Tuesday, 30 June 2009

monkey and bear

A 20 minute illustration, literally. There is a reason - all will become clear when I edit this post shortly - but, if I'm honest, this illustration has been in my head for some time and I just needed a reason to do it. It's inspired by Monkey and Bear on Joanna Newsom's Ys album. I love this song, but have to admit the lyrics have troubled me for some time - something awful happens to that bear... Listen and see if you agree...

Edit: And as promised, here's why I did it. Mikka's is one of the saddest stories I've come across. Read it and I promise you, you will have to draw a bear (and I hope you do).... My spread for Mishkina Knizhka (the little bear's book and Misha's book) is above. Mikka's photographs are fabulous, what a pointless waste. Sometimes I really do wonder...

Monday, 29 June 2009

return of the pet portraits and Lee/Che

Well, just this once... I've been consciously doing less and less of the portraits, simply because I wanted to concentrate on my other work and the portrait site was becoming a little too successful. I love animals, but spending week in, week out drawing dogs was losing its lustre a little. This one is a special case however, its Lee's girlfriend's dog, Ben, who died last year and he wanted to give her a portrait as a birthday gift. How could I refuse!
It's Lee's 21st birthday this weekend... so scary how time flies. As he's obsessed with Che Guevara and his user name on everything is Our Glorious Leader, I'm making a spoof of the poster above for his birthday and getting a friend to print it out at A1 - will post my effort when I'm finished. I did think about using the iconic image, but it's just too obvious. There's even a site where you can Che Guevarize yourself! How sad.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

the jumis tree

The Jumis Tree is heading to Italy as I type, now let's see if it is selected for inclusion (I hope so, I like it far better than the Fires of Beltane illustration in the current exhibition).

The colours in the hires scan are so much brighter than the digital pics I took with my camera in the previous posts! There will be a limited edition run of 30 giclee prints of the Jumis Tree on the painted forest.

nooks and crannies

Monday, 22 June 2009


I am almost there! I began adding the children last night - that's the part of the illustration I've been itching to get to from the start, so hoping to be almost complete tonight. It has to be in Italy by June 30th so tomorrow will be spent packing it up and posting it off, then the wait to see if it is selected for exhibition. The accompanying book from the 2007 exhibition looked fabulous - fingers crossed I guess! I also need to get the final illustration scanned at high res as I plan to have a limited edition run of giclee prints done for the Painted Forest site. If selected, the original will tour Italy until 2011, so I have to do it before it goes...
Took a break from painting yesterday to enjoy the sunshine at the Highland Games. Jack brought his little guitar along to play in the stramash in our music marquee, but ended up on the merry-go-round instead.

Friday, 19 June 2009

amid the chaos

There do not seem to have been enough hours in the day this week. Finally I found a small, quiet space this morning to work on the Latvian illustration. I'm hoping to get it finished this weekend (not least because my deadline for posting is Monday!). I like the questions it throws up, like why is she alone? I spoke to people in Latvia about the years of deportations under the Soviets. Perhaps her husband is one of the missing...

The new issue of Juno will arrive soon. I was flattered to be asked to contribute a photo and short biography as one of the Juno team. I hope it doesn't appear too cringeworthy embarrassing when I see it in print. I hate writing things about myself!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

into the woods

I should have been painting, instead I went to see an exhibition of illustrations from Amnesty International’s book We Are All Born Free. Some very beautiful work - I have ordered the book and am waiting patiently for it to arrive.

Walked in the woods with Jackson and we found a teepee made of branches, probably put together by some enterprising local teenagers as a drinking den, but very creative all the same!

