Here be Midnight

Sunday, 7 April 2019

A Cloak of Velvet Darkness

I don't honestly know why I keep painting stars, but they appear in my drawings and paintings just as effortlessly as my dog appears by my side, wherever I walk, or sit.

It's a quiet appreciation. One that I wear next to my skin, usually covered up by the thick garments of everyday activities and conversations.

I have half-heartedly looked into the meaning and symbolism of stars but these days I have less enthusiasm for the type of brain bending research and analysis of which I will more than likely never be certain.

More absurdly is the fact that I rarely see them. When the stars are shining in their cloak of velvet darkness I'm very often sitting by the fire sipping chai and watching something nostalgic and spacious on the telly.

But I know they are there, I never forget. Shining homecoming jewels that decorate the canopy above our tiny smoking chimney-pot in the woods. They remind me of my smallness amidst the magic of the universe and there is something about feeling small in Natures miraculous vastness that leads me to feel whole and centred.

So maybe, on reflection, I do know why I paint stars so often and why I like the characters to hold their soft gentle light in their hands - little portraits of wisdom and contentment, magic in the mundane, the extraordinary in the ordinary.

I'm fairly sure this is yet another illustration for the slow growing tale 'Troll Song'. In this chapter Unn has grown a little and has voyaged across the seas to foreign shores in search of the wise folk who dwell in woods in may places across the Underworld. She is becoming fearless and content in her homeless wanderings and the stars who have watched her journey across both worlds cannot help but want to be near her...

'Starlight danced in her hair as day settled into night. Her heart ached with both beauty and sadness."Show me" he said. And so she did ...'

A chessboard floor - inspired by Alice through the looking glass

Oh starlight,
What is it that binds you to my eyes?
That makes me remember what I am
And forget all Otherness

My heart flickers as softly
as a well settled home-fire
And I glow from deep within my being.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Sidetracked by a Bear and a Red Flower from the Universal Imaginarium

Creativity moves sideways, it is by its very nature almost always unexpected as the mind gives way to that special place that allows things to flow without reason or judgement. I guess that's why we love it so much. Time out from that mind of restricted being and hey presto, the world is full of magic again. From this space every creation in this Universal Imaginarium is wonderous in its own right and joy returns, and from my perspective sanity too.

Last blog post I mentioned my having to get to grips with my pencil again...literally a new grip. When one finger refuses to play ball, well I have nine others to use. Not easy but possible. So I did start the painting and it is, for now, going reasonably well. But, because it is slower than usual, creativity exploded in another direction and so little sketches appeared and then a little paint. And, so I told myself, it's only a little one - 10cm x 10cm - and gave in.

In truth it's always been this way, two or three pictures going at once, two or three books. The creative juices nibbling away at blank paper as and when it feels to do so.

So here is the Bear and the red flower that drew me into the woods again.

 I'm not sure what it is called yet - the amount of puns available to play with are endless. The first to arrive was 'Bear my Soul', then there was 'Bear with me' and courtesy of my daughter 'Bearer of Good News'.

A little edit -  It's decided - I found the poem I wrote at the time it was painted...

Bear my Soul

In all the world
I love our solitude the best
the deep warm dark
of this long forgotten
brings my heart to its resting place
 and you bear
and all the world
'is' my soul.

Oh, and just a little sneak peek at the bigger one still in progress...

Friday, 18 January 2019

The Story Keepers Tent

I love the idea of stories being held safely somewhere, held back for their right time to be spoken or read or listened to. There is such a sense of a journey within a story for me, I guess that it is no great leap to feel that there must be a certain readiness to embark on a particular journey - in spirit if not in practical terms.

Many years ago I painted this picture called 'The Story Keepers' ...

... and now, in this slow time where I cannot paint as much as I'd like, I have returned to writing and the role of the Story Keeper has deepened and widened.

