Friday, October 31, 2008

Third time lucky- hooray!

I have done the jacket for this picture book three times now. I still prefer the first jacket I did- the wintery scene on the front cover contrasting with the warm African memory of boys playing soccer on the back cover, but the editors found the image too sad. The story is about a young Somalian refugee, and being a fellow African, I wanted to emphasize his homesickness and alienation. I spent a year at the University of London, and all the southern Africans in my residence used to sit together eating our stodgy toads-in-the-hole and fish'nchips, commiserating over the long cold grey English winter days.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Local traffic jam

One of my watercolour students sent me this shot taken on a bike ride after class one evening. No point in being in a rush on these small roads.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bookbinding workshop (that's reliure in French)

Last Sunday I took an afternoon bookbinding workshop offered by an ex-watercolour student, Anne-Marie Mamet. She and her husband Jean-Pierre, have quit Paris for the peace and calm of country life, and opened an French/English bookshop in the lovely village of Salviac, not far from me.

In the left photograph, a student is sewing a signature together. She will later, hammer the spine into a nice round shape, glue on headbands, boards, and a cover chosen from Anne-Marie's colourful array of patterned paper. Anne-Marie is on the right. She often works late into the night restoring old books, always accompanied by the faithful Bono.

Anne-Marie and I are discussing joining forces next summer. On the last afternoon of each class, students could bind their exercises or small paintings into a book: a nice practical momento of their time here.

Schmaltzy photo

Every blogger with a beast in the house has to post at least one schmaltzy photo of him. Here's mine.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

2008 Vendange

On Sunday morning, locals were roused from sleep by my neighbour Eugene Monteil (aka Monsieur Monmouton) to harvest his grapes. By 5:30 that evening, I had to remind my aching back and cramped thighs that being invited to the vendange is an honour.

And it is. We were rewarded that night with the annual feast of traditional homemade fare prepared by Eugene's sister, Bertholine, a judge who recessed her court in the Comores to dish up chicken noodle soup, melon, patés, beetroot/egg salad, grilled Aveyron sausage, cassoulet, cheeses, green salad, and finally fruit salad and cakes. Ah yes, and to aid the digestion of our replete tummies, a generous glass of prune- the local firewater distilled from plums.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

War Horse

Adrian Kohler, who made the wonderful puppets for the National Theatre's production of War Horse, was at art school with me in Cape Town. The horses are astonishingly lifelike and reduce every member of the audience to tears by the end of the performance.

The production is in its second run, and anyone who visits London and misses the chance to see it will sorely regret it.

Click to see an interview with Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, and the horses in action.

What to teach a child prodigy

A few weeks ago I received an email from Singapore from a mother who wanted to bring her young daughter, Dawn Quon, to study with me. Dawn has not only executed large vibrant paintings, but had solo exhibitions and raised thousands of dollars for children's charities all over southeast Asia. She was 8 when she painted this picture.

My response: just keep her working. She is doing just fine on her own. But at the same time, I have offered to host her if she wants to come and paint in southwest France.

"Naughty" jacket

I sold this art, originally done for the cover for The Day We Danced in Underpants, last summer. I have just found this copy, and am pleased that I photographed it before letting it go.

It was rejected as being too risqué. Love it! Here again is the cover that was published:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Harriet Quimby

This is why I haven't been able to post much lately. I am really behind on the illustrations for a picture book about the aviatrix Harriet Quimby. She was the first woman in America to get her pilot's license, and the first woman to fly across the English Channel. But the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank a day later and the disaster knocked Harriet's feat off the front page. Soon after, she herself was killed while flying in an airshow, so it's a rather somber tale. It's my job to make the book compelling with stunning illustrations...