Nature

Nature © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

This image is in the vein of experiments in digital art. It reminds me very much of chalk/soft pastels, a traditional medium I did experiment with many, many years ago. However, I abandoned it as I didn’t like the feel of the soft pastels nor the messiness of them.

Using a kind of digital version of them means no mess!

I like this pot potpourri of motifs quite a lot. The softness of the lines and translucency of the colours appeals to me. I also like the way the colours glow against the black background. Surprisingly, the simplicity of the motifs appeals to me as well, giving a folk art kind of vibe to this work. Overall this design has an ethereal, ghostly, perhaps even magical feel to it.

My usual style of art is quite intricate and detailed, so this is definitely a departure from this. It’s certainly a style I want to experiment with more.

As it’s digital art, I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

Shell Drawings and Chameleon Pens

AngelaPorter_6June_2017_ColouredShells

Between counselling and errands today, I’ve managed to create over 30 shell ‘digi stamps’ or individual images I can re-size and print out as needed by me, though I am considering putting them together as sets of digi-stamps, though I do need to add line detail to quite a few; that’s a job for another day.

I printed out a few of them on A4 paper, and used my Chameleon Pens to colour them in, and here’s the result – very brightly coloured.

My only problem is to work out what to do with them!  Do I use them in some mixed media index cards or bigger work?  Do I use them to make greetings cards?  Is there something else I could do with them?

At the moment I don’t quite know, but I’ll work it.  First I need to cut them all out.  Hopefully, my scissor skills will improve …

Oh, I drew the shells on my Microsoft Surface book in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

Needle felted mushroom

The last four hours have been spent happily stabbing – lots of stabbing.  All to create my first needle felted ‘sculpture – a mushroom.

The photo isn’t brilliant (it is after 2am here in the UK, and I lost track of time..), and grey isn’t my usual colour of choice; however I used it for the mushroom as I have lots of grey wool and if it didn’t work out, it would be no great loss.

However, it has worked out.  It’s been a bit of a learning thing, and I still have lots to learn, learning that can only be done by doing it seems.

I do have a few coloured ‘circles’ to add, and then I’m sure I’ll want to add beads and stuff to add sparkle (that inner raven of mine demands sparkle whenever I can manage it!).

Overall, I’m really quite pleased with the outcome so far!

I’ve not done any sculpting for many, many years, and only then with clay.  I enjoyed working with clay, but I don’t have the facilities to do that now, but I can use wool and felt it, and I really have enjoyed the felting.  It’s easy on my fingers too (apart from the one stab to my thumb when I missed the mushroom a tad!).  It’s sculpting in terms of building the form up, rather than removing material to reveal a form, such as you’d do in stone sulpture.  The building up appeals to me far more.

I’ll finish this mushroom, then I’m sure there’ll be more things to be made.

Autumn blackberries

Bramble28Aug12 © Angela Porter
Bramble © Angela Porter
5″ x 3″, pen and ink.

Plucking blackberries from hedgerows bursting with the deep purple-black fruits of the bramble are memories of childhood.

Taking care not to prick fingers on the thorns, or get clothing snagged and torn upon them either.  There were also the sticky burrs of goose-grass to avoid too.

It was all worth the hours of effort, however.  Blackberry and apple pie, blackberry crumble, bramble jelly, and the blackberry wine my father brewed (if he could steal any away).

Blackberries were frozen by the plastic gallon re-used ice-cream tub to be used for Sunday desserts through the winter months too.

All of these things created once the blackberries had been washed in salted water to bring out any maggots that had burrowed their way into the fruits.  If I caught sight of one single maggoty thing, I couldn’t eat any more of them, and eating them straight from the bramble was not an option for me.  It’s no wonder I’m a vegetarian!

A free harvest that I no longer take advantage of, but may manage to do so this year if I can pluck up the courage to go by myself in to the countryside to do this.

Yes, I do mean courage, as I’ve become a bit of a recluse once again, not going out into the world where there are other human beings to encounter me.  A long, personal story that is, but one I hope to change with time.  The gist is I’ve allowed myself to be hurt by other people over the past few years.  Things I was once involved with have gone by the by and I’ve not managed to replace these social activities with others.  Oh, I do go out.  I am involved in things, but the people I encounter are, generally, more acquaintances than anything else.  I still seek and search for a sense of belonging in this world.

Even as I think back to childhood blackberrying, I remember that I was often alone even though the rest of the family were there, all chatting and laughing and playing amongst themselves while I was generally excluded, unless it was to be the butt of someone’s joke.  Always funny for them…

Funny, the memories of blackberrying, and collecting bilberries, or whinberries as they are also called, are still ones of pleasure – the pleasure of the food produced as a result.  Bilberries are small, blueberries, native to Britain.

