In an earlier post I mentioned that "Can it be true?" by Susan Hill has been featured in a Christmas Carol Competition. Out of a huge number of entries six carols have been chosen and performed by the BBC singers. Listeners are being asked to pick their favourite which will be performed on Christmas day.
As from today you can listen to the six finalists in the BBC Radio 3 Christmas carol competition and register your vote by following this link. I am not sure if you need to live in the UK to hear these BBC podcasts?
My illustration above is one of the pages from the book "Can it be true?" It features some of the animals mentioned in the prose poem. Having spent so long visualising the images in the text it is something of a marvel to me to hear the words set to music. I am in awe of anyone who can create music and also those gifted with beautiful voices. Singing was never my strong point, even my little grandson implores me to stop!
This year we will be having a very busy family Christmas and I am already feeling great waves of panic at the thought of the food shopping and preparation ahead. In order to lessen the stress I have reduced the stock in my on-line shops, you can still buy books but they may not arrive in time for Christmas if you live overseas.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a Very Happy And Blessed Christmas. Thank you so much for your support, words of encouragement and friendship over the past months. I really do appreciate it. xxx
UPDATE- Congratulations to Jacqueline Burley whose Christmas Carol setting won the "Can it be True?" Christmas carol competition organised by BBC Radio 3. Jacqueline's version is a worthy winner and has done a brilliant job in her musical interpretation of Susan Hill's words.
"Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart, E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea; Then will all clouds of sorrow depart, Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me! Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!" by Stephen Foster. This little sleeping dormouse illustration was painted as an illustration for my book "A Book of Days". When the days shorten and the temperature drops I sometimes wish I could hibernate, possibly waking up for a brief spell over Christmas. At the moment I feel as if I am wading through mud and achieving nothing. If you follow Rima Staines at The Hermitage you may have heard about her quest to raise money for a storytelling project and if you are avery quick you might be interested in this auction here at Hedgespoken.
Don't be like the dormouse and sleep all the way through. x
We have been to several remembrance
services in our home town and visited the installation at The Tower of London-
“Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” marking the centenary of the outbreak of
the First World War. This amazing and poignant work of art was created by
ceramic artist Paul Cummings, with stage settings by stage designer Tom Piper.
The installation was far from complete at the time of our visit and yet the
effect was breathtaking. By the time of completion 888,246 poppies will have
filled the entire moat, each poppy a life lost including one for my great uncle
On this day, a hundred years ago, my
grandfather Thomas and his brother John were already enlisted as regular
soldiers. As a mother of two boys I can only imagine my great grandmother’s
feelings on hearing of the outbreak of WW1. John was killed at the very
beginning, Thomas, a Royal Engineer, survived the entire conflict from start to finish.
Many of those who returned home safely went on to develop what is now understood to be post traumatic stress disorder, a condition little understood in those days. One of the charities to benefit from the Tower of London poppy appeal is Combat Stress who help today's veterans affected by stress. Coping with life after conflict can be
extremely challenging, not only for the ex-service men and women but for their
families too. Victims often suffer horrendous flashbacks, depression and
character changes; fortunately charities like Combat Stress can offer help and
support but need our help. You can find out more here-
Double page spread from "Can it be true?" by Susan Hill
Illustration by Valerie Greeley.
With so many references to WW1 and with
thoughts about my grandfather and his brother, I found that WW1 imagery crept
into my work. This illustration from “Can it be true?” could have had any
number of interpretations; I saw it as a nightmare from the trenches. For me the
two men represent the brothers Thomas and John. With so many disparate images
to include- whales, soldiers, shrews, ferrets, stoats and a General dreaming, I
choose to make the bed covers part of an undulating landscape with dreamlike
waves and harpoons turning into arrows and bayonets. It was certainly the most
challenging thing I have ever had to illustrate and kept me awake on more than
On offer is a signed copy of "Can it be True?" and also a retelling of The Snow Queen by Sarah Lowes illustrated by Miss Clara.
