Tag Archives: Sketchbooks

The Magpie Told Me…

Last week I decided to believe in magic again; after being reminded about the strange story of the sketchbook that foretold my future . It all seems so unlikely –  a Dorian Gray kind of spell – except instead of getting eternal youth (sadly) the picture seemed to have been an oracle leading me on a journey far removed from my own chosen direction and wishes at the time.

So now I’m looking for small everyday magic and finding it as I walk ; from the friendly face I spotted in the tree this evening, to the hare gently loping along the path in front of me, before slipping into the long grass and invisibility. I’ve been inspired by some of the people I’ve “met” on Instagram such as Milla, “The Woman who Married a Bear“, to rekindle an interest in plants and herbs; mixing a potion that works wonders on tired fellwandery feet and, who knows, maybe if I fill a sketchbook with my hopes and dreams they might come true someday (better practise drawing pretty houses with vegetable gardens and swimming ponds…and some kind of representation of world peace of course.) Meanwhile I continue to dawdle on my walks, saying the names out loud – Tormentil, Bog Asphodel, Silverweed and Usnea; and tonight, purple-ing my fingers with surprise bilberries up by the reservoir; where I wasn’t brave enough to swim alone. It was the first time I’d walked alone for a while (feeling fat and sluggish after being left in charge of my poor self control and one of Rupert’s coffee cakes while he camps out on soaking wet islands, inspiring groups of NCS students) and I thought, or resolved perhaps, to do it more often. To lose myself in thought and daydreams…

As well as all that wandering about with my head in the clouds or my nose in a bilberry bush, I’m getting organised for Art in the Pen Thirsk, which is in just two weeks time. I hope I can fit everything in the car and even more, I hope it all sells so I can buy the materials needed for Art in the Pen Skipton the following month, as well as some more exhibitions I’m sending work to. It’s been a bit of a flurry of activity the last few weeks with some very happy days in Sam Read Booksellers preventing me from becoming a total hermit and work delivered to three lovely galleries for summer exhibitions ( The Witham, Byard Art and Obsidian Art)

As usual I’ve left this writing until late and all the stories wanted to tell you will have to wait because none of us has the attention span we once did and I need to soak my midge bitten body in some cool water before bed and book time. Remind me to tell you about the evil grey squirrel who scampered below the lazy cat, snoozing on a bench and absolutely didn’t give a damn about the danger ( the squirrel warden has been notified) ; or how I let myself down in Loughrigg  by wallowing in the waterlilies when my prescription goggles steamed up.

Reading: Letters From Klara by Tove Jansson and “Waterlog” Roger Deakin Listening To: White Horses by Jakie Lee (this has been on the radio lately as the theme to Eddie Izzard’s autobiography and I remember loving the series when I was small- which makes me almost as old as these hills)


Making a Scene

The cat and I have curled up in my little room under the orange, woollen blanket to keep warm and think about things. We’re not complaining about the damp and rain because for a while this month it seemed as though we were living in another country, one with endless cerulean blue skies, arid hillsides smelling of coconuty gorse flowers and heady bluebells; things even started to wilt in the shady part of the garden so the rain has been welcome ( for now). I’m not fond of daffodils, May is the month for more subtle and delicate flowers, so I was happy when the acid yellow was replaced by carpets of  bluebells (why didn’t Wordsworth write about them instead?) and now the Hawthorn and Cow Parsley frothing along the hedgerows. As ever my walks are slowed by the need to  sniff May Blossom and discover that it does NOT taste like “bread and cheese” or examine, on hands and knees, like a Hemulen, the  Dog Violets and Heartsease hiding amongst the grass. For the first time I realised that Wild Garlic flowers actually smell of sweet honey unlike their delicious leaves which I’ve been using to make pesto.

It’s been a slow month in some ways ( financial ways of course!) and rather than panic I tried to make myself take the advice from the last blog post and draw more. Draw anything, for no reason other than to be doing something constructive rather than procrastinating. Even though it is the hardest thing to begin an empty page and to mute the negative inner voice that is mumbling “stop it, go and find a real job, you’re not good enough, it’s all been done before…”. Isn’t it sad how we measure our “success” and  relative happiness in monetary terms so that even on a day when I’ve made loads of  ok artwork and baked a good loaf of bread and marvelled at the clouds and the light on the mountains,  I can still feel like the day was a disaster because I didn’t sell anything. Someone asked me this week what I would do if I was suddenly rich and I really couldn’t think of a thing I would want to change – except of course to be secure in my home rather than at the mercy of landlords – so why the discontent?

Anyway, the pages of doodles gave me lots play with in Photoshop and it really was playing, because I discovered I could build little worlds to endlessly rearrange ( using the layers ), like my beloved model farm or dollhouse from childhood, I could design my own indoor garden. Rupert likes to tease me about my love of creating “little scenes” on windowsills… a few found objects and a miniature bear in a doll’s chair perhaps, or glass bottles with tiny flowers. I made some virtual shelves to display my virtual pot plants and then got engrossed in the great excitement of making a moving GIF with Spirit Bear (who is usually a card or a wooden necklace) . I may get completely carried away with this idea now – about 25 years too late to become an animation legend!

