Welcome to Harvest Moon, a place where the creatures and landscapes of my imagination take form and meet the world. Nestled in beneath the wild craggy tors of Dartmoor inspiration comes on chilly winds from moonlit landscapes of other realms which share this rugged, ancient land of gorse and granite. Living here I sometimes feel on a bridge between worlds and ages as the land speaks from spluttering streams and wind-beaten tors, telling stories of folk and beast, but only in snatches before the endings are whipped away down the valley with the broad river and out to sea. So here I will share these stories and characters and they can dwell in your own imagination, continuing their stories with infinite outcomes. This is how they live, enjoy them!

Monday, 5 December 2011

busy birds...

I am still finding myself captivated by the busy wren making the bushes twitch as she goes about her important business. I love our little birds here in Britain, so full of energy, character and colour, even when they could be described as the proverbial 'little brown bird'. Some of the finches are like miniature parrots with their showy pink breasts and flashes of gold, and the tits are unmistakable with their vivid blues and yellows. Yet, I find myself drawn to the less brazen birds, those who take a little more attention to discover a chestnut glow in the evening sunlight and a chequered wing....it feels like a reward for drawing your eye away from the brightly coloured display around the bird feeders. I've enjoyed simplifying the backdrop that I draw them upon, keeping the focus on the distictive shape that tells us from a distance who is making all the rustling.

I realise that I have taken some influence from the beautiful chinese bird & flower paintings, which I have always admired. They are so simple and yet not so abstract or stylised that they lose the identity of the subject - above is an example of what is clearly bamboo with sparrows. What is always so impressive is the apparent speed and grace with which this is communicated - I'm sure this superior painting took a fraction of the time of my quirky drawings!

I did manage to tear my gaze from the wrens for a moment and enjoy a flock of pink and black long-tailed tits storming through the garden like a marauding hoard of fairies! They are tiny but feisty, just like the wren and are so distinctive with their fluffy lollipop shape, always travelling in groups going from tree to tree in search of bugs. Now that the leaves have finally fallen, I can spy them more easily, so I expect this preoccupation to continue for some time.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

a moonlit vigil...

Some time ago a little group of friends scaled Buckland Beacon for a moonlit vigil. A few well known folk were also meeting, far away in the Nordic lands, to talk about our earth. There were high hopes for this meeting amongst some of us who still like to hope. Some went to the north to make their presence known and their hopes understood, others scaled a hill top and simply hoped their hopes and opened their hearts.
It seems a long time ago now, time has creapt on and more meetings have occurred. The well known folk have many Important Things to attend, the common folk must go about their daily business. The little group of friends came down from the hill top and waited to see where their hope landed.
They are still waiting.

Monday, 24 October 2011

stillness on the tor...

A fiery autumn sun retreats behind the weather shaped rocks of Haytor.
Haytor quarry just before sunset, mirror still. I have never experienced Haytor so totally devoid of movement. Dartmoor is renowned for wild, gusty winds eddying around the rocky tors, and if not wind, then a thick shroud of mist (see 'Haytor' on my Paintings page). This curious evening was so still that the atmosphere was almost eerie. We could whisper to one another across the water, and the deep throaty croak of a passing raven seemed to echo into infinity. We found ourselves wandering the moor like lost ghosts, unsure of how to interact with this environment without its accompanying weather. But it soon became wonderfully liberating; we ambled, backs straight, chins up, shoulders relaxed. We spoke at a gentle volume and slowly made our way up to the top where we took in the epic panoramic in our own good time. It felt like someone had turned off the wind machine and allowed us to explore the set, and gave our walk a strange, dreamlike quality. I wonder if I will ever see a day like this on Haytor again.... I dont really  mind. The wind is so vital, it gives the tors their wild, rich, untamed life, and that is what we go there for.

Monday, 10 October 2011

long overdue......

well, the summer days have floated past us followed by crisp golden leaves and a chill north wind. The time of outward expression, outdoors, movement, doing, doing and more doing is slowing down and as we pass the equinox, catch up with our feet and catch our breath. I love autumn. Every moment of warm sun of my face, every remaining green leaf on a tree, every summer bird still lingering in the Devon sky is precious, cherished and bid farewell. But there is a sense in the body of a long restful sigh, like laying in bed at the end of a very busy day; the long summer days are over, the weeds are abaiting, the nights draw in and force us to the fireside, away from the garden and its endless distractions. It is the evening of the year, time to walk instead of running and take stock of the year's harvest before returning to the bedtime of winter where we digest it all in our dreams.

This blog has already taught me much about the way in which I work, and I now see that my drawings come out of that winter dreaming. All of the outward adventures of the year arrange themselves into their proper corners in my mind, shuffling about and swapping places before settling in and telling their stories. As the stories emerge, so the characters come alive in vivid colours and find their way into the pages of my sketch books.

