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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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Fadistas

Fado, which means “fate”, has obscure origins – in back street cafes, bars and the alleys of the poorer parts of Lisbon perhaps. Some say it began with lonely voyages when sailors would sing of their homesickness and loves left behind. Whatever it’s origins, there is a strong association with the sea, and with that loss, longing and nostagia.

Below are two illustrations inspired by Fado. Initially I was going to draw in blue pen but decided that I wanted a darker, richer illustration with more depth, so I chose mixed media using black and blues, ink and watercolour pencil with collage. Woman of the Song was created a while ago and in greens; she was a woman draped in greenery similar to my Sleeping in the Forest illustration. I wasn’t happy with it then, but felt better adding words and a blue overlay of ink to create a woman in mourning. Not all fadistas are women of course, but mine will join my other women portraits and pictures. Sometime I’ll work harder at depicting men, which I don’t do very often :)

The FadistaWoman of the Song

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Blue Tiles, Bones and Time Out in Nature

My recent visit to Portugal has left me with many impressions. We stayed at Pego Ferreiro in two cabins, the Boar Hide at first followed by The River Lodge. The Boar Hide Pego Ferreiro The Boar Hide is shrouded in trees and overlooks a glade where wild boar come to forage. We spent some evenings watching the scene silvered by the light of a waxing moon.

But no boar came. By chance, we spotted a family of boar across a vale making their way through boulders and broom scrub while we were out wandering one morning.

Most of my days were spent dawdling by or in the river, watching butterflies and enjoying the peace and beauty of nature. In the River at Pego Ferreiro But we also went for walks, tended the fire – The smells of woodsmoke and yellow bloom linger in my memory – cut wood, filtered water, showered in sun-warmed water and read; heard nightingales, cicadas, frogs in the depositos and the river that never slept.

The River Lodge Pego FerreiroView from The River Lodge The River Lodge is a tented “cabin” perched on a platform on rocks overlooking the River Sever below. The river suffused my days and dreams. The moon embedded overhead, shone like a pearl and spilt into the waters below; vapour trails of planes became waves across the shores of the night sky. Mayflies, butterflies, frogs and snakes came by day and at dusk, crepuscular toads crept too inquisitively close to the fire.

Boar Bone? One day, we found the bones of an animal and wondered whether they belonged to a boar. I sent photos to the experts to find out. They’re bones of a horse apparently… I think of some poor, stray animal lost in the hills and vales without a rider…

From Pego Ferreiro we went to Coimbra and Porto. I found myself atuned to urban nature in the cities, the wildflowers growing in gutters, the screeching swifts scything the air and the scimitor wings of a kite over the rooftops.

We paused in cool, shadowy cloisters festooned with moss and algae and the odd green man.

Green Man in Cathedral Cloisters in Coimbra

I loved the fading, crumbling shabbiness mixed with the grandeur of the past. Blue tiles and murals were everywhere – like this one of Jesus on a kite on the facade of Carmo Church in Porto.  Why blue? The cobalt blue of porcelain… I am drawn to blue. The Portugese call them Azulejos, from the abrabic word Zellige but so similar to azul, the word for blue.

Jesus on a Kite Mural in Porto

Fado leaked into my conciousness; it strained from the speakers of a souvenir shop selling fake tiles and a couple played and sang outside a restaurant down some narrow street where children played and fruit boxes spilled over the pink, ceramic cobbles and I caught my passing reflection in boutique windows. There was a Fado Centre with plush seats where Fadistas performed each evening; a strange, bronze statue of a woman with the body of a guitar stood beside one of Coimbra’s old, city walls and closeby our favourite square where a lame siamese cat slipped the affections of passersby. I feel drawn to Fado, the sentiment, the nostagia, the longing or as the Portugese describe it, “saudade” – a word with no real translation. I can see how some of my drawings hint at the same pathos – like Embracing the Waves from my Turtle Dreaming story – the longing, the sea, the loss…

Embracing the waves

If a gull would come
Bring me Lisboa sky
In the drawing it would make

In that sky where the look
is a wing that can’t fly
Weakens and falls to the sea

What a perfect heart
In my chest would beat
My love in your hand
In those hands
Where my heart fitted perfectly
…….

Words taken from a Fado song with no title.

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Dancing Heart Bowl and My New Folksy Shop

I’ve just opened my Folksy shop and am begining to fill it with cards, paintings and papier mache bowls. My latest addition is this “Dancing Heart” bowl painted with acrylic paints and metallic, acrylic inks that give it a shimmering finish:
Dancing Heart BowlDancing Heart Bowl close up

I hope to get more cards into my website shop, soon. Any requests, just contact me :)

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A Few Inspirations 2

Julia-Zanes - A Bird Flew in the WindowI stumbled on the work of my next inspiring artist while doing a search online that took me to ‘Wild Apples’ magazine. I really wanted to know who’d done the cover for the Fall 2008 edition and one of the pictures inside. I delved a bit deeper and found out that the artist was Julia Zanes. It’s always good to discover an artist whose work is new and exciting to me.
Snakes and Ladders by Julia Zanes

Julia Zanes‘ work is blue-tinged; her paintings have an underwater, dream-like quality. I love the detail, the whitish, ghostly overlayering of imagery, the poised figures. We’re given a snapshot of life, a scene within a story that makes us wonder what has happened a moment before and what is about to happen. The paintings wait, layered with stories, flourishing with underwater life that’s broken by something – the observer(?) – like the bird flying in through the window. And they’re blue, as wonderfully blue as a memory.

Another inspiring artist is Irene Hardwicke Olivieri. Her work is surreal and like me, she paints, sometimes, on wood – panels and doors. I love her intricate and beautiful scenes peopled by figures – little or large and often women; insects, other animals and weird, fanciful creatures haunt corners. Some of her paintings depicture figures, half submerged, divided by two worlds one air-breathing, the other sub-aquatic like the conscious, surface existance and the unconscious world of dreams.

Irene Hardwicke Olivieri - Providing The Pollen

Irene writes personal stories on her paintings. This is something I’d like to do at some stage, but I need to learn to write better with paint! I like her use of natural imagery; her paintings seethe with fertile life. And she paints women often interwoven with this natural imagery. I have a strong liking for paintings with flowers and vegetation such as the in Primavera by Botticelli and 15th and 16th century tapestries.

A recent discovery is Moyo Ogundipe. While researching Mami Wata for my goddess book, I stumbled on a bright painting that I liked instantly:

Moyo Ogundipe-Mami Wata

Detail from Radiance of the Queen by Moyo Ogundipe

More of his work can be seen here.

Looking at several of his paintings at the same time and the “blue” is very noticeable! I’m drawn to his work because of his colours but also because he paints mythological imagery – water/sea spirits, mermaids, women and wildlife – imagery that features in the stories and beliefs of his native land, Nigeria.

Researching for my goddess book has influenced my recent paintings. More about them in my next post :)

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A Few Inspirations 1

Progress is slow on the art front. I’m continuing with my goddess book and every-so-often get drawn to doing a painting or two. While researching occasionally I stumble on an artist, poem or film that resonates with me. So I thought I’d share a few artists and other inspirations that make me feel encouraged to work more expansively.

Firstly I’ve chosen this video clip of Ariel from the film, The Tempest. It aludes to a liminal, spirit world just out of sight, beside the shore, through woodland trees on an island. A haunting, beautiful realm of magic and spirit. Ariel, male or female or both, resides there in this realm. I like the description of him that accompanies the video clip:

“the embodiment in spirit of human emotion, vulnerability and compassion. He can transform his physical presence into essences of light, fire, wind and water, and the corporeal manifestation of harpies, frogs, stinging bees and bubbling lava”.

Freed from his/her imprisonment in a tree by Prospero, he/she is bound to serve the magician but yearns for freedom; (I can relate to that.)

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that does fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong,
Hark! Now I hear them – Ding-dong, bell.

Ethereal, otherworldly, ghostlike, haunting, with nature and water – all ingredients that moved me to paint my Siren picture a few years ago.Siren

I’ve drawn on my Siren painting for my goddess Lethe of the River Hades, one of the six rivers of the Ancient Greek Underworld – a goddess of the liminal world. While researching for her, I stumbled on the an installation which was the result of a collaboration between the sculptor Rosalyn Driscoll and the film-maker Tereza Stehlikova called “Rivers of Hades: Forgetfulness (Lethe)”. Forgetfulness by Rosalyn Driscoll and Tereza StehlikovaBoth artists were exploring perception and synesthesia. (Synesthesia is something I’m fascinated by … hearing colours, seeing sounds, the blurring of the senses.)

I like the description and photos of the installation, how it is about a viseral relationship with nature, memories, feelings and dreams. It is made of translucent rawhide giving it an organic, animal quality and the colours of twilight. It is sculpted in such a way as to suggest water caught in time or a body in water with video images projected on or through it, representative of memories, dreams, the otherworldly, hauntings, ghosts and death. This is Lethe, a river which the dead must cross to forget their former lives, a River of Forgetfulness (like my River of Memory painting that I have painted before). Video images cross and blur boundaries and edges suggesting impermanance and fragility. I would have liked to have seen the exhibition and the Sensory Worlds conference that staged it.

