Oak Flowers on Silk – an Epitaph

I pass through this park regularly on my way to the allotment. There’s a path that runs between the railway line and a row of mixed trees, shrubs and brambles. I’ve got to know this path well and the greenery has furnished me with bountiful material for eco printing purposes.

I am on nodding terms with chimes of wrens, quarrels of sparrows, murders of magpies, pandemonia of parakeets, kits of wood pigeons and flotillas of gulls. Then there are the skulks of foxes.

I am greeted with enthusiasm by a good number of dogs regularly exercised in the park. There’s Jerry the springer (and his venerable and jokey master, two black labs in jaunty red harnesses and there are deceits of dogs of every pedigree under the authority of their professional dog walkers.

Oak Flowers

Little did I know that my eco prints would become epitaphs for this park, for it is to be developed into housing. Where there is birdsong will soon be a shrill of scaffolding, a grumble of machines.

I pray all this won’t begin until this year’s fledgings.

I recently posted a blog Soil Soul Society in which Satish Kumar gave a talk about being the change in urban areas, of finding ways of planting and growing – by creating and maintaining personal gardens (so often concreted over these days for parking space for a second, third or even fourth car), by taking up plots in allotments, or instigating community gardens.

There’s a shortage of houses, they say. We also need green spaces around houses, so we can get away from each other, chill out, think, get some air. Feed ourselves, for which we need soil, the fertile soil that is being more and more, buried beneath new houses.

Eco Print: Oak Flowers on Silk

There may not be another Spring in this park, so here is a bouquet in tribute, of flowers of oak, on silk.

There may never be another flowering of the oaks from which these flowers blossomed and fell almost into my hands as I walked beneath them.







Posted in Allotmenteering, Art, Eco/Natural Dyeing and Printing, Ecology, Printmaking, Walking, Walking Art | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Twitter Art Exhibit 2017 – Success!


I’m pleased to have had the news that the work I entered in this year’s (2017) Twitter Art Exhibit, to raise money for Molly Olly’s Wishes, a charity for the aid of terminally ill children, has sold.

The work is an encausticised eco print on a watercolour postcard. I created the print using found leaves then added a layer of uncoloured encaustic, which I made from beeswax and damar (tree) resin.

Can’t find a video of the opening night of this year’s Twitter Art Exhibit, which took place in the UK this year (Stratford-Upon-Avon). The very short video above is from the opening night of TAE 2016, which happened in New York, but you do get some dizzying shots of the abundant artworks hung around the walls. Perhaps the photographer was having too much of a good time.









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Hope: Satish Kumar Talking at 42 Acres, Shoreditch, London, April 2017

As promised in my blog Soil Soul Society, about the inaugural 42 Acres talk in their new London venue, here is the You Tube video made at the event, which I attended. I particularly liked Satish’s comments on Hope towards the end:

“Hope is not something which means that I am going to achieve Utopia tomorrow. …   Hope is … I can do something to make a difference. I can take a journey. I can take a few steps to make a difference.  … Hope is not a kind of blind faith that something will turn out … God will change it … [Hope is] active participation in the transformation of the world. That is Hope.  … until the last breath of my life I will be there being as active as I can  … I die in action, participating, rather than dying in worrying about the world.  I want to die in action, not in worry.”

Food for thought and encouragement.  Enjoy the meal.

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Soil Soul Society: Satish Kumar Talks at 42 Acres London

42 Acres describes itself as “… a retreat space nestled within a secluded Somerset valley.”  And it has just established a beautiful centre in a deconsecrated church in the heart of Shoreditch, East London. The other night I attended the inaugural talk at their new venue. It was a very intimate gathering and Soil Soul Society was delivered by Satish Kumar, the peace and environment activist whom I have long wanted to meet and hear in person.

Born in Sri Dungargarh, in Rajasthan, Satish became at nine a Jain novitiate then at 18 ran off in search of relevance, becoming a campaigner for land reform. In the 1960s he was inspired by Bertrand Russell in the cause of peace. At 26, he and fellow peace campaigner E P Menon walked 8,000 miles from Delhi to Washington via Moscow, Paris and London (without money, living only by the generosity of strangers) in support of nuclear disarmament. At the end of their journey, they delivered a packet of peace tea to the leaders of the world’s four nuclear powers.

