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Long did she reign and peacefully may she rest: a beautiful and thoughtful tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is publishing next month, celebrating the life of a remarkable woman.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 1926–2022: A celebration of her life and reign by royal biographer and broadcaster Brian Hoey is a richly illustrated commemorative book. With 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Hoey describes the childhood, accession and coronation of young Elizabeth, and chronicles her extraordinary and dignified transfiguration into beloved wife, mother and grandmother during her seven decades of unflagging service and dedication as Queen of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth. He also explains the constitutional roles and public duties of this accomplished stateswoman, conducted with such outstanding grace and professionalism throughout her life.

As the royal family, her country, and countless people around the world prepare to say goodbye, he describes all the honour and ceremony one would expect to be lavished on this cherished sovereign and considers the everlasting effect that her work, life, and legacy will continue to have for many years to come.

This release is the latest in Pitkin’s longstanding and much-loved books on the royal family, which started in 1947 with the release of Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding Day. It was a first in two senses: both the first souvenir guidebook to be published on the royal wedding, and the very first book to be published by Pitkin. 75 years on, Pitkin remains at the forefront of royal publishing, with titles ranging from illustrated biographies of members of the royal family and important occasions to portraits of historical monarchs.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 1926–2022: A celebration of her life and reign by Brian Hoey is published by Pitkin on 25th October 2022 as a hardback priced at £9.99.

 

About the author

Brian Hoey is the author of over thirty books about royalty, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Celebration and has interviewed many members of the Royal Family including Prince (now King) Charles and the Princess Royal, the late Duke of Edinburgh and Diana, Princess of Wales. An experienced broadcaster, he was one of the BBC’s first royal newscasters and contributes to newspapers and magazines throughout the world on royal matters.

Colouring pencils at the ready! Millie Marotta invites you to a colouring competition to celebrate the release of her new book Island Escape.

Download and print Millie’s Pygmy Sloth here. Get creative with colour and enter it for your chance to win colouring goodies worth over £80, including:

Once you’re happy with your creation, use any of the following methods to enter:

INSTAGRAM
Share your coloured sloth and tag it with #MillieMarottaSloth. (Please note we’ll only be able to see your entry if you have a public profile.)

COLOURING GALLERY
Add it to Millie’s Pygmy Sloth Colouring Competition gallery

FACEBOOK
Post your entry to the Colour and Win with Millie Marotta page (Click ‘Create Post’)

The colouring competition is open worldwide until 23.59 BST, 2 October 2022. Millie will announce 5 winners, picked at random, the following week. Entry is limited to one per person.

If you have any questions about the competition, please email marketing@batsfordbooks.com. Please view the competition terms and conditions here.

Happy colouring!

Millie Marotta’s Island Escape is publishing on the 22nd September. Available to pre-order now.

In today’s edition of our Batsford Prize Artist Interview series, we meet Nelson who won the Fine Art category with the work ‘Hi Daddy’ (or ‘If you say the words you don’t need to go back’).

Nelson is a contemporary conceptual artist who recently completed a Graduate Diploma in Fine Art at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London. Her winning work, responding to this year’s Batsford Prize theme ‘Communication and Connection’ is a short film about a traumatic memory centred around attempting to communicate with a parent about something difficult. In the memory, the phone used for the conversation has become an anchor object, remembered in acute detail, and linked laterally to other memories.

In this Q&A, she goes into detail about how the work came to be, what influences her creative practice, her fascination of the abject and uncomfortable in art, and why she decided to leave her career in the city to become an artist.

 

artist interview nelson

 

Hi Nelson! What was your piece about? Can you tell us what initially influenced it and what it means to you?

When my parents divorced my (abusive) Father had visitation rights every fortnight in his home. When I was about 8 I wanted to go to a birthday party on one of his weekends. My grandmother told me I had to phone him to tell him that I didn’t want to see him. Whilst the call was primarily about this single weekend it marked the end of my relationship with my Father and I didn’t visit him again. I have vivid, sensory memories of the call, of sitting at the bottom of the stairs whilst my grandmother dialled the number on an old-fashioned rotary phone. I was terrified about making the call, about finding the right words, about what his reaction would be.