One winter friend who stays with us through the cold is the wren. So very, very small, and yet never defeated by dark days and wild weather. I am in awe of their busy chirpiness, always there in the periferal vision going about their little-brown-bird business in the depths of some bare shrub. I have paid homage to the wrens here, although sadly my scanner rejects my softer pencil lines, I hope my celebration comes through!

Monday, 8 August 2011

mud flat mingling...

Its amazing who you can meet on the mud flats.... busy sandpipers relentlessly rumage in the mud for wriggly snacks while the elegant avocet delicately tip toes upon her reflection in the shallow water, checking her posture like a pied balerina. Periodically noisy oyster catchers flutter in an out announcing themselves with urgents clucks. A little egret furtively glances around the sludgy scene, wondering where the water buffalos are to hitch a ride upon. Over the entire scene presides the sage grey heron. He casts a cool eye over the bustle of the river's edge, then down into the gentle ripples of brown water..... in a split second his pointed beak has pierced it like a yellow harpoon and extracts a flapping silver sliver, which almost as quickly disappears impossibly down his pipe-cleaner neck. A pause, another brief survey of his kingdom and he spreads his broad grey wings and with deep arching flaps rises, slow motion into the damp air above the mouth of the river Dart.

I would like to capture these characters on canvas, like an ornithological Lowry scene...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

...the bluebells are here!

The Bluebell Wood

Down in the valley is a bluebell wood,
Not many go there but they really should,
For in amongst the bracken and the old oak trees
A thousand tiny purple bells tinkle in the breeze.

Back in the winter when the trees were bare,
All was quiet in the frosty air,
For all the little flower buds that soon would grow,
Were fast asleep beneath a rug of fresh white snow.

The old oaks trees stood bravely in the cols,
Patiently waiting for spring to unfold,
While all the woodland creatures were safe and sound
Hidden in their cosy hollows under the ground.

After the winter as the weather grew fair,
Out came the rabbit and the great March hare
Blackbirds nested under April showers
And at last the wood is flooded with a sea of flowers.

Watch out Mrs Mole!

One evening in the underground nest of the Mole family Mrs Mole was about to give the molets their supper -a bowl of fresh, juicy worms- when they were all distracted by the muffled sound of footsteps above them. Suddenly the roof began to shake, the ceiling began to crumble (making a dreadful mess she noted) and the walls of the nest echoed with a terrible sort of snuffling noise! And do you know what it was that caused this terrible comotion? Hedglings! Curious, clumsy Hedglings investigating the small mounds of earth which mark the doors to the nest.

Earth and dust and mess everywhere, and Peg Hedgling's snuffly nose in the middle of it all! Well, the molets thought it was lots of fun and they were very late to bed, but my goodness! When Mr Mole got home to find it was rather more sunny around the roof than usual our spiny friends were in trouble. Mr mole marched them straight to Grandpa Hedgling (well, not entirely straight, Mr Mole's eyesight is bad even for a mole, Spike had to point him in the right direction a few times!)

Grandpa agreed that Spike and Peg should deliver fresh beetles, slugs and worms for the molets supper every evening for a week, AND tell them a bedtime story (but nothing to get them over excited, young moles can get very bouncy around bedtime). So for the following week, all of Spike and Peg's spare time was taken up with gathering food and thinking up stories for the molets. Although this meant that they had no time to get into more mischief, they had no problems thinking up stories, they just remembered all of their adventures together and told those.

"Did you REALLY Spike??", "Is it true Peg??" the molets asked with wide eyes.

"No, not really....that would have been a very mischievous adventure!" Peg grinned at Spike and they kissed the molets goodnight.

"Goodnight Hedglings! See you tomorrow!"

Thursday, 31 March 2011

meeting Twiglet...

 Yesterday I had the great honor of meeting Twiglet. Twiglet is over-wintering at Prickly Ball Farm in South Devon along with many other hedgehogs and native animals who have had a spot of bother and been taken in to recover. The farm used to take in only hedgehogs, hence the name, but has just opened an array of new buildings to accomodate all manor of creatures and has become the Devon Wildlife hospital. The new hospital was opened by Hugh Warwick, hedgehog expert and author of the wonderful book 'A Prickly Affair' all about our humble spiny friend, who made the important point that wildlife hospitals do not function to interfere with nature, but to attempt to address the problems caused by human behaviour which does so much damage. Animals are admitted having had run-ins with every sort of man made object from a car to an elastic band, and the staff do what they can to save them and release them as soon as possible.
As well as the charming Twiglet we met a young badger, a tailless weasel, a sleeping dormouse all rolled into a ball, two sleeping tawny owls, some noisy robin chicks with mouths agape and many others. It is wonderful to get so close to our native wildlife, to see the colour and texture of their fur and feathers and wonder at the large sparkling eyes that look back at us with equal curiosity....its a shame when it occurs in a hospital ward, but great to know that they are on their way to recovery and will soon be back where they belong.

fish & ice-cream...

