Monday, 29 November 2010

Self Portrait

You may wish to look away now. Today's painting is a nude self portrait.

I did this years ago, as another part of the same Eagle's Wing shamanic course which birthed Cosmic Mother.

The assignment was to somehow create a representation of ourselves in the weeks between meetings. I had lots of lovely arty ideas with wonderful symbolism and abstract implications, but then I remembered this was not about pretty art.

This was an opportunity to dare to show myself totally honestly to a group of trusted allies.This was not a time for subtlety.

So I asked my then partner to photograph me naked and completely unposed; the full frontal if you will. No fig leaf cover-ups with my hair; not even a smile. 

The resultant photo was predictably cringe-worthy, but I painted what I saw as closely as I could.

 The chaos of emotion preceding this caused me to go a bit crazy with the background. A vibrant madness of multi-colour swirls kept me occupied for a while and delayed the painting proper.

Although I was free with my colours (I don't really have purple and yellow skin!), I stayed tonally accurate, which meant being truthful to my recently sunburned face and to those bits which had not seen the sun. Thus:

I even allowed the world to know that I have mismatched knees: one of my father's and one of my mother's:  

Interestingly, as I painted, I grew! My initial sketches gave me canvas space to move, to stretch if I needed to. But by the time I had finished, I was wedged hard between the top and the bottom.

This, I can now see, was very much what was happening in my life. I was growing, learning, finding strength and independence, even standing physically taller, and I was going to need to make big changes before that could be comfortable for anybody.

Self Portrait
Oil on Canvas
40" x 20"

So, although to some people I look uncomfortable here (and I was); for me this is a painting of quiet triumph. I was given a certain space to contain me and I pushed at the boundaries until I broke free.

And when I look at it now, I don't feel the cringe any more.

Sometimes, secretly, I even suspect there may be beauty here. Just maybe.

Friday, 26 November 2010


Another painting for your appreciation, I hope. 

Dancers is lighter; easier on the heart than Cosmic Mother.

As I painted this I was enjoying the unexpected shapes we make when we dance without inhibition, or at least with our cloaks of inhibition slipped a little off one shoulder.

Oil on Canvas
40" x 20"

I have done several kinds of exploratory and expressive dance training and synthesised these, and other learnings I have eagerly gathered, into FreeDancing  which I teach to groups and individuals. 

I always delight in the revelation of beautiful self which comes, cautiously or brazenly, through our bodies when our clever, busy minds dare pause.

First, we cling to the music, to the physical space, and get kind of groovy, kind of rhythmic, kind of sexy.

 Sometimes at this point we have that crazy list of thoughts: Do I like these people? Why did I pay money to feel awkward? Does my bum look big in this?

And, when we have quite finished our anxieties and preoccupations (just for today; we can always do more another time), a touch of magic sparks up our spines and all those other people don't seem so 'other', and nor do we. We begin to think that perhaps we are just fine as we are. Perhaps.

And with this sense of 'okay self' comes a new daring to reach for what we need but so rarely ask for.

We pull into our centres, from the skies, from the Earth, from each other, that missing... that missing thing which we could name if only we knew what it was called. 

And our call to the world to help us ease this... this lack, perhaps... is always, always, always answered. We just need to ask. So simple. 

And it feels... ah, yes, thank you... it feels like home.

And although this home is a place where we are safe to be scared and angry and full of grief for the thousand unhealed wounds we wear; although it is tough, sometimes, to stay here, when we are so used to the 'What will they think?' place; although it feels, with good reason, that we may not come out the same as we went in, there is a joy suffusing our bones and being; an ecstatic love of just being alive right now, which we can keep safe for when next the dark clouds roll over.


Maybe the greatest gift of this holy practise is that for every little hurt we can heal in ourselves, we have a little more energy, more love, more self, to offer out to the rest of the world. 

So as we dance and pray and heal and work wonders in our own lives, we are also sweating and crying and laughing and shouting for our friends of all kinds in all places. 

We are doing nothing more, nor less, than changing the world.

And that, my friends, is most definitely magic.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Cosmic Mother

OK. Brace yourselves. We're going into what may seem weird territory for some... But if you've started reading a post called 'Cosmic Mother', you're probably not scared easy.

So. Another painting by yours truly. And this one has a story, which I will tell a little tentatively because it has fronds reaching to the very core of my heart. 

Cosmic Mother
Oil on Canvas

Amongst other acts of crazy sanity, we buried ourselves alive. Yes. We dug our own graves and, like the free-thinking, independent warriors that we are, we followed instructions to get into them at sunset, lie down... and listen to the earth being shoveled over our wood and tarp roofs. The sound of soil hitting my roof in ever-quieter thuds and sprinkles may never leave me. I have rarely been so grateful to have recently peed. 

And then the strangest thing happened: I stopped feeling scared. In fact, I felt safer than usual; comforted, like a baby.

The Earth was holding me, I realised, not in her arms as she normally does when I walk her surface, but deeply in her womb. I felt a breadth of love I have only had sniffs of with people, even my very loving human mum.