Folklore

There’s plenty of folklore surrounding the humble bramble and it’s fruits.

“Throughout much of Britain there was a widespread belief that blackberries should not be eaten after a certain date.” [Vickery]

This date may have be that of the first frost, as then they become the Devil’s fruit  and are not fit for humans to eat .

Michaelmas (29 September) or  Old Michaelmas (11 October)  relate to the biblical tale of  Lucifer being thrown out of heaven for his proud, covetous ways by Archangel Michael (Isaiah 14:12).  It is said that Lucifer landed in a bramble bush and cursed it, which is why people won’t eat blackberries after Michaelmas, saying variously that:

  • they have the Devil in them
  • the Devil peeps over the hedgerow and blasts them
  • so the Devil may have his share
  • the Devil spits on them

Hallowe’en (31 October) or All Saints’ Day (1st November) are also dates given as the cut off for blackberry consumption.  As well as the reasons given above, this date also relates to the following:

  • they have the witch in them
  • the witches have peed on them
  • on Hallowe’en the puca has crawled on the blackberries.

“From a scientific point of view, blackberries contain a high concentration of bitter tasting tannins which over time accumulate in the fruit. Old Michaelmas day falls late in the blackberry season making berries picked around this time very bitter. To make matters worse, as autumn arrives the weather becomes wetter meaning the fruit will contain more fungus spores. This will not improve the taste either.” [BBC Nature UK]

Brambles were sometimes planted, or placed, on graves, one belief being that they stopped the dead from walking.  Another reason is that they kept the sheep off the grave.

A superstition in Wales was “When thorns or brambles catch or cling to a girl’s dress, they say a lover is coming.” [Roud]

References:

BBC Nature UK, Nature folklore uncovered

Roud, Steve “The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland”, Penguin Reference, 2003

Vickery, RoyOxford Dictionary of Plant-lore”, Oxford Paperbacks, Oxford University Press, 1995

Floramania and another dragonfly…

Floramania

Approx. 13cm x13cm (5″ x 5″)

Rotring Rapidograph pens with black ink on white cartridge paper and several hours of time…

Floramania 27Aug12 © Angela Porter 2012

Little dragonfly

Approx. 9cm x 14cm (3.5″ x 5.25″)

Rotring Rapidograph pens with black in on white cartridge paper.

Tinted Dragonfly © Angela Porter 2012

Faffy times…

The last several days have been ‘faffy’ days where I’ve just been faffing around with art and reading and not much else.

The weather has mostly been very wet – torrential rain, high winds at time.  Perfect weather for battening down the hatches and losing oneself in art and craft and reading.

For some reason the drawing pens have come out again, and I find myself lost in the fiddly fussy work that I do, enjoying it too.  It also has shown me how I struggle with colour, unless the colour is purely abstract in itself.

It also allows me an escape from the sting of rejection, the loss of a dream that never ever was, and a chance to let my unconscious mind, my soul, my spirit to start the process of healing and working the way to the person I am meant to be, choose to be, want to be, with a life I’d like.  A life that includes people in it – friends, a found family, and love too.

Calendar change-over eve…

The old to the new

Well, the end of the calendar year, and the astronomical year if the Winter Solstice is seen as the end of one cycle and the start of the next, has come with a pile of revelations from a friend and a series of bangs that have released some inner demons and tears and uncovered an emptiness and knotted-ness in my gut area.

I’m pleased for my friend, don’t get me wrong.  At last they are taking the little yet huge step they need to take to release them from a situation that is untenable for them and into a new phase of their life’s journey.  I wish them happiness and joy and love.  I worry that they are chasing a rainbow, a dream that will not live up to reality, they’ll find the grass isn’t greener, but I know that they’ll find themselves progressing forward in a way they couldn’t where the currently are at.

Their excitement, fear, trepidation, hope and all the other things their going through has stirred up some ‘stuff’ within me that needs to be worked on and examined, which are, in no particular order:

  • Job and Career – Teaching is no longer healthy for me and though I find pleasure and satisfaction in some areas of the job, increasingly I’m finding it harder and harder to cope with other aspects of it.  I need to look at myself and what I can offer in terms of being an employee and what I need from a workplace in order to feel appreciated, valued, successful and that I am achieving good and truly helping people.  What kind of career I want, I don’t know.  Maybe training as a hypnotherapist will lead me along the way.  However, I do know I need to identify what I’d like to do, and that starts with what I can do and so on.
  • Relationships – I’ve been single for, gosh, thirteen and a half years now.  Along the way I’ve had many experiences placed along the spectrum of good to absolutely goddam awful.  I’ve felt time and time again the hurt of rejection and the blow it delivers to my self-esteem, self-respect and so on, and of course I realise that I expected nothing else.  Well, it’s about time that changed and it’s time for me to learn about relationships…big step for me.  How I do this, I don’t know, but it will start with me looking at myself honestly at the qualities I have, good and not so good, and come to accept and care about myself.
  • Friendships – I have a small number of very good friends, but learning to ask for help and accepting it when it is given is … a big hurdle for me.  I’ve had to be strong and independent for so long, to prove I can do it, that admitting I can’t is a big thing.
  • Creativity – I do not do enough to develop my writing skills and to weave stories.  I doubt my ability to do this.  I fear plagiarising, being unoriginal, being boring or trite.  I fear failure (damn that ultra-perfectionist part of me that doesn’t recognise when something is good enough).  I feel a sense of being overwhelmed when I think about telling a tale.  The result is I do nothing.  I also am lacking inspiration in art, finding myself doing the same kind of thing over and over and over …

