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2007

Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire.

1st November. Early morning searching again for curlew calls. Solitary curlew flew from the Ram's Nose, low over the sea, searching for the flock. Oystercatcher piping echoed round Porth Melgan. Two hawks shot to the sky in a battle of wings. Rocks like a lichen covered doorway framed Ramsey Island in the distance. The sun made everything sharp with shadows and the sea drew patterns on the beach. Each day different patterns, changing and shifting, redrawing, perfecting.

litchen covered standing stones near St Davids Head, Pembrokeshire

Good start to the day, but some days go down hill fast.

Today is my wedding anniversary. Soon it will be my divorce anniversary. My book Little One, We Knew You'd Come has been having lots of problems in the UK. The US edition is lovely, the UK edition is a very poor relative. After many an email to the publisher and having sent back some of the worse culprits for their inspection, lest I was being your archetypal neurotic artist, it has been confirmed that they are indeed substandard and so are off to be pulped and hopefully reprinted. How does this make me feel? Well, I have a book to finish for the same publisher and can't seem to summon up the enthusiasm to paint those last couple of pages. I have an exhibition of the artwork for Little One hanging until 23rd November and then moving to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales for two months, and no books to sell. The fact that I not only have to paint the images but also quality check the finished product and sell the books because the reps can't make it this far into Wales makes me feel like giving up and just painting. I was feeling blue, now I feel frustrated and blue, fed up and confused. Hopefully by tomorrow I will have an idea whether, if at all, the book will be reprinted, maybe even on paper that you can't see through to the previous and following page. So my advice is if you have a copy of the book, hang on to it, it may be very rare very soon, and if you haven't, get the one from Little Brown via Amazon.com which has a dust jacket and won't fall apart in your hands.

Off to paint hares.

three hares running, with teh moon in their eyes, white hares in snow covered moonlight landscape, watercolour, Jackie Morris. Unfinished, but soon will be.

The moon rose early and was blue-white in the darkening sky of evening. Now it paints the sea silver and burns out the star light from the sky. The surf whispers on the edge of hearing.

2nd November. Woke up with a feeling of optimism and a desire to run away to the hills. In the studio a snow leopard is drumming his claws impatiently on one of my drawing boards. Have decided to face up to a few things.

1. There are no trolls that live in my house and make a mess when I am not looking. The mess is my mess. I am the troll.

2. Whilst it is true that Van Gogh never had to do his own house work I am not Van Gogh

 

a. because I have sold more paintings in my lifetime than he did.

b. because he had such a searching sense of colour and craziness, a struggling to express a vision of life that drove him to paint and paint and paint.

c. my paintings will never attain the financial worth of his.

d. because I have two ears

 

3. If I do decide to head for the hills it will be lovely to come back to a tidy and clean house.

4. Time is running short and I am fed up with compromise in my work so I need to work on ideas and books that I have a real passion for.

The fear of finishing the Snow Leopard is that I then have to hand it over to the publishers, and at the moment that feels a bit like giving a child over into the care of someone you don't trust.

three hares, running in a circle, white in the winter landscape. Watercolour painting by Jackie Morris called

Later, the warm house is full of draping, sleeping creatures, sleeping. Outside the moon flies in a sky like a mackerel's belly. Dappled. Through the something is flying, making sharp noises. Surely it is too cold for bats, and my ears are too old to hear them.

Hares run around in a never ending circle, each with the moon in its eye.

3rd November. The day started well enough, walking in the bright early morning light and the cats all came too. The landscape stretched out in layers, the light was sharp and bright, but distance soft with haze. It has become cold very quickly, and smells of autumn.

Frances Lincoln got back to me with the latest news on the Little One. It is going to be pulped and reprinted and there should be copies in time for Christmas. Whether there will be room in the bookshops for the Little One by then is another matter. Maybe he could find a little stable somewhere.

walking the cat on the Pembrokeshire coast path with Strumble Head in the background.

