Friday, November 28, 2008

Back cover

Walking and walking and thinking, then painting. A day of rain and rainbows.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lost in a world of book.

All week I have painted. Tom and Hannah have been at their dad's house. I have walked the dogs and while I have painted chaos has built up in the house, chaos and mess. Washing piles itself up in corners of the house. The room next to my studio has filled with boxes, mostly empty. I have cooked and washed up but somehow it would seem that the house trolls have snuck into the night time kitchen and made a mess. I have sat and painted and while I have birds have made a nest in my hair. This I only noticed when I had to go into St Davids as there was no more milk, or cat food, or dog food or bread. Dragons fly through my head and giant dogs walk, pirate ships and whales sail in my dreams. In the sky cloud hares chase cloud dogs in a furious hunt.
Later today I have to fit paintings into the back room, only for a couple of days, and boxes of books. I have two exhibitions coming up, one in The Pebbles Yard Gallery in St Davids and one in The Joanna Field Gallery in Milford Haven.
All I want to do is paint. It looks as if there is not enough space for a matchstick in there.
Maybe they are bats hibernating in my hair?

Days go by.

Days slot into a pattern of walking dogs, sailing paper boats, painting.

Only the light changes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Paper boats

Morning walking on the beach from late twilight to sunshine, with paper boats that float in rock pools with sails that catch the wind.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pirate ships and painting

Yesterday Liz asked what I used to make the paintings.
Ever since I can remember I have done roughs in a Daler, black, hardbound sketchbook, so I have now a great pile of these which are almost like diaries when I go back through them. I do have another very posh leather bound sketchbook which I tend to use when I am doing sketches for paintings. I have had this for about four years now. I have a Steadler propelling pencil with b leads.
I paint on Arches Hot Pressed paper, 300gms. The smooth surface suits the detail I work in. I always stretch my paper and at the moment have about ten drawing boards. For one book I would like to stretch paper for the whole book and work on all of the pieces together.
I paint with Windsor and Newton Artist Quality watercolour paints, tubes. I love the purity of the colour, the texture of the paint, and after so many years I know what to expect from them. I use porcelain palettes and only wash them at the end of each painting. Sometimes they get gritty with dried paint, but I like the texture this adds. Two pots of water, one to wash the brush and one to mix with the paint, and I have a fondness for beautiful pottery so love to use something beautiful for holding the water.
I listen to the radio (BBC radio 4), or music, though sometimes I have to listen to nothing. Today my ears were filled with Dick Gaughan and The Alabama 3.

Monday, November 24, 2008

How to make a paper boat

Beware. It becomes addictive! You will try all kinds of paper and patterns until your house, like mine, is full of paper boats of varying sizes. Then you will begin to think about planes.

Dragons and planes

A day spent sketching and working towards two more pieces of artwork.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sailing on.

First I heard from James who liked the painting, then the publisher, who loved the boat and the dog and said, yes, carry on. So I did. The painting above precedes the child in the boat
Many thanks to Viv for phoning to say how much she liked the painting of the child and dog in the boat, and Annie for her comments on the frustration of writing. Hope the word hunting has gone better for you and you can stop trying to shake them out of your head because they flow.
I do remember now feeling the same when I was working on Singing to the Sun and now the book is out around the world, picking up awards and good reviews.
Like anything else though, you are only really as good as your last piece of work.

Meanwhile Singing to the Sun has picked up some attention in the USA and I was asked to do an interview for Through the Looking Glass, a wonderful children's book blog. You can see the interview here.

The house is now almost full of small paper boats so I am going to take some down the beach to play in the rock pools.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hitting the wall

Ever since I started working as an illustrator I have struggled with work. Often the problem was that it was difficult to transfer the immediacy of the sketch through to the finished work. Sometimes it is very hard to come up with an idea. Always there is a sense of disappointment when something is finished, though when I first started this was a disappointment like rage. Now I see that it it something many artists suffer from.
When a book works really well it looks so easy. And so many people say how lovely it must be to have my job, working with children's books, what could be better.
Always it is difficult to start, but this one is just so much more difficult than others have been, or seems so at this point in time.
This week I decided after many false starts that I would give up, wash my hands of the whole project, walk away, paint what I wanted to, not worry about it, try not to feel like a failure, delete the blog, go! I emailed James and Barefoot and told them I was sorry, but I couldn't do it. James was wonderful, very supportive, told me how he had thrown yellow paint around his studio and screamed when doing Ella Bella as he felt the same. And that was on a good day!
It felt better to have freed myself from the book, though I was so disappointed with myself, and scared. But I told James that whatever I did I just couldn't seem to make it shine. It wasn't the text, the words are lovely, too good to walk away from, it was me. Somehow I had completely blocked myself. Painted myself into a corner.
So I went to bed with an uneasy sense of freedom. Now I only had Ice Bear, which is going ok, to work on, aswell as a few texts lurking and ideas for books and too many exhibitions.

Four o'clock in the morning, voices singing starlight songs woke me from my peaceful haven and back into the text. Pictures formed and ideas and thoughts and what I had been missing and they started to sparkle. I fetched my sketchbook, pencil and tea, cwtched up with the puppy and started to draw wandered the net, looking at images, made paper boats from pieces of paper, folding and folding until the room seemed full of boats made of paper, came up with some roughs and emailed James and Barefoot saying "Scratch the last few emails. One more chance." If it didn't work this time then I would walk away.

Two days later, email sent to James and Tessa with the picture attached. At first I thought it was working, had some magic. Now I don't know. Waiting. At least if I have to walk away I don't think I could have done better. So, click on the image to see it bigger, and if you come back to the blog this time next week and find the whole thing deleted then you know I have moved on to something else.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Still suffering from Page Fright

When I first started working on books I was tentative and afraid and unsure. Usually now I sort of know what I am doing and find the language for the book quite quickly. So on the one book I decide to run as a blog I have had so much trouble and taken so long to start and at the moment am feeling so unsure and almost certain, after three false starts, that I am going to have to give up on it. This week should be the crunch week on whether I can do it or whether I have to walk away.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Page fright

It has been so long now since I have visited this blog and I have finished a whole book of dragons in the time I have been away.
Now it is time for me to settle back to work on Starlight and day after day goes by with me avoiding facing up to this. I have painted hares and labyrinths and bears and still no starlights. I have written a text called The Summer Puppy, walked cats and dogs, fallen in love, albeit briefly, with a blue eyed husky and realized that there is no more room in my tiny house. I have bought a drawing board as big as a surf board to paint long long paintings on that when they are framed will be impossible to store if they are not sold. And I have a mind to buy a bigger board.
So now I have to sit down and get on with the task at hand and hope that I can pick up from where I left it.
Sometimes I think I just get the artists equivalent of stage fright. Paper fright? Page fright? Spread fright? Painting fright?