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Badgers and Vignettes

I’m always happy to see one of my pictures or pieces of writing in print. In the November issue of The Simple Things magazine I have a piece of nature writing, ‘Still’, about encountering a badger. It sits alongside pieces by good writers such as Tim Dee, Alys Fowler and Neil Ansell. It would have been nice if they’d sent me a copy of the magazine. Instead, I had to go and buy one. (There do seem to be a plethora of these cosy, classy, hyggey, crafty, lifestyle magazines around at the moment. Is it ‘our’ need for comfort and reassurance in these somewhat dark, unsettled times?)

Still - Writing Piece in The Simple Things Magazine
Still – writing piece in The Simple Things magazine

The piece was originally published in the Autumn anthology as part of the Seasons series by Elliott and Thompson. I’m now in the process of making little, A6 illustrated books using some of my previously published writings. Here is an example I’ve titled, Into the Wood:

Into the Woods Book
Into the Wood book

The last badger I encountered was in the scrubby area behind the cabin in France where I stayed in the summer. It nearly ran into me as I stood quietly waiting for nightjars; they have poor eyesight but a great sense of smell.

On the theme of badgers, I have a Two Badgers altered book currently available in my Etsy and website shop:

two Badgers Altered Book
Two Badgers Altered Book

I’ve just created some little vignettes in pen and ink that I’ve sent to Avocet Gallery in Rye for their Christmas Fair. One of these is of a sleeping badger – pen and ink with a blue copper sky painted with acrylic metallic paint and ink. The others are of a hare, a nest, an owl and, of course, deer:

Vignettes
Vignettes for Avocet Gallery
Badger at Rest
Badger at Rest

I love vignettes both in art and writing – moments captured! And I love the way Jay Griffiths describes a badger in her little book, “Twilight“:

“Then I see him touched by two light, day-streaked and night-stroked, a keyboard playing a twilight sonata in a minor key for the maligned creatures of twilight, the badgers themselves, the wolf, the hare and the bat – flittermouse in flights of arpeggios to catch moths. And owls.”

Avocet Gallery Art and Craft Show 2018
Avocet Gallery Art and Craft Show 2018
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Murmuration Over Brighton’s West Pier

The murmuration over the West Pier in Brighton is fairly well known. Whenever I go down to see it in the autumn and winter, there is always a crowd of people. Nevertheless, I chose to write about it for this month’s Preston Pages and the other free magazines such as The Post and The 7 Directory.

Here is a photo of my article with an illustration, Murmuration 1 (not exactly an inspired title, but still!):

Murmuration in The Preston Pages
Murmuration in The Preston Pages

Apparently the illustration is on the cover of The 7 Directory :)

Murmuration1
Murmuration 1

The original illustration has now sold along with another similar one, Murmuration 2. But I now have digital prints for sale in my website shop. They’ll be ready to go out next week if anyone’s interested.

I can’t help including a photo of the pier in the 1990s before it completely crumbled into the sea and later went up in flames, wonderfully derelict :)

The West Pier Brighton in the 1990s
The West Pier Brighton in the 1990s

The West Pier today:

The West Pier at Sunset
The West Pier, Brighton at Sunset

Chris Watson did a great radio programme of sounds and memories of the West Pier, Ghost Roost, that really brings it to life. It’s well worth a listen.

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Samhain

Wandering Dreamer
Wandering Dreamer – she walks between the veils of the worlds.

Down holloway of bramble, thorny briar and teasel, to where the fabric of the world wares thin, she walks. Autumnal winds whip the bleached branches. Softly she sings her silent lament to the wind. Across the silent moor her echoing answer rings. Shadows creep up hillsides. In valleys mist gathers as she wanders through the encroaching dusk, She calls and waits, calls and waits. The hour is crow feather black and barn owl soft. A figure at the crag edge, she stands…

Samhain is a Celtic day when the veils between our world and the Otherworld are at their thinnest. It falls halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. I don’t usually recognise or celebrate Samhain or Halloween, but this year I feel a touch of magic as though I am at a threshold, ready to welcome in the gifts of darkness – reflection, imagination, story and mystery. For me these things come from ‘the other side’ or from another, deeper side of myself.