I wanted to create a film-work centred around using a phone to make a difficult conversation. The film focussed on the sensory characteristics of the phone and on my response to them.

My intent was to explore two things:

  • The importance of objects in memory – why we can recall vivid detail about objects associated with traumatic memory
  • Finding the right words – fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of not being able to speak at all

The visual and auditory inspirations for the work are wide-ranging – the film Atlantic by Sam Taylor-Johnson, the memory paintings of Gerhard Richter, and the soundtrack of Berberian Sound Studio, directed by Peter Strickland.

 

What mediums or materials did you decide to use, and why?

I am not wedded to any medium in my practice but I am drawn to film, particularly performative film, more than anything else. Partly because the passage of time in a film-work allows you to progress an idea from the perspective of the audience and partly because performance seems to me the most direct method of putting across an idea – there is so little translation required from how a concept appears in my head to how it is presented with my body.

 

 

What made you want to study fine art?

I left a career in the city two years ago, not long after having my child. Her birth was a form of re-birth for me – I realised how deeply unsatisfied I was in my career and decided that if I was going to spend time away from her then it had to be for something that felt worthwhile to me. I had always had a passion for craft (I study hand embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework part-time) and was a competent draughtsman but it was undertaking a Foundation course in Art and Design that really expanded my sense of the art I wanted to make. Suddenly I felt I had permission to create things that had meaning beyond their aesthetic value – that I could tell stories about myself and my experiences that were potent and, I hoped, had meaning for others too. Through this I could make real connections with people who had similar experiences or had similar questions about life. I love it now when people, women in particular, tell me they have seen a piece of mine and it has resonated with them.

 

What are your biggest artistic inspirations? Are there other artists who you admire or who inspire you?

Female artists who use their body and/or their trauma to create work like Hannah Wilke, Orlan and Tracey Emin, are huge sources of inspiration for me. I love the style of work of Ryan Trecartin, the performance pieces of Marina Abramovic and the performative aspects of work by Cindy Sherman and Gillian Wearing. I am slightly obsessed with Paul McCarthy. I know many people find his work problematic but I find the darkness in it supremely attractive.

 

I think uncomfortable work worms its way into your brain and replays itself there until you have no choice but to address it.

 

How would you describe your style? Would you say that it has changed over time?

Before my Foundation I painted portraits in oil as a hobby but I moved quite quickly into a much more conceptual space as my practice developed. My primary interest is in self-identity – who was I as child, what happened to me and how does that define who I am today? What does being a mother mean to me, what happens during the transition from ‘single’ woman to mother – what do we lose and gain, and how can I try to shape the world so that my daughter can live her true self without fear of judgement or prejudice? Can I, as a woman, live beyond the social constructs I am told I must conform to? I am deeply interested in the abject – in creating discomfort in the audience – and how this marries with very dark humour. I think uncomfortable work worms its way into your brain and replays itself there until you have no choice but to address it.

 

What does winning the Batsford Prize Fine Art Award mean to you?

For someone who was conditioned from being very young to pursue a corporate career for financial security, it has been a huge leap of faith to move into the Fine Arts. I understand that an audience’s enjoyment of my work, or engagement with it, is entirely subjective but I still need a sense that I am ‘doing the right thing’ beyond my own personal fulfilment. Winning this prize gives me a sense that perhaps people can see potential in what I do – it helps me keep the faith!

 

After you have completed your studies, what do you see yourself doing next

I’ve just been awarded a First in my Graduate Diploma at Chelsea which I am delighted with. In September I start an MA in Contemporary Art Practice at the RCA. My favourite part of my academic journey has definitely been the crit sessions with my peers – the discussion, debate and joint exploration of ideas. It’s the time when I feel most part of the subculture that is the art world. I will miss it too much when I finally graduate so hope to set up a shared studio and artist-led exhibition space.

