stories and illustration

A Christmas Lion

Deciding to put images on Facebook each day, or as near as possible each day, in the New Year, I decided to start early with an image of some time ago, a Christmas card. Still working on a picture book, Musical Bears, but after this is finished and ready to sent out to potential publishers (two months, three months?), I will go back to painting and to wandering in the countryside of the Scottish Borders, with my camera, looking mostly for small details that catch my eye. Until I inhabited in a place where one could walk where one wanted I never understood how Right to Roam changes one’s sense of where one lives. I thought it was an ancient Scottish custom, but no, it was basically set into law round about the Millennium. The only PRIVATE notices you see are round people’s garden, everywhere else you can just wander. Up the road is the Hirsel, the estate belonging to the Douglas-Hume family. Our local aristocrats are very popular, unlike some…

December 18, 2020 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Marley’s Portraits of Me

No comment needed, I feel.

November 27, 2019 Posted by | Art, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Boy in the Moon

boy in the moon

January 13, 2018 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Midnight Hare – Drawing

Midnight Hare drawing

Someone who knows me well was surprised when he knew that I was putting images from “The Midnight Hare” on WordPress when I was in the middle of working on the picture book, since I am usually secretive about what I am my working on until it is finished.  But the script for this book is finished, apart from tweaking a word here and there as I go along (see below); and I am finding that my feeling about showing illustrations in process is different to my attitude to text.  The book is already there, I am just working out how to interpret it.  Putting pictures on line distances me from the work so I can look with a more critical eye.  I spent some time doing two pictures of Milo sitting almost back view, in a flowery field, looking at the hare in the distance.  I thought the second version was all right, but after putting it on-line, after a while I had the same sensation that I had when I put the original idea for the cover on-line – there is some dynamic missing.  Since this is the first page of illustration I feel that Milo should be seen full-face and in action, even if he is creeping through the field.  And the hare herself is seen much closer, which is right as she is a real protagonist in the story, even if only at the beginning and the end.  So I did this drawing today, which I think works better; and now I will colour it up and try not to overwork it.  I also took out the words “small,brown” when describing the hare, as the hare is what she is in the picture, she doesn’t need words of description.  The Midnight Hare himself is quite obviously a distinct character, so they are quite differentiated enough visually without adjectives attached.

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , | 6 Comments

The Beaky Masher

The Beaky Masher

Poem from Old Merlaine

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Colonel Silver Shankskin

Colonel Silver Shankskin

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Walk by the Tweed: Berries, Birds, Broken Boxes


The gulls have flocked inland, and are standing where Tweed water is shallow. There are no boats on the river round here, so I am the only person disturbing the birds. I like their white wings against the dark maroon of the ploughed earth, where the phacelia grew in high summer. There are boats left tied up here and there all along the river, and I photograph one of them, with its eddy of scum. I try and photograph little boats, as they often come into my illustrations (it was once remarked that the spindly oars I had drawn wouldn’t get anyone anywhere fast):


The barley has all gone, but the stubble is still left in this field, beside the grass alongside the river which is thick and wet this afternoon, with red clover sprung up since I last walked this way:


Swans as well as gulls stand in the shallows:


But one swan is swimming near the edge of the opposite bank with its brood:

swans and brood

As I turn up the lane towards the little wood that leads back into Coldstream, I see the blackberries in a transitional state, and the elderberries ripening:



And then come across something more unexpected, standing amidst the cleared clods of earth at the edge of the field:


Some rage here, perhaps. When in Sunderland my friend Fred told me of a friend of his who, seeing Mrs Thatch once more upon the screen, picked up the television and hurled it through the window: the house was rented, the television was rented, maybe not such a good idea.  My father told my youngest brother, one sunny day: “If you go on sitting there all day watching the television, I’ll pick it up and throw it out of the window.”  My brother: “Go on then.” So the television got hurled out of the upstairs window. However… the next day the Test Match was starting, which my father had not taken into account, so we had to trail into Carlisle and buy a new television, which actually worked much better than the old one. All the same, television reception wasn’t that good in the Liddel Valley, I can remember that at one time we would take turns to stand with the aerial held out of the window to stop the picture going jagged.