So I visualise a cloaked woman walking the land, walking through a thick, dark night. I watch her wander. I watch her roam the night. Night,… I have more to say about you,…soon.

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Harry Potter Altered Book

I have recently been commissioned to make a Harry Potter altered book. I don’t know that much about the Harry Potter books and I’ve only ever seen Harry Potter films on flights, however, this seemed like a good challenge.

The suggested scene to illustrate was from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter Five when Harry and Ron crash the Ford Anglia they are driving into the Whomping Willow in the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Harry Potter - extract.
Harry Potter – extract.from The Chamber of Secrets.

I wanted to make the Whomping Willow the main feature and got caught up in the detail of branches and leaves:

Making a Harry Potter Altered Book
Making a Harry Potter Altered Book

It was fun overlayering the crashed car with the top layer:

Harry Potter Ford Car in Whomping Willow
Harry Potter Ford Car in Whomping Willow

I added an owl in the foreground and Hogwarts in the background against a starry sky:

Harry Potter Altered Book
Harry Potter Altered Book

Along with the Harry Potter altered book, I created another ‘Into the Beech Wood’ altered book as part of the same commission:

Into the Beech Wood Altered Bookb
Into the Beech Wood Altered Book

To accompany this I put together a little booklet with a piece of my writing called Time in the Beech Wood. I wrote it when staying in the Forest Cabin last year. I’ve wanted to do something with this piece for a while, so this seemed like a good opportunity. I played around with my World Tree and deer illustrations to create the cover in Photoshop:

Time in the Beech Wood
Time in the Beech Wood

(I think there’s a hint of cave painting or Cretan vase in the design!) I’ll add it to the book as a little gift.

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Time of the Deer

Time of the Deer
Time of the Deer

Time of the deer,
Wind and swirling dream,
Heavy, brooding skies,
Amber light,
And the coming of night,
So early.

I feel it in my bones,
I feel it in the river, swollen now with autumn rains.

In the honey and copper forest,
Glimpsed in the woodland ride,
A presence drifts,
Scattering pennies to the earth,
The accepting, gathering, honest earth,
Where all the animals hide.

I feel it in my bones,
I feel it in the river, swollen now with autumn rains.
Time of the deer,
Wind and swirling dream.

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AEVA Magazine

It was lovely receiving my copy of the new AEVA, Woman Earth Soul magazine in the post today. Formerly it was She Who Knows. AEVA means life, sound and voice. AEVA is different from your typical women’s magazine. It honours the beauty and wisdom in every woman and aims to empower, replenish and inspire it’s readers. It is full of wonderful words and beautiful art by women for women.

In this issue one of the themes is rivers. I have a few words on my relationship to rivers and a photo of me in the River Lot, France.

Rivers have been and still are important to me. My need for a river is sometimes a thirst and I do not visit rivers enough. I am a river person more than a sea person. The sea is too big, too overwhelming, too impersonal sometimes, but I need it as well. However, it is to freshwater I go and where I always feel welcome.

Below is a photo of the cover of AEVA showing women in a river :) How good is that!

AEVA Magazine
AEVA Magazine

Here is a spread of the article, ‘Entering the River’s Flow’:

Entering the River's Flow
Entering the River’s Flow article.

You can get 10% off a year’s subscription with the code sharethelove8. See the AEVA website.

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Night River Wood – James Roberts

At my request I’ve received a wonderful bundle in the post, a series of poetry pamphlets created by poet, writer and artist James Roberts, who lives in Wales. Beautiful artwork and imagery accompany the poems. It is great to connect with other people creating with night, wood and river as inspirations.

Night River Wood - Poetry Pamphlets
Night River Wood – Poetry Pamphlets

James set up Night River Wood as “a space to explore the interaction between human creativity and our wild surroundings, particularly the qualities of hiddenness and mystery (night), creative flow (river), and communal growth (wood).”

Occasional poetry pamphlets are created and left ‘hidden in plain sight as pieces of inspiration’ in places to be found by passers-by. Then, it is hoped, the pamphlets will be placed elsewhere to reach more people.

James has also written some great essays. I first came across his writing in Zoomorphic journal with his piece, In the Eyes of a Wolf. It made an impression on me.

