3rd November. Walking in sunshine over moorland on the old airfield with golden grass and pools reflecting bluesky. Back home and some days are just too hard for working, so making bread and soup in the warm kitchen and watching birds on the feeders and thinking.
4th November. A blanket of clouds dulls the light but the gold of the grass still fills up the eyes and snipe rise from the bog land all around as we walk. Across the fields a small patch of sun lights up the rock above home. Gentle wind rattles the golden grass and the snipe song is like the twist of a cork in a bottle. On the airfield all is green and the soundtrack is skylark and redwing and stonechat.
Lots of paintings have gone from the house to my framers as we prepare for the exhibition of much of the artwork from Singing to the Sun at The Joanna Field Gallery in Milford Haven. The image below is an invitation to the exhibition which is open to all. I will be there signing books, and the next day will be at Druidstone Hotel, Druidsden signing books and staring out to sea at the beautiful view ( I will have MBF cards for sale in Druidstone). If you click on the image below it will take you through to a bigger version and if you want to have an invite through the post then contact The Torch Theatre.
Tonight it is so quiet in the garden you can hear the high pitched hunting song of unseasonal bats.
5th November. Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot. In the morning I drove to Milford Haven to see the Joanna Field Gallery. The Torch Theatre looked wonderful with a set for Cyrano de Bergarac. I had a brief tour of the theatre which included going back stage which was magical. Outside in the morning light Milford was layered by sunshine and mist. In the evening Solva fireworks were loud and splendid, fire flowers in the black night sky and smoke drawings that melted so quickly to darkness.
Another fallen star in the early morning garden hangs from the tree as the light comes to the day.
6th November. Walking, on the edge of night and day, between the land and sea and autumn and winter and on the very edge of hearing, above the song and the sea, curlew song falls from the sky.
In the autumn garden the tongues of honeysuckle flowers lick the cold air with a memory of summer scent .
7th November. Early morning beach with wind and sunshine and the sea rolled back and patterns on the sand. This week it has been almost as if I have to steal time to paint. Have waited for a long time for another hare to visit my imagination and now I have them clamoring like rooks to be painted, but will settle down next week to work on books. And I have a beautiful new story, written for me by Annie Dalton, whose claim to fame is far more than that her cat left her a mouse in her handbag as she has written many many books before. But not a picture book. And this one is beautiful and special.
So, early morning walking on the beach and Claire and Billy dog came too and Claire looked so very lovely in the early morning light that I just had to take her photo.
All week the hare hunkered down in my studio and I pecked away at time to sit for an hour here and an hour there as the world got in the way of working. (to see a large version click here or on the image above) Next week I will shut the world out and take time back into my own hands. I have a big drawing board, long as a surf board and hares are running through my head.
It is cold. The pump that works the radiators has broken and I need a new fire and there is much other stuff to be done but I will shut the door on it all and paint a dream or two.
A friend with a gallery, full of the most beautiful work of all kinds, sent me an anecdote about a customer or two who had enjoyed browsing the gallery. As they walked out they asked politely if things were quiet for him. He replied that yes, this week things had been a little quiet. They said, well, we are not surprised. No one needs art.
I live by dreams and love to fill my eyes with beautiful things and whilst you cannot eat art to sustain your body a soul needs it to feed the heart and mind.
9th November. Some sixteen years ago on this night I walked three times clockwise around the village by the light of a full moon. It was clear and cold and there were few stars. At least in my memory that is how it was. I had a hot bath and went to bed, so tired. At one in the morning I woke and was violently sick. Some two hours later, after some persuasion, the doctor managed to get an ambulance to come and by six in the evening Tom was born, slow to enter the world, tiny, perfect, beautiful. Now he is sixteen. Time flies.
Working away, thinking and moving closer to Starlight by stealth, with emails through the day from Sara Lloyd Morris who is a jeweler in Wales. Hoping that she will show work with me in The Pebbles Yard Gallery in St Davids in December and she is making hare jewelry based on some of my hare pictures. Below are the first two, playing with pieces.
