Once a month an email arrives from David the Art Director of Gardens Illustrated magazine, with Frank Ronan's text for his article The Writer's Plot. Usually there's a suggestion as to which paragraph I should illustrate. At the end of May the text for July's magazine arrived, David's message read:
Here’s the text for July Frank. It’s mostly about Frank’s cat dying, which is very sad.
I sat down with a mug of tea and read, yes it was sad BUT it's also a beautiful tribute to a rather majestic and loyal cat . . . and the apple tree Frank planted as his memorial.
I decided to start with the apple tree which was in blossom, so I drew some apple blossom from life. As the magazine is about beautiful gardens and plants, starting with carefully observing flowers and leaves seems a good way to find a composition.
The main question was, should I include Hero, Frank's beloved cat? I drew a cat that fitted the description in the text . . . then I worried that it wasn't quite like Hero and what Frank might think.
I considered sending a message to Frank asking for a photo of Hero.
Then I had a rethink, if Hero was my cat, I'd like to remember him in a doing what he enjoyed . . . wandering the edge of the garden, the common and the hedgerows.
The cat in the illustration can be Hero, or it can be a cat you know or remember.
I printed the linocut in a cool mid blue, I wanted the scene to have a half-light feel when a crepuscular feline might be out walking and stalking.
If you have a copy of the magazine, I hope you enjoy Frank's eulogy for Hero, yes it brings a lump to the throat but I hope my illustration lifts the mood and is a fitting tribute to Frank's dear cat.
As with all my Garden's Illustrated illustrations, I will be producing a limited edition of original print and a range of cards of all the designs, available from 6 months after the magazine publication date.