Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

26/3/20 Word Dreaming

March 26, 2020

Dreaming up a collection of words without a specific purpose gives me a feeling of freedom. Let the purpose come later…or not. #homeschool #childrenspoetry #poetrywriting

24/3/20: Sea Voyage Monsters Activity

March 24, 2020

Day 2 of Sea Voyage Project! Making monsters we might find on our Sea Voyage with household objects, wet-on-wet painting with coffee and a bit of collage. Based on The Shipwrecked Sailor.

Here’s today’s activities:

Coronavirus crisis activities for kids: day one!

March 22, 2020
So, starting from today I’m going to post a creative activity every day on my website at 9:00 AM. I will also share the link every day on here and twitter.
The activities will be principally aimed at primary aged children but hopefully might be enjoyable for anyone. It’s all based on tried and tested things that have worked in schools. There will be a weekly theme and each activity will be broken down into simple instructions and should fill two low stress hours.
There will be no special materials needed- but if you like the sound of joining in you’ll need pencils, biros, plain paper, scissors, some kind of paper glue and masking tape.
I have 4 weeks, Monday to Friday roughly planned: week 1: Sea Voyages theme.
Hopefully helpful for some people, if not at least good exercise for my brain!
It will be on: but will also share on Facebook, Twitter and here on my blog.
Use the link below for day one of our Sea Voyage theme:

via 23/3/20 Island Maps

The Library Glow

June 24, 2019

I wrote the poem The Library Glow a while ago to celebrate my local library, which was recently closed down.

I also wanted to write about the melancholy loveliness of an ordinary, rainy, grey evening in Ore Village.

Poster available here!

Library Glow

…the audio recording is very influenced by my favourite band of the last few years, The Clientele!




Illustrating Moonstruck

May 23, 2019

I was delighted to be asked by poet and editor Roger Stevens to illustrate Moonstruck: Poems about Our Moon.

I have an exhibition of the art work for the book opening on Saturday 25th May at The National Centre for Craft and Design. It’s just upstairs from an incredible interactive exhibition all about Quentin Blake’s illustrations for John Yeoman’s books.

The book is an anthology of poems old and new all about our moon. It’s our moon to avoid any confusion about which moon was being referred to- after all there are countless billions of moons out there in the universe! It’s also our moon because we all share that amazing globe. It fits that there are poets from many different countries in the book, all of whom looked out at the same moon for inspiration. It’s also lovely to think that Yeats and Shelley- also included in the book- were inspired by the same moon 150 or so years ago. Our Moon.

One of my favourite poems in the book comes from the furthest away- Mooncalf by Kate O’Neil in Australia. It is a surreal story-poem about the birth of a ‘mooncalf made of light’ that still haunts the dreams of cows today. This feels like an old classic and I was surprised to read it’s a new poem. It’s a lovely poem to use in schools- tidy, comfortable, learnable rhythm and rhyme present  a wonderfully surreal idea. I used soft charcoal pencil to illustrate this that I later digitally turned negative so glistening white marks show on a dark background. I used the same technique for ‘A Goodnight Moon’ by David Harmer- another timeless poem that feels like it’s been around forever.

A Goodnight moon detail

I used quite a few techniques to do the illustrations- lots of soft pencil, ink washes, collage, dip pen, photoshop and lino print. Lino print is a time-consuming technique so  I chose just a few poems to do in this technique. I think my favourite illustration in the book is the double page that illustrates the title poem and ‘The Moon’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. For me, the image of the walker in the moonlight with his staff is a timeless archetype of freedom and romanticism, wandering through time, space and dreams.

Moonstruck detail

I developed a technique for printing the linoprints in this book that went back to my college days. I printed them on thin but high quality ‘imitation Japanese paper’ that enables me to get absolutely consistent prints that pick up every subtlety on the block. I then glue the print onto heavyweight paper. I saturate the print with high quality clear PVA so the print is glued ‘into’ the paper rather than just on it. It’s a delightfully playful and reliable technique that allows for a lot of flexibility. It’s also comparably fast for lino printing, which is useful for meeting deadlines. I highly recommend this technique for anyone who finds lino printing frustrating.

I’m an illustrator with a very serious commitment to poetry. Writing and reading poetry is hugely important to me. My favourite poets are quite diverse: Yeats, Rilke, Mary Oliver and Billy Childish. I really hope this love gives the illustrations something special.

One of my favourite poetry books is ‘The Puffin Book of Magic Verse’, edited by Charles Causley. It’s a wonderful collection of beautifully illustrated poems you can read and read again- a book to daydream with. It is the perfect rainy holiday book. I had my tatty copy on my desk the whole time I did Moonstruck. I wanted Moonstruck to be even more visual than ‘Magic Verse’, and chose to illustrate every poem in the book.  I really hope you feel we succeeded in making a book that is as treasurable as Magic Verse. I hope it’s someone’s perfect rainy holiday book!

Moonstruck Cover for Authors Abroad

 And here’s my well loved copy of ‘Magic Verse’:

All In The Month of May

May 6, 2019

Well this is pretty appropriate for May Day!

Hope you had as lovely a Jack in the Green as I did.

It’s a 900 year old poem from Ireland that Robin Williamson discovered and translated. I edited it down and put it to music a few years ago with Tim Hoyte. I’m playing Tim’s part on this- not as well as he would!

Quentin Blake World of Hats

November 22, 2018

The current exhibition of Quentin Blake’s drawings of surreal hats at The Jerwood Gallery is a gift for teachers. It’s a delightful starting point for fantastically playful writing and drawing activities to engage the whole class.


One of Blake’s Hat drawings from the show

I worked with year 4 children at Rye Primary Academy at the exhibition. I asked them to simply begin by copying one of the drawings and then add their own ideas to complete the picture. They could invent a name, add the character’s home, pets, thoughts, speech, and to perhaps imagine the moment before and after the moment in the image.

The children loved the art and the activity and could have done the activity for hours but we had a short 90 minute session with lots of other things to do.

I think the exhibition works so well because Blake’s images are immediately approachable but leave masses of space- both pictorial and imaginative- for the children’s own daydreams.

The children made a fantastic storehouse of ideas for poems, stories and further art work. A complete delight!

It made me think that specifically child-friendly exhibitions are a great idea.

Head along to the exhibition until January- and perhaps take a look at my mural outside the studio at the gallery!


Some of the Children’s Drawings


I think Mr Apples is my favourite!

…and here’s a taste of my mural:


jerwood birdwatcherDancers

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