Until retiring recently, Satish was also editor for many years of Resurgence magazine (now Resurgence and Ecologist) and his talk was the first of a new collaboration between 42 Acres and The Resurgence TrustResurgence “… was founded in 1966 by John Papworth, a well-known peace campaigner with connections to the Committee of 100 and the Peace Pledge Union, but rapidly broadened its critique from the nuclear nightmare generated by the Cold War to pollution, intensive farming and food production and the related political problems of centralisation, bigness and the growing separation of economics from ethics.” David Nicholson-Lord)

Soil Soul Society – a new trinity for our time is the title of Satish’s latest book. He talked about the importance of soil – which is fundamental to survival as without it we cannot feed ourselves – and on how it is also important and possible to take up the cause of sustainability in urban areas like London. And of being the change that we want.

As one who is in the process of trying to be the change and in the process of being made to fail (for reasons I won’t go into here) I wanted to know how to overcome this perennial problem, but Satish answered the question before I asked it. He talked of  remaining hopeful and optimistic. I also found the answer in Satish’s book in the form of this poem – a favourite also of Mahatma Gandhi – by Rabindranath Tagore:

Walk Alone, Walk Alone

If no one comes at your call, then walk alone
Walk alone, walk alone, walk alone
If no one comes at your call, then walk alone
If no one speaks, unlucky as you are
if no one speaks,
If everyone looks away,
if everyone fears
If everyone looks away,
if everyone fears
then open your heart,
find words for your thoughts
and speak alone
find words for your thoughts
and speak alone
If no one comes at your call, then walk alone
If anyone, when the path gets tough,
loses the will to go on
If anyone, when the path gets tough,
loses the will to go on
Then bloody your feet with its thorns
and tramp alone
Then bloody your feet with its thorns
and tramp alone
If no one comes at your call, then walk alone
If they offer no light, unlucky as you are,
If they offer no light
If in storm and rain and on dark nights
they shut their doors
If in storm and rain and on dark nights
they shut their doors
then with the lightning
kindle a fire in your ribs
and blaze alone
kindle a fire in your ribs
and blaze alone
If no one comes at your call, then walk alone
Walk alone, walk alone, walk alone
If no one comes at your call, then walk alone

The 42 Acres talk was filmed for the Resurgence Trust and will be added to Resurgence’s You Tube channel. In the meantime, please enjoy the above presentation of Satish talking about Soil Soul Society in Exeter.

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Melvyn Bragg on Richard Dawkins

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M(ann) Meets M(ann) in Stamford

Lincoln Cathedral

I had to be in Lincolnshire a couple of weeks back and dropped in on Lincoln. The first and last time I visited Lincoln’s cathedral was a staggering 46 years ago. All I could recall of that visit was the approach, an ascent so steep there were iron handrails to aid the less able and the awe-inspiring interior of the cathedral.

Aptly named Steep Hill still has those handrails and I was pleased to note that I still had no need of them.

Steep Hill, Lincoln

Regrettably, I wasn’t able to be awestruck by the cathedral’s interior a second time as the cost of entry was prohibitive. A visit the cathedral’s shop was free, where I bought a bag of barley sugar sweets. The night before my visit I dreamt that I was handed two white, oblong pills (from beyond the grave) and told I needed to take glucose. The sweets I bought were golden, oval-shaped and transparent. I wondered why the cathedral shop was selling barley sugar sweets. Had the shop’s buyer unconsciously linked their appearance with stained glass?

Lincoln Cathedral, Front Facade

Why was I to take glucose? Isn’t glucose just pure sugar, and carcinogenic? A web site devoted to the health benefits of glucose oxidase lists seven and is selling expensive pills in which glucose oxidase is an ingredient. The other ingredients are foods which you will be eating otherwise as part of a good diet.

Blue House, Lincoln

Barley sugar was originally made from cane sugar and barley water. These days, barley is an option.

I don’t believe I was led all the way to Lincoln’s cathedral shop to buy barley sugar sweets. There are more interesting aspects of the dream to explore.

But I was reminded of a different dream in  Stamford – where I was to meet artist Tim Mann. In St John the Baptist’s church in the town which dates to Roman times, Tim was creating a group portrait Crowded Room Stamford of people native to or passing through Stamford and by making an outline of each on a huge sheet of paper, drawing with a stick of red pastel. I had a flash forward to the end result of the work – resembling in my mind a huge living flame. And if you visit Tim’s Instagram page you will see another such group portrait which looks just like that.

I was reminded of a favourite passage from   J B Priestley’s autobiographical work Rain Upon Godshill.  It describes a dream. I’ve written about this in 2012 in A Collision of ChemicalsIn the dream, Priestley is standing at the top of an immense tower, looking down on a vast river of birds, all flying together in the same direction. Time accelerates and dream turns to nightmare as he is forced to watch bird become generation of bird. He watches as each bird hatches, flutters into life, soars away, grows weak, falters, then dies.  He watches as wings grow and crumble, bodies swell then shrivel.  Everywhere is death, striking at every second.  He watches and can perceive in all he sees … all the striving to live and keep on living – only an immense futility.  He … becomes sick at heart. Then time speeds up even more and the flow of birds becomes,  “like an enormous plain sown with feathers;…” and “…along this plain,  flickering through the bodies themselves,  there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling,  dancing, then hurrying on,…” As soon as he sees this,  he knows the flame to be, “…life itself,  the very essence of being.”

