The Wheel of Time

‘Don’t prick your finger on the Wheel of Time’ – my first page for The Season of Fairy Tales, inspired by Sleeping Beauty.

I was so excited when I heard about this particular season at Get Messy Art Journal. I have always loved fairy tales and imagined I could easily spend a year diving into the treasure chest of these beloved stories. But when the day came, I found I didn’t know where to start. There is so much I want to explore and this made it even more challenging to begin.

Inspiration came to me while I was enjoying a cup of ‘Women’s Energy Tea’ with some friends. The messages attached to each tea bag reminded me of the blessings given to Sleeping Beauty at her christening:

In the Grimms tale, the king invites ‘wise women’ to the party. (Perhaps Disney is responsible for turning them into fairies?) In my rewrite, these women are not divided into good and evil. Instead, they have a depth of beauty and power which they wield unapologetically.

Magazine images are not usually my first point of call when I’m working on an art journal page. With a subject such as fairy tales, however, I suddenly realised how almost every magazine image draws upon our associations with these magical stories. The opulent gowns and jewels are straight out of Cinderella’s ball. The women are often portrayed archetypally as innocent maidens or sultry seductresses with magical powers.

As I was working on the page, I kept thinking about time. In the tale, time works as a kind of antagonist. It cannot be slowed or stopped; Beauty cannot be prevented from turning 13 and pricking her finger. Neither can it be made to go faster; the hundred years of sleep will certainly be a long, long time.

It occurred to me that for us today the clock is a kind of spinning wheel. We prick our fingers many times a day and fall into all sorts of ‘slumbers’ because of our reactions to time. So many of our struggles are ‘against the clock’, rushing to squeeze more hours into the day, or even more impossibly, trying to prevent our own aging processes (back to many of the adverts in magazines – “try this new product! It will work like magic and prevent you from getting old!”)

I came full circle to the advice on my tea bags. We need these little blessings! Especially the one at the bottom of the page:

I love how these little messages point to an inner experience and enjoyment of life – a realm in which the spinning wheel of time has no dominion. I might just go and brew a cup of ‘Women’s Energy Tea’ right now. I wonder what message is waiting for me today?

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!

My voice, the fire

The woman is tending my voice.
Night after night,
I see her,
strong and deeply connected
to the earth,
the open air.

I am unfamiliar with this language
but I can see
the golden heart she speaks of.

A moment billows,
comes towards me,
even now,
while the woman is shining
in the clear blue sky.

We sit and eat the fire.
We drink the heat.
We wake the morning.
The sun speaks on the inside.

I can only be here.
I can, at last, be here.

The ancient ones

I’ve never been into browns, either in my wardrobe or in my art. But having recently returned from a wonderful few days at The EarthHeart Centre in The Forest of Dean, I became curious about all the earthy tones at the bottom of my paint box.

I decided to make a palette and discover what these colours actually look like. Having always lumped them together under the heading brown, I was amazed to find these shades so much more beautiful, rich, and varied than I had imagined.

A palette of earthy tones

I started to get inspired, imagining ancient artworks and prehistoric cave paintings, and decided to start as I often do: simply laying some paint down on the page. Where I would normally find myself moving in some sort of narrative direction, this time I felt inclined to play with textures, scraping one layer away to reveal another beneath the surface. The piece below reminds me of a cave wall, rich in mineral deposits, layer upon layer built up over millennia.

When I posted something of my new fascination on Instagram, I discovered yet another wonderful aspect of being part of the Get Messy art journaling community: my fellow artist – the talented and inspiring Misty Granade – also became intrigued by these earthy tones. She had the wonderful idea to turn this exploration into a theme. Pretty soon, we were enjoying a week of adventuring in prehistoric territory together. Check out the hashtags #neutralsweek and #homemadecavepainting to see what we got up to! 

Dancing to the moon

I continued with layered backgrounds, now adding pictures and making marks in the spirit of prehistoric cave paintings. I drew on an ancient treasure trove of images to express something both archetypal and deeply personal, something from aeons ago that is also part of my recent 21st century experience. Dancing to the moon shows a group of women dancing together – a scene that took place, both thousands of years ago and also a week ago when I was at the second workshop of the year-long training, Initiation – Into the sacred feminine.

