Thursday 19 December 2013

She sang the faeries to her.

It hasn't been a terribly creative time lately, but I have managed two collages.  As always, I came up with a line of text inspired by each photograph and added it to the collage.  

"She sang the faeries to her, with a voice of nectar and thistles." 

When I came across this antique photo in London's Spitalfields Antiques market, I knew I had to use it in a collage.  It's the first I've used with an animal in it, and only the second with a man rather than a woman or girl.  

In both collages, I collected the flint pebbles from Brighton beach last month.  Also the mermaid's purse.  The shell is from a beach on a Danish island.  And the piece of sea pottery from the lovely etsy shop: North Sea Treasures.  

"They combed the shore together, looking for the water sprites they knew lived amongst the shells, pebbles of flint, and mermaids' purses."

Wednesday 23 October 2013

the magical hour when all things turn from inside to out.

a pre dawn walk

 over cobblestone streets

through hugging mediaeval alleys

a city in the deepest night is a thing transformed
there's a deep and silent magic at work

my own thoughts twist in labyrinthine patterns and designs
which can only occur in an unpeopled crowd 
in the inside-out darkness

the wraith of the gothic cathedral, pride of Regensburg, looking as though a witching-hour sun 
is bursting from its windows
freed from the stone and glass

stained glass aglow in the city hall
and there is trickster work at play
a subtle möbius-like twisting of inside to outside

i'm just about done with my story
though not the final version
i've been doing a back and forth dance of finishing the first draft 
while at the same time doing a first round of edits on what's been written
it's for middle grade readers
there's an urban setting
and a girl
and a banshee
her banshee
and her best friend
and an adventure
in a museum
and in a phantom wing of a victorian insane asylum

i'm in the home stretch
of getting to know my story
my characters
my setting
after that, the fun shall really begin

Monday 30 September 2013


one of the hardest things about this move
was knowing that molly would have to become
an indoor cat

something which in principle I'm against

cats should be free to roam,
explore, pounce, run, hide, smell,
bring home earthworms in the middle of the night

we had a family lined up who were willing to take her
if she didn't adapt to her new life
on the forth floor

we are very happy to see
that she's adapting brilliantly
it means that we all have to play with her even more than before
but that's no hardship

we've made little 'preys' of bunched up pipe cleaners
which we toss and she chases
and brings back to us
or deposits in her food bowl

she watches pigeons from the windows
chuntering at them with a trembling jaw
and twitching whiskers

she seems content, happy even
and so are we

Thursday 19 September 2013

settling into a new home

Well, I'm finally emerging from moving hell.    

After five years in two different places in Munich, we've settled down into life in the centre of Regensburg's old town.  The view from my studio room is to Haidplatz, the town's main square.

It's a beautiful Mediaeval city with narrow streets and twisty alleys everywhere.  Some impressive remains of Roman walls can be seen in a few places.  And whimsically coloured buildings each with their own distinct style and personality.

Being on the forth floor, we have a view out the back windows to the hills that rise above the Danube not a ten minute walk away.  

The skies are different here to Munich.  Someone who once lived here told me that it's rainy and cloudy from September 'till April.  Good thing I love the rain.  

And that's another thing about being on the top floor:  we can hear the rain falling on the roof, something I've missed for years. 

The building of our place was begun in 1250.  Our flat was once part of the attic.  The beams in the ceiling of the main room have (thankfully) been left exposed.    

Slowly, order is being made of complete and absolute chaos.

I always feel better once my art supplies are in place.  


A couple of weeks ago, in the thick of the move, we escaped to see an art exhibit at a local gallery: Kunstforum Ostdeutsche Galerie.  It featured the figure drawings and prints by German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945).   

Not an easy exhibit.  Her art is powerful. Her subject matter includes exploited weavers; peasants on the verge of revolt; women in their raw grief after losing a child.  She sometimes worked in cycles, working on a specific theme and utilizing motifs and symbols over a period of years.

An amazing photo of the artist, a woman who lived through much in terms of her own personal tragedies, as well as living through the the horrors that were the first and second world wars.  

As I slowly get to know my new home, I'll be taking photos and posting them here.  

We discovered that right next to the gallery where the Kollwitz exhibit is running there's marionette theatre: Regensburger Figurentheater im Stadtpark.  That's something which I'm very much looking forward to seeing.  

I'll leave you with a couple of Regensburger pigeons settling on a rooftop in the rain.  

