3rd June. Working on my website is a little like time travelling sometimes, flicking back through the months to see how my workspace has changed. The past few days have been blue sky and butterflies and sunshine and honeysuckle and I have been down in the dumps for no reason, but plagued by increasing aches and pains and thickheaded nonsense and now tax nightmares. Oh dear.
And today the wind has swung around and the air is fresher and though I am struggling to walk I know that when I have finished the MBF card I will feel lighter of spirit. A new manuscript from Robin Hobb is in the post, new cover to be done by September and she is coming to the UK for book signing so maybe we will meet. I have to write a piece for Harper Collins about the covers of the Robin Hobb books, for their blog, so maybe will hobble up the hill with the cats this evening and string words together and watch for badgers, as there are young ones around that play and tumble.
Sometimes your body just slows you down. Desperate to walk but hobbling like an old old person I parked at Porthlliski farm and hobbled through the fields. Hedgebanks of cranesbill and foxglove and campion swarmed with butterflies. At the beach there was only birdsong and the gentlest of wave lift as the sea breathed in calm waves on the golden sand. Weight began to peel away as did trousers, for who on earth could resist a sea like this. Maybe tomorrow I will swim. For today I stood in the cold sea and watched as a heron rose on heavy wings from rocks beside the sea, carrying my spirits with it. Blessed.
Things I am doing:
1.Trying to find out more about the position of artist in residence at the new Parc's gallery in St Davids.
2. Applying for an exhibition at The Victoria Art Gallery in Bath. This would be a 'proper' exhibition that I wouldn't have to hang myself and would be on for a reasonable amount of time!
3. About to sign a contract for a nursery rhyme book. Also hopefully a cat book.
4. Trying trying trying to finish MBF card and get prints catalogue up to date and paint some owls and being distracted by ravens and facebook!
5. Working my way through The Ice Bear.
Also walking as much as is possible along cliffs filled with flowers.
And today, twenty years to the day that Tiananmen Square crushed hopes of freedom for many, I received a certificate from The English Association for a Special award for We Are All Born Free, published by Frances Lincoln for Amnesty International. The book, it is said "allows us to share with young children a vision of how things could be." Wouldn't it be wonderful if is shared a vision of how things are!
Winner for key stage 2 was one of my favorite books of last year, The Princess's Blankets by Carol Ann Duffy and Catherine Hyde. Such a beautiful book both in language and images.
5th June. Walking to Porthlliski Beach the field was filled with dusty bedraggled butterflies and it seemed there were as many as there are stars in the sky. At the beach the sea was flay calm, silver to black and too inviting, flashed with silver sand eels. There is something wonderful about putting on clothes on a beach of solitude to the sound of birdsong and seagulls.
7th June. The photograph above was supposed to be a 'before and after' shot as I avoided work by pretending to be a domestic goddess and tidy up. Although it did get tidy I then cooked supper and before I knew it everywhere was mess again, so I decided it is probably better not to bother and got on with colouring in instead. Meanwhile steady rain fell and the honeysuckle tree outside soaked it up.
Now it is almost finished and I struggle to stay awake. I want to walk to look for badgers as I saw the saddest little baby badger dead by the side of the road, so wanted to go an see if the ones up the hill were out and about, but my feet hurt and am still limping and waddling like an old old duck, and now my mouth hurts too! I think I am run down and in need of a tonic, or two, preferably with gin!
8th June. Another day of limping, two hours in the doctors and new shoes later, still limping but with no focus at all. HAd a photo though from someone who has decorated their laptop with a snow leopard skin. Looks lovely. I am happy for anyone who want to to do this to their laptop, so long as it is only theirs and they are not being roduced commercially so if you facy a skin from one of my paintings or books email me and I will send you a large file size image to use. There are lots of companies that do this but this is the only one I know details for.
9th June. Imagine. The day is overcast but warm. To one side of the path a whispered lullaby of a calm sea, to the other the song of a breeze through the tall grass, whitethroat and skylark, birdsong and butterflies. All along the path, flowers, the day's eye daisies with their eyes wide to muted sunshine, carnesbill and campion, wild thyme and stonecrop and the fresh flowers of honeysuckle holding tight to their heavy heady scent but soon to offer it up to the day's increasing warmth.
