Friday, 19 June 2015

What draws me to faerytales?

TEA! Say it with me, baby! Tea is my fuel of choice for art o clock, and I've dedicated a drawer now to tea, bang next to the kitchen table which is my studio space. The drawer is now groaning under the weight, and it's such a joy to see all those beautiful boxes, and sniff all those luscious leaves just jostling to be glugged down! These are some of my favourite cuppas at the mo:

Yogi Ginger, Orange and Vanilla, Yogi Rose, Yogi Classic, Pukka Womankind, Pukka Love, Pukka Three Mint, Twinings Everyday

Apart from rejoicing in tea, I have now restarted a notebook / sketchbook - it has been sooo many moons. It felt so good to scribble down all the ideas crashing into each other in my head like confused bees! I had some really good chats with my sweet mamma this week too. She is a creativity whizz and takes lots of art courses. She creates gorgeous silver jewellery of leaves and cups of acorn and tea, which I am very honoured to 'zoink'! We were talking about a lot of questions I had about the areas of art which get me fired up and came up with some whopping conclusions that have sorted out some really scrambly feelings I was having:

Contrast - the importance of light and dark in the painting. Both in terms of light and shadow aesthetically, but also a hint of some darker presence or element in a scene of beauty or innocence. Enforcing both the light and the dark by them being juxtaposed.
Which brings me onto - the importance of beauty! There is a super documentary about beauty in art, and this feels so important to me. 'Why Beauty Matters' by Roger Scruton. Such a fabulous analysis and well worth an ogle. Faerytale art seems like such an epitome of beauty to me. But also encapsulates that darker side effectively. As Neil Gaiman says,  

'Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.'

Why I want to paint faerytales - Being part of a long history or tradition feels so bewitching to me! Being able to connect with so many people who have shaped the malleable fabric of a folk tale or faerytale over time. It is so touching how these tales live, evolve, and grow - which Neil Gaiman has also discussed quite marvellously in a recent talk, which you can see on Brain Pickings!

'Stories … are genuinely symbiotic organisms that we live with, that allow human beings to advance.'

Such an eloquent and insightful musing! Love this bit too:

'Nearly half a century after French molecular biologist Jacques Monod proposed what he called the “abstract kingdom” — a conceptual parallel to the biosphere, populated by ideas that propagate like organisms do in the natural world — and after Richard Dawkins built upon this concept to coin the word “meme,” Gaiman suggests stories are a life-form obeying the same rules of genesis, reproduction, and propagation that organic matter does.'

So beautiful!! I love the idea of these tales existing in a sort of nebulous floaty realm, (and being reliant on human beans to stay alive.) It reminds me so much of Carl Jung's idea of the collective unconscious. Sort of like a big swooshy cosmic bog of experience squelching out universal symbols and behaviours which humans and animals seem to automatically know. And the faerytale realm is similarly a stonking great marshful of wisdom (or wishdom as I wrote first, he he) from which we can draw to gain knowledge of certain archetypes, plunder for life guidance and have a face whacked on abstract concepts (eg. trolls representing the shadows we have in ourselves) to make them more appealing to confront. Fascinating! 

I hope that all makes sense - I will research more and try and clarify more as I go along. But I feel like there's a lovely foundation now for launching from in terms of what fascinates me about these tales. I'm focussing first on East of the Sun, West of the Moon, and particularly the bit where the youngest daughter is riding off on the back of the white bear. Such a compelling image! I love how she grips his fur tightly as she rides off to her new life - such emotion you could capture in that gesture I think.

What draws you to faerytales, and just as importantly, what's in your cup?!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Fairytales and the psyche - a fascinating pairing

Two ideas I want to research more this week include:

Carl Jung's research into folktales, fairytales, myths and legends and his ideas about their inclusion of universal archetypes

The idea of self-destructive rage in fairytales - eg. Rumpelstiltskin and the troll in East of the Sun, West of the Moon

The twist on the story of Narcissus in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist (which I am yearning to own and read!!! - it sounds absolutely spectacular) - where the river and Narcissus could be said to be in a symbiotic relationship - each seeing only their own beauty in the other's eyes - they seem reliant on each other - I imagine two people only able to perceive themselves as lovable through someone else's loving eyes. Interesting to wonder if such a relationship is constructive or destructive - or maybe a bit of both! Such an interesting theme which I'd love to explore in a painting.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Celtic harp inspiration

Two magical harpists whose music I adore are Elisabeth Jane Baldry and Àine Minogue. Elisabeth Jane Baldry features in a super documentary called The Fairy Faith, and she is so sweet! She has dedicated a lot of work to Victorian fairy music and I hope to buy her CD soon - I think it must be wonderful. I have also just heard of a magical folk song called The Selkie - Àine Minogue's enchanting version has captured my heart.

An extract from the lyrics:

"I'm a man upon the land, I'm a selkie in the sea; and when I'm far frae every stand, my dwelling is in Suleskerry."

Aine Minogue - one of my favourite musicians - her music is a direct export from eventyr land

Eventyr! A beauteous new book and personification inspiration

I have just bought the beautifulest, weightiest, whopping great brick of a tome and I'm so excited I could pop!!

