1st April. Sunshine and a beautiful day after weeks of rain. The exhibition at the Botanic Gardens was buzzing and busy and books sold well and paintings. Driving away after a beautiful day a red kite flew lazy across the fields, forked tail and fingertip wings. At home the sky was filled with stars and a thin sliver of moon lit the night.
To see the exhibition click on the image below
6th April. Today the sun is shining and in pockets of shade frost edges the leaves with white. Yesterday I painted like a donkey and sunk into despair at ever finishing the poetry book. Barefoot sent through the introduction written by Carol Ann Duffy whose book "Rapture" won the T S Elliot prize for poetry last year, a beautiful book from the heart. Hopefully today's painting will be better.
Later..... the light is fading outside and a blackbird is singing. Tom is watching an episode of The Young Ones on dvd, the ones with Rick Mayal, not Cliff Richard, Hannah is in the bath. Painted today and found some peace of mind. And still the blackbird sings into the evening as the warmth and light drain away from the day.
7th April. Tom and Hannah are in bed both reading, Hannah reading "The Subtle Knife", Tom reading "The Amber Spyglass". Have finished painting for the day, another good day. Walked the dogs in the early evening and saw a slate gray bird of prey, swooped low over my head and flew inches from the ground, fast, but every time we got closer it darted along like an arrow. The wind was cold but the light was clear and the sun was sharp.
Finished another page for the poetry book, New Child by George Mackay Brown, a familiar landscape.
9th April. Lovely weekend. Did some work, saw some friends, walked in the sunshine with a cold wind blowing in from the north, read for a while. Poetry book crept closer to being finished. Hannah made a bed in the cupboard in her bedroom and spent much of the weekend reading The Subtle Knife in the cupboard, Tom walked with me and picked up an old and battered copy of The Nightwatch by Terry Pratchett. Now the dogs are curled on the sofa, Max is asleep above the fire and the other cats spread over the house, but mostly with Hannah in her cupboard. Busy week ahead, but now a moment of peace and calm.
11th April. A lid of cloud fits across the sky today. The rain doesn't fall from the clouds, it is just there, in the air, a texture of rain. Time ticks away and still too much of the poetry book to do. I want to paint hares, but have to paint rainbows, and the deadline of end of April is like a heavy weight in my mind.
Later still the almost full moon burnt a tunnel through the clouds and moonshadows danced around the cat, who smelled of the night and wildness.
19th April. A mist like the breath of an ice dragon folds around the house tonight. Each tiny water droplet holds and reflects the lights from the windows. Sound has an eerie quality as it passes through the fine veil of water. But when I look up into the sky the stars shine clear out of the deep blackness of the night sky.
20th April. Woke early and read for an hour then up and painting. The post came and with it a long awaited cheque from Garter Lane. Sat down to paint some more and then the phone rang and it was Garter Lane to say that as the cheque had taken so long to come they had cancelled it, presuming it lost in the post. Some days are like that. So, carried on painting.
I was asked to do the artwork for "maggie and milly and molly and may" again as it was felt that the girls in the original painting looked too old. Hopefully this one will be ok. Only two and a half spreads to go now, but one of them is still "If". I think I have artists block on that one. Below is the other version of "maggie and milly and molly and may".
21st April. Even at the age of 45 it never ceases to amaze me as the seasons turn. Last night the air smelled of night time with a lingering trace of winter and a hint of summer from fresh leaves unfurling. Today, whilst hanging up washing on a cloudy day, with a hopeful heart, I heard my first cuckoo.
22nd April. Walking today, saw the first snake of the year, diamond backed and fresh and coloured like green lichen, beautiful. Hares finally got too much for me and for the first time in months did a painting that has nothing to do with the poetry book, two hares with a redgold leaf background. (For other paintings with gold leaf click on the image below)
28th April. I have finished the cats poem. Yesterday my publisher phoned up to say that they could not get permission to use the Jellicle Cats as Faber won't allow T S Elliot to be illustrated, so we have to choose another poem, so where I thought I had one spread left to do I now have two and maybe this sort of thing could have been discovered earlier in the process rather than four days before the book was due to be finished (by me, the designer still has work to do on setting the images with the type). I have been for long walks through steep-sided valleys with stepping stone over clear streams, where the air smells of sweet coconut from the golden gorse bushes and blizzards of blackthorn blossom look Japanese against clear blue skies. I have cleaned the house, and washed up everything I could find. I have tidied and put up bookshelves and moved things aimlessly around the house and now I have to settle down to paint "If" and "The Wild Swans at Coole". By Monday. If I counted all the paintings I have done twice for this book, some because the first was not good enough, one because the cat danced on the painting having first dipped her tiny paws in French Ultramarine, and some because the selection of poems changed, the size of the book changed......... I would probably have finished at Christmas. But part of me hangs on to it. I have got used to it and will have to move on to the next job when I finish, on Monday, and face yet again another large sheet of blank white paper.
29th April. Almost finished and difficult to let go, so, for "If", a compromise, better than a blank page..... Still not my favourite poem by any means and so difficult to get a handle on, but.......
"If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -and not make thoughts your aim:"
"If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, "
30th April. Woke from a dream of stepping across from a high roof into a window of a tall building, without falling. Wild Swans at Coole is an ugly picture. Yesterday I wondered if it was just that I didn't want to let go of the book, as the end of such a project leaves a big hole in life, but I have plenty to fill the hole, and I can't finish three years of work on such a discordant note, so, back to work.
Later the same day......Wild Swans at Coole, again, more soul and more wildness.