Saturday, 23 May 2015

Foxy Folklore of the Northern Lights!

I've sketched a couple of fertility-related characters - a sheela na gig birthing a tree, and a green man dancing, and I want to combine them in a big painting with other supporting characters. Meanwhile, I've also discovered some beautiful folklores around the phenomenon of the northern lights. Having lived in Norway for nearly four years, I am yet to catch a glimpse of the emerald inferno in the sky (except for a few little shimmery puffs!) - so I'm getting impatient and will just have to ignite some of my own with paint! From I found these lovely tales (fox tails??):

  • Finland - the Finnish name for aurora borealis (the northern lights) is 'revontulet', which translates as 'fox fires'. How beautiful is that... The translation in itself just sparks the imagination into a foxy frenzy! The name derives from an ancient Finnish myth which suggested the lights were caused by a magical fox sweeping his tail across the snow so it flew into the sky. states there are variations on this theme - one where an arctic fox runs far in the north and his fur touches the mountains, causing sparks to leap into the sky. Another says the moonlight reflects off the snowflakes the fox has swept into the sky. Such beautiful imagery - just begging to be painted, and have songs written about!
  • Other cultures have ideas of the lights being departed spirits, departed spirits playing football with a walrus skull, departed walrus spirits playing football with a human skull... great fires lit by gods, battling warriors, dancing maids... 
  • Some have reported hearing a whistling, crackling noise accompanying the aurora. I love the idea of the lights being musical! It reminds me of the idea of 'the music of the spheres' - the philosophical concept that the proportions of celestial bodies could form a kind of music. The following is a quote from Ernest W. Hawkes' book, The Labrador Eskimo:
The whistling crackling noise which sometimes accompanies the
aurora is the voices of (departed) spirits trying to communicate
with the people of the Earth. They should always be answered
in a whispering voice. Youths dance to the aurora. The
heavenly spirits are called selamiut, “sky-dwellers,” those who
live in the sky”.

Sunday, 17 May 2015


Seeking inspiration and musing about fertility tonight - spring is in the air!

Leafing through seedlings of ideas:

Sheela na gig - Giving birth to trees, foliage
Humans and nature interwoven
Green man
Constellation related to fertility?
Norwegian / English / Sami folk lores related to fertility?

Pipit flying in with a new art adventure!

Hello from Norway's National Day! I hope everyone is sparkling and enjoying the spring!
I am going to be inspired by all the cake, coffee (well, tea in this cup, ahem - well, you can take the gal outta England, but--), patriotic pride and frenetic flag waving and touchdown back in blogland (or bogland, as the autocorrect says - oo I like that, might pinch that one for a story!) after many (merry) moons of buns in the ovens! Now that Bun no. 1 goes to barnehage and Bun no. 2 is a bit more settled into a routine of longer snoozes, it might be possible to get back to some painting! I am loving being a mamma and hope there might be some mamma-related paintings in the mix, also weaving in threads from faerytales, folk tales, witchy magic, animal and plant lore, forest preservation, ancient astronomy, music makers, Celtic harps, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Sami culture and tea!.... Um yes, well that might end up as quite a busy painting, but these are all the topics which inspire my socks off (which do have teacups on today!) and I want to be working with. I have a new plan brewing, when both buns are in the kindergarten, I will take a Norwegian course and then hopefully train to be an art teacher!! How exciting that would be. I do hope also allowing time in holidays for indulging my itching painting paws!

It was so fascinating a while back in the blog to analyse appearances of emerald green in art, literature, and the universe, and I'd love to use this blog as a place where some good ol' fashioned analysis could go too! At the moment I like the thought of delving into Norwegian and English folk lore and tales of enchantment, finding similarities and differences and maybe even combining the findings in new paintings, poetry and music. I love to play Celtic harp too and was thinking how lovely it would be to illustrate traditional harp songs - some have beautiful, yearning lyrics which would be exciting to translate in pictures on canvas! There are many traditional instruments which intrigue and inspire me, and I like the thought of painting music makers too.