No, we don't eat them.  

Thursday 25 July 2013

dictionary love.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859), so well known for collecting folk and fairy tales, also wrote the definitive German dictionary - those green books that Molly is using as a bed.  The undertaking was so ambitious that it was only completed in 1961, many years after their deaths.  Alas, my German is not yet good enough to make use of it. 

Die Brüder Grimm
by Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann

Nice as that dictionary is, what I really, really covet is a first edition of the dictionary written by Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784): A Dictionary of the English Language, published 1755.  (Considering it would put one back a few thousand euros, pounds, or dollars, it will remain a dream.)

Dr. Samuel Johnson
by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Dr. Johnson (poet, essayist, literary critic, biographer, editor, lexicographer) was possessed of a huge, restless intellect coupled with an irascible character, and subject to alarming tics (most likely caused by Tourette Syndrome), crippling bouts of depression, and numerous other physical ailments throughout his long life.  His writings are full of biting wit and keen observation.  One of the best known biographies in the English language was created by his friend James Boswell, his "Life of Samuel Johnson." 

One of my all time favourite programmes, Blackadder, has an episode which casts one of my all time favourite actors, Robbie Coltrane, as Samuel Johnson: "Ink and Incapability".  It deals with the creation of Johnson's dictionary.  Do check it out if you can.  It's a hoot and a half.  

Monday 1 July 2013

Creative Seasons, Loathly Ladies, and Jane Austen.

I don't know how deeply linked creativity is to the seasons, but I found that during the first few months of this year, with its Narnia-like ever-Winter, creating was difficult.  No Spring, coupled with some side-swiping health issues, as well as a general feeling of stagnation left me with little creative energy.

Now that the seasons have finally tipped, Persephone didn't abandon us for good, everything has been exploding from bud to leaf to flower in an almost time-lapse frenzy.  

That movement, the pulling of sap, drawing of creative forces has me stirring again.  

It's not that I haven't been creating during these past few months, I have been, but it's been laboured, a bit of a fight.  I haven't felt in a creative flow in spite of having found, once again, a lovely studio to work in - with a beautiful view to an overgrown garden.

Next Monday I hang for another show in Munich - my last one while still a resident of the city.  It's in Ruffini, a cafe-restaurant which showcases art from a different artist each month.  I'm very grateful for the opportunity to display my paintings there.  

Initially, I had thought I was going to carry on with abstract paintings based on Norse Myth which I mentioned in an earlier post, but my "House of Memory" series decided that it was 'not dead yet' so I have been working on completing a few more of them for the show.  I must go into the studio later today to put on the last touches and then over the next couple of days to paint the edges of the canvases.

(oil and cold wax on wood 40 cm. x 40 cm.)

For the past three weeks, I've also been busying myself with a German class.

When we first arrived here five years ago, I enrolled in a class.  Since then, I've had opportunities to practice and improve my German in the course of day to day activities.  But, given that my work is by nature largely solitary, and that I'm a very shy person, it's been perhaps been more difficult for me to pick up the language than for others who would either be forced to in their work place or through a gregarious personality.  So, I'm now past the half way mark in a five day a week, three hours a day class.

A bonus is the walk or cycle from my studio to class. 

My route takes me through the Alter Südfriedhof - the Old South Cemetery.  I've written bout it before when I first visited it a couple of years ago.

Here's the gateway.  The brickwork is amazing.  There isn't much red brick building in Munich, and I don't know why: perhaps there wasn't the right clay, or perhaps it was just preference and tradition.  I for one am a sucker for red brick.  I know it's an ages old building material, found all over, but for me there's still something quintessentially Victorian about it.  Perhaps it's that in Toronto, where I grew up, the city is full of red brick Victorian homes.  An architectural style I really miss here in Bavaria, so this is always a treat.

The cemetery itself is beautiful.  It's possibly the oldest in Munich and is now under protection against development.  One of the things which I love about it is that they let it run wild.  Here you have a sense of time, and of Nature eroding and reclaiming, roots slowly pushing over stones in a strange sinewy dance.  And ferns.  Lots and lots of ferns.  

Last week, as I was walking through, I found this stone.  Rather uncharacteristically, it has a woman's photo on it.  The writing is, unfortunately, long gone, but her photo remains.  She reminded me of the women in my collages.

