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

Thursday, 3 August 2017

A sense of wonder

I love the feeling of wondering. That sort of light-hearted curiosity that happens when the Unknown is present. Just as the eyes twinkle before an adventure, it sets the imagination free. 

Painting  kindles my curiousity and I cannot help but follow the sparks of imagination as they fly through the endless sky of mind. Images and tales are born and some manage to find their way to paper and font.

 Sometimes I paint a little then write a little, then I paint some more. The wonderings and imaginings feed the painting and the painting feeds the story. Round and round it goes. 

Simple questions appear: "Who is this character?" "What is happening here?" "What lies beyond the land in the picture I can see before me?" Mind Scribbles become words until I feel satisfied that I know enough about that picture for that moment but there is still some space left for wondering if I'm ever in need of a little adventure. It's a lovely terrain to be in, full of space and potential.

Perhaps inside out and back to front, I don't know, but that is often the truth of how it all unfolds here in The Old Burrow..

So here is a painting and the fragment of that slow growing fable (Troll Song) that arrived a couple of weeks ago... I invite you to hide in the forest just beyond the painted glade and watch as a patch of story unfolds...

Unn entered the dark glade timidly, The Forester's eyes were closed but he had known she was coming - of course.

"Thirty days in this place" thought Unn nervously. Her skin shivered,  the air between the trees was full the kind of quiet that occurs just before a happening of great magnitude. It felt to her as though the Forest's unknown darkness might just swallow her whole. 

"She surely would leave here a different person to the one who had arrived - if she ever left at all. Something was going to get lost in here and it was probably going to be her." And somehow that was okay.

 She was both frightened and curious but still there was the sense of a small warrior within - and with this she stepped forward onto a low rock and looked up.

The Forester opened his eyes, they moved softly and deeply over Unns face. Such warmth and kindness, unlike anything in her life so far. Wild and rolling eyes were the kind she was used to. Or others covered by a kind of emotional cataract, cloudy and withdrawn. Eleven long years under their gaze but no more. She blinked herself back into the forest.

The gentle man of the forest produced a small and humble branch from somewhere. His movements were so mesmerising that like a master magician it was difficult to be sure of anything the eyes saw. Smooth and effortless gestures that were at once slow and swift. Just like everything that had happened since meeting the Troll it was as if Time was not the master anymore. Just a mere servant employed irregularly for the baking of pies and striking of beautiful clocks, admired but not cherished.

From the end of the branch a pale spider began to drop slowly along a line of invisible silk. Unn swore she could hear its tiny feet moving skillfully along the sticky thread. What she had taken for granted her entire life suddenly revealed itself as the magic it truly was. And then came another sort of magic altogether - a star began to form at the end of the thread. It hummed softly, the forest branches quivered with delight.

"What can you hear?" the Forester asked. His voice so normal, so unexpectedly genuine that it conjured up a deep feeling of trust.

Unn listened to the soft humming of the star as it rippled through the air but there was something much louder, much more obvious, an enormous, vast, penetrating silence.

"I can hear the sound that silence makes." the words left her lips all by themselves. They were new even to her own ears.

The Forester smiled. He sat upon the large boulder as though he had known it since it was a small pebble. As though they had known each other all their lives the boulder effortlessly and lovingly supported him. Wriggling his toes he tickled the rocks surface affectionately before standing tall amongst the night sky. And then, just as a fisherman casually retrieves a fish from his line so he effortlessly picked the star from its silk and popped it into his pocket. 

The spider crawled away into the forest.

Climbing down off the boulder, he reached for Unn's hand and they walked away from the glade, into the trees. The gentle glow of starlight leaked from his blue pocket - just enough to lead the way and not too much to disturb the night.

There was a fondness in the way they moved though the forest. Hands and leaves caressed each other as they walked amongst the branches. Feet fell into an embrace with earth at each step. A feeling of home began to grow inside her and shine gently like starlight from a pocket.
"Now lets see where those demons are hiding" winked the Forester.

* excerpt from Innan Tordid (a 30,000 year old book of wisdom from the Underworld)

Always smiling and rarely speaking the Forester is somehow more than just human. His movements are as effortless as the stars crossing the night sky and he is capable of curious magic if the mood takes him. His heart is kindness itself and occasionally he lets visitors find him.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Fire of Life

Last year I prepared a little wooden book for Spring Fling, a large open studios event we have here in Dumfries and Galloway. In it were the first two chapters of the slow growing tale called 'Troll Song'- some paintings and some sketches as well as a little bit of a commentary about how the story and artwork evolved. And it is still  growing and evolving...