So raise your teacups to celebrate a steaming new art adventure!! 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Symbology of Hedgehog and the Hidden Side of Spring

Spring has arrived in Norway with a toasty 27 degrees! Everything is green, glittering and gorgeous, the forest is buzzing with birdsong, and the lakes and waterfalls are spangled with sun-diamonds.

I went walking round the lake just up the road from our house (Theisendammen) last night, after a sun-roasted day, and was enchanted by a beautiful energy humming through the forest - the feeling of all the trees and plants quietly recharging after a long day of growing and working in the sizzle of Spring. I felt so inspired by this energy - it seemed like there was a hidden side of Spring which perhaps we don't normally see. While the Spring days can be popping at the seams with colour and vibrancy, when the cloak of evening is draped over the forest, a more subtle energy takes over, where the ferns furl up in magical spirals, the flowers nod their heads into sleep, the leaves fold up for the night, and the nocturnal animals are waking up and beginning their mysterious work in the shadow of night. Everything was sunkissed and drowsy.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I am feeling very drawn to the Hedgehog at the moment, and the symbolism of Hedgehog as a totem animal. Being a nocturnal animal, Hedgehog would fit well into the new painting I was imagining, about this hidden side of Spring. 

After a little research I found out that in Celtic lore, Hedgehog is actually a symbol of Spring arriving! He has many other beautiful earthy symbols too. With his belly lying close to the plant life on earth, he is a symbol of fertility and connectedness to Mother Earth. When we see Hedgehog curled in a ball, we can be reminded of the foetal position. The curled ball form is also an encouragement to us to be centred, and with his spiny armour, Hedgehog is wonderful for helping us develop self-protection. As a nocturnal creature, Hedgehog represents intuition, psychic ability, prophetic dreams and visions.

To weave in the symbols of fertility, connectedness, and protectiveness, at the moment I am imagining a pregnant woman sitting in the woodland, in the stillness of the Spring evening, caressing a hedgehog perched on her pregnant belly. She would have 'hvitveis' (Norwegian woodland flowers which appear in Spring) woven in a crown around her hair, and perhaps dandelion clocks too, representing the passing of time and seasons, and adding more circular forms to the painting, also apparent in the belly, the hedgehog, and the spiral-furled ferns. With the dimming evening light around them, I think an albino hedgehog would be striking and symbolise the new lightness of Spring.

One more aspect of the concept behind the painting I was thinking about last night - the hidden side of Spring could be thought of as a 'between' time and place, where the realm of faerie is thought to exist, or be more easily accessed. I think this could lend a magical quality to the picture too.

Now I will start sketching! I'm so excited to begin this new painting and can't wait to share my progress with you all.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Wise Raven and the Lady of the Woods

Here is a snap of a new canvas I have been conjuring on the last couple of weeks! The painting is inspired by a lovely yoga quote I read ~

"Knowledge comes from learning. Wisdom comes from letting go of what we think we know."

... And also from an old Irish proverb, "to have a raven's knowledge", meaning to have a seer's supernatural powers. Raven is thought of as the oldest and wisest of animals in Paganism.

I thought I would represent knowledge as a raven and have him being set free by a birch tree dryad (tree spirit - though 'dryad' originally referred specifically to the spirits of oak trees, it has come to mean a spirit of any tree), the Lady of the Woods. She has three raven eggs in the nest in her hair, symbolising the birth of new ideas. When she has hatched a new idea, she will let it be free, like the grown raven, and share it with the forest and the beings who share the forest with her. My wonderful chum Lisa, a marine biologist, said that she thinks it is so beneficial when scientists share their knowledge gained from projects, and I loved how she brought her own perspective to the concept behind the painting.

I am now planning what to paint next, and currently feeling very inspired by the hedgehog and the symbology of Hedgehog as an animal totem. I have read so far that Hedgehog can symbolise fertility, their bellies lying close to the Mother (Earth), and being a mamma now I think that is partly what is drawing me to Hedgehog as a character in the new painting. I will research Hedgehog a bit more today and make sketches... and flutter my wings back here very soon!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

I thought it would be lovely to show you a peek of my sketchbook journeying at the moment! These are some sketches for tree spirits, working especially with the idea of the aspen tree currently, as we found lots of aspen leaves in the little twinkle of faerie woodland near our nest! The aspen tree was known to the Celts as 'the whispering tree', and if you go to watch the aspen, you will hear its magical whispering song, and see the ethereal leaves shaking their booties in the breeze!