In the garden over her grave was a wild strawberry plant with a few bright red berries.  Like drops of blood, or tiny hearts.  There was magic there.  And perhaps a story to be told.  

On the topic of stories, I wanted to share a collection of stories, poems, essays, and art which I've been thoroughly enjoying.  Donna Quattrone and Virginia M. Mohlere have edited this Scheherezade's Bequest publication: "As You Wish: the Loathly Lady Issue" (volume one, issue one).  
It's beautiful.  The picture on the cover is one of Rima Staines'  (I'm sorry about the poor quality of my photo, I wasn't able to take a better one, but those of you who know Rima's work can imagine how gorgeous it is in person.)  

I did mention that my show this month is to be my last as a resident of Munich.  In the middle of August, we're moving to the beautiful mediaeval city of Regensburg.  We'll be living on the forth (fifth) storey of a building which was begun in 1250 and is right in the middle of the Old Town at Haidplatz.  

The building complex, called the Goldenes Kreuz, is huge and includes, along with a few apartments, a cafe, a small hotel, and a nineteenth century ballroom.  And it's the ballroom along with Jane Austen that got this whole move happening in the first place. 

My husband has taken on the task, from his cousin in Regensburg, to help create a Jane Austen Regency Ball in the ballroom in November.  He's been busy organizing the music, trying to keep to pieces which were in Austen's own collection, as well as finding the dances to go with them.  There will be musicians and I am very happy to participate by singing a few songs. 

One thing led to another and we realized that there seemed to be more opportunities for us professionally in Regensburg.  When at the same time an apartment became available for this Summer, it was a sign.  And we've decided to follow it.  Thank you, Jane.   


Jane Austen
(wikipedia source for public domain image.)

So.  A long, rambling post about what's been going on and what will be going on now that Summer is in full swing.

Friday 17 May 2013

Fox prints at the edge of the forest.

This is a slightly tidied up version of the tidiest part of my desk right now.    
A reflection of the recent state of its owner. 

The past few months have been a bit like being lost in the Depths of the Forest, but light is filtering through the thinning trees at its edges.  A path is emerging.  Some big changes ahead.  Some new possibilities.  I’ll be writing more about them as they approach.  Or rather, as I approach them.    
At the New Moon, once I'd started to see my own forest path, a charming gray fox happened across it.  

I’ve been reading Sylvia Linsteadt’s blog The Indigo Vat for a while now, enjoying her image-and-word stories about the wilds of Northern California she shares with foxes, bobcats, jackrabbits, coyotes.  Her stories weave a beautiful, soul-deep magic binding old tales; the wilderness of her home; and the wilderness deep within each of us.  

Recently, she has been offering monthly retellings of old tales through her “Gray Fox Epistle” series.  I received her tale for May: a re-telling of the Scottish tale Tamlin.  Everything about it is enchanting.  You can read about the creation of each of her tales at her Gray Fox Epistle blog.

One exciting thing on the horizon, which I’ll write more about soon, is singing at a Jane Austen Ball in a nineteenth century ballroom in Regensburg.  Now I just have to dust off my voice and lock up my nerves in a small box somewhere...

And, because I love including photos, a picture of my own grey fox.
My lap appears to have shrunk in these past few months.      

Molly, May 2013

Molly, October 2012

Friday 22 March 2013

chance placement

Coming home with my hands full the other day, I put down my items on any clear space I could find in my painting room.  I liked the way the snakeshead fritillary looked against the painting I'm currently working on so decided to take a snap.  Makes me wish I was a botanical painter!  

I'm putting together a new series of paintings for a show I have in July.  It's based on Norse Myth and I began with a small group of paintings titled Élivágar which I mentioned in an earlier blog post.  The painting pictured here, is one is one of a pair inspired by Niflheim, the Land of Mist in the north; counter to Muspelheim, Land of Fire in the south.  

My current show is running in a Ministry building here in Munich until the beginning of May.  It's a mix of pieces from three series, as well as some odds and sods.  I've sold one piece so far, which I'm very happy about not least of which because It's one of my largest ones and at 150 x 180 cm I was worried about where to put it after the show.  (Losing my studio also meant losing the place to store my paintings.)  

And, my latest collage: "Her father taught her to know the fairies by name."  

For a while now I've been thinking about painting watercolour images of women and girls and adding papers and old letters and a line of text like I do in my collages.  I've only just begun to experiment, but once I've got something finished, I'll post some pictures.

Good weekend, Everyone!