The Lighthouse Keeper’s Mystery

The latest book in the much loved series is out on 6 August!

In this latest addition to the classic childrens book series, now in it’s 44th year, Mr and Mrs Grinling return, with other favourite characters with a message about the environment and conservation.

After a clean up at the Lighthouse Mr Ginling is worried: it seems that someone is dumping rubbish into the sea! His great-nephew George thinks it might be the work of pirates. But could the culprit be closer to home?

Everyone’s favourite seagulls are causing trouble again! Along with a cast of sea creatures, and help from Hamish, it’s time to clean up the ocean…

…AND defeat the pirates.

You can read about the creation of this book in my blog post here. I think the publishers – Scholastic, have once again done a great job of bringing together the words and pictures and have stayed true to my original illustrations and maintaining the painterly quality.

Of course there is a happy ending and a positive message about what we can all do to help keep our beaches – and the rest of planet – clean.

The book will be released on the 6th August 2020, and is available from many local bookstores including one of our favourite shops: Much Ado Books in Alfriston.

For online purchases you can pre-order from Waterstones and Amazon, where it is also available on kindle.

There will also be a limited number available pre-release at my exhibition at The Jam Factory in Oxford from 31 July.

A Survey Exhibition

Oxford 2020

This exhibition will now run for a full 10 weeks, from 31 July – 18 October.

This exhibition will present a full range of the artists practice, from large scale abstract paintings, to colourful illustrations. At first these may seem like disparate fields, but on closer inspection, the techniques involved inform each other, and at times interconnect; as in the Earthwatch series of paintings on paper which utilise the techniques used in his illustrative work, but resonate with the passion and vibrancy of his abstract expressionist canvasses.

Gethsemane, Dye and acrylic on canvas, 158 x 140 cm

Armitage’s abstract paintings have long been admired by patrons and critics alike, and his work has developed a rich and distinct character over decades of artistic practice. Large canvases resonate with deep rich colours, inspired by his native Australia and world travels, classical music which plays in the studio as he paints, and the abstract expressionists such as Helen Frankenthaler.

Smaller works include semi-figurative subjects and landscapes, where he distils the vibrancy of his larger works to a more domestic scale, depicting snippets of the world from everyday still lifes to the darker side of humanity and the victims of war and violence.

Warrior Rod Puppet, Dye and acrylic on canvas, 120 x 75 cm

The other main aspect of his practice is illustration, to which he brings the same mastery of colour and composition whilst embracing chance and accident. His methods combine watercolour, monoprint and ink drawing, creating a unique style that can be fun, beautiful, but never mawkish.

Winterreise 22, Mixed media on paper, 36 x 55 cm

The Lighthouse Keeper book series, written by his wife Ronda, have delighted readers for generations. The first book, the Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch was inspired by the Beachy Head lighthouse near to their new East Sussex home in 1977. Over 40 years and many successful sequels later comes a new book; The Lighthouse Keepers Mystery. This latest installment encourages young readers to look after the sea and the animals that live there, as Mr Grinling solves the mystery of who is polluting the sea with rubbish.

Some of the original illustrations from several of the favourite books will be on display, along with exclusive pre-release copies of the new book.

Read more about the creation of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Mystery

Alongside these will be David’s own project; a set of three illustrated books inspired by the Schubert song cycles, Die Schone Mullerin, Winterreise, and Schwanengesang.

Schwanengesang / Pigeon Post, Mixed media on paper, 27 x 76 cm

Armitage’s illustrative style perfectly suits the feeling of yearning and melancholy captured in the music and poetry of all three of these works. The original illustrations will be exhibited, with books and prints also available.

Die Schone Mullerin / The Questioner, Mixed media on paper, 27 x 76 cm

David Armitage, A Survey Exhibition will run from 31 July – 18 October 2020 at The Jam Factory, 4 Hollybush Row, Oxford, OX1 1HU

A ‘Meet the Artist’ event will be held on 2 August 1- 5pm. Social distancing measures will be in place, refreshments will be available to purchase from the venue’s cafe/ bar.

Read this article about the exhibition on Ox In A Box.

Die Schone Mullerin

I have just completed the third book of illustrations based on Schubert song cycles. Winterreise was the first Schubert book I created, followed recently by Schwanengesang. This third book reflect Schuberts first song cycle Die Schone Mullerin based on the poems by Wilhelm Muller.

Below are a few of my paintings, accompanied by excerpts of the text, translated by Celia Sgroi. You can also read more about my process in creating the paintings for all three books here.

