Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Remembering that playing isn't just for kids...

I have been playing with's such fun doing strange things to my own face!  Here I have morphed into a strange wood woman, a wild wood woman.  And speaking of wild, we took our little people to see Where the Wild Things Are on Monday.  It's a bit of an odd film, the characters and the costumes and sets are wonderful, the model fort and the fort Max and his monsters eventually build are glorious to behold.  But the story is...well, there's not much of it, and the monsters all seem to suffer from various forms of depression, which I'm not sure would make sense to small people, especially as at the end Max leaves them on their lonely island apparently as unhappy as when he arrived.  Having said that, they both seemed to enjoy it, and I came away with a strong feeling of the importance of PLAY, which is something we adults tend not to do anymore because we think it's silly, or unimportant, or too self indulgent for responsible big people.  When was the last time you built a fort?  Or imagined, and half believed, you could make a rocket that would actually take you to the moon?  It made me think about my approach to my work, that sometimes that sense of wonder and excitement gets lost in a perceived need to produce something that is 'proper art'.  I thought about the things that appeal to me, and often they are things that stir that childlike delight that hides deep inside.  If that is what I love, then it follows does it not, that I also love to MAKE those kinds of things, and that if I make things with a childlike sense of wonder and humour, then surely that sense of wonder will infuse the object or artwork, and will appeal to the child hidden deep inside others?  So I think...I need to stop THINKING quite so much, intellectualising and agonising over where to put the next stroke of paint, if I add a small dog, or a full moon, or a pelican in flight, what will the 'meaning' be, and so on.  I had some very wise advice from a very wise little person a year or two ago...sitting in my studio I must have been audibly umming and ahhing, and a little voice floated up the stairs. "What's the matter mummy?"  "Oh nothing sweetheart, I'm just thinking, and I can't decide how to paint this next bit," I answered.  Busy drawing herself, she replied (all of 6 years old), "I don't THINK mummy, I just DO!"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry (slightly belated) Christmas to all and sundry!

Yes, I'm a little late, but we had not one, but two Christmases this year, on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas day, so we could spend time with all the grandparents and family.  So things have been a little hectic.  Now I am back from the south west of our big state to discover that I have a new follower, but unfortunately I don't know who they are because my Followers box has refused to reappear, so whoever you are, hello and welcome!  I hope everyone had a wonderful festive season, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, and that sadness has not touched you or your loved ones.  Thank you to everyone who has visited my little fledgling blog and left me such wonderful words of encouragement and inspiration.  I wish you all a brilliant and fulfilling new year, and hope to see you all here again in 2010, where I will endeavor to bring you more of my work and some words to make you smile.  My post picture today is a gorgeous little Christmas tree drawn by my daughter who is now 8, when she was just 5...they grow so very quickly!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A little bit of summer, if your toes are cold...

My 'Followers' box has disappeared again...and it's too hot!  Well, the temperature on the Yahoo homepage says 35˚C (a little below the century in old money!), but it FEELS hotter.  I've been baking so that probably hasn't helped.  This really isn't the weather for Christmas style bake-ups.  I have finished the second batch of panfortes, one more to go, maybe this evening when it's cooled down.  Though at 10pm last night it was still hot and sticky outside.  Progress pics...just poured the chocolaty, toffeey mixture into the dry ingredients.  Then a strong arm is needed to actually stir it (husbands come in handy sometimes...he's also good at getting lids off pesky jars). Finally, some token stirring for luck from the little people. Note the pristine green t-shirt...shortly to be covered in chocolate after licking the mixing bowl clean.  I'll post some pics of the finished product shortly.

But that may be the only 'finished product' I post pics of for a while, it's school holidays till February, and with two little people home to entertain, plus two weeks of swimming lessons, I don't know how much drawing I'll get done!  And there may be some bedroom painting required soon, as the super-bedroom-makeover is moving along at a cracking pace.  Beloved (I really need a better name!) insists he's starting the bed platform this week, but we'll see.  But you can see how far it's come in the last couple of weeks!  All that roof space that usually gets wasted, I don't understand why people don't make use of it.