The common threads running through all of this involve me learning to love myself by knowing who I am and to accept myself for this, warts and all.  I need to raise my self-esteem, my confidence, to be brave enough to start something.  Above all else, I need to find the courage to be brave enough to share something of myself with others.

To follow tradition or not?

This year, more than at any other time, I’ve found the traditions and the significance of events more puzzling and confusing.

The rational scientist in me recognises that time is a continuous flow, the only markers on time are the ones we place there so that we can agree on when we are talking about and the meaning we attach to those markers is manufactured to satisfy a need for predictable events in our lives, to bring some kind of order to what appears to be an otherwise random and chaotic existence.

Then the more spiritual aspect of me kicks in and says that it’s OK to do this, to mark the various points on the wheel of the year, the various events that we celebrate, the things we give meaning to.  They connect us together, for we are all connected, not just to all other human beings, not just to all life on Earth, but to the very stuff the Earth and, indeed, the Universe is made out of, the energy that constantly flows round and round.

We are not disconnected from the cycles that we can observe on this planet.  We may rationalise that they are caused by scientific laws, that they have no meaning.

However, I’m coming to realise that they do have meaning.  They bring us together and remind us that we are not separate, that what one of us does impacts on the whole, to a greater or lesser degree.  By honouring the traditions we connect to the patterns that are stored in the universal consciousness for humans have been honouring the same observed patterns and events over many, many generations.  It’s a way of honouring our forebears, of connecting to the present day, and of speaking to the future too.

It’s important, however, to decide if the particular traditions or observances fit in with your own philosophy, why you celebrate in the way you do, and to recognise that it is perfectly acceptable to change them as you grow and develop as a person, and not to just follow them blindly because you have always done them.  It is, of course, perfectly acceptable to create traditions of  your own too.

It may be that because I lead a very solitary existence, traditions celebrated by oneself have not really had any particular meaning, or have changed as my spiritual philosophy has grown and developed over the years.  Perhaps it is important that I find which traditions, which celebrations have meaning to me, and develop ways of observing them that lets me understand where they have come from, the meaning they have for me at this time, and how they will impact on the future.

Of course, I’m not sure if all of that made any sense at all!  Sometimes I need to get it out of me by writing and mithering and wittering on.

Almost the end of the Summer break…

Prehistoric Fertility 2 – A work in progress

Prehistoric Fertility 2 WIP © Angela Porter 2011

Dimensions – 23x30cm, approx.  Silk fibre needle felt on a black felt background.  Embellishement with beads, metallic and Japan threads, and custom-made sequins.

Photographs never seem to do my work justice, simply because I’m not a photographer.  There is no idea of the shimmery nature of the work, the way that the gold Japan threads used to outline various parts of the needle felt define the shapes and provide a channel along which the colours seem to flow like oil on water.  There is no sense of the texture and heights/depths that the needle felt has brought to the work, nor to the patterns and textures the beads give.  The colours still look garish in the photograph, yet in the actual piece they are more subtle and muted.

I have spent many hours on this so far – around 30 I would guess.  Every moment has been a pleasure, and I’ve even caught myself looking at it and smiling at how well it is working out – unusual for me as I’m my own worst critic, and it’s a step forward that I can appreciate the beauty in my creative work.

Last day of the holidays

It’s finally arrived.  Today marks the end of my freedom to a degree.  Tomorrow I return to work, to a structured day and all the ups and downs that go with the job that teaching is.  My time for art and other pursuits will become very limited.

I had a list of things to do over the Summer, and I’ve achieved few of them, however I have achieved other things, and that is good.  What is better is I’m not beating myself up about the tasks undone.  There’ll be time to do them…

I will miss the slow starts to the day, the spontaneity of trips and visits and time with friends.  Friday afternoon I spent with a friend in a local cafe-bar, drinking, talking about art and other things, working on art, having nice food and laughing before going to take the weekly meditation class I lead.  I will miss the opportunity to do those kinds of things.

