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Altered Book Commissions 2020

I’ve had my head down working on projects and not getting out as much as I’d have liked. It’s also been rather wet. Soon, I hope to have one or two new things to show that I’m working on. Meanwhile, I thought I’d put up a few of the altered book commissions that I’ve done this year.

Dragon in the Forest Altered Book

I was contacted and asked to make an altered book inspired by Terry Brooks’ magical kingdom. I haven’t read any Terry Brooks’ books, but I researched a bit and, along with a few guidelines from my customer, came up with the following:

Dragon in the Woods altered book
Altered book inspired by Terry Brooks’ magical kingdom.

There’s a dragon hiding behind the trees and a ruin of a house.

The Wintry Wood Altered Book

I was asked if I would make another Box of Delights altered book, this time based on the winter scenes in the story. It’s called The Wintry Wood. David Plaice gave me outlined drawings of what he wanted on each of the pages, apart from the last one which he said I could draw as I liked and make it a surprise. Below are three pages from the book…

… and a lovely video made by David Plaice of the book as a whole, with music by Ian Hughes. I didn’t realize it at the time, but The left hand pages of the book were inspired by my 2017 Romanian bear seeking excursions.

Deer in the Forest Altered Book

Finally, I worked on a pocket sized sketchbook and created Deer in the Forest. It wasn’t exactly a commission, until the first copy went missing in the US postal system and I was asked if I’d make it again:

Pocket Altered Book
Two Deer Pocket Altered Book

Two Deer Pocket Altered Book

I hope to share some more forest-related artwork soon.

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The Woodland Edge Concertina Card

Light through trees

On fine days this autumn, I’ve tried to get out into the woods and see some beautiful colours. Autumn is my second favourite season after spring, so when I decided to create a coloured concertina card, I thought I’d be guided by the colour around me.

When I think of woods, I often think of deer – and sometimes see them too – so I’ve created an autumnal, woodland scene with deer on the front and, on the reverse side, I’ve drawn a field with some hares. I’ve called it ‘The Woodland Edge‘ because so much happens at the edge of things! :)

Here is a photo of the deer side:

The Woodland Edge Concertina Card
The Woodland Edge Concertina Card – front.

And here is the hare side:

The Woodland Edge Concertina Card
The Woodland Edge Concertina Card – back.

Here are the full length images (click on the images to make them bigger):

the Woodland Edge
The Woodland Edge Concertina Card.

I’ve used pen and ink with coloured pencils. I would have liked to have used coloured inks, but the water would have made the black ink run and I prefer to use my Art pen for this sort of drawing. I think the colour has worked.

The Woodland Edge Concertina Card
The Woodland Edge Concertina Card.

This card, along with my other greetings cards, is available in my Etsy shop and in my Reflections shop.

They’ll be more cards soon. :)

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Concertina Greetings Cards

I am still working on the film poem I mentioned in my last post. I think it’ll take me a while.

Still, one thing that has come out of my Sea Trout project is the creation of new concertina cards. I call them concertina cards because they’re long cards folded twice. The idea arose from my long sea trout picture (click on the images for bigger versions):

Sea Trout
Sea Trout

I wanted to create a card out of the design and thought it would be good to feature a picture on the reverse side. So I drew a shoal of trout:

Sea Trout Shoal
Sea Trout Shoal

Here is the finished Sea Trout card:

Sea Trout concertina card
Sea Trout concertina card

I decided to create a further two cards, both with a “trees” or “forest” theme. The first of these is In The Forest. One side of the card features a daytime forest scene with deer and a fox beneath the trees:

Daytime forest scene
Daytime forest scene – one side of a In The Forest concertina card.

On the reverse is a night scene featuring badgers, deer, foxes, owls and hedgehogs:

It reminds me a bit of a tapestry :)

Here is the finished card:

In the Forest concertina greetings card
In The Forest concertina greetings card.

My third card features a badger sett. One side you see a badger family out foraging at night:

The Badger Sett
The Badger Sett – one side of a concertina greetings card.

The other side shows a cross-section of the badger sett with some slumbering badgers along with a rabbit burrow, tree roots and a burrowing mole:

The Badger Sett
The Badger Sett – one side of a concertina card.

Here is The Badger Sett card:

The Badger Sett
The Badger Sett concertina greetings card.

All cards are available from my Etsy shop and come with a little tag for a message and a square kraft envelope. :)

Sea Trout greetings card

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Inspired by Deer

We recently visited Wakehurst Place in West Sussex. I haven’t been there since I was a child. It was a damp but bright day and the gardens were autumnal, browns, russets, greys.

Wakehurst Place in November
Wakehurst Place in November

I liked the carvings and one in particular, the portrait of a Sika deer’s head in a living Japanese cedar tree:

Sika Deer Carving in Cedar at Wakehurst Place
Sika Deer Carving in Cedar at Wakehurst Place.