 

Find out more about Nelson’s work on the Nelson Contemporary Art Website and follow her on Instagram.

 

About the Batsford Prize

The Batsford Prize is an annual award open for undergraduate and postgraduate students in the fields of applied art and textiles, fine art and illustration. View the winners and runners up of this year’s award here. The theme for the Batsford Prize 2023 will be revealed shortly…

We’ve got more artist interviews coming up where we’ll meet Children’s Illustration award Justin Worsley and Applied Art & Textiles winner Grace Faichnie. Available to read now are:

Artist Interview: Wuon Gean Ho, Batsford Prize 2022 Illustration winner
Artist Interview: Annie Booker, Batsford Prize 2022 – People’s Choice Award Winner

Next up in our Batsford Prize Artist Interview series! Annie Booker, winner of the People’s Choice Award this year, presents her piece The Great Bear.

Annie’s silent narrative is inspired by an Inuit folktale and the real Beaufort sea polar bear- a species needing our help to preserve it with its population at less that 400 individuals. Polar bears are vital to the arctic and the symbiotic relationships within. Having studied Illustration BA (Hons) at the University of the West of England and settled in Bristol, we chatted to Annie about her work and what winning the Batsford Prize means to her.

 

Hi Annie! What was your piece about? Can you tell us what initially influenced it and what it means to you?

My silent narrative The Great Bear was initially influenced by the Southern Beaufort sea polar bear, a population of polar bears in Alaska that is in decline. Turned whimsical and combined with themes of overfishing the great bear is a message to all about our relationship with nature, and what happens when man is greedy. The conservation of species and environments is an issue very close to my heart, so I poured all my passion into this tale.

 

What mediums or materials did you decide to use, and why?

I am an analogue illustrator as much as possible. A detailed pencil sketch was the base of this image, then an additional layer of watercolour and ink – on separate sheets of paper! I had to work quite digitally in lockdown, which didn’t go to plan, so the minute I had a pencil back in my hand my visual style appeared.

 

What made you want to study illustration?

From a young age I loved to draw and paint, I wasn’t aware of illustration as such, I just liked to visualise the creatures and characters I was fascinated by. My Aunty was also a wildlife painter, and she spent much time, gently nurturing my interest and sharing her love of nature with me, this shaped me a lot as an individual and is definitely why I feel the need to share my passion of nature with others. The natural world has always pushed me to be creative, as it is my way of showing people the wonder and awe I see in wildlife. And as a very shy child, I found courage and happiness in literature and stories, so illustration found me quite naturally. Illustration combines the beauty and accessibility of visuals with the empathy that the written word teaches us to create something perfectly didactic.
 

 

What are your biggest artistic inspirations? Are there other artists who you admire or who inspire you?

I draw a lot of inspiration from other illustrators, and authors (Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Maggie Stiefvater, Michael Morpurgo, Tolkien), such as Jim Kay, Shaun Tan, Levi Pinfold, Alan Lee and Chris Wormell. I could tell you endlessly why I love each of their works, but at the bottom of it, it’s the expressive detail in their work and analogue process. My foundation tutor Paul Taylor, as a creative, was also a huge inspiration, he showed me illustration and encouraged my every endeavour.
 

How would you describe your style? Would you say that it has changed over time?

Like most things my style has developed over time, I have struggled with trying to change it, which I discovered is like trying to change yourself, when I had thought I needed to be more commercial and digital. However, I have always loved sketching. Pencil work is something I have always done, and now I really utilise that skill. Creating bold yet sensitive work, my realistic and expressive style is no doubt an extension of my own character and personality, and a pencil will forever be my medium of choice.

 

 

What does winning the Batsford Prize People’s Choice Award mean to you?

Winning the Batsford people’s choice was really wonderful, I can’t tell you the motivation it gave me leading up to it, and the gratitude I felt from everyone who voted, it’s a very different experience when people like your work and aren’t obliged too. It sounds silly, but it gave me a confidence boost, and for once a felt I could make it as an illustrator. But even if I didn’t win, to just be in the running, would have been an honour.
 