David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

Wandering is the miller’s joy,
Wandering!
A man isn’t much of a miller,
If he doesn’t think of wandering,
Wandering!

1. Wandering
David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

Did she send you to me?
Or have you enchanted me?
I’d like to know,
Did she send you to me?

4. Gratitude to the Brook
David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

Now shake off the veil of dreams
And lift yourselves fresh and free
In God’s bright morning!
The lark circles in the sky
And sings from the depths of its heart
The sorrows and cares of love.

8. Morning Greeting
David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

What is the hunter doing at the mill stream?
Bold hunter, stay in your forest preserve!
There’s no game here for you to hunt,
There’s only a doe here, a tame one, for me,
And if you want to see the dainty doe,
Leave your rifle behind in the woods,
And leave your barking dogs at home,

14. The Hunter
David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

Oh green, you hateful color, you,
Why do you keep staring,
So mocking, so proud, so pleased by my pain,
At me, a poor pale man?

17. The Hateful Colour
David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

And when love frees
Itself from pain,
A little star, a new one,
Twinkles in the sky;
And three roses spring,
Half red and half white,
That never wither,
From the thorny stem.
And the angels cut off
Their wings
And every morning
Go down to earth.

19. The Miller and The Brook

Die Schone Mullerin will be available soon and will join Winterreise and Schwanengesang on my online shop, where you can also purchase original paintings and prints.

If you are interested in a particular work, please contact me.

Below is a short excerpt of Schubert’s Die Schone Mullerin, performed by Thomas Quasthoff at the Verbier Festival in 2009

Lockdown with Schubert

This is how I am occupying myself during the lockdown. For information on my postponed exhibition see this post: Oxford Exhibition June 2020

Monoprinting in the studio

Having just completed a second book of illustrations for Schubert song cycles, I have now embarked on a third, which in this case is a prequel. I began with Winterreise in 2016. Apart from loving this stuff, I identified strongly with the ‘hero’ of this cycle, possibly stemming from an introverted childhood and spending endless days day dreaming on how things ought to be. In other words, knowing this ‘yearning’ thing which Schubert realises so completely.

Winterreise – A Winter’s Journey

The book has been well received, and after the illustrations were featured on https://winterreise.online/ – an online encyclopedia of Winterreise information and rescources – I was spurred on to create a follow on book, Schwanengesang.

These illustrations are set to Schubert’s final song cycle, which was published posthumously and therefore there is considerable fluttering in the Schubert dovecotes regarding the validity of the term ‘song cycle’ in connection with the latter, in that it is more a collection of songs and put together by somebody else. Dr Iain Phillips, author of the websites dedicated to cataloguing the work of Schubert, however has firmly aligned himself with the song cycle having launched his third Schubert website https://schwanengesang.online/
As far as I am concerned, they are right up there, whatever the title, a point re-inforced by the splendid recording by Fassbaender and Riemann. DG 1992.

Schwanengesang – Swan Song

My third set of illustrations are therefore inspired by Schubert’s first song cycle, Die Schone Mullerin (the beautiful maid of the mill). This is a challenge that will certainly keep me busy in lockdown! But the inspiration provided by the music is as ever a guiding light.

The paintings start out, with a now well practiced technique that relies heavily on accident. Conceived totally in the abstract, the figurative elements come later.


So, armed with a single sized glazed window, a rickety table, loads of acrylic inks , brushes, rags,3 in 1 oil, detergent, 300 gsm Arches watercolour paper and buckets or water, I can produce multiple images by the simple process of mono-prints. The inks are splashed or poured on to the wet glass, oil, detergent can be thrown in for good measure. The paper is then thoroughly doused in water and pressed face down on to the glass. Peel it off, and there it is, or isn’t.

Certainly 2 things happen at once. The tyranny of white paper is strangled at birth and stunning pictorial elements appear which one would never, ever, have consciously thought of. Should the result look like a river flowing upside down, the paper can be hosed down and re-cycled. (This has been demonstrated to year 2 and 3 kids who loved watching this and having a go themselves).

The resulting images contain a huge range of colour/tone relationships and differing moods… some may profit by being turned upside down.
Then, one hears the sound of wedding bells as protracted marriage ceremonies leads to pairing each painting with its counterpart in the verses. Most marriages are made in heaven but a few needed a bit of an academic shove here and there to be true to the text. The alchemy is to convey the spirit of the words and the music but preserve the equally huge disinterested power of abstraction… tricky. But conventional picture making would simply not cope with this exalted subject matter. It is also a good way of avoiding a couple of bete-noirs, technical skill and good taste.

