stories and illustration

Liddesdale: Hare in a Rushy Field


Liddesdale is hill farming country, and hares are at home there.  One came into the garden in the evening and fed at the same corner, under a tree; but this one was out in the fields, among the oyster catchers and the sheep.  Now I have decided to set “The Midnight Hare” in this countryside, which I know so well from long ago. The forestry walks have changed, as the trees are hewn, but so much else stays the same.

June 14, 2014 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Running Hare: All That Was


A hare painting for an exhibition entitled “Running With The Hare” at Harestanes Country Visitor Centre, painted two months ago but just finished now as it needs to be sent off to be framed. The mixed exhibition will be on from April 1st until May 26th, and will include painting, prints, sculpture, drawings, photography, 17th Dutch and new tiles, and textiles.

March 9, 2014 Posted by | Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Hare Moths Candle

Hare Moths Candle

Had to scan this on my computer in two parts, hope the join doesn’t show.  Put my cardigan over the scanner in case light crept through, as this is a deep edge canvas.  Needed to do the scan as it may be used as part of publicity material for an exhibition at Harestanes, an Arts Centre near Jedburgh, subject The Hare. The colours come out brighter than the original, even though I have taken otu much of the magenta.

The little ghost figure  with the candle is like Wee Willie Winkie.  In the background is a city, perhaps Sunderland, with the bridge, and  church spires or factory chimneys.  White flowers and moths shine out at night. What is the hare doing on this wasteland?  It looks alarmed, almost frozen, but ready to flee.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Illustration, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hare Country

Hare Country

Hare Country

This is a painting that is going into an exhibition in Eyemouth that is opening on Thursday,  called “Telling Tales”, so most of the pictures I have put in are framed illustrations for children’s books.  However, I am also a showing a few paintings that stand alone.  This hare is drawn in charcoal and some crayon over an original painting that I took against.

This is the original painting:

The countryside is based on a real place, of which I have taken many photographs, but doesn’t really summon it up.  And the hares themselves, in their small sepia circles, didn’t really inhabit the picture.  Also I disliked the blue blankness of the sky, and the rounded shapes.  Anyway, at the beginning I must have felt Ok about it, but this changed. I had put some oil pastel over the top to try and jazz it up, but it didn’t help at all.  Eventually I took off the oil pastel with turpentine, then drew a hare over the top with charcoal.  I have fixed the charcoal with some nice, expensive Winsor & Newton spray that I ordered specially over the internet.  I suppose that, having done illustration for a long time, and having usually followed the rule of “make sure you rub out the pencil lines” (probably a very old rule that has fallen into dis-use anyway) I thought if I was painting I ought to get rid of the charcoal.

Well, why?

So now, I am leaving some charcol drawing in the painting I am doing; and this hare is just charcoal over the landscape, so the landscape is seen through the hare.

It is much nearer the feeling that I wanted for the original painting.  I didn’t think of the hare at the beginning, I just got rid of the sky with a lot of naples yellow mixed with other colours, so it looked like rain had overtaken the scene (naples yellow rain, but why not?). Then the hare appeared, very fast, and I decided to leave the thing as it is  – unless I make the back legs a tad more muscular, which come to think of it….

July 27, 2013 Posted by | Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paintings Unfinished

This painting is an evocation of walks up above Coldstream, in the summer.  Nothing up there but hares, and the hawks.  In this picture at the moment there are three hares.  At the left hand corner there was the head of a flautist, but I took him out: I wanted a picture without people;  he was out  propertion; and this is a deep edge canvas (I continue round the edges) and painting the arms of a flautist in the third dimension like this looked ridiculous. It works with houses going round a corner, but not with the human body.

I have another painting of a flautist on the edge a wheatfield, but this is on a narrow edge canvas, which contains the picture within the rectangle.

Today I have been working further on this painting seen above, overlaying colour .  It is good to leave it and go back to it, as the acrylic dries properly, so a new colour laid over the surface looks fresh. This used to frustrate me with gouache, the way the underlying colours bleed into each other.

When this painting, and others, are finished, I will put them up on this website, before they are exhibited at Berwick Watchtower in January.