After you have completed your studies, what do you see yourself doing next?

The plan now… it’s a tough one, probably the same plan as most new graduates, I’m going to keep the ball rolling, use my exit velocity to create more work and opportunities. Bristol is my home now, so within the area and London I want to begin to establish myself as an illustrator within the publishing sector. I will begin to build all these important relationships with other creatives, associations, companies and clients. But most importantly I want to continue to learn, and advocate for the environment – there will never be a time where the planet doesn’t need a spokesperson, and I will be her visual translator.

 


You can find out more about Annie’s work on her online university showcase and follow her on Instagram.

 

The Batsford Prize is an annual award open for undergraduate and postgraduate students in the fields of applied art and textiles, fine art and illustration. View the winners and runners up of this year’s award here. The theme for the Batsford Prize 2023 will be revealed shortly…
 

Keep an eye out for more Batsford Prize Artist Interviews as we continue; meeting Applied Art & Textiles winner Grace Faichnie, Fine Art winner Nelson and Children’s Illustration winner Justin Worsley.

Last week we chatted with Wuon Gean Ho, winner of the Illustration award – you can read her Q&A here.

Explore the imagined places in Central America and the Caribbean in this extract from Atlas of Imagined Places, which was awarded Illustrated Travel Book of the Year in the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards this week.
 

by Matt Brown and Rhys B. Davies. Illustrations by Mike Hall.

 

Central America and the Caribbean: The Old New Word

 
The history of the USA has become so predominant in popular culture that it is easy to forget that the first Europeans to permanently settle in the Americas were not the Pilgrims of Massachusetts but the conquistadors and missionaries of the Spanish Empire, come to the New World to preach Christianity to the natives and pick their pockets. It was Spain’s early successes in the New World that led to a boom climate of expedition, exploration and exploitation by the French, Dutch, Portuguese and English, cultures whose descendant nations now comprise the majority of the Americas.

The Spanish, of course, left their own mark, branding this region with their genetics, language, faith and culture. Present-day Mexico and the nations of the Caribbean and Central America comprise a vibrant region that has mingled European and American influences into a syncretic society. Where else might one experience something like the Day of the Dead, a celebration merging Roman Catholicism with pre-Columbian tradition? It is unsurprising then that the stories and legends associated with this region should also reflect such a dynamic mix of cultures. If we had to pick just one entry to exemplify this, it would be Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk till Dawn, which begins as a fairly conventional armed-robbers-takehostages romp, turns into a vampiric horror, and ends with an Aztec twist. Seek La Tetilla del Diablo, a little way south of the border.

The Caribbean offers a saltier take on this rich mix of cultures. This is a maritime space, and the fictional world’s hotspot for shipwrecks, buried treasure, castaways and comedy pirates. We’ve added over 100 islands to the familiar West Indies, and even a pastiche of the Bermuda Triangle – one of many additions from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Taken as a whole, this most diverse of maps contains bandits, Aztecs, drug cartels, space elevators, dinosaurs, adventurers, shipwrecked heroes and pirates. Lots, and lots, and lots of pirates.

AN ISLAND THAT NOBODY CAN FIND…

During the Spanish conquests of the 16th century, the Aztecs placed 882 pieces of gold in a stone chest and presented it to conquistador Hernán Cortés, as payment to stop his slaughter of their people. When the gold only fuelled Cortés’s greed, a terrible curse fell upon the treasure. Within a day of leaving port, doom overtook the ship carrying the chest and its golden cargo back to Spain, and it was subsequently wrecked on an uncharted island. In the centuries since, the curse of the gold seeped into the very rock and stone of the place, transforming it into a bleak and desolate haunt; an island of death, the dreaded Isla de Muerta.

So goes the backstory to the swashbuckling hit Pirates of the Caribbean, Curse of the Black Pearl, and how could we resist the chance to include Isla de Muerta on our map? Of course, the problem is that the island itself cannot be found, unless you’re lucky enough to have a magic compass to hand, but we can use the evidence of the films as a guide.

