Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Making an exhibition of myself

I do feel that I neglect this blog these days. I had hoped to be able to show the design and printing process but the publishers weren't too forthcoming, and so all fell a little silent. Will try again with another blog.
Meanwhile some for the work from Starlight will be on show for a month in The Cloisters Gallery, St Davids Cathedral Refectory, Pembrokeshire.
I also have work on show at The Imagine Gallery in Long Melford, England: Simply Books in Bramhall near Stockport, England and The True North Gallery in New Hamilton, Massachusetts, USA.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Powerpoint, promotion and travel.

Time to get my head back into work and when I should be painting I am working on a powerpoint presentation for Starlight. Off to Simply Books in Stockport on Wednesday, Madelaine Lindley's on Thursday of next week. Simply books won Independent Bookshop of the year last week, so this is a good time to be going there. Will be in the store in the afternoon, with paintbrush and pen in hand, for signing.
It takes time to gather images and get my head back into a book, in this case far too much time. I don't really want to leave home at the moment, not just because of all the work going on here, mostly because my cat is sick, but maybe this is a good time to have a break from everything here so that I can come back and paint again. The paintbrush feels so strange in my hands after a few weeks of not painting.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A parcel in brown paper

They arrived in the post, two copies, one US, one UK. I unpacked them carefully, nervous. The road to producing the book had been a long and not always happy one for me.
And they looked beautiful. And all the effort and strain did not show in the finished book which I hope will become a treasured favorite.
James and I have already had a review which compares his words to those of Robert Louis Stevenson and says that the book is destined to become a children's classic. How lovely.

I still think of the book as Starlight Starbright.
I so look forward to working with James again, soon, on a new book.
Please let us know what you think of the book, and through the paperboat adventures blog, or through Barefoot Books website, let us hear your paper boat adventures.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Two days ago I had an email from Barefoot to say that advances for Starlight were in and they had sent me a copy. Each day I work on my new book. Each morning I wait for the postman, a little scared but quite excited, for the book to arrive.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A short update

There is little to report on Starlight Sailor at the moment. This is now a time of waiting. The work has all gone to the printers and I am hoping that it comes back looking wonderful. Meanwhile I am getting on with The Ice Bear, James is working on a new Katie book and I am very glad to say that I have finally nagged him into starting a blog. Whether he will ever forgive me remains to be seen.
As soon as a copy of Starlight Sailor arrives and I have a publication date I will post it. I think I am up in Chester or Manchester signing books in October, as well as at Cheltenham Festival, but more details of that later. In the meantime call over at James's blog and say hi. And I will start nagging him for another text.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Still Sailing

The cats and I went walking in the early evening light, over the hills and far away to sunset.
In winter, when it snowed, we took a boat out to sail on an ocean of white. Yesterday we found the boat, storm tossed in heather and lit by low sun.
It looked beautiful.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A white envelope on a gray day.

This week I received the small pre-proof print outs of Starlight, with the new cover. Was very nervous about opening them after being so disappointed with the first proofs. But they looked wonderful. And after all that the cover is just right. So pleased with them and even in this tiny version they look really good. In fact it would make a great tiny board book.
So, many thanks to James for his patience with me, and to Barefoot for turning the book around and making it shine.
It is a great shame that publication has been put back a month because of the delays. Hoping it can move forward again. Looking forward now to seeing the finished book and taking it out to children.
I have learned a lot working on this book.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In a small and quiet voice....

... and on even further reflection I have to say that the new cover does suit the book.

