Below is a collaged mermaid experiment:
and a collaged “mermaid box”:
Below is a collaged mermaid experiment:
and a collaged “mermaid box”:
I’ve been playing with photoshop. Finally I’m surrendering to the possibilities of digitally altering my artwork. I’ve been inspired by artists such as Greg Spalenka and numerous others whose work is everywhere. I have to enter fully the twenty-first century!
It’s been fasinating and frustrating learning photoshop – bit by bit. I’ve also been dwelling on the sea, on watery things. From angels I’m now into mermaids,… fish …..anything oceanic in fact.
Below is a version of a simple mermaid picture, a photoshop experiment. I’m also including a piece of writing I discovered written up on a church wall in some back street of Barcelona. The author is unknown.
What were the thoughts of those who lived and slept in the vastness beneath the water.
Were these thieves and broken poets, these fugitives affected by some stigma;
Were they jealous or afraid of the world? How had they all gathered in this crepuscular
What had they so much in common that they needed each other’s presence?
Nothing but hope. Hope. Hope like a pale sun……
These words were faint on the church wall, but beneath them was a list of names I could just make out. ‘Mervyn Peake’ was written amongst them; he wrote the Gormenghast trilogy which just happens to be amongst my favourite books.
I discovered the artist Greg Spalenka today, while browsing calendars for 2009. There’s something about his artwork that triggers memories; sometime, long ago, I felt in tune with his ideas. Perhaps there lingers seeds of inspiration deep in my unconscious. Once again I found myself rumaging through my old pictures to a time when I think that I was a better artist (?) I’ll include a few images here, but check out Greg Spalenka
Here is a story I wrote earlier this year, which I’d like to illustrate better:
The Red Fruit Tree
There once lived a beautiful woman and her husband in a lush, tropical kingdom beyond the mountains. They had a baby girl called Echo, who loved playing in the garden with her mother.
Echo loved playing with the butterflies, the birds and the deer chasing them around the garden. Indeed she loved all wildlife and stayed outside long after the sun went down, sitting beneath the red fruit tree.
One day, Echo was playing in the wood at the bottom of the garden. The sky became very dark and clouds shifted over the sun. The beautiful woman called from the house for Echo to go indoors as a storm was brewing. Echo had not experienced a big storm before and gazed up into the sky. Large drops of rain began to fall.
The beautiful woman came out and whisked her daughter inside the house.
The storm was no ordinary storm. The winds came with gigantic gusts and whorled about the house and garden. In little groups, the animals hurried away to find shelter. From the veranda Echo watched them and dearly wanted to follow them and enjoy the torrents of warm rain that descended from above. Soon, she couldn’t wait any longer and while her mother went to take the bread out of the oven, she was off, running across the garden and down to the river beside the red fruit tree.
The beautiful woman realised Echo was gone and rushed into the garden calling,
“Echo! Echo! Where are you! Come back in, you’ll be cold and wet!”
But, Echo was gone. The river had burst its banks and whipped the child up in its watery arms, carrying her off down the hillside and into the mists beyond.
The beautiful woman called her husband from the fields and together they hunted high and low. But there was no sign of Echo, only some tiny footprints beside the swollen river.
Days and nights passed and still no sign. The beautiful woman lost her beauty and became thin and tired and her husband just sat with his head in his hands. The land felt their grief and became parched and barren and the animals wandered off in search of more fertile pastures.
A heaviness and sadness hung over the land.
* * * * * * * *
Echo found herself in a little pool far away clinging to a branch of the red fruit tree. A curious deer came to the water’s edge and plucked the child up and deposited her carefully on the bank. Exhausted, Echo lay there in a patch of sunshine and went to sleep. The birds sang to each other in the treetops above.
Days passed into weeks, weeks passed into months and months into years. Echo lived in the forest with the animals and grew strong and nibble running with the deer through the trees and climbing trees with the squirrels. The sun bronzed her and the rain bathed her. She was happy and could not remember anything about her home with her mother and father far away. But although she was happy, Echo began to feel that something was not quite as it should be, something was prompting her to seek beyond the edge of the forest.
* * * * * * * *
One night as the moon climbed the sky, the Goddess of Night spread her cloak and descended to the parched lands of the once lush kingdom, where the grief stricken couple still mourned their daughter. She entered the barren garden where the grass refused to grow and soft as a cat, she lent against the red fruit tree and took out her harp. A few magical notes took to the air and floated up through the bedroom window of the couple, beckoning to the woman to go outside.
Thin and fraught, the woman came down into the garden and when she saw the goddess, she touched the raw earth and
fell to her knees. Both knew why the goddess was there.
“Please help me, Goddess”, the woman wept, “help me find my daughter and stop my grief.”
The goddess stroked one of the owls on her shoulder before answering.
“Here, take this seed from the red fruit tree and carry it to a distant land. There, on a cliff, you must plant it. When it has taken root and begun to grow, your grief will go and your life will return to normal.”
The woman was just about to ask if her daughter was alive and could be found, when the goddess wrapped up her cloak and faded back up into the sky just as the sun crept above the horizon.
The woman took the seed, shiny and new and put it in a special sack. She said farewell to her husband and set off down the mountain in search of a distant cliff top.
