stories and illustration

Cover Design for “The Midnight Hare”

Cover for The Midnight Hare

This is a definite idea for the cover, but I may possibly do a later version simplifying the greenery and strengthening the colours (which are anyway brighter in the original).  At this stage I am going to get postcards printed with this design, with large lettering in the centre, as a preliminary advertisement for the book. How many things there are to consider, once one has decided not try to go the route of conventional publishing.  This design does have something of the feeling of the book, though the actual book is a bit fierce and more active in places.  It is a pretty old-fashioned design, but that doesn’t matter. Up the Grannies, say I.  The specks and little blotches will be removed before making the CDs for the postcards.  The lettering is going to be in darkest blue, at this stage, though again, this may change for the final cover.  Now I need to acquire some ISBN numbers.  This is all quite fun, and I have to some extent done a lot of it before; but the strange thing is, the more one knows the more edgy it can all feel! Whilst doing ths cover, insects kept crawling across the page (I have put a portrait of one of them in there). This may account for one or two of the flecks in this scan.

October 3, 2015 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Midnight Hare: Milo up the Tree

Milo in the TreeThis is a detailed rough painting for “The Midnight Hare”. A little whimsical, the boy, he should perhaps be a bit less pretty, more sparky, as he shows plenty of energy in the story. But the slight air of melancholy is OK, and I quite like this person in the picture.  When the page is full of leaves, and with a less magenta background, it should look nice.  I am still trying to work out how to use colour to show that it is night during much of the story –  but a summer night, when much can be seen – it needs to be seen, otherwise there is no story.  I always find myself tending towards blue shades, whereas my favourite colours at the moment are sepia and golds and dusky reds, with touches of dark, almost black, green.

For a long time I have struggled with how to deal with the text: in the beginning, it was quite separate from the painting, and the paintings went off the page to a bleed.  Then I incorporated the text within the pictures, which seemed an obvious thing to do.  But then I don’t know quite how it happened, but I changed my mind again.  Most of the pictures will not have a bleed, they will fade out to a hand-drawn, not strict margin; and the text will be quite separate.  I think that then the pictures should stand out against the white background, and the text will be much easier to read and quite separate.  I have been setting this up as a rough on Photoshop and it is settling in to being like that.

This is the great advantage of having enough time to think about what I am doing, rather than having to produce work to a dealine, because I need to pay the bills.  Not very artistic, that, but nevertheless, desperation has also produced one of the books I wrote that I do actual like: “Parchment House” (though the book wasn’t published until a long time later, when that particular desperation had long passed).  However, that is for another blog.  I do have a deadline for “The Midnight Hare”. A year from now the work will be at the printers.

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Painting, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Picture Book – The Midnight Hare

midnighthare 1This is a detailed but unfinished rough illustration for a book called “The Midnight Hare”. About two years ago I wrote a script in two hours, one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon.  I had deep feeling about the script, but it has taken me all this time to decide how I am going to do the illustrations for this work.

When the pens I usually use, which were fine-nibbed true sepia in colour, were discontinued, and when watercolour itself wasn’t giving me the feeling I wanted,  I decided to try new techniques. I treated myself to a real extravagance,  a big box of gouache and a big box of crayons, artist quality, they are just delicious, I drool over them, and keep them all in order, which is so unlike my somewhat chaotic manner of work (though when I was very young I had a lovely box of conte crayons, in a metal box, and  even when my father got locked in the larder and I was the only person able to rescue him – I must have been about 4 at the time – I apparently insisted on putting the crayons back in the box in the right order before trying to get him out – he was expostulating all the while through that kind of mesh they had on larder doors).

I digress.

Using new media, and drawing with a fine sable brush, the feeling of the paintings that I have been working on are at last corresponding with the feelng I had when I first wrote the script. There is a graphic quality that I want to keep, but with gouache it is possible to build up colour, and to overpaint, without the work getting muddy. Also it is possible to paint light over dark. I had always intended to send this book out to various publishers, but after listening to two agents talking about the difficulties these days of getting work published, and the very long time it took, and other limitations, I suddenly realised that I would by-pass all that.  I wouldn’t look on publishing my own work as second best but as something I would like to do in itself, and would not bother to send it out to publishers at all.

As well as having a lot of work published in the past by large publishers, here and abroad, I have quite a bit of useful experience working on small press picture books, and I know that good sales are quite possible. We have a very proficient and friendly printer locally who are proper book publishers, which is an amazing piece of luck – and I have worked with them in the past on books for Serafina Press.  So rather than trawl my work round I have decided to wade in straight away and enjoy the whole process of writing and illustrating, production, costing, publicity and sales all on my own.

