Literary artiness

fat mo cover7Some of the prints on sale at The Basement are from my book, Not Being First Fish, which is on sale at Steyning Bookshop. Also on sale there is Fat Mo, the cover of which I painted at school when I was about seventeen. I’ve manipulated the colour in Paintshop Pro and added the text (obviously, or that would have been well prescient!) Fat Mo is alternatively available from here where all the revenue goes to a charity, Respond, that supports adults with learning (intellectual) disabilities who’ve experience sexual abuse and exploitation. As you might imagine, Fat Mo is not a cheery read; First Fish though – different kettle. Here’s a snip:


 Glastonbury, Meteorology, and Shouting at Swans

Saturday and I’d spent most of the morning keeping an eye on the weather as we had been promised our seasonal blend of sun, showers and thunder storms and, finally judging it safe to head for the fields without a wetsuit, I strapped the dogs into their harnesses and hit the road. Naturally, as soon as we arrived at a wide open space devoid of any cover, the sky assumed the quality of the inside of a biscuit tin and the rain came down in stair rods, thereby putting paid to any chance of a future career as either a psychic or meteorologist. On reflection though, the latter may not be entirely out of the question as, in 1987, Michael Fish famously dismissed the approach of the hurricane that flattened most of the south east and left me with somebody else’s shed in my garden and a bemused looking sheep outside my garage. That kind of meteorology I can manage.

Of course, the biggest clue to forthcoming weather conditions is the open air music festival calendar and this week it’s Glastonbury where the mud is traditionally at chest level and after about half an hour nobody knows what gender anyone else is because of the layers of variously baked on and reapplied primeval loam. Liberally mixed with E.coli and various exotic herbs, this stuff is guaranteed to expand the minds of sleep deprived and over-indulged punters or at the very least peel off a few layers of alimentary epithelials and chuck them over the fence into next door’s tent.

There’s something remarkably special about Glasto; it’s not polished, it’s not slick – well it is if you’re up to your fundamentals in sludge and you take a run at something – it’s raw and intimate, personal and communal. Back in the day when I was spritely enough to leap about in a field with several thousand other people to a band of unwashed youths at a headline gig rather than sofa-bopping in front of the telly, there weren’t any such shindigs to go to. Hendrix pretty much started it at the Isle of Wight, and Glastonbury followed with a hippy, folksy, medieval fayre event that got entirely upstaged by Hendrix himself who’d had the bad grace to pop his clogs twenty four hours earlier. These days we have multi-acre swamps for the hardy young creatures of the twenty-first century who are willing to queue in the rain for the privilege of taking a leak in an oversubscribed and thoroughly dispiriting portaloo. Probably the wacky baccy and litres of Stella Artois go some way to knocking the edge off that particular experience while, curiously enough, enhancing the rest.

Back in the fields, there is a bit of a ruckus going on up ahead. Apparently, a large swan in an ugly mood is attacking another that has got in the way of him and his mate who is sailing majestically down-river with her flotilla of tiny cygnets. People on either side of the river are doing what people do when two large entities start slugging it out – they are standing back and shouting ‘Oi!’ One group is smiling; they think the birds are mating. We give them a country look as we pass by; ‘stoopid townies’ it says. It’s Saturday.

I’ll be taking copies of First Fish to my pitch on the art trail, along with some cards and prints from the book. Mo, you’ll be relieved to hear, will be sitting out that gig.

There’s a cow in the basement …

… what are ya gonna do?

Luvvit, that’s what!


This is, let’s call her Muriel, whose first job was to illustrate a story called The Bridge in Not Being First Fish, and who today has joined several cats and a sheep at The Basement93 in Steyning.

Here’s the rest of the gang.


You can have a flick through the book and if you like what you see (read), you can nip across the road to get a copy at the Steyning Book Shopotherwise you can click your way over to that there Amazon.

From February 1st, the gallery will be holding a Black and White exhibition which, I’m chuffed to report, will include some of this menagerie. Very mooootivating 🙂


This large lady with the world-weary expression is an enhanced version of the one in Not Being First Fish where she illustrates a story about townies not shutting gates because why should they, huh?


She may be appearing in a shop near you*, well near me anyway, in the new year. There’ll be a copy of the book too, for perusal, and copies for sale over the road in Steyning Book Shop, bless ’em.

*The Basement93, Steyning High street. You’ll find them on Facebook, and also Instagram where the whole shop-full of loveliness is presented in pictures.

The Wild Rose and the China Doll

I was messing around with charcoal yesterday and made some sweeps across an A2 sheet of cartridge. Another couple of sweeps and I saw what it was – a scene from a story I wrote some while ago which had been triggered by that extraordinary track by Nick Cage and Kylie Minogue – Where the Wild Roses Grow. I’d heard that track just a day or so ago.

