I was painting dragons Hannah and her friend Gwen were learning how to make films. Watch the results on youtube.
24th July. There are fox cubs and badger cubs, young hawks screaming from the sky, kittens and puppies and flocks of sparrow children, young blackbirds and babies. So, for the front endpapers I am painting dragon's eggs.
27th July. Walking this morning and plagued by mischievous choughs. St Davids Head still smells of warm heather, sweet honeyed scent. Kestrels fly beneath us as we walk, russet red against the clear blue sea. Later take puppy to meet the sea at Porthlliski and watch as the buzzard tempts her chick to fly by dropping food away from the nest. In between waking, painting eggs.
28th July. Still hot with a warm wind blowing and St Davids and Whitesands are heaving with people, but here it is quiet. Woke up blind with migraine, but later painted more eggs to fill the page.
29th July. Singing to the Sun is published in the Uk on 4th August but has already picked up on some reviews in the blogosphere. This one (http://beeskneesbooks.blogspot.com/2008/07/singing-to-sun.html)has to be one of my favorite reviews so far. Too much time slips through my fingers at the moment, time spent driving to Haverfordwest, hanging a small exhibition in The Pebbles Gallery in St Davids, chasing a puppy in circles trying to help to house train and then chasing Hannah to clean up when the house training falls short, trying to tame the house troll to tidiness and keep some sort of order in the kitchen and not enough time spent reading, writing or painting.
Puppy is settling in and finding her place with all the other animals and Floss is so delighted to have her very own ball with legs on. At last, someone to play with.
30th July. Working on the cake dragon who has sat waiting patiently to be finished while I worked on three others. Two more dragons are drawn out and am half way through the book. Rain bends the flowers and grasses earthwards.
Email has gone very quiet. I think all my publishers are on holiday maybe.
31st July. Rain falls and outside all is grey and inside the house is draped with sleeping gingers waiting for sunshine. Headache hammers at my brain, but inch forward with dragons. It would seem that after all the publishers are not on holiday and I have to rethink the cover idea for the dragon book, and Barefoot, who have been very patient waiting for Starlight want some artwork and I am feeling a bit besieged.
Later the same day after suffering headache all day and still feeling sick at bedtime, Barefoot have said that they will wait until dragons are done so that I can concentrate on one book at a time, which is a great relief. Rosie is settling in and can sit and stay and likes to have her collar put on because it means going out and doing interesting things. Baby dragons grow in my head and are thinking they might like a book of their own. The garden smells of wet roses and the night is full of snails and slugs. Kiffer is teaching Rosie how to sleep.