11th November. Walked off in the beautiful morning light having forgotten that I should be phoning the plumber as the fire is broke, and working on a book. And the light was beautiful, making layers of the landscape and the hill fort by the sea. Rosie decorated herself to perfection.
Home in the studio and the new drawing board was just too exciting to resist and though I knew I should be doing something else I could not help myself. Hares run through my dreams and the Queen of Hares is demanding to be painted.
Meanwhile is a studio near Narberth Sara Lloyd Morris is also working on hares.
12th November. Still cold. Still waiting for the plumber to come and fix the pump and then put a new fire in. Hares coming out of my head onto paper. Thinking about too many things at once and looking forward to gilding the hares. The paper is stretched so tight that I hope it doesn't rip. Waiting for the full moon and hoping for a clear sky.
Later, the sky was not clear, but full of textures, silvered cloud, dappled. The plumber came and I still need a new fire, but at least have a new pump, so can limp through some of the winter with the broken fire and a warm house until a new one is installed. Once more the cats are melting over the sofa in the warmth of the house. Hares are ready for gilding and then I must work on Starlight. And the moon, well, she is just beautiful, as ever.
13th November. Feast the eyes and order the book, and wander the beautiful world of Catherine Hyde who paints the moon and hares and birds. With words by Carol Ann Dufy and paintings by Catherine and design and publication by Templar this has to be beautiful. Better still signed copies are available from Catherine's website, but beware, you will loose yourself in paintings there.
14th November. Came home early from walking on the beach and surprised the cats who were all sitting around the kitchen table playing poker and gambling with cat money. Under stress I think, from trying to start a new book for about the fifth time. Always difficult to find the right language to work in. Maybe I was seeing things!
15th November. Tired of waiting for a clear sunny day Tom and I packed the dogs into the car and headed for Ty Canol and the hills. Mist veiled everything as we walked towards the ancient oak forest and I wondered if we had made the right choice to come out on such a day, but we dipped below the mist and the world became a magic land of gold autumn leaves and thick mud, river paths that ran through the trees, moth flight and leaf fall. The trees and rocks wore cloaks of thick moss. Ravens called and buzzards, hawks flew under the leaf canopy, and but for the odd sound of a plane we had slipped into a medieval wonderland. Rising back up, away from the woods and back to cloud land it seemed that small flames clung to the black bone branches of the winter trees. Back home, mud boots shed, dogs subdued and dreaming of river crossings and rabbit smells, Tom soaked a rabbit ( from the butchers in Newport ) in brine, in preparation for casserole with cider and apples tomorrow, which I made a marinade with wine and juniper berries and herbs for the wild venison on Monday.
16th November. In the evening, after he had been rowing, Tom cooked rabbit in cider and we ate watching Gladiator, a film I had wanted to see for years. The rabbit was tender and wild and lovely, sweetened by the cider and cooked for two hours. All day I had been restless, fearful of failing the work I have to do. But for this evening all was good. Inside, warm and cozy, outside still and quiet and a little cold.
19th November. So soon the moon has lost half her light. This morning as the sun rose the light was glorious. The day was full of birds, redwing by the hundreds flew over the garden, snipe and chaffinch and a harrier chasing rooks. All week have struggled with Starlight. Waiting to hear from the publisher now to see whether I need to continue. Meanwhile polar bears were posted to Frances Lincoln and arrived safe and happy. Bird feeders outside the studio window are lively with life. Few leaves cling now to the thorn trees.
23rd November. Yesterday I did a workshop at a climate change event in Narberth for three people. When I returned to my bookstall downstairs the first thing I was asked was whether I ever did workshops. Hey ho, there's nothing like working locally to make you feel special! The rest of the day went very well and I met some wonderful people and sold lots of books. And I didn't mean to be sarcastic when someone asked me where they could buy my books and I answered 'I would try a bookshop if I were you. They might have some there." Having a headache didn't help, so when someone asked if they were all local stories and I replied, "well, judging by the covers I would say no, as this one is probably about a Snow Leopard and this one is about a tiger. And further more they are all printed in China, which means they have a hell of a carbon footprint. But then this one ( Singing to the Sun) is printed on beautiful forest friendly paper." We all have our off days, and i think I was having one of mine.