The giveaway is open until the 24th October and Annie would like you to share some of your Christmas thoughts with her.
Annie is a talented photographer and has managed to capture the gold foil on the book jacket so beautifully.
And now, if you will excuse this very hurried post, I must dash, I have books to deliver.
This year I decided to submit two miniature paintings for possible selection for The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers annual exhibition. After being inspired by an earlier trip to Wells to see the work of The Hilliard Society and reading other artist's blogs such as Tracy Hall's Watercolour Diary I finally plucked up the courage and entered my paintings for the first time.
This entailed a trip to London to submit the artwork followed by an anxious wait, checking the website to see if my work had been accepted. I was both surprised and delighted to see my two registration numbers amongst the list of accepted works, in fact I had to ask my husband to double check to see if my eyes were not deceiving me!
Illustration for "Can it be true?" written by Susan Hill for Long Barn Books.
I thought you might be interested to see
some of the thought processes and inspiration behind my recent illustration
project for "Can it be true?” for Long Barn Books.
It was decided from the beginning that this book would have either black and white illustrations or restricted colour, we wanted to give a more simplified “printmaker” feel to this new edition in contrast to the very detailed water colours used previously.
When I had to think of an image to use to illustrate the towns page I immediately thought of Tudor style houses. This very decorative style of building lends itself to black pen and ink drawing and so was a natural choice. There are very many wonderful examples around our home and county town of Chester. Some date from as far back as Henry VII.
The illustration started as a black and
white pen drawing, which I scanned into the computer. I then added colour and a
lino print texture on Photoshop. The original idea was to have gold on some of
the pages but to do this would have added considerably to the costs. We decided
to add a gold effect instead, this was also done on Photoshop by scanning a
piece of gold leaf and then “pasting” the effect in the windows and onto the
stars. (see top) The illustration suggested a repeat pattern so when the book was finished I turned the page into a textile design. To see how this would look on fabric I decided to try out the Spoonflower site. This is a place where you can upload your own designs and have them printed for your own use or for sale in an online shop.
The problem for me was choosing the right
fabric, in the end I opted for Kona cotton, thinking it might be nice to quilt.
The obligatory sample arrived in due course and when I saw it my mind turned
back to books again. I thought it might be good to try out the fabric as a book
cloth;- here is my very old and tatty address book sporting its new cover. It
seemed an appropriate choice.
August came and went in the blink of an eye
and now it seems we are almost into autumn. A new term for those returning to
school and great excitement for a certain little boy who starts school
tomorrow. How I wish I could be a fly on the wall!
I seem to have been very busy with one
thing and another. I have redesigned my website in order to make changes and
updates easily without having to ask for help. I made it on blogger, better the
devil you know, it will be a work in progress.
A box full of ‘Can it be True?” book
samples arrived followed by some rather exciting news. Those of you who listen
to BBC Radio 3 Breakfast might have heard about a new Christmas Carol
Competition. Listeners are being asked to set the words of a new version of
“Can it be True?” by Susan Hill to create a new Christmas carol. If you are
musically inclined you might like to enter, details are available here-
I took this photograph to give you some idea of the scale of the book. As you can see it is Christmas stocking size.
I hope to have some of the Christmas books
for sale soon in my bookshop, maybe in the next few days. It seems a bit too soon to think about the
festive season so maybe I will leave it for a while, not wanting to wish away
the last of the summer.
We celebrated our wedding anniversary by a
trip to Bodnant garden, which is probably the most beautiful garden I have ever
visited. With panoramic views of Snowdonia, wooded glades, waterfalls, lily
ponds, terraces and rose gardens all combine to create an earthly paradise. We
have seen the garden before but not for some years now and noticed many
improvements, we hope to return soon.
Are you looking forward to the next series
of Downton Abbey when it returns to our television screens soon? I love cosy
Sunday nights with a new craft project, a glass of wine and good old Downton. I
am hoping for lots lavish interiors and posh frocks and people looking
wistfully in the mid distance whilst opining that "times are a-changing".
