Inching Towards … Kalkmalerier: Danish Medieval Wall Paintings and Portable Altars

Plaster of Paris Accordion Book with Layer of Burnt Sienna October 2015In the process yesterday of unearthing my collection of sketches, notes, drawings, paintings and other fragments – images I produced during the time I lived in France (shall I call that my French period, or leave that to future art historians?:))  I also came across my collection of images of Danish medieval wall paintings.

I stumbled upon (ha!) these works on the web back in the 1990s and was immediately transfixed, so printed off a selection of photos of them – for my personal purposes only, they are copyrighted – and have taken them out to look at on and off ever since. Since I don’t believe in coincidence, I’ve been pondering why these images have risen up before me again at this time, how they might relate to my work. I tried this in France, without much success, I have to say, but it’s still true that some of my French Fragments connect with these wall paintings.

Hmmm.  (Means, I’m thinking).

Site I Panel II (Section) Oil on Canvas

Site I Panel II (Section) Oil on Canvas

I was struck by the similarity in colour between a lot of these wall paintings and the colours – Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna – I used to bring out the texture of the pages of my in-progress (and first ever) encaustic accordion book.

Not only that, in Danish, these wonderful wall paintings (there are 1700 churches in Denmark decorated in this manner) are called Kalkmalerier.  Kalk translates to chalk. I’ve made the pages of my accordion book from Plaster of Paris, Mod Roc: chalk.

I decided to include – somehow – while making this book, images from my French Period because it’s one of my past artistic lives I haven’t re-addressed. I also realised I’m going to be making a lot of these accordion books, to incorporate a lot of images. So I’m collating, cataloguing, curating.

Curating’s a bit of an art form in itself, isn’t it? It’s also scary as, badly-done, it leads people up the wrong path.

Monoprint (Wheel and Wheat)

Monoprint (Wheel and Wheat/Peaks and Troughs)

Curiously, in looking at this French stuff, the issues I was trying to address at that time, are those I’m still trying to address in present time. They represent a lot of walks half-taken. Walks where the road ran out on me. Where I got lost in my own mists.

Did I lack courage, or insight? A bit of both.

Hmmm. (I’m thinking again).

It might be that in selecting images, I’m being asked to think in terms of curating. To pay attention to focus and theme. Just a glance at my bumbling and stumbling French Fragments tells me I’ve moved maybe a few turns up the spiral of (whatever). I think I can say that much.

I’ll be looking at and writing about how that has happened. And I’d better be scared by this – I don’t want to lead anybody up a wrong path. Better get the portable altar out. Hey, maybe I should make one?  Maybe, I am. Lots of them.

Danish medieval wall paintings:


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Inch of the Day 5 October 2015: An Inch of Work on my Plaster of Paris Encaustic Accordion Book


Today I finished the surfaces of all eight sides of my Plaster of Paris and Encaustic Accordion Book, as per Bridgette Guerzon Mills‘ instructions in Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch’s book Encaustic Revelation: Cutting Edge Techniques from the Masters of Encausticamp. I had to wait for the plaster pages to dry before continuing with their further embellishment.  According to Bridgette, the drying can take from a few hours up to 24 or more. Well, I don’t live in Las Vegas and here in Kent, the drying took about 3 days. Good old damp England.

In the first picture, I’ve begun adding colour to the pages to bring out their textures. I did this by layering and fusing alternatively, encaustic medium and yellow ochre oil paint. You can see the difference between embellished and unembellished page – how the texture has been brought out by the treatment.

Plaster of Paris Accordion Book with Layer of Burnt Sienna October 2015

In the second picture, I’ve added a layer of Burnt Sienna oil paint. Bridgette suggested Burnt Umber. I chose the Sienna as it is redder. I wanted a redder base than Umber because the images I’m going to fuse to the pages of the book are images which originated in regions of France inflicted by Terre Rouge – a heavy red clay difficult for agriculteurs to cultivate).

Plaster of Paris Encaustic Accordion Book October 2015The third image is a close-up. I love this process and the surfaces it produces. No two pages are alike.

My book’s golden rather than red. Except for the page joints, which I made from strips of muslin, not plaster and they’ve taken up the encaustic medium and oil colour more than the plaster pages.

Then I ran into a problem. I can’t get the images to adhere to the pages. Frustrating.

Well, tomorrow is another day, as Scarlett would say. Tomorrow I must sing, too. Practice. Chilcott’s A Little Jazz Mass. Rutter’s Psalmfest. The concert is Saturday. There is one more rehearsal, during this week, then a workshop/rehearsal Saturday afternoon, then the concert, for which I must also bake a cake.

Have you made an inch of art today?  I’d like to know.

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Allotment Artefacts

Four Fragments of Ceramic Tile Allotment 2015I dug up these four ceramic fragments at the allotment this year, each at different times. They’re bits of a tile. I suspect 1960s – burnt orange was in fashion in the 60s. And psychedelic designs.