I mentioned a little while ago that Flynn has decided that the old couch is now hers, since it has moved outside.  So here she is, reclining, but with a just slightly guilty look on her face, as if she's not sure she's allowed to be there even now.

And finally, a couple of pics showing what the sky looked like a few days ago.  When there's a cyclone up north, we sometimes get pink skies, rather freaky and weird, but it did soften the sun's bite for a while.  Meanwhile our bore has gone on the blink, and my garden is looking rather like a desert.  It's rather depressing because last year we grew tomatoes and cucumbers enough to supply the family without needing to buy any for two months, plus lettuces and the usual herbs...sigh!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Little people...and how they amaze me everyday

I did start this blog as a way of showcasing my work, creating new networks, linking with other artists, and finding a sense of community.  But as a mother I can't help occasionally showing off what my children do to constantly amaze me with their leaps and bounds in thinking, seeing, understanding, and representing the world.  And as so many of you out there are also mums (and a few dads too!), I'm sure you'll allow me this small indulgence.  My 5 year old did these this afternoon, in a little 'break' from sewing some Christmas presents (with a bit of help from mummy in knotting the end of the cotton...though she can thread a needle better than I!).  I am frequently in awe of what my children draw, and though I can't stop other children at school, and sometimes adults, from telling them "this is how you draw a cat" (ie. large circle, small circle on top, 2 triangles for ears...I'm sure you know what I mean), I have made it my rule never to 'teach' them how to draw anything, and to let them discover their own way of seeing and representing.  I love seeing how their skills develop, one day dots for eyes, the next day eyelashes appear as if by magic.  Mermaids shift to faeries, move on to ballerinas...and sometimes a bit of all three!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

And just like that.... Followers box has mysteriously reappeared...with an extra follower.  Magic!

I have made my first batch of Christmas Panfortes...and of course, had to sample them just to make sure they were up to an acceptable standard!  One got slightly singed along one bottom edge (dodgy oven NOT dodgy cook, I swear!) and my dearly Beloved tried hard to commiserate but he really wasn't being very convincing, as he knows full well that any that don't measure up as presents will end up as his...well, ours.  I'm not letting him eat ALL of them by himself.  And we mustn't forget to leave a piece out for Father Christmas! ;-)

This little painting is one of the new ones in my shop here .  It's called "Wherever I lay my hat..."  Now who else remembers Paul Young ?!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dusting down my shop shelves...

Just a quick post to let you know there are some more original paintings in my Etsy shop, including 'Nightcap'.  But please be aware that if you are an international buyer (ie, not here in the land of OZ!) then items ordered now will more than likely arrive AFTER Christmas.  But still perfect for birthdays, Mother's Days and the like. ;-)

And because I can't bear to post without a little visual delight, here is another of my small square paintings (and I just about went cross-eyed with the details on this one)...though this one is sold!  It's called 'Babel-on'.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Web Piskies...

...are out and about it seems.  We lost our internet for a whole day due to 'recabling'.  We were assured it would ultimately mean a much faster service, but so far it just seems to mean that I can't access my emails at all, or the Typepad blogs that I like to read, or Etsy...or our internet banking!  My beloved spent rather a long time this morning on the phone to our provider while simultaneously sitting under the computer desk pulling out plugs and putting plugs back in, following the instructions of the person on the other end.  Finally it was fixed...we thought!  But alas, not exactly.  I think this getting half a service is more frustrating than no service at all.  But it really is a bit of a shock to realise how much we rely on it...apart from pulling out plugs and taking delivery of large bits of timber for the next stage of the super-bedroom-makeover, beloved has been twiddling his thumbs because he can't really get on with any work without it.  Sometimes it is scary to realise how much we rely on technology for everyday living.  I should really think of a better title for my beloved...though he wasn't impressed when I suggested the 'Merman'!

But here are a couple of paintings to brighten up the post anyway.  These two lasses came home from Melbourne recently, crossing the Nullarbor in a camper van with my folks.  They are called 'Nightcap' and 'Regrowth' respectively.  'Regrowth' has just had her hair done for that special occasion and it's springing out already and she's not happy, but that's Morning Glory for you, can't stop the stuff!

