1st November. Brought up sharp yesterday by Judy Dyble. I had promised to work on a cd cover for her and time had slipped away from me in a strain of plumbers and electricians (not builders, they have always turned up when they said they would and got on with work). So, with only a few days left to get the artwork done for the US release of Talking with Strangers it is time to push aside all distractions and get on with the work, after doing a day in Swansea Institute tomorrow. Feeling very thrown by all the building work and disturbance and worry, so I hope that this will be the catalyst to settle me back into work and painting.
My new work space is so big, and yet I find more than ever that while I am working the space I am in is a small space in the mind. I look up from concentrating to find this great long studio space.
The day has been one of sunshine and rain. Hawks hunt the autumn hedges for songbirds. The wind has changed. Cold weather is coming.
3rd November. Starlings and redwings. Full moon in a sky built deep with cloud. Trying to find some peace to paint. Yesterday I drove to Swansea with dummy books and sketchbooks and spoke to the second year illustration students and they were welcoming and interested and sparky and had great work on the walls. Made me think hard about how and why I work. Today trying to paint but need more peace and more space than I have. My studio is wonderful.
4th November. On the beach this morning, pied piper oyster catchers, a raucous flock of black winged jackdaw, gloves like a giant's discarded hands, rope and seaweed ripped from a storm tossed seabed, wind sailor jellyfish from warmer waters, indigo blue with sails like glass, bottles and bottle tops and small beads of plastic, a blue barrel swallowing sand, salted driftwood, footprints, great waves that sculpt the beach and all the while that I walk Poseidon puts on a show of wind wrinkled water and wave. Among it all the feathers of Icarus strewn across the sand. No camera today, so I carry it all home in my head, and in my hand a small log to put onto the fire later when the day's work is done to watch the sea witch salt sparks dance colours in the flames.
Making stock from yesterday's duck, painting, thinking.
5th November. 'By the wind sailors' dot the beach and a Man of War has also washed up, a visitor from warmer waters. Gray and blustery day full of bird flocks and wind blown leaves.
Yesterday a review came in from Kirkus Reviews in the US for Tell Me a Dragon.
"A beguiling invitation to the diverse, fantastical realms of dragons. The front endpapers show a tiny hatchling emerging from one cool-hued egg of many, beginning the magical tour. No matter the setting—from sky to sea, fairy-tale land to urban landscape, sunflower field to stark arctic and desert places—humans everywhere each have a special dragon that may "ride to the secret music of the wind" or "keeps one eye on the door to be sure no monsters creep into…dreams." The final double-page spread encourages readers to "[t]ell me about your dragon." When the last page is turned, the back endpapers provide enticing glimpses of a multitude of dragons hatching, prompting the imagination to take over. Morris's deft hand with watercolors expertly conjures an inky sky, fiery warmth radiating from a lamp and icily harsh climes while still capturing the striking details of sharp talons, delicate wings and snaggle-toothed faces. Together with the brief verses, the images will appeal to all who love to make believe. "
Ralph Bird, boat maker from Cornwall, died on Monday. We almost met on a few occasions, but I never knew him. He built the beautiful Cornish gigs that Tom raced in the Scilly Isles. Hand crafted from wood with copper nails and great oars pegged with wooden pegs, the gigs sing in the water. When the rowers are all in time the oars are like drum beats. The names of his gigs read like a poem.
Buller, William Peters, Royal, Lyonnesse and Rhos, Rival, Ann Glanville, Energetic, Fear Not, Fury and Fly, Isis, Rose of Cadgwith, Helford, Seahawk, Idas and Golden Gear, Azook, Hope, St Elvan, Dall Lewyer, Katherin Rose, Bedehaven, Bryanck, Ella Rose and Ralph Bird, Boy Ben and Regatta.
I know Kath of the Kathryn Rose, and Ella, also the Boy Ben, and I wonder who Ann Glanville is, and William Peters.
7th November. Yesterday I found a broom stick on the beach, a sea witch's broomstick with goose barnacles clinging to it. Today I have seen fieldfare and redwing, great flocks of starling, ragged coated black crows and small flocks of bell voiced bird. A day full of golden autumn light now turned to winter and the fire glows in the darkening of the day. I have bought limestone tiles and ivory grout, duckboards and leopard spotted slippers, picked up paintings and kindling from John and washing from the laundrette ( how lazy I have become with washing but how everything that is not work just eats away at my time until I wonder how I ever had time to do anything) .Time to make mousaka and stretch paper in the hope of painting tomorrow.
11th November. Yesterday was Tom's 17th birthday. Time flies and it doesn't seem so long since he was born until I begin to think of happenings. The house is warm, dry. The builders have only ONE MORE DAY and then all will be finished and it sees that they have been here forever. They have made my house so very beautiful and I am so glad. Gavin has no been here at the finishing, his back gives him so much pain that he can't move. If it wasn't for the fact that I have paid them so much I would say that I owe them so much, but in a way I do. I have always loved living here, not for the house but for the world around it. Now the house sits proud in its place, warm, dry and lovely.
And today I unwrapped a drawing I had picked up from my frame maker last week. John's frames are always beautiful. This is the first piece of art I ever bought, a drawing by Evelyn Williams. It looks stunning in its new clothes. Fair took my breath away.
Also today John Foley drove across the country to collect some work for his gallery. He returned The Thief Lord which had been with him for a while. Good to see this painting home. The new work will be on show in his gallery for Christmas and includes the original painting for The Guardians.