I wonder what I will do with these? I took this photo of them, then discovered there is to be a mosaic-making workshop this month.

Ah! So that’s what I am to do with them.

What have you dug up recently?

I’d like to know.



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Inch of the Day 2 October 2015: Singing: A Ceremony of Carols: Benjamin Britten

In addition to Handel’s Four Coronation Anthems (see yesterday’s post) I also received yesterday the music for Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols. I need to learn to sing both for a Christmas concert.  Eek.

Britten was a pacifist. He and his lifelong partner and singer Peter Pears went to the US in 1937. When war broke out Britten became a conscientious objector and was subjected to hostility from various sources, but became so homesick for England that they returned in 1942. He wrote seven of the eleven carols on the long sea voyage back to the UK from the US. Ceremony was written for treble voices and harp and this version premiered in the Library of Norwich Castle, the December of 1942, sung by the women’s voices of the Fleet Street Choir. Gwendolyn Mason played the harp and it was conducted by T B Lawrence. 

I’m taking the information about Ceremony from the Introduction by Philip Reed (1994) to the book of sheet music, published by Boosey & Hawkes.

Reed goes on to explain that Britten returned to the UK on the Swedish merchant vessel Axel Johnson, crossing a U-boat infested Atlantic. The ship, before undertaking the crossing, called in at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Britten chanced upon a copy of The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems, which appeared to have sparked the idea of the carol sequence. Five of the poems in Galaxy became carols 3, 5, 6, 8 and 10.

In 1943, Britten added carols 4 and 7 and made provision for the work to be performed to piano, instead of harp accompaniment, where necessary. This, final, version, was first sung, at the Wigmore Hall, London, by the Morriston Boys’ Choir, to the accompaniment (harp) of Maria Korchinska. It was conducted by Britten. The choir with Korchinska, went on to make the first recording, for Decca.

This is the SATB (choral) version of the work, arranged by composer Julius Harrison in 1955.


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Inch of the Day 1 October: An Inch of Singing: Handel’s Four Coronation Anthems

Just been given the sheet music to this. It’s to be learnt for Christmas. Phew!  But how wonderful that I’m getting to sing this.  At Christmas.


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Inch of the Day 30 September 2015: Walking the White Cliffs and Looking at an Horizon

Blue Orange Horizon St Margarets 30 September 2015As it was my husband’s birthday today and the weather was fine, we drove down to an old and favourite walking haunt,  St Margaret’s at Cliffe. We lunched at The Pines Garden Tea Rooms as usual, which serves mega-amounts of delicious dishes prepared using veggies from the gardens, bought some of their veggies and seeds and walked the cliffs towards Dover and back again.

On the way back I was confronted with this drama of verticals and horizontals. There was a battle going on, on the horizon – a clash between blue and orange.

I can see those fence posts turning up as stitches sometime. Mending battle wounds. Sewing boundaries together again.

We gathered apples from the same wild-sewn tree we harvested this time last year.

Green circles, blue skies, orange horizons.




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Inch of the Day 29 September 2015: Plaster of Paris Accordion Book in Progress

Plaster of Paris Accordion BookWent out today, bought birthday presents, cards, wrapping paper, new jeans and top for myself as I’ve lost weight and most of my current clothes are too big now. Came home, wrapped the presents, wrote the cards, went out again to buy stuff to make a birthday cake.

Baked the birthday cake. Yes, me, the undomesticated, baked a birthday cake – well, alright, it was a packet cake, and after the cake was cooked I left it on the kitchen bench to cool and came back an hour later to find the cat licking it all over.

At least the cat likes the cake. And while I baked the cake, I listened to and sang through Chilcott’s A Little Jazz Mass as I’m learning this to sing on 10 October.

Plaster of Paris Accordion Book II 29 September 2015Then I carried on making this Plaster of Paris accordion book. (That’s where the Inch a Day comes in – I have to do an inch every day of art, writing, singing – whatever, as long as it’s progressing one of my artiferous projects.

I actually started to make the book yesterday and I’ve been leaving it to dry. So today, the inch was checking its dryness. I would not have had time to do the next step. Give me a break. I baked the cake. And did all that other stuff. And washed and dried two loads of clothes. I might yet be beatified for domesticity.

The technique for the plaster accordion book is from Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch’s book Encaustic Revelation – Cutting Edge Techniques from the Masters of Encausticamp. Encausticamp is a encaustic workshop retreat. The book consists of demonstrations (how-tos) from nine of the instructors. The plaster and encaustic book-making technique is revealed by artist Bridgette Guerzon Mills. I love her work and I’ve been itching to try this technique.

Plaster of Paris Pages with Black and White Flint StonesIf you look closely at the first photo, you’ll see that one of the pages didn’t attach well. They’re made from plasterised gauze. I have this big roll. It’s called ModRoc. I cut eight 6×6 inch sheets from it, then dipped each sheet in a bucket of water to wet it and then smooth it out and attach them to each other with strips of muslin.

