Working on a New Booklet

Drawing desk

My makeshift desk where I work. I like to sit on the floor rather than at a table.

I seem to be continuing the woods and trees theme this year with my new booklet. This time it’s a story, a kind of folktale and I like to describe it as a “tale from the forest” and it’s called The Memory Tree. It is taking time though, already I have worked on several drafts and done many pictures – some for a colour version which I’ve decided to shelve for the moment.

However, I thought I’d show one or two pictures from the tale, a colour spread of a forest scene and it’s equivalent in black and white (the one I’ll use for the book) and a picture of the main character, a girl named Echo.

Night Scene in Colour

Night Scene Black and White

Girl in Leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While she slumbered, a dream came to Echo, a dream of tree spirits and creatures she had never seen, watching, waiting, spying and humming in the darkness around her. It was a dream too, of forgetfulness, her tree, her garden, her parents and her past seeped away into the darkness as she slept.

Trees, woods and forests are so important to me. I need to take frequent trips out to the woods and it has been particularly lovely walking out in the Autumn woods recently, just before the storms hit and the blustery weather made its debut. Here is a favourite tree at Markstakes Common where we walked recently. It’s a large, spreading oak that’s been climbed in and well loved over time. All the woodland and forest visits I’ve made around the world – from woods like this to rainforests in Costa Rica – are distilled into my little story making the forest in it a lush, fictious kingdom from anywhere and nowhere, a forest of my imagination.

Oak at Markstakes Common

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Turtle Dreaming….a storm, a woman and a harp

Woman with harp, stars and storm

Waves, angry as hounds, crashed on the shore…

I’m progressing slowly with my “Turtle Dreaming” story. I’m trying to write and illustrate the story at the same time, but it’s still in the first draft stage, changes can happen any time. So far there’s a young woman, a harp, a storm, a turtle, a whispering moon and I’d love to include shipwrecks, smugglers and underwater “other worlds”, but I’ll have to see how it develops!

Click on images to see previous posts about the story.

Turtle in waves

Embracing the waves

Woman Walking steps

Turtle with girl thumbnail

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Turtle dreaming drawings

Turtle in the wavesUp the rock cut stepsHere are a couple of illustrations I’ve done for my story idea:

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Turtle Dreamings – Churning the Ocean of Milk

Turtle rock artI’ve been trying to continue with my children’s story. I know that I want it to about turtles and a girl named Christine, who lives on a cliff overlooking the sea. I’ve been thinking a lot about turtles in the last few days and remembered a dream I had last year that involved my sister nurturing a wounded turtle. I looked up turtle symbolism in dreams and here are some examples of meanings I found:

Longevity, patience and persistence, self-protection, hiding, withdrawing and fear of social interaction or showing one’s true self.

Turtles convey steadfastness and caution, moving and changing slowly and they have strong protective shells, which may also be symbolic of a defense mechanism or real life protection with which one has surrounded oneself.

Oh well, perhaps my dream meant that I just needed to nurture wounded parts of myself.

Turtles are often depicted in popular culture as easygoing, patient, and wise creatures and are an emblem of longevity and stability in many cultures. In some creation myths the turtle or tortoise carries the world on its back or supports the heavens. In Aboriginal rock art in the ancient turtle totem, the dome-like curved shell symbolizes the sky in relation to the square flat underside, symbolic of the earth. More turtle symbolism can be found here.

Churning the Ocean of MilkWhilst looking up turtle myth, the story that I found most interesting and evocative was ‘The Churning of the Ocean of Milk’, a famous episode in a Hindu text, the Puranas. It involved a mountain entwined by a serpent whose head was held by demons and whose tail was pulled by the gods to rotate the mountain and so churn the ocean. All this was done to retrieve the “Nectar of Immortality” from the ocean. However, once the mountain was placed on the ocean, it began to sink, so Vishnu in the form of a turtle Kurma, came to the rescue and supported the mountain on his back. This bas relief is at Angkor Watt in Cambodia. I failed to see it when I was there (to my annoyance now), but I think its beautiful and I especially like the ghostly white turtle form at the bottom.

A few years ago I volunteered with the Sea Turtle Protection Society, Archelon on Crete, patrolling beaches to protect breeding turtles and their eggs. I longed to get just a glimpse of a turtle or turtle track, but unfortunately they arrived the day after I left.

Anyway, with my interest in turtles returned, I wanted to see one somehow.Green TurtleAt the turtle tank
Figurehead

So yesterday I visited the Sealife centre here in Brighton to do some “research” and commune with these creatures even if it was from just behind glass! Here are some photos that will help me with my story:

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Embracing the waves

Moonlit dancerInspired by my recent doodles on wood and The Primavera, I’ve been working in watercolour pencils. Beginning with my own “three graces”, I went through various stages until I arrived at a picture I’ve titled “Embracing the Waves”. There’s a story that I want to entice from this picture. Perhaps a children’s story.
Embracing the Waves

Hers was a tale of tides, of swirling currents, shipwrecks and underground journeys.

Let us begin with a child, her name, Christina, found alone on the beach many years ago, as though washed in with the tide. Turning, we see that her eyes are pearls. Snatched by banshees, a child of the sea. Driftwood her shelter, broken rocks, her home…..

I shall ponder on this for a while and see where it leads me.

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The Red Fruit Tree

Here is a story I wrote earlier this year, which I’d like to illustrate better:

The Red Fruit Tree

There once lived a beautiful woman and her husband in a lush, tropical kingdom beyond the mountains. They had a baby girl called Echo, who loved playing in the garden with her mother.

