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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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A butterfly trapped in stone….?

LabradoriteA couple of weeks ago I had some Shamanic healing. I was told to choose a stone from a selection of different stones and crystals laid out on a lovely homemade felt square. I felt very drawn to a dark stone that seemed to have a mere hint of blue to it. When I took it and examined it more closely, the stone flashed the most beautiful irridescent blue at me. The rest of the healing ceremony was interesting – but it was the significance of the stone that I took away with me. I found out that it was Labradorite.

According to The Crystal Bible, Labradorite is said to be a highly mystical and protective stone, raising consciousness and connecting with universal energies. It is a stone of transformation and esoteric knowledge. It calms an overactive mind, energizes the imagination and dispells illusions.

Morpho on bootI couldn’t help thinking about a butterfly trapped in stone. The stone flashed like a butterfly, a Blue Morpho. Morpho is a genus of brilliant irridescent blue butterflies found in Central and South America. A meandering path of memories came to me of my visits to Costa Rica and Ecuador where I’ve seen many Morphos before. Perhaps, those places have more to teach me…? I feel like writing a story about a butterfly trapped in stone….watch this space :)

Release the butterfly. If there’s such a thing as a totem animal, I think mine might just be a butterfly right now – even a Morpho. Perhaps the butterfly is teaching me that changes can be good and bring freedom, lightness and detachment. Perhaps it teaches me to listen to my soul. (Psyche means both soul and butterfly in Greek.)

I recall a few memorable butterfly encounters. I spent years butterfly monitoring at a nearby nature reserve. I became very familiar with the chalk downland butterflies, mainly the “blues”, including the fabulous Adonis! It is like a meditation walking through grassland with butterflies flying up all around, noting each one and moving on. Walking through tea plantations near Munnar with Kevin on a visit to Kerala in India, a swarm of light blue butterflies as far as the eye could see enveloped us. A joyous occasion! In a forest in Mexico, I came across a strange butterfly that made a clicking sound with its wings. I found out that it was a Cracker butterfly, genus Hamadryas. And then there were the stunning Morpho butterflies.

River of Memory 2

Blues of Morphos, Adonis butterflies and labradorite have ignited my passion to paint in bright blue. I’ve developed my “River of Memory” painting to make it somewhat more aqueous – they could be ‘swimming’ with butterflies instead of birds. I’m not sure I like the dots, I may have to merge them somehow.

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Springtime dance in an orchard

Pink candle

I have a yearning for beauty, a yearning for Spring and finally it’s arrived. Sunshine, birdsong, cherry blossom in the park – it’s beautiful and I want to soak it up! And I want to move, dance somewhere beautiful in nature too.

I love the beautiful dance prayer for Japan by Lee Atwell. Inspired by Butoh, Lee dances to celebrate our connection with the Earth and has recorded her beautiful and inspirational dances since 2009, The 50th anniversary of Butoh, on her blog.

Inspired by Lee’s dances, I went to the Stanmer Park estate to find a quiet space in which to move in nature. I discovered an apple orchard that I didn’t know about tucked away near the church. I like orchards, there is something magical about them. There are ghost memories in the moss, the lichen, the contorted branches and earthy dampness; …lovers meeting in secret, children steeling in to play beneath the blossom or to scrump, …a quiet pause in time, a moment captured forever. There’s a hint of something forbidden too – perhaps I was trespassing! Apple trees are steeped in folklore and symbolism.

Orchard dance I felt awkward at first but soon allowed myself to simply move naturally feeling a mixture of joy and sadness. With Spring here I feel like celebrating but there has been some sad news for my partner Kevin. I danced both this joy and grief in the orchard amongst the knarled and lichened Bramleys and Cox’s Pippins all awaiting to flourish their first leaves and blossoms.

Feeling grass beneath my feet – a tingling sting of young nettle, a dampness of moss. I moved to a light mosaic of birdsong and the silent conversation of trees.

