Category Archives: Dpchallenge

Signs and Sigels

Signs and Sigels is the title for the ‘Notebook‘ (part 1) I am currently working on, inspired by my St. Michael’s Way walk back in July, The Adventure Starts HereI have submitted it for The Newlyn / Exchange Collective Exhibition by artist volunteers at the Newlyn Gallery, even though it is still a work ‘in progress’.  It will be accompanied by Part 2 which will take a similar format, and explore my visit to St Michael’s Mount.

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Frontal piece for Artists’ Notebook: Signs & Sigels, a mixed media work in progress, 7.5cm x 7.5cm, 2013.  Notice the sun symbol on this waymarker representing a path of enlightenment (?)

I believe that we are gifted with insight by the accumulated ‘wisdom’ of the universe.  Messages from ‘angels’, departed loved ones or a shamanic guide / teacher is how some people like to understand it.  No matter how you view it, the results are just as pertinent for the individual.  Tapping into this rich seam of knowledge that our Celtic ancestors would have been very familiar with is something that needs a little practice.  You need both a belief in this system and the patience to notice the signs.  Our ancestors would have called on the wisdom of their fathers for such insights, possibly gathered together in a stone circle, or looked to the heavens for answers.  Living closer to the rhythms of nature and the cycle of the seasons than we do today, this would have come quite naturally.  It might have taken the form of some sophisticated mathematical calculations based on the constellations, or the simple sighting of a fox, the call of an eagle, seeing a particular shape in a cloud formation or witnessing a plant flowering out of season would have all meant something profound and meaningful and would have been regarded as a ‘sign’ or portent of things to come.  It forms the basis of our deep superstitions today.   How many people still count magpie sightings?  One for sorrow, two for joy……etc.

my 'life-line' journey

my ‘life-line’ journey

I do most of my joined-up thinking when I am walking and the landscape serves as an abundant source of clues for the answers to many of life’s quandaries, both big and small.  I don’t consciously go out looking for signs, but I know when I get one.  For instance, I was puzzling over something the other day and just happened to be walking past a Buddleia bush that was alive with Red Admiral butterflies feasting on the flowers.  This was a powerful message for me as the Red Admiral is particularly associated with the soul of a departed loved one and seeing them gave me great comfort.  This Notebook is about the signs that I was gifted with on that particular walk, that hot Summer’s day back in July.

a foggy start

a foggy start

Sigel is an old English word meaning ‘the sun’.  In the old Viking language of the Runes it is Sowelu and the ancient runic symbol that represents the Sun: a signifier of wholeness and the life force derived from the energy of the sun.  Drawing this rune marks a ‘time for regeneration down to the cellular level’,  (Ralph Blum) and a quest for wholeness for the ‘Spiritual Warrior’.  I like to think of it as another variant for the word ‘signal’, and its graphic similarity to a bolt of lightning is not lost on my senses, (tho’ I’m not so keen on its former Nazi connotations).  I like to think of it more as a reference to ‘seeing the light’, as in finding the answer.

sketchy 'sigel' graphics

sketchy ‘sigel’ graphics

The sign for sigel is also a graphic representation of two chevrons pointing in opposite directions but joined together in the middle.  Chevrons are a potent symbol, (see previous post, Solitude), and I have included them in my Notebook.  In this symbol, they point both backwards and forwards: forwards to the next part that I am currently working on, but also drawing on what I have already learned from my walk along this path thus far.


end-trails (reverse page of sewn chevrons)

Do visit the Picture Room at Newlyn Gallery if you are in the area, and anyone is welcome to take a look at my Notebook if you ask the assistant on the desk to open the case where it is displayed.  The exhibition of artist volunteers work runs from 5th to 19th October, (with the PV on Friday, 4th, 7pm), with the Newlyn Festival works in the main gallery.

one of the page spreads on display in the Picture Room, Newlyn Gallery.

one of the page spreads on display in The Picture Room, Newlyn Gallery.

(P.S.  On a note about style, the WordPress writing challenge today is about adverbs.  As a style of writing, I do tend to try and avoid them where possible preferring to use a better verb to describe an action.   (adverbs)



Filed under Art Works, Dpchallenge, Drawings, my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, St. Michael's Way, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks

Getting Lost in a ‘Labyrinth of Solitude’

The other evening whilst I was sitting quietly in a circle with friends (see entry for 19th September), into my head popped the image of a labyrinth.  The strange thing is, it was imprinted onto the right side of my forehead and this seemed to be important for some reason.  With it came a long line of black chevrons closely spaced together.  The chevrons were the ones you get on the road to indicate a bend ahead and point in the direction you need to go, although these ones were not pointing in any particular direction.  It seemed perfectly logical to marry the chevrons with the image of a labyrinth which after all, is all to do with going round in circles.

