One thing about illustrating stories is your character has to be consistent throughout the book and a lot of you have seen this develop over the past two years.
This was one of the first public sketches of Hare and Snail 2020
which my parents have sitting on their mantelpiece.
Since then, I have been promising to write a book, which wasn't an empty promise, but with life outside of creating whimsical watercolour paintings, it got held up a bit.
Hare and Snail, if you don't want to go off and read the section on my website, was first developed when my children were young, which was a long time ago, and I had the idea of creating a nature hand book for children. Ironically, now they've left home, I've actually got the time to develop it.
As a child, I loved wandering around beaches and country paths looking up wild flowers and insects mostly, fascinated by this tiny world that no one else around me seemed to notice. Then life takes you on another path and some things get left behind.
And although my interest for the natural world was still there, especially when I was studying textiles and the production of cotton, hemp, mulberry and tussah silks, it wasn't until I had children of my own that the fire was re-lit. Taking them on walks around Pembrokeshire, it isn't long before you come across a common lizard or a harlequin ladybird and I like to think that they'd still know how to find and identify them.
It's all well and good to encourage my children to look at and get interested in wildlife when we live in an area where it is abundant, I'm also very lucky that I have a large enough garden to have part of it left to it's own devices and I can watch it develop. But what do you do when you live in the city? The plants and insects are still there, you just have to find them, or encourage them into your garden, even a window box or pots on a patio can be enough to create your own little miniature world.
Why encourage the little pests on to your patch? Well, this little universe that has evolved under our feet, almost unseen, is part of a much bigger picture.
We all know that planting wildflowers is good for the environment, it encourages the pollinators like bees, butterflies, wasps (I know, they also have a role to play) and thick legged flower beetles (which are one of the prettiest things I have ever seen) and without the pollinators we have no crops, no food...and so on. Another example; If we didn't have foxes, we'd have more mice, rats and slugs and we know how much damage they can do.
Earthworms are great for the soil, they provide better drainage and maintain a good level of nutrients, ants do this too with the added bonus of being predators, eating unwanted pests and decaying animal matter.
Basically, this little world looks after itself, and in turn, it looks after us.
The more we learn, the more we know.
The intention of Hare and Snail's Adventures is to encourage learning, what to look for and where to find it, through a series of short, slightly humorous stories, to highlight where you are likely to find an owl, or a ladybird, what do they sound like, look like, how many species are there, what is their role in the environment.
Snail is adventurous, like any garden snail, he can be found halfway up a drainpipe or hiding under a rock, slowly moving through 'the garden' using the flowers, plants and insects as guides to which predators are around. There are many.
Hare is brave, mostly because he has few predators. Being aware of foxes, buzzards and hawks when he was younger, he knows about the larger mammals, the only thing he fears now are the men and their machines. But being able to run extremely fast from predators, he misses the insects, and only noticing the plants he needs to eat to survive.
So how do these two unlikely friends meet?
No garden is complete without a fairy or a gnome or something magical of some sort. In our garden we have a cross between the two, a Hedge Witch of sorts, but more a Hedge Brownie, using the garden to help, well, the garden and the gardener.
Have you ever found a plant in your garden that you didn't put there? The chances are a Hedge Brownie did, and probably to encourage a little creature to feed on it and in turn discourage the creature from feeding on something more useful to the gardener. The Hedge Brownie's knowledge of the natural world is extensive and very useful to not only the gardener but to every living thing there.
In this first book Hedge Brownie finds a lost and scared hare in the garden and decides to look after him until he finds his family and realises the hare could be useful. The Brownie's favourite meal is Wood Ear Fungi (chosen for the story because it's not poisonous and can't be mistaken for anything else) but he doesn't get along with the frog who owns the patch of land in which they're found. He could ask Fox or Badger, but the chances are they'd eat the frog and the fungi too, but a hare, on the other hand, would not. But Hare doesn't know the garden, he needs someone to be his guide, the snail, who can sit tightly on his head with the strength in his 'foot' and speak straight into Hare's ears.
Whilst on their adventures they learn about each others' worlds, the predators and the friends and the nature and wildlife that surrounds them.