And then... I knew. I had the most curious Russian-doll feeling that I was a baby in the womb of the Cosmic Mother and in my womb... Oh. So that's why the digging was so hard.

And the best feeling, of being able to express this booming love I was receiving, washed through me. I was a holy conduit calling into me the love of the universe and flowing it into the child I carried.   I was a mother.

All night I blissed and loved and dozed in this Russian-doll blessing. I spoke with my child; my boy. Not words; not mind; just a connection so I could sing my love into his tiny, tiny body and he could let me know how urgently he had wanted to contact me. Every time I recall his urgency I am so grateful to have had this unique experience. So grateful.

And at dawn, when others eagerly fled their graves, I was reluctant. I feared losing the love I'd felt. And, anyway, I didn't feel like breakfast. 

But, of course, the love stayed strong and is with me still.

My boy - he has a name, but I will hold that close to my chest for now - is not with me. When I was ten weeks pregnant he left. And I grieved like I had known him all my life.

And so I learned that the love of the Cosmic Mother is not pretty and easy and sweet in the way we often use the word. It is vast and powerful and sometimes terrifying. It is all truth and no mercy. And still I am grateful.

Perhaps, without the burial that night, I would have escaped the bereavement I experienced. But I would never have met my son. And what mother would choose to not know her child? Not this one.

The love I experienced that night now guides me, sometimes minute by minute, in the raising of my healthy, happy daughter.

I wish you all the luck to feel such love and the courage to withstand it.

Saturday, 20 November 2010


Here's my second painting, temporarily perching on this pedestal, soaking up the scrutiny.

Oil on Canvas

As you may be able to tell, I really had fun with this one. I got messy. It was my first attempt with a palette knife and I fell in love. 
In person, this painting is almost sculptural, it's so 3D. I wanted to get all the differences between water moving en masse in a surge, fragmenting into droplets as it falls, and roiling as foam when it meets the navel of the next wave. Delicious.
And I'm still sucked into that bit of blue sky at the end every time. I want to go there!

So, this is a less personal painting than Polar Bear, but there's still something of me in it. 
There's something of FreeDancing in the movement and the way water succumbs to all forces whilst carving through mountains and chiseling shimmers into the sea bed. There's something of me in this heave, poise, fall, tumble, heave...
There's something of me here for you, with open arms.

Sometimes the fall is the best bit.

Friday, 19 November 2010

'November' Success

Hooray! My flash fiction, 'November', has won a runner-up place in an international competition. It will be published soon in an anthology.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Polar Bear

So, I've finally got round to  photographing some oil paintings I did a while ago. The work I'm in now is quite different and I'll show you it as it comes together. But to start, to push my head up through the clouds, I'll use each post to show you a new painting for a while, tell you a little about it... and hope it's sunny up there.

Polar Bear
Oil on Canvas

This is my favourite; my love; my all-time protector, mentor; my deepest, fiercest friend. This is Polar Bear. He stands behind me when I need to act with courage. He uses his amazing nose to scent for danger when I feel cautious and need reassurance. He has been known to decapitate a foe with one blow of his mighty paw. Yuk. But wow.

He kind of scares me. I mean, he is unquestionably on my side. Always. No matter what. But it's like that dizzy feeling you get when you look up at a mountain so huge you have to lean back... he's just awesome and I am grateful every day that he is my ally. I have been bigger, braver, stronger, more powerful so many times because I have Polar Bear back-up. Who wouldn't be?

Polar Bear is one of my very first paintings, and one of my favourites. I had learned nothing; all was intuition. I know several artists who treasure their earliest works. Any ideas why this might be? Do we lose something as we hone our skill? Or are we simply nostalgic for that canvas-virgin feeling. Actually, to this day I quake at the knees and tremble with excitement every time. (I am still talking about painting here.)

Polar Bear was in an exhibition of mine a couple of years ago. Although I sold other work, I priced Polar Bear way higher than everything else because I just wasn't sure I was ready to sell him. I'm still not. He would have to go somewhere very special. For now he's in my daughter's nursery. What better bodyguard could a little girl wish for?

Do let me know your thoughts. They're always appreciated. Thanks.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Sole Trader

I've been officially self-employed for less than forty eight hours and I'm already earning :o). There's no actual money involved yet, but I do have twelve bottles of fine wine on their way to me, and all for writing a letter to a free magazine! Fantastic. Feels like the start of something good. 
And on the subject of fresh beginnings, I am loving my new hair. My lovely friend Rima (Check out her inspiring and heartening blog.) spent seven hours twining, backcombing and felting my hair into dreadlocks a week ago. I now look closer to how I feel - and I don't mean tangled! Initially they were amazingly fluffy; I looked like a tarantula, but they're literally coming together, despite the best efforts of my persistently silky hair.

Seriously spider-headed!
As I wax and weave my new locks, I'm creating a repository of creative energy and self-belief to carry me into the heart of this adventure. I know there could be rapids ahead, but for now I'm enjoying this float in the sunshine, admiring the trees in the breeze...
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