Some of you may remember the slowly forming tale which for now is called Troll song. Many chapters on now, the Story Keeper has made his appearance. His character has only just begun to form but already I can appreciate his guardianship of story and the difference between him and a storyteller. He is an overseer of story, a facilitator of journeys, an adept traveller to other realms. He is the link between people and the stories and story tellers they need, I guess you could say he's a kind of medicine man of Story.

He no longer has a balloon shaped dress, he is more the beard and cloak kind of character now and I am looking forward to getting to know him better.

In his possession is a small tent which I think hold some of his belongings, and, though I'm not quite sure what they might be I'm fairly certain that they will not be ordinary. 

There is still quite some pain in my body that prevents me from drawing as much as I'd like, my drawing hand has lost all its cartilage in my usual drawing fingers so I am having to learn to adjust my grip but I remain hopeful and positive that things will work out as they are meant to.

So here is a sketch of the Story Keeper's tent and some little details form the work in progress that I hope will become a painting before long...

" You must give birth to your images
They are the future waiting to be born.
Fear not the strangeness you feel.
The future must enter you long before it happens.
Just wait for the birth, for the hour of new clarity."

Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, 29 October 2018

Harsh Winters, Retreats and the Exploration of Silence

It's been a long time since my last blog post. And, for those kind souls who read this blog regularly I am truly apologetic for vanishing without explanation.

Life has its seasons I guess and sometimes a very harsh Winter comes our way. It forces a kind of hibernation, a withdrawal from our normal lives. It can be a very testing time - providing little in the way of nourishment and using up all your reserves. Survival depends on something beyond our control and a kind of surrender begins to develop.

I feel that it's possible that good things can come from that which at first glance might appear bad.  Watching the people around me, there are those that have emerged from tough times with a new depth, their eyes shining and their hearts warm and open.  They are so inspiring.

During this time I have taken the opportunity to participate in some retreats and explore the Silence of being and in a way I am grateful for the gifts cloaked by misfortune. There are strange paradoxes that occur within Silence that can transform great pain into great joy, it isn't easy at all and I feel ill-equipped to explain it any further. There are small sentences that come out of me that feel right and then there are large monologues that come out of me that miss the mark entirely - So amongst most people I know I have been quite quiet of late.

Silence, for me, has become more than just the mere absence of sound - it is a sort of felt sense of something quite serene and joyful, beautiful and uncomplicated that is always under the everythingness that we see, feel and experience.

Only yesterday I came across some powerful words from Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi - One line from his poem, an Ocean without shore...

 I courted a Secret which existence did not alter; for it was asked of me:
' Has thought enchanted you?'

Artwork has been happening but I guess it is only recently that I have felt up to sharing. This one is one of my favourites so far. It is a little picture that emerged after a retreat early this year. When I look at it I can feel  a gentle Silence, I hope that others will sense it too... It's not completely finished yet but I'm nearly there...

The initial sketch came on a bright sunny day. It always amuses me how often stars appear in my work.

And Silence swam as starlight between the trees

Monday, 27 November 2017

Timeless Connections

It sometimes appears to me that those with the simplest lives are the most beautiful. Of course I mean beauty as a quality that can be acquired through our deepest openness and surrender to life. A beauty that can be felt and heard as well as seen. The kind of beauty that fills the heart and makes everything around it seem beautiful also.

My husband has a natural facility with photography. He affectionately calls it light writing but he captures so much more. 

Like all artwork, photography captures a little of the subject and little of the artist and that indescribable third something that arises between the two. 

Here are some of his beautiful photographs and his explanation of his latest exhibition which will continue to be on show until the end of December at The Eskdalemuir Hub in Dumfries and Galloway.


Through over three decades of photography and many thousands of
images taken I have begun to see very clearly that occasionally some
photos belong to the realm of the ‘Timeless’.