We retired our old couch at last, it's been hiding its decrepitude beneath crocheted throws for some time now.  We moved it outside, where Flynn has instantly commandeered it.  She wasn't allowed on the couch inside the house, so it's interesting that she decided that once outside, it's fair game for little red dogs!  And a perfect blank canvas for little people too, who asked if they could draw on it...I think they're a little obsessed with mermaids too.  Now that it's such a marvelous work of art, I'm reluctant to throw it out.  It's also nice to sit on for morning coffee!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Becoming...but I'm not sure what yet

This is sitting on my family room table at the moment, amid my pencils and inks and a small sewing box...I've migrated downstairs because it's rather hot and crowded ( I did mention I'm a hoarder, didn't I?) upstairs in my attic.  It's me but not really me, my face from a photo but that's all, she's really someone else, I'm just not sure who yet.  Perhaps a hedgewitch, or a real greenwitch...though I don't think she'll be wearing the hat I made.  I'm thinking leaves and bits of old sticks in her hair...perhaps she collects the odd bits and bobs that messy humans leave behind, like bottle-tops and foil lolly wrappers, and weaves them into her hair.  Hmmm, will have to wait and see how she evolves and who she wants to be.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Artist as.....shaman

Great minds (and those of us with lesser minds too) think alike.  The theme of artist as Shaman is one I've had buzzing around in my head for simply ages.  I've always felt there really WAS something magic about art, even as a small child.  I remember thinking when I was a teenager and wrote rather a lot of (probably rather bad) poetry (as teenagers often do) that poetry was about as close as I could get to magic, because of the strange and mysterious feeling of plucking a poem out of the air (for a lovely description of just that notion, go here ). I've never really felt that any poem I've written is truly mine, I just happened to 'find' it floating in the ether.  All art seems to tap into this magical 'otherplace', painting ideas seem to take on a life of their own, and often motifs and themes that I've added for no particular reason suddenly make complete sense when the piece is finished.

A few years ago I read Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife.  And this passage jumped out at me and so I scribbled it down in my visual journal/diary, because it made such complete sense to me.

Another journal entry from a year of so later finds me fascinated with the odd little things my daughter (then just 5) often made for herself.  I also used to make 'things' all the time as a child, and I can remember the state of mind in which it's part make-believe and part totally serious.  On one level I knew I was using old bits of wood and string, feathers and gum nuts, but simultaneously on another level the object's 'true' magical identity and purpose existed, I could 'see' both objects at the same time and both were equally real.  Sometimes I still have flashes of that feeling, though my terribly logical and rational (!) 'grown-up' brain tends to dismiss them now.  But I do occasionally make/paint/create something that seems to have come from somewhere else, or has a sense of power and life beyond what I've attempted to imbue it with.  Some time ago I found some very cheap little plaster masks at a local craft shop. Nothing special at all, but being fascinated with masks I bought several.  But in painting them they suddenly seemed to develop not just personalities, but a quite powerful presence for items so small and mass produced.  They seemed to WANT to be brought to life.

So finally, I was browsing through my lovely copy of Brian Froud's Good Faeries/Bad Faeries yesterday, which I've had for a few years but never actually read the introduction before...and found this lovely passage.  I'll leave you with these thoughts...and a couple of odd little things I've made recently.
"Joseph Campbell has said that artists are the 'shamans and myth-makers' of our modern world.  Like Campbell, I believe in the artist as shaman, journeying deep into uncharted inner worlds, then bringing back sensations and visions encountered in that mythic terrain. I see my pictures as maps of the journeys I've taken through the realms of the soul.  And I hope that these maps will lead you to find faery pathways of your own."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Synchronicity...I DO like that word!

