Late November 2021. A meeting with a stranger in an Ambleside cafe. And one of the most amazing propositions I have ever received. OK, now don’t get too over-heated, it’s not what you think, it’s far more exciting.
Earlier in November I’d received an email, which I nearly deleted as spam. A Twitter acquaintance, Alan Cleaver – @thelonningsguy – had pointed one of his followers to an art portfolio that I’d set up a few years ago and now this chap was contacting me. When it actually sunk in that the email was bona fide I didn’t know whether I was terrified or excited by its contents. It took me days to make up my mind to respond but once I’d said yes, and agreed to meet up, the excitement dominated the terror. Thus, a couple of weeks later, I found myself sitting in Esquires cafe sketching to settle my nerves whilst waiting to meet Dave, who turned out to be tall and dark and very very interested in my sketchbooks.
Those sketchbooks were the reason Dave set up the meeting. He’s the founder of Inspired by Lakeland – @ByLakeland https://www.inspiredbylakeland.co.uk – a Cumbrian publishing company with a sustainable, ethical and local focus. As it says on their website “Everything we sell is designed locally, with a percentage of profits ploughed back into local business and Cumbrian-based charities”. It was not just the style of my sketches that prompted him to contact me but the content. He appreciated the contrast between the domestic mundanity of Lakeland life and the magnificent and majestic landscape. The hour stretched out as we discussed possibilities and by the end of the meeting I’d been offered a book deal for a sketchbook journal created over the course of a year in the Lakes. I left the meeting grinning with adrenaline, already so full of ideas and possibilities.
Since then we have been working on how to create a polished finished product. My sketchbooks are tatty and haphazard so I’ll be sketching in the field and taking reference photos to recreate clean copies in the studio. Even the apparently simple task of choosing paper has been a marathon of research. Although the book will evolve organically it will require a framework and a cohesiveness that my personal sketchbooks rarely have. So much needed to be prepared before the new year when I had to be primed and ready to go.
And of course all of this is now underway and January is over. I have thoroughly enjoyed creating the first few pages, and am planning walks and trips to all areas of Cumbria over the coming year. It’s rejuvenated my walking and running plans as I now have an even greater reason to head out into the fells with a backpack and sketchbook, but I’m also looking forward to joining the throngs of visitors by the lakes and at all the other wonderful lowland places the Lake District has to offer. Now all I have to do is walk and sketch and fend off imposter syndrome, so if you see me sitting sketching come over and say ‘hi’. Who knows, you may even feature in the book.