I'itol: The Man in the Maze, comes from the tradition of the O'odham people who reside in the Tohono O'odham (Native American) Nation of Southern Arizona.  This symbol (actually a a unicursal figure) is said to represent a person's journey through life with it's many twists and turns that represent choices we face.  The journey is one from darkness to light and the man at the top depicts birth and a guide for your journey until you reach the centre where you die where you are transported to the afterlife.

The I’itol symbol: The Man in the Maze, comes from the tradition of the O’odham people who reside in the Tohono O’odham (Native American) Nation of Southern Arizona. This symbol (actually a unicursal figure) is said to represent a person’s journey through life with its many twists and turns that represent the many choices we face along the way. The journey is one from darkness towards enlightenment and the man at the top depicts your guide who is with you on your journey from your birth until you reach your death at the centre from where you will be transported to the afterlife.  I wonder where I am / you are on that journey?

The next day in my studio, I open the page in the book I am currently working on (about my St. Michael’s Way Walk), which is all about getting lost.  Getting lost is only a problem and a cause for anxiety when there are constraints on time, such as reaching your destination within a calculated time-span or arranging to meet someone at a specified time and not being able to make it.  Then it struck me that getting lost is very much like being in a labyrinth.  And I am reminded of a quote by the Mexican writer, Octavio Paz, in his book of essays, ‘The Labyrinth of Solitude‘ in which he delves into the minds of his countrymen, describing them as ‘hidden behind masks of solitude’:

“Man is nostalgia and (in) a search for communion.  Therefore, when he is aware of himself he is aware of his lack of another, that is, of his solitude.”

'Stop, Look, Listen, work in progress

Stop, Look, Listen’, work in progress

And the more I think about it the more I realise that getting lost is in fact getting found!   It is only in that solitude that I am able to find my true voice.  Far from being fearful of finding my way back to the path, I am beginning, more and more to relish the peace that being alone brings: a space in which I can commune with my creative urges.  Perhaps we should learn to cherish those moments of getting lost more: how else might we stumble upon the unexpected, discover new directions or see a familiar thing from a different angle?  Often, getting lost, forces us to ask for help, something a lot of us are not very good at doing.

Stop, Look, Listen, (paths over underlying bedrock)  work in progress

Stop, Look, Listen, (paths over underlying bedrock) work in progress

Although this post doesn’t strictly speaking, fit into a conventional ‘photo challenge’ I felt it was appropriate.  For other ideas on this weeks Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns, see here.

P.S.  23rd September.  Walking the dogs today I notice that someone has been out flaying the edges of the paths (as they are wont to do).  In the debris lying on the ground, I rescued a few sprigs of purple heather (Cornish Heath) which I decided to take home and put in a little pot vase.  Being mildly aware that ‘someone’ has prompted me to do this (I often get this feeling), when I got home I went on-line to find out what the flower meaning for heather is, only to discover that it is ‘Solitude’.  What a lovely poetic endorsement.  Thank you!


Filed under Dpchallenge, Mandalas, my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, St. Michael's Way, The Artist as Pilgrim, Wordpress Photo Challenge

The Alternative ‘Suspended Sentences’ Exhibition: Textere

As followers of my blog, you are cordially invited to my solo show, to run concurrently with the Suspended Sentences: visual responses to the poetry of Simon Armitage, show in Newlyn, (and thoroughly recommended if you haven’t already seen it).  As I wasn’t one of the 50 or so ‘invited’ artists (and slightly ‘snarked’ about that, see below), I decided to contribute anyway, proving that if you can’t join ’em, then find your own way.

So for you, dear followers, here is your (free) Private View, of my show, exclusively here on my blog:

TEXTERE (to weave, stitching / weaving of ideas)

As a fellow walker, I too have a ‘wonky back’, but that’s about as close a comparison to the great bard as I dare get.  Reading ‘Walking Home‘, Simon Armitage‘s own account of walking the Pennine Way as a modern troubadour was a delight with many lol moments.   Quite apart from the prose, with so many quotable lines of poetry to choose from, I found it almost impossible to narrow down a fitting one from Simon Armitage‘s body of work.  In the end, I decided to keep it current.  So this work was inspired by his response on hearing about the death of Seamus Heaney, (and quoted in The Telegraph).

Textere I, mixed media, 2013

Textere I, mixed media, 2013

detail of Textere I

detail of Textere I

The following pictures show some of my ‘woven thoughts’ in action but I don’t think they work as well as the first.  I have included them as an example of part of the process anyway.


reverse detail of Textere II

Textere III, mixed media, 2013

Please join me in raising a toast, not only to recently departed poets, but also to the living ones who continue to inspire the poetry within us all.  Noli Timere.

