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photograph of StDavids on a sunny day in early April

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

photograph of teh huge dome at the National Botanic Garden of Wales

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.

painting for the poem, New Child by George Mackay Brown, for the Barefoot book of classic poems illustrated by Jackie Morris

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......

Painted all day but not well. Cloud lifted from the sky but fell into my head. Cross and frustrated with myself, feeling like I should have just painted hares, got up and walked away, to St Davids Head. The dogs ran wild across the moorland, like foxes, like wolves, like the wind that wrinkled the silver sea. Shadows stretched long across the ground in the evening light.

photograph of Penberri in the evening light with clouds and sunshine shadows on the land

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.

sketch for Musiciands Benevolent Fund Card, 2006 by Jackie Morris

12th April. Better day with painting today and inching towards the end of the poetry book. Finally made space in my head to work up a rough for this years Musicians Benevolent Fund card. There is some talk about the MBF producing a calendar of all of the 6 cards.

Walked late in the day and Maurice the cat came too. There are wheatears around, violets scattered in the green and each day I watch the progress of foxgloves.

14th April. Good Friday. Another page closer to finishing the poetry book. There was a time not long ago when no matter how many paintings I did I still had twenty spreads to do. Now it seems however many I do there are still five left. I suppose I should take small comfort in the fact that it was only a brief time ago that there were twenty, but the closer I get to the end the harder it is to paint. Today the sun is shining. One room in the house is full of frames and bookshelves in boxes from Ikea and bags of bubble wrap. Between now and 26th of April this room has to be sorted out and then the paintings from the exhibition in Carmarthen have to settle back in there for a while until the next exhibition.

Still have no idea of what I will do for "If ", but trusting to luck that something may occur to me. And meanwhile St Davids is full of people on holiday and all is looking at its beautiful best in the sunshine with flowers beginning to open all over the cliffs.

Next painting, The Warsong of Dinas Fawr. A short trip to the shops in St Davids should provide the inspiration to this one! And back at the publishers the proof reading for the book continues and we try and work out how to spell "Carol Ann Duffy".

 

painting of Jesus on a donkey for The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems illustrated by Jackie Morris
painting in progress for The Warsong of Dinas Fawr, from the Barefoot Book of Classic Poems illustrated by Jackie Morris

Later the same day.......

You start with an idea in your head, an image, a flash, and to begin with everything goes well, if you are lucky. The hours go by, listening to the radio, listening to music, a break to walk the dogs on the cliffs in the sunshine and everywhere is busier because it is bank holiday. Then back to painting and trying to get movement and menace in and a sense of high mountains. And as the time goes on it always seems to slip away through my fingers.

Dinas Fawr is a wonderful stirring song of victory in battle and have had to fight to do this image which is stark by contrast to the rich, heroic rejoicing in victory. But these are to my mind the only victors in any battle. The Carrion birds. And even they are still fighting amongst themselves.

painting of raven, watercolour, for The Warsong of Dinas Fawr, Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, illustrated by Jackie Morris

15th April. Early start and painting until late as the image filled in. Days seem long and after coming to what might be the end we headed for the hill to walk in the evening light, Robin, myself and the three dogs. Over in St Davids all was busy but we caught the peace of the day and the beginning of the chill of evening.

The sea was calm and glassy but no sign of porpoise. On the way home the field of daffodils gave off a heavy perfume and wheatears rose up as we walked past, dusty blue flashes against the bright yellow.

Tomorrow brings a new blank page to work on. This evening listening to Josh Ritter, Animal Years, and reading Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb.

17th April. Walked in the afternoon with Tom and Robin and the dogs, in the sunshine while the cold wind blew. In the lee of the wind on the rocks where the wild fox lives we settled and I lay down on a rocky ledge with my head on a pillow of heather and slept in the sunshine to find buzzards circling overhead when I woke.

 

The sky was blue.

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.

painting for e e cummins poem for Barefoot Book of Classic Poems illustrated by Jackie Morris

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".

painting for e e cummins poem for Barefoot Book of Classic Poems illustrated by Jackie Morris

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)

watercolour painting of two hares with long ears on a background of gold leaf by Jackie Morris

photograph of the hidden valley beyond The Gribbin at Solva, Pembrokeshire

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.......

watercolour painting of running people and dreamer

"If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;

If you can think -and not make thoughts your aim:"

and

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, "

Meanwhile, in St Davids, in The Studio Gallery, I found a lovely drawing by Jenni Neale, of a barn owl, which now sits in my studio while it waits for me to find some wall space. To see her dad's work click here for Chris Neale's web site.

Almost finished but can't let go. So tomorrow will look again at the Wild Swans at Coole, but until then they look like this, with a small vignette to go under the type.

watercolour painting for The Wild Swans at Coole by Yeats, illustrated by Jackie Morris for The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems

small vignette of feather and an oak leaf for The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems illustrated by Jackie Morris

photograph of part of studio in Pembrokeshire, Jackie Morris

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.

Wild Swans at Coole, illustration for Yeats poem, by Jackie Morris

next...........

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


©Jackie Morris