Grandmother touches the stars

It felt right not to include words in these pieces. The visual images remain free to shift from ancient times to the present and back again. This was also a relaxing change after the recent poetry-writing challenge of NaPoWriMo.

I’m so thankful to Misty for taking a moment of adventure into new territory and turning it into a themed exploration. It encouraged me to delve a little deeper than I might have done if I was just playing around with ideas on my own. And I loved all our exchanges about what we were discovering as the week progressed.

I’m now venturing back into the full range of colours. But I’m bringing a few things with me from my sojourn in prehistoric art: a new appreciation for earthy tones, a sense of the timeless quality of visual language, and an awareness that my own experience can connect me to a collective experience, thousands of years old. I look forward to seeing how all this translates into the forthcoming pages of my art journal!

Lying on the earth

This spring, I began Initiation – Into the Sacred Feminine, a year long women’s training at The EarthHeart Centre in The Forest of Dean. I have just returned from the second workshop of the year and already feel that this is one of the most beautiful and powerful journeys I have taken in my life so far.

I first visited EarthHeart for a women’s workshop last Spring and immediately felt that this work of reconnecting to the feminine is perhaps the most important thing I have to do in my life right now. I wrote this poem just before I set off for the forest:

Though the Borough of Camden has no forest,
when the moon goes dark I hear the call
and my heart feels sad for lack of women.

I unwind myself towards the women.
Like a thread, they pull me to the heart of the forest.
From the elder and hawthorn and birch trees they call.

I shake off the world as they send out their call
and clothe myself in the fire of the women.
Together we dance in the deep of the forest.

From the forest they call, the women, the women.

Among the many wonderful things I have experienced on this journey so far, simply lying on the earth in the forest has felt incredibly powerful. For a city dweller such as myself, something so simple feels unusual and rare, as if entering into nature is like stepping foot on another planet. And yet isn’t this the place I played in as a child? Hours spent with my fingers in the earth, making friends with the snails and the frogs, sitting up in my favourite tree, gazing out at the sky.

Each time I go back to EarthHeart, I feel this connection deepening. To nature, to the feminine, and to myself.

Lying on the earth,
I am longing for you.

I am longing for you too…

I have entered The Witch’s Garden

i-have-entered-the-witchs-garden

When I was a girl, I spent the summers with my grandparents in Dublin, Ireland. My brothers stayed at my dad’s parents while me and my sister stayed at my mum’s parents. I loved it there and it’s a place that has already featured in several of my comics. At the back of the main garden, with its beautiful lawn and carefully tended flower beds, there was a tall hedge. Behind this hedge was a smaller, wilder garden, complete with crooked apple tree, falling down shed, and rusty wheelbarrow. I named it ‘The Witch’s Garden’ and spent many happy hours there, playing and dreaming.

witchs-garden-detail-4

I was so sad when my grandparents’ house was eventually sold, more so than for any other house I’ve known. My first response was to grab some felt tip pens and draw a picture of the garden as a way to keep it forever. While I was making this spread, I connected back in time to that magical garden and also to that place within myself – wild and witchy – where the garden still lives.

It felt powerful to include the three ages of woman here – maiden, mother, and crone. I was drawing on my sense of being a child all those years ago in Dublin, but also bringing the magical quality of that place forward in time into womanhood and also into the future, where I hope to be as cool as this Finnish woman with twigs on her head!

witchs-garden-detail-2

This spread was made as part of the wonderful Totems class with Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd, bringing together all the elements we have been working with during the course: spirit animals, archetypes, elemental magic, and claiming the female. The text is from a poem I wrote some years ago, inspired by entering The Witch’s Garden as an adult.

witchs-garden-detail-1

I look into the mirror.
The muscles round my mouth
are tired from smiling.
The wind whispers in my ear
three secrets held in cobweb, leaf, and twig.
Cheek gives way to bone.
Eyes transform from pools of water into fire.
Curls become snakes,
darting in all directions.
Brambles tangle round the apple tree.
A few snails remain,
clinging to the gravel on the walls.
Across cracked stone,
the ants carry parcels of moonlight.
I listen for her footsteps but the air is still.
Even the wheelbarrow has stopped rusting.
I have entered The Witch’s Garden.

witchs-garden-detail-3

All the pages I wrote led to you

While I was working on this piece, I had a strong sense that the page was an actual place I could step into. In this place, I could connect with my female ancestors and honour them. I could feel the flow of love that has come down through time to me and also that travels back through time towards them. 