'Troll Song' appears to me to be a human tale set in an Other -World. Winding through Forest and Sky it throws a new perspective on the very common and ever growing human experience of yearning for deep contentment and a feeling of home. I suppose a synopsis might go something like this...

Unn is a young Wayfarer in search of a true home. She is a bridgewalker - one who can travel between worlds. In the Over world the animal kingdom guards her seemingly lifeless body while the wise Troll of the Mountains takes her deep into the Underworld to find her place of true belonging.

Another painting has appeared and I am in love with the orange sky and the quivering branches that dance within it.

The picture shows Unn's first glimpse into a new way of seeing - a gift of sight that few experience.

To see the sketches you can visit the blog post here.

The first draft chapter of the story is here and the second is here

He's really only about 3cm high!

"How amazing the forest looked from up high..."

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Where the winds blow

I finished another piece today.

Quite some years ago now I began this painting. A few unusually carefree brush strokes and experimental scribblings and I could see something good was emerging - and that was it -  I screeched to a halt. 

For fear of ruining the picture that was emerging I lost the ability to move freely without fear and so it lay sitting in a drawer for years until I no longer cared if it worked out or not.
From that space I could paint without worry - my attention gently focused on the painting and the movement of the brush, I even became a little curious about what was growing before my eyes and it was for the first time in quite a while that I have felt relaxed whilst painting.

It was so long ago that I drew this piece that now when I look at it I am left wondering what fortune and bravery really are. In the culture I was brought up in, bravery was definitely linked with a 'go-getter' attitude. A sort of feisty, energetic quality that could bend Life's happenings to its will. But as we all know or all learn sooner or later Life succumbs to no ones will forever and fear and bravery may as well sit on the shelf twiddling their thumbs together for all the use they are. Maybe, sometimes, it is the absence of fear and bravery that allows people to move effortlessly and freely like the wind, and that which seems like Luck blows in through the gaps where fear and bravery once were.

So now I have a painting I am happy with but in all honesty I would change the words if I could...

“The Truth is the only thing you’ll ever run into that has no agenda.”

Adyashanti - Emptiness Dancing

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Deeper, Quieter,

A little extra blog post to make up for my absence in March and April...

Dotted amongst this valley of farms and forestry are a scattering of Fringe dwellers, a congregation of Creatives mixed with a medley of madness as delightful as any of Alice's underground Wonderland creatures.

It seems that art thrives in this environment. Our tiny community in the hills regularly holds beautiful exhibitions and music events. The remoteness somehow seems to add to the magic as travelers' find unexpected beauty and talent within our tiny hidden population in the hills.

 There is an otherworldly quality to this place a special blend of earthly and ethereal, something deeper and quieter, a peace that travels within all things, an underlying sacredness in everything 

I have always been receptive to the beautiful stillness within some religious artworks. The religion itself didn't seem to matter - only the artworks ability to emanate a deep sense of quietness that somehow soothed the space it sat in.

So now, very tentatively, I am beginning to merge my fascination with religious art and combine it with the other things that speak to my heart. In all honesty I have no idea where it will go or if it will touch other people.  I think my main hope might be that the images will communicate some sense of depth and quietness and maybe a sense of reverence for this precious human life and all that it entails. 

A translation of a poem originally by Rainer Maria Rilke

You darkness from which I come,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence out the world,
for the fire makes a circle
for everyone
so that no one sees you anymore.
But darkness holds it all:
the shape and the flame,
the animal and myself,
how it holds them,
all powers, all sight —

and it is possible: its great strength
is breaking into my body.
I have faith in the night

David Whyte

To be happy is to live as the unknown.

An inquiry question from a book called 
The Way of Liberation

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Philosophy of Pottering

Many apologies for having missed the last two months blog posts. Life turned a page and I found myself in an amazing and wonderful new chapter. 

I now share The Old Burrow with a truly beautiful soul.  I feel so blessed to be able to entwine this life with another. There is something about a union between two that creates a third entity with a power all of its own.   

The creativity and wonders that emerge from such a place fill me with such a light and joyful curiosity that it is difficult not to let the mind and the imagination run wild. Ideas are flowing freely, tools are being brandished so you may well see some of our combined creative pieces here in the future. But for now here is a little more of what has been happening at the easel...

Time is a funny thing, the more you try to squeeze into it the less gets done. The to do list grows longer and society continues to condition us to fear all sorts of dreadful consequences if we don't act immediately or at least very soon please! Which, in the end creates more stress and slows everything down and reduces the quality of everything I do. In all honesty I'm tired of it - I've been tired of it for quite some time.