India has always felt like home to me. It is a place full of amazing souls.There the veil of Western anxiety seems to be nonexistent and in its place is an effortless openness. 
When you can tune in with that, a doorway opens through which you have an opportunity to make a ‘Timeless Connection’.
For me this is a simple feeling of knowing that is hard to describe. A feeling of having ‘been here before’, a warm ease, a truth, an exhalation. A sense of no separateness. 

Many of the photos you see here are taken on early morning walks before the temperature rises. Stall holders are setting up their shops, people are taking baths in rivers and doing puja. Rickshaws are eager for business and beggars sit full of faith on their roadside squares of cardboard. So much for the senses to take in, the vibration of spirituality on every corner.

I feel at ease amongst the realness of these people who wear no masks, I see contentedness in these souls which somehow makes me feel content too. We might have a chai together or a laugh but always I feel we have added value to each others lives.

I  feel very fortunate to have met and connected with some amazing souls on my journeys. It is my hope that you will make a connection too.. 


Monday, 16 October 2017

Pattern, Rhythm and Harmony

A little sneak peek into the latest project. It is part of  an innovative plan by a lady who lives in Edinburgh and I will fill you in when the time is right.

But for now here is a little sneak preview of some designs...

I have always loved pattern and ornament and am so happy to be able to turn my paint brush in that direction. I love the rhythm and harmony of pattern and repetition, like a mantra for the eyes and an invitation to slip away from thought into imagination or silence. 

The paintings I have done are destined to be transferred onto a 3 dimensional dome with a magical purpose. There is the possibility of mixing and matching designs. 

 A Hare's Tale

A Bear's Tale

The Speaking and Listening Wreath

A Ravens Tale

A Little Colour

A Sirin's Tale


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Monsters in the dark

Shadows amongst tree trunks, groaning like a low wind. Many of the paintings that come out of me take place in a dark forest. I find comfort there - powerlessness amongst Nature's greater force gives me back my smallness and sets me free. The paradoxical result of which is great strength, willingness to stand alone and yet a feeling of being undivided.

Many Folk-tales take place in dark woods. Some schools of Psychology and Shamanism have a perspective that says that the dark forest is a place where our demons hang out, a place where we are afraid to visit but where we may go and face them if we have courage. I'm not sure courage is required - but a leap of faith is necessary.

Faith is an amazing experience - I'm not talking about religious faith or a faith in anything in particular. More that faith is an arising of a sense of comfort that when faced with anything external feels absolutely unthreatened for no particular reason. An undeniable underlying feeling of peace.

And yet sometimes I quiver and feel overwhelmed with fear for these shadows. 

One of my favourite teachers talks briefly about faith and belief here ...

I found myself sketching these demons for the next part of 'Troll Song'. A chapter of the book in which Unn, under the guidance of the Forester, has the chance to face her demons. A right of passage we must all pass through to some degree if we are to live or die peacefully. ( for those who are new to this blog you can find a little more of Troll Song here)

The demons themselves didn't come out anywhere near as scary as I had in intended but I think they are in keeping with the rest of the book in so far as it has grown, all be it very slowly.

The chapter is not written but it may go a little along the lines of this...

The Forester crouched low before Unn so that his eyes could meet hers. His gentle voice spoke weighty words.

 "There will be forked tongues flickering in the darkness Unn, the sound of skin tasting the air. Their sole intent is to stir up deep fear from within you. But, do not misjudge them Unn,  Demons are beyond the realm of providing satisfaction for human desires in the ordinary way. They mirror our fears and provide an opportunity to realise who we are without them."

"You will be afraid Unn, you will meet great fear but, it is also just possible that great courage and peace will arise within you for no reason whatsoever and then you will be grateful for the monsters in your life."

The Foresters hands pressed into the earth as he leveraged himself to standing. Stroking Unn's hair and saying nothing more he took two giant strides and was gone from the forest clearing, leaving Unn alone in the nearly-dark-light.

Shadows began to groan and the Demons moistened their tongues in readiness for a feast of fear.

Feast of Fear