I think the poetry pamphlet idea is lovely and the project interesting. The poems are beautiful, thought provoking with a hint of the mysterious, elusive animals at the edges of our lives and psyches – owls, the last wolf, rooks. I’ll savour the poetry and then think carefully about where I’ll leave the pamphlets, or who I’ll give them to.

“… You enter the vanished wood last
where darkness prepares to idle through day,
iterleaved and understoreyed,
whispering

owl

owl

owl.”

Follow James Roberts on Twitter @nightriverwood.

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The Cabin – Dreaming

The Cabin of Quercy
The Cabin of Quercy

A cabin on a wooded hillside with cicadas all day long; the forest song. Heat, there the sun beats. The sun beats and the grasses are dry, bleached. A hawk tilts over, dark and long against the blue. Then a kestrel. Drowsy butterflies drift over our glade – scarce swallowtails, white admirals, dryads. There are bush crickets. capricorn beetles, dragonflies patrol at dragonfly hour – ‘horse stingers’, ‘snake doctors’. Stag beetles emerge horns upright, haphazardly in search.

Cicada
Cicada
In the Scrub
In the Scrub
Outside the Cabin
Outside the Cabin

It’s the hour of the bat, or perhaps of the nightjar churring from a tall oak in the scrub. churring softly Softing churring – the purr of an engine.

The Nightjar Tree
The Nightjar Tree

Owl hour, the tawnies are about. The moon rises, a biscuit moon, buttery, warm, almost whole. Night.

In the little cabin, off grid in southern France in July, we immersed ourselves in nature, reading, writing and visiting the local palaeolithic cave art. It was a sort of retreat. The world above – the sun, the wood, the cicadas, the deer, the badgers, the moon. The world below – roots, caverns of calcite sculpted over time by the hands of water and ice; an underworld of beautiful beasts solitary or shifting in silent herds painted thousands of years ago.

Living was simple; drinking filtered water, washing in a bucket, cooking on a ring using a gas cylinder. I had time to think, time to dream, time to watch spiders weave intricate webs;

Spider Web
Spider Web
In the Hammock
In the Hammock

time to watch Jupiter rise in the south; time to revel in the constellations; time in the hills with the trees; time to contemplate deep time, listening to the sunlight through trees,

Morning Light Through Trees
Morning Light Through Trees

dreaming in gold and sweat. Dreaming in thunder.

We swan in the River Lot

Swimming in the River Lot
Swimming in the River Lot

and in the River Cele with butterflies on the bank for company.

Swallowtails and Scarce Swallowtails
Swallowtails and Scarce Swallowtails

I sat out at night in a storm while the sky ripped itself into shreds of white light and warmth came up from the earth all around. And it rained thick pillars of rain. So immediate it was, in the midst of it all – wood, hillside, storm, then darkness, the moon’s shadow and the milky way.

And on our last night the moon became shy and subdued into shadow. Red and warm bloodied it pulsed like an embryo in its swathe of sooty cloud, the longest lunar eclipse of the century.

Eclipse - Painting on Wood.
Eclipse – Painting on Wood.

The retreat was wonderful, relaxing, a little hot. Now, with all the images and the experience inside me I want to respond somehow – painting, writing, drawing… new projects.

I have written a piece for TOAST magazine – Time in the Limestone Hills.

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Foxes, Sparrowhawks and Swifts

I’ve written and illustrated three more pieces for my local Preston Pages magazine, Fox Hour for April, Sparrowhawk for May and Swifts for June.

Preston Pages Wildlife Reflections
Preston Pages – Wildlife Reflections
Fox Hour
Fox Hour
Sparrowhawk
Sparrowhawk over Brighton.
Swifts
Swifts

As I write in the Swifts article, I’m doing a swift survey in my neighbourhood. It’s made me much more aware of all the activity happening in the skies above the city. Swifts are declining and the RSPB is monitoring them and encouraging people to put up swift boxes. To learn more, and see how you can help, go to the RSPB website.

You can read ‘Swifts’ here.

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My New Writing Blog

As I do both drawing and writing these days, I’ve decided to create a new blog for my writing – pieces that have mainly been published elsewhere online (a few in print too) along with anything nature inspired.

The new blog is called From the Fields and Woods.

From the Fields and Woods Homepage
From the Fields and Woods Homepage
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