1st March. St Davids Day. The cats celebrate with a good idea for The Cats of the West.
Watch Tom rowing in with the crew of the Kathryn Rose at Porthgain, surfing in on a wave.
Spend the next two days off and on, listening to an exultation of skylarks at the airfield and trying to make the website align correctly. Frustrating. Yes, and a thief of time.
3rd March. Yesterday I managed to paint all day in my new working space, quiet and calm and happy to be there, with a new view out of the window. Twenty years ago my studio space was the corner of my bedroom in a shared house. Feels a little like that. No escape from work as I wake in the night and the painting is still there, asking questions that need answers.
Today was taken away with transporting paintings to Tenby Museum. This may be the last exhibition I do for a long time.
4th March. Painting all day in quiet space disturbed only by the briefest visit by Jehova's Witnesses. " Oh," they said, "you are eating. We will come back another time." I didn't realised my eating could be so repellant.
At the beach the sky was white with hail, falling in curtains from the sky. Later in the day a phone call from Cheltenham nudged me towards getting on with painting the violin.
As well as waiting for the builders to arrive I am also waiting for my weathervane that I commissioned from Karen at Greensvanes. She has drawn a sketch and then moved house and set herself up in a new workspace in Herefordshire where she has had problems with sparrows pooing in her flux! I have jackdaws nesting in the chimney, but that is different. An email from her yesterday said,
"In regards to your design, the drawing has been blown up, paper patterns
made, copper patterns cut, shaft determined, cardinals soaking, and
preliminary shaping commenced. Still probably 3 weeks work to go.....
will go to added detail, esp. on the girl,
but I am thinking of personalized the cardinals ( a snow flake, or sun and
I do love the poetic language of work and so look forward to having the piece on my roof. And Karen will be at Art in Action at Waterperry Gardens near Oxford in July, as, hopefully, will I.
5th March. Painting violin through the day. Invitation for the Tenby show sent through. For a pdf version click on the image below. The exhibition is called 'Gold', partly because this will be the exhibition with the most gold leaf in that I have ever had, and partly because I am sharing the show with the wonderful Sara Lloyd-Morris and her beautiful jewels. Sara's work is also being shown at The Imagine Gallery in Long Melford this month.
The Spanish edition of The Snow Leopard will be called Ojos de Nieve which means Eyes of Snow. I think this is beautiful. Wish I'd thought of it. Not sure of the publication date, but the publisher is thule ediciones.
Beautiful pearl coloured day today, so far too slow to start work, but violin is calling. I want to strip the varnish off another to paint on and sand the surface and maybe beach or just lighten with a thin layer of white as I miss the surface texture of the wood but like the shape. Meanwhile there are cheetahs running through my head.
9th March. Finished big hare painting. Builders came. They started work on the attic and also went off to buy a door. They asked me if I wanted the same furniture. "What on earth are they going to do," I thought' "that I need to get a new sofa?" They meant the door knob etc. Door furniture. I can see that there is a whole new language I need to learn here.
10th March. Second day with builders. I now have a hole in my ceiling where my studio used to be and plastic sheets shielding the one half of the room from all the debris. It looks like what I imagine a crime scene from CSI would look like. So far only one rat corpse has come to light, but there are probably more.
Just had commission from MBF to do this years Christmas card.
Last week Robin delivered a print for me to a client and while he was there noticed her laptop. She had a 'skin' on it, from The Snow Leopard. I asked Molly to send a photograph as I couldn't imagine what it looked like, and the photo is below. Also here is a link to where she had it done, so if anyone would like to decorate their computer in the same fashion email me for a large file size image ( paintings or gingercats) and do it. Robin is buying me a dinky computer for traveling with and I will be putting something on it, though not sure what yet.
Evening. Walking on the beach in the full moon light and our shadows meet reflections at our feet. The stars seem so very much bigger when seen from here. The white moon light shines from the waves falling foam onto the sand. All is water, moonlight, starlight and the brightest star reflected in the shining still water on the sand. I find a moment of peace and bliss in a busy day.
Too many decisions need to be made about the house, what colour to paint it, what colour to paint the doors, windows, what flooring, what this and what that. Makes my head spin. Looking at the night sky makes it stop.