While my girls were enjoying a birthday at one of those organised kid's party places, and I sat waiting for them, I started reading Mythago Wood again.  But it was too noisy, filled with children screaming and laughing and music too loud for reading much of anything.  So I set it aside and instead I flicked through the little notebook I always carry around with me to scribble those odd thoughts that occur at odd (and always inconvenient) times, otherwise I forget them.  Sometimes I'm quite surprised to rediscover what was going on in my head just a couple of weeks ago.  And I found this page.  This is an ongoing theme for me, I come back to it and revisit it often.  It's on my 'to do' list, to actually make some of the things I've written about here...I think I might need a bigger studio!  But it also made me think about Rima Staines' latest post on the role of the artist as an intercessor between the human world and the world beyond.  She says...
"I think that artists over the centuries who have made with their hands and their souls objects that are beautiful, are intercessors, portrayers of the inexplicable wonder of life or the divine or whatever you choose to call it. And in seeing these beautiful objects, these sights that delight the eye, some transformation takes place within you, because of what the artist was feeling whilst creating."

This afternoon I was having a little surf through the web and found this gorgeous creature here .  And it reminded me of something I made years ago (about 12 to be precise) when I was studying theatre at Uni.  I was Head of Lighting on a pantomime.  Which meant Lighting designer/operator/rigger-on-very-tall-ladders/general-dogsbody/etc. And I was having trouble with one particular light, which I could not get to work.  Finally, after much faffing about including changing what was probably a perfectly good light bulb (which is NOT an easy job perched at the top of a very LONG ladder over the auditorium leaning on a not-so-stable lighting grid!), I discovered that the lighting grid had been labeled incorrectly, and plug numbers didn't match up with grid outlet numbers...grrrrrr!  Anyway...I sorted it out, which left me with what probably had been a perfectly good light bulb, but I could no longer use it because they aren't any good if you touch them...apparently.  So I took it home and transformed it, with feathers and beads, leather and other bits and bobs, into The Lighting Operator's Talisman.  I put it into a nice box, and presented it to the theatre manager, to be handed on to subsequent Heads of Lighting for good luck and a stress-free show.  Some years later, I bumped into a fellow ex-student who had completed the same course a few years after me.  And who had been Head of Lighting once.  And who had been duly given The Lighting Operator's Talisman to keep for the duration of the show.  She was quite excited to meet the person who had made it, and I was rather chuffed to discover it was still being passed on.  It made me wonder how long it would take before it stopped being a bit of a joke and became a real tradition.  I wonder if they still have it!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Child finished...

Such a little piece, and yet it's taken me hours to finish it.  So much detail in one tiny 9 x 13cm space.  But I've enjoyed it so much.  I think I will do more of these, perhaps they are something I can do during the long summer, when it's almost impossible to paint because it dries so quickly, and the heat can be so oppressive sometimes I find it hard to think.  I'm really NOT a summer person, we had a taste of what's to come today, 37ยบ Celsius, and I just wilt at these temperatures.  It will be another long, hot, dry summer, and my garden is already looking a little woebegone!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A small tribute in progress...

One of the themes (for want of a better name) that ran through several of Robert Holdstock's books was the magic of masks.  I've always felt masks to be powerful and strange and a little scary.  They figure in so many cultures around the world, including my own (Ned Kelly would probably not be half the legend he is without his magnificent one), and hold great and deep significance.  There are ten masks that appear first in Robert Holdstock's Lavondyss , but reappear in his other books.  When I first read the passages about these masks, I almost felt I was holding my breath in the presence of something truly ancient...they spoke to me, and have entered my own personal mythology (doesn't everyone have one?) and have evolved and melded and changed and grown in my imagination, and I have added my own to his original ten.  And thinking about them yesterday, I started another little pencil drawing, unfinished as yet, but I thought I'd post it to see what you all think.  This is Sinisalo, The Child in the Land.  And here are Robert Holdstock's own thoughts on the masks that appear in his stories.

"In Lavondyss I introduced ten masks that I believe may have been a part of our earliest culture. Call them spirit masks, or shaman masks, or Old Land masks, or Dreamtime masks (which I do)… call them anything. But they represent the great encounter of our earliest conscious minds with the curiosity and memory that is such an important part of what makes us human. New mythology juxtaposed with what we know.....For myself, I have been ‘dreaming’ Ryhope Wood for more than twenty years, now. I live at its edge, half asleep in reality. Then I hear the sounding of a horn, or the howling of a hound. Someone or some thing steps out from the edge of the wood, and beckons to me. And once again, it’s time to wake up. Time to journey."

