Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Paper boats, sunrise

Early morning beach walking with paper boat and rising sun. Bliss.

Christmas, cold, hospitals.

Over Christmas I managed to get into the studio for an hour here or there if I got up at six in the morning, but dogs would demand to go out at first light, creatures of habit. Mum was taken ill while visiting my sister, so we drove to Somerset to visit her in hospital. Back home Robin took care of dogs and cats but the fire and its care eluded him so when I came home it was cold, cold, cold in the studio. Painted anyway, with cold hands, and the children walked into the cave to search for dragons.

Outside the ground was hard with frost. Inside I worry about getting the work done on time and about my mum, but hear from my sister and then my mum that she is much better, out of hospital and can manage quite well on her own thank you very much!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Not quite right, too fierce and just right......

Two years ago in February I began working on Starlight by doing a spread of the dragon flight and although at first the publishers were pleased with it they felt it was not quite right. The book had then to be put on hold while I finished working on two other books, so when I came back to it in November of this year it looked very different.
So the image above is the first dragon, the image below is the one deemed to fierce and scary, and the final red one, I am told, is just fine. I do feel a little like Goldilocks and the Three Dragons, but sadly, at the end of the day, I have to agree.

If you click on the images you can see much bigger versions. I think the sky needs to be darker and so will work into it a little which will also give it layers of starlight. The two images below are details, of giant dog and flying fish.

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Favorite Barefoot Book

When I was in Bath Tessa gave me a copy of the beautiful Arthur of Albion, a stunning book by John Matthews and Pavel Tatarnikov. I remember seeing drawings for the book, roughs, when I was visiting the offices working on Classic Poems and being bowled over by the exquisite draftsmanship in the pencil work. His roughs were like other people's finished artwork.
The book has a map at the end, of Britain, or Albion.
Everything about the look of this book is good, the weight of it, the proportions, the mat cover and the cloth binding.
I haven't read the book yet, am saving it until after Disappearing Act, but I love the legends of King Arthur. The Once and Future King was spellbinding to my younger self with its medieval pageantry.

Red Dragon

Snatching hours in between Christmas and other things to paint again the dragon, for the third time, trying not to make her scary.

And still finding time to walk on the beach and sail paper boats.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Artist's cave, dragon's cave

Outside the studio, looking in on a winter's night, paintings glow with lights and gold. Inside the book to be, lanterns hang in a dragon's cave and small eyes watch as children search for the dragon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dragons in a starfilled sky

Consensus in the office at Barefoot has deemed that the dragon is to scary. The result of this decision is that I have to paint it again and go back and revise all the roughs and change the painting that I am half way through or scrap it and start again. As a result I no longer think they are angels, rather demons.
I think the phrase "back to the drawing board" has been used more than once in this blog.
Ah well.
New dragon sketches, hopefully less frightening.
(This posting has been typed through gritted fingers, the written equivalent of gritted teeth.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gifts, mermaids and conversations with the editor.

Outside the day is pearl gray. Inside questions about the art travel to and fro between myself and the editor.

Jackie: " Do you think she should be giving him something or just touching fingers?
Will keep her hair twining."

Tessa: " I think just touching fingers is lovely – her manifesting to the little boy is the gift."

Through my head a mantra, the voice of the child in the painting, when he is grown.
Child: " Once, in my dreams, I touched the hand of a mermaid. And that has made all the difference."

Have I been in the studio for too long that I imagine the characters from the book have a life outside its pages?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blue sky and the studio blues

Only one more rough to go after this I think, but although the sun is shining on a blue sky day outside in the studio all is chaos. Lots to do, writing another book, tidying up the text for the Ice Bear, getting prints sorted out for people, finishing off two big gold leaf paintings, delivering signed books to local bookshops as their stock is all sold out and painting Starlight. But first I think it might be time to make some space and tidy up.

More sketches

Starfish swimming in the sea,
Mermaids singing just for me,
Sing a gentle lullaby,
While flying fish dance in the sky.

White paper waiting

Just had a lovely email from Tessa who is the editor at Barefoot and the wonderful woman I stayed with in Bath. Very encouraging. Walked dogs on beach where the sea glowed like opals, so now it is time to inch back towards the blank page.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The red carpet, artwork and bookshops

Drove to Tessa's house on Sunday and showed her the artwork almost straight away to get the moment over. She was either a) very diplomatic, hated it but thought, oh no, I have to spend a few days with Jackie and if I tell her what I really think things will be a bit frosty, or b) really liked the way things are going and is coming up with wonderful creative ways to strengthen the book and get it out into the shops.

