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Walking Lions

Dinosaurs, moss and happy endings…

Hello little Robins!

Now, I couldn’t let 2022 come to an end without popping into your inboxes one last time this year. We’ve reached that lovely festive down time, where things are booked in for the new year but for the immediate future it’s just empty space on the calendar. It’s been a busy autumn, and that’s in addition to everybody’s shocking immunity, but it’s the time of year I feel most productive.

I’ve continued work on my collaboration with Changing Realities - a University of York research project that I’m also a participant on, amplifying the voices of people living on a low income. There’s a little more to finish off next year, but so far it’s been a really nice project to find my way with. There’s also another research project collaboration in the pipeline for February too.

Some illustrations from my collaboration with Changing Realities.

My Picturehooks buddy scheme is now half way through. Chris, Bo and I have been having a great time, and last week we had Christmas lunch together - you don’t usually get a works Christmas-do when you’re freelance. As much as I’m happy on my own in my own space, I find it really helps my confidence as an artist to be around other creatives. Too much time spent scrolling Instagram after a day where nothing that comes out of your pencil works can really knock your self-belief. I still find it hard to talk about my work without feeling like an imposter, especially when a lot of what I do doesn’t really look like working.

At the end of November I made a video for the Open College of Arts. At first I felt like such a fraud. What did I know? I didn’t even go to art school! I really am just making it up as I go along. But you know what, it was really fun to do, and it was so useful to reflect back on my journey so far. I even got over my fear of talking on camera. *The video at the top is a tiny snippet of the final video.

One of my favourite things about keeping a sketchbook and drawing regularly, is that it draws out your interests and narrative preoccupations. A recurring theme in my sketchbooks are statues/monuments and lions. On the suggestion of Chris Mould ( my Picturehooks mentor) I decided to take my lion statue for a walk to see if I could find his story.

I’ve not found it yet, but there’s definitely a story there.


Banner that reads “The Bower” illustrated with feathers, butterflies and plants.

The second Saturday in December is the moment I get to pull out my box of collected baubles and treasures for the Christmas tree. Our tree is not colour-coordinated or themed, it’s not perfectly decorated nor even particularly straight. Our angel is often clinging on for dear life, and it’s pretty standard to find a real live cat in there most days. But our box of tree trinkets, is the most eclectic explosion of our little family - our loves, our memories, and our creations - and they are one of my most treasured collections.

Feast your eyes on December’s shiny finds:

  1. One or two of you will have heard my rant IRL about the new playground our local council spent ££££ on to simply repeat the mistakes of another playground in the district - sand and underground mechanisms of accessible roundabouts are (obviously?) a bad combination. But considering playgrounds haven’t really changed in over 100 years it’s not surprising. I’m guessing most people haven’t really thought about playgrounds - how they’re designed and whether children in fact need them - but it’s about time we revisited them.

  2. I studied play - when I wanted to be an underpaid teacher before I discovered what I actually wanted was to be an underpaid artist.* And even though some part of me will always wish I’d experienced Art School, I actually gave myself the best education in how to be creative. I sometimes wonder if what drew me to working with young children - specifically in play - is their inherent connection to creativity. Lynda Barry explains it so much better than me.

  3. Last newsletter I linked to an article about the awesome art of picture book barcodes. In the same vein is my obsession with floor-plans (shared in this newsletter), books that contain maps, and illustrations of cross-sections.

  4. One more bookish obsession of mine - originating from a childhood visit to Lindisfarne - are illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. *You’d think my wishing to be a monk sequestered away in their own scriptorium on a remote island was a pretty obvious sign that I should pursue a career in illustration.* Manuscripts are not always easy to see in person, so this video tour of one of the original copies of Astronomicum Caesareum is a beauty. And it’s not quite the same, but here’s the digital copy of The Book of Kells.

  5. One half of illustration is drawing, the other is story. And stories are important, especially the ones we tell to understand the world. But we forget that science like fiction is always being revised. My daughter is growing up knowing there are 8 planets, while I have to consciously remind myself every time, that there aren’t nine. When I encountered a dinosaur loving 4 year old some years ago I was horrified by the vanishing of my childhood stalwart the Brontosaurus. But then it returned!

  6. Solidarity to the strikers! I saw a tweet reminding people of all the things Trade Unions have won for us, the very same week I read this article about Social Cryptomnesia.

  7. And then I followed a link to Generational Amnesia - discovering that even the Ancient Greeks felt the “kids-these-days” effect, and the real problem of shifting baseline syndrome.

  8. Theres a pervasive problem in the publishing industry, and most of the creative fields, that means they’re actually becoming less diverse. Even without the worry of AI art, the underpayment of creatives means that soon only an elite few will have their voices heard.

  9. This link is for Nicola*. “Winter is the only true season of touching. In winters, no matter how efficiently you dress up, a raindrop will find you. Fogs will enshroud you and leave their wetness on your face. Dry, cold air will crack your lips. As you inhale, mist will touch your nostrils and the inside of your throat. You will feel winter’s touch on the backs of your ears. Winter’s physicality reaches everywhere.” *But I think you all might like to read it.*

  10. It’s not been a very festive list, so I’ll leave you with a happy ending and this nugget I shared last Christmas, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

Thank you for keeping me company this year, I absolutely love sharing my thoughts and treasures with you, and I’m very grateful you let me keep popping up in your inbox. I’m going to try and send monthly newsletters next year, what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts, what do you want me to write about/share with you in 2023?

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Have a wonderful festive season, until next year,

xoxo catherine

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The Quiet Blackbird
The Quiet Blackbird
Catherine Fortey