It’s been a long and odd year for the world. There’s little I can say to make it any other way, I guess. The 21st December marks the solstice – the date that the dark drops most deftly over the day. The date traditionally held as the old turning of the year. From now on, the light will inevitably return, and in this post, I’ll celebrate the sun and lengthening days by looking both forward and backwards as 2020 pivots into 2021.
Despite the pandemic, I’ve had a busy, busy year of illustrating books, maps and murals.
The best-selling Almanac 2021 has been a highlight. Written by Lia Leendertz and published by Octopus, it leads the reader through the coming year with growing tips, nature notes, folk history, tide times, lunar charts, sea shanties and maps. It was even featured on the BBC Radio 6 Music Cerys Matthews Show.
A project for the National Trust and the Cider Museum in Herefordshire had me engrossed in the history of the apple, creating a world map depicting its journey from the Kazakhstan mountains to the West. When the Trust properties and the museum are open again, the piece will be used as part of an exhibition about the history, science and culture behind one of our most beloved fruits.
A major map challenge this year was the creation of a roughly 5×4 metre mural of the stars above Brighton at Midsummer for the new offices of Unity Technology in association with design company MMoser Associates. In the next few months, hopefully, the office will open up and the mural will be seen for the first time.
Looking forward to publishing dates next year, there’s a large book of poetry for children, a gardening book by a renowned gardener, a map of the literary and musical houses of Britain and Ireland and an information board for the Adur Estuary completed and ready in the bag. Although I can’t talk too much about them yet, they feel like small gifts I can throw out to the world throughout 2021.
The solstice is certainly a time to look back at this hectic but dark and difficult year. In writing this, though, I realise there is still much to look forward to in next year too. Seeds have been planted, green shoots are pushing upwards. The sun will return.
In the meantime, keep on through the snows until you find your home. Sending you all good wishes on the eve of the solstice, a Christmas as merry as it can be and a 2021 filled with warmth, love, prosperity, togetherness and good health.