February dangle design

©Angela Porter 2019

Friday is dangle day here in my arty world, and as it’s the first day of February the dangle needs to relate to that!

I created this design for members of the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group (where today is furbaby friday). If you pop over then, join, then you can download the template to colour yourself.

The world is still in the grip of winter; I woke up this morning to a coverlet of snow covering everything. Yet again, I’m am so grateful that I work at home and don’t have to go out until it clears, even if that takes a day or so.

I wanted the colours in the dangle to reflect winter, but I also made Valentine’s Day a focus for the design, and I used that as an opportunity to include some more bits of hand lettering.

I did sketch the design out on Rhodia dot grid paper then scanned it in. I then re-drew the design digitally using my usual trio of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Book.

Today, I have a template or two to create for a colouring day at the Welsh Office in Cardiff on Time to Talk Day next Thursday. Time to Talk Day is the day where we’re encouraged to talk to people about mental health and well being. I don’t have anything to do on this day for Time to Change Wales, yet, or at any point in the week. I do have other projects to work on as well.

My own anxiety seems to have slid back to it’s usual constant background level after a stressful time earlier this week. It takes time. Mindfulness meditation helps somewhat, but it does take time for those stress response chemicals/hormones to leach out from my body even when I calm myself down.

Doing art does help too.

My book that takes you through drawing and designing dangles step by step – A Dangle A Day – is now published. Lots of ideas and examples of dangle designs are included in the book.

Winter Wreath Coloured

The second of the templates I posted yesterday has been coloured.  I went with a cooler colour palette than I would usually choose.

Coloured using Caran D’Ache Luminance pencils and a blending solution was used, which actually brought out the colours beautifully!

I also forgot to mention that these wreaths were drawn in Autodesk Sketchbook on my Microsoft Surface Book.

Crimble card making time again!

I’ve been keeping myself a little busy at times in the past few days making this years crop of Christmas cards.

The materials I used:

  • Kraft cardstock and ready cut 4″x4″ Kraft card blanks
  • Watercolour paper
  • Spectrum Noir sparkle pens
  • Zig clean colour real brush pens
  • Perfect pearls
  • Cosmic shimmer metallic and iridescent paints
  • Nuvo crystal drops by Tonic
  • Sakura glaze pen in black
  • Inktense pencils by Derwent
  • Gold glitter cardstock, matte gold cardstock and mirror gold cardstock from Crafters Companion
  • UHU glue
  • Glue dots
  • White fun foam

And here are the resulting cards; they all shimmer and shine to one degree or another!

Winter Solstice 2011

Today is the Winter Solstice, well the astronomical solstice at least.  The Sun left Sagittarius and entered Capricorn at 05:31GMT this morning and that is the exact point of the solstice.

The Winter Solstice has long been marked as a special time for many millennia.  Our ancient forebears built stone monuments that tracked the passage of the Sun across the sky as the seasons changed; to them it was important to know when it would soon be time to plant the fields so that food would be plentiful once again.

The pattern of observing the Winter Solstice, and other festivals throughout the winter, and indeed throughout the rest of the year, is set in the fabric of our society, though the names of the celebrations, and the precise date of them, have changed over time, and what was once a religious celebration has become, for many in Britain, a secular celebration involving the exchange of gifts, the consumption of food and drink and time with loved ones (though this is not the case for all – let us not forget there are many who have no friends or family or home at this time of year).

There are plenty of places on the world-weird-web where you can find out about the origins of the various traditions that people observe at this time of year in the many cultures that have winter festival.

It has become my own tradition on this day that I spend time in the morning writing in my journal, reflecting on where I have come from and where I’d like to go in the coming months.  Well, that’s the plan, but that rarely happens as my pen gets hijacked by my unconscious mind and lots of things flow onto the paper, many insights and things to consider and ponder, much of which I won’t share with others as it is for me.

Part of my musings I will share concern the passing of time and the meaning we put on various events to help bring order to our lives, and some kind of certainty to the future amid all the seeming chaos and randomness of our lives.  I realised, that it’s important to me to understand why something is celebrated or why a particular traditional activity is done at any particular time of year.

