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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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Mini Box Frames

I’ve been creating mini box frames in natural wood. One is for my brother’s belated birthday, depicting a little badger scene, and the other is of the cabin where we stayed in France to give to the owners:

Mini Badger Boxframe
Mini Badger Boxframe
The Cabin of Quercy Box Frame
The Cabin of Quercy Box Frame

I’ve also recently created a larger box frame commission for a friend, a woodland scene with a badger, deer and owl:

odland Scene Box Frame
Woodland Scene Box Frame

If you’d like a box frame made, contact me with your ideas.

I’ve also just added a Woodland Gift Box to my Etsy shop that contains a mini box frame, a The Memory Tree book, an Owl Notebook and some Nightlife Badges.

Woodland Gift Box
Woodland Gift Box
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The Cabin – More Creations

During the Pech Merle tour, (see previous post and my article ‘Time in the Limestone Hills’ in Toast Magazine) we were first taken into a cavern with a long tail of tree roots descending from roof to floor. It was like entering the cave of the World Tree with it’s roots in the Underworld.

“The world Tree is represented as a colossal tree which supports the heavens, thereby connecting the heavens, the terrestrial world, and, through its roots, the underworld.” (Wikipedia)

Below is a photo of what is thought to be the ‘root’ tree above ground in the grounds of Pech Merle;

The Oak With Cave Roots
The oak with roots in the cave.

Inspired by the idea of a tree with branches in the upper world and roots in the underworld, I’ve created a collage, World Tree:

World Tree
World Tree

It also features a Cosmic egg, butterflies and a jumble of other images, letter fradments, poems etc. I wanted to add insects as we saw so many at the cabin, especially cicadas.

Cicadas spend years below ground in a larval stage, only living a few months above ground as an adult. They also shed their skins periodically – I found a few exuvia attached to bark with all the intricate details of the live insect, even the sheen on the insect’s composite eye. This is another link with the ‘underworld’, and metamorphosis too.

Cicadas
Cicadas Rising

I’ve added bees and wasps to the collage as in Ancient Greece bees represented a link between our world and the ‘underworld’ as well. I found various pieces of paper wasp nest near the cabin – beautiful and intricate – which I might add to some creation (watch this space).

With the idea of bees and honey, I’ve played with the World Tree image in Photoshop. Here is a honey-coloured version:

World Tree
World Tree

This reminds me of the Mappa Mundi that I went to see in Hereford Cathedral, Hereford, a few years ago;

Mappa Mundi
Mappa Mundi is a Medieval map of the known world and dates from around 1300CE. Jerusalem was at the centre.

I like the idea of using maps in collage and plan to do more, perhaps adding some natural materials like eggshells, wasp nests and feathers. I’ll also have to do my own Mappa Mundi at some point :)

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The Cabin – Inspiration, Sourcing, Creating

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, while in France we visited three caves of palaeolithic art, Pech Merle, Cougnac and the Sorcerer’s Cave. Pech merle made the biggest impression on me and the frieze of the spotted horses especially. (I have written about the visit in detail for TOAST Magazine.)

Pech Merle
Pech Merle Cave. Photo from www.archaeology-travel.com
Horse Drawing - Pech Merle
Horse Drawing – Pech Merle

We found some Pech Merle inspired graffiti while driving in the valley of the River Lot:

Pech Merle Inspired Graffiti
Pech Merle inspired graffiti on cliff overhang.

We were allowed to take photos in the mineral cave at Cougnac. It felt like entering a womb in the earth,

Cave at Cougnac
Cave at Cougnac
Cave at Cougnac - Stalactites
Cave at Cougnac – Stalactites

Many of the stalagmites looked like gatherings of people,

Cave at Cougnac
Cave at Cougnac

As part of the tour of the Sorcerer’s Cave we were allowed into some medieval cave homes in the rockface,

Medieval Cave Homes - The Cave of the Sorcerer
Medieval Cave Homes – The Cave of the Sorcerer

I’m always intrigued when I find a nest;

Nest in the Cave
Nest in the Cave – what bird I wonder? I’m finding a few nests.

I didn’t make many sketches while away, just a few line drawings in my sketchbook;

Sketchbook and Finds
Sketchbook and Finds – nest, wasp nest, owl feather.

But I found the caves very inspiring and I’ve started doodling images. Here’s the cover of my diary:

Diary Cover Two Horses
Diary Cover – Two Horses

I made a small sketch painting on cardboard layered with brown paper pieces to give it a surface texture. I like the magic of spotted horses, they bring to mind circuses and merry-go-rounds and the art of Chagall.

Two Horses
Two Horses

I’ve experimented with overlaying tree photos in Photoshop to give a mystical, dreamlike quality to the image;

Tow Horses
Two Horses

I’ve also experimented with creating textured surfaces. Here is a spread in a sketchbook:

Sketchbook - painting idea for The Silent Herd
Sketchbook – painting idea for The Silent Herd

I’ve added some animal outlines;

The Silent Herd
The Silent Herd Idea

It hasn’t worked yet, but I’ll persist with the experiments :)

I’m not typically drawn to horses, but seeing horses canter aound a field one day while I was at someone’s house made quite an impression on me. It inspired me to draw the picture, In the Rock Cleft, in this post. (And all along I find that there’s a song in the back of my mind, Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones :) Listen here.)

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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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Sea Grotto Altered Book

I have often had an image in my mind of a woman trapped in stone beneath the waves, a sort of Rock or Stone Goddess or Buddhess. I first drew a picture of this in my diary back in 1989. I think I was feeling reflective at the time.

Rock Goddess in Diary
Rock Goddess in Diary 1987 – She looks a bit like the Mona Lisa as she looks out serenely from her place of stone!