5th November. At long last have pulled myself out of The Slough of Despond, stopped wallowing about piteously and started painting the last two pieces for the Snowleopard. My work was picked up in a blog and John Griffiths commented on the honesty of saying that I was at home trying to finish my book. Thing is, I wasn't at home, I was in the cathedral taking them some new stock and giving someone unsolicited advise on where to get a decent ice cream in St Davids. (Ironically that someone was John Griffiths) I haven't been at home painting the Snow Leopard all week, though I have been trying. Anyway, hopefully have broken through with this now. Much other work waits on the other side of finishing this.

A snow storm of snow leopards, watercolour, for The Snow Leopard, written and illustrated by Jackie Morris.

10th November. Time races on and tomorrow is Tom's birthday and he will be fourteen years old. Taller than me. Lovely.

Little One is being pulped and reprinted and air-freighted back to the UK and Frances Lincoln have been very apologetic. The book should be here by 5th December. New computer arrived and is beautiful. An imac with a built in camera but the first thing I had to do was unscrew things and add additional memory and then when I pressed the power button........nothing! Just the back screen of death and me swearing and frustrated with too much to do, firing off emails to Them Digital, who supplied it, then remembering it wasn't yet paid for, breathing sigh of relief. A little later, with cup of tea in hand and children at school, read the little book that came with it, switched on again with relevant p's, r's and other buttons held down and lo, it all came to life and is a thing of beauty and power.

All that remains to do is to load the software, finish the Snow Leopard by the end of next week, write a column for Times Ed Cymru, sort out the new exhibition and the current exhibition, read the contract from the Korean publisher and send back with amendments, do roughs and develop a character for a new picture book, do covers for Robin Hobb books, work up some finished pieces from roughs for Singing to the Sun, get laptop sent back to the Apple Careless people for fixing after copying across useful things to new machine, wash up from last night, walk dogs, hoover and tidy and set up modem etc.... And somewhere in there make a birthday cake and take a few deep breathes and relax, read poetry.

snowleopard storm, painting of dream leopards and soldiers, in progress, for The Snow Leopard by Jackie Morris

 

photos of the Pembrokeshire Schools Library van with images from Little Bear on the side

Just when you're down in the dumps with too much to do and time slipping fast through your fingers something comes along and lifts your spirits. The school library service asked if they could used one of my pictures to decorate their van and I thought this would be wonderful, especially if I could have the van when they had finished with it.

They sent through mock ups of the design. Looks great.

11th November. Walked in the woods around Nevern for Tom's birthday, and the leaves on the trees were still green but falling and blowing, golden in the wind. The river rushed by and it was beautiful. In the churchyard at Nevern the yew trees darkened the space around the church and the standing stone brought an echo of centuries long past.

Inside the church, built in to the windowsill, an ancient Celtic goddess stone carved by a priest, by an artist, whispered and waited for its story to sung again.

image of an ancient celtic carving in stone

13th November. A day of painting and domesticity. Bizarre. In the evening the cats chased a mouse around the house. Five cats, one mouse. Very small. Then Hannah and I chased the mouse around the house and the traumatized creature went to ground in the bathroom. Shocked by the state of the bathroom it then tried to drown itself in the toilet, but was pulled out at the last minute by me, summoned by Tom's timely trip to the bathroom. Drawing the line at giving the gasping mouselet mouth to mouth I released it outside and the children began to worry that it was cold, and wet and would get hypothermia. Then went back to work.

snowleopard and child resting in the mountains, watercolour painting, unfinished by Jackie Morris

Unable to settle to the snowstorm of leopards painting decided the only way forward was to throw myself into the last page and then come back to the other paintings to finish them off together. Meanwhile as the radio turned dire I put on The Mighty Boosh cd only to find myself listening to Howard Moon searching for snowleopards in the Arctic Tundra, which made it very difficult to paint. Hope the mouse is ok.

15th November. Finished Snow Leopard. Saw great series of reviews for the hotel in Manchester that I didn't stay in. If only I had read that first!