He has gone on the greatest journey.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Voting for the future and for our children's future...

Yes, I know my widget says 'VOTE EART' : ) but I'm not html savvy enough to figure out how to make it fit properly and I figured you'll know what it means, and that's the most important thing!  Copenhagen is only a few days away, and though I told myself I wasn't going to get into politics and the like on my blog, I think this is so important that it goes beyond politics and economics and so on.  This is the future we're talking about, and I want my children to have one.  If you agree, please click on my VOTE EART (!) widget and you can let the leaders of the world know what we want from them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A sad goodbye to a wonderful writer...

I have just heard that one of my favourite authors, the wonderful Robert Holdstock, has passed away after a brief battle with an infection.  He was 61.  I first discovered his wonderful Mythago Wood series when a friend recommended them back in 1991, and I think I have bought every title he's written since.  His writing somehow made fantasy earthy, grounded deep in the soil, not flighty and fluffy like a lot of fantasy that I've read.  It wasn't all shiny swords and wizards in velvet cloaks, it had dirt under its cracked fingernails and it smelt of composting leaves under dark oaks.  It was new and yet old, unfamiliar and yet so so so terribly familiar, like reading a long lost memory, discovering a part of yourself you never knew was there.  For me it was like coming home, and his writing has been a continuing inspiration to me.  His extraordinary talents will be missed by many.  RIP.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Delicacy and Destruction!

Inspired (again) by the wonderful artwork of Rima Staines , I went back to my graphite pencils and produced a little drawing of a strange and mysterious lady.  These drawings are so difficult to photograph, the camera doesn't seem to quite capture the softness or the detail of graphite.  Of course, it could always be the photographer!  This is returning to an old and familiar love for me, graphite and colour pencils were my medium of choice as a child, and if I look through my old high school folio (because of course, I still have it) almost all the work is in pencil.  There is something lovely and delicate about it, and of course, total control...pencil is very forgiving.  I love building up layer upon layer of light strokes, creating different textures and depths of tone.  And very good for teaching patience...something I think I have lost a little.  I'm not sure I could spend weeks and weeks on the same piece as I used to in my school art class.  Another thing about my high school many of the pieces never quite got finished, often a drawing contains a beautifully detailed bottom right-hand corner, and the rest of the page just a vague sketched outline.

So I have been working in tiny, delicate pencil strokes while all the while there were hammerings and bangings and sawings and all manner of loud kaffoofle coming from our bedroom which is having a major make-over in the (mostly) expert hands of my beloved.  An old steel-framed window that faced onto the garage is out and bricked up, and a lovely new jarrah casement window (made by the aforementioned almost-expert) facing the east and the morning sun is in.  Ceiling out and roof-line changed, a new loft bed will go in, and all to be finished by Christmas, he promises me!  We shall see.  But it will be wonderful when it's finished.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Inspired by...

There are so many things that inspire's finding time to create something that's the problem.  So here are a couple of recent(ish) pieces inspired by books I love.  The first is called Greenwitch, inspired by Susan Cooper's book...but also (well, mostly) by the delicious imagery the words themselves generate.  A green silk hat for a green-thumbed witch, with a nice wide brim for keeping the sun off the back of her neck when she's digging in the herb patch.  And me wearing it.  Not that I'm particularly witchy, or green-thumbed (I try) but I do like green.

And then this piece, which is unfinished simply because I didn't quite know where to go from here...always better to put it aside for a while and have a ponder, rather than press on through sheer pig-headedness, especially if it's been going well up to that point.  It was an experiment in a watercoloury (I'm not sure that's actually a word) style, but using diluted acrylics simply because watercolour scares the willies out of me because it's so easy to end up with a muddy mess if you don't know what you're doing.  It's called Blackwoodwife, which is a little odd, but it's because it's inspired by two things.  Firstly, Terri Windling's lovely novel The Wood Wife , which is a favourite of mine.  And secondly, by the stories my mum used to invent when I was small about the faeries who lived near a favourite family camping spot by the Blackwood River, which curls its way through the south west of Western Australia.  So I couldn't decide whether she should be a Black Woodwife...or a Blackwood Wife...or a Black Wood Wife.  So I settled on Blackwoodwife, and will let people make their own distinctions.  I'm still not sure what to do with her though...perhaps some more pondering is needed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

An early morning walk...