On the positive side, it won’t be long until the next school break, and there are the weekends too…

There’s definitely a coolness in the air in the mornings and evenings.  It’s a feeling I associate with the coming of autumn, the return to school, the start of the new academic year and a sense of hope of better things to come, a hope that was usually misplaced, and still is.  However, I still hope that a new school year and a new term will bring new attitudes, opportunities and good achievements.

This year, the new attitudes must be towards myself and my expectations of me and how I react to the poor attitude/behaviour of others.  The Summer break has allowed me to relax, to become who I am meant to be.  I like this person, I like the contentment within me, I like the confidence that comes with it.  What I don’t want is to lose this with the stresses and strains of teaching.  There’s a challenge!

One of the tasks left mostly undone over the Summer was too look for an alternative career/job, one that will allow me to use all my personal skills/talents/gifts in a positive manner.  I’ve been stumped as to what to do, and looking around at available jobs there is nothing that seems to fit me, well not yet.

So that’s another task for the coming weeks – to keep looking at available jobs, to seek advice, suggestions, to continue the audit of my personal skills to help me focus on what  I could do.

I have been thinking about training as a hypnotherapist.  The biggest stumbling block for me is finding the money to pay the fees.  I’m making enquiries about that…so finger’s crossed!

The incipient return to work has been causing some anxiety and worry with me.  My meditation this morning was filled with thoughts of things that need to be done, ideas as to what to do, worries about things that cause me emotional pain …

Flowers, folklore and folk-medicine

Our Fathers of Old

Excellent herbs had our fathers of old –
Excellent herbs to ease their pain –
Alexanders and Marigold,
Eyebright, Orris and Elecampane –
Basil, Rocket, Valerian, Rue
(Almost singing themselves they run)
Vervain, Dittany, Call-me-to-you –
Cowslip, Melilot, Rose of the Sun.
Anything green that grew out of the mould
Was an excellent herb to our fathers of old.

Wonderful tales had our fathers of old,
Wonderful tales of the herbs and the stars –
The Sun was Lord of the Marigold,
Basil and Rocket belonged to Mars.
Pat as a sum in a division it goes –
(Every herb had a planet bespoke) –
Who but Venus should govern the Rose?
Who but Jupiter own the Oak?
Simply and gravely the facts are told
In the wonderful books of our fathers of old.

Wonderful little, when all is said,
Wonderful little our fathers knew.
Half their remedies cured you dead –
Most of their teaching was quite untrue –
“Look at the stars when a patient is ill.
(Dirt has nothing to do with disease),
Bleed and blister as much as you will,
Blister and bleed him as oft as you please.”
Whence enormous and manifold
Errors were made by our fathers of old.

Yet when the sickness was sore in the land,
And neither planets nor herbs assuaged,
They took their lives in their lancet-hand
And, oh, what a wonderful war they waged!
Yes, when the crosses were chalked on the door –
(Yes, when the terrible dead-cart rolled!)
Excellent courage our fathers bore –
None too learned, but nobly bold
Into the fight went our fathers of old.

If it be certain, as Galen says –
And sage Hippocrates holds as much –
“That those afflicted by doubts and dismays
Are mightily helped by a dead man’s touch,”
Then, be good to us, stars above!
Then, be good to us, herbs below!
We are afflicted by what we can prove,
We are distracted by what we know
So-ah, so!
Down from your heaven or up from your mould
Send us the hearts of our Fathers of old!

Rudyard Kipling


Yes, there were some dreadful examples of medicine in days long ago, yet there were also many examples of folk-medicine that did work and that we use today.

For example research in biomedical Egyptology shows that many were effective and that some 67% of the cures recorded in various papyri complied with the 1973 Edition of the British Pharmaceutical Codex. They used honey, a natural antibiotic, to dress wounds and treat throat irritations, for instance, and aloe vera was used to treat blisters, burns, ulcers and skin diseases. They also used mouldy bread to treat infections; one of the moulds that grows on bread is penicillin!

There are many more examples of cures that worked and the active ingredients are used in modern medicine. Indeed, there is a branch of science called ethnobotany or ethnopharmacology that studies folk-medicines with the hope of finding new and active ingredients to treat the plethora of diseases still suffered by humanity.

Regardless of whether they worked or not, reading and researching about the uses of plants and other materials in folk medicine as well as the theories our fathers of old had about illness is something that I find fascinating, when I have the time to dig and delve into it. I find lots of interesting tales about where the names of plants come from, so I learn more about etymology, history, folklore, legend and myth. I get to look at photographs and illustrations of the plants used, so widening my knowledge and experience of art and so inspiring me to create my own. One day, the tales may even help to inspire me to do my own creative writing, maybe poetry, about all the wonderful lore that surrounds our most familiar plants, crystals, rocks, horseshoes, and so on.