It’s by Japanese Tachigi-bori carver, Masa Suzuki. Tachigi-bori means ‘standing-wood carving’ and is a traditional Japanese practice of carving sculptures into living trees. According to Shinto belief, all things have a sacred force and a large old tree would have a strong sacred force. The carving gives form to the tree’s spirit. This carving was done in dead wood that arose from the great storm in 1987. The dead wood where the carving has been made will eventually heal over with callus wood in the next 25-30 years. For Masa it’s all about connecting to the natural world.

The Sika deer was chosen as, in Japan, it is traditionally seen as a messenger between the earth and the spirit world. The deer were introduced into the UK by the Victorians and I’ve seen them at Arne RSPB Nature reserve.

Well before the Victorians, according to my medieval bestiary,

…”Stags are the enemies of serpents: as soon as they feel the symptoms of illness, they entice snakes out of their holes with the breath of their noses and overcoming their harmful poison, feed on them and are cured……..after they have eaten a snake, they hasten to a spring and drinking from it, their grey hairs and all signs of age vanish….Does do not conceive until Arcturus appears in the heavens.”

Medieval Bestiary
Medieval Bestiary – Richard Barber

The book mentions other peculiarities such as the ability of deer to eat a herb that will help draw out arrows which have harmed them. Such is the weird and wonderful medieval world.

Deer Doodle from my Sketchbook
Deer doodle from my sketchbook

I thought I’d create a little shrine to the spirit of the deer:

Deer Shrine
Deer Shrine

Recently I stumbled on some music I liked by Martha Tilston and was pleased to find it is called Stags Bellow. Here is a Youtube video of the song:

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Tonight I dream of deer…

I thought I had more to say about night, especially as the nights are lengthening as we descend through the layers of autumn. However, it seems I have more to say about deer. Deer and night have become one in my mind, I am very close to deer right now.

Recently I’ve had a couple of deer encounters. One was when I was walking beside the River Adur with my partner. We spotted two roe deer in the distance – I could just see movement. Then they came in our direction bounding over the wet water meadows. It was a beautiful sight. The second encounter was in a wood not far from the River Ouse where we regularly walk. A hind roe deer was startled in the scrub and came rushing out. When she saw us she zig-zagged away and out of sight. We stood still so as not to panic her.

When I started my latest altered book, I was going to call it Night Queen and base it on my greetings card of the same name:

Night Queen
Night Queen

However, deer came to me and wanted to be included. So, now I’ve decided to call the book, The Night Queen and the Deer or Tonight I Dream of Deer.

This altered book is close to my heart, it feels more personal somehow – perhaps more full of magic and imagination! I’ve deliberately blackened in pages of sky and stars and have even – surreptiously – included the major stars of the twelve zodiac constellations on one of the pages,

The Night Queen and the Deer
The Night Queen and the Deer Altered Book. Click on the image for a larger version.

and, on the deepest page on the right of the central spread, is a stag with enormous antlers, gently cradling the cresent moon. The Night Queen and the Deer is now on sale in my website shop and Etsy Shop.

I’ve been playing with deer imagery in other creations including two new greetings cards, Winter Deer and Deer Heart. Both are seasonal and I hope, just as magical.

Deer Heart Greetings Card
Deer Heart Greetings Card
Winter Deer Greetings Card
Winter Deer Greetings Card

They are available in my website shop and my Etsy and Folksy shops.

I do have more to say about night, it hides much, but I’ll leave that for now.

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Time of the Deer

Time of the Deer
Time of the Deer

Time of the deer,
Wind and swirling dream,
Heavy, brooding skies,
Amber light,
And the coming of night,
So early.

I feel it in my bones,
I feel it in the river, swollen now with autumn rains.

In the honey and copper forest,
Glimpsed in the woodland ride,
A presence drifts,
Scattering pennies to the earth,
The accepting, gathering, honest earth,
Where all the animals hide.

I feel it in my bones,
I feel it in the river, swollen now with autumn rains.
Time of the deer,
Wind and swirling dream.

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Dusk Night Dawn T-Shirt

At the beginning of the year I decided to design some new t-shirts. Finally I’m getting round to it.

My first new design is Dusk Night Dawn. I’m always drawing deer and this time I thought I’d add the words Dusk Night Dawn (the title of my book!), as I really like these times of day.

Dusk Night Dawn T-shirt
Dusk Night Dawn T-shirt
Dusk Night Dawn T-Shirt
Dusk Night Dawn T-Shirt

I wanted to reflect the moon in the shape of the silhouetted deer and trees. It’s now up in my Teemill online shop here.

There is another deer t-shirt in my collection, Deer Tree t-shirt:

Deer Heart Tree
Deer Heart Tree T-Shirt Design

Other t-shirts in my shop include a special Great Crested Newt T-shirt favoured by ecologists.