And then I noticed that on the one day a week that I gave myself off (Sunday) I more than occasionally got more done than usual. 

'Pottering about' has kind of an effortless flow to it. It is driven by a contented doing and the results are a peaceful mind and quite often productivity of some kind or other too.

Pottering by its nature is always open to patches of spontaneous loafing. Guilt free lounging around - a kind of quiet contemplation that fuels the next episode of pottering. The two weave beautifully together and in this playful and relaxed mix somehow more gets done.

My only problem was that either side of Sunday were days that had stressful to do lists, emails with urgent requests threatening dire consequences and all other manner of fear led demands via some form of technology.

So one morning I told my Husband ( Oh how lovely it is to be able to say that ), that I was so sick of feeling stressed that I was thinking of re-naming everyday Sunday. And his response was " Yes, let's have eight Sundays a week!"

Happy Sunday!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Wishing trees

Leave people alone in nature long enough and a kind of interaction begins to occur. Things get picked up and put in pockets to take home. Some things get left in special places – maybe a wish is planted somewhere or a small treasure left behind. Some of us may write in the sand, while those of a more rebellious nature may make a carving or two. And while some last longer than others it's the interaction that I love so much.

It may be true that in the faster paced town and city lives  – that I probably am no longer qualified to write about – that people are feeling disconnected from nature. And while that disconnection has probably fast-tracked some of humanities more destructive actions towards the earth on which we live I'm not sure the disconnection is as grave as some fear. From my own perspective I feel that most people given enough time in Nature will begin a re-connection in their own way.

There are of course many cultures and subcultures in existence today that have rituals and practices born out of our innate desire to interact with nature and connect with that un-nameable something that goes by many names.

Not far away from where I live is the Tibetan Buddhist Temple Samye Ling. It is a beautiful place nestled amongst the hills, drawing people from all walks of life and many different countries to take part in their courses and retreats. In the garden there is a tree covered with wishes. It's hard not to feel how lightly the small tree bears its load of a thousand prayers.

And so of course it became a painting and is now a card ....

Monday, 9 January 2017

The Moon in All its Glory

I didn't see it, that huge Super Moon that last visited our skies in 1948. It was obscured from view by Scottish clouds and drizzle. But as it drew closer I was re-writing, tweaking and tailoring an Old Siberian folk tale about a Reindeer maiden and the Moon.

At the surface it is a delightful tale from the Arctic circle about how the moon came to be. Underneath this it is an unusual tale of female strength and the weakness and changeable nature of conditional love. And if you listen a little deeper still, there are also the quiet, grounded qualities of unconditional love. 

I have only just begun sketching ideas for the illustrations and they may well change but here is a little peek into a Wintery Fantasy from The Far North...

Lusa, The Reindeer
And The Moon.

The Moon was not always as it is today.

Once he was a pale faced Prince who sailed the skies as a lost soul. Astral winds swirled in his hair as he roamed amongst the Stars, drifting wherever and whenever he pleased. For all his freedom his heart was lonely and in time he began to look for a companion with whom he could share the skies. 


On Earth, in the Northern Lands, lands that the Sun leaves dark for long cold Winters, the Moon spied an Old Shepherd and his Daughter.

Just as the pale Prince rode the skies, Lusa, her Father and their people roamed the white plains and glistening Forests of the Arctic carrying their homes with them wherever they went. The Shepherds of the clan roamed even further still. In Summer they would travel North with the reindeer to calve and feed on the lush growth and in Winter they would travel South to find shelter from harsh weather and forage for food under soft snow.

The time came when the already old shepherd grew even older and could not make the long journey away from the clan. So on one cold Winter's night – though Winter itself was a long night lasting many months – Lusa set off on the long journey South alone.
Lusa and the herd travelled slowly – walking by torchlight and resting by fireside. Time passed unmarked by dusk or dawn and Lusa sang contentedly as she played her gentle drum.

The Moon flew a little closer – he had heard this music before. Such a beautiful sound – as vast as the sky and as enchanting as starlight. The prince bowed low to the trees to listen closer still. With a joy in his heart he forgot himself and his loneliness in her song.

So mesmerized was he that he unwittingly sank Earthwards with a love laden smile and when the music stopped he awoke to find himself knee-deep in snow.

Scrambling to his feet he promised himself that this was the woman he would make his own. He would take her back to the sky to sail the sea of stars in his beautiful boat and he would never be lonely again.

His lovelorn hunt began. Through the snow-laden forests Lusa’s starlit voice and gentle song guided him to her.

