Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Joseph Mallard William Turner has always been a particular favourite of mine, perhaps because his magnificent painting Rain Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway was in one of my books on railways that I loved as a child.
Turner was quite an adventurous painter, in every sense. The way he painted was experimental and advanced for his time. But he also, famously, tied himself to a ship at sea to witness a storm over the waves first hand. Another story, about Rain Steam and Speed, goes like this:
A woman on a railway journey - which in those days was considered an adventure in itself - observed an artist craning his neck to take in a particular view, sketch-book in hand. She followed him, and saw a scene of steam and rain and light. Some time later, in 1844, she was astonished to see a contraversial new painting of that very scene at the Royal Academy of Art by none other than Turner! Excited to have shared her carriage with the great artist, she chastised certain critics whom she overheard criticising Turner's picture, considering his attempts at light and rain to be ridiculously unrealistic. She described her journey with Turner and how she had witnessed the scene first hand (which is thought to be a view over the river Thames near Maidenhead).
I have no idea if all this is true and I cannot remember where I first heard this story...but it's worth telling, just for the fun of it. Another interesting thing about this painting, which is in the National Gallery in London, is the hare which runs in front of the train. It is hard to spot in the original (and a bit easier to see in my illustration here!) but it is definitely there, perhaps a symbol of speed for this extraordinary newfangled machine. People thought they would die of shock when they first travelled by rail. Certainly they would have arrived filthy: many early trains - like this one - had opened topped carriages!
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Suddenly time is running out and I realise I have to prepare for my trip to Edinburgh next week. I'll be telling stories and illustrating them at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. Here's a picture of me in action in January this year...
This time I'll be celebrating Katie and the Spanish Princess, which ties in with their important Discovery of Spain
exhibition. This is quite an honour as I'll be allowed to sit amongst the paintings by Velazquez and others to tell tales and draw pictures. Also a bit humbling to be sat amongst such work!
The event takes place on Saturday August 29th at 1. pm and 2.30pm. It is FREE but adults will need to purchase a ticket for the Discovery of Spain exhibition (which is going to be worth every penny!)
I love the National Gallery in Edinburgh. It's setting and views are surely second-to-none. Everyone there is so warm and friendly, it's an extremely welcoming place and I'm very grateful for this special opportunity. I feel very privilaged and so I am determined to give my best! The stories will be traditional Spanish folk tales...but I have yet to decide how to illustrate them!
Friday, 14 August 2009
It's well known than Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin were good friends and there even exists a painting, by Paul Gauguin, of Vincent painting his famous sunflowers.
I think there's a picture by Vincent of Paul as well...
Anyway, one story I heard (I hope it's true)that I always really liked, is this:
After Paul left France for his new life in Tahiti on a paradise island, he wrote to Vincent that there were many exotic and beautiful flowers on the island, but sadly no sunflowers. Apparently Vincent wrote back and enclosed some sunflower seeds with his letter. Paul planted them and sunflowers supposedly grow in Tahiti to this day. I like to believe this is a true story...and I'd like to think that the seeds came from the very sunflowers in his famous paintings. I wonder...
Meanwhile "Sunflowers", one version of which hangs in the National Gallery in London, might represent the Four Seasons, represented by buds, flowers, withering flowers and seeds.
One thing is for sure...poor old Vincent never anticpated his sunflowers being printed on umbrellas and magnets and birthday cards and handbags and pencils and rulers and jigsaws and...just about anything you can think of. I wonder if it would make him happy if he could see his paintings celebrated so widely?
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Yesterday I delivered the new book to Orchard books in London. They seemed pleased and after going through all the art I discussed various publicity plans, at the Edinburgh Festival and the National Galleries in Edinburgh and London. All exciting stuff which I hope works out. Later I took my lovely editor Liz to see the Mariinsky (Kirov) ballet in Swan Lake... yes we are already planning our next book: Ella Bella Ballerina and the Swan Princess (a working title). Today I spoke to my very good friend Jackie Morris and she wants another text. Better sharpen those pencils...
Sunday, 9 August 2009
Tomorrow I go to Orchard Books to deliver the illustrations for the new Katie book, Katie and the Waterlily Pond. It's not been an easy book, I've been ill and there have been various distractions (like holidays in Cromer!). The book will not be published for a year or so, but in the meantime here are a few pictures to show you what I've been up to. I hope you(and Orchard!) like them...