You may have noticed that I have been playing around on the Spoonflower site. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this website, it is a print on demand site for textiles, wallpapers and wraps. I thought I might try out some new ideas and make available again some designs that have been retired. Like my website this is another work in progress activity. At the moment I am waiting for some samples before deciding what to do next.
Sometimes it seems that I have so many projects on the go and hardly any finished but I am pleased to report that I finally managed to complete the miniature painting I started in the summer. Now what shall I paint next?
July is almost over; I can hardly remember a hotter summer. It seems strange that most of my work has been winter themed. So whilst the bees have been humming and the flowers blooming I have had to turn my thoughts to snow and ice.
I mentioned before that I have been illustrating a Christmas book not quite knowing when it would be appropriate to reveal exactly which book and for whom. Well, now my secret is out, a recent article online reveals all.
I have been working on a series of illustrations for “Can it be True?” by Susan Hill, her company Long Barn Books will publish it in September. I will post more images soon when we are all in a more Christmassy mood.
Each illustration started life as a black ink drawing and colour being added digitally at a later stage. The owl drawing is very much a work in progress; the final pages are in colour. When the book was first published it was illustrated by Angela Barrett. I make no secret of the fact that I was absolutely thrilled and terrified in equal measure to get the chance to do a new version. I hold Angela’s work in the highest esteem; she is without doubt one of our greatest illustrators and an impossibly hard act to follow. I was given great freedom to create my own version, the one condition was that I had to do something with a very different feel, to say that I have lost sleep over this would be an understatement, too late now though, it has gone off to the printer.
As you can see I have drawn some of the ivy growing in my garden, although it looks more like this at the moment.
Earlier in the month I went down to London to see this years Texprint exhibition. Each year 24 textile design graduates are chosen from UK colleges and universities to take part in this prestigious event. In 1975 I was amongst the fortunate ones to participate, in those days the exhibition was held at The Design Centre which was on The Haymarket, this years venue was The Chelsea College of Art and Design. The graduates are given the opportunity to connect with industry professionals and hopefully gain placements, jobs and commissions. I was very impressed with the overall standard of work on show, so much talent, innovation and skill. You can see some of the things these young designers produce by following the links here Texprint helped me to make my dream of becoming a designer a reality and I wish each and every one of this years graduates the very best of luck.
I will leave you now with this darling smile from our beautiful granddaughter. In the background you will see my ancient dining room curtains. The bolt of fabric was given to me by Jane Teale; who I worked with in the seventies. She commissioned and printed my design “Blue Jays” (this being a brown version). Oddly enough I met Jane through Texprint almost forty years ago. It’s about time I got myself some new curtains don’t you think?
June has been and gone already! Time is flying by at lightening speed maybe because we have been so busy with work and a London trip- more of that later…
Much of my time has been devoted to promoting “White is the Moon”; this has included a very nerve-wracking telephone/radio interview. A school visit and a book shop signing.
Let me tell you about the school visit first. I was invited to attend a Literary Festival at The Excel Academy in Stoke-on-Trent. Of course I enlisted the help of my husband Tony, a retired advanced skills teacher. We had five one hour sessions with year seven pupils, each session involved an introduction to my books and then a workshop where the children tried their hand at writing and illustrating. In the short time allocated they produced some interesting adaptations inspired by “White is the Moon”. The children were well behaved, imaginative and co-operative. We had some very interesting questions about publishing and illustrating; all in all an enjoyable day. You can see some of the work they produced below. I have to confess by the end of the day I was exhausted!
The shop signing was by invitation of the beautiful and historic Nantwich Bookshop.
This event coincided with a school festival in the town centre so the place was buzzing with visitors. The shop gave me a window display and a table inside where I displayed my books, old and new. They very kindly plied me with cups of tea and toasted teacakes! Like many bookshops nowadays they sell food and drinks, pre-loved and new books and host many events. The day was a success and we sold lots of books and I met many customers, children and book lovers. I hope to return before Christmas; by that time my latest venture should be published. This time an illustrated gift book by a famous writer, more of that soon...
