Here be Midnight

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Quiet Wintering

As a very special mid-Winter solstice approaches and people plan their celebrations for Christmas, a new year and the return of longer daylight hours, I find myself wishing for more darkness. 

I love the quiet of the long nights, an open fire and a story or two. There is an air of peace and stillness in these evenings that the summer months cannot conjure in the same way. 
The day's Winter light is so beautifully soft and gentle that those Autumn leaves, still reluctant to fall ground-wards, seem to glow from within. Like Nature's own fairy lights, they seemingly rest in mid-air.
In this month I delight in filling my home with greenery. The Holly and the Ivy,  traditionally a symbol of Summer life in the darkness, for me, are just an excuse to blur the edges between  the inside and outside, inviting the forest into my home, helping to satiate a compulsion to rest amongst wood, green and earth. 
Our modern Christmas, if we are not careful, fills this time of peace and quiet into a mad rush of stressful spending and dutiful visits, as though we had no other time in the year to show our love and appreciation. 
The painting below betrays my feelings towards this untimely hustle and bustle. Like a bear forced to come out of hibernation I am prone to grumpiness, but it is difficult to ignore Nature's fine  vessel in which we travel through the seasons and the beauty that surrounds us.

A fine vessel filled with the Festive Spirit

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Tale end of Time

The last six months have hurtled passed at the break-neck speed of a snail with an injured, er...foot?
A complete contradiction of course but in its own way true. Intensity of circumstance has its own way of bending time - making the hours seem to last for weeks and the weeks fly past in an hour. It is a deafening cacophony of busyness if we cannot retreat into the stillness behind the chaos and just watch as the stories unfold.  But watching can lead to wondering and wondering leads to wistfulness and before long I am duelling with Time and Expectation.  

 Terri Windling's blog has always been for me a source of inspiration and comfort, amongst it I found a quote from Martin Shaw's lightning tree..

"All storytellers know that two types of time exist: one is the twenty-four hours, the school run, the bill-paying, forever catching-up time of our everyday world; but behind that looms the energy of mythic time, the great cycles that pulse from generation to generation. These great wheels infuse the everyday with nourishment, 'eternity in a grain of sand.' The philosopher Plotinus suggested that while the body favors a straight line, the soul hankers for the circle.
"This mythic, circular time (which is really no kind of time at all) laughs at the straight line and the alarm clock. Without it -- even with all the riches of the world -- we can enter the arena of the meaningless. As markets collapse and the world heats up, we would do well to see Coyote's claws opening holes between the two. We live in an era of tremendous possibility."                                  

Martin Shaw

The doorways to this circular time lie in many places, though for me the most direct route is when I'm in nature or when I'm creating a piece of art....

Original size 4 1/2" x 11"

We always have all we need for the journey, The Universe would not have it any other way.

" As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears."


Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Wayfarers' Wait....

Within a journey there is always a point of waiting, a space where little or nothing seems to happen.  Much the same as the moment in time when a pendulum is neither swinging up nor swinging down, or the pause between ebb and flow of waves on the shoreline.  Akin to a blank page between chapters, they are Nature's rests that help us appreciate her rhythm. 
This blog has been post-less for a little while now, but the tide has turned, news things are afoot and The Old Burrow has more tales and artwork within its cosy walls....

The Wayfarers' Wait
Original size 4" x 7 1/2"

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Peculiarities Welcome

An early morning doodle and ponder.........

The human complexion is full of beautiful quirks and traits; each one marks us as unique. But would it not be fun to share them, borrow them, exchange them? To walk in another's shoes truly in earnest; in fun. To hold less tightly to our idiosyncrasies, especially those we disfavour. To play with them and recognise them as beautiful garments that we will one day shed. If we trade peculiarities, you and I, would we not find our underneaths are all the same.

In a cobbled street in my imagination there is a pleasantly musty smelling shop that trades in Peculiarities.
Its dust covered shelves are laden with a jumble of old wooden boxes. Hand written labels mark the contents within: 'Twitching eyes', 'Tangled beards', 'A fondness for cardigans with pockets'. 'A fanatical collector', 'an Exotic-weed detestor', 'a tendency toward madness' or 'pious prayer'. Upstairs and down a myriad of mysterious surprises.  Wall to wall idiosyncrasies.  Eccentric treasures wrapped and packaged.  Traits of all shapes and sizes.  A little temple celebrating human habit and fancy. 

Behind the counter sits a wizened creature of Goblin proportions - beguiling and smiling he points to a sign on the wall;

The Old Burrow will be opening up an Etsy shop soon.........

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Telling Tales

As old as the sea and as universal as the stars.
We tell fairy stories to cast out demons
And plunge into the subconscious realms of our nights
We tell them, these tall tales and lies
In order to better see the light
And we tell them to map out the terrain
Of all that is hidden and unknown
So that in our waking hours
We might continue to dream

This beautiful piece of writing, I saw painted on an ageing wall in the historic Mottisfont AbbeyIt was authorless and unattributed.  That such beauty should remain anonymous only amplifies its wonderfulness and my gratitude.
True story telling is an art that if done well can carry us into to a timeless space, where transcendence of the logical mind is possible. There are those who believe that stories speak to our subconscious through archetypes and symbols. The Mythic Imagination Institute believes so intensely in the power of stories that their mission is "... to reunite people to the accumulated wisdom of humankind that lives in stories and mythology..."
For my own part I only know the mesmerising beauty of being held and carried by the voice of the storyteller to wonderous places that are at once fantastic and familiar, healing and whole-ing.