And on hearing the story of the Classic Poems book I would like to take the blog on further. Although the design process still remains a mystery to me, and I think the book has now been sent off for proofing for a second time, though I don't know where, or what paper is used or what finish the cover will have etc.........
I thought that it would be good to carry on the blog after it is published by inviting people who buy it to send in the story of their book, where they bought it, who for, where it was sent or given and to who and why, and if paper boats were made after reading, and adventures of where they were sailed to.
Not sure how to do this yet. By inviting guest bloggers? By having emails sent here and then posting them. Will think about it and would welcome advice from all and anyone up to speed with technology.
The book will have a few launches, one in Bath at the Bath Festival of Children's Books, one at Solva Woollen Mill where they now have signed copies of my books and some limited edition prints for sale.
More news about the book will follow.
Nervously waiting to view the proofs.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

James and Katie

I do so love to see how other people work.
James has been working on another book for Orchard about Katie, and has been painting full colour roughs to size. So beautiful and I love all the pencils in pots too.
Just beautiful.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

After the cover

After all the fuss and bother with the cover things have now gone quiet again. The cover arrived and has been accepted (so far, but still feel quite nervous as the other two were accepted too and later rejected). I have been paid, I think, and have moved on to other work so now wait to see how the type is designed, both throughout the book and on the cover.
After a few days of recovery, during which I hung an exhibition while I should have been resting and did some owl paintings that I have waited a year to do, went for a walk with Joanna Lumley and the cats and painted in the refectory, all of which when I should have been resting, it is now time to move on to the next book, The Ice Bear, with Frances Lincoln.
I have to go to Hay Festival where I am doing a session with children and a masterclass, both of which are sold out ( but will be at Bath Festival in Sept and also Cheltenham in October).
Two roughs have been submitted to the MBF for their Christmas card and I nervously wait for their response.

Meanwhile, today I had a chance encounter with a woman that cheered my soul. She and her husband called from the Refectory because they wanted to buy a print. I invited them up to the house, only then realizing the filth and chaos the house was in! They came and saw my prints and the studio. ( I seldom invite people in as my work place is also my home and the kids home and we like to be private.)
She told me a story about The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems. A story that made me cry but also gladdened my heart.
She had worked in a place for very difficult and troubled children in London. Among the children she knew was a five year old who had been so badly abused and traumatized by his mother that he barely spoke, couldn't read or write and was so difficult. ( People can be cruel but God alone knows what his mother went through also). He would take the Barefoot Book of Classic Poems and sit and look and look and look at the paintings and then he would tell the people caring for him all about the stories behind the pictures.
Who wouldn't cry to hear such a story.
There are many times that I have felt like giving up illustrating and just painting. Stories like this keep me tangled up tight with books.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Last of all.

Not sure how I feel about it. I did the best that I could. I feel stupid for listening to them last time and giving them what they had asked for, re something that was designed in photoshop and then painted by me. I should have sat down and thought about what it was that was wanted and designed the image myself. Lesson learned on that one. I do remember saying a few times that it wouldn't work, was weak etc.....
This design is better. I can see why they wanted it as it ticks all the boxes and shows what to expect from the inside pages.
For me it gives it all away in one big shout on the cover, but then that is maybe what a cover should do, and what a cover should be. After all for many people who buy on the net the cover is all and everything that they get to see.
If truth be told I still prefer the first cover but in saying that completely understand why the editor and publisher want this one. So tomorrow when it is a bit drier I will post it off to them and hope that they like it.
I need to move on to other work now. Today I have an exhibition to hang.

But I really enjoyed doing the drawing for this cover, the big rough, and now I would love to have a go at doing a whole book that is drawn rather than painted. It will be a very difficult challenge as it is so so very hard to keep the freshness of sketches and when you think they will be used for publishing so often they become tight and self conscious.

Anyway, for now I hope they like it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New back cover

Whilst the light in my new studio is beautiful in daytime at night it is not conducive to photographing work, but hopefully this will give some idea of what the almost finished back cover looks like. Now only the front to go, again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

When all is said and done...

.. and the cover is finished and proofed, when the book is printed and bound and in the shops and makes its way to its final destination, a family, a child, quiet moments of peace and sharing, all that has gone before will not be evident anywhere in the pages of the book. With luck it will look like a dream, like the paintings and words came effortlessly together flowing from the creativity of author and illustrator.
With luck it will become a favorite bedtime book, tattered and battered by the turning of pages and reading, reading, reading. It will grow up and feed the imagination of a child who will escape from his or her worries of everyday life on a paper boat of their own making. It will be a key, a portal that guides them into the wonderful wealth of their own creativity and imagination.
It is with this hope that I have returned again to this project and it is to reveal something of the working process behind picture book production that I began this blog.
I hope that by the end of this Starlight Sailor will shine in bookshops all around the world.

