Pictures, Books and Ancient Inspiration

By Philippa R. Francis [K. M. Lockwood]

Our ancestors held no prejudice against illustrated books for adults. Art and words were beautifully combined in sacred texts like the Lindisfarne Gospels. For a wonderful programme about these by David Almond, follow this link to the Radio 3 site.

I have divided this piece into Picture and Book sections – but I’d like you to think of it as a whole for both artists and writers.

I love how the artist Eadrith used birds and animals in his work. He plays with their features and integrates them into the whole design. Could you transform a creature into a magical being, keeping something recognisable about it? Or if you favour realism, could a creature reoccur in your work – could an owl, say, have her own little story throughout the book?

We get little glimpses of the scribe in the Gospels – it was created by one artist throughout. It is Eadfrith’s individual style that unites the whole work. Do you choose to reveal or conceal yourself as creator in your work?

The Lindisfarne Gospels arose from their immediate surroundings. The vellum came from local calves, the words were written with the feathers of local birds and the colours from the stones and plants.  
Are there ways your work can be imbued with a specific place, rural or urban? Is the landscape in the ink?
St Cuthbert's Isle by Peter Herring CC NON COMMERCIAL

Yet the Lindisfarne Gospels did not stay on their tidal island off North East England. The monks fled with them away from Viking raiders. Over 13 centuries they ended up in The British Library in London.
Will there be a distinct change of location in your work? Might there be a homecoming too? [See below]

To the delight of many in the North East, the Lindisfarne Gospels and the St Cuthbert Gospel [the oldest European book] are coming home- almost. They will be in Durham Cathedral 1st July – 30th September 2013,  temporarily reunited with one of their inspirations, St. Cuthbert, after 12 centuries.

K. M. Lockwood is a writing name of Philippa R. Francis. Once a primary school teacher, she became a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at West Dean College in 2011. Her story The Selkies of Scoresby Nab was short-listed for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition and long-listed for the Times Chicken House in 2012/13. She was born in Yorkshire but now lives by the coast in Sussex. Her writing shows her deep fascination with British folklore and the sea. Her interests include reading, scuba diving and belly dancing, though not at the same time. She also blogs at


  1. What a lovely fresh start to Monday, to read this, thanks! Reminds me of what my dad used to say "If you want new ideas, go to old books!"

  2. I love these inspirational pieces, Philippa - they give the imagination room to breathe.


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