It looked good in her kitchen. Always strange seeing the art out of the studio for the first time.
So the next thing was to take it in to the office and get it scanned while I met up with another publisher and went through the text of The Ice Bear with them.
Only when we were driving down Lyncomb Hill did we realize that we had both left the artwork in the kitchen, though I blamed Tessa. I had delivered it to her door, so now it was her responsibility!
Anyway, next day we both remembered and Barefoot rolled out the red carpet for me, at least the red one with swirling patterns.

In the office Vic scanned the art and did printouts for me so that I can keep the continuity of characters right. Already some spreads are going to be shown around to people in the book trade.

Nancy was over from the USA and after Christmas shopping for a while in Bath I came back to interrupt a meeting and head off back for home having been looked after wonderful well by Tessa.

So, tomorrow, back to the drawing board and with a fair wind I hope to finish the art by mid to end of Jan and then learn a great deal about what happens next. Usually I would just hand over art and wait for the finished book, but for the purpose of this blog I want to follow the production side of things, design, printing, not so much marketing as I don't want to give away Barefoot secrets to other publishers.
And the good news for me seems to be that Starlight is on track, Classic Poems is selling very well, and I signed books at both Mr B's and Waterstones in Bath, and with the other publisher, Frances Lincoln, sales of The Snow Leopard are building nicely. It was good to see The Snow Leopard in bookshops in Bath, and Waterstones were very apologetic about only having four copies of Classic Poems for me to sign. Seems they had sold the others.
And I have had enough of shops now and want only peace to paint.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


On the beach the colour of the sky and the setting full moon echo the colours of the painting I worked on yesterday.
Bright moon, beautiful, in blue sky with clouds.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Leaping whales and hot air pirate ships

Painting, painting and painting. Next, the dragon's cave.

Into the Dragon's Cave

Seduced by sunshine we walked to the beach. Clouds of lapwings in the air. Thinking of Oliver Postgate and his wonderful imagination. Sailed a paper boat in a pool on the beach and then found a dragon's cave with footprints leading in.

There were no footprints leading out, which seemed very fitting. Outside the sun still shone and the cold wind blew strong from the Northlands.

Back home in the warm we discovered the Dragon's Friendly Society. A very good place to find!

Monday, December 8, 2008


Sad news today as I heard on the radio of the death of Oliver Postgate, creator of Bagpuss, a gentle voice from my childhood, a star.
Just hearing his voice takes me right back to being young. How I loved the saggy old cloth cat and the mice on the mouse organ.
His partnership with Peter Firmin was genius and they did more working in a cowshed than most animators do with digital.
To read more about Oliver Postgate have a look at the BBC obituary.

Dragons and kingfishers and bears drinking tea

A couple of days away from the drawing board, at an exhibition preview and then a lovely day at Druidstone Hotel selling books. The day was calm and sunny but cold and icy outside. Back to the drawing board now though, which is where I would rather be at the moment and finally the dragon demanded to be green. With red hair.

Looking around my studio there are paper boats everywhere.

Started the day by doodling in the margins of the text. Only about 3 more spreads to find roughs for. Hoping the text can wriggle though the paintings, unless it is in white space beneath them as on some spreads. Seeing Tessa, the editor, this time next week and want at least another two, maybe three spreads done by then. I hate seeing people face to face. Much prefer the agony of sending things by post and hoping it doesn't get lost than the fear of disappointing people in the flesh.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thinking aloud again

Inside the dragon's cave.

Build a castle high as high

It is not that I paint that fast! This was almost finished last week and has lurked around waiting to be finished off, which I think it is now, almost.
Yesterday I spent much of the day wondering what colour to paint the dragon, and I think I have settled on red, but still not certain sure. What a thing to be worrying over.
Click on the image to see it larger.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Front Cover

Painting has been so much slower this week as I have snatched time to paint around transporting paintings, to The Pebbles Gallery in St Davids, where they now have paintings, prints, signed books and cards for sale, and also to Milford Haven to The Joanna Field Gallery where some 38 paintings are on show.
Not enough hours in the day, and this morning when I was walking my head was full of a new dragon for Starlight.
When I have been painting I have been listening to The Hare's Corner by Colm Mac Con Iomaire, wonderful instrumental music. Could only find the Irish Language site to link to but you can order the cd which has beautiful artwork from there.

Meanwhile in America The Snow Leopard Trust has an auction to raise money for the trust.