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.
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 book – Water Goddess Yemanja and Moon Goddess Hina – and another more recent illustration, Waiting for Rain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Finally I have a couple of new prints including Night Vigil, which is also a C6 sized greetings card.
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:
I’m working on a small altered sketchbook that I’ll write about soon. I have ideas for more… meanwhile,
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.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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:
I have created a calendar of wildlife illustrations for 2023 called Into the Woods.
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.
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.
I have a fascination for caves, as you may have seen from previous posts. Royston Cave in Hertfordshire has been on my radar for years. This year we were in the area and booked a tour to see the cave for ourselves.
Royston is a pretty, unassuming town, but it has a Roman road running through it as well as part of the Ichnield Way, an ancient track that runs from Wiltshire to Norfolk. Royston Cave is under the ground in the chalk where the two roads meet.
On the tour we descended steps and then followed a moderately steep passageway extending underground beneath the main road. Soon we found ourselves in a round chamber lit by wall lights. I could see engravings all around the lower part of the cave – faces, figures, crosses, birdlike fish, horses. Apparently the carvings are thought to be of the 14th century – medieval – and may be associated with the Knights Templar. In the 17th century a ten year old boy was instructed to descend into the man-made cave to see if there was any treasure in it. On further investigation the carvings were found.
On the walls, there are many religious depictions and symbols, but also some pagan imagery such as a shela-mi-gig. This shows that the carvings were made when pagan beliefs had not yet been totally obscured by Christianity.
Our guide started explaining what she knew about the carvings, starting with a St Christopher figure carrying someone on his shoulder (see the photo below on the left). There are other saints depicted, including Saint Catherine, shown holding a wheel as she was sacrificed on a burning wheel. Today people light Catherine wheels on Guy Fawks night to remember her.
To the left of St Christopher is a rectangle representing the tomb where Christ was buried, along with a hand and a bird-fish, possibly symbolising the Holy Spirit or risen Christ. There is a sword and a shield, a horse and the holy family.
There are many other drawings of knights, angels, rows of sinners and a figure holding a candle that may represent the light of the new religion that will lead believers out of darkness. Low down and to the right of the passage entrance is a crescent moon.
It was the figure of St Christopher that made the most impression on me. He is the patron saint of travellers and is said to have carried a child over a river who turned out to be Christ. I kept in mind the image of a figure carrying a rucksack, journeying on foot over the hills and drew and collaged a picture of this figure I have titled The Journeyman.
My figure is walking through a dreamlike, fluid, but fragmented landscape with the chalk figure of The Long Man of Wilmington in the distance. I like the idea of a traveller wandering the land without any particular destination, stopping here and there to find work. The ground in the picture looks unstable, symbolic of the unsettling times we’re living in.
I didn’t know what a journeyman was until I looked it up. Apparently the word originates from the Middle Ages and refers to a worker, such as a craftsman, who has acquired skills as an apprentice, but who is not yet a Master. He would work for an employee, often for a day (‘journée’ means ‘day’ in French) and was also known to travel around the country working here and there. There was a strong journeyman tradition in Europe.
When I googled ‘journeyman woodcut images’ I was surprised at how similar my drawing was to one of them.
I then decided to create an altered book titled The Journeyman.
I had in mind a present day journeyman walking over the Umbrian hills in Italy. I’ve never been to that region of Italy, but I imagined dry, rocky paths, leathery-leaved oaks, ibex and lynx. In my book you can see the spire of a church in the distance, a village in the valley. I’ve featured a cave and remember that there is the unusual, underground, spritual community of Damanhur in Northern Italy.
The altered book has seven illustrated pages on the left of the central spread and six on the right. It will be for sale in my Etsy shop and Reflections website shop soon.
Back in 2016 I learnt about an intrigueing 17th century dress hauled up from a shipwreck off the coast of Holland. Apparently it belonged to the Countess of Roxburghe, lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. It’s a romantic story that you can read about here. From then, I decided I’d like to do an art project centred around a dress, something that has been done many times before.
