Well-known Tenby artist Naomi Tydeman and author Catherine Thomas have collaborated to create a book featuring the seaside town’s wonderful coastline.

They are launching the book in Tenby on Saturday, April 1, with 50 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of each book being donated to local charities.

Naomi Tydeman, winner of the Turner Watercolour Prize, has run her own studio/gallery in Tenby for 27 years. She has had solo exhibitions in London, France and Italy and has just returned from Spain where she was an invited guest artist at the International Watercolour Festival in Cordoba.

“Working with Catherine was a pleasure as our goal was the same - to produce a book that celebrated the beauty of where we live,” said the artist.

“The techniques for the paintings, which are more whimsical than my usual work, were developed during lockdown when there was time to play and experiment. They are much more colourful than my usual pallet of blues and greys, which was another journey in itself. Working with Catherine’s words as inspiration was often as much about colour as the landscape.”

Examples of Naomi Tydeman’s work
(Naomi Tydeman)

Some of the paintings came easily, some were mammoth struggles which resulted in some swearing… but all, I hope, express the affection I hold for this tiny part of the world.”

The book launch will be at the gallery in Cobb Lane, Tenby, on Saturday, April 1, between 11am and 4pm. The book, original watercolours and prints of the paintings will be for sale.

Author Catherine Thomas explained the dragon connection:

“Wonderful Pembrokeshire! A favourite pastime is walking on the ever-changing beaches and the coast path. The natural beauty is breathtaking.

“Whilst walking during the last couple of years, the shapes of the rocks between Caldey and St. Margaret’s Island began to make me think of the ears and horns of a huge dragon whose head was beneath the surface of the water. At low tide, the exposed rocks looked like the crown of the dragon’s head. He has always been a benevolent dragon. One thing you cannot escape on the coast is the weather: you are right in it! The speed at which the light, the colours, the sky and sea can change is amazing! I began to think of my dragon as a weather dragon.”

“In Autumn 2020, I was given the exciting news that we were to have a new baby in our family, my first grandchild. I wanted to celebrate and welcome this new child to the world with a gift. I have worked with children for most of my life. It is a privilege, if exhausting! My dragon! The idea of a children’s book began to take shape. A book about a huge dragon who played a big part in the weather.”

Catherine had walked past Naomi’s gallery many times, always admiring her paintings. She had called in a couple of times to browse and to tell her how lucky she was to have such a gift.

Now, looking at her paintings, she felt they could be perfect for such a book.

“Her watercolours inspire the imagination. You can see different things each time you look at one of her paintings. I felt Naomi’s work could bring my idea to life… give my dragon wings.”

One day, soon after this, Catherine plucked up the courage to go into the gallery and tell Naomi about her idea.

“A children’s book about a dragon? I don’t paint fluffy dragons!” were Naomi’s first words.

“Naomi was very patient and listened to all I had to say. I pointed out a couple of her paintings in which you could see my dragon’s ears and horns. Then, much to my delight and surprise, Naomi said yes! She liked the idea and she was ready for a new project,” said Catherine.

“Collaborating with Naomi has been a very positive experience…an adventure for me! I have never embarked on anything like this before. Remarkably, all through the process, we have agreed on almost all major aspects of the book. Some of the paintings predate the book. Most were painted for the text in the book. Some were painted and the accompanying words came afterwards, inspired by Naomi’s gift.”

“We were very much ‘on the same page’ throughout,” - Catherine groans at the cliché.

“The paintings are not illustrations. They complement and enhance my words and hopefully my words do the same to the paintings. The abundant and irrepressible weather lends itself to natural rhythms and to simple alliteration.

“I think the book is perfect for sharing, with young and old alike, for reading aloud and for enjoying the enchantment of this mythical coastline… you have imaginative watercolours at your fingertips.

‘Dragon’ is dedicated to the memory of Catherine’s son Richard’s, as well as to her grandson Oisín, whom Richard called ‘Mr Ocean’.

“Richard lived life to the full and one of the many things he loved was supporting Welsh rugby. He liked dragons and I think he would like the dragon in this book.

The book retails at £20, with £10 from the sale of each book going to three charities: The Bird Sanctuary, Amroth; Welsh Marine Life Rescue, Milford and the Collie Rescue Centre, Crymych. Cash sales only in the gallery but you can order and pay for the book online through Naomi’s website.

“We are very lucky to live in such a beautiful place. The book celebrates this and hopefully it can be used to help and support the many creatures who depend on this fragile environment and animals in need.”