* * * * * * * *
Now, Echo had a dream. In her dream she saw a tree with big red fruit and red leaves. It was growing on a cliff top and was alive with birds. As the birds ate, the juice from the fruit fell and nourished the earth. Some of it fell to the sea beneath where sea-maidens played in the surf. When she awoke, she knew that she had to find the tree somewhere and however long it took.
The sky rained down on her and the sun broke through the branches above. For a day and a night, Echo wandered to the edge of the forest. She passed fields of flowers, streams and over hills. And then, just as the sun was setting, overhead passed a flock of birds their beaks red with rich juice. Echo knew that she was close to a red fruit tree. The sound of the sea came to her ears and was that the laughter of sea-maidens she wondered?
Silhouetted against the sun, was a magnificent tree bright with red fruit, leaves and birds. And Echo remembered the tree in the garden of her childhood and held out her arms to embrace its trunk. More memories came flooding back as she held the tree tight; her mother, a beautiful woman with hair of silk and her father, quiet and caring. And Echo wept.
It was then that something caught her eye high up in the branches, something twinkling in the last rays of the sun. Echo climbed up with the birds and reached up, her hand grasped the object and then she could see that it was a ring encircling a branch. The ring looked familiar; it belonged to her mother. It was then that she knew that her mother had been there, that she must have planted the tree and in so doing, dropped her ring. The tree had gathered up the ring as it grew and held it as a beacon for Echo to one-day find.
Night came and Echo fell asleep in the tree’s arms.
* * * * * * * *
It didn’t take Echo long to journey back home. She followed the river at first and then flocks of birds. Her mother and father were overjoyed to see her, now a young beautiful woman. They had given her up for dead many years ago. The woman, now old, once again became beautiful and her husband was so happy his garden and crops began to grow and thrive once again. The land signed and the animals returned as before. Echo was happy, she stood beneath the red fruit tree and remembered her time in the forest and that all was now as it should be.
They all lived happily ever after.
I’ve been thinking of angels, I don’t know why. I racked out an old pen and ink picture that I’ll include here as well as a recent one. Maybe I’ll include a few doodles soon too.
This year I’ve ventured into the Pyrenees to where the clouds trawl the ground. I worked my body, hiking, freed my mind and created space for myself out of all that mountainous space. I’ve craved simplicity. Driving back up through the Dordogne, we visited prehistoric caves — Gargas, ‘the cave of hands’ and Cap Blanc, a frieze of reindeer, horses and bison carved into a cliff of limestone. It’s a while since I’ve thought about caves and cave art, but making the visits rekindled my interest. Cap Blanc was so well set up I felt as though I was witnessing a performance from the past. At Gargas, I tried to take photos, but was caught; I pretended I hadn’t understood.
The caves were moving, so long ago….
I’ve been interested in cave and rock painting for as long as I can remember, it’s one of the things that has influenced my painting. I like mysteries. I started sketching outlines, figures with no faces. My ‘buddess’ paintings evolved. They’re not ‘good’ art, but somehow they represent something very primal and important to me. I like to think of them as ‘embryos’, art in an unfinished form like the messages of cave paintings locked in stone forever.
One reason I like cave art is that it’s part of nature. Ana Mendieta must have felt a compulsion to create in nature (see her ‘Silueta series’ and the photo below.) Her work inspires me, body prints and outlines of figures in mud, sand etc. Footprints, traces, clues, the essence of something or someone left behind, a fleeting glimpse that cannot be grasped fully. And so the mystery lingers.
(I have a similar feeling when tracking animals — paw prints, broken branches, hairs caught on barbed wire, rucked up fresh soil, a scuffling of feathers. What does it say? Someone, something was here.)
I woke up this morning thinking about Morphos, those big iridescent butterflies I’ve seen in Costa Rica and Ecuador. Knowing little about them, I did a search and learnt a few facts eg the males patrol stream and forest edges for females and they eat rotting fruit and animal remains, sucking up the juices with their coiled mouthparts. I found the facts quite refreshing and got stuck into reading about British butterflies as well – such as Purple Emperors that drink aphid honeydew up in the tree tops laying their eggs on Goat willow.
As far as nature is concerned, I’ve been out trying to enjoy it and take photographs for a dance project rather than study it. I’ve been inspired by several books that I’ve stumbled on, one of which is David Abram’s ‘The Spell of the Sensuous’.
I discovered what I think is a beautiful excerpt from David’s book while doing a web search. It’s a description of a vision he had while in Bali and it made me want to read the whole book.
David Abram is a notable writer on ecophilosophy and basically the book is about how phonetic language and the written word in the West have helped to sever our relationship with the natural world. He writes beautifully and magically delving into subjects such as ‘Phenomenology’ which I hadn’t come across before. He draws on early Greek script and his and others’ experiences with indigenous, animistic cultures using their stories and language to illustrate how they are still interconnected with the natural world and how severed we in the west are. He suggests that we can rediscover a connection with nature by changing the way we write and use language. Abrams writes in such a way as to reach us on a level below our conscious, rational intellect where we can begin to perceive the natural, non-human world more directly. This is a book well worth reading and rereading.
Here is a photo taken inside a butterfly farm: