Friday, August 31, 2018

Hounds and trees and the Wolf Bride.

A quick pop-in post on latest bits and bobs.  Been doing some more scribbling and writing.  I'm at the stage now where I need to find a space where I can actually fool about with my vague set ideas to see if they actually will look/work like they do in my head (and as this is almost always a 'No', or at best a 'Not exactly', it's an important step).  I'm also beginning to practice running through the story and adding in some movement/mime and possibly some other more 'theatre-y' bits.  Nothing too complicated, I don't want it to become a piece of theatre and no longer an act of storytelling, but a few little things to enhance the experience would be nice.  Especially things that are simple, easy, and do not require a lot of complicated tech, or other people, because I would like this to become something that can travel without too much difficulty.

Firstly though, and most importantly, here's a Fergus photo.  As it's been winter here, and we only have a little fire, my poor boy does something feel the cold.  It's quite amazing how small he can make himself when he curls up.  I'm not even sure which bit is which in this photo, but he's got his blankie on, so he's happy!

Pics of a tree.  Because trees are cool and wonderful, and this is an especially cool and wonderful tree.  I think it's an old fig tree.  I just loved the structure of it, the gorgeous intertwining branches.  It looks like something out of Fangorn.  I might try and draw it, when I'm feeling particularly patient.

New scribbles in my "Wolf Bride' exhibition journal, and some more simple experiments with light and paper cutouts.  Still not sure if I will use this idea or not, perhaps it's just adding unnecessary fancy stuff in that only complicates...I will keep playing for bit longer and see.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

A different 'Beauty'! The Wolf Bride...and Other Tales...Tails?!

I've been busy scribbling, drawing, writing...and painting too.  'Brave New Works' happens on the first weekend of November, and I'm in for the extended, deeper, richer version of 'The Wolf Bride', and decided that while I was at it, I might sneak in some other fairytale bits and bobs, and call it 'The Wolf Bride and Other Tales.'  I've also been experimenting with set/installation ideas, and refining what/how I want to perform this time.  Definitely not stuck in a chair, I want to be up and moving, though I'll have to sit down for the songs.  So I'll need to 'choreograph' movements and mime, and work out how to move from 'singer in chair' to 'actor on stage' fluidly and gracefully!  I recently had the great good fortune to be invited to join a wonderful bunch of creative local women, with arts practices eclectic and wide ranging, in a week long workshop with award winning dancer and choreographer, Clare Dyson.  What a brilliant time we had, with serious play, improvising and nutting out performance ideas around the notion of 'Object as Metaphor'.  And what a joy to spend a whole week with my head in that creative place.  So I've got ideas brewing!  And in the meantime, new paintings!

'Sleeping Beauty' is emerging.

She was going to have bare feet, but then I decided I needed some more red in there 
(and I'm not so great at toes!)

She's a very flexible 'Sleeping Beauty'!  I'm really pleased with the climbing rose twisting out of her hair, creating the thorns that envelope the castle.

I decided it was high time Oberon got his Titania back, as I sold the first one.  I also decided it was high time he stopped looking at younger women, and had a mature Titania more suited to his own age!  
Base drawing (found a photo of a lovely older woman on the web for reference, then changed it around a bit, but it always ends up evolving and morphing in the creation anyway).

Base drawing completed, graphite on canvas.

Acrylic over-painting, face almost complete.

Almost done, bit more detail to do on her hair.

Titania (II) complete.  I don't think she's going to take any nonsense from Oberon!

My Wolf is still speaking, new poems still coming.  I'm not sure how/if I'm going to incorporate these into the performance in November, it may be better to leave them as something the audience can read independently of the performance, in hand lettered poems on the walls, or little books of wolf poems for sale, perhaps.  Here's a new one:

In soft black earth
her heel's imprint,
a fallen shard of sky
in bright spring rain.

One paw on either side
I stoop to drink
the white clouds drifting
in her wake.

I think I will also have some of my little 'Snow White to the Woodsman' booklets in the exhibition, so the next painting might be Snow White.  But I still have lots of 'Wolf Bride' things to do, including one more big painting, a possible new song, and extended narrative, so we'll see.  I shall be busy!

Please remember that everything on this blog is © Christina Cairns, unless otherwise credited.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Post Fables...

As in 'after', not that I'm posting fables, on walls or through the mail.  Though I did receive a small marvel, a heartbreakingly beautiful treasure through the mail this morning.  This.