Much Anticipated

You may or may not have heard the rumours – but YES we are working on a new Lighthouse Keeper book!!!

Thought I’d been a bit quiet recently? Here’s why:

Visuals for the *new book* spread across my studio floor!

You may or may not have heard the rumours – but YES we are working on a new Lighthouse Keeper book!!!

Scholastic came to us a several months ago and took us for a lovely dinner, a new book was suggested and we agreed upon a concept, which as you will see has a very important and topical theme.

Ronda’s done her bit, so now it’s up to me to do justice to her words with some illustrations, with the Lighthouse Keeper brand of colour, detail and humour.

It’s wonderful to be creating a new book, having recently celebrated 40 years since the first Lighthouse Keeper book was published, and to know that new generations of readers are discovering a love of reading through our books.

We’re currently looking at a release date sometime in spring 2020, which will hopefully coincide with a large exhibition of mine featuring original illustrations from the new book. So watch this space for more details in due course.

Winterreise – A Winter’s Journey

A winter – themed post on this frosty morning. Excerpts from my book of illustrations inspired by the Schubert song cycle.

In 2016 I was inspired to create these illustrations by the wonderful imagery contained in Winterreise. This timeless song cycle for voice and piano, composed by Franz Schubert, was published in 1828. It consists of a setting of 24 poems by Wilhelm Muller. I produced a set of illustrations which are presented alongside Muller’s words, translated into English by Celia Sgroi. The resulting book can be purchased direct from myself. The original illustrations and giclee prints are also available. Email me for further details.

The illustrations are now also available to view on https://winterreise.online/. The site is the work of the wonderful Iain C Phillips, and is an amazing resource for all things Winterreise, including discography, texts and papers, along with other illustrations and artworks.

Below are some of the illustrations from my book, along with excerpts from the poems.

I cannot choose the time

To begin my journey,

Must find my own way

In this darkness.

Frozen drops are falling

Down from my cheeks.

How could I not have noticed

That I have been weeping?

In a charcoal-burner’s tiny house

I have found shelter;

But my limbs won’t relax,

Their hurts burn so much.

You, too, my heart, in strife and storm

So wild and so bold,

Feel first in the silence your serpent

Stir with burning sting!

So I travelled my road

Onward with sluggish feet,

Through bright, happy life,

Lonely and unrecognised.

A light does a friendly dance before me,

I follow it here and there;

I like to follow it and watch

The way it lures the wanderer.

Ah, a man as wretched as I am

Is glad to fall for the merry trick

That, beyond ice and night and fear,

Shows him a bright, warm house.

And a loving soul within –

Only illusion lets me win!

My way has led me

to a graveyard;

Here I’ll stop,

I told myself.

You green and mourning garlands

must be the sign

That invites weary travellers

into the cool inn.


Song: Schubert: The Winterreise D911: I good night
Artist: Christoph Prégardien & Andreas Staier
Licensed to YouTube by WMG (on behalf of Teldec Classics International)

The book was first published in 2016 by LKL Publishing and is available direct from the author.

Illustrations © 2016 David Armitage

ISBN 978-1-5262-0322-9.

Translation courtesy of Celia Sgroi © 2005


I have also illustrated many successful childrens books, such as the Lighthouse Keeper series and Queen of the Night. See Illustration in the header menu.

Individual original abstract paintings have also been inspired by particular pieces of music. You can see more of these in the Music Box category, under My Artworks.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas

It’s a proper Christmas after all, presents AND snow!

This is the 9th and most recent Lighthouse saga. It is only a mere 16 years old and has some way to go to catch up with it’s illustrious 41 year old cousin.
Good advice to a budding illustrator…. ‘Probably the best way to produce a picture book is to write and illustrate it yourself.’ Failing that, a close second is to marry or live with a top class children’s writer. That way help is always at hand! Is it ever. A down side can be the fact that most writers have a very strong visual sense and this is never more so than when their lovely text seems to lack sufficient illumination. This can lead, very infrequently, to either polar or tropical exchanges. But, after 40 years and a third generation of readers about to arrive, the world of the lighthouse keeper is as real to the creators as it is to the children. Mess with this institution at your peril. One’s audience would not stand for it.


The principal characters, Mr and Mrs Grinling, seem to have precious little in the way of an extended family. We are often quizzed about this by our young readers.
Certainly Mr Grinling has a great- nephew George, and in this story the little chap spends his Christmas at the lighthouse. And what a visit.
When the text is as good as this, the story illustrates itself.

