Of Dormice and Men…

dormouse.jpg

This little cut-out was inspired by an A.A Milne poem that I always loved when I was little (and still do).

There are many images from A.A.Milne‘s poems  floating around in my head – the mother of James James Morrison Morrison who goes down to the end of the town; Jonathan Jo with his wheelbarrow full of surprises; the King who only wants a little bit of butter for his bread…all so wonderfully illustrated by E.H.Shepherd. Maybe I wouldn’t remember them so well if I hadn’t read them to my own children in recent years.

As a child I felt so very sorry that the dormouse’s  beloved flowers were replaced, and only partially satisfied by the idea that he could be happy imagining that they were still there. I think I also felt a child’s indignation that he hadn’t been listened to by the doctor…that his voice wasn’t heard.

So here’s to listening to each other and, if all else fails, pretending we’re surrounded by our favourite flowers…

 

The Dormouse and The Doctor

Alan Alexander Milne 1882-1956
There once was a Dormouse who lived in a bed
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red),
And all the day long he’d a wonderful view
Of geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue).

A Doctor came hurrying round, and he said:
“Tut-tut, I am sorry to find you in bed.
Just say ‘Ninety-nine’ while I look at your chest….
Don’t you find that chrysanthemums answer the best?”

The Dormouse looked round at the view and replied
(When he’d said “Ninety-nine”) that he’d tried and he’d tried,
And much the most answering things that he knew
Were geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue).

The Doctor stood frowning and shaking his head,
And he took up his shiny silk hat as he said:
“What the patient requires is a change,” and he went
To see some chrysanthemum people in Kent.

The Dormouse lay there, and he gazed at the view
Of geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue),
And he knew there was nothing he wanted instead
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red).

The Doctor came back and, to show what he meant,
He had brought some chrysanthemum cuttings from Kent.
“Now these,” he remarked, “give a much better view
Than geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue).”

They took out their spades and they dug up the bed
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red),
And they planted chrysanthemums (yellow and white).
“And now,” said the Doctor, “we’ll soon have you right.”

The Dormouse looked out, and he said with a sigh:
“I suppose all these people know better than I.
It was silly, perhaps, but I did like the view
Of geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue).”

The Doctor came round and examined his chest,
And ordered him Nourishment, Tonics, and Rest.
“How very effective,” he said, as he shook
The thermometer, “all these chrysanthemums look!”

The Dormouse turned over to shut out the sight
Of the endless chrysanthemums (yellow and white).
“How lovely,” he thought, “to be back in a bed
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red.)”

The Doctor said, “Tut! It’s another attack!”
And ordered him Milk and Massage-of-the-back,
And Freedom-from-worry and Drives-in-a-car,
And murmured, “How sweet your chrysanthemums are!”

The Dormouse lay there with his paws to his eyes,
And imagined himself such a pleasant surprise:
“I’ll pretend the chrysanthemums turn to a bed
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red)!”

The Doctor next morning was rubbing his hands,
And saying, “There’s nobody quite understands
These cases as I do! The cure has begun!
How fresh the chrysanthemums look in the sun!”

The Dormouse lay happy, his eyes were so tight
He could see no chrysanthemums, yellow or white.
And all that he felt at the back of his head
Were delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red).

And that is the reason (Aunt Emily said)
If a Dormouse gets in a chrysanthemum bed,
You will find (so Aunt Emily says) that he lies
Fast asleep on his front with his paws to his eyes.

Studio Sale

Two weeks ago I had a big Summer Studio Sale to make a bit of space for new work (and to sell things of course).

I covered the walls of my studio with old illustrations,which had been lurking in portfolios stuffed behind my drawing board.
studio salestudio sale deskAlthough I haven’t been working with such thick outlines and bright colours much recently, it was good to see everything up together. I also found some etchings that I’d done years ago in a print studio in London, and a huge pile of rather silly mono prints. It reminded me how much I love printmaking and how I’d like to experiment more with prints in the future.

studio sale etchingsI put up some of my more recent ink illustrations too, but I was surprised to find that I kept quite a lot of them back at the last minute, as they just felt too newly-done to sell. I don’t usually feel like that, but I think it was because a lot of the illustrations were about my family life, and I just wanted to hang on to them.

It was a very busy day and I sold lots of paintings – it was easy to part with the old ones and great to know that they were going on people’s walls. I did sell one of my favourite family illustrations – to a very dear friend. This moment in the bathroom trying to clean two of my children’s teeth one morning reminded me that it’s not all about rushing out of the door to get to school on time…

william

Sunday in the Studio

Anyone in the Stroud area…I’m having a Studio Sale on Sunday! If you’d like to come, please let me know and I’ll give you directions.

Anyone interested and not in the Stroud area….there’ll be lots of Sale work up on the website soon!
Sale invite

Ten Years of Illustrations…

One Lucky Duck Ten years ago I had just started illustrating my first children’s book, One Lucky Duck, written by Alison Maloney and published by Meadowside Children’s Books.

I painted in the evenings and while my one year old had her daytime naps, and her naps never seemed long enough for the work that I wanted to do. I worked on a coffee table and had to clear it all up whenever I stopped.

Most of the books that I worked on after that were painted at a table in my bedroom…until I’d painted enough illustrations to afford a studio in my garden.

Recently I’ve been sorting out my studio, and looking through the artwork that’s been piling up.  I realise that I need to make some space for my new work (both physically and mentally)…I don’t really need to hang on to all these paintings.

studio floor

 book illustrationsSo at some point in the near future I’m going to have a Spring Studio Sale and try to create a bit more space.

And I still love the fact that I can spread this many paintings out in one room without having to put them on a bed or worrying that someone will stand/crawl/draw/scribble on them!

Burning Words…

studio fireA couple of weeks ago I went on a one-day Writing Retreat led by poet and therapist Jenny Barton. It was a wonderful opportunity to think about what we need in order to write and what stops us from doing it (in my case I’ve spent years trying to find the time to draw and paint and am reluctant to use that time for anything else).

We also had time to sit quietly and write, without any pressure to share what we wrote, and I found myself writing a story unlike any I’d ever written before – maybe because I wasn’t thinking about the illustrations, or who would read it. Or about trying to make a Children’s Book that would have a certain number of pages.

One of the exercises that we did was called ‘Dangerous Writing’. Jenny asked us to sit and write for a short time, knowing that we would destroy what we wrote afterwards. It was like writing the Morning Pages that Julia Cameron recommends in her book The Artist’s Way, a practice that I rarely do these days with three bouncy kids around in the mornings. Jenny encouraged us to keep the words flowing, saying that if we got stuck we could just repeat the last sentence again…and again.

And after we’d all finished we destroyed our pages!

It was so helpful to me that I’ve continued to write in this way since then, once the kids are at school and I’m in my studio – tearing up the pages as soon as I’ve finished writing them. It clears my head for getting on with artwork or writing. This morning I lit a fire in my studio woodburner and burnt all those pages, along with some very old drawings – and it felt as if I was making more space for new things to happen

.tearing up