THE NIGHT COMES EARLY these days, leaning up against our old rattly windowpanes, which ooze condensation and owlsong from four o'clock on. The long evenings afford us time to do Things Indoors by the fire, or at our dark desks. In the picture above, you might just be able to make out the image emerging on the paper below the lamp - but only in the reflection in the window.
It's a new winter painting - a ritual I've kept for some years now - to make a new snowy painting at this dark end of the year. No other time of year seems to call me to paint it so regularly, and these winter paintings always end up on my Christmas cards when I send them.
This year I decided (at long last) to make Winter Cards to sell, which meant completing this snowy painting early so that the cards could be designed and ordered in time for fairs and for you to buy to send...
Which meant that I couldn't labour over a detailed creation for weeks on end, and since I've been trying to force a freer looseness in my work of late to combat my finickity temperament, I made this a watercolour of quick light sketchy strokes, and tried to draw with the paintbrush in splodges rather than with hair-thin lines. I deliberately used a paintbrush slightly too big and determined to finish this in two days.
So here follows the progress of this work in pictures....
The image - a kind of gathering of nomadic folk, stopping to set up camp and collect firewood amongst the trees in the snow - I drew quickly, without worrying it too much, and without "finishing" the figures at the pencil stage which I am prone to doing:
Then I splurged on some sky, and put colour on clothing, not worrying if the paint ran over the edges, or colours mixed in unintended spots...
My accuracy with the too-big paintbrush was a little haphazard around the trees and I intentionally left watermarks where wet and dry paint met. I put on loose washes over the faces and left a space for the firesmoke too...
Gradually, each little figure was put in, suggested rather than drawn...
All of the painting came straight from my imagination, drawn and painted without reference to anything, except my inner snowy, firelit world.
Some of the scenes were very small...
And then I began to add other details around the figures - small blueish brown splodges for snow-footprints all around the encampment, and twigs in hands and on backs...
Finally, when all the paint was painted and dry, I coaxed the important bits out with a pencil, sending back the darks and tucking in the edges...
Though I decided in the end to leave the trees and their edges with the sky alone - just rough seagreen watercolour, not heeding its proper boundaries...
But I drew in the faces softly where I could...
And then, almost to my own surprise, it was done.
And here it is, Wayfarers' Nativity available to buy as a print in my shop now.
The tribe, whoever they are, gather wood for the fire in the midst of cold white winter to warm the stew in the pot, and to warm the babe in arms, just visible inside the bender. I didn't know this was going to be a nativity painting to begin with, but it has become somehow an alternative to the story we all know, yet really the same: where we all bring gifts to the child of light in the dark days of winter. The gift in this case is the gift of firewood, which in a life on the move, mostly lived under the sky, is the most important gift of all: warmth.
And so to Winter Cards....
I've been busy selling at Advent Fairs and setting up my little December exhibition in the bustling Courtyard Wholefood Shop and Cafe in Chagford, where my cards are for sale next to the cakes. I'll write about this soon, but meanwhile... here are the cards, a selection of eight of my wintry paintings from the past few years, packaged all together, or as single cards and packs of four.
They are printed on lovely heavy white card stock, with a very subtle matt sheen and come with recycled brown envelopes. The eight designs included are:
Telling Stories to the Trees
Picking Up Sticks
Telling Stories to the Trees
Picking Up Sticks
The cards are all wrapped up and sitting in the shop waiting to be posted out to you. I hope you like them. If you live overseas and would like to send these on before Christmas, you might be wise to order them soon before the postal services get too hectic.
Days are getting chillier here on the edge of the moor, and the first noticeable frost crept into the fields around our house on the first day of December. Macha has taken the warmest spot on the rug by the fire, and we busy on, readying ourselves for dark lamplit evenings, mulled-wine-stitched musical gatherings, and gathering plenty of firewood to warm the Winter Child.
Also, I have a giclée print of Baba Yaga up in an auction which is running til December 18th in aid of our dear Terri Windling who has struggled financially lately due to a combination of health and legal difficulties. Her worldwide circle of friends and fans have gathered an enormous amount of creativity and support and this auction is full to bursting - a veritable Goblin Marketful of delights. Please go and support it in any way you can - either by bidding or offering or word-spreading. Terri has inspired and helped so many of us, she deserves this support.
- Here's the link to the main auction page where you can browse the wonders on offer.
- Tom has one of his most beautiful blood red and ember yellow harlequin masks in the auction too - here.
- My Baba Yaga giclée print's auction page is here.
- There are many other jewels on offer, not least artwork by Brian Froud, Alan Lee, David Wyatt, Danielle Barlow, Virginia Lee, naming rights for a forthcoming book by Catherynne M Valente, handwritten postcards from Ellen Kushner to you, and a fairytale by Jane Yolen in which you star, and many many more...