The blue prints continue and a story seems to be emerging- although I think Coralie Bickford-Smith already cornered the market on foxes and stars… I haven’t read her beautiful book but I was aware of it so I wonder whether I was unconsciously remembering the link or whether  it was genuinely totally random that I found the star sequin on the floor just as I was setting up the print…

Well it’s nearly time for some more coffee and some more drawing before an evening in Grasmere for Polly Atkin’s poetry book launch. Last weekend we went to a Royal Geographical Society lecture about Indian Shadow Puppets so living in the Lakes is definitely making my social life more cultured, or maybe I’m just growing up…good grief!

If I was good at arguing persuasively  I’d tell you how important it was to vote those mean old Tories out next month but instead I’ll just leave these two pictures here. PR gurus tell us not to mix politics with business and sometimes I worry in case someone is put off buying my work because I’m a bit of a Lefty (I guess this sticker would be earthy brown if I mixed in a hearty dose of Green policy too ) …but I reckon if Rob Ryan is prepared to nail his colours to the mast then it’s better to live fearlessly and keep believing in a better world. The picture below was taken after an evening swim in Rydal Water, where all the sad and cynical people, all the greedy, fighty, selfish people, should be dipped in the crystal water and made to breath in the bluebell air until they see that we only have one world and it’s beautiful and it’s time we stopped pissing about and looked after it- and each other. x

Reading:-  ” Work and Love” Tuula Karjalainen ( About Tove Jansson)  Listening to:- Skylarks and UPDATE! since the evening in Grasmere I’m listening to Jenn Grant who played a lovely live set amongst the Pre School toys and Brownie notices and almost me me cry. http://www.jenngrant.com

“Now is the Happiest Time of Your Life”

Yesterday the log man came; so today the hungry stove is happily ticking away with a belly full of sweet smelling wood. It feels so different here, although less than a hundred miles West of “home” – the log man gave me a goats’ cheese in return for 6 bantam eggs and we discussed the work of Kaffe Fassat, needlefelting and ceramic design over a cup of tea and home made custard creams…so civilized!

Anyway, after what seemed like a lifetime the internet has finally started to work this week (did they have to hand craft each wire from spun gold? What is going on with these companies?!) so I feel as though I am actually living here now…my enforced period of exile from real life is over and already it is the middle of March, snowdrops are making way for daffodils and I expect the Curlews have returned to the moor whether I’m there or not.

Map of Lake District Fells

Certainly Cumbria is living up to its reputation, with rain every day and gales that mean I’ve spent much of the week armed with a butter knife and a pack of tissue paper, seeking out drafts to stuff. The Yorkshire saying “shut the door! were you born in a barn?” makes sense once you actually do live in a barn and the wind is hitting you in the face even as you sit in front of the tv watching Miss Marple, wrapped in a blanket and clutching a mug of hot tea.

Ah, but in between there are days that make you want to walk for miles and wish you’d brought a picnic. This is where I ended up on Monday afternoon having only intended to get some phone signal and take a few pictures of the sheep I’d just made…


Wearing a dress, Doc Martens and a big woolly jumper, it was only after I got up from the ground (getting a good angle) that I saw the other walkers; head to toe in sensible “outdoor gear” and probably relieved that I stood up before they had to call Mountain Rescue. I’m sure they didn’t spot my tiny sheep and thought I was just exhausted from the climb.

Needle felt Herdwick, Newlands

And so I continue to try and draw, struggle with motivation and spend a lot of time looking out of the windows wondering about the meaning of it all. Luckily I have found a lovely part time job which helps me feel less of a hobo. Purely by chance I walked in to a gallery to buy my daughter a birthday present and got chatting to the owner who turned out to be looking for someone to help out. Its a lovely little gallery, Northern Lights Gallery, with some gorgeous work and right next door to a favourite cafe, the Square Orange.

Herdwick sketch

Tomorrow I’m meant to be going to a Beach Clean Up Day at Seascale, organised by an old school friend. Hopefully this nagging headache and dizzyness will have gone by then … probably need more coffee!

Squirrel sketch

Yet again, a million thank yous to all of you for reading, sending messages and being so supportive; you’re wonderful.

Reading:- “The Fortress” Hugh Walpole  and “Tove Janson, Love and Work” Tuula Karjalainen

Listening To:– ” Now is the Happiest Time of Your Life ” by Deavid Allen/ Gong who died today.

Zen and the art of nest building


Another Thursday, another month and while everything seems “normal” on the surface, underneath is shifting and slipping and bubbling like a house built over a sink hole…or a Baked Alaska pudding…no Chicken Kiev! My attachment to “home” and the difficulty in uprooting me, even for a day out, has been a bit of a joke over the years; so it’s hard to express the almost physical effect the threat of eviction has had on me this past month. However, the garden won last week and I couldn’t leave it alone, for so long the meditation of working in the garden… totally absorbed to the point of almost forgetting real life has been the way I’ve coped with bad times. Ok, mostly I retreat under the blankets with Jack Daniels but once outside I soon become lost and “carried away” as Sara and Jake used to say. The temporary nature of everything I do now does not fit comfortably with my bear like urge to build my winter den and feel as safe as this world will allow…and so the coal shed is empty, the logs have not been delivered yet and is there any point in turning the compost?