It's warming up now, summer is on it's way and I'm becoming enamored of imperfect leaves.  I used to look out for the most perfect I could find, but now it's the slightly tatty ones that I'm drawn to.  It's the colours that do it, when I see one caught in a shaft of morning sunlight and it seems to glow, I just can't help myself and I have to pick it up.  I'm a terrible picker-upper, I spend a lot of my time during walks with my head down, eyes to the leaves, rocks, feathers, or shells and bits of driftwood at the beach, invariably get picked up and brought home.  I was very tempted a couple years ago to bring home a completely dehydrated Leather Jacket (a type of fish, not an article of clothing!) I found on the beach.  My beloved put his foot down on that one, probably just as well, seeing as the previous beach finds, a bunch of sponges that I'd brought home, had somehow been forgotten and spent the next couple of weeks stuck under one of the car seats.  It took him a while to find where the smell was coming from...and a while longer for the smell to dissipate!  So I drew a picture of it instead.  It was rather fun, one of those pieces that you start but you don't know where it's going till you get there.  It began as a series of bits of paper torn from an unmemorable book and glued to a larger sheet, which were then covered in a kind of scribbled journal entry, and then the fish over the top.  On reflection, probably a much better memento to bring home than the fish itself.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Faeries at the bottom of the garden...

When I was quite young, I used to stare very hard at my wardrobe doors, then whip them open as fast as I could, hoping against hope that I might catch a glimpse of that otherworld beyond.  I waited expectantly for my 13th birthday believing against all logical judgement, that something wonderful would happen, that I would discover my TRUE destiny, and I would finally be initiated into the mysteries of some magical land beyond reality as I knew it.  I'm still waiting.  The world of magic and faerytales found me early on and never let go.  My favourite books as a child were the Chronicles of Narnia (of course), Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising  series, and just about anything by Alan Garner, or Rosemary Sutcliffe.  And of course, introduced to me by an art teacher who may well have been part Fae herself, the wonderful, wonderful Faeries  by Alan Lee and Brian Froud.  This book was so popular in my high school library that you had to put in a request form for it, to stop people renewing it over and over again.  As I grew up, I discovered more and more of the fabulous world of myths and legends, reading anything I could find about Celtic mythology in particular, but magic and faery of any brand would do.  At 15 I sat mesmerised through a screening of John Boorman's Excalibur, and to this day, Nicol Williamson is the ONLY Merlin for me.  Listening to a folk music program one evening at age 16, I heard, in its entirety, Robin Williamson's incredible song/poem Five Denials on Merlin's Grave and it has been an enormous influence on me.

Steeped in magic and faery as I was, I always found it odd that other people didn't seem to know the first thing about it.  And rather sad too, because faery stories and myths are the teaching tales of our culture, the life lessons disguised as entertainment to wile away the cold winter evenings, history and anecdotes and important survival information all rolled into one package.  What do they teach in schools these days?!  While a uni student studying literature, I wrote an assignment on John Keats' La Belle Dame Sans Merci.  I'm not particularly fond of Keats, too flowery for me, but I love the Belle Dame...she seems older, archaic, and somehow more genuine that his other poems.  Picture me in my class, discussing with several fellow students and our tutor, the lore of faery/human interaction, particularly the important rules to follow if you ever meet a faery (which the knight in the poem should have known...I thought).  Specifically the rules about faery food.  Now I thought this was common knowledge, I mean, it's common sense isn't it?  Don't accept lollies from friendly but mysterious strangers?  But no, faced with much head-shaking and eye-rolling, I think they all believed I'd made it up entirely.  So imagine my great relief when a fellow classmate, a friend and fellow faery-aficionado, rushed into the class rather late, flushed and out of breath, books falling out of her hands.  Before the poor girl had time to put down her bag, I pounced.  "What's the MOST important thing to remember if you ever find yourself in Faeryland?!"  She looked at me blankly for a moment, cheeks pink and hair askew...and then caught my drift and answered breathlessly "Don't EVER eat the food or you'll be stuck there forever!"  I'm not sure my classmates were convinced but I felt vindicated anyway.

But it seems that faery today means an animated, Disneyfied version of Tinkerbell and her newly invented friends, backed by a massive merchandising machine.  I want my children (and I have two of them so this is not hypothetical) to know that there are OTHER faeries out there, much more interesting, exciting, and sometimes even scary, but never trite.  And they would NEVER tell you to buy a whole lot of plastic stuff packaged up in pink cardboard (with wire ties that take 3 hours for an adult to disentangle)!  So imagine my delight when I discovered the Chagford Filmmaking Group , a group in the UK engaging with and involving the local community while making films of old fairytales, rescuing them from obscurity and bringing them to a new audience.  For more information, here is a lovely article from the BBC about them.  (and no, I'm not getting a commission, I just think they're doing something great).  I'm looking forward to receiving my copy of their first DVD, and seeing my children discover that the world of Faery is so much more, such a rich and varied world, than Disney cartoons.  Of course, I'm also looking forward to seeing it myself.  And in case you'd forgotten about her, here is the Belle Dame  herself, as I see her.

A curly tree on a windy hill...

A little sketch, a doodle really, in diluted sepia ink.  I'm enjoying the subtlety of this quiet medium.  So much of my work is like an explosion of colour, but every now and then I like to rein it all back in, and keep it delicate and simple and soft.  Perhaps it's those times when I feel inclined to draw within anyway, becoming introspective and focussed on inner workings.  And then cheeky colour comes tap tapping at my door and drags me out into the bright sunshine again.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Does that make me an 'attict'?  One of the advantages of being a hoarder (and there are so many DISadvantages) is that I can think "Hmmm, I seem to remember writing a poem about an attic when I was about 11...well, it must be here somewhere!"  And it was.  And here it is.

Now it makes me smile to see that I clearly understood back then that the most important thing a poem had to do was RHYME.  Meaning was secondary, as was, well...poetry.  Although the little rebel in me did throw in a final UNrhyming line.  I also find it strange to think that I was painting a picture in words of something I'd never seen or experienced.  There is nothing in this poem that came from my actual china elf, no stained glass windows...and I've never owned a cat (truth to be told I'm more of a dog person, but obviously dogs and attics didn't quite work in my juvenile poetic vision).  Reading it again, I can still feel my way into the idea I had, I can still see this place in my head as I imagined it then.  I still 'know' that the little chair, for example, was a gift from some far-off adventure seeking relative (an uncle perhaps) who travelled the world and sent home exotic presents for birthdays and Christmas.  An uncle I never actually had, though it's fairly clear I would have liked one.  Not that I was bereft of uncles, I had the cream of the crop of funny, loving, wonderful uncles, but they were not on the whole an adventurous lot.  So this post is not really about anything at all, except to further illustrate that my obsession with attics started at an early age, and is probably therefore quite incurable.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Attics and garrets and starving artists...

As for attics, I might well say the same...I like them.  Not that I ever had one, that was part of their mystique.  They were the sort of mysterious place where the heros and heroines in the books I read might find an old wooden chest with a treasure map inside...or a perfect place to create a secret clubhouse...or discover a mysterious dinner service decorated with owls........

But being a child of the Australian suburbs, even a house with a staircase was a novelty.  And so for me, attics have held onto that mystique.  In my first trip to the UK, I spent a night in one, a 'guest bedroom' at the top of an old Kensington terrace house serving as nursing quarters.  A nurse friend was living there (in the basement) and I was sleeping on her floor as is the wont of young Australians who spend all their money on the obscenely expensive plane fare to GET there leaving nothing much else.  I wasn't supposed to be sleeping on her floor of course.  But I spent some weeks there, until in a flurry of panic because of an inspection or some such, I was shunted from bottom to top, to spend an evening upstairs as a 'legitimate' guest.  The room had been prettied up but its delightfully sloping ceiling and little dormer window opening onto the roof betrayed its origins.  It was a balmy summer evening, and I sat in the little open window, looking out at the lights of London and listening as 'Nessun Dorma' floated out of one of the windows across the road.  So perfect it was like a scene from a movie.

But why is the mermaid in the attic now?  Well, I have an attic now.  Almost...a mezzanine floor above the family room.  A little space to create, squeezed in under the sloping roof of my house, up a stair (not quite winding, but it does have a bend in it) with a wrought iron balustrade.  A wooden floor that squeaks when I walk on it.  A little window above my head...though it's a little freaky sometimes seeing the reflections of planes passing overhead also zooming across my glass desk top.  And the walls are painted turquoise, 'like being under the ocean' is how one visitor described it.  So, 'a mermaid in the attic'.  All quite logical really, though my brother did wonder whether it wasn't rather cruel to keep a mermaid that far from her natural habitat.  But this one is happy here.

Mermaids and fishy tales.....

Why a mermaid?  I like them, that's why.  I have been more than a little obsessed with damsels of an aquatic nature for a long time...sirens and selkies and rusalki and nixes and such.  And I know one...personally.  And one of my favourite songs is a gaelic song about a lonely mermaid.  And my middle name means 'sea'...among other things.  And when I was six the boy next door (who was a little older than I was and could swim underwater) grabbed my leg and pulled me under at the local pool...then the world tipped sideways and the light went blue and everything went quiet for what seemed like forever.  And I breathed...and I COULD breath...underwater. 

Well, that's how I remember it. And then I found my feet, stood up and found the air again, spluttering and coughing and crying.  So I know that deep down somewhere inside, I have a mermaid soul. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Twiddling and learning

Heavens worked! I'm a little bit of a technophobe...not so much because I'm afraid of technology, it's just that I simply don't know how anyone finds the time to learn how to use all of these incredible new things, and have a life too. But if I'm going to venture into the strange and wonderful world of cyberspace, I'll simply have to step through the magic door a little more often.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mermaid fingers

At first it was working, and then it was most definitely NOT working so I threw caution to the winds and just played.  And then suddenly, it seemed to be working again.  This is me, taking my own there's a rare thing!  Using the good watercolour paper and experimenting and not caring if it works or not.  This could become addictive!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bits and bobs...

I haven't done anything BIG for some time...I think I'm percolating.  In the meantime, I'm fulfilling creative urges by small experiments and odd little bits.  I am trying to learn not to strive for perfection, rather to draw/paint/sew and just let it happen...after all, it can never be perfect.  And if I'm afraid to set pen to paper for fear of it 'not working' or of ruining a good piece of paper or canvas, or of producing something that is rubbish or embarrassing, I'll never create anything.  The gum leaves on the old diary page were an attempt to get beyond's a scrap piece of paper so it can't possibly matter if I stuff it up.  And oddly enough, I think they turned out rather nicely and I really like them.  Sometimes not worrying about the outcome brings surprising and fruitful results.  I need to try this more often.

Monday, November 9, 2009

On entering the world of Blogland...

So here I am, wandering a little lost in this strange new world.  Will there be strange creatures offering me delicious temptations that I shouldn't touch (for fear of being trapped here forever)?  Will I meet odd little old ladies, or men dressed in wolfskin telling me riddles or giving me advice that seems impossible to follow?  Every new path has its dangers...and rewards.  But if you never take the first step, how will you ever know?!  As this is a new journey, I thought I would include this painting, one of my first as a 'professional' artist, though I have been drawing and painting most of my life.  "I must not forget how to fly" was a reminder to myself at the time to follow my dreams and remember how I used to feel as a child, daydreaming about the future, about heading off on adventures to who knows where.  I'm not sure where the girl in the boat is going, but she is on a quest, in her trusty ship the "Sir Parsifal", with her loyal dog by her side and a tame pelican (can you guess his name?) to scout ahead for whatever obstacles they might encounter.  So welcome aboard my blog, and we shall hoist the sails and weigh the anchor and go see what's over the horizon. 
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