In remembrance of Bette

Many years ago, at the Yorvik festival, I met a beautiful “Viking” woman who was reading runes. We soon found much in common, and there started a close friendship, which would be a source of inspiration for us both. Bette had been writing articles “in praise of trees”, and after our meeting resolved to write a book, which I would illustrate.
That book is still awaiting its time…..life is not that simple……. We lost Bette from our lives as she died four years ago this week, and her lifelong partner Don died at the same time last year.

To honour them both, I have decided to put snippets of Bette’s writing out into the ether through my blog, to share her insights with you.

From the Forward:

” From my earliest childhood I have always enjoyed and sought the company of trees. I was lucky to be reared within a family having a strong sense of both the ancient world and the energies of Earth; my maternal grandmother had roots in both the northwest Highlands and Skye, and was gifted with the Sight, while my father’s family were from Cork and Kerry in the far southwest of Ireland, and my father had a great affinity with all growing things. The world to me was a magical place, and trees in particular were magnetic and enchanting beings.

[Meraylah’s] Green Man is a joyful and inspirational portrayal. This is a truly archetypal being, strong but smiling benevolently as he pours forth a plethora of living growth as a libation to Mother Earth, and flanked on either side by the legendary Celtic symbol of abundance, the Dagda, a cauldron that will be endlessly replenished no matter how often it is emptied.”
greenman
From The Green Man:

[At the Winter Solstice…] “…….the forests are by no means empty of life, and we become increasingly aware of a watchful and attentive presence. Our distant ancestors would have recognised the closeness of the Green Man, the eternally vigilant guardian of the natural world, a figure who for centuries past has symbolised the cycle of death and rebirth that guarantees the survival of the planet and its creatures.”

“The World of the Green Man”:

” Empty of light and life,
The planet hung in a limitless void,
Locked in a grip of ice. No growth
Could flourish in this naked silence,
No living creature marked the tundra in its passing.

The Sun, reviving and restoring,
Smiled once again upon the stirring Goddess.
Rain dropped, soft and gentle,
A benison to the waiting Earth.
Tides ebbed and flowed,
Rivers carved their chosen course,
Sparkling, tumbling, waters crystal clear,
Ran eagerly to greet the encircling seas.

With this change came I,
Green in countenance, untamed in spirit,
Bringing my message of rebirth and renewal.”

Bette Whitaker.

(All her writings copyright. If sharing, please credit Bette.)

Those blessed bees

For this year’s Royal Miniature Society’s exhibition I decided to focus on bees, those glorious, industrious and utterly vital little creatures. There have been many more varieties of bee around in our garden this year, which has been so encouraging. (Perhaps something to do with the fact that neonicotinoids haven’t been used recently……..?) Whereas in the last few years we have been excited to see an individual bee here and there, this year there have been dozens at a time!

I really enjoyed working on this painting (“Blessed Bee”, 5cm square), and got thoroughly immersed in the  patterns – four-leaved clovers and forget-me-nots. Using shell gold has been a revelation – it is possible to paint tiny areas using this, which would have been more tricky with gold leaf. This piece sold at the recent exhibition ( which you can still see online at www.royalminiaturesociety.co.uk ).

blessedbee

 

catching up…..

Hmmmm…. so here we are in November….and I have resigned myself to being a very sporadic blogger…..
So to catch up – what has been memorable in the past few months…..?

In June there were events to mark the Magna Carta at our library. This was an excuse to dress up, get out all my lovely earth pigments and resins and run a workshop for children showing them how to make Medieval paints. I love telling them about the colours – particularly when it comes to the Dragon’s Blood (“wow – is that reeeeally dragon’s blood….?”) or the fact that artists sometimes used their own earwax to bind the pigments (“Yuck!”). This year I was impressed when the whole class already knew about Lapiz Lazuli – and it turned out that this is important in the video game Minecraft 😉

medievalPaint

Bicycles!

Cycling is such a big part of my life, so it should feature in this blog….

Here are some of the things I have carried on my trusty bike:

Cardboard boxes for mulching trees, logs, (and in the basket, pears from a tree on the way home!)