10th June. Walking again at Porthlliski and the valley that leads down to the sea is a valley of birdsong. For a while the only sound made by man is the sound of my own footfall. Blackbird and whitethroat, skylark and swallow, and the joyous song of the farthing bird, tiny wren, brown as a nut, small as a thimble and with a voice to fill the sky. This is a day of birds. Pied magpies and wagtails, oystercatchers and a lone curlew with its broken song, seagull and chough. Snake headed cormorant fish frantic in the water and stretch wings like a cross to dry in the wind. Fulmars like tiny albatross sweep the cliff tops. The intimacy of thenatural is broken only by the occasional flight of planes across the sky. The sea breaths quiet on the shore and the air tastes of honey and brine.
I am reading a wonderful book, The Girl with Glass Feet. There is somewthing about finding a book that you love that is better ever than finding clothes that fit and flatter. This book suits me very well.
The Ice Bear now has her own page. I have to complete all the art for this book by September so that the book can be proofed for Frankfurt. After this i will be working on a book of nursery rhymes, and Pixie and I are waiting for a contract for our cat book. Also at the moment Jane is putting together a cat calendar for me with images and some words from the cat blog and also a very exclusive and hand made book of the prints which will act as a catalogue for the prints, but which can also be ordered and made up, should anyone wish to buy one. More details of both to follow. You can see pictures of Jane working on the prints here. She has an amazing studio.
15th June. At Porthlliski the honeysuckle make the air seem thicker with its scent.
Painted steadily through the weekend, working on the cover for Icebear. Then went out, winkled from my studio by Hannah, to go and play with the wind and the kite. Although there was only the most gentle of breeze on the ground the kite flew and felt like I had been weightlifting with the wind afterwards. Must do that more often.
16th June. It is a blue sky day and I woke to the instant understanding that I had to start the flying raven painting again as the cropped version is so very much stronger a composition. Birds are shouting abuse at the cats in the garden, roughly translated as "your coats are all hairy and you have no wings you four legged freaks". The cats are just soaking up sunshine and purring in pleasure at another day of stretching and dreaming, rolling over and finding shade in the too long grass of the untidy garden.
Back to the drawing board for me.
Later and I have a new raven drawn out but while the house is empty of people I have been working on the back cover image. Walking with five catsup the hill I couldn't help but feel anything other than rediculous. They are like a pride of tiny lions, and all the photos seemed to show them looking like cat chains, although Elmo did some wonderful tree posing.
17th June. And the day started with wind and rain and a feeling of winter returned. The rain washed over the roof and in my studio felt the wind and the rain rattling at the bones of the house. A duck slug and snail day that gave way later and stood aside for the return of summer. I tricked the cats with food and hurried the dogs out to try and walk without them so that I could go further and faster. As it was I went further at just as slow a pace! Foxgloves and heather and honeysuckle and choughs, blue sea and warm wind and stonecrop and larksong.
19th June. Working yesterday on calendar of cats as the cats have given up waiting for a publisher to realised their potential and started self publishing. Calendars should be available next week, and the first will be 18 month calendars starting in July 2009 and continuing to December 2010. They have pictures of the cats and a little writing as well as useful dates like the cat's birthdays. Printed on lovely card each on numbered and signed with a tiny sketch of a cat by me ( the cats don't want to sign them they said ). They cost £20 plus post and you can get them by emailing me, or the cats.
Meanwhile, when I woke up this morning I found that I had grown an enormous beard!
Slow walk up the hill with four cats. Sunshine and wind on the best kind of blue sky day. A fulmar flew across. I have never before seen a fulmar fly over the land. Something about its flight gave me a very primitive sense of unease. Back at home I began to rearrange the furniture in my attic and settled to paint until Hannah came home and winkled me out like a grumpy shellfish. She went off riding with Ffion on Will, the neighbours beautiful big horse, while I cooked supper with spices that sizzled and scented the house.
23rd June. Sitting in the garden reading in the early morning. Still on The Girl with Glass Feet and it is beautiful. Waiting for the new Robin Hobb book so that I can finish reading the first book and fall into the manuscript for the second. Robin is coming to the Uk for a book tour and the new book is featured in a short film on Youtube. On Sunday I watched a wild otter swimming in the sea. Today I walked again across the cliffs where I had watched the otter, but saw only light play on the sea surface light endless fireworks, a kestrel followed by a flock of small songbirds, clear water, honeysuckle.
25th June. Walking on the cliffs today I felt so good and comfortable and happy. I had a feeling of finally having grown into myself. Calm, happy, beautiful day with air like warm silk. Nagging at the back of my mind a saying. 'Calm comes before the storm'. Home to a house circled by builders and I have to empty the front of my house so that they can take off the roof and out the floors. All day the builders circled, working, ordering things, rendering things, painting things. A skip arrived. I faffed around ineffectually, getting nothing much done and now am exhausted and have moved a bookcase. The cats, absent all day, returned as the builders' cars and vans moved away. Guess I found the perfect storm.
