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.

Monday, 5 December 2016

The Sacred Market Place – a guest post by Artist Shenpen Chokyi

In my hideaway valley I'm surrounded by amazing stories and amazing people. People who walk the wild edges unafraid and full of curiousity.  Here is a guest post from one of those amazing people.

At this time of year when we in Western cultures are busy buying and consuming Shen writes about the Sacred Market Place.

 Shen outside her house.

The Sacred market place - Shenpen Chokyi

 This is an article about the Animus - Art for the World Soul Artists Collective.
 The name ‘Animus’ is based on the ancient meaning of the word, embodying wind and breath, life and soul. The artists in Animus are actively engaged in a re-consecration of art for the purpose of the re-enchantment of the world. In this post, I’m focussing - in a somewhat expanded sense - on Animus’s first online auction, held here from December 19th - 20th.


 The Sacred Market Place

The words ‘sacred’ and ‘marketplace’ are usually seen in a polarity, rather than a union, with one another…as in the Biblical passage:

And Yeshua entered The Temple of God and cast out all of those who sold and bought in The Temple and upset the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

Or, more recently, Nietzsche, in Thus Spake Zarathustra:

Where solitude endeth, there beginneth the market-place; and where the market-place beginneth, there beginneth also the noise of the great actors, and the buzzing of the poison-flies.

Yesterday I read an article by George Monbiot about the toxicity of unnecessary products which tested my faith in what I do: as a visual artist, I’m an active creator of things as well as an inevitable consumer of them…and am just putting together the first online auction of the Animus ~ Art for the World Soul artists collective. Therefore you could say I’m hard at work adding more stuff to the world; not really what I’d want on my epitaph.

The purest, most sacred essence could be experienced as formless…but a recent dream showed me how abstract is this intangibility. The next scene presented a row of offering bowls, each with a tiny written explanation by it:

This made me understand it more fully: undiluted spaciousness is so ungraspable that its rarified nature remains unattainable to those who aren’t yet operating on such an ultimate level. A bridge is needed…and that bridge needs to be clothed in matter if it’s to be useful. As Nigel Richmond said, in his 1970’s book on the I Ching, Language of the Lines’ (free to download here from Joel Biroco’s insightful site, by the way):

Each realization takes a liberty with the reality of the one but is also a link with it.

Part of the joy of being embodied in this worldly realm is the sensual joy of what is earthily tangible; angels, in their more ephemeral reality are said to miss that ability to physically feel. We’re only now beginning to move out of a long, long phase in which what is embodied has been seen as, by definition, non-spiritual, making it ‘natural’ for people to treat it as such. It’s telling that the American-English for the body of the earth is dirt.

This is what Animus - Art for the World Soul is seeking to redress, for however tame, lame, mundane and civilized our life may appear, within us our unkempt pilgrim soul is replete with the same shimmering birthright of creative, abundant freedom our most extraordinary ancestors embodied.
Similarly, however irredeemably urbanised, desecrated and disrespected our holy earth seems to be, her pure indigenous essence is hungry for heart songs, dances which shake the dust from her body, offerings of ochre, plant, stone and love which re-member her wholeness and beauty. 

It’s quite simple. What we - this and previous generations - have desecrated,it’s our sacred work to re-sanctify, to make whole and holy once more. There is no-one else to do it for us; we must joyfully rise to the challenge with courage, grace and devotion: as Hopi Elder Thomas Banyacya told us,

‘We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.’

It’s our quest in life to find out just how we’re to do this. In Animus, we’ve been called to re-member the world’s harmony through art, choosing diverse forms of creative expression as a bridge to spirit, to the sacred. With the animistic view which attributes a living soul to all things, the art itself
then becomes infused with this essence and can become a gateway, a bridge, to this re-memberance, for another person.

For it could be argued that the art which never leave its creator’s side has not lived fully. As Kahil Gibran describes children,

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

As the children of artists, artworks have their own destiny to live out. We entrust them to the sacred marketplace in the faith that they’ll find their way to the person to whom they are called, to open new realities for them. They could be described as having talismanic qualities; embodying a particular, beneficial essence. 

(Fabeku Fatunmise’s highly recommended, inspiriational talk ‘Why Art Matters’ elucidates this along with many other facets of creation.) 

Or using the illustration of a ‘touchstone’; just as a simple pebble in one’s pocket can, when touched, take one out of dis-connected mental loops and be a small but potent re-minder of what is eternal, uncomplicated and natural, they can bring you back ‘home’ ~ over and over.

Another potent analogy for me is the Native American tradition of the Faithkeeper. A person who assumes this rôle within the tribe remains centred, at peace within themselves no matter what dramas unfold and misfortunes strike around them. In this way, they become a living thread connecting the sacred heart of life with its often chaotic outer rim.

We’re all called on to be faith keepers ~ to not get thrown off balance by the potentially shocking or disheartening way life can unfold ~ but I’ve just begun to appreciate how an artwork can itself be such a keeper of the faith. A deepening faith in the great unfolding of your own small but precious life…and in life itself.

Here's the link to our auction again: the first image in the album has all the details you’ll need next to it. There’ll be a giveaway of a Zhouyi Oracle (microcosmic D.I.Y. edition) as the auction ends, open to everyone who shares the auction :)

Shens website is here -

Happy Christmas Everyone