I didn’t have any photos of my grandmothers that I wanted to use, so I spent quite some time searching for photos online. It was an uncanny experience — I found photos of women who were not my ancestors but who could have been; their expressions and poses evoked something so familiar. As I continued to work on the piece, I began to connect to these women as if they actually were my ancestors.

The floating woman in the background reminded me very much of some of the paintings by Chagall, especially as I come from a line of orthodox Jewish women. I found myself introducing quite a bit of colour, inspired by his paintings, and I felt encouraged to include some of the Jewish symbols I grew up with – the Sabbath candles, the challah bread, the wine. 

The theme of connecting with my ancestors comes up again and again in both my writing and my comics. Working on this piece had the feeling of homecoming. 

This spread was created for the ‘Claiming the Female’ class in the Totems online art course. I have been enjoying the course so much! Even though there’s only one class left, I know I will be revisiting and diving deeper into these themes over the coming months. 

You can see more pages from my art journals here

I Am Thirsty Now

A woman is lying on the ground.
She can’t get up.
I think she will pull me down
into the earth.
I run,
I run from the earth.

My mother is lying on the ground.
She is sleep.
She is darkness.
She is tears.
She sucks the world into her belly
and it never comes out.
I run,
I run from my mother.

The ancestors are sitting in the corner
drinking wine.
They sing me songs of grief and joy
in an ancient language
my skin understands.
I do not want to go towards the earth.
The earth is sprinkled with their blood.
I run,
I run from their song.

Their arms are heavy and slow.
I think they want to put me in a box
and bury me beside them.
I become fast and light.
I run. I run. I grow wings. I fly.

Her arms were heavy and slow.
But they were arms that held,
that pinned me to one place
long enough to be loved

and the earth was a hill
we rolled down and down
and laughed at the tumble of our senses
and the earth
was my grandmother’s garden
where I picked raspberries
for the raspberry pie.

I am tired now.
Look at me:
I can’t even keep a single plant alive.
I walk on rubber,
watch landscapes on TV.
How long it’s been since I went outside.

I am thirsty now.
I cry when I see the men
dancing in a circle.
These are my people.
I long for them,
for the line of meaning
of bread
of hands
stretching back through time.

I am lying on the ground.
I am thirsty now
for a drink of that wine.

A trio of book spine poems

Blueprints

Talking to my body –
enormous smallness.
A book of luminous things.

Blind willow, sleeping woman,
black swan, white raven –
are you my mother?

Blueprints for building better girls:
everyone’s just so so special.
Blabber blabber blabber everything.

 

There

Picture this:
the narrow road to the interior
through the woods.

East of the sun and west of the moon,
everything is illuminated.
They do the same things different there.

 

The Shaman’s Coat

Meeting the shadow
remember remember
beware of God.

One hundred demons
kiss & tell
the angel of losses.

War and peace
mistakes in the background
the invisible partners.

The power of myth
tangles
beyond the words.

The shaman’s coat
travels with a circus
after dark.

* * *

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt “comes to us from Lillian Hallberg. She challenges us to write a “book spine” poem. This involves taking a look at your bookshelves, and writing down titles in order (or rearranging the titles) to create a poem. Some fun images of book spine poems can be found here. If you want to take things a step further, Lillian suggests gathering a list of titles from your shelves (every third or fifth book, perhaps, if you have a lot) and using the titles, as close to the originals as possible, to create a poem that is seeded throughout with your own lines, interjections, and thoughts. Happy writing!”

I enjoyed this prompt so much, I ended up writing three different book spine poems!