One further reflection on working with children. A packed assembly hall, a presentation based on the ‘Christmas’ was well underway. I had produced a large seaside ‘skeleton’ outline and the children suggested various sea creatures et. al. to be included n the picture. Suggestions piled in at the rate of knots, so much so that I asked a 6 year old to wait for a bit as I was getting behind.
Silence. She then stood up, turned to the assembled throng and, in a stentorian bellow, declared:

‘HE CAN’T MULTI- TASK!’

Convulsed with laughter, I dropped all my pens.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas is available from Waterstones, amazon and other good bookshops, or direct from the author.

Take a look at my other illustrations and artworks, or follow my life story – In Vino Veritas.

My Cat Charlie

Charlie is my cat. He’s big and black and soft and he’s my best friend.

‘The vivid, impressionistic illustrations with details that stand out from the colour-washed background support the emotions expressed so well in the text. Outstanding’

Books For Keeps

A little girl is moving house to go and live in the city. But she knows she can’t take her cat who would be very unhappy. So full of sadness and regret, she leaves him with her cousins. All her favourite games were with Charlie. What would she do in the city? Who would she play with? But city life has other excitements Soon she has new friends and new games and while the place in heart for Charlie remains strong, and she visits him as often as she can, she learns that he can be her friend without being with her all the time. Beautiful illustrations complement this moving text which deals gently with two topics which can be a source of anxiety for children: friendships and moving house.

-from amazon.co.uk

Concept sketch of Charlie
The opening spread from the book

Author Becky Edwards

Published by Bloomsbury 2001

ISBN:  0747550182

Available from amazon

Studio Shows

Episode 1

I first started my studio shows about 1980. Why? Dealers and I have never had a meaningful relationship, indeed, apart for a couple of minor skirmishes, one could say no relationship whatsoever, a state of affairs not likely to change. This isn’t a personality based phenomenon as far as I can tell.

So, why?

For many years I worked as a jobbing illustrator. At times this could be stressful, to say the least. A phone call on Sunday evening. Who could that be I wonder? The caller, an agent, comes straight to the point.

‘Right, David, we need an A3 4 colour spread of….(take your pic)… a snow scene / children playing / an exotic forest / Greeks / Romans / Victorian slums / a moody sea scene / dogs / ducks or general livestock / portraits of war poets / airships and balloons / a Romanesque basilica / a street scene / a gooey sunset….etc. etc.’
We need it NOW, please, and… if you could courier it over by lunchtime tomorrow that would be terrific. The client will be lobbing in about 2pm. No time for visuals or scamps. Bye’.

IMG_7547

Socialising grinds to a halt, back to the studio. Job is done to the accompaniment of an out of tune tawny owl. My motorcycle mate arrives at 10 a.m. to collect. (Wi- Fi has changed all that.) I have breakfast and get on with a bloody great ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ pic which was way overdue. What was good about all this? It paid well. The downside? One develops a pathological dread of forever doing this kind of stuff. If I see a load of this , or similar ilk, at any dealers, (quite right and proper from their point of view). I thank God, with all my heart, that I will never have to knock out these sort of pictures again. EVER .
Besides, there are loads of highly trained seals who are also really good at this, and they enjoy it! Good for them.

Amongst all of this, illustrating children’s books, a totally different discipline and for a much tougher audience, proceeded rather well to say the least, and still does. More of this anon. Finally, the discipline of painting was also prosecuted to a greater or lesser degree. I still want the painter to create a new magical world of their own, not merely illustrate, more or less, the one we just happen to inhabit. Pictures in other words. That’s easy.

Anyway back to the studio shows. These are, and still are my shop front, so to speak. These were/are a happy melange of painting, children’s illustrations, life drawings and cartoons. A lot of fun can be had juxtaposing a 5 metre abstract painting with some little A4/fragments and a load of children’s illustrations.

IMG_6876

Audience reaction or lack of it is wonderful. I have invented a ‘shortest viewing time competition’. The current record is 2.4 seconds (viewed from the doorstep) but that will be bettered. The other great obstacle is the husband/wife dynamic. An example:

They appear. Wife sees a 1.5 metre -ish painting to die for. Hubby a slab of indifference. A tape measure was produced, the problem of furniture moving discussed at some length, generating conviction and increasing volume. Then, the matter was decided. The price agreed, a mere snip at 8 grand, a cheque written. Delivery sorted… I immediately thumbed through the en primeur wine lists and told the bailiffs to call off their dogs.

Next morning the cheque was cancelled. Never mind. I have been there, on a lesser scale, many times, and doubtless will do so again.