Coming back through the wood, I see the rowan berries, a fine crop this year, which is reputed to mean a cold winter:


Coming out through the wood, I see theseat with its shreds of green, where I have never seen anyone sitting.


It’s still a dim day, there is no-one around.  On the way back  I saw howdy to the horse, in the field  once in habited by the two shetland ponies.  The horse no longer has his hood on, as most of the flies have gone too.  The horse  has a melancholy expression.  It always comes up to the fence, then after a moment or so ambles off again. It does not strike me as particularly joyous:


Its purple horse-blanket is torn. It would be happier with a donkey, maybe, to keep it company:


I loved horses when I was young, I went from ballerinas to horses, and since I drew a lot even then, I was found drawing ballerinas with horses legs.  Not surrealist, just absent-minded. I can’t imagine any worlds I would fit in less: The World of Ballet, The World of Horses. But I still think horses are the most beautiful things, even if when I tried to sit upon them I spent most of my life sliding sideways or even down the neck on one occasion when the horse started to graze. I was a bit hopless. We went to Madame Tussauds and I threw a fit because we weren’t allowed to go into the Chamber of Horrors – the reason I threw a fit was because I thought it said Chamber of Horses.

I come back down past the cat in the window, who was in an earlier post, but instead is going to finish this one instead:

This Cat is Not for Sale

September 19, 2013 Posted by | Illustration, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Midnight Hare


These are preliminary drawings for a picture book, about a brown hare and a character called the Midnight Hare. This is the brown hare, The drawings are done in charcoal mostly, which has come out a nice brown colour because of the way it has been scanned. I used other people’s photographs for the details, though always change things around, because I don’t like copying direct from photographs. I have seen hares up in Oxenrig but they are too far off or too quick away for me to photograph with my own camera.

I did a drawing of the big white hare who comes at midnight, and because he was so pale I scribbled in some background colour with coloured pencils.  I have been trying to find a technique to illustrate this book, as my usual use of watercolour and ink didn’t work out.  Maybe I should try these coloured pencils.  I seem to have a lot of them, though I never use them.  I also seem to have a book about coloured pencil techniques, though I cannot remember buying it or owning it.  Is something somewhere trying to tell me something?


September 5, 2013 Posted by | Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

New Year’s Day

Paid no attention to New Year as an event, heard a few fireworks in the distance at midnight, but for me Christmas is the celebration; though on the razz in Edinburgh at Hogmanay must be an experience.  However, New Year is a good time to make some vague decisions, and mine this year is to make a point of going out and drawing from life, alternating this with the camera, which I have grown fond of, as it makes me look at things, rather than walking in a dworm. I never really looked at the skies until I went out with a camera. How strange. And I never used a camera except to take details of scenes for illustration. So painting, and having a digital camera, are new delights.

The pictures for exhibition are nearly ready, but on New Year’s Day and on January 2nd I went out in the afternoon, away from The Tardis, to walk by the Tweed. I have tried to take pictures of somthing other than trees silhouetted against the sun.  The camera does very much change things when one points it at the sun, this dramatic darkness set off by the flaring light is alluring and dramatic, but it is not the true light of January afternoon. The  trees and foliage looked foxy red in the light of the declining sun, against the blue of the sky.


Why I am attracted to shadows, reflections, shifting light, translucence, mirrors.

Spent the day today fastening mirror plates to pictures, that aren’t quite finished, and will need to be varnished later in the week, except those that have a a top scribble of oil pastel. My work is narrative, still full of musicians and children, but over the past year, which is the first time I have had time and space and sponduliks sufficient to just work away on doing paintings, new ideas and new methods are creeping in, and I look forward to exploring them this year.  But I think I have forgotten how to draw, if I ever knew how, so that is the project for the future. I will encourage myself by trying to put a couple of drawings a month on the website. Things are changing in the work, but this has to just happen while in the process, there is no point in having an idea of one’s own importance and trying to live up to this.

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 6 Comments


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