Here is a link to Education Scotland where they have some wonderful story telling videos. This first little one is told by David Campbell....... ( Click on the picture below to listen to the story)

A tale which holdeth children from play and old men from the chimney corner.
Sir Philip Sidney

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Hatfield Living Crafts Festival, Roll Up Roll Up Prints For Sale

At last the scans have been done, the proofs approved and the eagerly awaited prints have arrived by special delivery.  All just in time to go to the framers for mounting and wrapping before the big event next week. It will be my first time at the Hatfield Living Crafts Fair and its all very exciting.
 I'm dusting off my tent and loading myself up with prints, sleeping bag and a variety of teas (absolutely essential) for a new adventure into what I feel will be an inspiring four days. Literally hundreds of artists and craftspeople gathered in one space can create a beautiful atmosphere. So if you are in the area, come in and see what we are up to. 
I am there assisting Cliff Wright with his wonderful 'Nature of Seeing' workshops, they are always a joy to be involved in. Children and adults are welcomed alike as are those with no drawing experience and those with many years of drawing behind them. Inevitably all leave feeling not only more confident in their creative ability but also enriched having accessed something deeper in themselves. The process is truly remarkable.
In the near future, I will begin teaching classes ( individuals and groups ) in and around Hampshire where I live. Using a combination of Cliff's methods and more traditional techniques I hope to share techniques that can guide you to enhanced seeing, effortless drawing and true creativity. A process that allows the drawings to draw themselves. 

Below are some of the pictures that are now available as limited edition prints. The prints are of the highest quality. ART4SITE are a Fine Art Guild registered printer in Kent and their workmanship is unsurpassed.  Michael has gained a well deserved reputation for excellence. 
The prints are in limited editions runs of only 125. Prices are £45 each, beautifully mounted and wrapped plus postage. If you would like to own one you can drop me a line at or leave a message on the blog. Or if you're coming to the Hatfield Living Crafts Fair you can drop by and pick one up.

Midnight magic

The Story Keepers

Nearly Knight Time

A Nose For Trouble

The Old Burrow

Troll Song

Wait For Me!

Custodian of the Spectacles

Baba Yaga

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Fortune Favours The Brave

I started this painting along time ago when I was feeling a lot more courageous than I do today. But then true bravery is mastered when one can continue to face ones fears without giving way to the fear itself.
Big talk for a small and quivering person. Life is challenging at the moment and I feel that it is this way for many of us. All around me personal battles are being fought in precarious circumstances. 
On days like these I love to turn to Terri Windling's Drawing Board Blog. Her magical words and wise quotations are soul food.  She is taking a small break for while so I have gone back through her posts to find this beautiful quote;

"So don't be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don't know what work they are accomplishing within you?" - R. M. Rilke (from Letters to a Young Poet)

Below is a colour experiment for the larger work to be completed at a later date. I like the textures appearing in the sky and the sea but the bold coloured clothes are not what I will choose for the final piece. 
The two creatures are sailing on stormy seas in a small vessel but I feel sure that they will make it to their destination. The ships guardian has seen something on the horizon that has made him smile. May we all have such a vessel to take us home.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Ex Libris

A few weeks ago I had a wonderful day visiting Bateman's,  Rudyard Kipling's home and sanctuary in East Sussex. I am almost embarrassed to say how very much at home I felt amidst such overt affluence. There is something about the smell of old buildings such as this, a comforting mustiness that cannot be contrived. The wooden paneling, antique furniture and beautiful textiles ooze handmade craftsmanship, a sense that everything has been slowly, lovingly and patiently coaxed into being. The walls are adorned with beautiful art, bookshelves are filled with tall tales and glass cases and mantles pieces display exquisite curios from the east. It was a magical combination that within minutes lulled me into a sense of peace and tranquility that coloured the rest of my day. I could almost feel serenity take it's place on my face as I ambled around the rooms, holding back the small but noticeable urge to kick my shoes off and slump into an aged chair to listen to the gramophone.

Amongst the many wonders there, and there are many, a couple of  small pieces of rectangular paper took my fancy.  John Lockwood Kipling designed for his children personalised bookplates. 

I have always loved bookplates.  Beautifully decorated front with a deliciously tasty gummed back.  As a child I had a small selection of them given to me as gifts. The process of matching the right book with the right ex libris plate was one I took very seriously.  I would conscientiously make my choice, then with the same attention that I would give my last chocolate easter egg, I would lick the sweet glue and place it on the page. But I could never bring myself to use them all up,  saving the last few for a very special book. As a result I still have the last few even now.

