Posted on

Inspired by Deer

We recently visited Wakehurst Place in West Sussex. I haven’t been there since I was a child. It was a damp but bright day and the gardens were autumnal, browns, russets, greys.

Wakehurst Place in November
Wakehurst Place in November

I liked the carvings and one in particular, the portrait of a Sika deer’s head in a living Japanese cedar tree:

Sika Deer Carving in Cedar at Wakehurst Place
Sika Deer Carving in Cedar at Wakehurst Place.

It’s by Japanese Tachigi-bori carver, Masa Suzuki. Tachigi-bori means ‘standing-wood carving’ and is a traditional Japanese practice of carving sculptures into living trees. According to Shinto belief, all things have a sacred force and a large old tree would have a strong sacred force. The carving gives form to the tree’s spirit. This carving was done in dead wood that arose from the great storm in 1987. The dead wood where the carving has been made will eventually heal over with callus wood in the next 25-30 years. For Masa it’s all about connecting to the natural world.

The Sika deer was chosen as, in Japan, it is traditionally seen as a messenger between the earth and the spirit world. The deer were introduced into the UK by the Victorians and I’ve seen them at Arne RSPB Nature reserve.

Well before the Victorians, according to my medieval bestiary,

…”Stags are the enemies of serpents: as soon as they feel the symptoms of illness, they entice snakes out of their holes with the breath of their noses and overcoming their harmful poison, feed on them and are cured……..after they have eaten a snake, they hasten to a spring and drinking from it, their grey hairs and all signs of age vanish….Does do not conceive until Arcturus appears in the heavens.”

Medieval Bestiary
Medieval Bestiary – Richard Barber

The book mentions other peculiarities such as the ability of deer to eat a herb that will help draw out arrows which have harmed them. Such is the weird and wonderful medieval world.

Deer Doodle from my Sketchbook
Deer doodle from my sketchbook

I thought I’d create a little shrine to the spirit of the deer:

Deer Shrine
Deer Shrine

Recently I stumbled on some music I liked by Martha Tilston and was pleased to find it is called Stags Bellow. Here is a Youtube video of the song:

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)
Posted on

Tonight I dream of deer…

I thought I had more to say about night, especially as the nights are lengthening as we descend through the layers of autumn. However, it seems I have more to say about deer. Deer and night have become one in my mind, I am very close to deer right now.

Recently I’ve had a couple of deer encounters. One was when I was walking beside the River Adur with my partner. We spotted two roe deer in the distance – I could just see movement. Then they came in our direction bounding over the wet water meadows. It was a beautiful sight. The second encounter was in a wood not far from the River Ouse where we regularly walk. A hind roe deer was startled in the scrub and came rushing out. When she saw us she zig-zagged away and out of sight. We stood still so as not to panic her.

When I started my latest altered book, I was going to call it Night Queen and base it on my greetings card of the same name:

Night Queen
Night Queen

However, deer came to me and wanted to be included. So, now I’ve decided to call the book, The Night Queen and the Deer or Tonight I Dream of Deer.

This altered book is close to my heart, it feels more personal somehow – perhaps more full of magic and imagination! I’ve deliberately blackened in pages of sky and stars and have even – surreptiously – included the major stars of the twelve zodiac constellations on one of the pages,

The Night Queen and the Deer
The Night Queen and the Deer Altered Book. Click on the image for a larger version.

and, on the deepest page on the right of the central spread, is a stag with enormous antlers, gently cradling the cresent moon. The Night Queen and the Deer is now on sale in my website shop and Etsy Shop.

I’ve been playing with deer imagery in other creations including two new greetings cards, Winter Deer and Deer Heart. Both are seasonal and I hope, just as magical.

Deer Heart Greetings Card
Deer Heart Greetings Card
Winter Deer Greetings Card
Winter Deer Greetings Card

They are available in my website shop and my Etsy and Folksy shops.

I do have more to say about night, it hides much, but I’ll leave that for now.

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)
Posted on

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.

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)
Posted on

Dusk Night Dawn T-Shirt

At the beginning of the year I decided to design some new t-shirts. Finally I’m getting round to it.

My first new design is Dusk Night Dawn. I’m always drawing deer and this time I thought I’d add the words Dusk Night Dawn (the title of my book!), as I really like these times of day.

Dusk Night Dawn T-shirt
Dusk Night Dawn T-shirt
Dusk Night Dawn T-Shirt
Dusk Night Dawn T-Shirt

I wanted to reflect the moon in the shape of the silhouetted deer and trees. It’s now up in my Teemill online shop here.

There is another deer t-shirt in my collection, Deer Tree t-shirt:

Deer Heart Tree
Deer Heart Tree T-Shirt Design

Other t-shirts in my shop include a special Great Crested Newt T-shirt favoured by ecologists.

I’ve been told there is free shipping this weekend…just in case you’re tempted :)

If you have design requests, just drop me a note and I’ll see what I can come up with.

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)
Posted on

Deer Rut

Recently I’ve visited the Knepp Estate to witness the fallow deer rut. I wanted to experience it this year to write about it for the book I’m writing, Dusk Night Dawn.

I went with my partner, Kevin, and we were in luck, stumbling on a rutting stand with a few males with magnificient antlers paralell walking. Then the fighting began. My photos came out blurred because of the dim, dusk light, but they’ve caught the primal energy! :)

The Fallow Deer Rut at Knepp
The Fallow Deer Rut at Knepp
Rutting Deer at Knepp
Rutting Deer at Knepp
Rutting Deer at Knepp
Rutting Deer at Knepp
Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)
Posted on

Making an Altered Book

I thought I’d document the process of making an altered book – my way!