Oh, and my new book arrived.
Lovely note from the designer with the books. Hope this one does well. It is dedicated to Terry Pratchett.
26th June. A couple of days ago I was pulled away from the drawing board by a visit from a fellow blogger, writer and columnist and (unfortunately) golfer ( can't be all perfect). Tom, Author of Under The Paw, slave to six cats, far too young to have done so much, and an absolute cat magnet, arrived to walk with the cats for a piece that will shortly be in the Financial Times. Why the Financial Times? Well, the cats are just so good at knowing what is precious and what has little value that I suppose it is a good place for them to be. ( And then there is their cat money and habit of playing cards ) Pembrokeshire kindly put on a cloth of blue sky and warm wind and David Barnes came to take photographs. Tom was kind enough to bring the cats a copy of his book, Under the Paw, which they keep hiding from me as they don't want me finding out the secrets of all their mind controlling tricks, but when I do get chance to read it it is wonderful and witty and funny and very distracting. Bit like its author really. You can see the cats adventures by clicking this link or the photo of Elmo in his star's chair. The first is his Zoolander moment, giving his best side to David. ( I did freak David out by telling the cat to pose and give him his best look, at which point Kiffer just posed amazingly and then looked at David to say "Did you catch that, was that ok?" before disappearing into a bush for the rest of the day. (Kiffer, not David). Hope to repay the visit in March and take my camera to meet Janet and The Bear and all Tom's clan.
28th June. Much of the day was spent trying to empty the front of the house, but early evening went down to Whitesands Beach where the rowing club had gathered with gigs to row around Ransey Island. Devoran Club had come up from Cornwall and Tom Sutton must have had weather magicians working hard because the evening was glorious. Calm sea, sunshine that held its warmth long into the evening. My Tom was rowing and Robin and I turned down the chance of following the row in favor of sitting and waiting for their return. Wish now we had gone as Ralph Bird's wife took stunning pictures of the boats round the back of the island, with the water like a mirror. There are more photos of these beautiful gigs if you click on the image below or on these words.
And for amazing photos taken from the gigs going around the island click here or on the photograph, taken by Steve Lang. I couldn't work out how he took the photos while rowing but seems he was coxing and angling the boat for all the best shots and taking pics at the same time.
30th June. And so, for the past few days, maybe a week almost now, I have done nothing other than sort through the lounge and children's bedrooms, to clear the rooms in preparation for the roof coming off and being replaced. I have sorted through clothes and driven to the dump with toys for the charity shop and clothes, too small and hefted and carried and despaired. My computer has been packed up and put away, books moved, the sofa shifted to the kitchen and somehow half of the house squashed into the other half. Hannah did most of her own room, Tom helped greatly with carrying, but! And it is a big but. Tom won on the 'what is the grossest thing you can find in your room, stakes. In a sandwich box, sandwiches, from his trip to France. Three years ago!
While I was tearing out my hair and fraying my nerves and really trying to get a move on Gaz and Gavin and Ben were working on re- rendering the back of the house and it looks amazing. Awaiting painting now. Looks so good. The weather has been hot, in the childrens' rooms so very hot. So, almost there and I despair a little less and I know that it will look great when it is finished.
My computer (laptop) has decided that Facebook is not where it wants to be, so no more facebooking, though it still likes blogger. I can connect to the net once a day so will do well to get on with painting. My nerves are ragged, the weather is wonderful. In Hannah's old room, soon to be more of my studio, Gaz peeled away chipboard to reveal mouse tracks in the insulation, roof beams cut through, ancient old pegged slates and wallpaper, as well as a piece of paper that carried the date of 1956 which may be when the roof was rebuilt.
So looking forward to having done all I have to do so that I can hide away in my lofty studio and paint bears. But in the meanwhile I have finished reading The Girl with Glass Feet and it lived up to its beautiful promise from start to finish. Now I am back in the Rainwilds, finishing reading the first manuscript before moving on the the second. Reading the book is like returning to lost friends. Wonderful. Robin Hobb is on a book tour of the Uk this month and I cannot recommend her books enough.
From my studio this evening I can hear restless sheep, jackdaws and the distant sound of cathedral bells. The heat of the sun still felt on my shoulders suggests that though I ache all over I may have spent a little too much time sitting on the bench in the garden thinking about clearing the house when I should have been inside doing it.