Butterfly cut


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Yesterday was my grandmother’s birthday. She was born in 1914 — the year of the start of the first World War, and would have been 101 were she still with us. Today is Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday. It is also the last day of the traditional Thai New Year celebrations (Songkran).


None of these things have anything to do with the butterfly papercut, but there we are. Though let us regard the piece as a New Year greeting, shall we? ;) Happy New Year!


Quatrain LXX


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lllustration to Quatrain 70 for the 150th anniversary edition of Edward FitzGerald’s translation of Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, published by The Folio Society, in a limited edition of 1,000 copies, 2011. Watercolour and gouache on Arches cold pressed watercolour paper, 280 x 200mm.

Quatrain LXX

Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
I swore – but was I sober when I swore?
And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.

Happy Vernal Equinox! I’m off to Paris tomorrow for three days with a few friends to welcome the spring!

Quatrain VII


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Illustration to Quatrain VII, sesquicentenary edition of Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, published by The Folio Society, 2011. Watercolour and gouache on Arches hot pressed, 240 x 135mm.

Quatrain VII

Come fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentence fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly – and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

I’m having a slightly stressful and fretful period. Among other things, I’m packing in preparation for moving, going through my horrendous mountains of things little by little. Like everyone else in the northern hemisphere, I am longing for spring and a fresh new beginning.

As with the illustration to quatrain IX, I also drew from Persian mythology for this; this time choosing the Huma bird as the subject. It is a creature of fortune who bestows kingship and flies without ever coming to rest. In some variations of its legends, it is said, like the phoenix, to consume itself in flames and rise again. I felt that it might serve for the metaphorical ‘Bird of Time’ of the quatrain.

The Wise Maiden and the Seven Robbers


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‘She boiled water and poured it into the barrels, thus scalding the six robbers to death.’ Illustration for The Wise Maiden and the Seven Robbers, from Myths and Legends of Russia, collected by Aleksandr Afanas’ev and translated by Norbert Guterman; published by The Folio Society, 2009. Ink and gouache on Arches hot pressed.

In honour of International Women’s Day.

Do you notice how frequently a woman’s quick wit and resourcefulness triumphs in folk and fairy tales? Like Morgiana, the wise maiden in this Russian variant of the Ali Baba story from the Thousand and One Nights saves her household from the clutches of murderous thieves.

Happy Year of the Goat


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I’m recovering from a rather horrific bout of food poisoning (or possibly Norovirus). It’s far more incapacitating than I’d imagined.

Anyway, here are two old pieces from 2004 or 05 of Mother Goat and her kids from The Wolf and the Seven Kids by the Brothers Grimm. A ‘Throwback Thursday’ and Lunar New Year post at once.


Mother Goat and the seven kids. Ink and gouache on Sennelier heavyweight drawing paper.


Mother Goat and the youngest kid. Ink and gouache on Sennelier heavyweight drawing paper.

Happy Year of the Goat!

‘It’s your turn now.’ Dippy and the Blue Whale


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[Cross-posted at Love in the time of Chasmosaurs]


‘It’s your turn now.’ Ink on watercolour paper, 202 x 100mm.

Scarcely had I mentioned how well Sophie the Stegosaurus complemented the presence of the beloved Diplodocus at their respective entrances to London’s Natural History Museum than news of the latter’s planned retirement emerged, apparently splitting the public and experts alike into ‘Team Dippy’ and ‘Team Whale’ across social media.

Of course I’m sad — very sad — to see ‘Dippy’ retire (no, I don’t much care for the name either, but that’s another story).  For me as for so many others, it has been the museum’s de facto mascot and symbol for as long as we can remember. And lest our readers forget, sauropods are among my favourite dinosaur groups. My own ‘saurian portrait‘ is a Diplodocus, for heaven’s sake.

‘However, change, or its refusal, is not within our gift.’ I welcome the blue whale with happy, if subdued, acceptance. Of the many voices in its favour, Michael Rundle of Huffington Post UK encapsulates it best for me, not least because he puts forward the case with great respect and affection for both without any of the unnecessary aggression and derision I’ve seen accompany some arguments (‘Dippy is fake! A lie!’). My illustration above attempts to reconcile this change in the same vein. The title of ‘It’s your turn now’ speaks both of the whale skeleton’s place in Dippy’s stead and of the blue whale’s fragile existence being celebrated now. I wanted to avoid that dreaded word, ‘relevance’, much bandied about in this case. Nevertheless, highlighting the blue whale’s significance doesn’t seem to me to signal a disregard for the Diplodocus. But perhaps I’m not cynical enough on that score.
Continue reading

O’er the fields we go…


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Spread 2, Jingle Bells, published by Walker Books, 2014. Ink and gouache on Arches hot pressed.

I hope readers in the north-eastern United States aren’t too severely plagued by the current snow storms. My own friends in New Jersey report having escaped the worst of them after all, with ‘only’ about 6 inches of snow. Not unlike this spread from Jingle Bells, perhaps. I think I wouldn’t mind a little of it to come to London…


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