This is my journey of becoming an author and illustrator. The work you will find on this site is work in progress. This has rapidly evolved since February 2013, and shows if you’re not afraid to ask and prepared to take a few knock backs, your interests or hobby can open doors into many different fascinating areas.
Since early 2013, with the help of likeminded people I’ve successfully published a number of children’s conservation books, and produced a number of pieces of art work. This isn’t my profession just a passion. I’ve been lucky enough to meet household celebrities and more importantly the everyday people, who through their hard work and dedication have “made a difference”, this is how my first two books went to print and what might lay ahead.
Top Gun of the Sky
I live on the edge of the New forest with my wife Claire and two sons Jay and Max. I’ve lived in this part of the world all my life, and this has been a major influence on my interests and now the projects I am involved in. (Project Peregrine Exxon-PPE).
In 2007, I joined Exxon Mobil at the Fawley Refinery on the edge of the Solent in Southampton. This may seem a strange place to start, but it’s the wildlife I have observed in this unusual habitat which has given me the inspiration to pursue the conservation projects that are now gaining momentum.
Soon after I joined Exxon I noticed the angel winged carcasses of birds littered around the site, this was my first encounter with Fawley’s Peregrine’s. Closer observation’s confirmed peregrines were using the site as a fast food destination, culling the pigeon, wader and sea gull populations. I was aware a pair had taken up residence on the nearby Fawley Power Station stack some 1.5 miles away and assumed these were the same falcons, this wasn’t the case, we actually had peregrines nesting on our site. (Project Peregrine Exxon).
Each day I would catch sight of the falcons and began to make sketches and notes of their behaviour, and within a few months I had a small collection of work, this rekindled my love of art so I turned some of the sketches into my own type of art work. My two sons persuaded me to do something with these drawings, so one nightshift I came up with the bright idea of contacting the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover (a place where my family had regularly visited for great days out) to see if they wanted to use my art in some way to raise funds for their fantastic organisation.
I first contacted Ashley Smith and Penny Smout in February 2013 and within six months with their help, and the imagination and expertise of Simon Chadwick (who runs Ceratopia) I had become an Author and Illustrator with Top Gun of the Sky. A children’s conservation book following the life seen through the eyes of the peregrine falcon.
My employer kindly sponsored the print run and Top Gun featured a beautiful foreword from Naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham.
Top Gun’s aim was/is to engage children in this remarkable predator, encouraging them to read and draw via a rhythmic poem full of words associated with the peregrine, and a simple step by step guide of how to draw a falcon.
I also hope it might encourage primary and junior school children to have 5 minutes away from their Playstation, X-Box or TV. The cherry on the cake would be to raise funds and promote the HCT and demonstration ExxonMobil’s continuing support for education not only locally but across the UK.
My first outing with Top Gun was at the New Forest Show with C & J’s birds of prey team. After ten hours of howling winds and rain and only succeeding to sell two books I felt deflated, was it the book or was it me, and had I taken the wrong advice? Thankfully, things swiftly changed and 18 months later Top Gun is stocked in falconry centres, museums and garden centres all over the UK and is being promoted by the Hamilton Trust, the largest UK primary school resource provider for the National Curriculum. Sales are continuing to rise towards 2000 copies and its becoming ever more popular since the launch of my second book Dusk until Dawn.
Dusk until Dawn
At the launch of Top Gun, many professions in the conservation and falconry industry commended my efforts on getting Top Gun to print, but most asked why the peregrine, as its not as well known as other British birds. The answer was simple, I knew the peregrine through observation and watched them most days.
Linda Wright (a professional wildlife photographer) suggested a book about an owl as everybody loves owls. Linda kindly offered to help by supplying some of her stunning owl images, taken at the International Bird of Prey Centre run by Jemima Parry Jones.
I never intended to produce another book, however the seed was sown.
In January 2014, I started researching the UK barn owl, and found that it had been brought back from the brink of extinction in the UK by conservationists. They had identified that there habitat and particularly nesting sites had suffered, and unless something was done to rectify this situation, this iconic bird of prey could vanish from the UK.
After two months, I nearly had a finished product. By chance I had contacted Nick Dixon a Bird of Prey expert in Exeter who had helped me with Top Gun, and I had mentioned Dusk. Nick insisted I send a book to his lifelong friend Colin Shawyer, who as it turns out is a world leading expert on the barn owl, and has devoted the last 26 years to helping old hushwing.
Colin is the founder of the Barn Owl Conservation Network (BOCN), and thankfully loved my work, and better still came up with some fantastic ideas to enhance Dusk. He offered to write the foreword and support the book, and more importantly promoted Dusk to likeminded friends and professionals.
In June 2014, Dusk was launched. It is dedicated to my Dad who passed away on March the 1st St. Davids Day (of all days for a proud Welshman), and to date Dusk has out sold Top Gun.
My aim is to produce a fun and informative pocket money priced book. I would like to see a copy of Dusk finding its way into ever Primary/Junior school in the UK. This will hopefully inspire our future wildlife enthusiast’s.
For every 200 books sold, I am donating a barn owl nest box to local wildlife organisations.