I am finding that as I grow and develop as a person, as a spiritual being, that what I once did no longer makes sense to me; rather than beating myself up about abandoning something that once made sense, worrying that I was being too lazy or turning my back on things, I’ve realised that things do change as I change and understand more.  That is, for me, an important realisation.

Of course, I feel the pressures to conform and I make sure I respect others’ beliefs and traditions and do as they would wish at this time.  However, I have to feel comfortable in my own skin, in my own view of how the Universe seems to work from my point in it.

Another important realisation to come from this mornings musings is that it is most important to remain open  minded about all kinds of things; even though I may have my own views, ideas, theories, experiences, observations and so on at this time, that may change as I experience more and grow and develop.  Being blinkered to other possibilities, to there being no other ways may be what underlies so many of the world’s problems (and greed, never forget the power of greed …).

As I’ve said, there was much more and it made sense to me.  Maybe I’ll share more once I’ve worked through and processed it all.

What this leaves me with is to wish you all the very brightest blessings of the season, the most wonderful wishes for the next cycle of the seasons, no matter how you celebrate or why you celebrate!

Winter Solstice 2010

All the very best of the Winter Solstice greetings and wishes to all!

The exact point of Solstice is at 23:38 UTC, which is when the Sun enters Capricorn.   In the Northern Hemisphere, this marks the longest night and also the gradual returning of light to the world as the days gradually lengthen once again.

What makes this year’s Winter Solstice extra special is that there is a Lunar Eclipse fall on the same day, for the first time since 1638.  Sadly, it was not possible for me to view the Lunar eclipse as the skies were cloudy here, and no doubt the hills would have obscured my view of the Moon in any case.

In my immediate environment, in the Northern Hemisphere, nature is in it’s annual dormancy and the return of the light from this day on is a reason enough to celebrate the continuation of nature’s seasonal cycle.  With the snow still covering the ground, life having slowed down due to the freeze here in the UK, there’s an even bigger sense of the big sleep of nature.

The Winter Solstice had, no doubt, great significance to prehistoric people, no doubt linked to the uncertainty of seeing life through the harsh winter months.  Evidence for this remains in the apparent alignments of Neolithic and Bronze Age sites such as Stonehenge (Winter Solstice 2010 at Stonehenge) in England and Newgrange (Winter Solstice at Newgrange 2010) in Ireland to astronomical events such as the Winter Solstice.  The lives of these people depended very much upon the seasons and weather and it must have been important for them to mark the cycles of the seasons in some way, just as we do still.

The Feast of Yule was a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia.  At this time of year, fires were lit to symbolise the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning Sun.  A Yule log was brought in and burned in the hearth in honour of the god Thor.  A piece of the log was kept to act as both a good luck token for the year and to act as kindling from which the next year’s Yule log was lit.  Ashes from the log were also collected to be spread on the fields to ensure a good harvest that year.

There are many festivals coinciding with the Winter Solstice around the world, as can be easily read about on the web – see for instance Wikipedia.

How will I be spending the day?  Well, not as I would in years past.  Normally, I’d replace my bundle of mistletoe at dawn, burning last year’s old bunch.   This will have to wait for a day or two until I can get out and about!   The mistletoe hung in the home acts as a protection against negative thoughts and deeds.  Burning it releases and purifies that which it has absorbed over the year.  Part of the day will be spent in meditation/quiet thought/reflection on the past year and particularly upon the progress I have made in achieving goals in life and giving thanks for all those people and circumstances which have aided me in my progress, whether they realised it or not, and whether I realised it or not at the time! Sometimes, the people and situations that vex us most are responsible for the greatest progress in our personal development.

How will you spend the day?

  1. Guardian – Article about the coincidence of Solstice and the Lunar Eclipse
  2. National Geographic – Article about the coincidence of the Solstice and the Lunar Eclipse
  3. Winter Solstice at Time and Date.com
  4. December Solstice Traditions at Time and Date.com
  5. Winter Solstice on Wikipedia
  6. Yule on the BBC website

Holly

English Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

Holly © Angela Porter 19 Dec 2010

Etymology

The word holly comes from the Old English ‘holegn‘ which became the Middle English ‘holin‘, which Tolkien fans will recognise – Hollin was the name among men for the land of Elves that thrived to the west of the Mines of Moria, known as Eregion, and it was famous for its holly trees.