The image has stayed with me so I thought I’d work with it on another altered book, a colour one this time. Playing with photoshop and layering several images, I put together the image below to help inspire me: (I might make this image into a small card.)

Sea Goddess
Sea Goddess

I had in mind a sort of Frida Kahlo image.

I have two large dictionaries, but I thought there’s something sacrilegous about cutting up a dictionary so I bought a secondhand history book from my local PDSA charity shop (I should, perhaps, have read it first!). It’s a bit of a tome as I wanted some depth to the images.

The result is below. It’s coloured with inks, a mixture of turquoises, blues and golds. The creation of it was a way of expressing a feeling of entrapment I feel at the moment and a reminder that there is treasure within even if I can’t always see it :)

Work-in-prigress Altered Book
Work-In-Progress Altered Book
Sea Grotto Altered Book
Sea Grotto Altered Book

Here are some of the pages. Click on each to see a larger image:

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A Forest in a Tea Box

I’m a bit of a tea addict and certainly get through tea. So recently I put aside a few empty tea packets with the idea of turning them into something instead of recycling them.

Empty Tea Boxes
Empty tea boxes waiting to be made into something.

In need of distraction at a very busy time, I started making a little box of ‘forest’ by first cutting a rectangle out of the front of one of the tea packets and covering it with some printouts of my Memory Tree book inside cover. I then created layers of a forest scene in the same way as I do for altered books and box frames (but a little more hastily as this was just a prototype to see if it would work. If it worked – who knows, perhaps printed card boxes to self assemble for fun :))

Here’s the result, a deer forest in a tea box!

A Forest in a Tea Box
A Forest in a Tea Box

I cut up more printouts of my Memory Tree book inside cover and stuck it on card. Then I cut around the images of the girl and trees to create layers. I stuck these inside another tea packet. Then I covered the tea packet with the leftover printouts and put inside some small, battery-powered LED lights. The result looks like a sunny day in the woods or a forest fire!

Tea Packet Light Box
Tea Packet Light Box

I think I’d better get back to doing something more useful!

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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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Nests, Eggshells and Natural Finds

The breeding season for many birds is well underway. Some birds are even on second broods. In May I went out to the woods and surrounding countryside to watch and listen out for birds and other wildlife but also to see what I could collect in the way of discarded eggshells and any other natural finds. Below are my eggshells – so far this year:

Eggshells
Eggshell Finds.

In the photograph you can see two song thrush, a magpie, a blackbird, some sort of wild duck and a moorhen. In my wanderings I’ve also found a pike’s head, but that’s a bit too gross to show here! (I need to clean it somehow for displaying.)

I’ve been keeping an eye on a crow’s nest in an ash tree next door. I can just glimpse some frantic wing flapping through the leaves – fledgings? I’m guessing the young will leave the nest soon, but the parents are still tooing and froing and circling their territory.

On the subject of nests, in May I went to see the exhibition, Natural Selection at the Towner Gallery by Andy and Peter Holden. Peter Holden is an ornithologist and his son is an artist so they teamed up over a period of years to create ‘Natural Selection’. The exhibition shows a collection of nests from around the world:

Natural Selection Exhibition
Nests from Around the world – Natural Selection Exhibition.

a video installation, various creations inspired by nests,

Natural Selection Exhibition
Artwork inspired by the bower bird’s nest.

and a room of hand-painted egg replicas in boxes:

Natural Selection Exhibition.
Boxes of Handmade Eggs – very clever, but not as good as finding eggshells.

I like to think I straddle both arenas, the art and science of nature, sometimes art has a slight edge, but overall I’m a naturalist. Anyway, I’ve started to keep some of my small natural finds in a printer’s tray my sister gave me for my birthday:

Natural Finds Collection
Natural Finds Collection – jay feathers, piece of warthog tusk, vole skull, eggshell, piece of lava and a gemstone.

Inspired by the exhibition, I’ve decided to create natural exhibits using old cigar boxes. Here is one I’ve started:

Box of Natural Finds
Box of Natural Finds – including rabbit skull, pheasant feather, dried fungus and oak leaf.

As I have a thing about nests, I’ve made another altered book, Buzzard’s Nest and a Song Thrush Nest box frame. Both are in my Etsy Shop.

Buzzard Nest Altered book
Buzzard Nest Altered book
Song Thrush Box Frame
Song Thrush Box Frame
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Wild Woodland Wedding Invitations

Towards to end of last year a friend on Facebook, Meryl of Black Cat Floral Designs, suggested that I create some wedding invitations with woodland, wildlife or Goddess themes. It’s taken me some time to work out quite what’s required as there seem to be so many variations out there, I’m a bit in the dark about the whole subject.

Anyway, I’ve created some designs and had a few samples printed to see how they look.

Woodland Wedding Invitations
Woodland Wedding Invitations

They include Woodland Wildlife – with rabbits;

Woodland Wildlife Wedding Invitation
Woodland Wildlife Wedding Invitation

A springtime leafy one;

Spring Woodland Wedding Invitationn
Spring Woodland Wedding Invitationn

A ‘Goddess’ one;

Goddess Wedding invitation
Goddess Wedding invitation

and Two Deer one which might work best for an autumn wedding;

Two Deer Wedding Invitation
Two Deer Wedding Invitation

They are currently simple and unfolded on stiff white card but I plan to make some ivory ones on folded card.

Based in Chester, Meryl creates wonderful things with flowers for any occasion. See below and check out the galleries on her website.

Black Cat Floral Creation
Black Cat Floral Designs bridal creation.
Black Cat Floral Designs
Black Cat Floral Designs bridal creation.

I’m hoping to create a page on this website with more details and options soon. In the meantime if you’re interested, contact me here.

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