The year circles and ‘Manger’ is republished for Christmas.

One of the first posts on this blog, back in December 2014, was about the publication of ‘Manger’ – a book of illustrated poems and prayers coming from the voices of animals crowding around the manger on Christmas night. It’s always been one of my favourite books so I was extra pleased when I learnt it would be republished as a paperback this year.

8C118B39-2908-43ED-9CAD-6812C345BB41How strange to look back on that project from a distance of 5 years. These days, I have a much broader (and actually more satisfying) illustration practice with commissions for maps, logos, props, drawings and lettering as well as children’s books. I’m not sure how this happened. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice the transformation.

In some respects, not so much has changed. I still love painting animals and plants which feature so prominently in ‘Manger’.

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My old love of pattern and decoration (which you can see in the use of collage below) has now transfigured into the painted patterns of mapped landscape instead.

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And negative space (the blank areas working just as hard as the detail) have always been important.

0A5EEF66-99F1-4F72-B784-4C14F2AFFECCMy work has clearly travelled in multiple different directions, reinventing itself constantly but I still love to return full circle back to my old love of children’s books.   And so a new version of ‘Manger’ is born, also returning full circle – kind of fitting for the end of the year.

My timeframe changes. The circle narrows and I look back on the past twelve months.. Not much has changed, but also everything has changed in 2019.  Although I illustrated children’s book ‘The Star Dreamer’ by gothic novel maestra Susan Hill, images have appeared in a variety of other non-children’s-book projects too.  There have been maps – for Mead Gallery, The Literary Map Company, The Wing and for Thames & Hudson amongst others. Logos were created for Stil und Stiele and Janet Seabrook and my work has appeared both in ‘Countryfile’ and as props for ‘His Dark Materials’ on the BBC. And of course, I can’t forget working for Ridley Scott on his Turkish Airline commercial.

060ED873-5E3B-4D58-9F91-D6B31F1D31DEThe wheel has turned once again and we are nearing the darkest night. And every year, I remind myself to celebrate. The sun is once again tipping the horizon and warmer winds will blow soon. I can look back on the past year with pride and look forward, as optimistically as I can, given the current state of the world, to the next. Things will likely look like they have stayed the same, yet slowly and imperceptibly they will change.

I wish you a happy Christmas and warm and hopeful 2020. And I wish you a happy Solstice tonight, the 21st December, that was, once upon a time, the old turning of the year. 

’Manger’ is published by Eerdmans and (as a last minute Christmas present) available to buy here.

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