Echo loved playing with the butterflies, the birds and the deer chasing them around the garden. Indeed she loved all wildlife and stayed outside long after the sun went down, sitting beneath the red fruit tree.

One day, Echo was playing in the wood at the bottom of the garden. The sky became very dark and clouds shifted over the sun. The beautiful woman called from the house for Echo to go indoors as a storm was brewing. Echo had not experienced a big storm before and gazed up into the sky. Large drops of rain began to fall.

red-fruit-tree-woman-garden.jpgThe beautiful woman came out and whisked her daughter inside the house.

The storm was no ordinary storm. The winds came with gigantic gusts and whorled about the house and garden. In little groups, the animals hurried away to find shelter. From the veranda Echo watched them and dearly wanted to follow them and enjoy the torrents of warm rain that descended from above. Soon, she couldn’t wait any longer and while her mother went to take the bread out of the oven, she was off, running across the garden and down to the river beside the red fruit tree.

The beautiful woman realised Echo was gone and rushed into the garden calling,

“Echo! Echo! Where are you! Come back in, you’ll be cold and wet!”

But, Echo was gone. The river had burst its banks and whipped the child up in its watery arms, carrying her off down the hillside and into the mists beyond.

The beautiful woman called her husband from the fields and together they hunted high and low. But there was no sign of Echo, only some tiny footprints beside the swollen river.

Days and nights passed and still no sign. The beautiful woman lost her beauty and became thin and tired and her husband just sat with his head in his hands. The land felt their grief and became parched and barren and the animals wandered off in search of more fertile pastures.

A heaviness and sadness hung over the land.

* * * * * * * *

Echo found herself in a little pool far away clinging to a branch of the red fruit tree. A curious deer came to the water’s edge and plucked the child up and deposited her carefully on the bank. Exhausted, Echo lay there in a patch of sunshine and went to sleep. The birds sang to each other in the treetops above.

Days passed into weeks, weeks passed into months and months into years. Echo lived in the forest with the animals and grew strong and nibble running with the deer through the trees and climbing trees with the squirrels. The sun bronzed her and the rain bathed her. She was happy and could not remember anything about her home with her mother and father far away. But although she was happy, Echo began to feel that something was not quite as it should be, something was prompting her to seek beyond the edge of the forest.

* * * * * * * *

One night as the moon climbed the sky, the Goddess of Night spread her cloak and descended to the parched lands of the once lush kingdom, where the grief stricken couple still mourned their daughter. She entered the barren garden where the grass refused to grow and soft as a cat, she lent against the red fruit tree and took out her harp. A few magical notes took to the air and floated up through the bedroom window of the couple, beckoning to the woman to go outside.

red-fruit-tree-night-goddes.jpg

Thin and fraught, the woman came down into the garden and when she saw the goddess, she touched the raw earth and
fell to her knees. Both knew why the goddess was there.

“Please help me, Goddess”, the woman wept, “help me find my daughter and stop my grief.”

The goddess stroked one of the owls on her shoulder before answering.

“Here, take this seed from the red fruit tree and carry it to a distant land. There, on a cliff, you must plant it. When it has taken root and begun to grow, your grief will go and your life will return to normal.”

The woman was just about to ask if her daughter was alive and could be found, when the goddess wrapped up her cloak and faded back up into the sky just as the sun crept above the horizon.

The woman took the seed, shiny and new and put it in a special sack. She said farewell to her husband and set off down the mountain in search of a distant cliff top.

* * * * * * * *

Now, Echo had a dream. In her dream she saw a tree with big red fruit and red leaves. It was growing on a cliff top and was alive with birds. As the birds ate, the juice from the fruit fell and nourished the earth. Some of it fell to the sea beneath where sea-maidens played in the surf. When she awoke, she knew that she had to find the tree somewhere and however long it took.

The sky rained down on her and the sun broke through the branches above. For a day and a night, Echo wandered to the edge of the forest. She passed fields of flowers, streams and over hills. And then, just as the sun was setting, overhead passed a flock of birds their beaks red with rich juice. Echo knew that she was close to a red fruit tree. The sound of the sea came to her ears and was that the laughter of sea-maidens she wondered?

Silhouetted against the sun, was a magnificent tree bright with red fruit, leaves and birds. And Echo remembered the tree in the garden of her childhood and held out her arms to embrace its trunk. More memories came flooding back as she held the tree tight; her mother, a beautiful woman with hair of silk and her father, quiet and caring. And Echo wept.

It was then that something caught her eye high up in the branches, something twinkling in the last rays of the sun. Echo climbed up with the birds and reached up, her hand grasped the object and then she could see that it was a ring encircling a branch. The ring looked familiar; it belonged to her mother. It was then that she knew that her mother had been there, that she must have planted the tree and in so doing, dropped her ring. The tree had gathered up the ring as it grew and held it as a beacon for Echo to one-day find.

Night came and Echo fell asleep in the tree’s arms.

* * * * * * * *

It didn’t take Echo long to journey back home. She followed the river at first and then flocks of birds. Her mother and father were overjoyed to see her, now a young beautiful woman. They had given her up for dead many years ago. The woman, now old, once again became beautiful and her husband was so happy his garden and crops began to grow and thrive once again. The land signed and the animals returned as before. Echo was happy, she stood beneath the red fruit tree and remembered her time in the forest and that all was now as it should be.

They all lived happily ever after.

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