Sketchbook pages - The Aspen Spirit

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Tree Lore ~ Birch, magpie nests, and the 'Witch's Brooms'

As Caspian gets to know the forest for the first time, and I want to be able to tell him twiggy tales of those gorgeous forest guardians, I thought it would be lovely to flex my research feathers and start a series of posts and paintings about some of the wonderful tales of tree lore there are in England and Norway.

To begin with - the beautiful birch, also called the Lady of the Woods...

I've been spying these nest-like bundles of twigs in the birches near our flat, and was intrigued by them. After prowling around on the 'Skog og Landskap' (forest and landscape) website, I found out in Norway they are called 'heksekost', or  'witch's brooms' in England! They're caused by a cheeky fungus but the witches were suspected as when all the twigs grow in the same direction they look like broomsticks, abandoned in the trees after... they crashed?

What a fun story and wouldn't it make a super illustration! I then found out that broomsticks are traditionally made from birch twigs... I love the idea of combining ideas from witchcraft and tree lore with forest folklore! Wouldn't it be lovely to have a woodland sprite, curled with her birch broomstick in a nest?

A magpie's nest in a birch tree behind our flat in Sverresborg... we saw the magpies weaving in branches this week! 
Beautiful tall birches near Sponhuset Café in Trondheim, showing the witch's brooms!
PS ~ Part of my research has led me to the magical videos of Laura Daligan, artist, witch and psychic - she has made an amazing series of tree tales, faerie magick & animal totem lore on her YouTube channel Lauraredwitch, I adore her Witchcraft Diaries, you must take a peek at her video treasures!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Forest Faeries and Woodland Wonder...

Merry meet, beautiful blog voyagers!
I hope you are having the most star-spangled first flickers of Spring. 
Here in Norway the snowy carpet has melted and I'm feeling the tantalising honeybee buzz of creativity awakening, yawning and stretching after a long slumber! We've been exploring in the forest beyond the field behind our flat most mornings... today Caspian (our little prince aged 15 months) held my hand as we crunched over the birch twigs and meandered over the moss, and then found a puddle to splash in (sit in)... We dived under a shelter some woodland sprites have woven together from fir branches and logs bound to the trees with winding cobwebs of string when the hail swooped in. The forest is pint-sized but crammed with character; ancient feeling emerald rocks entwined with mossy roots... green puddles to stamp in, little hollows beneath the trees where I think we could leave some acorn cupfuls of herb tea for the forest faeries...
We've been collecting birch and aspen leaves and breathing in the sweet sun glittering air as the birds sing far above us in the towering pines... I am brewing new plans to paint using only natural materials, collected ephemera from the forest, and a pumpkin carriageful of dreaming and magic!
My heart is burning for faery, folk, forest, tree and plant lore more that ever... we've been to the library to gather books on botany and the woodlands like a squirrel foraging acorns! My gorgeous wonder-artist friend Lorna gave me a couple of fantastical faery books at Yule too, which are just magical.
I'm working through the super book, 'The Artist's Way' to find my path into new painting projects and so very excited about the new journey... I hope you will be with me all the way!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Bird Caressing a Golden Egg

New big oil painting swooping in for Sunniva & Christer, my hubby to be's cousin & loveboat!
So excited about this & flexing my feathers ready to paint a new giant canvas :)

Sunday, 3 June 2012

I'm currently wanting to develop a more playful approach to my paintings, and inspired by the amazing Rima Staines at Into The Hermitage I've started pumping out the split pin puppets again! Line and I spent a Christmas hooked on these and they're such a hoot. I'm working with my bird people characters and want to get to know them a bit more - musical, magical, dancing and dreaming!