A did the ground for this painting a long time ago (one colour overlaid over a colour beneath, patterned with clingfilm, which is manipulated and left to dry, so that when it is lifted there are striations and whorls in the ground through which the underneath colour shows).  The canvas has been sitting perched up again the wall.  Nagging me.  I always knew what the subject was, the high bank on the edge of the Lees fields, where a mass of wild flowers grow in the summer.  This week I started to throw paint at the canvas.  I picked some dried grasses to see if I could use them as a base for printing, but this didn’t work at all, so I have been using paint very freely, scattering, using the edge of a pallette knife, gestural single brushstrokes, spattering. Overlaying this will  probably be some stencilled words, some colours/flowers, and some delicately-painted  insects, which I will then overlay with more freshly applied paint.  We shall see.  So far I like the freedom of the shapes, this looseness is something new for me, after many years of illustration.

There were at one time gong to be mirrors, with reflections of things that wouldn’t be reflected, I had an idea for a rider on horseback in armour, probably memories of Lady of Shalott.  Anyway, too complex an idea – it didn’t seem to gel.  Still, I am working on this idea of layers that lower layers can be seen through, and also using lettering, though I don’t know whether this will work on this particular painting.

Something about this  image reminds me of Liddesdale. It seems to take place in some kind of moorland, with water in the background, I think the hare must hare strayed out of its habitat, although I have seen hares not too far away. The colours have been made gentle with an overlay of oil pastel.  The two figures will be more detailed, especially the boy playing the flute, but the overall colouring should remain misty and silver pink like this (in the sky, on the water and in some of the foliage I have used pearlised paint, which I got from a craft shop – very seductive it is too). To the left I shall  paint some darkish moths. The feeling of the painting I have got already though, so I don’t want to work it too much more.

This was a rather dark painting, which has been hanging on a hook in the Tardis for some time.  This week I added the table edge, the gold old-fashioned easel and the fabric anenomes, and suddenly the picture is a tad less sombre.  The owl is Marvin, I bought him at auction, he is called after the magician in “Parchment House”, which I wrote years ago. There were always owls, for years, at Stonegarthside, they were part of the magic of the place. The perspective is odd, because everything is painted from a different angle, but I like this.  Poor Marvin, I left him in the window in the summer and half his feathers have got bleached.  I am thinking of doing a (vry delicate) paint job on him, but will finish the picture first.

November 28, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

August and the Hare book

Started working on the final pictures for a new picture book about a boy and a hare, and had completed four pages, when I decided the technique, using brushwork outlines, and watercolour throughout, was not expressive enough. The watercolour was becoming too heavy, and there was too little animation in the figures.  There’s no escaping it – ink outlines are needed, I’ve worked so long with pen and ink it is part of how I feel. Since the pens I like are no longer manufactured, it seems best to go back to the old-fashioned dip pens, and use various inks.  There is a website which is dedicated to selling The Dip Pen. From Pullingers Art Shop I shall order a large block of Fabriano Artistico, and some different inks, but especially a high class sepia, if they sell this.

In the meantime, I have decided that the book is set in August, when some of the fields are cut and some are still gold-brown with the ripe wheat (the swallows in Coldstream fly in a crowd over the wall and the River Leet, and attack the first few rows of the wheat, like small bird looters, then all fly back together; meanwhile the swallows feint professionally above the wheat chasing the insects). I have been taking photographs of the flora of August (and been bitten badly in the process by the insects that have suddenly appeared).
The rape has been cut now.  There are no birds on the Tweed, only the occasional salmon leaping. The place where the swans laid up beside the river had become anonymous grass and mud, there is nothing but the furrowed field and the shorn field path. The swans feathers and the reek of swan have disappeared. In a few days I shall go up past Oxenrigs and look for hares once more.

Each month now I shall take photographs of the flora, to see if I can match the 170 or so wild flowers I found listed in the back of a book, in my 10-year-old writing, flowers that I had seen in the countryside of East Sussex, many of them in walks with my grandfather on Chailey Common when I was a very young child. I especially remember looking for autumn gentians on the Common.  I wonder whether they are still there, as were the wild orchids in Liddesdale, thirty years or more after I first saw them there. Maybe the search for the autumn gentians will become a painting for the exhibition at Berwick Watchtower in January.

August 27, 2012 Posted by | Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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