1st May. Walking in the woods at Abermwawr and the bluebells blush the earth, new leaves colour the air emerald, birdsong fills the air, songthrush, wren, blackbird, chiffchaff, woodpecker, bluetit, greattit. Swallows and martins fly over the beach.
2nd May. Between the front and back cover of Starlight Sailor I draw and owl. Walking over the hill with Pixie and Robin and the dogs we see that the mares have given birth to foals with fragile legs. Rocking horse creatures, fresh and young, they lie in the sunshine in the shadow of the wind. Beautiful. Apple blossom fills the garden at home. Working in my new lofty studio I watch the swallows fly and see the sheep, lambs chasing black backed gulls, magpies, and buzzards haunting the stone walls. Painting and listening to Richard Burton reading Under Milk Wood with its wonderful language.
Have planned a book with Pixie Cat. She is writing it and doing quite well, so we had a business meeting together while we walk. Could be a good partnership. When she has knocked the text in to shape will see if we an get a contract together.
3rd May. The first of the red roses are about to bloom, but for now, on this bright morning, they hold their scent in close, waiting to unfurl it into a sunshine day. The early honeysuckle that roams over the house is also rich with flowers.
Tom is in the Scilly Isles with his crew at the World Gig Rowing Championships, and I hear that his crew is doing well. The gigs are great six oared wooden boats. Yeas ago they would carry pilots out to the sailing ships to guide them in to port. The fastest gig would get the prize of guiding the ship home. Some of the boats their have ancient histories, stories of rescues at sea, tales waiting to be told. Tom should be at home, revising for his GCSE's. I figure he is having more fun in the Scillys.
4th May. Finished Starlight Sailor, for the third time, though the art still has to be approved by publisher. Friends came to visit in the evening, with horses, Red and Raven and while the horses munched on the lush green grass they rank a stirrup cup of red wine. Tomorrow I have to hang an exhibition, paint the walls of my bedroom and draw an owl.
And in all the confusion and mental chaos brought on by the struggle with Starlight I forgot to mention in my journal that Joanna Lumley came to visit the cats. Not me, the cats. She is making a programme about cats and came to walk with Pixie and maurice and Elmo. Pixie was a star, completely wonderful. Elmo on the other hand disappeared himself just as the film crew arrived and then as the last car pulled away he strolled around the corner looking bright and ginger and without a care in the world. Perfect timing on his part, but a shame as he has such a face and is quite a star himself. To see pictures of the cats and Joanna click on this link.
Joanna Lumley was a pleasure to meet and apart from being everything and more that you would expect her to be she has an interest in illustration and was wonderful to speak with. The next day she was off to fight the corner for the Gherkahs. And didn't she just do that so well! Pixie loved her.
5th May. Up early, walking with dogs and cats in early morning light. Then hanging exhibition. Blown away ( no pun intended) by beauty of wind vanes. Stunning.
8th May. For a few days I have felt as fragile as a piece of gold leaf. The Starlight book is finally finished and at the end of the day it became quite an ordeal and left me feeling wrung out and dry. I went for a walk with the dogs around St Davids Head in the early morning and the wind blew hard. Spindrift was dancing in the air and at the Head I lay down in the hut circles, a magic dreaming place, wonderful.
And today I spent the day in the Refectory, at the Cloisters Gallery. I set up a table, a little similar to my studio, with my owl and a few other things, and gilded an owl. I wanted to practice working in public for Art in Action, to see what it was like. At the end of the day I met a woman called Doreen. She walked with a walking frame, was about 86, had a light in her eyes that was lovely. She connected with the painting of the three hares. When I had finished the gilding I took it across to talk to her and show her what I had been doing and during our conversation she told me a story about her mother, about how she had died, about a white hare. She had about her a great spirit of life and I loved meeting her. Magic.
13th May. Walking in bluebell woods with cuckoo call yesterday and resting on the stone beach in sunshine. Today it is like winter again. Walked with the dogs around from Whitesands to Porthcelau in rain that curled my hair, past bluebells and pale yellow cowslips, water buffalo and belted cows, with owls in my head.
Struggling to find an image for this years mbf card and I have never been so late with this piece of work, partly because of the cover for Starlight, partly because I don't seem to be able to think. I do seem to be able to sleep though.
Both of my events at Hay Festival have sold out, so now I am getting nervous, although it seems there will be some interesting people around when I am there (25th and 26th May).
14th May. Overwhelmed by the digital age I retreated to the early morning rain dripping garden to find that I had discovered a new and unusual way to do the washing up, alfresco. Just leave cups out in the rain for the night after enjoying a cup of tea with new friends in the garden on a sunny day. (To ensure attractive washing up do buy hand crafted ceramics.The hare cup is by Barrtett Daines, the fish by the Frances's who live in the Preseli hills.)
In the garden the cuckoo was calling again. Talking to Robin on the phone about all the different blogs and website and facebook he suggested that I blog my next exhibition, which is at the Cloisters Gallery in St Davids Cathedral over Christmas. So much goes on behind the scenes at an exhibition, maybe this would be a good blog, but then maybe I should just do a version that lives within my website? Hard to decide. And maybe, at the end of the day I should do less that is digital and spend more time in my studio just painting. Hmmmm.......
Sometimes it is difficult to know where to put which story and who reads what, but yesterday posted a short piece on Starlight blog.
And today finished off the hushwing paintings.
17th May. Time goes by and I walk in the mist and the banks are dotted with flowers. In sunshine and in mist and rain Pembrokeshire is still always beautiful. Click on this link for more photos and words on a misty day.
Yesterday I set up my studio table again and painted and was pleased to find that I could do this in public. Only sold to books all day long though. A very strange thing. I think maybe when I am painting I become very unapproachable.
18th May. Walking this morning to the high hill top with dogs and a couple of cats we were entertained by ravens. The rest of the day was spent taking down the exhibition. Two weeks is not long enough for an exhibition to hang, and a day of carrying paintings down the steps and out to the car then from the car and into the house has left me feeling exhausted. I want to paint but soon the chaos of house building is going to kick back in and I have to move things around again and get ready for the roof to come off.
Time to try to settle down and paint The Ice Bear.
19th May. Yesterday, in all the busy day o taking down the exhibition, I was stopped in my tracks by Radio 4 and a programme on The Poetry Archive. A small earful of words strung together by the wisdom of Carol Ann Duffy in a poems called Name, from a book called Rapture gave me a moment of wonder. So short and so splendid. I bought this book a while ago after hearing the poems spun into a play on Radio 4. And the poetry archive, where you can even hear Yeats reading some of his marvelous words, what a thing of beauty. I feel very privileged that Carol Ann wrote the introduction to The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems and it was pointed out to me that I have now worked with two poet laureates because of How the Whale Became by Ted Hughes. To listen to Ted hughes reading his writing is a wonderful thing, but his voice is so strong in his written work that whenever I read even his letters it is as if he is speaking in my head. I would have so loved to have met him.
20th May. Yesterday Harper Collins sent through the new cover design for the new Robin Hobb and also the manuscript for the second book in the series so now I know what I will be reading when I finish The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness. This cover is going on the hardback version of the book first and I can't wait to finish reading it as once the cover was done I abandoned the manuscript to wait for the book to come out. Sometimes the struggle with the pages in the manuscript form spoils the act of reading and I so loved this book. Out soon. Not sure when.
Settled in to a good day of working yesterday, at last on the Ice Bear. I have given up waiting for the MBF to get back to me about the card design. All the staff have changed there now, and i don't really have a good contact with anyone, so it looks as if this year I may not be doing a card for them. But it feels good to be settling back into a book, especially one so different from Starlight.