You could follow the arrow that says “Starling Dodd” and find “Witchmountain” there in the trees; the last house on the mountain and goodness it’s really felt like it lately – the last house on the way up but the first for the wind to hammer as it crashes down the valley. The outline of these hills has always made me think of sleeping dragons and I think one woke up during those Named Storms, it wasn’t happy to be disturbed. Part of the lane has washed away and various bits of the house leaked – are leaking- (because as I mentioned last time, this is a Jumblie’s Sieve kind of a place) but it’s quiet now, the heating boiler is fixed and I’m trying to be less like Bill Nighy’s Mr Woodhouse in Emma, constantly anxious about draughts.
The picture above was taken from the top of Catbells last weekend. We set out in brightness and blue sky, with packed lunch and flasks of hot Ribena, only to be ambushed by vicious hail storms which I’m hoping will have the same effect as an expensive microdermabrasion treatment. The snowdrops are still hanging in there, leggy and battered but it’s nearly daffodil time and hopefully a there’s a gentle Spring on the way for all those places so badly affected by the floods.
Now that I’ve talked about the weather I have to try and order my thoughts; what to say? What to leave out? What to paint a brighter shade so that I sound like a misery? I think a lot about writing (when I’m not writing) and art (when I’m not … doing it) and what I think, often, is that anyone who tries to make a living by their imagination and creativity, or even just lets their words or images out into the wild with no thought of financial gain, is pretty damn brave, or crazy, because there are Other People out there and they have Opinions. I remember thinking this when I went to a book event in London a while ago, the brave and fearless authors who’d spent months alone with their writing, had to come out before a crowd to pitch their books to us (the booksellers) and then there would be critics, then sales figures and then the pot holed path towards a new book. It’s the same for all artists who make a thing in private and then offer it up like a slippery newborn for inspection. You don’t get to just go home, switch off and watch Eastenders after a day at work, it’s always there, it is you.
If that all sounds a bit too heavy and serious it’s only because I’m in a thinking mood after I was interviewed this week by a lovely woman from a local magazine. Little old me in my studio (for studio read kitchen table). I’ve never been interviewed in person about my work before, so of course I felt like an utter fraud, a slightly batty hermit; naturally the cat popped in and out with a dead vole and true to form I rambled, over shared (possibly) and only remembered what I should have said after she’d gone. I’ll let you know if it makes the editorial cut, I hope so despite my shyness.
So what should I have said? What is the right way to behave? Up sell, up speak and always look in control? You see I still feel as though some honesty is vital. What use is it to anyone if the picture of “life up a mountain making art” is airbrushed in such a way that other people misunderstand and possibly fall down the same pot holes, I have a duty to put metaphorical cones out!
What’s real today…
*It took me 3 hours to light the fire so I’ve done no creative work , have a coal dust moustache and if there’s a power cut we’re stuffed because I used all the candles (ran out of fire lighters)
*I’m realising that because my prints take ages to make I sell them too cheaply.
*Sometimes I just want to read a book and eat crumpets instead.
*Self promotion is so hard and feels like being everything you were brought up not to be.
Anyway, that’s the end of the soul searching section, except to say that while I was talking to Ellie I realised that I became most passionate whilst talking about other people’s work and businesses, it definitely feels more comfortable. We also talked about the solitude needed, in my case at least, to come up with ideas and inspiration, but that doesn’t mean isolation. The support of (and for) others is vital. This week although I’ve seen no one I’ve felt absolutely lifted and supported by my slowly growing network of creative friends who all face similar days when the fire (literal or creative) won’t light and their muse has gone missing. You’re all amazing.
Hey look! I did a mug shot! This is so rare and I’m squirming a bit but here I am, only a slightly airbrushed startled rabbit. The finished “big” versions of The Ugly Duckling and The Secret Garden which I’d done for Elspeth Tavacci arrived the other week. Elspeth is working on making a version of The Secret Garden which will work as one of her, Purple Pomegranate, card books but these are the Story House versions, designed for teaching English as a foreign language. The books have all sorts of activities in the back such as word searches and creative writing prompts as well as vocabulary notes throughout which I hadn’t expected , it really is nice to see the finished thing all printed and real.
This was one of my favourite pages …
Anyway, I have just 5 copies but I could spare one, so I thought maybe I could do a giveaway like I used to in the Olden Blog Days? Is that still a thing? To enter just visit my website and let me know in the comments below which is your favourite card so I can include it with the book (if you sign up to the newsletter too that ‘s an extra entry – and if you buy a card you are a hero). I’ll pick a winner at random at the end of March so that the winner can read the book before the new film comes out on April 10th!
This is my current favourite and I’m thinking of getting myself a pea green boat if it doesn’t stop raining soon. Good luck x
Reading : “Here in the Real World” by Sara Pennypacker. I love a good children’s book and this one – admittedly chosen at first for its cover by Jon Klassen – is turning out to be about all the things I love, gardens, friendship, nature and finding a space to become yourself.
Listening to ” The Toyshop” by Robert Dinsdale and the theme song to The Detectorists by Johnny Flynn