Walking in the morning twelve curlew flew, calling, overhead. The sky was heavy and full of water and the sea reflected a slate surface. I met a beautiful entomologist later in the day as I wandered around, not quite sure what to do with myself.

image of many leopards and soldiers, for The Snow Leopard, written and illustrated by Jackie Morris

Earlier in the week I had a problem with my new computer and all my emails disappeared. If Andrew, from Russia, reads this, could you please email me again as I have lost your emails and your address.

16th November. Should have spent the day packing and posting the snow leopard and then tidying the house. Instead read, walked the dogs along the cliffs in search of curlew and then painted.

six curlews, watercolour painting with a victorian gold leaf background.

22nd November. Long day driving after signing books in London and Devizes. Rain. Slow moving cars. Tired.Went to a gallery where a dog had cocked his leg up one of my prints, which didn't make me feel very special. More driving, six hours from Bristol to home through rain and wind and at home the rain fell heavier still. Car full of paintings and the boot wouldn't open, but the warmest welcome from the children made the cold cold house seem warmer. No fire, no energy to gather up and make one. Outside the sky awash with rain.

23rd November. Tonight the sky is awash with stars. House full of sleeping paintings, wrapped up and waiting to be looked at, whispering colours. Inside head full of gold leaf and rooks, house full of ginger cats and chaos. Need to restore order and paint.

24th November. The morning is heavy and gray and a storm is coming. The fire is lit and the house warm again and full of melting ginger cats. Hired a van to drive all the paintings to Carmarthen on Tuesday.

Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire

26th November. Morning walking with Tom to St Davids Head and the sun shone and the wind blew.

heron, watercolour on gold leaf, painting by Jackie Morris

27th November. Clouds lowerred and loomed all around. Magpies gathered in the golden stubble field where a swollen river flowed fast and furious. The walls of the refectory looked unfinished when the paintings were all taken down.

In the evening we watched Dead Man's Chest and were all transported to a land of piracy and wonderful illusion on film. Snatching moments through the week to paint.

28th November. Woke to find Tom snoozing on the sofa and needing a day off school and Hannah sleeping in the cupboard in her bedroom. Outside the sky is a circle of clouds with a hollow of stars in the middle. Hired a Kangoo instead of a van and the rain kept off while the van was packed with care. Sometimes it seems a long way from the house to the car, but eventually everything fits, Tom heads off to his dad's, Hannah to school and I drive to the gardens where the paintings are hung.

Half way home neighbour phones to say that Floss has run off and been missing for two hours, so I abandon shopping in the supermarket ( but not the chocolate puddings from Gu, might need consolation) and get home to find that the dog has still not come home. It is raining and the wind is fierce. Phone the vets, incase she has been shot or hit by a car ( the dog, not the vet) and by coincidence Sarah is there getting her dog vaccinated and was just telling Cath about a black and white collie that she found outside her house, "very friendly, like Floss but smaller". So Cath and I decide that Floss has probably shrunk in the rain and I set off to find her. So pleased to see her, I watch for a moment from the car as the dog just wanders about in the rain, happy. Open the door and call to her and she remembers again who she is and jumps in, delighted, and so pleased to see her I give her a big hug. So here she is, soaking wet, in the hire car where you are not supposed to have dogs (all the cats got in earlier, just to make sure I was packing it properly! but the hire agreement didn't mention cats). Driving home I smell it. It would seem that Floss has found a badger set and perfumed herself beautifully all over. Pleased though I am to see her I have never been fond of the smell of badger excrement.

30th November. Last day of the month and we are coming in to the last moon of the year. The wind outside is still wild and it pushes its fingers under the slates of the roof and rattles at the house.

Finished the heron painting. I think. Maybe, maybe not. It is a self portrait. Have been feeling like that for some time now. Wild waves on the beach with the wind lifting the spray from the tops of the waves.

The Snow Leopard is being put together in Frances Lincoln's offices and picking over the text to make sure that the words flow and fit before it is sent off for proofing. New copies of Little One have come in and they look really lovely with the thicker paper, as good as the US edition.

 

Whitesands beach with Floss, very clean after a bath and wind and rain

next........

 


©Jackie Morris