I've been a Karine Polwart fan for a while, due to Terri Windling, who has opened my ears to many marvellous singers and musicians through her regular 'Tunes for a Monday Morning' posts.  A recent Monday post featured Karine, and information about her one-woman music/theatre/storytelling show Wind Resistance, and the subsequent CD/Book package.  I found a couple of Youtube snippets, and fell in love with the whole idea, so I treated myself.  It arrived this morning, and what a beautiful, heart-rending thing it is too.

I've been thinking on the 'next project' (apart from the visual The Wolf Bride that I'm currently working on), and wondering about the possibility of doing something more personal, more local, still with stories and myth and folklore, because I can't let that go, but something more grounded in the 'here' of my life.  But as ever, I wonder if I'm brave enough.  My songs and performance work always, I suppose, have an element of the autobiographical, because how can they not?  But it's not really about me, it's the old stories, reimagined and universal, more the macro view than the micro view.  I'm always hiding behind a mask, so to speak.

So I wonder, have I got a story that's interesting enough, and am I brave enough to tell it without the mask to hide behind?  I don't know, and I don't know how to go about it.  But hearing/seeing Karine's beautiful work, and the marvellous way she has seamlessly created this organic and fluid piece, sliding effortlessly between personal story, local history (recent and ancient), scientific observation, political commentary and more, has inspired me to at least think seriously about giving it a go.  It will probably be a long time coming, and I don't know what shape it might take, but I think I might try.  If nothing else, I might create a body of work that I can leave to my daughters, and granddaughters, that will tell them who I was.  And maybe I might find out along the way too.

*            *            *

But, leaving that aside for now.  Fables went well, and I discovered some useful things that will improve (I hope) future work.  I had lovely, and very appreciative audiences, and again was asked, "will there be a cd?" more than once, so I suppose I'd better seriously plan how to go about that.  I was terribly nervous the first morning (and first show in the venue at 10am is not the best for me, I'm better a bit later in the day), but I remembered everything, didn't falter or stop or lose where I was up to.  So I know when I know it, and I know I can do it, even if I'm not feeling relaxed and in control.  A very useful thing to know!  The second show was much better, even with a couple of minor line 'fluffs' which I recovered easily from because I knew it well enough the find my way back.  Performing when you're relaxed enough to enjoy it, and not stress about minor mistakes, is a beautiful thing.  I like that feeling.  I should perform more!  And I definitely sang better on the second day.

An interesting thing that I discovered, is that I think I prefer performing a single story narrative, like The Wolf Bride, to a series of tales like Fables.  This was echoed by something a friend who came said, that she'd just relax into one story, only to be dragged reluctantly out and into another.  I carefully planned my 'segues' to avoid obvious ends and beginnings, to hopefully blend one story into another and avoid any uncomfortable jolts or shifts between them.  But even so, each was only a snippet of a tale (I must have cut at least half of my original script to get it down to 50mins), and there was so much detail and richness that I had to leave out.  And so, subsequently, I was not as 'attached' to this show as to The Wolf Bride.  I know this was also due to the fact that I'd been working on (and living with) The Wolf Bride for several years, and it was on a theme that I'm personally quite attached to (and I've had some more insight into what attracts me to it, but that's for another post), but with 50mins with one story, you can really get 'into' it, dive in and immerse yourself, and really enjoy the more gradual unfolding of the story, the depth and the richness of a single tale.  So I may stick with that for future shows.

But for the moment, I'm in R&D mode for a 'new and improved' The Wolf Bride, experimenting with ideas that will bring a more theatrical feel to the show, without making it so complicated that I need a stage crew to produce it.  I'm playing about with paper models and simple lighting effects using everyday, cheap electric candles and small battery fairy lights.  Very simple stuff that I can do myself onstage, but which will enrich the experience for an audience.  And without losing the simple 'storytelling' aspect in a welter of fancy things to look at.  I've always been a fan of very simple stage/set designs (though I must admit I adore marvellous lighting).  Something that enhances, rather than overwhelms, the beauty of a person standing/sitting in front of an audience and telling a story.

A few 'baby steps' experiments!

Electric candles inside plain paper printed on inside with text/pictures (so it appears plain white until the light is on).

Fairy lights and leaves cut from plastic milk bottles.

Can I make my drum into a moon?

Yes, it looks like I can.

