Tuesday, 31 December 2019
The in-between time
The day is moving towards an early dusk. It's a kind of colourless day, and I have been quietly painting, listening to The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman. I'm working on something that I can't talk about, can't show the work, but soon will be able to, and the deadline is such that I was able to take just a few days off over Christmas to visit my parents. A five hour drive to the Cotswold hills in the rain. Meanwhil, in Australia, Alison who is designing The Unwinding had a twenty hour drive across Australia, through country devastated by fire. The photo below was taken out of the window on her drive. Such devastation of habitat.
I took my sketchbook to my parents' house with me, hoping to find an image I could use for next year's Help Musician's Christmas card. This year's card is The Foxes Wedding, included in The Unwinding. In the evenings I doodled away.
Still doodling. Makes a change to think about this at Christmas, as I usually paint the piece in the middle of summer. And this is what Alison is finding strange. She says:
"The scenery in your images couldn't be further away from the scenery here at the moment-it's so surreal to be working on scattering snowflakes across a darkening sky in 42 degrees of heat."
I'm worried, as they are struggling to find a way home as the bushfires make it too dangerous to travel.
One of Alison's last projects before heading to Australia was a commission from Birmingham Children's Hospital. This grew out of a project we had worked on for the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. A huge project, to enliven the walls in the new build. In Stanmore we used images from The Lost Words, with a few pieces added ( a curious shopping list of herons and waterweed, diving kingfishers and rising, tumbling otters). These were woven around the words, written by Robert Macfarlane, and neither he nor I could have done this without Alison.
Amazingly Alison ( book designer) had once been a nurse, so she understood the movement of people around a hospital, aswell as where to put the quiet still points. And also, as a book designer, she understood how to design for walls. She brought the outside in, made meadows from my grasses, threaded larks and voles through and created stories on the walls.
And for Birmingham she has made something beautiful and restful, combining her blossoms and my grasses to make a place of peace for parents having to deal with some of the most difficult times in their lives. You can see more images from the day we all visited the hospital on my website. I think the work that we did together here is some of the work I feel a sense of pride about. But maybe pride isn't the right word. It was such an incredible privilege to have ones work used in this environment. And I love seeing how Alison grows meadows, flocks, moves moths, makes mountains, with my images. It fascinated me to see the layering of willow leaves to become branches. We learnt so much during the making of this.
So, back to the task at hand. A small book, to be carried in the hands, hopefully transfer into the heart and the mind......
These are some of the most recent pages.......
I love the shape of silver birch trees, how they glow in the gloaming light. If you click on the images they will get bigger. If you are looking at this on a phone it will distort the images.
Opening emails from Alison is always wonderful. I hope she finds her way home soon. The sky here is darkening outside. My head is full with birds. The geek in me loves that there are 1234 supporters at the moment for The Unwinding. I'm having a quiet night in by the fire with pencil and sketchbook.
I wish you all a Happy New Year. Look after each other.
The Unwinding hardback
- Narrated by Bethany Porter
- Music by The Bookshop Band
- 18 tracks (including two new songs)