Cover cover cover cover cover........

New cover rough approved.
Or is it really approved?
They like it.
But do they really like it?
I feel that I am entering the territory of The Mighty Boosh here.
Or am I really entering the territory of The Mighty Boosh?

Eating humble pie

Thanks for all the messages of support. Felt so much better to have walked away from this. Unfortunately I have had to eat my words and try yet again to pull a cover out. Either that or the whole project gets pulled.
Barefoot are a good publisher. They do know what they are talking about and have published many very fine and beautiful books. Somehow, with this one , we all seem to have lost the plot, apart from James who remains very reasonable, calm and steady.
So, new cover rough, yet again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On further reflection

I quit.
I have had enough of this.
I have done my best, many times over, and it wasn't good enough.
I have bent over backwards to be accommodating.
And now I feel like a rag that has been rung out one to many times and this is not a good way to feel and not productive to creativity.
So, I quit.

First new rough

First thoughts, something completely different and elegant, with white background and cloth spine and gold foil.
Much of the design would depend on some very elegant calligraphy.

Covers, proofs, patience.

There has been silence for a while on Starlight. The proofs turned up and were not met with any degree of delight. That is all I wish to say on that matter.
So now it is time to look again at the book.
I sent back tracings showing where I thought the type should go, and how, and also which type face to use.
Also the cover has been looked at again and the decision seems to be that I should have another go.
Third time lucky?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bologna Book Fair

At last, news from Italy, via and email from Tessa. Sounds as if the proofs have been a bit mashed up, but otherwise good, though not sure when she says that opening and closing need refining what it is that is meant.
Below, extract of an email from Tessa in Bologna.....

Proofs reached stand yesterday afternoon and are attracting lots of compliments from our publishing partners. The little boy from the title page has been accidentally proofed into the first front endpaper, which looks a bit odd, and the background wash for the opening and closing spread needs a bit of refining, I think, also the title page, but overall the proofs look good I think - though hard to comment without the art to hand and in the hustle n bustle of the fair. Anyway, I have to say that your paper boat idea was pure genius because it makes the whole book very easy to present and people get it straight away!

So, I am feeling quietly optimistic...."

Moving on

I deleted the last post as I felt it was too negative. Sorry. Would like to say thanks to everyone though for support and positive comments.
Starlight is fading into the background of my working life now and I suppose will stay that way until it is published.
In the meantime I am off to Milan to work in the International School there, working on The Ice Bear for Frances Lincoln and also beginning to collate a book of nursery rhymes for them, putting rough images with the text for Little Evie in the Darkwoods, painting the piece for next years Terry Pratchett calender, the cover for the new Robin Hobb, trying to finish a couple of owls with gold leaf, and also preparing to move the Tenby exhibition to St Davids Cathedral Cloisters Gallery.
Oh, and making coffee for the builders.
Should be enough to be getting along with.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Covers again and again and ..........

I have been wanting to blog about the cover for a while and have not been quite sure what to say. There has been much coming and going via email about the cover. Some good and some bad. I think the lowest point for me was when the painting I had done was chopped up and reassembled in photoshop, and the type put with it. I work with words all the time but can't find the right ones to say how that made me feel. The most polite I think would be despondent, but that is nowhere near the mark.
Anyway, the cover seems to have been settled now.
It is so difficult to get the right cover as so much depends on it.
James and I both wanted the book to be called Starlight, Starbright.
James and I both wanted the cover to be the original with the whale, with the other whale on the back cover.
This below is the new cover.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

New cover

After a panicked phone call from the USA where there was some thought that I had done the art for the cover the wrong size ( during which I pulled out all my hair and many words that should not be uttered aloud flashed through my mind) all was well. It would seem that the new cover is fine, both front and back.
So, fingers crossed that the designer can make it all look beautiful and soon there will be proofs and then the finished book.