Spring dancing woman

I am including this painting, Spring Dancing Woman, that was painted around New Year. Its definitely about Spring. It has a dotty technique, unlike some of my other dancing women paintings. I like the colours but I’m not sure about the technique!

Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Latest painting

Kissing the Blue Moon

Another painting. I wanted to continue with the dark blue aqua colours and include leaves and scrim for textures and gold dust to give a shimmer. Initially I just did the head and moon but it looked a bit disembodied so I outlined a body. I didn’t want to fill the body in, just leave it as a vague linear figure. I’m not sure it works!

Earth & I Gave You Turquoise

Earth and I gave you turquoise
when you walked singing
We lived laughing in my house
and told old stories
You grew ill when the owl cried
We will meet on Black Mountain

I will bring corn for planting
and we will make fire
Children will come to your breast
You will heal my heart
I speak your name many times
The wild cane remembers you

My young brother’s house is filled
I go there to sing
We have not spoken of you
but our songs are sad
When Moon Woman goes to you
I will follow her white way

Tonight they dance near Chinle
by the seven elms
There your loom whispered beauty
They will eat mutton
and drink coffee till morning
You and I will not be there

I saw a crow by Red Rock
standing on one leg
It was the black of your hair
The years are heavy
I will ride the swiftest horse
You will hear the drumming hooves.

From the book In The Presence of the Sun by N. Scott Momaday

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The Long Man of Wilmington

The Longman in snow Cut into Windover Hill in the South Downs, is a giant figure known as The Long Man of Wilmington. He is one of two hill figures in Sussex, the other being a white horse. On a grey day soon after Christmas, I took a walk to the Long Man to take his photo in the snow, a “Ghost Man” on the hillside.

I wanted to visit the giant again as I had been asked by a friend to do a painting of him. I have illustrated him before for a chapter in a book on archaeology and folklore. The image I did then can be seen on my website here.

I’m intrigued by the stories and mysteries surrounding The Long Man. Some theories suggest that he represents Beowulf fighting Grendal, others say he may have been a god or hero, a pilgrim, a Roman standard bearer or some sort of fertility symbol. The Long Man is situated on a ley line and it has been suggested that he was a “Dodman”, someone who laid out the original ley lines with his two staves. The Long Man of the CoalsThe staves may represent the “gates of dawn”, or a gate through which he is passing to either heaven or the underworld. Perhaps there once was a real giant and the hill figure is a memorial to him. Another story says that there was once another giant who lived nearby on Firle Beacon. A battle started between the two, rocks were thrown and the Long Man was killed. Perhaps the giant was a protector of the area, created to frighten people away from important flint mines and burial mounds. According to local folklore, King Arthur fought and won a battle at Flossenden on a nearby hill-top, where there are supposedly entrenchments and a cave.

I was interested to learn that Windover Hill is said to be one of many places on the South Downs haunted by “Black Dogs” which follow you around, the sound of their paws stopping and starting as you do. All these legends satisfy my desire for stories at this time of year.

I saw no black dogs or apparitions in the village of Wilmington. My only fear was negotiating the ice-rink car park!

My painting is now finished and is with its new owner. I called it “Long Man of the Coals” as it looks as though he’s emerging from fire. (It could also perhaps be called “Long woman” ??) Today I did a drawing in pen and ink that I’m calling “Long Man of Wilmington and Black Dogs”. It’s more fanciful than my previous Long Mans – I was inspired to do it when I stumbled on “May” by Eric Ravilious, which I think is such a great image.

Long Man of Wilmington with black dogs

Dogs, wolves….it is also a full moon tonight, referred to by some as the Wolf Moon.

“..they come from the hills far away
Where the setting sun hangs low in the sky
Where eery caves echo and sigh
Where the sleeping bodies of soldiers lie.”

