Listing slightly….

If I was being professionally employed to run my life, I think I would have had the sack by now.  My days are littered with ideas unexplored, paperwork unfinished, friends neglected, emails unwritten, exercise not taken, songs, paintings, stories and articles half finished, empty sketch book pages, unmaintained boats and reproachful bank account. Is it just me?

This is how I think proper people run their life:

1. Make list of things to do

2. Do them.

This is how I run my life:

1. Write list of things to do today

2. Leave list at home when I go to the studio

3. Answer emails

4. Sharpen pencil and find reference material for latest illustration

5. Lose pencil whilst answering phone and taking message

6. Find pencil, make cup of tea

7. Remember one final email that needs answering

8. Lose pencil again

9. Load SD card to computer to find reference photograph for illustration

10. Find interesting photo on SD card that I absolutely must post to facebook that instant

11. Finally get back to drawing board, start to tackle illustration

12. Interrupted by visiting sailors stopping to chat and pay their mooring fees

13. Back to drawing board. Discover I have lost pencil……

… skip to no. 53, sometime later….

53. Drink wine.

Funnily enough, I never forget to do the last one.

Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by what I don’t achieve that I forget to be grateful for what I do manage to do, which is to support myself and my elderly boat by drawing, writing and teaching. I stay afloat, physically and metaphorically, one month at a time. So what have I been doing at the drawing board recently?

black waters cover

The illustrations for Julia Jones’ latest book ‘Black Waters’ were done in a short but intensive period at the end of May as Julia wanted the book to be ready for the Felixstowe Book festival (and she succeeded, too). It took a few attempts to get the cover right – after a lot of scribbled sketches and discussion on what the book was really all about, we ended up with something completely different from the first draft. It’s written for older children though I’d also very much recommend it for grown up children. Julia has done her usual clever blending of past and present, facts and fiction – a good sailing thriller.


I suppose it’s no coincidence that I seem to illustrate books for people I know and like. Next on the list is a few illustrations for a revised knot book by Des Pawson, for nautical publisher Adlard Coles. It’s always fascinating visiting Des in his wonderful library/study, stuffed full of a lifetime’s collection of books, knots, maritime fragments and artwork, with the salty smell of stockholm tar always in the background. ( A designer skilled in computer graphics is doing the step by step how-to drawings for the book and my task is simply(!) a pen and pencil sketch showing showing the knot project in use.


Reference material, detail photos and final drawing


Reference photo, the real thing (scaled down!) and final drawing

 Some are quite challenging; you can see my cunning technological aids – pencil, rubber, tracing paper and camera!

Alongside that there’s a small project for Lowestoft Maritime Museum who have a tiny amount of funding to make their delightful museum more engaging for children. My job is to produce an activity sheet and map of the museum, giving the youngsters things to do, explore and find out. Here’s the first very rough scribbled layout:


And here’s a tidied up tracing to send to client – hopefully there is enough information here to imagine what the finished result will look like:

activity sheet sketch


As an aside – not strictly relevant, but fascinating to everyone interested in salty history – I was invited to work on the Lowestoft Maritime Museum by Heritage Consultant Lesley Walker who does a blog called ‘Voyaging’ ( Well worth a look.

Around the end of each month a draft article from Practical Boat Owner columnist Dave Selby lands in my inbox. I read it, chuckle (it’s always funny – how do you do it, Dave?) and then chew the end of my pencil wondering how on earth to come up with a cartoon to fit. The knack, as with all these difficult projects, is BOCPUP – bum on chair, pick up pencil. And no checking on facebook or emails until it’s done!

boatshed low res

Our mug press is also busy most days as Emma and I have had a good trickle of orders for our own designs and for personalised mugs. We fit this around everything else going on at the boatyard – Emma runs the boat trips and sees to general boaty business – and I squeeze in new designs inbetween commissioned work. We’re not in danger of making a profit yet but invoices are going out and cash trickling back in, so I think it will be worth the investment eventually. We went off to the small but delightful Beale Park Boat Show ( to exhibit our designs and had an enjoyable time networking (which seemed to involve a few glasses of wine).

Swallow at Beale3

Sailing ‘Swallow’ from the original ‘Swallows and Amazons’ film. I love Beale Park Boat Show (Pangbourne, near Reading) – it’s the quirkiest, boatiest and most relaxing small boat show in the country.


A few new mug designs…. yes, getting the website and web shop up and running is on The List (hopefully the list that actually gets done sometime soon…) In the meantime, if you want to order any, get in touch and I’ll send you a pdf catalogue.

woodbridge regatta

 Oh look, two mugs on the quay – Claudia and Emma at Woodbridge Regatta

I always seem to be either getting ready for an event or workshop, or else unloading the car and tidying up after one. After Beale Park there was Woodbridge Regatta; after that I put my illustrator’s hat back on and did a short talk/demonstration last Saturday as part of Felixstowe Book Festival – which by the way was an excellent event with some first class speakers ( I’ve also done a one day workshop at Art Safari in Woodbridge – with more to come later in the year (

Most days I wake up feeling more tired than when I went to bed (what I call HDS – heavy duvet syndrome), so my morning routine is to go back to bed with laptop and cup of tea and do some writing or useful reading while trying to wake up. I’m writing this on a sunny morning with the sound of oystercatchers squabbling nearby – probably the same pair that decided to have a boisterous domestic argument on my cabin top at 3.30am.

So apologies for this post in which I have failed to be either useful or brief, but at least if ‘finishing blog post’ was actually on The List, I could now tick it off!

3 thoughts on “Listing slightly….”

  1. Jackie Parry says:

    Wonderful blog Claudia. I am right with you – the to do list just keeps growing. All I do is add to it – that is what I do! Incredible drawings too – just gorgeous – thanks for sharing!

  2. Bill Hughes says:

    What a wonderful blog, where on earth do you get the time

  3. Chris Webb says:

    I bought a card off you via ebay a few years back, “Sole Lundy Fastnet” as a Christmas card for my girlfriend even though it’s me that collects Shipping Forecast stuff.
    It ended up on permanant display on a bookshelf (I was hoping to get it back!)

    What I’m trying to say is that I think Shipping Forecast stuff would sell very well, especially a mug – I’d be first in the queue for one.

    Anyway, lovely blog, just needs more “Cromarty Viking Dogger”.

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