My studio is now no more. I have moved some of it into my bedroom and the rest is a scattered rag tag mess as I ineffectually try and clear the room so the builders can use it as a store room and build a staircase up to what will be my new studio. Meanwhile I am going to have to learn to work with all kinds of chaos and builders around.
I have worked in this room for seven years now and in all that time it has never been cleaned properly. I am finding much rubbish and the occasional thing of interest. Ruthless things are happening as I throw away things and recycle others and vowe not to let this happen to the new space.
Oh dear.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I hadn't known until the other day that there had been some talk in one of the meetings of putting the star maps on the cover.
So glad they didn't.
When you work on illustrating a book you work from page to page but also to design the book as a whole thing, and with this book I wanted it to be like a treasure chest, one that hopefully surprises and delights when opened.
It is like working on a painting where you work on a piece at a time then towards the end pull the whole thing together. But sometimes when other people get their hands on it they don't see the harmony that you have tried to create, and so it begins to jangle, as things carefully placed are moved or changed.
Although the author's and the illustrator's names are on the cover a book is a great team effort, with editors and designers and product managers. I know that all of these people need to have their imput into a job, but at the end of the day I think that sometimes they forget that we have been working in the business now for 50 years (cheating here as I add up mine and James's experience) and maybe we should have more say in the final meetings. And at the end of the day it is our names that go on the covers.

Does that make sense.

Deja vu

Sometimes I feel that I should do my paintings using fuzzy felt then the publishers could move each item about as they wanted to.
Now they have two front covers and two back covers so if they wish they can play mix and match.
I think this time I have really finished but am getting a strange feeling of deja vu.
Now I wait for examples to be sent of the use of the gold as a fifth colour so that I can see what it looks like.
I still like the old cover, and the old back cover, but being the illustrator have only a small voice in decisions. At least that is how it feels sometimes when publishers have meetings about my work.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If you can keep your head when all about are telling you what goes where.........

So. How to explain. I have started painting the cover again and so far, fingers crossed, but not too tightly as it is difficult to paint with crossed fingers, all is ok. The picture was hard to draw out, to catch the child's face, to make it the same child over the distance of time. But what is hardest still and most difficult to explain to publishers is how to find the heart to do it. When all around are saying, do this, do that, move this move that, and yes, I can see that the design is now better an will work as a cover and hopefully at the end of the day will look as if it always belonged and nothing else could possibly be there, although I have to do the painting as a full bleed but with the possibility that they will still use the red band across the top and bottom if needs be, and it may be straight or it may curve so leave space for both and all, it is difficult to paint it from the heart.
And it is only when you can find that space in both heart and head that it can work.
Is it any wonder that I like painting hares.

In amongst all the emails yesterday going backwards and forwards between myself and the project manager was this,
"We received some test proofs yesterday to see how the artwork will harmonies with the 5th gold for the cover and endpapers. It looks lovely. Lovely, lovely, lovely."
Will be good to see that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Revise, rework, recycle.

The power of the putty rubber! Rough amended with child now looking at the edge of the book.
Back cover rough to go with new front cover rough.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Front cover sketch again

Waiting to hear from publisher again.
Band across top and bottom would be red. Stars picked out in gold or silver foil. Sea serpent would be red.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In a pool above the sea by golden reeds

On Valentine's Day we walked from the beach to home, past Porth Melgan and the pool where soon there will be tadpoles. The reeds are golden and sing in the wind. I placed a boat in the water. We walked on, sopped for a while at The Gessail and watched porpoise rise through the ceiling of the sea to arc in shining dark arcs out of the calm waters. So beautiful, so peaceful.
Two days later I walked again to see if there would still be porpoises at the headland. Sure enough they were still there. So was the boat.

Poetry and paper boats

Written around this boat, lines from If You Forget Me by Paulo Neruda,

as if everything that exits,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats that sail
towards those isles of yours that wait for me.