I forgot about the idea until it was rekindled by a visit to see the paper dresses of Stephanie Smart at both Danny House, ‘Maison de Papier‘, in 2017 and Firle Place, The Regency Wardrobe, last year. (Firle Place was where the film Emma was filmed.) Here is a photo of one of the dresses in Danny House:
You weren’t allowed to take photos of the dresses at Firle Place, but I managed to take a general scene. You can see photos from all exhibitions on Stephanie Smart’s website.
I like the idea of dresses and stories, dresses and words, sea mottled dresses, dresses underwater… the latter reminds me of the tragic drowning of Sarah d’Avigdor-Goldsmid, depicted in the sea by Chagall in the beautiful windows of Tudeley Church, which I have written about before.
I decided, as usual, to do an altered book. I reached out to the sea for inspiration, but nothing returned to me. I’ve been too embedded in the woods and forests, too much with trees, so trees had to be involved. I started the book last autumn, but it wasn’t going quite as I wanted it to. After much experimenting with folding paper to create a paper dress that could be folded into the altered book, I decided the result was a bit too similar to a gaudy Spanish souvenir doll in a flamenco dress :) I stuck with it though. I’ve used gold pen and gold paint on the papercut pages along with coloured inks. Here is To the Forest Ball altered book on a stand made out of a metal coathanger:
And here are a few of the inside pages with a lot of gold brambles and blue, dusky trees:
To the Forest Ball will be available in my Etsy shop and website shop soon.
I hesitated a lot while working on this book, feeling ambiguous about the dress. I don’t wear dresses myself, but over the years I’ve found myself illustrating women in long, old fashioned dresses.
I embarked on a picture that will be made into a card. I’ve called it Waiting for Rain because the woman is holding out her hand. I thought that I’d work on paper collaged with brown paper using pen and ink, gold paint and metallic inks. I also wanted to pattern the dress with a bramble design. The drawing is size A3. It shimmers in the light:
I could tell you about how grim the start of my year was and how, after one thing and then another, I caught Covid and am now recovering. Covid wasn’t so bad, but…enough about that. I’ll tell you instead about the Nest Project that I’ve been working on.
It’s time for nests. I’ve been watching a blackbird looking for suitable nesting sites in the garden and I’ve seen a crow diligently prising off twigs from one of our elder bushes for a nest in a tall tree a few doors down. I love finding nests from previous seasons, their intricacy intrigues me.
I recently went to an exhibition called Undercurrents by Louise McCurdy and Steve Geliot. It was about the starlings on the Palace Pier and their murmurations. Here is a photo from the exhibition of a giant starling’s nest. I love the interwoven flowers.
Apparently flowers and bark have aromatic chemicals so if woven into a nest they can fumigate it and deter parasites.
I’ve got out of the library, Nests by Susan Ogilvy. The book is gorgeous with lovely pink/cream pages and her watercolour paintings are exquisite. Here is one of her wren’s nests made of fine twigs, grasses, moss, skeleton leaves, feathers and hair:
And here is a photo of a wren’s nest I found in the garden last year, deep in the ivy (photographed after the wrens had fledged and left). You can see that the materials are very similar:
Below is my feeble attempt at painting an old mud-lined song thrushes’ nest as a still life:
I’ve been working on my Altered Sketchbook and have added the next section, section 2, a nest in the undergrowth. I’ve based it on a willow warbler’s nest, which is typically domed and made close to the ground. I’ve made a short video showing the whole of the altered sketchbook so far, including the nest section:
Here are some images of the Nest section (click on the images to see larger versions):
I’ve started working on a Nest nature booklet/zine. So far I’ve drawn blackbirds at their nest in the undergrowth:
In Wolstonbury Woods, just outside Brighton, there’s a large circle of sticks in the shape of a beautiful, human-sized nest:
Who made the nest I had no idea, until I did a bit of research and discovered the website of artist Flick Ferdinando. You can see more photos of the nest and a film about it on her website.
I’ve collected together images of some of the nests I’ve found over the years – a lesser black-backed gulls’ nest; a dormouse’s summer nest; an unknown nest with woodpigeon and blackbird eggshells; a long-tailed tits’ nest; a blackbird’s nest(?) in a hornbeam; a wren’s nest. Each one has a story, told very briefly below each image.