Below is a little bookplate design that came out of my pen one evening. It requires a little photoshopping, something I have never done before.  There are a few dots in places where I would rather they weren't, due to a change of mind as to the technique I was going to use. I feel sure this is just the beginning of many bookplates and I love the idea of doing personalised bookplates for people. In an age of kindle and such electronic devices books are becoming all the more treasured and respected. There are many that have pledged to read the printed word. I am currently looking into the cost of printing these and so they may well be available for purchase in the near future. Size available will be 10 x 7 cm. Commissions for personalised bookplates are welcome, please drop me a line at .

original size 80mm x 105mm

Friday, 23 March 2012

Bristles and Whiskers

Another busy week leaves me less time to paint than I would like. My days are broken into so many chores that all that is left are scraps of time, ragged moments, too small for me to settle and paint. Sketch books are great for the snippets of time in between the 'must do's' and 'should do's'. Or those patches of waiting where none of the do's can be done and time just ambles along regardless of my impatience.
The quickest sketches I draw take only seconds to complete. I will often do some during a life class or a portrait class if I have finished my 'proper' piece and have time to spare. I love to capture my fellow artists whilst they are concentrating on their work. There is something mesmerising about their intense focus that renders them almost unaware of their surroundings.  I always try to keep my gaze soft, so as not to attract attention to myself but sometimes I'm not sure that it's necessary.

Here are some quickies from this weeks class;

These sketches take probably no more than 30 seconds, if that.  The eyes explore the subject and the hand responds via pencil on paper without thought or judgement. There is something that happens to the line in these brief drawings, where response to the subject is uninhibited by mind. It is more expressive. A squiggle that shouldn't describe an eye does exactly that. It never ceases to fascinate me when it happens.

My hand and eyes seem to have a memory of their own. In the days after my classes, sometimes my sketches reflect the characteristics that I have seen earlier in the week, all be it exaggerated by an over active imagination. Below is a little sketch from today, drawn whilst sitting in the sunshine amidst birdsong, tulips and furry companions.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Life's Curly Tale

My life's curly tale has a kink in it. It is swollen and sore and throbbing. Some would say I have a 'nose' for adventure, others a 'nose' for trouble. I am known to take huge leaps of faith and frighten the death out of myself and everyone around me. Luckily I am also known for landing on my feet. But the mid-air terrors are always just that, terrifying. In these difficult times it is easy to become consumed with fear and sadness so I try to remain aware of each passing moment which never fails to show me that there is still happiness  amongst it all. 

An afternoon stroll with my daughter, her beloved camera and a hefty dose of silliness caught such a moment. She has created a stop-motion portrait, what a lovely idea. 

What magical medicine laughter is...

Friday, 9 March 2012

Pondering the Proboscis

Lately I have begun to wonder why I have a tendency to draw characters with big noses.  If I put pencil to paper, to draw a face, 8 times out of 10 it will end up with an abnormally large and interestingly shaped honker. My inner psychoanalyst said 'there must be something in this' and so I turned to Guru Google. 
A small amount of googling threw up predictable results; Freud thinks it has something to do with sex, hmmm, no surprises there. Some people suggest it is a symbol of curiosity and inquisitiveness, hence the saying 'keep your nose out of this'.  Still others suggest it is the seat of the sixth sense, a symbol of energy, intuitive wisdom and instinctive knowledge, 'The nose knows' or ' A nose for a bargain'.
In Edmund Rostands Cyranno de Bergerac, Cyranno asserts that "A great nose is the banner of a great man, a generous heart, a towering spirit, an expansive soul - such as I unmistakably am..."
Chinese physiognomy, (Face reading), uses the shape and size of the nose to predict character and fortune.

So I took all this away with me and deliberated and cogitated... 

To me big noses are interesting and funny. I often associate them with old age and kindness; intuition and wisdom, though not always. It's hard to ignore the fact that a lot of 'baddies', whether it be the film or book variety, have a hooked and bony nose. These boney protrusions, accentuated by some large and 'V' shaped eyebrows enhance their sense of menace. However, the most predominant feeling I get when I see someone with a sizeable and characterful nose is that they will have more and better stories to tell. As though somehow the shape of their nose has given them a privileged pass to a life of greater adventure than those people with smaller, more ordinary noses. Every bump, nook and hook that passes me in the street is like a beautiful mountain peak, far off in that distant land called other people's lives. Each one full of secret trails, twisting and turning passed spectacular views, elusive wild creatures and deep dark ravines.   I know it's not rational- not even close- but that's how it is.

A Peak at the Cuillins

The little painting below is definitely 'nose' oriented.



A Nose For Trouble.

Another brave pathfinder, she mused scornfully.
He has all the implements he needs to survive strapped to his belt, now they are utterly useless. Why do they come here? Why do they even bother? Fortnights and moonlights they spend drifting amongst the trees, hoping for sign or footprint of the Maker. They do not fathom that he leaves no trace for the sceptic, only messages for the faithful. Should I just let him go?
The Forest Imp felt momentary shame at her heartlessness, before she swelled with compassion. Clutching the young explorer's wrists with strength remarkable for her size, she hauled him to safety as she had done for all who came before him.
"Stay at home," she hissed, "you will learn more that way".

Original size 150mm x 130mm