Below is a slider showing the process of making The Edge of the Wood altered book. Click on the dots or arrows to move between slides.

Making an Altered BookSecond Hand BookToolsOpened book with PaperImage 3 Showing Paper Stuck inImage 4 Pencil SketchImage 5 Start of the Drawing in Pen.Drawing UnderwayBoard Beneath DrawingCutaway PagesShowing Cutaway PageCutting a Page.Finished Altered BookDetail of Altered Book

The Edge of the Wood and Deer in the Forest below will soon be on display in Avocet Gallery in Rye.

Deer in the Forest Altered Book
Deer in the Forest altered book
Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (2)
Posted on

Forest Altered Books

As a child I loved pop-up books. A friend once sent me a pop-up postcard of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain featuring a thoughtful, solitary figure. It was a beautiful, inspiring card. I have mislaid my card but I found a photo of it on the web:

Alhambra Postcard
Postcard showing the Lindaraja Balcony within the Alhambra.

I am now altering books. I made my first altered book, angel wings a few years ago. Now I am working in pen and ink and with the forest as my inspiration, I’ve started with a square paperback book, a sort of thick pamphlet.

Book to be Altered
A book to be altered as an experiment.
Altered Book Half Finished
Forest altered book half-finished.
Altered Forest Book
Forest Altered Book
Detail in Altered Forest Book
A deer in the glade.

Altering a book is like creating a stage-set, a little window on to life or on to a dream. Life seems very much like that at the moment, I am in the wings, I have a secret view into a strange, alternative world that is sleeping or buzzing, busy with dreaming, busy with weaving dreams. (I am reminded of a lovely folktale from the Isle of Skye called The Dream Makers. It is about deer too. Sharon Blackie has written a lovely version of it on her blog here.)

I am fascinated by burrows, badger setts and secret havens. I like to find signs of the presense of animals – smeuses (gaps in vegetation made by the passage of animals), ‘couches’ of flattened grass where animals like badgers have lain while away from the sett; feeding signs. It is interesting to think that beneath my feet, along a woodland trail, might sleep a badger.

Badger Sett
One of the entrances to a badger sett in Newtimber Woods.

I bought a couple of the small Observer field guides secondhand. They’re not rare or valuable but I do like them and treasure copies I’ve had for decades. I thought that I’d work with an image that I’ve drawn recently, of a badger sleeping beneath tree roots which is inked in with a gold sky:

Slumbering Badger
Can you see the face amongst the roots?
Books to be Altered
Old Observer field guide books.
Badger Altered Book
The badger altered book underway.
Badger Altered Book
A badger sleeps beneath tree roots.

With another old book, I have created a forest scene, again with deer and a central tree with spreading branches and roots. I cannot decide whether to complete the picture behind the deer or leave the pages of text. I quite like seeing the writing, the essence of the book still evident.

Forest Deer Altered Book

Forest Deer Altered Book
Click on the image to see a larger version.

The book of the forest. I have other ideas for altered books – portraits, goddesses, icons – but I don’t think I have quite finished with forests, trees and deer yet.

Thoughts
  • Interesting (8)
  • Like this (21)
Posted on

The White Hind in the Thicket

Deer. Signs of their presense, torn bark, a trail of hoof prints through the trees, a shed antler. Deer are elusive, highly tuned to the slightest sound or movement; a delight to come across.

Fallow Deer Antler

It is easy to understand how deer are often seen as magical creatures in myths and stories, connected with the spiritual, supernatural world. Often in these stories and myths they are white, a brilliant, glowing white. In Celtic mythology, they are seen as ‘fairy cattle’ that are milked by mystical women – sometimes banshees – who themselves shapeshift into deer. I am fascinated by shapeshifting in any form and by the crossing of the subtle veil between worlds.

I have been collaborating with the author and storyteller Roselle Angwin. Once I had written my book, The Memory Tree, Roselle proof-read it. She liked my artwork and suggested that we work on something together; I would illustrate one of her stories. As she lives close to Dartmoor, she chose an old Dartmoor tale that she first heard from Dartmoor storyteller, Mavis Hewitt. The story is about a man’s encounter with a magical deer. Stories with this theme occur all over Europe.

Here are some photos of our booklet fresh from the printer. It is available in my Folksy shop and in my shop on this website.

The White Hind Booklet

The White Hind Book Inside

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (1)
Posted on

Landscape Scenes

Here are a couple of new landscape scenes inspired by woodcuts and by reading much ‘nature writing’. I’ve recently discovered the new magazine Earthlines just at the right time; I seem to be tuning into something. I¬†continue to read many interesting books concerned with nature, place and our relationship to the more-than-human world. My list includes: The Peregrine, The Old Ways, The Wild Places, Becoming Animal, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Otter Country……and many more. All make the “wild” an inviting and interesting place to be, but as it is, I don’t see much of it. Now winter is fast approaching, I’m happy indoors turning my attention to creative projects and letting my imagination thrive and trying to get my head around the latest version of this wordpress blog. Not easy!

Seven Sisters
The Seven Sisters.

 

This picture – more like a doodle – I’ve called The Seven Sisters after the cliffs with that name along the coast of Sussex around the mouth of the River Cuckmere.

Cliffs at Birling Gap
Chalf cliffs at Birling Gap east of the Seven Sisters.
Devil's Dyke
Devil’s Dyke

 

This picture is based on a view across the Devil’s Dyke valley as seen from a viewpoint along the Saddlescombe Road.

Devil's dyke

Winter scene with deer
A winter scene with bare trees, a deer and moon.

 

This scene isn’t based on any particular place. I think the trees look a bit stark.

Thoughts
  • Interesting (0)
  • Like this (0)