12th March. My new working space fills so quickly with things and turns to chaos. A pile of books waits to be signed and delivered to Solva Woolen Mill, the hares are drying and looking forward to be taken to John who will frame it, and there are books demanding to be illustrated. Still heard nothing from Orion re Terry Pratchett sketch.
Gray day and cold and doors and windows are open and the house is full of people building and plumbing. For a while I sit here and tap and the keys, play The Mescaleros very loud, then retreat to bed to disappear into the Robin Hobb manuscript which is a refuge. There is something really nice about curling up in a warm bed working when all around people are grafting. Sweet pleasure.
!3th March. Up the hill with cats and dogs then in to work and am so pleased and relieved at how I have been able to work with the builders here. They have been really good and though at the beginning of the week there were lots of questions to be answered and materials to buy, decisions to be made, now things have settled and today I have hardly noticed they were there, apart from noises off stage! I have learnt about things like 'cutting in' and why a carpenter's pencil is shaped so strangely. The house smells of sawn wood. I have the base for a floor in the attic tied in to the roof and already one of the walls almost ready so that the timbers can come down. I have also learnt that my house was built in the strangest way. On one corner the blocks were not overlapped, so just in time the corner has now been 'tied in' and the roof has been shifting sideways, or was always a bit sideways. The attic space looks great.
The studio has its own page so progress can be followed here. Over the next coupe of months I will update and add photos, introduce the builders and even, if they let me get that close with the camera, their tattoos.
Meanwhile a few nights ago it was full moon, the Hare Moon. I had thought of sending the whole month painting only hares. Fed up with publishers (James and I have lost both the title and the cover of Starlight that we wanted) and finding painting much more mentally rewarding ( in a very selfish way as only have myself to please). For now I have started the second in the Three Hares print series, arctic hares and a full moon in praise of the Hare Moon. If the painting works out well enough I will produce a limited edition series to go with the hares and snowdrops, but this time with moon and stars. And this time although the ears are connected, as they have to be, the circle is broken at the feet, something to meditate and muse over while I paint.
Supper with Claire and Daf was wonderful. Tom and Kath Sutton and Ben and Ella were there also and Tom smelled lush.
14th March. Early rising, beach walking, singing to the sea and watching the light on the water as the morning sun rises and brings some warmth, head settling into peace. Not enough wind to hold the builders away from their other job. At the daffodil farm the sun shines through the flowers. In the field in the photograph the flowers are grown for the bulbs. Beautiful harvest.
Outside the farmhouse the red tractor carries wooden boxes full of closed up flowers all ready for the market place. This is where Fred, Rosie's brother lives.
In the field on the lane almost home the youngest lambs gather when you come to the gate. Spring.
At home the builders do come, but then have to go at lunchtime because there is a rugby match on. Fair play to them. Luckily they are home when Derek and Felicity arrived to meet me for lunch with their friend Sue, and very obligingly offer to go for lunch for me. I, however, with my light on water, builders in the house, Starlight Sailor, Tenby exhibition brain, have wandered off to Haverfordwest looking for flooring, picking up paintings from the framer and spending far too much money in the art shop on oil paints ( deciding after all these years of watercolour painting to take the plunge into oils). Luckily I made it home in time. Derek used to organize the wonderful Swansea Wordplay Festival and I cannot believe that I did not realised it was this Saturday they were coming. Unfortunately for them I had been to Haverfordwest to pick up the remaining framed pieces for the Tenby show and so I brought out the hare paintings for them to see. As a result the small hare painting from 24th February now has a new home in Swansea. So glad she has gone to a good home.
And tomorrow exciting things will happen in the attic.
Meanwhile tonight I walk out into the garden and all and any worries are swept away in wonder at the night sky. The Plough, also called The Hunter, or The Caribou is high overhead and Orion strides towards the horizon and the sea. The moon is late to rise and shooting stars sail across the ink dark sky. Bliss. I hear bats, the first of the season, hunting calls high pitched almost out of range. Across the dark the lighthouse sweeps a path of white warning.
15th March. Five in the morning, head full of things. Maybe a little worried about my crooked, higgeldey piggeldey house falling down. Also about painting with oils for the first time in years. ( Maybe wait until the builders have gone, or I am in my new studio to do this or they will be dust encrusted in moments, sticky smelly paints, so unlike watercolour.) Outside all is quiet. The sky is a mackerel dappled silver blue with a bright waning moon painting the world in a gentle light. Pale stars shine through the island patched of dark harebell blue breaks in the cloud. Foxes whisper distant starlight barking lullabies and duck on the ponds are stirring, dreams disturbed by fox song. No wind to speak of.