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Some new cards

Blue Goddess card - smallThree Goddess cardsStar Goddess cardNight river Goddess card

I’ve been making some handmade cards for local shops and for sale online. I’ve been meaning to try and design some to get printed but haven’t had the inspiration (I need to knuckle down and find it!) So for an experiment I had some photos of several of my goddess paintings and pictures done and made cards from them. I’ve played around with colours for variety. Soon I’ll set up a shop page.

Having thought a bit about blue, it was interesting to read a couple of chapters in Rebecca Solnit‘s book ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’. She writes about the colour and discusses various artists like Yves Klein who created blue art and even helped discover a deep blue pigment similar to the lapis lazuli used to paint the Madonna’s robes in medieval paintings. He called it ‘International Klein Blue’.

Here’s an excerpt from ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’:

“The World is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water….but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper the blue….the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the colour blue.
….The colour of that distance is the colour of an emotion, the colour of solitude and of desire, the colour of there seen from here, the colour of where you are not. And the colour of where you can never go.”

I like misty blues at the moment rather than striking turquoise blues. My River Goddess ‘Moana’ stands in my living room but is perhaps a little too bright. As she lay on the riverbank of natural winter greens and browns, I thought how like a piece of vivid, fallen sky she was, a window into the earth. What would we do without blue?

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River goddess project

As rivers have meant so much to me recently, I decided to create a River Goddess. I liked the idea of making an offering to the river in the way that the Celts used to sacrifice valued objects, or how in some Hindu festivals a goddess is given to the waters. My idea was to paint a goddess and set her adrift on a local river. For me, it would symbolize returning something to water, the source, and a letting go to launch a new phase in my life.

Lying referenceMoana in processRiver Goddess Moana

I bought an old length of scaffolding board from the Wood Recycling Store and lugged it home. After sanding it down ready for painting, I decided I needed some reference material for the arms so I lay down and Kevin took my photograph. I was still in my “blue” phase then – which has now passed – so I painted her blue and named her “Moana” which means ocean blue or the sea in Polynesian. I thought she looked a bit polynesian. She wasn’t intended for the ocean though, just the river.

After painting my Goddess, I realized that I’d probably been inspired – subconsciously – by a number of paintings and works of art. Here are a few that I think may have been in the back of my mind: Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon – I may just have just been inspired by Oceanic art as Picasso quite possibly was; Klimt’s The Kiss – I like the awkwardness of the figures and how they lie close to the top edge; Edvard Munch’s Madonna; Ophelia by John Everett Millais – I like the details of flowers and tried to indicate some water plants on my painting; Ana Mendieta’s Silueta earth art has always interested me; a beautiful, haunting photograph from the film Women without Men by Shirin Neshat captures my imagination and an underwater sculpture, Alluvia by Jason De Caires Taylor in the River Stour, Canterbury is something I must go and see. Finally, I love the work of Ahmad Nadalian who has made many ritual offerings to rivers. Below is his Anahita, Goddess of the waters – fertility, healing and wisdom. But there must be others….Gauguin perhaps?

Les Demoiselles D'AvignonMadonna by Edvard MunchThe Kiss by KlimtOphelia by John Everett MillaisFrom the Silueta series by Ana MendietaAlluvia by Jason De Caires TaylorFrom Passage by Shirin NeshatAnahita by Ahmed Nadalian

After several trips looking for the appropriate river site, we chose a small section of the River Cuckmere where it was shallow and flowing gently. There I gave her to the water and we watched her slip into the flow like a piece of sky. Kevin took a video while I ran along the bank to bring her out further downstream.

Moana in the treesRiver Goddess in the River

Odd, clumsy, crazy project but fun to do. Moana’s now propped up in the kitchen like a totem pole, all 5ft of her. Perhaps I’ll find a home for her somewhere, or one day release her forever and see where she ends up!

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Blue

I’ve really wanted to dip once again into the creative river. To start with, I’ve returned to the colour blue and have painted a few new icon-inspired artworks on wood – old scaffolding board – and canvas that are similar to my Blue Goddess.

I’ve put these together with a few older paintings, photos and film clips and some images I love off the web – like Chagall’s blue paintings – and made them into a little video I’ve called “Blue”. It’s my first attempt at making this sort of video using moviemaker and it’s a bit clumsy but – hey! – it’s a start :)

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