The reason the last sheet didn’t attach was because the plaster dried (superficially) too fast. I was too slow attaching the muslin. In fact I had to discard the three sheets in the third photo – under the black and white flint stones. They won’t be wasted, I’ll just do separate works on each.

And as I’ll be adding stitch to the accordion book, I’ll be able to repair the sheet that didn’t attach property.

Next time I get to this project I’ll be adding oil colour and encaustic and some images. I plan on doing a whole series of these books.

What artiferous projects are you working on right now?  I’d like to know.

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Inch of the Day 28 September 2015: Eco Print with Blood Moon

Eco Print Fusion I 28 September 2015


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Walking the Cosmos: Blood Moon

Blood Moon Purple Moon Rochester 28 September 2015Yes, I stayed up most of the night to watch the super blood moon total lunar eclipse. It began about 1 in the morning here in southern England with a bit of red on the top curve and then I could see it from a window. About 2.30 I had to go out onto the street to see it. At that point, I hauled my husband out of bed to join me. (He did ask me in advance to do that if it looked like it was going to be exciting).

The photos I took weren’t very good, which wasn’t unexpected. This is the first one. But what’s going on here? There’s the moon, just before 1 am, but when I checked what I’d shot, there was this extra, purple planet underneath. I took another shot.

Blood Moon and Purple Planet 28 September 2015It had shifted its position a bit, but there was the ghostly purple planet again. You’ll see in this second picture that the moon has a redder glow around it.

Had I snapped a new and purple planet, by accident? Was I soon to be in receipt of a Nobel Prize and would my discovery be known hereafter as Planet Ann?  (I would protest strongly any latinisation to Planet Annus).

Blood Moon Purple Twin I 28 September 2015About 1.30 am I took the third shot. As you can see in this lovely Wuthering-Heights-style shot, there’s a flattening to the circle – top left – and a distinct red line now rings the moon.

I watched the eclipse through binoculars. As it approached totality, the top half seemed to be covered in a grey-red mist, there was a yellow-gold ring almost surrounding it and the bottom bit was white (the diamond of the diamond ring stage of an eclipse when it’s almost total but not quite).  The yellow ring might have been an optical illusion created by the binoculars.

The moon spun upon a pristine star-peppered sky. I felt the depth of the sky rather than saw it and as always, when staring out at the cosmos, longed to be able to walk it, walk its mysteries. Alas, becoming a cosmonaut is no longer an option for me.  Well, it never was –  I’m not tall enough to reach the pedals on space rockets.

Why do we spend obscene amounts of money developing more and more sophisticated ways of killing each other over what amount to differences of opinion, when we could use that money to find ways of going out into the universe? Why are we not all desperate to walk out into the biggest adventure we could ever have waiting for us on our very doorstep?

When totality arrived, I was astonished. If I hadn’t known about the eclipse I’d have been alarmed at the strange rust-red globe in the sky. I was mesmerised. I couldn’t stop staring. Two people passed by with a grinning greeting.

“Good morning!”  It was the man, who was lean sporting a blood red Mohican.

His buxom woman had long, wild, blood-red hair and seemed not to be wearing anything much beneath a thigh-length cardigan. It was like we were sharing something wonderful, and we were, though I suspect they had a different take from me, on wonderful. I reckon there’d have been a good many moon ceremonies taking place last night.

I am full of wonder for our wonderful universe. To the lunar expert scientist on television yesterday, whining that nothing extraordinary or rare was going to happen, that it was all hype, the moon wouldn’t be enormous (that was true) and a watery pink rather than red (not true):  yah, boo and sucks to you! You’ve lost your wonderment, mate!

Then, I am a hare. And any moon will do for staring purposes. Even ghostly purple ones.

Did you walk the cosmos last night?  I’d like to know.




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Supermoon Blood Moon: Be Still and Listen, The Earth is Singing …

Be Still and Listen The Earth is Singing: Artist: Karen Davis

Be Still and Listen The Earth is Singing: Artist: Karen Davis


I’d been singing all day. Lots of lyrics, but these ones keep putting themselves before me at the moment: So that the sun shall not burn thee by day, neither the moon at night and then I came home and found this lovely image waiting for me.

Be still and listen,
The Earth is Singing.

I am a hare (Chinese Astrology) and despite that I don’t really believe in astrology, like hares, I am drawn to the  moon.

There’ll be a total lunar eclipse this weekend. There’s to be a supermoon, a blood (red) moon 10 o’clock (ET) and 1.10 am (BST) this Sunday. In the UK, providing the sky will be clear, the best time to see this blood moon will be about three in the morning (Monday).

A supermoon is a moon at its perigee, meaning, closest to the earth. This Sunday, the moon is going to be very big, very round and very red – a super blood moon.

The last time this happened was 30 years ago. The next time it’s going to happen will be in 2033.

The peoples of South America and East Coast Americans will have the best view of this event. Check out this site, The Verge, for more details.

You can see more of Karen Davis’ wonderful work with hares and moons (and other magic) in her Etsy shop.



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