The story is called The Wild Rose and the China Doll and you can find it here on Full of Crow.




Dancing Her Black Bones Home

This is from one of my own, as yet unpublished, stories (it nearly made it, nearly earned its keep, but the journal folded before publication so Rats!). It’s called Black Bones after the story’s title, Dancing her Black Bones Home, which is about a young deaf woman who is treated as stupid by her small community and eventually finds herself on a pebbly beach trying to work out her place in the world and her relationship with the religion she’s grown up with.

painting of sea and beach with silhouetted person


Acrylics on 8×10 canvas board with a cut out figure in silhouette at the bottom. That was originally stark white but I reconsidered after realising that actually white was the last colour it should be. I’m very drawn to sea and waves, surges and tides. The strength of them and their unthinking power over us. Cosmic influences illustrated right there on the beach twice a day. This one’s quite textured too – I’m fond of a palette knife!


Eight Stranded Whales

Not long after surprising myself with the painting drawn from Oonah Joslin’s poem, I was struck by a whole bunch of images coming from a poem by Marianne Moore that I heard on Radio Four’s Poetry Please (I’m laughing at myself here because goodness knows how I stumbled over that – I’m a proper BBC6Music kinda girl! It is Roger McGough though). It’s called The Steeple-Jack and I was reeled in and landed by the first verse:

Dürer would have seen a reason for living
in a town like this, with eight stranded whales
to look at; with the sweet sea air coming into your house
on a fine day, from water etched
with waves as formal as the scales
on a fish.

painting of stranded whales, stylised.

This started out as inks on paper, then watercolour pencil, then acrylics, then a bit of collaged info about the poem at the bottom. The whales are a bit weird and someone thought the peacock was a bin. It’s hard to reflect on it now except to say that, as inexpertly put together as it is, I enjoyed the process and I still find the result satisfying. It’s quite texturally feely too, which I like.

Crazy Diamond

painting of woman at a table Crazy Diamond. I’m not a good reader of poetry, I do far better if I hear it read, but this one – From Crazy Diamond to Borrowed Light by Oonah Joslin – made me think because of her comment about how it came about. She tells me it was something her mentor said when she was struggling to believe in herself as a poet; he told her that diamonds don’t shine on their own, they borrow light from those who do. Turning the Pink Floyd reference on its head, the imagery that came from this, finding your own light instead of reflecting that of others however glittery it might be, is something all creatives are faced with. This is the first verse:


Facetious I may be at times
but you have light
enough and light to spare
and share,
and see me shine.

Oonah Joslin, Three Pounds of Cells. The Linnet’s Wings Press 2016 

The image is my first real painting since school days; acrylics on 8×10 canvas board with a great crunchy layer of pumice medium for the bits of grit that eventually make diamonds if you crush them hard enough. It was a struggle! I tried cut outs of diamonds first – pasted them on then scraped them off because they looked ridiculously obvious and also because I’d got the whole thing the conventional way round with them being the light and not the woman. I was also quite conflicted over her emitted light coming from only one direction – shouldn’t it come from all around? But then wouldn’t that look too beatific? I don’t know even now, but it’s there and Oonah likes it so that will do

Getting all sheepish at the Basement

Joining the flock at The Basement93 tomorrow, and giving those cats a run for their money, Her Royal Woolliness of the House of the Red Wellies.


The print is from an original pencil drawing coloured digitally in Rebelle software made by Escapemotions. Her Woolliness appeared originally in Not Being First Fish and other diary dramas as an adjunct to a Michael Fish anecdote (obviously), and if the wind’s in the right direction, there’ll be a copy nearby for a browse and possibly for sale. Several other illustrations are also available as prints so if you see one in the book and not in the shop, ask. If it’s not been ‘upgraded’, tell Susanna or Sarah and I’ll see about dusting the digital magic over it. There’s Yoda working on checkout for a start …

Categories and where things go

I don’t want to think about how long I’ve been using WordPress without a clue how it really works. I still don’t but I’m learning and via the quite unexpected route of the art course. Apparently, if I allocate a category (and who knew how those conducted themselves!), the post, instead of sitting in a little blog-post silo, will funnel readers to a whole page-worth of stuff they might never visit. At least I think that’s how it works. I’m going to tag this Art from words because I’ve just posted some more word-based art there.

Update: 1. It didn’t go there, 2. I’m still baffled.

And because it’s an art site and it’s obligatory to have an image, here’s today’s attempt at light and reflection. I went the whole twelve rounds with that charcoal, I’ll have you know.