A woman there told me that her daughter had grown up loving my stories, especially The Seal Children. She is in her twenties now, which made me realize how long I have been painting.
The highlight of my day was Sara Lloyd-Morris arriving with a hare necklace, which leapt around my neck and felt like a beautiful talisman. I was so reluctant to give it back, but it is almost finished and hopefully will come back to me next week. So beautiful, made from gold and silver and love, powerful, magic. Sara and I are hoping to exhibit together and she will have work on show with me at The Pebbles Gallery in St Davids and also hopefully at The Refectory at the next show I do there, and you can see more of her work here.
Lots of appearances on the web this weekend with different blogs at:
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Through the Looking Glass
and a great interview with Viv French here:
cynthia leitich smith.blogspot.com
24th November. Always good when you are struggling with work to get a good review and this was in Sunday Telegraph round up of Christmas Books at the weekend.
“Vivian French is a sublime storyteller and you can guarantee that any fairy tale written by her will not resort to stereotype. In Singing to the Sun Thorfinn, son of a lord who loves only power, and a lady who loves only gold, is sent to win the hand of one of three princesses, who will bring him either power, wealth or love. I don’t know which is more satisfying the glorious illustrations by Jackie Morris or the totally unexpected ending”.
Walking with cats and dogs today in sunshine and wind, islands of light over cloud dappled landscape. In the evening I watched Hamlet and wished that I could have seen such a rich play before all the language became absorbed into cliche. Still it managed to ravel me up inside it. Must be one of the hardest things to act.
On the radio today there was talk of the new poet laureate. I would so have loved to have met Ted Hughes. For me I would like to see Simon Armitage, Billy Bragg, Leon Rosselson in the post but maybe they would all say no even if they were asked ( especially Leon).
26th November. At the beach, from twilight to sunlight, happy dogs, paper boats, thinking about dragons and things. Billy made the sand look dull as his golden coat shone like starlight.
27th November. Yesterday I met a man who told me that he had bought Singing to the Sun and read it to his grandchild and frankly he couldn't understand the story and could have written better himself. Not sure if he was meaning to be rude, if not he managed to be so unintentionally and very well. Today I played with paper boats on the beach again and then did some colouring in. Hard life!
28th November. Seduced by sunshine into walking too far when I should be home working on Starlight, but blow away the cobwebs and the night's dreaming and find along the way the key to the words for a baby dragon book. Followed by rainbows, preceeded by swift footed dogs.
29th November. Ice patterned the car window and crisped the green leaves this morning. At St Davids Head the dogs read the wind and ran in sunshine. Much of the day has been lost in snoozing, warm in the house, cold sharp outside. Dreaming of dragons again, house full full full of paintings for exhibition at The Pebbles Yard in St Davids and the Torch Theatre.
Have rediscovered Three Beautiful Things, like an oasis of peace in a busy day. When I first found it it made me see my days differently, which is what good writing should be like.
Early morning walking on the beach and a flock of curlew take wing, calls mingling with the roll of the sea. Beautiful.
On the way back from supper on Friday evening I was given two pheasants and the promise that Daf would come and teach Tom to pluck and draw them. Beautiful birds, heavy, with feathers the colour of the golden grasses.
Sure enough Sunday evening Daf turned up with Billy and a brace of ducks and in the kitchen feathers began to fly as Tom was taught how to pluck them and take out all the inside pieces that are usually gone when you buy from the butchers.
All that now remains is for me to cook them, as promised, casseroled in red wine and then made into a game pie. Meanwhile Daf invited us all round to eat the duck with the most delicious orange gravy with rum.