Such negativity! If you are still reading I promise the next bits are more uplifting…


Over the past week the Morning Glory in the Freecycle greenhouse has been glorying like mad , heavenly blue and as short lived as a May Fly… if only I was more Zen in my outlook I’m sure there’d be a lesson there! Good things have been happening though. The Saltbox Gallery where I work a couple of days a week took an order for some of my Natural Partners cards and so it was nice to put them on display and overhear the occasional comment about the lovely polar bear! The gallery also took some of my good friend Susie’s needle felted creatures which makes me happy as I love to feel that I’ve helped promote another struggling artist. If I was suddenly rich ….


There have been a couple of much needed trips to the Lake District, partly on a potential house hunting expedition and partly because being made to walk up hills like a reluctant pack pony (admittedly I don’t carry the pack!) seems to be as spirit lifting as gardening. Re-visiting Castle Crag I nearly pushed Rupert over when I spotted a little red squirrel person busily collecting things under the Scots Pines. There were deer too, and autumn colours and that wonderful smell of Autumn woodland and earth still warm from summer. Somehow the North York Moors feels hostile and barren in comparison ( or is it that just a reaction to my situation?) with the only wildlife apart from sheep being there only so it can be shot.


Now I am setting myself the task of drawing something everyday and e-mailing it to Sara who is now in her final year of Illustration at UWE in Bristol. She is meant to do the same so we’ll see if we can keep it up, unlike our various attempts at giving up crisps or taking regular exercise…. I’d like to be able to draw landscape, and clouds but it doesn’t work so I think I’ll leave the clouds to Daddy.


Last night I started a new book having finished Rogue Herries in an all night session. I enjoyed it…maybe the story more than the style and I can see a bit of myself in all the characters. Now it is time for a mug of tea and some more drawing… a rabbit and a pony were the requests on my Facebook page last night….



Reading:-Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami    Listening To:- 6music


“I’m Sorry I Forgot You”

It was only while browsing the amazing submissions on the Arthouse website that I realised there was a sketchbook title called “Bear With Me” , drat, I wish I’d got that one. However, “I’m Sorry I Forgot You” has  been a good, if inaccurate, starting point. I’ve enjoyed it, despite the rubbish paper quality and the panic I’m feeling at the moment ( just in case I can’t get it in the post by the 15th).I paid a little extra so that my sketchbook will be digitized, I’m also excited by  the fact that due to the barcode I will apparently be notified by e-mail every time someone checks the book out during the tour, I hope somebody does!

If only it was coming to England, I wonder if  I could save up enough to get to Seattle or San Francisco by June?!

So, meanwhile on Witchmountain the snow has melted leaving treacherous ice and acres of mud, I have the toothache (as I’m sure Poirot once said in a lovely Belgian accent!) and I’m having chimney trouble as well as monsters in the attic. At least if there is any justice in the world things ought to improve at some point, if not I plan to run away to a log cabin in the mountains where I will live on coffee,cigarettes and violet cremes and read Tolstoy whilst avoiding being eaten by bears.

What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

“Sing Me To Sleep”

Here I am shivering by the stove as if it were still winter; frost and hail outside battering my newly emerging seedlings. Oh well,it doesn’t take much to keep me snuggled on my kitchen bench, I’m thinking I need a live-in personal trainer to make me do exercise…or at least keep me awake!

Here are some random doodles from my late night sketchbook, playing with the “Inktense” pencils I got for my birthday.

On Sunday I had a night in with 6Music and discovered this Gallery page linked to Guy Garvey’s show ; people send in artwork inspired by music played  that night. I love this idea because music is does have so much power to inspire and provoke emotion… I often wonder if there are people who get the same kind of “shiver down the spine” that you get from music by looking at a piece of art. Anyone?

Really, these computers are fantastic windows into the world, but they EAT YOUR TIME so I’m off to get inspired by some music ….or possibly just to make more coffee. Congratulations to all this years Textiles and Surface Design final year students who have just handed in their FMP’s, the degree show is at Hartlepool Gallery, Church Square from June 3rd-12th.

(Reading: “Taming The Black Dog” Patrick Ellverton Listening to: 6Music)

“Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion”

Wow, three days of sunshine,washing on the line and Lapwings getting territorial in the field. I’m waiting for the Curlews return as the year creaks slowly back into life.

I dug out a very old sketch book, looking for things to photograph, and found these drawings from 2005.Snowdrops and lost love, first signs of Spring.It feels as thought the sun hasn’t shone for a year but maybe, just maybe there’ll be a break in the clouds soon.

Anyway, the point of today’s post is to let you know about an exhibition of William Tillyer’s prints/reproductions of watercolours, which is opening tomorrow in Harrogate at the Godfrey&Watt Gallery .A rare event in the North…