stories and illustration

Winter Sun, River Tweed

A dark winter image, sombre. I am painting a winter hare, out in the Tardis. At the moment, just the outline, in charcoal, on a small board. How liberating are acrylics, after watercolour. You see hares here, in the fields above Coldstream, and also in the fields in Liddesdale. I have seen hares just by the house there. And a nightjar I have heard and seen, a strange whiskery, metallic sound, a bird that looks like a large dark cuckoo, hunched on the ground just under the window, in the dusk. Swifts would get in through the roof and become stuck as they could not lift themselves up, so you would have to open the window, pick them up, and throw them into the air. Now it is bats, some of them rare, inhabiting the house. Nature takes over, when humans are not so much to be seen. Creatures edge nearer, rarer plants flourish – hawk moths, blue butterflies. Orchid. Merlin. Agrimony.

January 12, 2023 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Common Ground

A painting so much less linear than the illustrations I am working on, just a small painting, I think it is a moor in the Borders, and it is no longer summer, and there are no people. Sometimes in the country when you walk out into less inhabited landscapes, gradually your relationship to yourself changes. Any other living creatures seem to own the place, they have their ways of living, and you are a stranger, and to be jinked away from. But being a stranger feels like a privilege, and one wants to go quietly, not to disturb the natural world going about its business.

January 2, 2021 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Painting, Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments

Musicians in the Forest

Looking through my files, wondering when I will have time to cull all the imagery on my computer (which will have to be done) I come across this painting, now sold, and from quite a time ago, and I notice two things: firstly, my attraction to wandering musicians, which is the subject of my new story, goes way back; and secondly, I have made a very serious mistake in the shape of the guitar case, which I will now have to carefully rectify in about fifteen illustrations at least. I got so involved with the story I didn’t check the details. I had forgotten about this painting – it is strange how ideas and imagery recur. It’s much more orange than my usual work, which tends towards blue and mauve and deep red, with a fair smattering of brown (sepia being one of my favourite colours) and naples yellow (ditto); but it certainly has the feel of what I am working on now. Glad I came across it, almost by accident, it has proved useful.

September 16, 2019 Posted by | Art, Painting, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Midnight Hare Cover


February 21, 2017 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Painting, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Midnight Hare pages 22 and 23


April 6, 2016 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Midnight Hare. Page 16.

MH page 16

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

The Midnight Hare:A Boy Called Milo…

A boy called Milo

March 2, 2016 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Page of rough sketches for The Midnight Hare

rough sketch for The Midnight Hare

Well, it is the New Year, and I am over the lurgy and there is no reason now not to get going on the pictures for “The Midnight Hare”… I have already done several roughs of the whole book, I have been experimenting, but now I am thinking that I might paint the pictures on Ingres paper, which is pastel paper, only using gouache and some crayon.  This coloured sketch is my first recent foray into this, although many years ago gouache on coloured paper was one of my preferred media.  However, I painted on bright backgrounds (usually for cover designs), and the printing quality in those days, even when done for large publishers, for whom I was working, made my designs look very gaudy, as the background bled through and distorted everything.  But then, what do you expect, when painting on crimson and deep purple. I tried printing out this little sketch on my copier and to my amazement it came out almost exactly right vis-a-vis accuracy. I think there is more vivacity in using these media.  I have a real pash on Vuillard at the moment, and much of his work was done with either oil or distemper on cardboard, so maybe that is what gave me the idea.  I have ordered some more Ingres paper, only it is a bit thicker than the paper I used for this sketch. A month or two I printed out a design for the cover of The Midnight Hare” and got some postcards made, but on consideration I think the design looks peely-wally, so maybe that too has taken me off into this new direction.  I am looking forward to getting back to work.

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Illustration, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Margaret in the Forest

margaret in the forestQuite beyond me to take photographs in this cold wet wintry weather, it was all I could do to trail my sorry carcase round the dripping countryside.  Still managed to slip on the mud, and then when I got back managed to pour water over myself when filling a large container (for the studio) from the outside tap; so sat shivering for a while, then went and stood under a hot shower for ten minutes to get rid of the chill. Remnants of this bronchial lurgy still hanging about.

Whilst out walking I met a cyclist on the small high path above the fields, wouldn’t like to have been him if he hit a rabbit hole and tumbled down through the undergrowth.  No colour, except for the darkness of the branches and the ochre and sepia of the weeds, and sparse faint trails of pale green here and there in the fields.

This little picture taken from “The Fierce and Gentle Wolf” by Gerald Goldin and Jennifer Doherty, with my illustrations, is to serve as a substitute for images taken whilst out walking.  We don’t have snow here, but over in Kelso it was visible, and the ground was sheet ice here and there.  But nothing to touch the snowy fields out in Liddesdale.  My son came running in:  “Look, look, the fields are pitch white!”

January 9, 2016 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

A New Year Painting of Horses



Nothing but rain here, day after day, night after night.  I have been ensconced in the Tardis, aka my octagonal studio in the vegetable garden, painting a small New Year’s gift for a relative who likes horses.  Outside the bird table is busy, the starlings seemed to have mostly disappeared, and when I see an enormous woodpigeon landing I bang on the window, as those birds just seem to intimidate the smaller birds. The blackbirds, which didn’t appear throughout the summer, are back in numbers, and very tame. Today, amonst the sparrows, dunnocks and tits I saw a female siskin, which means there are two of them and they may nest together, and a nuthatch, who is now a consistent visitor; and also a blackcap, which I thought I glimpsed yesterday, but a sighting of which I confirmed today. A nice variety of birds, then, whilst I stare out of the window, inbetween painting and listening to  a Schubert Impromptu in F Minor, which would be one of my choices on Desert Island Discs, though a) I am never going to be on DID and b) islands have a bad effect on my psyche – I like Borderlands.

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Art, Painting, Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

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