P.S. If you would like to see how other people cope with the art of snark, take a look here.


Filed under Art Works, Dpchallenge, my sketchbook pages

A Panoramic Stitch-Up

Recently, I have been feeling the need to make some panoramic shots of my walks and have been waiting for the time when I can upgrade my iphone for the new one which does super-duper panoramic panning shots.  Well, who am I kidding?  That’s just not going to happen!  So I decided to see what I could do with a couple of apps I already have and started to play around with them.  The results were intriguing and I got carried away with the possibilities.  Here are a few of my initial experiments.  (click on them to enlarge the image)

It is my habit to take more than one photo of the same subject.  Stitching these single images together proved to be an interesting digital version of a Hockney style montage.

buddleia 1

buddleia 1 (stitched from several ‘still-life’ images of same subject)

buddleia 2

buddleia 2

Welsh cave montage

Welsh cave montage

Dartmoor leaves (River Avon, Dartmoor)

Dartmoor leaves (River Avon, Dartmoor)

Pembrokeshire beach pebbles

Pembrokeshire beach pebbles

Closer to Home: Interior Spaces 2 ways

interior 2

interior 1 (grainy black and white film version of ‘interior 2’)

interior 1

interior 2 (taken with camera in landscape mode)

Popping out to my small terrace I shot this 2 ways: Exterior Textures

terrace 1

terrace 1 (taken with camera in landscape mode)

terrace 2

terrace 2 (grainy tint version)

See other ideas for this weeks’ photo challenge: One Shot. Two Ways, here

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Filed under Dpchallenge, my sketchbook pages, Studio Practice, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Back to the Future: Walking with Purpose

watercolour drawing of coastal path

watercolour drawing of coastal path

Warning: Some of the content in this post is of a personal nature which some readers may find offensive (tongue firmly in cheek).

It is said (by that illusive person ‘they say‘) that it ‘takes one to know one’.  I’m talking about the committed walker.  It is not difficult to spot them: the walker-with-purpose.  They are different.  Different from the dog-walker out for a ramble with the pooch; different from the afternoon strollers walking off the Sunday roast and definitely different from the tourist who always manages to look just a little bit dazed.  No.  They stick out from the crowd in a far more arresting way.  They have an expression on their face that is totally focused on the task in hand.  They often have a ‘rugged’ look about them and carry a small (sometimes large) rucksack with essential items: water bottle, map, shower macs, note-book perhaps and they are dressed in earnest.  By that I mean, they wear proper, serious walking shoes/boots and evident layers of clothing that are ready to be whisked on or off at a moment’s notice according to weather conditions.  They even bend forward in their act of walking as if their head is propelling them to move forwards.  All the signs indicate purpose.


I passed one such character yesterday who held a notebook in his hand on which was written a load of stuff in pencil.  How I would love to have stopped and asked him about the secrets of that notebook.  Was he a writer / poet……or were these directions he had scribbled out for himself?  He wore an invisible bubble around him and I felt unable to penetrate his private mission had I even had the nerve to do so.  One instinctively knows when to leave well alone.  This was not a time to intrude on a mindset obviously intent on some sort of inner journey.  These people seem to occupy a space between the physical world and a private ‘other’ world lost in thought.

IMG_9573I still consider myself an apprentice walker.  I’ve had over half a century to hone this particular craft but there is a lot to learn about the ways of the path and I am in the process of establishing my own etiquette, and more importantly, trying to find a way of integrating it into my creative practice in such a way that is meaningful and based on my own experience.

pencil and watercolour drawing of path through trees

pencil and watercolour drawing of path through trees

Knowing your limitations should never hold you back but I have learned to pace myself.  A twisted ankle means weeks of painful bruising and time off for healing, so a lot of my time spent walking is watching where I put my feet.  However, there is a section of my daily walk between two gates where there is a small incline.  I have started to use this section to gently jog along to build up my core strength.  I say jog, it’s more like an ungainly stagger.  You see, I wasn’t designed to run….and those sisters out there who have been ‘blessed’ with an ample bosom will sympathise with me.  But I’ve brought myself a new ‘over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder (Two Ronnies) sports bra which makes trotting more bearable, and I kid myself that the last part of this particular stretch is flatter so will be easier.

beach boulders, mixed media collage

boulders of the beach kind, mixed media collage

The other item on my essentials list is a ‘hiking’ stick….the carbon-fibre kind as opposed to the oap kind.  (I did have two but lost one along the way.)  This is an invaluable aid as an extension of my arm for steadying myself on uneven ground, a lever to pole-vault puddles or ditches, and  shepherding dogs into the curbside.  It is also a useful back-scratcher, or a fly switch in the same way that a horse might use his tail.  Those horse flies are particularly pesky at the moment.

those pesky flies, mixed media on paper

those pesky flies, mixed media on paper

All the images for this post are anachronistic as I have chosen to use artworks that come out of different periods in my practice.  As with everything in life, your knowledge is mostly based on your past experience and walking is no different.  The difference is in the degree of intention and I shall continue to endeavor to find my own way of walking with purpose.

