a special announcement

Many of you will know of the print-to-order textile company Spoonflower. In the next weeks I’ll be producing a design for a fabric we’ll be using to make curtains to hang at our seaside cottage. The theme is the Alphabet Primer I’ve been working on for the Open Books exhibition at The National Library, and I’ll be redrawing some of my favourite images made for that project, including the Sailor with the Rose Tattoos and Voyager. I’ll chart the progress here on the Artlog, but the exciting thing is that once the work has been completed, anyone interested will be able to purchase the textile in whichever quantities needed, direct from Spoonflower. If you’re interested do let me know here in the comments box. Your enthusiasm will add wings to my endeavours.

I’m also thinking of designing a Foliate Head pattern based on the drawings made for Marly’s forthcoming book, though that will depend on whether there’s enough interest from potential purchasers. Do let me know how you feel about this. I’ve started roughing out the design to see how the repeat will work, but whether it gets to the finishing line will rather depend on whether there is any enthusiasm for the product. So….

Get Commenting!

u is for unicorn…

… with foliate tail…

…and V is for Voyager

at night in full sail.

Motifs from my past. The rampant unicorn with a scrolling tail has been borrowed from an illustration I made for the Old Stile Press 1998 edition of The Affectionate Shepheard. The oval box was given to me by my friend Rex Harley, and I later decorated it with a night-time ship. It’s appeared in many paintings, one of which may be seen HERE and another HERE.

the poetry of objects

Regulars here at the Artlog will have read about Catriona Urquhart, author of the sequence of poems The Mare’s Tale, plantswoman, raconteuse and much missed friend. Catriona and her partner Ian Hamilton were frequent visitors at our cottage by the sea. The place is redolent of the couple, with furniture, ceramics and plants that they brought to find a good home for, in surroundings they loved being in. (We still eat at the dining-table they loaned to us, and we always refer to it as ‘Ian and Catriona’s table’.) Peter and I have just had a glorious weekend there. On Saturday we viewed the result of some much-needed grounds-work carried out by gardeners Ursula and Ali accompanied by their delightful dog Malcolm, who I’m told takes care of the ‘quality control’ side of their business!


Up at the top corner of the property a small elevated spot has a chair where Catriona used to sit on warm summer evenings. During the final stages of her illness she took up smoking again, liking the occasional Gauloises while she watched the sea and waited for the bats to emerge at dusk. I was sitting in her chair when the news came by telephone of her death. I’d seen her the day before, made my farewells and left her floating deep in unconsciousness, safe in the care of Ian and her mother, her two brothers and sister and their families. With the help of the Macmillan nurses, Catriona’s death took place in her own bed at home, surrounded by books, paintings and music, which was just the way she wanted it.

Above: a painting made at the cottage of a jug given to me by Catriona. I’ve painted it many times.

After Catriona had gone I found myself unable to approach her chair overlooking the bay. It made me too sad to find it empty. With her not there to cut them back, the ivy and nettles took over and the chair vanished into their depths. Recently, pushing aside the Spring undergrowth, I discovered it caught in the thrusting brambles, pitched at a crazy angle and making for the tree canopy. I can think of no more poetic evocation of Catriona than her chair carried skywards by greenery, and I know she would have approved. (Perhaps I can mine a painting out of the idea.) Nevertheless, Ursula and Ali were co-oped to cut back the brash, and the chair has now been retrieved and set on its feet again. In the coming weeks Ali will replace its missing arm. (My friend Anita in the States has always maintained there is no practical problem on this good earth that can’t be solved by getting in a lesbian with a big old tool belt, and I’m glad to say that Ali is the proof of that particular pudding!) I will never stop missing Catriona, but the time feels right to sit in her chair, to listen to the sea and watch the bats hunting at dusk. I shall forgo the Gauloises.

yesterday in the garden

A newly mown path through the long grass leads the eye to the paddock beyond.

Enticing prospect, but instead I take the shingle path snaking down through the big herbaceous bank to the lawn.

Ceanothus and tree-lupin to my right…

… and iris to the left.

Continue down past mass-planted euphorbia…

… pausing only to glance back up to the house.

Approach the shade of the viburnum where under-planted  lily-of-the-valley scent the air.

Turn back and admire the black elder…

… before continuing under the newly-flowering laburnum and out into the open.

A cardoon next to the drive has exploded into magnificent growth!

Surprise surprise. Look who’s under it waiting for me!

And how did he know which route I’d take?