I will be blogging now and then on the whole process, I might even give the book its own website nearer publication, which won’t be until 2016.  Wish me luck.

August 20, 2015 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Wintering Swans on The Lees


The bridge in the background of this photograph is a remnat of the Borders Railway, a ghost railway that is now rising Lazarus-like between Tweedbank and Edinburgh, rendering parts of Galashiels temporarily chaotic.

We are being threatened with snow, which may ravage the flowers already shooting up in the garden and in the woods.  However, the frost on the ground this morning has disappeared, so I shall take a brisk walk up to the farm on the top of the hill, with its union jack flying from the top of the silo, and then walk down the lane between the russet beech hedges. It is dark this morning, which feeds melancholy, but I shall soon feel happy ensconced in the Tardis, with new songs to listen to, the blower heating up the place, the birds feeding outside the window to provide endless distraction, and the mounting pile of roughs to work on.  It is a good feeling to find new ideas moving into a story that I wrote in a couple of hours more than a year ago. If an idea still interests after a year, that is a good sign. Soon I shall sharpen some crayons on my miraculous Mitsubishi hand-cranked pencil sharpener (which came all the way from Japan with instructions in Japanese, so I have only just worked out how to use it properly) and get out my array of new gouache paints, and really get to work.


January 28, 2015 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy New Year

HappyNew Year


From “Twenty-Six Rabbits Go Crackers” published by Orchard Books

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Illustration, Painting, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Happy Christmas

Happy ChristmasAs we come to the Winter Solstice, Greetings to everyone, and may you have a wonderful 2015.


Illustration from “Twenty-Six Rabbits Go Crackers”, published by Orchard Books.

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Walking in Small Woods 1


Sun setting over the Cheviots filters its pink light, stage right,  on to the trees, where the few last leaves are sprinkled like stars. The earth layer is thick with new leaves over old, darker leaves. I am looking at woods as I need to paint woodland for some illustrations, and it is these sort of small woods where I imagine the story taking place.  I ordered a whole designer set of gouache paint yesterday, in a box, now I will have to use them, having been so self-indulgent, and just before Christmas too.  I tried acrylic on paper as an experiment and it felt all wrong, but going back to gouache felt sort of right, and a tad exciting after water-colour. I have been looking at the possibilities of gently tinted watercolour paper – eggshell, oatmeal, duck blue – those kind of colours.  I am getting ready for the New Year.

November 20, 2014 Posted by | Illustration, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Union Chain Bridge

union chain bridge

I was asked by Heather from the Chainbridge Honey Farm to produce a design to publicise the project to save, maintain and repair this famous bridge which spans River Tweed between England and Scotland. Some information about the Union Chain Bridge, and about the project to save it, I have copied from websites and set out below. The design will be used in puiblicity, and also possibly on cards. The swans and the salmon are always with us. The bear, partly derived from the “Ber” in Berwick (he is on the coat of arms, but really the derivation is from the word for “barley”), is really my bear from Bear in a Boat in the Borders, and he is included in the design by kind invitation of Heather from the Chain Bridge Honey Farm.

From the website

The Union Chain Bridge spans the River Tweed between Horncliffe, Northumberland, England and Fishwick, Borders, Scotland. It was designed by Captain (later Sir) Samuel Brown RN, who held patents for the design of the chains, although Brown altered the tower and abutments on the suggestion of John Rennie. When it opened in 1820 it was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world with a span of 137 metres (449 ft), and the first vehicular bridge of its type in the United Kingdom. It cost £7,700 to construct and pre-dates the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Menai Bridge, which are of similar design . Today it continues to carry traffic, and visitors can enjoy pleasant walks along the river bank. Just up the hill from the Union Chain Bridge on the English side is the Chain Bridge Honey Farm, where there is situated a permanent exhibition on chain suspension bridges. Downstream on the Scottish side is Paxton House, where visitors can see Alexander Naysmith’s depiction of Union Chain Bridge, painted before its actual completion. The OS reference for the Union Chain Bridge is NT933510.

From the website :

November 12, 2014 Posted by | Illustration, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Studio III

Owl 3

October 11, 2014 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Moonwuzo’s Sea-Song

The Moonwuzo's Sea-Song

Who is that walking on the dark sea sand?

The old Bride of the Wind


What is that staring out of the weedy pool?

The newborn Monster in its caul


What is that eerie chanting from the foam?

The mermaids’ gardening song


What is that shadow floating on the water?

The Fish-King’s daughter


Who bears those candles down by the Sea’s curled rim?

The children going home


from Old Merlaine

October 10, 2014 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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