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A New Altered Sketchbook and Notebooks

I have a new altered sketchbook that I’ve called The Badger Wood. I’m back into woods and all the wonderful, intricate textures and details I love about them.

I wanted to work in a sketchbook this time as I didn’t want to have to stick extra paper into the book as I do with a hardbacked, secondhand book. I can see the appeal of using old books and the surprise of finding the magic of original papercut illustrations inside, but with this one it’s all a bit tidier.

The Badger Wood Altered Sketchbook

As usual there are six illustrated pages each side of the central spread and as the title suggests, there are trees, badgers, a deer, lots of brambles etc as you go deeper into the book and into the wood.

The Badger Wood is available in my Etsy shop where you can also see a video and some inside pages of the book. It’s also now added to my website shop.

I’ve also created some new A5 notebooks using illustrations from my Goddesses of River, Sea and Moon bookWater Goddess Yemanja and Moon Goddess Hina – and another more recent illustration, Waiting for Rain.

Moon Goddess Hina A5 Notebook. Hina is a goddess of the Pacific islands like Tahiti. She is depicted here beating tapa tree bark into cloth.
Water Goddess Yemanja A5 Notebook. Yemanja is a goddess of rivers and the ocean. She originated in West Africa. Here she is depicted wearing a dress of seven skirts.
Waiting for Rain A5 Notebook.

Each notebook has different coloured inside pages. Water Goddess Yemanja notebook has 80 light blue pages, Moon Goddess Hina notebook has 80 lilac pages and Waiting for Rain notebook has 80 cream inside pages. They’re also available in my Etsy shop.

I’m pleased to say that my Waiting for Rain illustration has been included in the lovely 2024 Earth Pathways Diary along with my Forest Angel picture:

I’ve had enquiries about possible art prints of these two images. Contact me if you’re interested in A4 prints or prints of anything else on the website.

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New Zine/Booklet

I’ve created a new zine/booklet titled ‘If You Are Lost You May Be Taken’. It’s different from my Night Wood booklet in some ways, although both have 16 highly detailed, illustrated pages of my pen and ink illustrations. It is an illustrated book version of a piece of writing that featured on the RTE Irish radio programme, Keynotes, a few years ago.

If You Are Lost zine

The piece was written as a sort of response to David Wagoner’s poem, Lost and loosely inspired by the myth of Daphne in Ovid’s Metamorphosis. I like to describe it as a strange, poetic tale from the forest, haunting and the stuff of dreams.

Pages from my If You Are Lost You May Be Taken zine.

The booklet/zine is now available to buy in my Etsy shop and soon on my website shop.

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A Woods Person, a Sea Person

I have moved. I have moved town and I am now even closer to the sea. To chalk cliffs, gulls, pebbles, the coast. It doesn’t call me, I am here. I try to belong. Something tells me I should belong. It says I used to belong. Once I was a sea person dreaming of selkies – all water and flow, the rush of the tide, mudflats, sand prints, seaweed. I had a small vision of myself as one with the water, decked in weeds or a ship with open sails caught in a seaward breeze. I daydreamed of the sunken, the deep, of shipwrecks.

But now, I’m not sure. I waver in the winds of uncertainty. If I was once a sea person, I guess I still am, but I can’t quite access that part of me right now, even though I try.

Chalk Cliff

I am here, witnessing. The sea is here, is there, the blue wash, the forever waters, so close. But I am awkward in its presence. Gleaming white rock looks at me as I shyly behold it. I should belong, chalk woman that I am. And yet my dreams are still with the trees, with the wild wanderings of woodland. I am missing the deep, wooded places, the deep, green, lush spaces in dappled sunlight. And deer.

Moving in Rock and Memory

The sea I once was, now I am the land, desired by earth, dust, the intimacy of vegetation, of leaves. I pine for the scent of chlorophyll, for the moment I notice a dronefly caught hovering in a shaft of sunlight, memories of fungal gloom, the wood at dusk.

And the sea – there – it washes on forever. How can one contain forever? How can one contain the sea…

And now I have a faint desire to refind that missing sea fragment of myself. I can contain the trees, the forest, in books; but I cannot contain, cannot fathom the sea.