Wherever it may lie, the Isla de Muerta still falls within the Caribbean (it’s in the title after all), and many of the surrounding locations are real. Heading to the island in pursuit of the cursed Black Pearl, Captain Jack Sparrow and blacksmith Will Turner leave from historic Port Royal, Jamaica, and sail to pick up a crew from Tortuga, off the north coast of Haiti. Turning east from here would put the Isla de Muerta somewhere in the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, which is where we’ve chosen to chart the Black Pearl’s fearsome home port. As it happens, this also places it as a neighbour of that other piratical island of death: Treasure Island.
 

‘In this map we see more wrecks, pirate lairs and desert islands than anywhere else in the atlas’

 

THE ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE

Robert Louis Stevenson may not have invented pop culture’s vision of the Golden Age of Sail, but he certainly codified it. His classic adventure Treasure Island bequeathed to the world a romantic paradigm best encapsulated in Long John Silver, the ruthless sea cook complete with peg leg and parrot.

Although never stated outright, it is commonly assumed that Treasure Island itself lay somewhere in the Caribbean, forever associating the region with buccaneers and buried gold. There is, of course, truth behind the stories. Central America was once the Spanish Main, and these waters saw whole fleets of treasure ships carrying plundered wealth back to Europe – a tempting prize for any pirate worth his salt.

Hence, in this map we see more wrecks, pirate lairs and desert islands than anywhere else in the atlas. There’s booty to be found everywhere, be it hidden in the caves |of Monkey Island, or secluded in the offshore accounts of the Payment Islands. And, of course, somewhere in these parts lies the dreaded Isla de Muerta, just described.

But beyond the exploits of figures like Robinson Crusoe (located with more certainty near Tobago), Horatio Pugwash, Guybrush Threepwood and Jack Sparrow (apologies, Captain Jack Sparrow), at a glance it becomes obvious that this corner of the world continues to be colonized by writers and adventurers into the present day. Here we find countless holiday getaways, snuggled alongside the island lairs of fiends such as Cobra Commander and Black Hat, forever plotting their diabolic schemes.

And on the far side of Costa Rica, we discover Isla Nublar, and the nearby island cluster known as Las Cinco Muertes – the Five Deaths – well named indeed, for here are the lost worlds of Jurassic Park, where genetically re-created dinosaurs once again rule the Earth!

Enjoyed this blog post? Find more fictional locations and the stories behind them in Atlas of Imagined Places: From Lilliput to Gotham City by Matt Brown and Rhys B. Davies, with illustrations by Mike Hall.

 

 

A mix of fact and fiction, fantasy and experience, the Bedside Companion for Gardeners is a treasure trove of green-fingered inspiration where practical advice blends seamlessly with poetry and prose from intrepid gardeners past and present. Dip in and out of this collection with an entry for every night of the year that draws on writing through the ages and from across the globe.

The book is compiled by Jane McMorland Hunter, a keen gardener herself and passionate about books and poetry. For November, we find garden writing and poems celebrating autumn, including The Deserted Garden by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

The Deserted Garden

Verses 1–6 | Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)

I mind me in the days departed,
How often underneath the sun
With childish bounds I used to run
To a garden long deserted.

The beds and walks were vanished quite;
And wheresoe’er had struck the spade,
The greenest grasses Nature laid,
To sanctify her right.

I called the place my wilderness,
For no one entered there but I;
The sheep looked in, the grass to espy,
And passed it ne’ertheless.

The trees were interwoven wild,
And spread their boughs enough about
To keep both sheep and shepherd out,
But not a happy child.

Adventurous joy it was for me!
I crept beneath the boughs,
and found A circle smooth of mossy ground
Beneath a poplar tree.

Old garden rose-trees hedged it in,
Bedropt with roses waxen-white,
Well satisfied with dew and light,
And careless to be seen.

 

bedside companion for gardeners

From Bedside Companion for Gardeners: An anthology of garden writing for every night of the year, edited by Jane McMorland Hunter. Out now!