I’ve been told there is free shipping this weekend…just in case you’re tempted :)

If you have design requests, just drop me a note and I’ll see what I can come up with.

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Deer Rut

Recently I’ve visited the Knepp Estate to witness the fallow deer rut. I wanted to experience it this year to write about it for the book I’m writing, Dusk Night Dawn.

I went with my partner, Kevin, and we were in luck, stumbling on a rutting stand with a few males with magnificient antlers paralell walking. Then the fighting began. My photos came out blurred because of the dim, dusk light, but they’ve caught the primal energy! :)

The Fallow Deer Rut at Knepp
The Fallow Deer Rut at Knepp
Rutting Deer at Knepp
Rutting Deer at Knepp
Rutting Deer at Knepp
Rutting Deer at Knepp
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Making an Altered Book

I thought I’d document the process of making an altered book – my way!

Below are photo’s showing the process of making The Edge of the Wood altered book.

Second Hand Book
I start with a hardbacked second-hand book from a charity shop or found in the street.
Tools
My tools – scissors, a pencil and a cutting knife. Also needed are a glue stick, a piece of cardboard and white cartridge paper!
Opened book with Paper
I open the book roughly in the centre and glue a piece of cartridge paper across both sides with a glue stick.
Image 3 Showing Paper Stuck in
Showing the paper stuck in and the edges to be trimmed.
Image 4 Pencil Sketch
I sketch out the top picture in pencil that I’ll later rub out.
Image 5 Start of the Drawing in Pen.
I start drawing. I use a Faber Castell, PITT artist pen, size small
Drawing Underway
Drawing underway. I love drawing trees and like putting a tree centrally to span both sides but there’s plenty of scope for other arrangements.
Board Beneath Drawing
The top picture finished. Place board beneath drawing ready for cutting.
Cutaway Pages
Showing cutaway pages with a new sheet of cartridge paper stuck beneath each side.
Showing Cutaway Page
Showing beneath cutaway page.
Cutting a Page.
Cutting the second-from-last page.
Finished Altered Book
Here is the finished altered book that I’m calling” The Edge of the Wood.” At this stage I might add a bit of colour with watercolour pencils and/or inks.
Detail of Altered Book
Here is a close-up detail of “The Edge of the Wood.”

The Edge of the Wood and Deer in the Forest below will soon be on display in Avocet Gallery in Rye.

Deer in the Forest Altered Book
Deer in the Forest altered book
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Forest Altered Books

As a child I loved pop-up books. A friend once sent me a pop-up postcard of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain featuring a thoughtful, solitary figure. It was a beautiful, inspiring card. I have mislaid my card but I found a photo of it on the web:

Alhambra Postcard
Postcard showing the Lindaraja Balcony within the Alhambra.

I am now altering books. I made my first altered book, angel wings a few years ago. Now I am working in pen and ink and with the forest as my inspiration, I’ve started with a square paperback book, a sort of thick pamphlet.

Book to be Altered
A book to be altered as an experiment.
Altered Book Half Finished
Forest altered book half-finished.
Altered Forest Book
Forest Altered Book
Detail in Altered Forest Book
A deer in the glade.

Altering a book is like creating a stage-set, a little window on to life or on to a dream. Life seems very much like that at the moment, I am in the wings, I have a secret view into a strange, alternative world that is sleeping or buzzing, busy with dreaming, busy with weaving dreams. (I am reminded of a lovely folktale from the Isle of Skye called The Dream Makers. It is about deer too. Sharon Blackie has written a lovely version of it on her blog here.)

I am fascinated by burrows, badger setts and secret havens. I like to find signs of the presense of animals – smeuses (gaps in vegetation made by the passage of animals), ‘couches’ of flattened grass where animals like badgers have lain while away from the sett; feeding signs. It is interesting to think that beneath my feet, along a woodland trail, might sleep a badger.

Badger Sett
One of the entrances to a badger sett in Newtimber Woods.

I bought a couple of the small Observer field guides secondhand. They’re not rare or valuable but I do like them and treasure copies I’ve had for decades. I thought that I’d work with an image that I’ve drawn recently, of a badger sleeping beneath tree roots which is inked in with a gold sky:

Slumbering Badger
Can you see the face amongst the roots?
Books to be Altered
Old Observer field guide books.
Badger Altered Book
The badger altered book underway.
Badger Altered Book
A badger sleeps beneath tree roots.

With another old book, I have created a forest scene, again with deer and a central tree with spreading branches and roots. I cannot decide whether to complete the picture behind the deer or leave the pages of text. I quite like seeing the writing, the essence of the book still evident.

Forest Deer Altered Book

Forest Deer Altered Book
Click on the image to see a larger version.

The book of the forest. I have other ideas for altered books – portraits, goddesses, icons – but I don’t think I have quite finished with forests, trees and deer yet.

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