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Extreme Blues

Blue Woman Swirls

It is always good to get comments on my posts or messages on my website. Sometimes I feel disillusioned with how pictures are turning out, but then I’ll get a comment or a message and I feel really encouraged to carry on. So thank you to everyone who’s stopped by.

I was very pleased to be contacted yesterday by Liliana, who felt inspired to write a poem about the “Blue Woman Swirls” painting that’s on my website. It’s interesting to read the poem and I’m glad Liliana agreed to me posting it here along with the painting. Here it is:

extreme blues

ultramarine rain,
every now and then
piercing the layers of
French perfume
lading her shadow,
seemed to cascade
directly from the remains
of her midnightish ancestry –
grim electric
flowing through her veins,
turning moonlight into nectar
with just a sigh,
she was doomed to be forever
his chant –
his mantra.

By Liliana Negoi

Thank you Liliana!

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New Year

Woman Moon BirdA quiet end to the year, a year of reflecting, writing and blogging. I stood on the balcony when the pips struck twelve and watched as hundreds of orange lanterns took to the skies. One floated quite close by from the garden next door to join the magical scene. And then fireworks on the horizon bursting forth above the silhouettes of roofs and chimneys. It was so mild compared to the recent snowy spell; I was just in a light long sleeved top.

The New Year has started well. We saw friends who took home some of my recent paintings and were curious about some of my early stuff. It was fun bringing out from storage, a large red painting that I haven’t seen or thought about for years. My last few paintings have been light or of vibrant colours but now I seem to want dark paint….and stories. Perhaps illustrative paintings. I want to continue with my Turtle Dreaming story and it would be good to finish it this year. The “Dreamcatcher Woman” in my last post was the start of painting on wood once again. It’s not a good painting but I like the depth and darkness, the hint of ocean about it. The song just came into my mind while I was scanning in the photo. Here is the next piece, “Woman, Moon, Bird” also on sanded scaffolding board.

I shall put up the end of year paintings soon if I can finally finish them. Meanwhile, wishing much happiness for the New Year ahead.

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Shunning the light

Woman Shunning the Light

Altered book with woman's face

Buddha Head in tree roots

Woman with Candle

Days ago I imagined I was in a garden. Usually I like wild places but I definitely yearned for a garden of stillness and contemplation. I let the day dream unfold and take me to a cave, a cave garden, in which to meditate. Walking back with the shopping, my thoughts were adrift in powder blue, and I was surrounded by cave drawings of sea creatures, birds and flowers. Peaceful, it reminded me of a painting of Radha and Krishna in the Grove as can be seen here.

I need to find a garden.

The opalite light breaks into brightness. It has been glorious for days, but somehow too bright, too blazing. Its starkness has made me want to turn away and hide. I’ve felt inspired to draw and made this sketch that I’ve called “Woman Shunning the Light”.

I have now added the picture to my ‘altered book’.

She has the face that so often crops up in my pictures. It isn’t my face but the face of an unknown, mystrey woman that looks similar to the Buddha’s head in this photo taken in Ayutthaya in Thailand. She has appeared in my “Woman with Candle” painting, taking light from a dying sun to carry with her into the night. (I have altered the colours of the painting in photoshop to make it bluer – you can see the original on my website paintings page here.) It has an Edvard Munch/Van Gogh inspired sky.

I stumbled upon a passage by Bill Plotkin from his book ‘Soulcraft’ which makes me think about the light and the dark:

People who live excessively upperworld lives take a transcendental view of everything. They tend to see light, love, unity and peace everywhere. They are attracted to the Course in Miracles or aspire to, “enlightenment,” via an ungrounded approach to Buddhism….

…People who live excessively underworld lives see the world darkly. They tend to see hidden meaning, mystery, and the undoing of things everywhere. They gravitate toward the occult and the paradoxical. They want to penetrate to the center of everything and understand it all by standing under….

A holistic approach to spirituality interweaves the ascent and the descent, rendering balance to the experience of both the upperworld and the underworld.

You can read more of the passage here.

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