the witch in pursuit of hansel & gretel

Trial image: detail of a chase in which the Witch and her gingerbread zombie minions pursue Hansel & Gretel through a fusillade of sweets, liquorice strings and cupcakes. Working in black and white here, though the final image will be in colour.

The confectionary is lovely to draw. Allsorts are particularly good because of their diversity of shape and colour. Sweets wrapped and loose offer such an inspiring range of possibilities. Lovehearts, of course, are a delight. I haven’t yet drawn a Sherbert Fountain, but I probably should.

Another day of drawing and the Gingerbread Zombies appear.

Borderlands V: Night Beast


Yesterday I finished the second of the two new works made for The Discerning Eye exhibition, opening at the Mall Galleries next month. A drawing was made a few months ago, but illustrator Judy Watson prevailed on me to leave it as it was, rather than obscure it with paint. That effectively stayed my hand. However, I returned to it and used a part of it for the new work, Borderlands V: Night Beast.

The original drawing remains. I did as Judy bid!

Borderlands VI: Blue Embrace

Above: detail from Borderlands VI: Blue Embrace

Earlier this year I produced a series of Borderlands paintings that were based on the village model I made for filmed sequences of The Mare’s Tale, a commissioned work for chamber-ensemble and one actor by composer Mark Bowden and librettist Damian Walford Davies. The chamber-work was initially inspired, as the title suggests, by my Mari Lwyd-themed sequence of works. Footage of the model was projected onto the stage during the performance.


Here is the model…

… and here, one of the paintings I later made of it


Now I’m using the landscape of the model juxtaposed with another of my regular narrative themes, that of the blind saint, Hervé, with the wolf who became his lifelong companion after slaying his dog. Although not celebrated in Wales, the birthplace of both his parents, Hervé is popular in Brittany, where his feast day of June 17th is celebrated, and a fountain (well) that bears his name at his chapel at Gourin, continues as a place of pilgrimage for those who bring sick animals to be cured. This new piece, plus four of the Borderlands landscape paintings, is for The Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London, opening next month, in which I was invited by selector Simon Martin to show six works.

Hansel & Gretel, from Random Spectacular 2

Here are few pages of a version of Hansel & Gretel I wrote and illustrated for the art magazine Random Spectacular 2, produced by Saint Jude’s Prints. This idea has now blossomed into the full-blown project to produce a Hansel & Gretel book, Get Lost!, in collaboration with designer Simon Lewin, and work on it is currently underway.


For the short, Random Spectacular version of the fairy tale, I made the images and Simon added colour and made the page designs.

The cover of Random Spectacular 2 sports a splendid print by Jonny Hannah.

I believe there a few copies of RS2 are still available from the Saint Jude’s Prints online shop.

after the storm

Last night’s tumultuous winds shrieked around the eaves of Ty Isaf denying me sleep. This morning I took a turn with Jack around the garden. There’s been surprisingly little damage, though despite the fact that every time I’ve driven down the drive over the past ten days I’ve reminded myself to photograph the aspens, I kept forgetting, and now the buffeting winds have stripped them and I’ve missed the opportunity to record their shimmering, autumn gold.

Below: between throwing the ball for Jack on the lawn, I gather and twist what’s fallen from the silver birches into kindling faggots for the stove, stacking them under the tree for later collection. Silver birch wood is volatile, and even when damp the twigs burn with a tremendous crackle.

The young tulip tree



Maple in the foreground with a Liquid Amber beyond it

Dogwood: Midwinter Fire

Fallen fly agaric


Russet apples are slow to ripen, and so have done well during these long warm days of autumn

the witch files

My project-file for Hansel & Gretel is growing fatter by the day. (Like Hansel in his cage!) Yesterday I mixed several paint combinations that may or may not be the colours I’ll use throughout the book. I need to experiment before deciding. In order to try them out I’m making a trial of one of the double-page fold-outs that will give a panorama format to some of the images. This is just a detail of it.

Here are some of the development sketches for the spread.

The witch in my recent Hansel & Gretel project for Random Spectacular looked like this…


… but after that, I made further images, which brought her to this…


… from which I reinvented her yet again for another project.

Right now I’m at a stage of thinking which brings together a combination of the two. I like the tight linen cap, which links her to an earlier, medieval tradition of witches, and the glaucoma-like eye. She’s blind… or nearly so… and the pale, bloomed orb will be lovely to draw and paint. But to make up for poor vision she has a fantastic sense of smell, and I have a trick up my illustrator’s sleeve to add a chilling aspect to her appearance that will account for her olfactory sensitivity. The pointy witch’s nose, sharp as a blade, is artificial, and when she really wants to get a whiff, she pulls it aside to reveal that she has no nose at all, just a skull-like cavity for sucking in the scent of children!