As I lie in the warm glow of the afternoon sun, feeling the cold dampness of the spring earth beneath me, I hear the familiar echoing call of a gull riding the thermals in the deep blue above me. Their call speaks of the vastness of the sky and the ocean and transports me to the seaside of my childhood in Hampshire; catching the gooey drips from my ice-cream cone and tasting the salt of the sea on my fingers. I hear the tingling of rigging cables against aluminium masts; the flapping of faded bunting in pub gardens and the smell of fish and chips drifting from the promenade. Sitting on the harbour wall swinging my flip-flops above the deep green water I would stare out at the unending briney landscape, past the dinghies and the cargo ships to the hazy horizon. Contemplating the distances and depths my eyes are suddenly pulled upwards by the insistant cries of herring gulls. I look up to see them, wings outstretched and wedge feet dangling from their rounded bodies. They seemed to bob about in the sky as though they were on the water....a hypnotic dance on invisible currents...captivated, I am off guard....there goes my ice-cream...then my flip flops....they work in teams, sea gulls.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The on-going adventures of the Hedglings...

The Hedglings were born on a sunny, crisp spring morning, much like this one, back in the days when I was a farm hand living in North Devon on my converted green bus. As described in my previous post, I feel that people and hedgehogs have a special friendship, and our little friends are so full of character and curiosity that  many writers have woven them into tall tales and silly stories. My hedglings are a group of young hedgehogs exploring their world with excitement, bafflement and no shortage of mischief. The three prickly stars of the stories came very clearly to me along with their caring and protective mother and sage old grandfather. On their journies they meet moles, squirrels, mushrooms and the occasional lesser seen woodland creatures such as brownies and imps. I am still developing the stories and the illustrations and enjoying seeing them evolve and grow. Here the hedglings have snuck away by the light of the moon to find a fairy ring of colourful treasures....they wonder how tasty they might be, but these are not for eating, someone is guarding them for a much higher purpose.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Twin trees...

The buds are swelling and soon the trees will be flushed with pea-green leaves, lifting our hearts with colour but hiding from us their beautiful skeletons. I saw these twin trees on my ramblings through the fields and took my chance to capture their shared outline before they cover up for the summer.

Friday, 25 February 2011

After Imbolc....signs of life

Pussy Willow emerges early, wrapped up warm against the late frosts.
 Witch Hazel explodes with little sunbursts like woodland fireworks.
Hazel is dripping with golden catkins but the real treasure is found on closer inspection.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Hedgling

The hedgehog is a humble beast, seemingly unaware of how universally adored it is by it's biped companions. I say 'companions' because part of what we love about them is their calm acceptance of our fascinated interest. I have had cause in the past to to redirect a spiky friend who may be happily pottering towards a busy street - and instead of complaining that I have so boldly interfered with it's trajectory (they move with purpose our little friends), it simply rolls up and waits to see what will happen next. I gently place it on the grass, careful to put what I think is the pointy end towards the hedge, and after a few seconds it slowly uncurls, sniffs the air and I can almost detect a resigned shrug as it obligingly walks toward the safety of the hedgerow. And when we get closer still we find an unusual reciprocation of bright-eyed interest and amiability. No biting, scratching or growling...just the low mumbling snort that gave them their name.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Lord, blow the moon out

this image immediately came to mind when i heard this beautiful verse of a traditional american folk song. The author must also have looked upon soft green hills, a patchwork quilt strewn with fleecy woodland copses. When softened further by silver moonlight you can just imagine peeling back the edge of a field and crawling under....mmm...goodnight...zzzzzZZZ

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


 Haytor and Rowan berries

 One of several small tors on Bonehill Down, between Haytor and Hound Tor

 Dartmoor is criss-crossed by paths like little streams where various kinds of feet - cloven, hooved or booted, have flowed over many. many years. We have shaped this landscape for millenia and continue to do so. It tells us much about our history, and following these pre-trodden pathways we are literally walking in the footsteps of our ancestors....be they ponies, sheep, deer or human!

In extreme contrast to the wind beaten tors, the valleys of south Dartmoor are lush and sheltered. The closest thing to a tropical rain forest you will find outside of the tropics! The forest floor is abundant ferns and grasses, mosses, liverworts and lichens dripping with dew. In the springtime the ancient banks of the sunken lanes see a succession of flowers burst from between the tangled tree roots - Primroses, Vetches, Stitchworts and Campions each taking their turn in a colourful procession from spring into summer. And now in February with the first Snow Drops open beneath the apple trees, the fanfare has started and excitement grows with the daylight hours.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

guinea moon

The guinea fowl spend their day rushing hither and thither, clucking and flapping in their little huddles with some mysterious sense of urgency. But as the sun slides back behind one hill and the moon rises above another, all goes quiet and oh, so still. Perched up in the apple tree and the magnolia beyond the foxes reach the guinea fowl sleep...but always with one eye open.

Friday, 4 February 2011

The hunters' moon rises with the setting sun. Moonlight transforms the spaces we know so well in the sunlight, enchanting them with a new wonder,drawing us away from the warm fire to walk the hills with the deer and stroll through the woods watched closely by the tawny owls....and perhaps other creatures....