IKEA battery lights and tissue paper.

And a plastic yogurt container.

A 'loo roll' castle.  VERY simple, I can expand on this greatly.

A stone wall pattern printed on inside of paper...makes a stone tower!

A fire and curling smoke around a tea light.  The flame cut paper is red, but it doesn't show as such when the candle is lit in complete darkness, so perhaps a 'stained glass' effect with red cellophane might be the go?!

And someone doesn't like it when mummy's attention is all on the computer and NOT on him!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 I ready!?

I think I'm ready...I hope I'm ready!  There are always butterflies, but I'm learning to trust that I DO know it, even when I'm convinced I don't.  Last year, I was utterly beside myself before the first performance, absolutely sure that I wouldn't remember anything and it would be an unmitigated, and hugely embarrassing, disaster.  And it went fine, I remembered everything, and the audience was gratifyingly enthusiastic.  So fingers crossed, the same will happen again.  As long as my children don't pass anything nasty on to me (next week is fine), they've both been sick!  My 'little one' (inverted commas because in no physical sense is she 'little' anymore, now being considerably taller than me), is home sick again today, and has been since last Thursday, poor love.  Doctor says it's a virus, so nothing but rest and lots of fluids, and trying not to worry about what she might be missing at school, will help.  At least it's sunny today, though chilly.

We've had some remarkable weather lately.  We're fine, but last week there were serious wild fires in the area, and storm warnings, all at the same time.  One home has been lost, and thousands of hectares of bush burnt out. We've had some unseasonably warm weather, including warm evenings, which is very unusual this close to winter, and wind and wild weather, but not everyone got the rain we got (we're on the south west side of a hill, facing the Great Southern Ocean, so we usually get rain even when people 10 mins away don't).  Warm nights and lots of wind is a recipe for disaster when there's still so much fire fuel lying around.  Prescribed burns got out of hand, and locals who should have known better lit bonfires to burn off, and things went rapidly pear-shaped, with major roads being shut.  Beloved informed me yesterday that our big tank is only a quarter full, which is a bit worrying this time of the year.  We've had rain, but not the usual autumn rains which should have filled the tank up much higher than that by now.  We'll need some serious weeks of serious rain if we're to have enough to see us through summer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

'Fables' music.

Just a quick post.

'Fables' is coming along, though I keep getting distracted by 'The Wolf Bride', but that's OK, they can inform each other!

Here is my original song about a strange and uncanny encounter.  I'll be performing it as part of 'Fables' in June at the Denmark Festival of Voice...although not with the harmonies (the wonders of multi-tracking!)

Note: there's a few seconds delay at the beginning, but I haven't worked out how to get rid of it without a lot of fiddling and phaffing in Garage Band, so I'll leave it for the moment...a job for another day!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Voice of the Wolf

He seems to speak in single thoughts.  One thought, one poem.  Short.  Perhaps he's struggling with this new way of speaking/thinking.  Or perhaps I'm just unable to translate the complexity of wolf-thought into English.  I suspect it's the latter.

On a side note...I usually write poems ranged left, with indents.  But it didn't look right when I was typing them up here, and so I tried them centred instead.  Hmmmm...I think I rather like it.


I, in tooth and claw
pelt and paw
saw you first.

Balanced in air
sky dancing there
between heaven and earth
a peculiar bird
above my head.

Feet calloused, bare
fingernails grimed with dirt
a leaf creeping girl
whose scraped knees bled.

And I knew you were wild like me.


I, beWILDered and beWOLF├ęd 
dare not think 
of a girl in a tree 
with eyes like leaves. 

Fur legged or two legged 
it is the same. 

I dream my head on her soft breast. 
Her nipple between my teeth. 


My words 
are leaf mould 
are falling autumn leaf 
steeped in humous rich and black. 

My poetry 
scribbled in 
the desperate flight of the hare 
the falling flight of the lark. 

How can I tell her I love? 


From her tongue 
such singing comes 
my hail to the moon is dust in my mouth 
and all my song struck dumb. 


Too rough for caress. 
Yet I 
in tooth and claw 
would bare my breast 
to the bright spear point for her. 


This man-skin 
an unfamiliar thing 
four legged to two legged. 

Too long a quadruped 
my gait is halting 
and unsure. 

And I did not know 
how to use my hands 
until I came to her. 


When I am man 
there is some part 
that stays unmanned. 

