Published Books

When I’m not out sketching in nature, one of my favourite places to be in
is a bookshop or a library.
I have always loved handling books: their weight, texture and odour, (old or new). As a child, two of my favourite books were Elsie Proctor’s Looking at Nature Book 1 Nature awake and asleep, (And C Black 1961), and E L Grant Watson’s What to look for in… books published by Ladybird and illustrated by C.F. Tunnicliffe (1960–61). Both books describe the four seasons and are surely the foundation for the importance of phenology, in my own books and artwork.

While an apprentice in Glasgow Museums, I was helping to tidy a storeroom when I came across some 19th - century copies of The Proceedings of the London Zoological Society . I can remember carefully turning the large hand-engraved and hand-coloured pages with illustrations of the (then) newly discovered Cassowaries. More recently, the published books of wildlife artists such as Robert Hainard, John Busby, Lars Jonsson and Keith Brockie are great sources of inspiration. Today, my collection includes many books and catalogues of other artists that I like, from actual and contemporary, modern and older, art. I like to use art books and catalogues to teach art with: one photograph of an artist in his/her studio can often reveal much useful information about how he/she works.

I have even spent several hours in a major Tokyo (8-storey) book store hunting for Nature Guides and looking at Art Books even though I can’t read Japanese!

While at Art College in Carmarthen I received additional design and typography. This was to be a great help when I started to design my first book: E JOER AN DER NATUR ZU LETZEBUERG and later to colour - correct the book’s plates by comparing the print first run with my originals, alongside the enourmous ‘Speedmaster’ printing press! Those were the ‘good old days’ before the birth of Adobe’s “Photoshop”, “Illustrator” or “Indesign” and as an art student I learnt literally to “cut and paste”. Even today I still mount my first book layouts as a 1:1 paper collage of digital printouts and photocopies!

Once, when I showed one of my books to a talented young artist, she said “I should do a book, too”. I believe that one should want to make a book for its own sake: a book should begin as an idea or concept and preferably this should ‘grow naturally’. This explains why I have done less illustration for other books. Each of my books has its “raison d’être”. They are, in most cases, published sketchbooks about places and time: seasons are important. Even with the commissioned books, they tend to correspond to a certain way of doing things and I will often spend an important amount of time doing the fieldwork for any book. The book IN BLACK STORK COUNTRY, is distilled from no less than 17 sketchbooks of drawings and 7 field notebooks of texts. It was the first in a new collection and Gallimard waited for 6 months in order to find other books in a similar vein from which to create the collection.

For me, the illustrations have to tell a story and this often reflects the way in which I work. I will often find one subject and then discover others: like the mushrooms growing under the Larico pines I was sketching, or a lone green chair on the tideline, found while beach-combing for feathers along the Somme Bay. I like to alternate rapid sketches of living animals with highly detailed “nature morte” studies of found objects: living or dead insects amphibians or reptiles, birds in the hand and collected plants, stones, feathers, fruits or fungi. This not only reflects different ways of seeing but also changes the pace in the “visual reading” of the book.

My life-long obsession with time (through phenology) had convinced me from an early age that a sketch could not only be a valuable document but also a work of art in its own right. Thanks to the pioneering work of amongst others Hainard, Ennion, Busby, Brockie and Jonsson, the sketch has become an accepted form of illustration/artwork in its own right. These artists inspired the younger generations and a whole movement of “en plein air” wildlife artists has followed in Europe and the USA, most of whom you will find on the ANF (Artist’s For Nature) website. Even the well-known “Birds in Art” Exhibition in the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum (USA) now accepts sketches.
In 1996 Gallimard, the Paris Editors, had the foresight to publish their collection “Les Carnets du littoral”and these published sketchbooks started a veritable fashion for this genre of books and in particular travel sketchbooks, in France, with the “Biennale” “Il FAUT ALLER VOIR” of Clermont Ferrand, the Festival of “Voyageurs Etonnants” of Saint-Malo and other more modest but interesting festivals such as those of Brest and Pellouailles-les-Vignes, near Angers .

As often happens with such fashions, many people “jumped onto the band wagon” and in my opinion some editors avid to “make a fast buck”, continued collections beyond their quality limit, or edited books too fast and too cheaply. Young artists just out of Art School were given a flight ticket and 2 weeks to “do” Vietnam and the market became flooded with books that propagated preconceptions and travel guide clichés.

Discussions on Internet talked about the travel sketchbook “bubble” bursting in the years 2007-2008. I was in Clermont Ferrand in 2009 and I was pleased to see a few auto-edited books or books of good quality being edited by new independent small editors. One might say that “The travel sketchbook is dead, long live the travel sketchbook”.
The same goes for published sketchbooks.

In Britain, the editors Arlequin Press, Langford Press, The Wildlife Art Gallery and Helm regularly publish modest editions of wildlife artists sketchbooks for a specialized market of discerning book collectors.

In France, Editions Hesse published a combined sketchbook:
with a very sensitive and harmonious layout they combined the photos by Louis-Marie Préau with the sketches of Benoit Perrotin in a colourful portrait of Burundi.