Gifting season is here! And with Gift Wrap Green, generosity doesn’t have to be incompatible with a sustainable lifestyle. In the book, Camille Wilkinson shares tips for how to wow friends and family with beautifully wrapped gifts while minimising waste. Here she shows how to make two different fabric bows.

by Camille Wilkinson

For those occasions when you want something a little less formal than a traditional satin ribbon bow, these two fabric bows are ideal. The burlap bow has a rustic charm and the rag bow brings a touch of shabby chic to your gift wraps. I made mine from an old cotton pillowcase
but a combination of fabric, ribbon and lace could be used.

 

BURLAP BOW

What you need
Burlap ribbon | Jute, twine or other sturdy thread | Scissors

burlap bow step 1

  1. Lay out a length of burlap ribbon horizontally and, taking the two ends, cross over in front as shown.burlap bow step 2
  2. Pinch the centre of the ribbon to form a bow and secure with a length of jute, twine or any other sturdy thread.

 

RAG BOW

What you need
Old cotton pillowcase | Sturdy coordinating thread | Scissors

  1. Tear five or six long strips of fabric 1.5cm (approx. ½in) wide, working along the grain of an old cotton pillowcase.
  2. Lay out the strips horizontally and leaving all but one strip in place, bring all the loose ends to cross over at the front to form the structure of the bow (see Burlap Bow, step 1). Next, using a length of sturdy coordinating thread, pinch the centre of the loosely formed bow and secure at that point with a single tie. You will have one long length remaining with which to wrap the bow around your gift in step 4.
  3. Adjust the fabric loops to separate and arrange the layers. Once satisfied, pull the tie taut again and complete the knot to hold the bow fast. You may wish to add a button or other embellishment at this point.
  4. Finally, attach to the gift and trim the ends.

gift wrap gree

Find more ideas for sustainable gift wrapping in Gift Wrap Green: Techniques for beautiful, recyclable gift wrapping by Camille Wilkinson. Photograph by Michael Wicks. Illustrations by Georgie McAusland.

Sail away on an ocean odyssey with best-selling illustrator Millie Marotta with this free colouring sheet from her new book!

In Secrets of the Sea, Millie takes to you on a voyage of discovery from the Arctic waters to the balmy Australian coast. Swim with dolphins, narwhals, manatees, and manta ray. Look up to the cries of albatrosses, pelicans and little auks. Grab your pencils and bring to life jellyfish, puffins and polar bears.

The watery world is particularly close to Millie’s heart and she brings her passion to these intricate drawings of shells, pebbles, corals and barnacles. She includes cliffs, reefs, waves and islands to help set the scene. Secrets of the Sea is a must for all colouring fans!

Download your free whale colouring sheet from Secrets of the Sea below. Get creative and don’t forget to add your masterpiece to Millie’s colouring gallery.

secrets of the sea

Millie Marotta’s Secrets of the Sea is available now.

The whale in this blog post is coloured by Lisa Duggan.

The hit Netflix series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ made many of us reach for our chess sets. Based on a novel with the same name by Walter Tevis, ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ tells the story of chess prodigy Beth Harmon, set in 1950s USA. While the story is fictional, Tevis captured many of the qualities of World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer when he created Beth Harmon. Here, Andrew Soltis, author of Bobby Fischer Rediscovered identifies five similarities between Beth and Bobby.

by Andrew Soltis

1.They were both prodigies

Early in the TV series Beth is described as a prodigy. The only prodigy of that era, the 1950s, was Fischer. Winning game 5 helped him earn the title of international grandmaster at age 15.

2. Speed is their signature

Beth plays her moves remarkably quickly, almost without thinking about them. Fischer made this kind of speed famous in game 29. His opponent exhausted his allotted 150 minutes and lost. Fischer spent only ten minutes to establish a winning position.

3. The effect they have on their opponents

Beth’s opponents run a gamut from the stonefaced world champion Borgov to others who reveal all of their feelings when they lose to her. Fischer forced Soviet grandmaster Yefim Geller to abandon his poker face in game 26. He was an emotional wreck when he resigned.

