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Behind the scenes...

Word of warning, if someone asks you to illustrate the 12 Days of Christmas, you say no. Or at least think about it for a very long time. Or just don't do it like I did.

I have no feeling in my fingers anymore!

I'm only joking of course (apart from the feeling in my fingers), I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. It was very different to what I usually do, which was a refreshing change.

What started out as a very simplistic series of illustrations soon descended into chaos. I thought it would be a challenge to add the characters as I went along, with funny situations going on. You know that saying 'never work with children and animals' I wanted that feeling to emanate from the illustrations, with Hare and Snail at the centre of it all.

First, there are the French Hens.

They are Favorelles, a french breed, but who knows that? So to make them visibly French, so gave them the power of speech. There is a French saying on each of the illustrations apart from the one above, which is a play on Magritte's famous painting 'The Treachery of Images'.

(I'll add a list of the sayings at the end of this post.)

Then there's the Colly Birds.

Here I had a choice, I could use Colly or Calling or Curly or even Canary, but I went with 'colly'. Colly has more history, a story behind it, it was used back in the 16th century when 'colly' was used to describe something that was coal coloured.

Well, crows are much more fun aren't they?

Causing havoc and stealing rings but the geese soon put them back in their place.

Apparently, after a little research the gold rings refer to the rings around a pheasants neck. Which is all very interesting but I haven't seen that image used myself and it would mean using internet images to paint from, which I don't like doing if I can help it, so I stuck to the traditional gold rings. And I think Hare had enough on his plate with the birds that needed to be there, without adding more!

There are Canada geese and swans on the beach at Port Lion at the moment. They are noisy, comical characters. I spent a couple of days watching how they move, interact with each other (all in the name of art!). Very curious creatures, especially if you have food with you. What I love about swans particularly is they look so graceful, beautiful, angelic even, until you annoy them! Then they are the exact opposite!

Though, the French hens were impressed, Hare was right to be wary.

And after this one it all got tricky, I was into big numbers and I was beginning to dread the final piece, how was I going to bring it all together?

As it happened, it worked out ok.

The lords could always stay just above everyone else, whilst leaping, birds could be in the sky, which left more room on the ground for ladies, pipers and drummers.

I took great care in making sure there were the right number of characters because I know there are some people out there who will be counting! Which only got tricky when it came to the ladies, I'm sure they moved around, the social butterflies that they are!

So, count to your heart's desire, they are all there.

I wanted the final picture to be for 'you' the observer, the recipient of this card. This one is for your loved ones.

This is all for you.

This was probably more challenging than the Inktober challenge that I'd finished last month, but half the work. I enjoyed it, getting up early, listening to some, what I call 2am music, odd, slightly unnerving, mostly 'In The Nursery'. Placing the colours required, paper, pencil, rubber, sharpener on my desk. A cup of tea then to planning the illustration. Home after work. Tea, make any changes and paint. It's been my ritual for the past 12 days.

I am going to look forward to getting back to my book for a few weeks and back to the gentle flow of watercolour.

The 12 days of Christmas will be available as a set of Christmas cards. I hope to have them in my store by next week.

French Sayings.

Mon petit chou - term of endearment - My little sweetie.

Qui vivra verra - used in a situation when the future is uncertain like "we shall see".

Vouloir ce'st pouvior - Where there's a will, there's a way.

Creme de la creme - The best.

Poser un lapin - Literally means 'to place a rabbit', but is used as 'to leave without paying' or 'to stand someone up'.

Impossible n'est pas Francais - Nothing's impossible (to the French, apparently)

Aussitot dit aussitot fait - It's as good as done.

Ceci n'est pas une pipeau - This is not a pipe (instrument)

(and my favourite) Peigner la girafe - literally means to 'comb a giraffe' - it's used to describe a long, arduous, pointless task.

Au revior.

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