Previous month:
October 2010
Next month:
December 2010

November 2010

And so winter begins....

White Horse by Helen Mason

Today I'm posting Devon photographs by friends (with their kind permission). The first four pictures are by Helen Mason, showing Dartmoor in its beautiful winter guise. The standing stones, below, are part of the Scorhill stone circle, near the hamlet of Gidleigh, not far from here.

Scorhill 2 by Helen Mason

Scorhill by Helen Mason

Scorhill 3 by Helen Mason

I posted a few pictures from Scorhill last winter, if you want to see more -- but my photos, taken on a sunless day from a dying camera, aren't a patch on Helen's, who is a proper photographer in addition to running her own design company, Escape. She lives in London, but has so many ties to our village that we consider Helen and her daughter Carmen (an animation student whose work I've posted previously) honorary Devonians too.

Rima Staines and Tom Hirons took the next three photographs -- of Tilly in the snow with their mythic hound, Macha, on the hill behind our house. I love these pictures of the two dog friends together. They are the personification of joy.

Tilly & macha in snow 1

Tilly & macha in snow 2

Tilly & macha in snow 3(Click on any of the photos for larger versions.)

Today's recommended reading: "How to Survive Your First Draft"

Sketch by Edward Burne-Jones Author/editor/teacher Delia Sherman has a post up on her blog,  The Grand Tour, full of excellent advice for writers who despair of ever finishing their novels or other projects.

"Whatever you do," Delia says, "get that shitty first draft done.  You can't fix something that doesn't exist.  You can't rewrite a faulty text that's still mostly in your head.  You can't experience the thrill of making a recalcitrant scene or section work by changing a paragraph, cutting a sentence, adding the perfect line of dialogue if you haven't written the clunky version first.  Do whatever it takes."


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Today's first tune is "Elephant Gun" by Beirut, a band whose whimsical, wonderful video above (directed by Amal Har'el) proves that music videos are not entirely moribund as an art form -- at least not when you're having this much fun. Oh let me count the ways I love this video, from its quietly romantic opening notes to its gloriously silly end! (Many thanks to Howard for this recommendation; which he, in turn, got from a theatre colleague in Portugal. Beirut's music is clearly getting around. )

The band is the brainchild of Zachary Francis Condon, a young jazz trumpeter from Santa Fe, New Mexico, now based in New York City. Beirut's music mixes jazz, rock, folk, and world music ranging from Mexico to the Balkans. If you like iconoclastic folk-fusion bands like Mumford & Sons, Stornoway, and The Decemberists (with a pinch of Ojos de Brujo and Calexico thrown in for good measure), then I suspect you'll love Beirut (or already love Beirut) as much as we do.

Below, Zach and crew wander the streets of Paris looking for, and eventually finding, a cafe that will let them play. It's part of La Blogotheque's fabulous Takeaway Shows series, which I also recommend. The song performed is "The Penalty."

Damn Zach Condon, just when I'd gotten more-or-less comfortable with the age I am, he makes me want to be 20-something again -- wandering the world with an instrument in my hands this time, instead of a pen and paintbrush. . . .

Leaf-blown fairies by day, Jack Frost by night. . .

Devon Trees

We've had a magical autumn over the last couple of months, full of deep blue skies and crisp, clear nights and trees blazing with an intensity of color rarely seen on Dartmoor. Despite the amount of time I spend outdoors with Tilly, I somehow never managed to have my camera with me when the weather and the trees were in their prime -- but even now, at season's end, when most of the leaves have fallen and the sky is "a whiter shade of pearl," the woods and fields are still full of colors that I ache to translate into stories and paintings. In some ways perhaps I even prefer the muted palette of late November, its subtle tones turning all the land around me into a Rackham illustration.

Autumn fairies by Arthur Rackham

Tilly's paw has healed (to everyone's relief) and she's allowed out on long walks once again. . . through wood and water, over stones and styles, into the hills and hedgerows that she loves so well.

Tilly in an autumn wood

Tilly November 2010

Tilly in autumn

The secret door

As for Howard and me, we've been laid low by a touch of flu, so we're not straying far from home ourselves. Many thanks to Rima, Tom, and their dog Macha, for taking our girl out for a ramble this morning, which she absolutely loved. . . and needed!

Rima Staines & Tom Hirons with Tilly & Macha

Macha and Tilly

Winter seems to be approaching fast. Yesterday we had our first snowfall of the season -- just a light little flurry that has dusted the surrounding hills like powdered sugar on a cake. Howard has got our old rayburn stove up and running, feeding it logs and coals to keep us all toasty warm. It's time to get my long wool coat out of the attic and finally admit that winter is here...and here to stay.

First snowfall

The warm kitchen hearth

Recommended Reading: on blogging

Camilla engman

Today's recommendations all have to do with blogging and the creative process:

Stephanie Levy's Artists Who Blog features interviews with artists discussing their work and the process of blogging. Most of the artists here are women, and most come from the illustration and design fields -- such as Camilla Engman, whose charming drawing of bear women is above. (Camilla's own blog is here.) I find it quite interesting to read people's thoughts about why they blog...a question that I (a normally quiet/private person who nonetheless blogs) often ponder myself....

Jude Hill's Spirit Cloth: Quilting a Story  is a blog that I know some of you follow already, but I wanted mention it for those who haven't yet come across it. My friend & colleague Midori Snyder (an excellent blogger herself) first lead me to Spirit Cloth -- and despite the fact that I'm not a quilter, and can barely sew well enough to stitch a button back on (unlike Midori), I find it engrossing, addictive, and a continual source of inspiration. Spirit Cloth is a meditation on the process of making art and of living an artist's life -- expressed sometimes through the medium of words, and sometimes by letting images, shapes, textures, colors, and qualities of sun- and moonlight tell the tale. This is a prime example of how blogging can be an art form in itself...and Jude makes it look effortless.

Spirit Cloth       Studio photograph from Jude Hill's Spirit Cloth blog.

Another good blog that I'm sure most of you already know but which nonetheless deserves a mention in any discussion of "blogging as a fine art" is Rima Staines' The Hermitage. Rima's latest posts, for example, look at the art-making process behind her creation of a cover for a new story collection by Catherynne Valente, and for works recently published in Marvels and Tales, a prestigious U.S. journal of fairy tale scholarship (pictured below). Rima lives down the street here in my village, so I also appreciate her posts on life in Devon and the magic of the countryside, and the ways they influence her as an artist.

Rima Staines Marvels & Tales

A few other folks who document and explore the process of art-making on their blogs: Danielle Barlow (Notes from the Rookery) here in Devon, Clive Hicks-Jenkins (Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog) and Jackie Morris (Drawing a Line in Time) in Wales, Karen Davis (Moonlight and Hares) in the Wiltshire countryside, Erzabet YellowBoy (Erzaveria), a fellow American ex-pat living in the UK, Viviane Schwartz (Letters from Schwartzville) in London, Nomi (Air and Parchment) in Oxford, Jen Parrish (Parrish Relics) in Boston [and oh, how I love Jen's new pup, who reminds me of Tilly!], Aria Nadii (Wild Muse Notes) in Boston [those are her magical shelves below], Valerie Claff (Ravenwood Forest) in western Massachusetts, Charles Vess (News from Green Man Press) in rural Virginia, Ulla Norup Milbrath (Ullabenulla) in northern California, and Christina Cairns (A Mermaid in the Attic) in western Australia, by the sea.

If you've got good artists'-creative-process blogs to add to this list, please do so in the Comments!


Aria Nadii's studio shelves                            Aria Nadii's studio shelves, from her Wild Muse Notes blog.