4. They shared a passion for one particular chess opening

Beth and Benny Watts shared a passion with Bobby – analysing a chess opening called the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defence. Fischer’s unparalleled expertise is shown in game 49.

5. They played multiple opponents simultaneously

We see how quickly Beth is improving when she gives a ‘simultaneous exhibition’ and beat Benny and two other players in separate games. Fischer gave ‘simuls’ spectacular recognition when he gave up tournament chess in 1964 in favour a national exhibition tour. His victory over Hoppe is one of the finest he played on the tour.

bobby fischer rediscovered

Bobby Fischer Rediscovered features analysis of 106 classic Fischer games, including rarely seen ‘lost’ games. With new insights into what made the enigmatic Fischer play – and act – the way he did. Written by International Grandmaster Andrew Soltis who played Fischer and also reported, as a journalist, on the American’s legendary career.

Whether you’re looking for fun activities to do with the kids or are in need of something relaxing to take your mind off the news, we could probably all do with some more colouring in our lives at the moment.

That’s why we’re offering you a bumper selection of free Millie Marotta colouring sheets. Click on the images below to download, then print them out and colour away.

Don’t forget to share the joy of colouring with your loved ones. Share this post with friends and family so they can get colouring too. And fill our digital world with colour by uploading a picture of your finished masterpiece on social media using tag #MillieMarotta and to Millie’s colouring gallery.

 

 

The colouring sheets feature illustrations from Millie Marotta’s bestselling books Animal Kingdom, Beautiful Birds and Treetop Treasures, Curious Creatures and Tropical Wonderland (also available as Pocket Colouring editions); and Millie’s new book, Millie Marotta’s Woodland Wild.

Happy colouring!

From eco-friendly bows to Japanese fabric wrapping, Camille Wilkinson shows how to wow friends and family with beautifully wrapped gifts while minimising waste in Gift Wrap Green. Here, Camille shows how to transform an old sweater into fun sustainable gift wrapping.

 

Transform a favourite sweater that has seen better days into a stylish wrap to make a presentation sleeve for a bottle of wine, or explore one of the variation ideas for more inspiration.

 

sustainable sweater gift wrapping

 

What you need

Wine bottle
An old sweater
Scissors
Needle and thread
Ribbon (optional)

  1. Insert the bottle into the sleeve of the sweater to measure where to cut. The cuff should start just below the top of your bottle. Mark the bottle length and remove. Cut the sweater sleeve off so that it is at least 3cm (1¼ in) longer than your bottle. (If you would prefer a nice snug fit, use a child’s jumper, but do make sure the sleeve is long enough.)
  2. Thread the needle with a double thickness of thread and run it through the loose loops at the cut end of the sweater sleeve. Pull gently to gather and tie off.
  3. You can leave the cuff end as it is, fold or roll it, or tie it with a ribbon.

 

VARIATIONS

To make a gift bag

Cut the sleeve to the desired length, turn it inside out and sew straight across the raw end. Turn through to the right side and finish off with a ribbon to close.

To make a woollen belly band

Neatly cut off the ribbed waist of a child’s jumper and slide it onto your wrapped box. You are looking for a snug fit, and if using an adult sweater, this could be achieved by using the cuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

gift wrap green

Find more ideas on sustainable gift wrapping in Camille’s book Gift Wrap Green – out now!

 

Photographs by Michael Wicks.

If the Queen’s Gambit TV-series has got you inspired to play chess, you’re not alone. Online chess playing site chess.com reported a five-fold increase of daily sign-ups to the site following the show’s release and Washington Post wrote that ‘The pandemic sparked an interest in chess. “The Queen’s Gambit” made it explode.’

In this blog post, we explain the opening move that inspired the name of the book and TV series. The Queen’s Gambit (1 d4 d5 2 c4) is an opening strategy by White to try and occupy the centre of the board. Or as Sean Marsh puts it in The Batsford Book of Chess ‘White is offering a temporary pawn sacrifice to try to tempt Black into giving up the centre.’

