Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Welsh Nursery Rhyme Book Illustration

Cover image by Robert Karr

Oes gafr eto? Oes heb ei godro
Ar y creigiau geirwon
Mae’r hen afr yn crwydro,
Gafr wen, wen, wen,
Ie finwen, finwen, finwen,
Foel gynffonwen, foel gynffonwen,
Ystlys wen a chynffon wen, wen, wen . . .

 I’ve never been a huge fan of facebook but it was the means by which I was invited, last Spring, to contribute an illustration to a book of Welsh Nursery Rhymes to be sold to raise funds for the St David’s Day celebrations in Los Angeles.

I've lived in Wales for just over ten years but I didn’t know that there were specifically Welsh Nursery Rhymes. Nor did I know that St David’s Day was celebrated in Los Angeles, although my overseas sales of St David’s Day greeting cards has suggested that March 1st is an important date in Welsh communities worldwide.

I chose a rhyme about goats, partly because of my brief but unforgettable experience of keeping goats when my children were young and partly because I had already been sketching goats for my ‘Chinese Year of the Goat’ greeting cards. But I think what actually decided me was that when I read the English translation, I knew instantly how I would approach the illustration.

“Is there another goat? Yes, not yet milked
On the rough rocks
The old goat is wandering
White goat
Bald white tail, bald white tale,
White side and tail, white, white white.

And the second, third and fourth verses just substitute ‘red’, ‘black’ and ‘blue’ for ‘white’.

I challenged myself to make the coloured goats look reasonably natural by making the most of the lighting in the background landscape – eg one goat looks black because it’s silhouetted against the bright sunlight and another looks blue-ish in the shade of the tree. 

A soft pastel painting I had made previously of the Sugarloaf mountain, provided all that I needed by way of backdrop for my goats.

Which just left me with the question of what to do about the fact that the rhyme implied two people conversing. I decided on two elderly, rather Welsh-looking, country folk, possibly goatherds, although I had never been aware that goats were kept in Wales. I had thought of making their smocks a nice bright colour so that they would stand out from the background, but a google search identified that only creamy white smocks were worn in Wales.

So I was left with the decorative border to provide colour and what better than the bright red berries of the Rowan Tree or Mountain Ash, which grows plentifully in Wales! (Its Celtic name, ‘fid na ndruad’, means Wizard’s Tree.)

I had the drawing finished during the summer but, with the Surface Pattern course beginning at the end of August, it was a rush at the end to get my illustration painted in time for the December 1st deadline!

The launch will take place on Sunday, March 3rd

St David's Day Greeting Cards & Gifts
(many with greetings in Welsh)

Daffodils 'snapped' in my garden in Wales on Feb 17th


Di said...

Judy - this illo is gorgeous and charming! Wishing you much luck and success with this project.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Di - coming from you, that means a lot to me :)

Carole Barkett said...

I love the mischievous look on that white goats face. Just the kind of book I'd want to read to my kids or grandkids.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Carole - I know that look from when we kept goats and they got into our neighbour's garden. They would let me creep up on them so far - then they would give me that look as they ran off!

Mariana said...

I absolutely love the illustration Judy, especially the way it tells a story and implies that there's much more going on. Beautifully done.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Mariana, glad you like it :)

In my experience of watching children reading or being read to, they love to discover the little details that they hadn't noticed straight away.