‘Untitled’ watercolour on handmade paper. approx A3

Last summer, after returning from a walk, I made watercolour studies of horse chestnuts and their cases. Five vanished hours later I stopped, picked up the spikey objects, closed my eyes and rotated them slowly and carefully in my hand.

For the last ten years my dear friend Pavel has rung me on his mobile from his Ukrainian dacha [some ten miles from the Russian border] to invite me to listen to his local nightingales singing their hearts out, claiming their territory.

This spring while watching the ominous and unfolding events near his home live on my laptop I was struggling to create images for a friend’s surreal, bizarre poetry. I had commissioned someone I’d known and worked with for decades to design the cover but his sudden unexpected death that day left me shocked and saddened. I thought about abandoning the project – when the celebrated zoologist Desmond Morris stepped in and submitted a collaged artwork. We now had a cover but as yet no images. I abandoned all my previous attempts, picked up my favourite, ridiculously broken Chinese brush, poured myself a glass of wine and freely started drawing and drawing and drawing…. ZOO TIME…indeed.

This image was not selected [see Jerwood website for the chosen image] for 2014 Jerwood Drawing Prize, September, travelling UK. This particular one is from a batch of seven drawings done in an intense few days of drawing on the same theme.