When wolf 
a part 

The hand that shaped me 
shaped us incomplete. 

Imperfect cyphers who compete 
for a whole 
that cannot exist.

Fergus asleep.  He won't stay still long enough for me to draw him awake, and he does NOT like the intense stare I give him when I'm concentrating on drawing, so if he notices me, he turns around and presents his back to me!

Please remember all the poems here, and the visual images, are © Christina Cairns, and don't copy or share without permission.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Wolf speaks...?

All along, I've left it to audiences to decide for themselves...does he speak?  Somehow, I imagine him, even when he's a man, as silent, speaking with eyes and expression, touch and gesture only, and it being enough.  It was enough for me.

But yesterday, in the car on the way into town (and luckily, Beloved was driving, or it might have been a bit awkward!) a poem in His voice came to me (or at least, the first stirrings of a poem), and I had to dig out notebook and pencil, and very messily scribble it down as the car bumped its way along South Coast Hwy.  I'm not sure it's entirely a poem in the Wolf's voice though, perhaps more like a poor translation?  For how could English ever encompass the inner thoughts of a Wolf?  Or of a man who is Wolf more often than man?  But then today a few more little snippets floated in.  So I wonder if there might be a book of poems from Wolf to Girl, in the new The Wolf Bride.  They seem to be following a simple pattern, short, single thoughts.  I'm probably a very poor translator, being a woman who does not actually 'speak' Wolf, but I'll do my best.  Who knows, they may not go anywhere, but I'm enjoying them right at the moment.

Some snippets from my no particular logical order...

25 August 2017
White:  Obvious for all the snow references, but also because in practical terms, white is a good colour to showcase artwork against.  Easier to make/get white stuff.  Old sheets, white paper etc.  I'm in two minds about the idea of leaves and roses made out of scraps of text.  I love making stuff like that, but: 
 a) I don't have much time  
b)  Do I need to spell it out all the time?  If I just have scraps of torn text/paper, which will rustle and can picked up and thrown, they will 'read' as leaves if I'm speaking about leaves, they don't need to be 'leaf' shaped.
 The idea of the rose is significant, it plays an important part in the original story (though it's an illogical part), and I wanted to include it in my story, using it a bit differently, and I have, and I'm pleased with how I've incorporated it, I think it works.  But do I need to actually have 'roses' in any obvious form in the Visual component?  I like the idea, but at the same time wonder it it's a bit 'naff'!
White is also innocence.  White/snow also prefigures death, or possible/almost death, in my story.  White is a kind of silencing blanket, like snow.  When spring/new life comes, greenness and sound (birds, streams) break through.

1 September 2017
-  Remembered from old TV series "Robin of Sherwood", and apparently a historical fact, that a 'wolfshead' was another name for an outlaw.  Presumably both had a price on their heads, and both could be killed with impunity.   
-  Thinking of a smaller painting, same style as large, for "The World Has Changed".  I'm thinking of her as a kind of witch figure, a mad old woman everyone is afraid of.  Thinking again of the idea of a mask, something she wears for a kind of shamanic shift into 'wolf mind'.  Is she looking through it in the painting, or holding/carrying it?  It is her link to her lost love, and also to the wild, non-human world.  A way of seeing the world through wolf/non-human eyes.  A different point of view, a different kind of consciousness.  A mask like this would not be strictly representational, may be more about essence/feeling when it is worn, rather than what it looks like on the outside.  She can't see what it looks like when she's wearing it, it's how it makes her feel that's important.

The odd inconveniences of 'the company of beasts'!

And some gratuitous photos of the culprit!

Fables is coming along as well, though I'm still at the first draft stage of each story, so I have WAY too much material at the moment, and need to seriously cull.  I've been fiddling around with music too, so here's a little of it.  I've always wanted to set Keats' poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci to music, but it never seemed to quite come together.  Ah, but then I got the bouzouki, and suddenly something started to emerge.  I don't think it's there yet, still need to do some fiddling...maybe it needs a bridge to break it up a bit, I'm not sure, but it's a start.  At the moment I'm planning on it appearing in Fables (in the 'dangerous faeries' section), but it may have to be discarded depending on how the culling process shapes up.  Of course, I won't be able to play more than one instrument...or sing a harmony with myself, in a live performance (if only THAT were possible!), but it's always fun to have a bit of a play in Garage Band.

Fables Notebook

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