It has returned – as ideas, desires, dreams often do in some future time. So often these dreams come once the desire has passed in my life and I have moved on and it doesn’t matter any more. Things happen so slowly. I fear to dream because in decades time the Summoning, the Reckoning, when dreams or desires become manifest. But oh, so late. I fear the wheels turn too slowly, planets circle too distantly and I barely cast a glance at a past desire, which is now just a cinder. I wish it wasn’t so – and yet, better that dreams come true, become manifest, than nightmares. I will not think of those.

Tonight is the day past the Dark Moon. I’ll cast my thoughts to a star studded sky hanging over my sea, as it is now my sea. It is here and it is there, so close. I am here and almost there with it, trying to piece together that fragment of me that has now past and is hidden, caught within the forests in my mind, but, hopefully, not lost.

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Escaping to Temperate Rainforest

At the end of June we went down to south Devon where we stayed at the truly lovely Hearth Retreat in their little Apple Wagon.

At the Apple Wagon
At the Apple Wagon

It was so peaceful, roaming the fields and woods I was in my element. I just happened to be reading The Lost Rainforests of Britain by Guy Shrubsole – as I am a lover of all rainforests – so it seemed a good idea to visit some temperate rainforest in East Dartmoor National Par, as mentioned in the book.

The Lost Rainforests of Britain by Guy Shrubsole

Temperate – or Atlantic/Celtic rainforest as it is also called – is characterised by trees, often sessile oaks, bearing all sorts of epiphytes – polypody ferns, lichens, mosses, pennywort. The trees literally drip with verdant epiphytic life. Like all rainforests they receive a lot of rainfall that creates rich, moist, tangled layers of lush vegetation that I find incredibly beautiful in dappled sunlight.

We’ve visited smaller patches of rainforest in Wales in the past, but this area in Devon struck me as being more extensive and rich. Nothing beats a river flowing and muttering over rocks in a forest. Here it’s the River Bovey.

Temperate Rainforest
A tangle of ferns, mosses and trees with the river just visible below.

When we returned home I decided to work on another rainforest altered book, but this time of a temperate rainforest. I’ve featured an otter – they visit the River Bovey – a couple of stoats, a pied flycatcher and a jay among the ferns, moss, lichen and rocks.

Temperate Rainforest Altered Book
Temperate Rainforest Altered Book

Once again forests feature in my art. Like the author, Jay Griffiths, forests and woods make me happy. Temperate Rainforest Altered Book is available in my Etsy shop and in my website shop.

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A Dragon Encounter Altered Book

A Dragon Encounter Altered Book
A Dragon Encounter Altered Book

Twilight seeps through old, gnarled trees. The quiet is broken by a whisper as sparks of flame ignite; there is a fire aglow deep in the forest this night of the full moon, this night of the Dragon Moon.

Listen. What do you hear?

– A baying of hunting dogs far off; the muffled hoot of an owl; the plaintive sigh of a sleeping tree as it slumbers deep in time, ready to awaken, ready to rouse, ready… but not quite.

Wait, while the moon hangs potent and heavy, casting indigo shadows over the castle ruins, something else stirs. On to a mound of rocks climbs an old man, silvered hair and beard shimmering in the light of moon and flame, a whizened wizard of a man.

It is happening.

Suddenly the flames roll into a ball of fire and into the flames the old man raises his arms. In a powerful explosion of light, he brings forth a great dragon from out of the ether, broad as comet, sinewy as snake, as vociferous as any monstrous beast of night. This is the beast of the full moon, unleashed. This is it. This is it. A cry resounds throughout the forest. The awakening has begun…

An altered book commission now off to its new home.

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New Items in my Shops

To start the year I’ve added a few new items to my Etsy shop and website shop. First is another papercut concertina card, In the Hedge:

In the Hedge Concertina Card
In the Hedge Concertina Card
In the Hedge Concertina Card back
In the Hedge Concertina Card – back
In the Hedge Concertina Card - front
In the Hedge Concertina Card – front
In the Hedge Concertina Card - back
In the Hedge Concertina Card – back

I love crouching down and looking into hedges. Often I see birds skulking among an interwoven tangle of branches and leaves of various species. I love leafy detail :) To capture this view I papercut two holes in the card that frame a dunnock’s nest. Dunnocks choose to nest quite close to the ground and are often found in gardens.

When our resident fox visited our garden during daylight hours, we would sometimes find it curled up and tucked beneath a cotoneaster bush. I decided to put a sleeping fox on the back of this new card along with a magpie. It’s interesting that magpies have a special relationship with foxes, often following them about, possibly to benefit from any morsels disturbed by a foraging fox.