Lee has been up from Edinburgh since Sunday, so evenings have been filled with wine and chat.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


A very rough study of chickens, they will go amongst the tulips bottom left... You can just about see where they are going in my pencil scribbles under the painting (top), although the poses have changed. When I was a child, my favourite illustrations were the ones that rewarded repeat viewing with lots to discover. I like the concept of adding little details that could be missed first time round.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

sow, sow

Adding colour and detail to the Latvian illustration. I'm finding it hard to keep away from the children, bottom right - I know that's where all the life of the illustration is! Accents of red, such as the red flowers (which were everywhere in Latvia) next...
Oh and a warm welcome to Jessie! It's good to know there's someone out there!
If you are as excited as me about the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are film (see April post for a link to the fabulous trailer which always makes me want to cry), check out http://weloveyouso.com/blog/ - loads of interesting stuff, including previously unseen Maurice Sendak sketches.
Happy birthday Maurice!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

ouch (and coos)

Ouch! Feeling a bit stiff now after Sunday's horse riding - I must be incredibly unfit! Worked through the pain last night though (I'm such a trooper!) and added the cows. Getting there slowly...

I was looking through my Latvia pics last night for some reference shots and found this one. It's Jack enjoying a plate of mash and peas (his choice) in Riga on our last night.

Since we got home, Jack still says paldies (thank you) to waitresses when we're out because he got such a great reaction to that in Latvia!

ps check out http://diterlizzi.com/blog/ Tony DiTerlizzi's blog -fabulous work and a fascinating look at the process of creating the illustrations. I'm in awe...

pps once you've been there go to Lisa Hannigan's site. Sea Sew is what I'm illustrating to at the moment - beautiful. You should also have a look at her pub session version of 'I don't know' on youtube, it never fails to cheer me up.

There, my work here is done.

Monday, 8 June 2009

admiring the view

For the first time in 10 years, I rode a horse yesterday. Arrangements were made after mucho red wine on Saturday night - I woke up sweating at 4am after remembering I'd agreed to go! Glad I did though - Ginny (the horse I rode) was fabulous and completely unfazed by my nerves (even when a couple of pheasants flew out of the woods next to us unexpectedly) and, now that I've done it again, I'm quite keen to start riding again. We rode out on the Fasque estate and the views were stunning. Ginny likes to paw in water, so I had my Liv Tyler LOTR moment too... fun!!!

The duck eggs started hatching out while we were there, so we got to see the ducklings emerging... Their eggs really are duck egg blue (oh and yes, they are being hatched by a hen). I must get round to posting the photo of Jack with the tiny duckling we rescued from the crows, but that's another story.

Back to the Jumis illustration tonight (pity I feel like I've been kicked in the butt today! Normally I need a kick up the butt to get going...)

Friday, 5 June 2009

Italian exhibition

Work has (finally) begun on the illustration for the Italian exhibition. I've based it on the farm in the Latvia post below, the countryside there is dotted with small farms like these - usually with a least one fruit tree or even a small orchard. The storks were everywhere with these amazingly huge and intricate nests. It's considered very lucky if a stork nests beside your house so I've added one to my little farm. It's a tenuous link to the exhibition theme of 'Earth' - if I'm honest, I actually had this illustration in my head while we were still in Latvia. It's just a happy coincidence that I have an excuse to begin it straight away! I saw the woman in the headscarf hoeing her small plot while we sped past her in the car and I knew then she would definitely be popping up in a future illustration.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

no good comes of procrastinating...

I should be starting the Jumis illustration for the Italian exhibition (it has to be in Italy by the end of June, and I should be worried...). I sketched out the composition yesterday and my paper is stretched and ready, but instead I'm in a harping mood and have been struggling once more with Phil Cunningham's Monday Morning Reel.

Now my procrastination (and Googling) has turned up this - and I feel like chucking my harp on the skip! Catriona led a workshop for us (my day job) in February; she is amazing. I have never met anyone who is quite so enthusiastic about her instrument and music generally. Maybe if I practice daily for the next 100 or so years...

Monday, 1 June 2009


Just returned from a trip to Latvia - what an amazing country and people. Lots of inspiration both in my work and just generally as to what people can endure and come through. I don't think I have ever been anywhere where the folk are more friendly.
Meanwhile busy with the latest illustrations for Juno and beginning work on the 'Earth' themed illustration for I Colori Del Sacro. I'm taking inspirado from Latvia and the field and fertility god Jumis for this one, using photos from the trip as a starting point.