Years ago there were wind witches. You could go to them to buy a wind spell, a piece of string in which three knots were tied, one for a breeze, one for a storm and the third that should never be untied. To summon the wind you would loosen and untie the knot. If I had a wind spell I would use it now to keep the builders here, working on the attic.
In Tell me a Dragon there is a dragon that rides the world's winds. His rider is a weather wizard and round the dragon's neck is a knotted string.
Down at the beach early. There are few things more beautiful than the path of moonlight on sea. Watching the balance of the day change as the sun stole away the darkness and the moon paled transclucent in a harebell blue sky, behind the waves as they rose to break over the beach, I found in my head a spell for sleeping. In the east the sun was painting the sky lemon and planes wrote lines across the heavens. Stars went out of sight one by one by one. Peace of mind.
17th March. Yesterday was a tiring day. Beautiful blue sky, early morning dog walk, then off with a car load of paintings first to the building society and on to Tenby Museum to arrange paintings and deliver new ones. The meeting with the building society defied all expectations, so if all goes well in a couple of months my house will be unrecognizable. For now it is a little like living on a building site. Gavin has gone away to finish another job and Ben and Gaz told me he is much happier there and doesn't want to come back. They said John is making him cakes and all sorts! Nice try boys!
I will be putting the Tenby exhibition online. They are part of the Collector Plan run by The Arts Council of Wales. This means that paintings and jewels can be bought over a ten month period, spreading the cost out. Not sure how this works for overseas payments but details can be obtained from the gallery and museum. To see the start of the show and some of Sara's new hares click on the link to the Gold exhibition.
Meanwhile the builders not only worked on the attic but looked after the dogs for me too.
Later, two hours on the beach with Hannah in warm evening sunshine.
18th March. Last night a power cut brought me to a complete halt. Stumbling around the house in the dark in the more than unusual chaos I found a lighter and candles and lit a row of tea lights that glowed a subtle light. Then I sat on the sofa and talked to Jane who had come to deliver a print for Bob in America. We sat in the candle light, each with a glass of wine and talked and I was still. Cats gathered out of the darkness and before long I had a blanket of fur as dogs and cats positioned themselves on me and on the sofa. It is so long since I have done that. Felt the weight of things lift, and when I walked off around the village with the dogs in the starlight of a dark sky night worries drifted off.
Now the sun is rising red to gold and I can see through dirty windows that it will be another blue sky day, so am off to search for bluebells with Rebecca the beautiful and then home to paint.
The floor of the wood is a rich green of wild garlic and bluebells, but no flowers showing yet, though there were delicate wood anenomes. On the way back to Rebecca's house we saw a red kite flying low, near the hedgebanks. At Rebecca's there was a knock at the door and Tina came in, joined us for breakfast and tried to persaude me to take one or two Molly lambs for her. She has twenty. Would be tempted if I wasn't off to Milan soon. Then when I came home there were two lizards in my cheese grater, which had been returned by the badgers who had stolen it a few days earlier.
I have a staircase, well, most of one, that leads to my attic. Gavin still has not been blown back here to work. I still haven't updated my prints catalogue but will do soon and in the meantime have been photographing Jane at her print studio. I used to get my prints made for me at a large firm called Indigo Press in Liverpool. Now I get made in a very different place.
21st March. Yesterday was the opening of the Tenby exhibition, Gold. Today I received a wonderful review from Clive Barnes at IBBY for The Snow Leopard. It is a review that would make any writer or artists heart sing. Many thanks Clive. It couldn't have come on a better day. Also a rare and special thing arrived in the post, something seldom seen and the first I have had from this publisher who I have worked for for 14 years. A royalty check. Not a large one, not even a big one, but something none the less and a promise of more to come.
Earlier in the week something even more lovely arrived from a new friend in Denmark, a wonderful polar bear amulet, carved from reindeer antlers, beautiful and proving to be very lucky.
22nd March. Last night I was so tired that I went to bed and to sleep and did not here Tom come back from Bristol, where he had raced in his first gig race, at The Bristol River Race. He has blisters on his blisters and is so very happy.