I have a few new sepia wildlife cards using images from my Into the Woods calendar. They can be bought separately or as a set of five.

Sepia Wildlife Card Pack
Sepia Wildlife 5-Card Pack

Finally I have a couple of new prints including Night Vigil, which is also a C6 sized greetings card.

Night Vigil A4 Print
Night Vigil A4 Print

I recently listed a new altered book, but it sold very soon after listing. Anyway, here is a photo of Still Deer Moon, that has gone to a new home:

Still Deer Moon Altered Book
Still Deer Moon altered book

I’m working on a small altered sketchbook that I’ll write about soon. I have ideas for more… meanwhile,

Wishing everyone a lovely new year!

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The Shed Rainforest Mural

Shed Rainforest Mural
Shed Rainforest Mural

I mentioned in a previous post that I was painting a mural in the shed at the bottom of our garden. Kevin erected the shed in September last year with salvaged wood and an old shed/treehouse given by a friend.

This spring I set about painting a rainforest mural inside.

My rainforest is a dream forest based on a Central/South American rainforest as it features a jaguar, anteater, toucan, parrot, heliconia flowers and a hummingbird. It also features a Spirit Guardian, a blue woman emerging from the leaves, one of my blue women. I had intended to continue painting a rainforest scene fading into night, but when I found out we may need to move house, I decided to leave it as it is.

My neighbour downstairs said it reminded him of childhood hideaways. Child like or not, it became my little retreat for a while. It was like being in a birdhide listening to the robins that visited for food and fed from my palm, the tits and the resident blackbirds singing from an elder close by while squirrels busied themselves overhead, quite oblivious of me.

As I painted I couldn’t help but overhear my neighbours’ conversations and it was very pleasant hearing the woman next door singing a song that I recognised and later looked up; Erbarme Dich, mein Gott, JS Bach: St Matthew Passion.

Channelling my inner Rouseau - a postcard of Rouseau's The Dream
Channelling my inner Rouseau – a postcard of Rouseau’s The Dream
Anteater - shed mural
Anteater on the right-hand side on the inside of the shed.
Rainforest mural in shed
The left-hand side of the rainforest mural inside the shed.
 Shed Rainforest mural
Shed mural showing the Spirit guardian of the Rainforest

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”
Albert Einstein.

Quote in Amharic
From the forests we came, to the forests we return.
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Sketchbook Ideas for New Projects

When I went on holiday to Hvar back in September, I took few drawing materials with me, just a small sketchbook and my Art Pen. I made a few drawings and I’m wondering where they will take me:

Sketchbook nymph drawing
Sketchbook – woodland nymph drawing.
Sketchbook – The Earth is Dreaming.
Sleeping in the Forest
Sketchbook – Sleeping in the Forest

i’m thinking of creating a new booklet/zine that includes some of these images and more to be drawn. I want to journey into a dreamscape of mythical figures – nymphs, women of the woods, mystical beings – as I have been inspired by goddess myths in the past. I have Ovid’s Metamorphosis to dip into and I’m curious about the Ancient Greek mystery cults like the Eleusinian Mysteries. I’m also interested in exploring folktales and stories once again, perhaps creating one of my own.

I have loved the work of the artist Flora McLachlan for quite a while, her etchings, collagraphs and, more recently, her paintings. Some of her work reminds me of one of my favourite artists, Samuel Palmer – there’s often a crescent moon or moonlit shadows. I like the darkness, the dream-like quality and looseness of her style. So much about her work evokes night in all it’s ambiguity.

Cards by Flora McLachlan
Cards, Under the Yew Tree and Moonrise by Flora McLachlan – in their cellophane wraping.

In her more recent paintings, I like her figures in the landscape – she becomes the figures in her paintings – or rather, her figures become representations of herself; she embeds herself in the lush landscape of her home country, Wales. To use her words:

“From the time when the undergrowth reached over my head, I have been fascinated yet at home in this weedy, sappy place, this path-frill, this edge-land. Among the stems are striped snails and jewelled insects, sharp shadows and sharp, green smells. Now I am only waist-deep in this greenness, I am half human half wild, a weedy mermaid; it’s a place of transformation, shape-shifting and wild imagination. I can enter this magical world at will, loop myself with goosegrass and move empowered through the dew of every morning.”