In Welsh holly is called celyn.  In Terry Pratchett’s ‘Soul Music’, Imp Y Celyn is the lead singer of The Band With Rocks In

Folk names for holly hulver bush, holm, hulm, holme chase, holy tree and Christ’s thorn.

Holly decorations

Holly is one of the most striking objects in the winter woodland with its glossy leaves and clusters of brilliant scarlet berries. It is very much connected with Christmas in many Western cultures. From very early days, it was gathered in great quantities for Yuletide decorations, both of the church and the home. The old Christmas Carols are full of references to holly.

Christmas decorations are said to derive from a Roman custom that involved sending gifts to their friends during the festival of Saturnalia which occurred in mid-December. Strenae, twigs of holly or laurel with sweets fastened to them, were a popular gift. Boughs of holly and other evergreens were also used as decorations. Evergreens are symbolic, of course, of enduring and renewed life as well as a way to encourage the return of vegetation at the end of Winter.

The Christians were quick to adopt holly for their own celebrations, with the holly representing the crown of thorns that Jesus wore, the berries symbolising drops of blood. A medieval legend asserts that the holly sprang up from the places where Christ walked, hence the name Christ’s Thorn.

Old church calendars have Christmas Eve marked ‘templa exornantur‘ (churches are decked), and the custom is as deeply rooted in modern times, whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, the Unconquered Sun, or the return of the light, as it was in either pagan or early Christian days.

Childhood memories of ‘trimming up’.

As a small child, I can remember going to bed on Christmas Eve to an ordinary home.  Generally, we were in bed early –  6pm on a school night, 7pm any other night.  On Christmas Eve, my parents used to keep us up until gone 7pm just to try to get us all to sleep through the night – I am one of six children, the second oldest.  I’d be blamed for everything, including the indecently early hour of waking on Christmas morning.  We’d make our way downstairs, bags of gifts in hand, and we’d be amazed!  The stairwell was lit by twinkling fairy lights.  The front room was sparkly with shimmering tinsel, metallic versions of fancy paper-chains, and the lights, baubles, lametta and tinsel on the tree.

As a child this was magic!  It was, in many ways, the best part of the day.  We were always told that the the fairies that lived in the central heating did the work of decorating, but as we grew up, we took our places to help the ‘rents decorate, as well as taking part in the toast at 10pm to members of the family past and present.  Even when we were all young adults, the house was never decorated before Christmas Eve, and even when we all had moved away to our own homes we still returned on Christmas Eve to decorate for the ‘rents.  I still believe the rest of the family do so now.

Holly superstitions

It is said to be unlucky to cut a branch from a holly tree; it should be pulled off instead.

Old stories advise people to take holly into their homes to act as a shelter for elves and fairies who could join mortals at this time without causing them harm. However, it must be entirely removed before Imbolc Eve (31st January) as just one leaf left within the house would result in bad luck.

In Somerset, it was considered unlucky for holly to be brought into the house before Christmas Eve, and then only brought in by a man.

In Herefordshire and Worcestershire, a small piece of holly which had adorned a church at Christmas time was regarded as very lucky to hang up in your home, even though the domestic decorations had to be burned as usual.

Pliny tells us that if holly is planted near a house or a farm it would repel poison, deflect lighting and protect from witchcraft.

Pythagoras noted that the flowers would cause water to freeze and if the wood, if thrown at any animal, would cause the animal to return and lie down by the wood, even if the wood did not touch the animal.

A good crop of berries on holly is still said to be a sign that a hard winter is on the way.

Holly uses

Holly wood is heavy, hard and white-ish and it was used for the white chess pieces, ebony being used for the black.

In the 1800s, weaving looms had holly wood spinning rods; holly was less likely to snag the threads being woven as it is a very dense wood and can be sanded very smooth.

Peter Carl Faberge used holly cases for his famous Easter Eggs, as well as small objects such as hand seals.

Holly is also used for veneering.

  1. www.wikipedia.com
  2. www.botanical.com
  3. homepage.ntlworld.com/blackbirdhollins/articles/Holly%20tree.htm
  4. “English Folklore” J Simpson and S Roud