24th March. Over the last few days I have learned something of unicorns, listened to birdsong so loud in the quiet of home that it hurt my ears, wondered where the builders had gone as they melted away and then found that they were coming back, which is good, driven to Tenby too many times, walked on the beach with a rag taggle dog pack, got the go ahead from Orion on the new piece for the Disc World Calendar. I have not done any painting. So today I hope to unplug the phone, ignore the builders and paint.
25th May. Last night the sounds of foxes calling hid in the music of the wind. The night was bright, but not with moonlight. Fox song brought unsettled dreams. Hoping today for peace again for painting.
26th March. Today I bought a pile of sand, walked on the beach in cold rain that bit at my face and watched as the bluesky returned in time for me to drive home and paint a cat's face. Painting looks better on screen than on drawing board but you can look at a piece for too long.
Had an email from Karen at Greens Vanes with images of bear in progress and lovely to watch someone else working. When the Gold exhibition comes down in Tenby there will be a short interval before it goes on show again at The Cloisters Gallery in St Davids Cathedral Refectory, and this time there will be an addition of work by Karen ( the show will run from 5th -18th of May, though the 18th will be the day the work comes down) as well as Sara's jewelry.
The day has been cold. There as been much banging and clattering in the attic and the occasional singing.
27th March. Sitting in the attic in the early morning. The wind sings over the roof. It sounds like the sea. An ocean of air washes over the roof and the house becomes a ship at sea. Birdsong threads through windsong. Peace.
I heard on the radio this week of the tragic death of Nicholas Hughes, Ted Hughes's son. So sad. When I was working on How The Whale Became I was aware that the book was originally dedicated to Frieda and Nicholas and the stories had been written for them, read to them. It must have been a hard growing up for them both under such glare of public lights. When I asked about how they were I discovered that Frieda is an artist and poet and Nicholas had moved as far away from the glare as he could possibly get. He was described to me as handsome and charming, reclusive. I would have loved to have met him.
Later the same day..... An email from Harper Collins tells me that Robin Hobb is shortly going on a book tour and they need the cover art complete and on the book by third week in April. Someone forgot to mention that. At the moment it is in my head and I was waiting for contract and offer before beginning the work, oh, and the deadline. Meanwhile back in the house with the builders and the floor is down but the house is broken. It would seem that who ever built the extension was a little cavalier. The extension was built over the old grouted roof, the roof beams were cut through and when the dormers were put in other things were cut through with scarce regard to geometry. I had begun to worry when I saw the timber being pulled out from under the heavy slates. Rotten would have exaggerated this timber with a positive edge. I used some as kindling. It worked very well. Dry, crumbling, chocolate brown wood.
There was much sucking in of air over teeth and shaking of heads and both Gavin and Ben shook their heads a great deal while Gaz worked on, covered in dust.The upshot seems to be that we have two choices.
1. Cover it up and pretend we didn't see and face the problem in five or ten years.
2. Take the roof off the front of the house, put it in a big bin and start again.
I laughed. What else was there to do? And I am in favor of the second option. I know I should feel scared and disappointed and worried about all the expense but actually I feel really excited and can't wait! At the end of the re- roofing my attic studio will run the length of the whole house. Tonight I went up into the new space. I can see the stars from all the windows there. The house feels so good with this new space.
28th March. Rain on the windows in the attic room. Last night sat quietly watching the stars and loving the space and thinking about the changes and the roof coming off and blue dragons.
29th March. I have never felt so close to just packing in working in publishing. I feel angry and frustrated and puzzled and fed up. Stomped off up the hill in early morning light and as I moved through the landscape I left a trail of anger behind me. Skylarks sang, and the early morning sun was too warm for the time of year. We walked down to the sea and even there the air was so so still. Sitting on a rock, fuming and frustrated and feeling like things are impossible I watched a swallow, azure blue backed peach breasted and beautiful, fly swift over the water. A swallow. Then another. So beautiful and carrying summer in a trail behind them.
Back home and Gaz and Ben were already up in the attic working, and I settled down to try and push the anger and frustration in a positive direction. So, for a long time I have been wanting to update the prints page, and will be working on this for the rest of the day. To begin with, at last, I have put the new prints from The Seal Children on line.