The move can either be accepted by Black taking the pawn (dxc4) or declined. Marsh explains that ‘after 2 … dxc4 (the Queens Gambit Accepted) White can either rush to occupy the centre with his pawns – 3 e4 – or develop more methodically and occupy a little later.’ He also points out that ‘there is nothing wrong with playing the Black side of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. But some players feel uncomfortable allowing their opponents an obvious advantage in space. Therefore, the most popular and solid reply is 2 … e6 (The Queen’s Gambit Declined). The next few moves are all about exerting pressure on the centre of the board.’

Below we take a closer look at both the Queen’s Gambit Declined and the Queen’s Gambit Accepted – extracted from the show’s protagonist Beth Harmon’s favourite book Modern Chess Openings.

queen's gambit declined

 

QUEEN’S GAMBIT DECLINED

1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6

The Queen’s Gambit (1 d4 d5 2 c4) is the keystone to an offensive plan by White on the left hand side of the board. The character of the game differs greatly from that of king pawn openings, which often quickly result in open clashes. The Queen’s Gambit takes the game to a strategic battle where the tactical clashes are delayed until the middlegame. The offer of a pawn with 2 c4 is what gives the opening its edge, as the c-pawn attacks Black’s central strongpoint. However the “gambit” in the opening’s name is rather a misnomer as Black cannot really hold on to the pawn. There is also a stark difference from the King’s Gambit in that the white king’s safety is not compromised by the pawn advances on the left hand side of the board.

The Queen’s Gambit is one of the oldest openings, first mentioned in the Göttingen manuscript of 1490, then later the subject of analyses by Salvio and Greco in the early seventeenth century. Theorists in the nineteenth century discussed the best way to meet the gambit. The majority of chess writers, starting with Jaenisch (1843), seemed to be of the opinion that holding the centre with 2…e6 was the best defence. After this move there are many divergences, some depending on what White does and others on Black’s choices.

Strategically, White’s plan when playing 2 c4 is to attack the centre and remove Black’s d-pawn from its central position so that White is free to advance the e-pawn to e4. By playing 2…e6 Black frustrates his opponent’s plan but imprisons the light-squared bishop. Black will often try to imitate his opponent by attacking White’s d-pawn with a timely …c5. In the course of this struggle one side or the other will often accept structural weaknesses in return for dynamic strengths. Isolated and hanging pawns abound for both sides in this group of openings.

queen's gambit accepted

QUEEN’S GAMBIT ACCEPTED

1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4

The most straightforward defence to a gambit is usually to accept the pawn and make the opponent prove the worth of the sacrifice. This, however, is not the plan behind accepting the Queen’s Gambit. Attempting to hold on to the pawn usually leads to trouble. Yet if Black uses the time White takes to recapture the pawn for development, then he can count on a safe journey through the opening stage. As opposed to the King’s Gambit Accepted with its many sacrifices, the Queen’s Gambit Accepted is a safe and solid choice, albeit somewhat stodgy.

The opening dates back to Damiano in 1512. In the early centuries Black would try to hold on to the booty, which gave the opening a bad name. It took until the twentieth century for the modern concept behind 2…dxc4 to come to the fore. Black plays for free development and to saddle White with an isolated d-pawn after …c5 and …cxd4. Black’s “problem child” of the Queen’s Gambit Declined – the light squared bishop – always finds an active post on g4 or b7 in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

The disadvantage of 2…dxc4 is that Black gives up the centre. With nothing on d5 blocking the lines, White obtains active pieces and freedom of action. When the isolated pawn arises on d4, White often has good attacking chances as this pawn may threaten to advance, opening lines of attack. Yet this advance can also lead to wholesale exchanges, producing sterile equality. For particularly this reason, the Queen’s Gambit Accepted is considered a pretty safe opening.

modern chess openings as seen in the queen's gambit

Extracted from Batsford’s Modern Chess Openings by Nick de Fimian, available as an ebook now and in paperback from the end of December. 

batsford book of chess featuring the queen's gambit and other strategies

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