June wasn’t all work, as I mentioned earlier we had a London visit, which was a mixture of cat sitting and sight seeing. We also saw many friends, family members and spent some very special time with our two grandchildren. We did lots of walking as the weather was kind and visited two very different houses.
One was a National Trust property in Chelsea, former home of historian Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane. I especially enjoyed reading some extracts from Jane’s letters where she writes about the trials of house keeping and hiring servants. The house is still very much a home and has many personal effects. The artist Helen Allingham was a frequent visitor and painted the rooms and their contents some of which are displayed on the walls. She also painted a portrait of Thomas, which you can see, here-
After our visit to the house we spent some time in the lovely enclosed garden and planned our next visit.
The next house was very different, much less a home, more of a place to entertain and impress. Chiswick House is a magnificent neo-Palladian villa. The gardens at Chiswick are said to have been the inspiration for the gardens in New York's Central Park. Our time was limited and the sky began to grow dark, conscious of our long walk home along the river we had to cut our visit short.
We also had a trip to the theatre to see Les Miserables, something I have wanted to do for ages. It was a spectacular performance, Probably the best musical ever!
We made a quick trip to Wells in Somerset to see The Hilliard Society of Miniaturists Annual Exhibition in the Town Hall. If you are in the area it is well worth a visit. Needless to say that the art on exhibition is miniature, a portrait subject being under two inches and all other paintings under four and a half inches by six inches. Don’t worry, magnifying glasses are handed out to visitors.
I had seen some of the work before on a blog belonging to the artist Tracy Hall but you have to see the actual paintings close up to marvel at the artistry and skill which goes into their creation. You will find a link to Tracy’s blog in my sidebar.
Wells is a beautiful cathedral town with medieval architecture, cobbled streets and lovely walks around the Bishop’s Palace and gardens. It is the smallest city in England and lies between the Mendip Hills and the Somerset Levels. The walk around the moat made me think of “The Lady of Shalott”.
We admired the cathedrals beautiful medieval clock and arrived in time to watch the interior display and automaton known as Jack Blandifers, who hits two bells with hammers and two with his heels. The photograph here shows the outer dial and quarter-jacks on the north transept.
Vicar’s Close is said to be “one of the oldest purely residential streets still intact in Europe”, being built in the mid fourteenth century. It is rather like arriving on a film set and so lovely to see a cobbled street with no cars, litter or wheelie bins!
Our time was rather limited, needless to say I returned filled with enthusiasm and ideas and a desire to return to Wells in the not too distant future.
May has been a month of flowers, gardens and Shakespeare. We visited Stratford-upon-Avon to see Henry 1V part one then onto London to see King Lear at The National. The latter is not a play for the queasy, or for those who faint at the sight of blood. I believe such people are referred to as "droppers"! My husband had the tickets bought as birthday presents and it was just coincidence we had something of a Shakespeare fest. Both plays were magnificent and the acting was superb, as you would expect, in particular Simon Russell Beale who played Kind Lear.
Stratford was every bit as beautiful as you would imagine. Elizabethan buildings to explore and gardens to delight. So much to see, museums and houses connected with the bard and his family. I particularly love the knot gardens, they always remind me of embroidery. Books and bookshops everywhere-
We live in a world of computer graphics, television and film and are used to seeing fantastic recreations of the past and yet the theatre still holds such magic. Both productions excelled when in came to scenery, lighting and costumes; these combined with the acting skills of the players and the magic of Shakespeare’s words left a great impression. In the days that followed I found myself relating to the words “Nothing will come of nothing”. Each time I try a new venture there is a voice, which tells me that nothing will ever come of such a thing. If I publish my book nobody will ever buy it, if I paint a new subject nobody will ever like it, the list of self-doubt goes on and yet, if we don’t even try then nothing will surely come from nothing? I know there are many interpretations to that particular saying but that is my understanding of it.
