Previous month:
July 2010
Next month:
September 2010

August 2010

The tune for today:

It's a holiday weekend here in Devon, and a beautiful, crisp, autumn-is-coming kind of day. I've come online just long enough to post the video above, and then I'm taking heed of  Stornoway's beautiful song by turning the computer off and heading to the woods, Tilly at my heels....

Stornoway's tune is called "We are the Battery Human." (The title refers to "battery" chickens -- a term for factory farmed chickens that I believe is more widely used here in England than in the US.) These lads come from Oxford, and their first CD, Beachcomber's Windowsill, was released earlier this year. (I posted another song from it back in June.) In the video above, they are playing at New York's Mercury Lounge during their first U.S. tour this summer.

A French/English Mythic Arts Collaboration . . .


The past several months have been such a roller coaster, due to personal and family matters, that I've been remiss in telling you about one of the nice things that happened this summer: my trip to Brittany to see the French opening of the "Sir Lanval" exhibition. This exhibition (as you may remember from my previous post on the subject) is part of the Shared Legends Project, a collaboration between the Chagford Filmmaking Group here in Devon (the folks who turned my step-daughter into a dragon last summer) and the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurien in Brittany (organized by my friend Claudine Glot, an expert in French myth and folklore).

In the first part of the project, the two groups worked together to make a film of "Sir Lanval," a 12th century lay by Marie de France about a poor Arthurian knight and a beautiful fairy queen. In the second part, artists from (or with strong connections to) Brittany and Dartmoor contributed works inspired by "Sir Lanval" to an exhibition that premiered this summer at the castle pictured above, in the legendary forest of Broceliande.

For the opening, the project organizers brought artists from both sides of the Channel together for five glorious days in Broceliande. We were hosted royally, with storytelling in the woods, trips to mythic sites, a music concert at the Chapel of the Holy Grail, and many other delights.

View from the castle window View from a castle window

Storytelling in Broceliande Harp music and storytelling in the forest

Rider in the Forest  C Riders in the forest and castle courtyard

Chapel of the Holy Grail Tile-work mural in the Chapel of the Holy Grail

The pictures here are from that magical trip: from the castle and forest where we spent our days, and from La Gacilly (a village full of artists, like ours here on Dartmoor) where we spent our nights -- and where Rima Staines (one of the other artists in the exhibition), Tom Hirons, and I got the chance to visit dollmaker Virginie Ropar's enchanting house and studio.


La Gacilly 1 The village of La Gacilly (above and below)

Mermaid sign in La Gacilly

La Gacilly 2

The exhibition moves to the Breton city of Rennes this autumn, which is where the finished "Sir Lanval" film will have its French premier. The English film premier and exhibition opening take place in Exeter in December -- which is when it will be our turn to host the French artists in our village at the edge of mythical Dartmoor. It will be a challenge indeed, for our Breton friends have set the bar of hospitality very high!

The Valley of No Return The "Val sans Retour" (Valley of No Return) in Arthurian myth

Breton fieldsBreton fields and farmhouses


Sir Lanval

Poster art by two of the painters in the exhibition: Brian Froud (Dartmoor) and Olivier Ledroit (Brittany)

You'll find more pictures of Broceliande and the exhibition over on Rima's blog, The Hermitage (August 7th post, Chapter 3). You can see my contribution to the exhibition in my previous "Sir Lanval" post  --  and here's me under the trees of that deeply mythic forest (below, in a photo taken by a Breton friend), with my hair in my eyes and a book in my hands, as usual....


In the Forest of Broceliande

Trees, Part II

Finding spirited presences in trees has long been part of woodland myth and folkore world wide. Here are other "tree people" images by some of my favorite mythic artists:

Trees by Arthur RackhamIllustrations by Arthur Rackham 


From "The Land of Froud" by Brian Froud

Tree Sculpture by Virginia Lee

"Tree Girl," a mixed-media sculpture by Virginia Lee

"Miss Birch," a drawing by Virginia Lee

"Dryad," a mixed-media sculpture by Beckie Kravetz

"Paper Birds," a painting by Steven Kenny


"Sweet Chestnut," a ceramic sculpture by Fidelma Massey

And one more tree drawing of mine, called "Tree Caps":

Tree Caps

Trees . . .

Tilly & the tree 4

     Green Woman and Child

Tree Child & Bunny

Tilly & the tree - winterWinter 2010


Tilly & the tree 3Summer 2010

Tilly & Tree Summer
Fairy Tales"I never saw a discontented tree.  They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!" ~John Muir


Grizzly Bears

Mama Grizzly & Cubs



I generally try to focus on art, books, and living the mythic life on this blog, and not get sidetracked by American or English politics (oy, don't get me started!)...but forgive me, I can't resist posting the video below, "Mama Grizzlies: Sarah Doesn't Speak for Me," sponsored by the good folks at Emily's List. It made me start the day with a smile. Who says feminists don't have a sense of humor? (Or maybe I just like the bear costumes. Very Beastly Bride.)

A Studio of One's Own

The Bumblehill Studio

I promised to post some photographs of my current workspace (The Bumblehill Studio) when I first moved in five months ago. In the "Better Late Than Never" department: here, at last, is a picture of my magical hillside cabin.

I liked my previous studio in a building full of artists down in the village square, so I hadn't anticipated leaving it...but when this cabin became available, I snapped it up, and I'm so glad I did. It's very close to home, reached from our back yard through a little gap in the hedge, so Tilly can join me here easily, and she loves it just as much as I do. The cabin was designed & built by an eco-architect out of primarily recycled materials, including big plate glass windows looking down over the hills, wooden beams, and a roof of tin. It's large enough enough that it is easily divided into a writing/editing space and a painting studio, and it has a little garden with a wobbly old bench under a plum tree and a tiny pond. Best of all, it backs on to the woods, separated only by a winding stream.

Studio windows

I'm still settling in, still moving paintings and furniture around, but already it's proving a wonderful space to work in...and that surprises me. I've always been partial to multi-studio buildings where one is working in a community of other artists, yet I find I'm reveling in this solitary space. I seem to be to be going into a phase of my life where quiet, privacy, and close access to nature feeds my work and feeds my soul. And the commute from home is rather nice too: I just walk up the hill and I'm there.

The Muse of Bumblehill


Painting side of studio, looking toward writing side

Studio couch

The Bumblehill studio, painting side

Tilly now spends her days with me, snoozing on the couch, or spying, on cats through the big windows, or basking in the sun on the garden bench.

The bench under the plum tree

Howard's workspace (the cabin at the back of our yard) is just on the other side of the hedge, and being so close to home we can all lunch together as a family now. So this is not only a new studio but a whole new rhythm of life: in and out of the woods with Tilly instead of in and out of other studios downtown. My work is bound to change here. And I eager to see what emerges....

View from the studioView from the studio

To the Desert


The little video above, from Metron on Vimeo, has made me homesick for Arizona. . . .

The picture below is of my little painting studio out in the desert behind a house I shared with fellow-writer Ellen Steiber about ten years ago.

I used to have this poem written on the wall:

   To the Desert
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I came to you one rainless August night.
You taught me how to live without the rain.
You are thirst and thirst is all I know.
You are sand, wind, sun, and burning sky,
The hottest blue. You blow a breeze and brand
Your breath into my mouth. You reach—then bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
You wrap your name tight around my ribs
And keep me warm. I was born for you.
Above, below, by you, by you surrounded.
I wake to you at dawn. Never break your
Knot. Reach, rise, blow, Sálvame, mi dios,
Trágame, mi tierra. Salva, traga, Break me,
I am bread. I will be the water for your thirst.

GreenSnake copy