15th November. On Friday I walked around St Davids Head in search of a story. As I walked around the burial chambers I wondered if, back through time, someone shivered as the living walked across their grave.
All that I have managed in the way of work are small drawings. I need to settle head and heart to work on the Icebear again. But yesterday I went to the gallery in Milford to collect a few pieces to send to Simply Books in Stockport. Was shocked to find much of the work stashed and stacked (not wrapped) on an inaccessible shelf, high, high up. Had to climb a ladder to retrieve the work and almost all had damaged frames to some degree. So I withdrew the work from them and will not show there again. I have been very lucky to have a wonderful frame maker who dresses my work so beautifully. To see the frames scratched and dented where paintings have been leant against each other is such a shame. I would have hoped for much better care.
Meanwhile I have work showing in South Hamilton, USA at The True North Gallery, in Stockport from beginning of December at Simply Books, at The Imagine Gallery in Long Melford, Suffolk, England and soon at The Cloisters Gallery in St Davids Cathedral, Pembrokeshire. But not at The Waterfront Gallery in Milford Haven.
19th November. Yesterday I finally sat down and began work again on The Ice Bear. It should have been finished by now, to be published this time next year, but at some point in the building work I began to lose the plot and then the habit of working, partly because there were things I had to do, but then because it was easier to do them than sit down and get on with things. So, yesterday I broke through a wall of mental blocks and finished off a piece of work that had almost hit the dustbin many times over the last few months.
Unfortunately my mood of euphoria was kicked into touch by my accountant. Time to come back to the real world again and sort out my finances. The sea at Whitesands mirrored my mood. The wind blew so hard it was difficult to stand up.
22nd November. Spent a day playing at Steve Robinson's on Friday and was shattered by the end of the day. So good to just play and learn about something different. Pictures of the day are posted on a glass page. Unfortunately there was too much air in the glass so it blistered in three places, so we are going to try again using a slightly different method. Fingers crossed.
Today is a day of wild wild wind and rain and even at low tide the wind pushed the sea high up the beach. The wind has built even more fierce so high tide will be dramatic. The house is warm. The new piece of glass will be cooking at Steve's studio and a duck is cooking here. Managed to squeeze some work in in between moving furniture and walking dogs.
23rd November. The weather continues wild and windy. Made up the fire with coal today. The wood smells better but I have a tonne of coal and want to see if I can get the new fire to stay in overnight before it gets too cold. Small birds are tossed up into the air on the beach, so fragile, they fly through the wind and the waves.
At Steve's studio he opened the kiln. There is one large bubble, but looking very good so far so just waiting for it to settle. Hopefully next week he will be able to come and fit the splashback over the cooker. Looking forward to seeing the red and the blue together.
26th November. Picking away trying to find hours to work and beginning once again to make inroads into The Ice Bear which should have been finished by now. The wind still howls, rain and hail, flocks of starling and jackdaw, rooks all punctuate the sky. Swift hawks, large and small, too fast to identify, haunt the hedgerows. Ravens hang on the edge of the wind above the beach, and also in my studio.
Guy, from The Bluestone Gallery in Devizes, returned some work that hadn't sold and it was good to see both pieces back home. Hoping to show more work there next year. They have wonderful ceramics and jewelry as well as hares dancing all around Devizes in spring.
A parcel in the post contained something for me and something for Hannah. 'Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry' by Leanne Shapton for me, the complete series of Firefly for Hannah ( who very spookily can recite the screenplay of the film Serenity by heart these days). Yesterday I finished reading Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. Wonderful. I miss being lost in the book and I miss all the characters ( apart from the Cowboy and the dog's farts!)
29th November. There are times when I wake in the night and all the worries that I keep at bay come flooding in, bigger and more evil than they ever are in daylight. Sleep runs away from them and I am left feeling distressed, feeble, and unable to cope. It is so hard to keep the concentration necessary to paint for a picture book. The finished thing, you hope, will look like it has always been there, something produced with ease, with love. But when the night fears creep into your head all sense of balance flies. My accounts are still in a mess, partly because I gave all my paperwork to a book keeper who has been IMPOSSIBLE to get in touch with, and who has now done the work but not returned the paperwork, and my accountant is very dubious about the work she has done. And this is the biggest worry as I have to try and get myself up to speed with vat and get my books up to date and somehow find the money to pay. And Christmas is coming and once again I will be working all over Christmas, which I do no mind but it is not fair on my children. And I have to hang an exhibition which is physically exhausting, then have the preview which can be exhausting in its own way, and all the time I am doing this the Ice Bear does not get painted. Already the US have put back the publication of Ice Bear to spring of 2011. I don't want this to happen in the UK too.
Somehow all of this just seemed so big in the dark. There was nothing much I could do about any of it at 3 in the morning. I have found a new book keeper, just up the road. Am finding a new accountant and hope to be dug out of this hole I am in. The Ice Bear is coming on now that I have the house back to myself. I looked out of the window and Orion was striding across the dark sky. So big, so strong, a symbol of fierce hunter of the night. He eased my mind, put my troubles into perspective and I woke up to a gray sky and another wet and windy day.
Have been working on an alternative biog for the back of the Ice Bear cover. Decided to post some of them on my website. Also would like some feedback. I am thinking of changing the format of my journal to blogger. This would happen at end December. Would still have all the links built in to the rest of the site and past pages of the journal but would look more like the cat blog and people would be able to comment etc. Any thoughts on this would be welcome if you would like to email me and let me know.