(Taken from the catelogue of Spellbound exhibition at the Sarah Wiseman Gallery.)

Perhaps my figures in the landscape are versions of myself, i’m not sure. What I have done is try to lose myself in the leafy greenness of my home place through movement, to feel at one with it. I have gestured and dialogued with birdsong. Here is a short video I made back in April:

I wondered about how I might see myself in the landscape. Where do I feel most at home? In what landscape do I belong? In the woods? It is not here in the rigid walls of the city. Or is it? When I lean out with feelers to connect with nature I confront walls and pavements, tarmac and SUVs.

Back to artwork. If you’d like to check out Flora McLachlan’s work, she has some etchings and/or paintings in the Mythical Landscapes exhibition at the Twenty-Twenty Gallery or see her website. I’ve also watched some very interesting Youtube videos with her talking about her process, including this one.

Some of the drawings I’ve made since returning from holiday include three pen and ink pictures, Night Vigil, Goddess of the Harvest and If You Are Lost. I might include one of them in my new nature/myth booklet, but in the meantime they’ve been sent off to Obsidian Art for their Once Upon a Time exhibition:

If You Are Lost
If You Are Lost – pen and ink.
Demeter
Goddess of the Harvest – pen and ink. At the turn of the year, from summer into autumn.
Contemplation
Night Vigil – pen and ink and watercolour pencil.
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Into the Woods 2023 Calendar

I have created a calendar of wildlife illustrations for 2023 called Into the Woods.

Into the Woods 2023 Calendar
Into the Woods 2023 Calendar

The calendar features 12 highly detailed, sepia, pen and ink wildlife illustrations for the months of 2023, with an additional one for January 2024. Accompanying each illustration is a grid for each month for notes along with the phases of the new and full moons, but no public holidays. It is sized A4, opening to A3 when it is hung on the wall, with a punched hole for hanging.

Into the Woods 2023 Calendar
Into the Woods 2023 Calendar

Included are pictures of badgers, nightjars, owls, deer, hares, otters, a kingfisher and a dipper, amongst other woodland animals. It is printed on high quality 200gsm paper and will be sent in a stiff, kraft envelope.

Into the Woods is available in my Etsy shop and Reflections shop.

Into the Woods 2023 Calendar
Into the Woods 2023 Calendar – back.

As the season turns, I’m off to the woods again!

 

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Hvar: Lost in the Limestone Hills

It sounds mad, but I have noticed that there two sides to me, to my mindbody. My right side takes me forwards – I think of interacting with people, going into town, projects I’m working on, making progress, goals and bracing myself against The World. My left side is wordless. It reaches out to the environment, to the natural world and my niche within it, to feel embedded and belonging. My left side shrinks back from the harshness of The World. It takes me into the forests and into the hills.

I was very aware of this division in myself while away on holiday. It felt much more comfortable to hold back. I looked up at the hillside above the little village of Vrisnik, where we were staying on the Croatian island of Hvar, and thought, I’d like to be up there, not on the beach or in the town with other tourists. I needed nature connection, so I was very pleased when we discovered hiking trails up into the hills – trails free of dogs. The hills were waiting for me, so I followed my left side.

Start of walk - Hvar
Start of walk – Hvar

We set off on a path bordered by dry stone walls patterned with lichens. It was very straightforward looking out for the red and white circles that were painted on the rocks at frequent intervals. With flashes of their mauve or red wings, grasshoppers sprang ahead of us, while the land crackled with cicada song and the scent of rosemary and lavendar infused the air. We caught the perfume of pine when we reached the trees, Aleppo pines, characteristic of Mediterranean woods or maquis.

Walking up the ridge
Walking up the ridge to the face in the rock I called The Shape.

The landscape was green despite it being a very dry, karst landscape of limestone and dolomite with no surface water. Rainwater seeps through cracks, scouring out hollows and caves underground. On Hvar there is only one surface pool and that is temporary. It’s where Neolithic finds have been discovered; early man needed a supply of fresh water. Later, when we went looking for the pool on the lowland plain, it was alive with darter dragonflies.

The path zigzagged up the hillside. We were walking upwards on the north side of a ridge that stretches along the length of the island. The shade was welcome as the temperatures were in the high 20s C. The going was fairly easy and the views were lovely; we looked down on two villages, Vrisnik and Svirce. The town of Jelsa was also visible in the east. Finally we approached a giant bare rock with a hooked nose like the profile of an old man. I’m sure the rock has been given many names, but, rather unimaginatively, I called it The Shape. Soon we emerged at the top of the ridge beside The Shape into the sunshine and a mass of buzzing pines.