Entitled Eventyr (isn't that just the most magical word? It means fantastical, fairytale escapade in Norwegian. What could be more evocative? It sounds like 'adventure' and 'eventide' squished together! Mm, adventures at eventide, anyone??... *disappears in a sigh to a mystical land*). The book is enormous and stuffed to the spine with folk tales and faery tales from Norway, with illustrations by my beloved Theodor Kittelsen among some lovely others who I'm getting to know. The text is all in Norwegian so it's good practice for me to flex my dusty braincells and translate!

The front cover of the book features this gorgeous Kittelsen painting, an illustration to a tale called Kvitebjørn kong Valemon (White Bear King Valemon) Stories combining human beans and personified wild forest animals ignite so many fireworks in my heart... throw in a pawful of shadowy woodland and I'm sold!

I've read the first six stories and about to embark on Østenfor sol og vestenfor måne (East of the sun and west of the moon), which is a longer tale than those I've tackled so far, and also features a walkin' talkin' white bear. I think it will be an inspiring one!

The previous story I read, Risen som ikke hadde noe hjerte på seg (The giant who had no heart in him) was also a golden chestnut! At one point in the tale, Askeladden (Ash Lad in English - a recurring character in Norwegian faery tales who, though small, packs a punch when it comes to outwitting foes) is riding on the back of an anthropomorphic grey wolf (who has grown quite sizeable  after being permitted to gobble up Askeladden's horse - gotta love those dark gory twists), hunting for the heart of the giant on a faraway island so he can squish it! He needs to enlist the help of several other animals along the way, one of them being the raven. I love the image of Askeladden and the oversized grey wolf, on a little misty island, calling to the raven. Would he call with an instrument, a horn, maybe? Would the wolf howl to help? You can almost hear raven's wings flapping! This would be such a beautiful painting!

When our oldest munchkin Caspian was a babby, he loved to play in the ashes at the open kindergarten at the historical museum up our road and Hilde, one of the tutors there, pointed out he was just like Askeladden. That's my babe! He has moved on these days to whizzing trains about at Japanese high-speed bullet train speeds but is still a crafty wee fox, very good at outwitting his (gullible) mamma (especially when it comes to sjokolade!!!)

Caspian Askeladden

On a separate note, while poking about hunting for other magical tales online, I came across The North Wind and the Sun. This is from Aesop's Fables and features a personified wind and sun, who try to strip a traveller of his cloak. It is about persuasion triumphing over force. I love the idea of personified weather! Fantastic!

An illustration by Milo Winter from a 1919 edition of Aesop's Fables, showing the personified north wind attempting to strip the traveler of his cloak

'The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak.
They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other.
Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him;
and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak.
And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two. '

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Snippets of poetry from old notebooks

Saturday afternoon skating moonbeams gently glittering out from old notebooks!
They feel like a gateway into an old world of inspiration <3 p="">Maybe to use in songs, or future paintings?

Some of my favourites:

And the cosmos drew in his breath
'til he was blue in the face

We stand poised on the sill of this astral land
Silver nails of rain in our hands
We gape, wide-eyed, at saffron-soaked limbs
While from her coccoon, Calisto sings.

Will I be found in uncertain lack?
A pipeclay thorn pockmarking my back?

Also - the earth is the third planet from the sun - fascinating also that three is an essential number within the realms of folklore, fairytales, and aesthetically pleasing sequences / proportions.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Split Pin Puppet - Bird Character

I wrote a post many moons ago about making split pin puppets again, inspired by the fantastic Rima Staines at Into The Hermitage! Now I am hankering to make more again. They are so useful for creating playful, dynamic poses that otherwise might not seem obvious. This bird character was a joy to make and I'd like to make more working with the folklore, faery, and fertility themes.

Comparing English and Norwegian folklores - Mêl-An-Tol and Giftesteinen

I have just read something fascinating which fits beautifully into a project idea I've had brewing for the last few years: comparing Norwegian and English folklores and faerytales to inspire new creative work. It also links into the fertility theme that's been inspiring me since spring two years ago!

So without further ado! I read about an ancient stone site in Cornwall, called the Mêl-An-Tol. The site comprises four stones, one of which is big and round with a hole in the middle (so basically, a giant, Bronze Age Polo!). The site is thought to be about 3,500 years old. The stone has many magical powers attributed to it, one of which was to aid fertility. By passing a set number of times (often 3 or 9) through the stone on a full moon night, a woman's fertility was said to be boosted. Farmers could also use the stone to increase their bounty.

The Mel-An-Tol - photograph from

Now the Norway bit! A few years ago, my hubby-to-be, family and I were on a road trip around his home territory in Western Norway. We passed by a big stone with a hole in the middle, with a fertility story attached to it. It was said if a bride-to-be could pass through the stone, all was in order, and if she couldn't... she was probably pregnant! (Maybe because her big bun-in-the-oven belly would get stuck?!)... The stone is called Giftesteinen or Jomfrusteinen (the marriage stone, or virgin stone), and lies in Hornindal.

Giftesteinen / Jomfrusteinen - photograph from

Aren't they both wonderful? Just humming with magical ancient energy! As an interesting aside - thinking about magical stones with holes in - there are also hag stones (which have many alternative names too, see below!) in England, small stones with holes in, which are said to hold magical faery powers.

A hag stone / witch stone / serpent egg / snake egg / Glain Neidr in Wales / Gloine nan Druidh (Druid´s Glass) in Scottish Gaelic - photograph from wikipedia

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 movement of celestial bodies could be translated as 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
Hedgehog, rabbit
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!!