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The willow frame was transformed into a hot air balloon, made by children at the library for The Reading Challenge.

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Compost and kindling…

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A papier mache head – for a scarecrow of Angelica Sprocket ( thanks to Quentin Blake’s book ). I did get some interesting looks from people on the way to town…..

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These bikes are beautiful creations I have found, in Norwich, York Art Gallery, and The V&A Museum of Childhood.

Photo0672 Photo0591 bikeMuseum

 

So far this year…….

Ah well…. Having made a resolution to be a better blogger just before midnight on 31st December, I didn’t do a thing….

So here is an update on what’s been happening since then:

I did a painting for the cover of “The Wildwood Way” by Cliff Seruntine. This is a really inspirational book about the way Cliff and his  family live on and with the land in Nova Scotia. It follows his book “Secrets of the Sacred Earth”.

While painting this, I often had the feeling of actually being in the forest – a magical journey from my desk!

Ciff Seruntine  Wildwood Way

WildWoodWayBlog

“Earth Pathways”, who have been producing a beautifully uplifting diary for the past few years, have just decided to use “Tree of Light” for the front cover of the new calendar for 2016. How lovely 🙂

Earth Pathways

treeOfLightBlog

Earlier in the year I was busy working on black and white illustrations for “The Wisdom of Birch, Oak and Yew” by Penny Blllington:

The Wisdom of Birch, Oak and Yew

and for Llewellyn’s Magical Almanac 2016:

Llewellyn’s Magical Almanac

Am now working on some new paintings for the RMS exhibition, later in the year.

Royal Miniature Society

AfterTheWassail-1Ah…. and yes, when I said “watch this space” some months ago, that does rather imply that something was going to happen! So yes, here is that painting – “After the Wassail”, measuring 68 x 88 mm. I had a lovely time using shell Palladium, having realised that silver leaf was likely to tarnish. (“Shell Palladium” is the precious metal Palladium powdered and mixed with a binding agent – gum arabic in this case – and is used as a block watercolour.)

I wanted to create an image of apple trees after their blessing. The Wassailing revellers have danced and sung their way through the orchard, leaving lanterns and candles to light the boughs. Then begins the magic – the new life sparkles in the branches, and all around the border are some of the creatures who will live among the coming season’s leaves.

This painting was exhibited in The Royal Miniature Society’s annual exhibition in London in October, and to my delight it sold!

Next year I will be a better blogger…..

Hmmm…..I am officially a bad blogger….. After having all sorts of good intentions to rattle off pages of inspirations, sketches, hopes and ideas, I just didn’t quite get round to it! Was a bit thwarted by technology ( my ancient laptop kept refusing to play when I tried putting pictures on ) but mainly it was my inability to remember that I even have a blog, so one of my resolutions is to get it together 😉

In the sunshine today we played for a while with the ice in one of the ponds – as the sheets of ice splintered a glittering display of rainbows appeared inside them. Magic.

New Year’s eve – later I will go for a potter under the stars, breathing in the cold night air and perhaps watching the distant fireworks around the horizon.

Folkeast!

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Just back from Folkeast – what an uplifting, lovely festival! Spent the weekend growing (another…!) tree with kids – this one grew up one of the tent poles in the Smallfolk tent, and was pink, to echo the enormous pink oak tree in front of Glemham Hall, the venue. Also helped children (and grown-ups) to make wild, woolly creatures and furry fairyfolk. I loved how some of the children were immediately best friends with their creations….

Saw / listened to so many great musicians – my own highlights were Lisa Knapp, Blowzabella, Peter Knight’s Gigspanner, Fay Hield whose voice drifted beautifully across the campsite from the Sunset stage while we had dinner ……oh, and Blackbeard’s Tea Party, who were totally irreverent and had a wonderful energy and humour; and on the Soapbox stage, the Woodland Creatures made me happy….

Folkeast looks set to become an East Anglian legend – took me right back to those days of Albion Fairs – thank you, Becky and John, for having the faith to organise it! May there be many, many more 😉