And so, with that in mind, I try my hand yet again at painting in miniature and try not to dwell on the wisdom (or foolery), which persuaded me to self publish my own books.
We have also enjoyed the most wonderful May sunshine and our own little garden has been awash with flowers which self-seeded from last year. The aquilegias in particular have been prolific. When I say “self seeded” that is not entirely true as last year I went around the garden like some crazy woman shaking the dried flower heads from last years crop.
I should start this post by saying how deeply touched I was by all your lovely messages of support and kind comments following the death of our beloved dog.
I had not prepared myself for the feeling of loss and desolation his departure has caused. Those of you who have formed a bond with a pet will know how different life is without them.
Enough, or we shall all be in tears!
There is much to celebrate, Easter brought family visits made extra special this year by the addition of our darling grand-daughter Edie Rose.
Spring has sprung here in Cheshire and the garden is bursting with life and colour.
My journey into the world of hand made books continues, this time Secret Belgian Binding was the subject of our latest workshop with Alan Fitch from The Farthing Press. Alan also runs courses from his bindery in Powys with accommodation provided, a lovely way to combine a holiday with learning.
Last but not least, my book samples for “White is the Moon” finally arrived. I was so anxious about them but I am happy to say that they have surpassed my expectations. This is a title that I originally illustrated when our boys were little. It was published by Blackie and Son Ltd in the UK and by Macmillan in the USA. Gradually it went out of print and we decided to publish it ourselves as an Acornmoon Books edition. This may prove to be foolhardy given the lack of bookshops and the increased demand for e-books but we are being cautiously optimistic. I have been busy making an on-line shop, which you can see in my sidebar.
In addition to my latest book, I have found a few boxes of older out of print titles. All of these are in an unread, untouched condition. Some have become collectable and can be seen on other book sites for a vast array of prices, I am pleased to say that I have kept to their original price and can offer some real bargains until my stocks run out.
If anyone is interested in these children’s picture books or babies board books I am happy to sign them and add a dedication. You can see what is on offer by following this link. All of the books will be posted from the UK by Royal Airmail, and I am happy to post to any far-flung corner of the globe!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Little Lamb I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb I'll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
For the last four Wednesdays I have been taking part in a Woodcut Printing Class at The Hotbed Press in Salford/Manchester. Our lovely course tutor was Oliver Flude who has a website here-
Oliver inspired us by his skill and enthusiasm for his craft and showed us some of his own prints together with the blocks he had used.
Previously I have tried my hand at wood engraving where the image is engraved onto the end grain of a piece of hardwood. In woodcut printing the long-grain is used, this is very different and has a charm all of its own. Unlike wood engraving, this method of printing is capable of showing some of the character of the wood. The wood is softer and the grain more a feature in the final print.
Over the course we had four three-hour sessions, to learn the basics. All our efforts had to be concentrated into creating an image in a short space of time. This meant that a bold, energetic and free style took over from my usual tightly controlled style. This was both liberating and scary in equal measures.
We had the luxury of printing on a beautiful old Columbian Press, the hours flew by and everyone had an enjoyable and productive time.
In the first week we got to try out various tools and learn the kind of marks they made. The wood we used was a Japanese plywood which was easy to cut into along the grain, not so easy cross grain. We all managed to produce a one colour print- here is my first effort.
In week two we introduced colour, using a reduction technique. My print was a disaster and went into the bin. However, they say you learn by your mistakes.
On the third week we used a combination of techniques including paper stencils.
On the final week we pulled everything together and produced our final images.
My penguin was a reduction print using a gradation of blue into white and then a second printing of black on top.(see top).
At the end of four weeks we were all sad to say farewell, everyone enjoyed taking part and I think we will all use our newfound skills in the future.
If anyone is interested I have put some of my prints in my Etsy shop- https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/acornmoon
My name is Valerie Greeley. I am an artist, surface pattern/textile designer and illustrator. I have a special interest in the book arts including illustration, bookbinding, printmaking and artist books. I also have an interest in quilting, nature and bumblebees.