Looking down on Vrisnik
Looking down on Vrisnik beside The Shape.

It felt good to be up with just the sound of the breeze and the insects. We looked around for the next red and white circle to continue on the trail. Eventually we found it, but the route was no longer clear cut. It took some searching to find the next few markers as we made our way through trees and stony glades. Then they seemed to disappear altogether.

We doubled back a bit, looking at the trees and rocks for any signs of red paint. There seemed to be many path options through the rocks and scrub. Kevin had studied the paths on Open Street Map and tried to bring the web page up on his phone, but there was no signal. We wandered fruitlessly through a maze of pines and vegetation. The plants here are drought tolerant and tend to have spikes that scratched our legs as we waded through them. Still the grasshoppers zipped about. Kevin caught sight of a small snake disappearing into a hole. There were lizards too, small brown ones and a large one like a fluorescent green plastic toy. It hung about long enough for us to admire it. I kept seeing vivid green praying mantises on the path too. Each one kept still and turned its head to regard me defiantly. Such intelligent looking insects, it’s no wonder that they’re revered in certain cultures. The San people of the Kalahari believed that the praying mantis gave them fire and words. They see them as sort of Dream Bushmen.

Mantis religiosa
Praying mantis – Mantis religiosa.

Then a large bird with a black and white tail took off with a bounding flight into the trees ahead of us – a hoopoe! That was exciting! I thought how good it would be to find a hoopoe feather. Not long after the sighting that is exactly what I did.

The air fuzzed with a sound. We looked up and saw a flock of bee-eaters flying overhead.

Noticing and appreciating wildlife was one thing, but we were lost. From the map in his memory, Kevin knew that a track ran along the valley between the ridge and a second line of hills. It wasn’t our path, but it would go somewhere. We decided to look out for it and before long, we could see a rough, stony trail. We made our way towards it and continued walking west. We were lost, but not lost. We didn’t quite know where we were going.

it’s not easy getting lost these days. You can still get lost in mountains and on moors. It seemed odd to be lost here. We had no real idea how far we were from any village. It was becoming increasingly unrealistic for us to try to retrace our steps, so we kept on walking along the track.

I couldn’t help thinking about the well-known poem, Lost, by David Wagoner,

Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers.
I have made this place around you…

What would it be like to spend the night out here? I started thinking along those lines. I’ve often wanted to do a sort of vision quest and to spend the night out alone. It would probably be a bit chilly – I had no jacket with me. The moon was waxing so there would be light – and there would be a big, clear sky, much clearer than at home, with the Milky Way spilling over us from north to south. The scops owl we’d heard faintly on previous nights would call a little closer perhaps. There were snakes, ants and mosquitoes; it wouldn’t be a comfortable night. I was concerned, but not as worried as I thought I might be. My desire to connect to nature was strong. It felt natural to be drawn down to sleep on the earth among the vegetation, to lean into nature, to bed down into it. Some archaic part of me, my inner animal, was preparing me and it felt OK. It didn’t seem too great a step to feel at home out there among the thorny scrub, the rocks, the Aleppo pines. Perhaps it was helped by the warmth of the land. I had a welcome sense of belonging, my left side was content.

We continued walking west along the track. An empty building appeared on our right and, then, the track took us through lavendar fields.The lavendar had already been harvested, but its scent was still in the air. Hvar is well known for its lavendar. We kept on going wondering how many miles we’d have to walk before reaching a village or road. We knew we were still walking away from our village, it was hot and our water was getting low.

Eventually after a few miles we came to a crossroad of paths and a sign post. One direction pointed to the village of Svirce, not so far from ours. Now, at least we knew which way to walk, and the path we followed took us north once again, back over a pass in the ridge. Soon we could see Svirce in the distance.

It took us some time to walk back to base. Despite being lost on the ridge and the extra miles we had walked we were glad of the adventure. Being lost like that isn’t so bad. I spent the evening pondering what it would have been like to do a night vision quest up on the top. I guess it’s different when you are prepared for it. That’s something for the future perhaps. I thought of the face of The Shape keeping vigil, watching. My left side was still leaning, I now had more of the hills in me.