See more posts on Anachronism: ‘Back to the Future’ here


Filed under Art Works, Dpchallenge, my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, Walks

Daily Prompt: Tables Turned

template-mastercopy-for-KerstenWoods-ProductionsLike a lot of people I am most definitely camera-shy.  However, David ‘snapped’ this image whilst I was doing some filming with Anja.  I used it in all the publicity stuff I did for the films we made, and as in this instance, on the actual DVD.  I am ‘hiding’ behind the camera and feel quite comfortable there.  Unlike Anja, I do not relish being in front of the lens even though she somehow managed to persuade me to do several talking pieces to camera which I found absolute agony!  So this is a rare picture of me.  You won’t be seeing many more (not if I have anything to do with it)!  Perversely, I have no such qualms about doing ‘extra’ film work.  I figure that no one looks at the extras in a movie as they are just there for atmosphere.  Had to turn down a bit of extra work for Doc Martin recently because I was too busy.  However, if you can be bothered to scour the crowd scenes, I’m in a couple of films out now: escaping the zombies in World War Z (Hollywood Zombie Epic) and at a wedding in About Time (a ‘rom-com’ by director Richard Curtis of Notting Hill fame).

For more Turned Tables, visit:


Filed under Dpchallenge

Four Stars: Two Anniversaries, Two Christenings & Open Studios.

IMG_9820 black and white

my daughter, Georgina, with her daughter, Rose

This is all about the women who span 4 generations of my family: 4 stars for four beautiful women.

Starting with my mother-in-law, Jean.

my mother-in-law, Jean, with my sister-in-law, Rebecca, as a baby

here she is holding Rebecca, aged 8 month old

The christening gown that Rebecca is wearing was made by my mother-in-law, Jean.  3 generations later, the same christening gown is worn by baby Rose for her christening.   Here she is cradled in the arms of her Great Aunt Rebecca, now a grandmother herself.

The same christening gown worn by Rebecca (who is holding Rose), Rebecca's children and my children, (including Rosie's mother).

The same christening gown worn by Rebecca (who is holding Rose), Rebecca’s children and my children, (including Rosie’s mother).

another of Georgie's creations

one of Georgie’s creations

 Also, Rose Beatrice, reaches her milestone first birthday.

Georgie's design for Rosie's cake

Georgie’s design for Rosie’s cake

the finished article - all Georgie's work!

the finished article – all Georgie’s work!

Rose observing the festivities

Rose observing the festivities

If you are wondering what this has to do with Open Studios, well the timing of these family events happens to coincide with this years’ Open Studios Cornwall.  Consequently, I have only managed to visit a few Open Studios and I wasn’t intending to buy anything but found this little raku glazed pot by Judy Collins (Studio No: 37) at Trewidden Studios and decided to buy it for my daughter as it will go with her collection of ceramics.



From the few studios that I did manage to visit, one of the stand-out Open Studio for me was Susanna Bauer’s (Studio No: 36) with her exquisitely hand stitched magnolia leaves.  (This was purely ‘window’ shopping).

Susanna Bauer


Also Roger Weisman‘s (Studio No: 26) large welded ‘words’ whom I found by chance whilst driving down a lane near Chyenhal.

a gun-shot 'hope'

a gun-shot ‘hope’

And Jonathan Smith‘s talk at the Newlyn School of Art, author of ‘Summer in February‘, talking about his book and the film soon to be released.

I found this beautiful limited edition book of etchings, Florence Flies Away, by illustrator, Esther Connon, at last years‘ Open Studios and have been waiting for the right opportunity to give it to Rosie.   I decided to give it to her as a christening present.



And finally, it is George and Georgina’s (known as the GG’s – pronounced ‘geegee’ – in the family) 2nd wedding anniversary, I have designed these mugs for them which follows the theme of their wedding present from me.  (see here)

The designs for the mugs I put together in InDesign.

The designs for the mugs I put together in Adobe’s InDesign.

the finished article

the finished articles

This venture was a first for me so a bit of an experiment.  Next time I would like to refine the process and find a better quality plain white mug/cup to work with.  I wonder if anyone can tell me where I might source such a thing?

For more Four Stars:


Filed under Art Works, Dpchallenge, my sketchbook pages