As the Moon grew closer Lusa began to feel uneasy – as any creature does when it feels the hunt coming. But Life gifts both the Hunted and the Hunter...

Lusa beat three strong beats on her drum. Boom Boom Boom.
The resonant sound shook the snow from the trees and the Reindeer stood silent.  

Out from the herd the largest reindeer stepped. In three large elegant strides he changed his skin for man flesh.

Lusa and Taiga, for that was the name of the man with a Reindeer’s soul, bent their heads together. Their breath caressed each others faces before becoming glittering rainbow coloured ice-dust in the air.

“The Moon is coming for you” whispered Taiga.

“ I do not want to live in the sky with a pale faced prince. I am content here with you” breathed Lusa.

“Then we must hide you.” said the gentle voice of the man with reindeer feet.

The moon grew closer still. His light began to shine like a cold sun casting long shadows across the Snow.

Quickly Taiga turned Lusa into a snowdrift and then turned himself back into a reindeer and began snuffling for lichen and moss.

The Moon approached the herd. He stood tall and thin, his round face hungry and expectant.

“Where is your shepherdess?” he crooned.
 But the herd ignored him and just kept on foraging.

He walked around the herd this way and that. Bending low and crooked he looked for trails of footprints in the snow, but there were none.

And so the Moon flew back up into the skies to see from above where Lusa might be – but he saw nothing.

The sky darkened to an inky blue as the moon sailed away. Taiga became a man once more and returned Lusa to her body.

“ He will come again” Taiga whispered gently. “Run to the Yaranga and I will hide you there.”

So Lusa ran to the Yaranga and closed the flap. Once inside, Taiga transformed Lusa into a small oil lamp and returned himself to the form of a reindeer. 


Lusa waited, listening to the steady breathing of the herd outside in the otherwise silent forest.

The Prince spied Lusa’s soft warm light as it glowed amongst the trees. Under cloud cover he slyly lowered himself to Earth. Striding determinedly through the snowdrifts he cut a straight track to the Yaranga and threw back the entrance flap. At the sight of the empty space his heart sank and he began a desperate search. Under rugs, in satchels and under coats but Lusa was in none of those places.

“ Where are you?” he crooned. He leaped outside into the cold air. Circling the Yaranga and then the trees, he looked high and low for her.  Running through the forest calling sweetly and playfully the Pale Prince tried to lure her from her hiding place.  Lusa remained a quiet amber light and said nothing.

When he was a way into the forest Taiga stomped his hoof in the snow and Lusa became a woman once more. She peeked out from the entrance flap.

“I’m here, can’t you see me?” she teased.

The Moon Prince beamed and ran to the Yaranga and as he neared the entrance Taiga stomped his hoof yet again.

The moon hurtled through the flap but there was nothing. He frantically checked everywhere. He checked coat pockets and tiny boxes but Lusa was nowhere to be seen.

The Prince huffed and puffed as he stomped out of the tent. His anger rising, he began recklessly searching the herd and the sleigh tossing Lusa’s meagre possessions carelessly into the snow as he went.

Taiga stomped his hoof again. Lusa peeked out from behind the entrance flap .

“ What’s wrong with you? I’m over here” she giggled.

The Moon burst into the Yaranga again and again Lusa was nowhere to be seen.

In this way Taiga and Lusa kept the pale Prince running. Deep into the forest and back to the Yaranga. Over and over until he was utterly exhausted. When they could see that he was weak Taiga stomped his hoof once more. This time Lusa faced the Moon as herself. This time her strength was far greater than his and she pushed him to the ground and bound his legs and arms tightly.

She stood over him. “I am a free spirit,” she said calmly “I do not wish to be captured or owned by anyone. Nor do I wish to leave my home.” She left him shivering in the snow shocked, chastised and cold.

The Moon pleaded with her, “Please, I will freeze to death out here in the snow. Please take me into the Yaranga and let me warm myself and then I will return to the skies and never hunt you again.

Lusa pulled the Prince inside and wrapped blankets around him. She could not bear to see any being suffer but she was no fool.

“I don’t believe you.  You may sail back to the sky but when you are strong again you will return.”

But the moon promised the kind of promise that has eyes of no doubt and he said

“If you set me free I will share my light with your people.”

So Lusa carried the now warm but still weak Moon back to his vessel and watched him sail his beautiful boat up into the sea of stars.

And there he still shines – our pale faced prince of the skies that marks our months and steers our tides and sheds light upon the Northern lands in their season of darkness.  To this day, out of love and respect for all the free spirited people, he leaves a small beam of moonlight twinkling in their eyes.