Although I am now much faster at sketching than I used to be, I like to take time in the field: not necessarily to sketch but to wait to listen, smell, touch and hear what is going on around me (this is one of the reasons why I have a relatively small production of books). Many of these impressions are soaked up like a sponge and conserved on paper in the form of hand- written notes in a pocket journal. The texts in my book “In Black Stork Country” are selected from no less than 7 such notebooks, mostly written in the light of a headlamp in a tent or by the bush camp fire!

So I am not a typical travel sketchbook author. My books are more about place, getting to know and describing many small but significant details. In fact, much of my work, including plant shadows and artist’s books, is about a kind of “poetic geography” and I have started to work on ecological themes with the use of maps as in Fundstücke (2004) and LES AUBIPINES ISOLEES…(in preparation).


And what about digital books ? I think that I like the paper object too much at present and I’m quite happy with FSC Mixed sources paper (for my next 2 books at least). I’ve been counting songbirds in FSC forests here in Luxembourg and the selective harvesting of trees is great for improving and maintaining biodiversity.
But books are heavy and transport energy waste is a problem.
‘Out of print’ books can live on as virtual books and I am now making an increasing number of other publications like exhibition invites, booklets and pamphlets, available as PDF documents.

La Camargue

Editions Equinoxe, Saint-Rémy-de-Province, 2016, France.

The latest in a trio of new books, this book is derived from 16 weeks of fieldwork in the Camargue. The author collaborated with over 100 guides, wardens, biologists, fisherman, wild fowlers, biological wine and rice growers to produce a book that is much more than 'just another book' on the Camargue…

144 pp
20 Euros + 2.5 Euros Postage (Within Luxembg).
20 Euros + 5 Euros (elsewhere within EU).

Signed copies can be ordered from Author: Contact page

Asparagus Green – Quatre Saisons Dans Le Japon Rural

This book has won 2 book prizes in France:

Alan has captured that kind spirit of the rural Japanese, with outstanding artwork done with keen observation, brilliant artistry, and lots of what I can only describe as love.” C.W. Nicol O.B.E.

ASPARAGUS GREEN quatre saisons dans le Japon rural, Editions Apeiron, Saint Junien, 2015. France.
A concertina book 60 pp ISBN 978-919440-33-7
28 Euros + 2.5 Euros Postage (Within Luxembg).
28 Euros + 5 Euros (elsewhere within EU).
Signed copies can be ordered from Author: Contact page

The Wet Meadowland of The Éislek

The Wet Meadowland of The Éislek

The wet meadowland of The ÉISLEK, natur&ëmwelt/Fondation Hëllef Fir D’Natur, Luxembourg, 2015. 72pp ISBN 978-99959-927-5-0 Les Prés humides de l’Éislek ISBN 978-99959-927-3-6 Die Feuchtwiesen des ÉIslek ISBN 978-99959-927-4-3
25 Euros + 2.5 Euros Postage (Within Luxembg). 25 Euros + 5 Euros (elsewhere within EU).
Unsigned copies of English, French and German editions can be directly ordered from  the editor:
Signed copies can be ordered from Author: Contact page

Le Marquenterre/The Marquenterre

Equinoxe Editions, Saint-Remy en Provence. 2012. 144pages. ISBN 978-2-84135-779-6 French edition 978-2-84135-780-2 English edition 20 Euros + Postage Signed copies of English and French editions can be ordered from Author: Contact page

Aux pays des cigognes noires / In black stork country


Gallimard Jeunesse, Paris. 2000. 126 Pages
With support of Circuit Foil (Acelor Mittel) producers of the circuits in the ARGOS satellite tags for the storks.
ISBN 2-74- 240776-6 French edition. 30 Euros + Postage.
Signed copies can be ordered from Author: Contact page

Mein kleines Feldbuch

Mein kleines Feldbuch

Editions Sait-Paul, Luxembourg, 1995. 88 pages.
Co-edited with LNVL anf “Fondation Hellëf fir D’Natur”
ISBN 2-87963-224-2 Also edited in Germany by Michel Weyland Verlag, Trier in 1992.
Annual President’s gift of European Investment Bank in same year. 20 Euros + postage
Signed copies can be ordered from Author: Contact page

La baie du Mont St.-Michel

La baie du Mont St.-Michel

Gallimard Jeunesse/Conservatoire du Litorral, Paris.
64 pages. 1996-2013. 10 re-editions
ISBN 2-07-059553-6 Out of Print.

E joer an der Natur zu Lëtezbuerg

E joer an der Natur zu Lëtezbuerg

Editions Sait-Paul, Luxembourg 1991,1992.
128 pages. Co-edited with LNVL anf “fondation Hellëf fir Dnatur”
Sold out. ISBN 2-87963-141-6

Le cap de la Hague

Le cap de la Hague

avec Carine Vasselin,
Office du Tourisme de La Hague/ISP,Luxembourg.
1995. 44 pages. Sold out. ISBN 2-9509645-0-8

Carnets d’un Naturaliste en Normandie

Carnets d’un Naturaliste en Normandie

Editions Nathan/HER, with support of “Conseil Générale de L’Orne”.
Paris. 2001. 120 pages. ISBN 2-09-260522-4 Out of Print.