It was wonderful, in Tim Mann’s group portrait, to be reminded of this dream, which was a revelation and celebration of spirit and in this corresponds with what is writ large on Tim’s home page: “For me, the spirit is more important than the physical.” And his work also takes the genre of group portraiture to a whole new level, just as Rembrandt did in his famous Night Watch. 

But wait – Priestley’s dream is not the dream I was reminded of! It was one of my own.

It must have been 1998 when I had this dream.  It was one of a huge cluster I had over a period of months and following on from the successive deaths, in under a year, of a (second) younger brother and both my parents. One series of dreams within the cluster besides foreshadowing my move to France, led me, when I got there, to visit the shrine of Ste Foye, in the abbey of Conques, southern France (Occitanie). But that is another story.

All of that cluster of dreams had meaning for me, except for one, in which appeared a personage called Dr Mann. An interpretation eluded me, except that, with its twon ending, it fused man and ann (my name) to make mann (Mann). Researching Dr Mann led me up Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain. Looking up the mountain again I read of the novel – for the first time – that the only italicised text in the entire book is, “because of charity and love, man should never allow death to rule one’s thoughts.” That might have been an apt message at that time, given my circumstances.

And thus from Tom Mann to Tim Mann via J B Priestley in whom all three I find the gift to surmount death with ” … charity and love.”

Tim Mann was born and raised in Stamford and was able and keen to give me lots of information about the town. I was struck by the honey-coloured stone that constituted many of the (18th century) buildings. Tim told me it’s Collyweston (a stone slate that’s not slate but limestone but used to slate roofs). Walking Stamford’s streets gave me a strong impression of military activity and inexplicably, the American War of Independence came to mind.

Tim didn’t confirm the military thing. Unconvinced – I could hear shots in my head – research led me to His Majesty’s Tenth Foot (N Lincolnshire). I read, at www.redcoat.org:

“The Tenth Regiment played an important role in the early events of the American Revolution. On April  19th, 1775, the Light Infantry and Grenadier companies were part of the expeditionary force sent by General Gage to capture the arms being stockpiled by the militia in Concord, MA. On that day, the Light Infantry Company was present at both Lexington Green and Concord’s North Bridge when the First Shot and the Shot Heard ‘Round the World were fired.  Both companies were engaged in the skirmish at Bloody Angle, near Lincoln, MA, and the desperate retreat back to Boston along what has become known as Battle Road.”  

The regiment also played parts at other battles before being drafted back to England in 1778. Had an 18th century native of Stamford been one of the number of His Majesty’s Tenth Foot? And by the way, I didn’t put the bits about the shots into bold – that was the work of the author of the post. I am very spongy. And if I ever get into including people in my artwork, they might well  resemble honeycombs. 🙂

Tim Mann draws round people (outlines them) as an act of respect.  After he did my outline, he said – and he does this with all of his subjects,  “you are special.” It sent a shock up my spine. And my spirits soared. This is portraiture that is a real engagement by the artist with his subject – a loving one – and, for me, it makes his work great art, because it is a new departure in the genre in that there is no distance between the artist and his subject.

I mentioned to Tim that I was also an artist and I also draw round things. This painting – Site – dating to about 1999/2000 – was arrived at by drawing round objects found while digging in my garden in France. I believed I was fixing them in place. Stilling them into now. I moved them around to indicate their histories – histories of past human activity – in various times and spaces. I see now that I was also honouring their histories, which, although the specific details are forever lost, could nonetheless be registered, and contained within their outlines. It was also like adding a gravestone to a grave. I see now that it was, too, an act of love, this outlining.

I abandoned this approach because I couldn’t justify it at that time. And I couldn’t validate the colours I was using. I am going to take up this technique again, using not oil colours, but encaustic waxes and authentic colouring – the colours of nature that are turning up in my eco prints.

“The ‘Crowded Room Stamford’ exhibition will open in the Arts Centre on Monday 27th March [2017] and will be on display for two weeks. Tim is keen to invite everyone along to view the final portrait and the accompanying works of art, which he has created in collaboration with local students.”

For more information visit www.timmannartist.com











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I am London – Requiem

Poem to the rhythm of Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu

I am London – Requiem

I am London
I am Westminster
there yesterday
plans changed today I am alive I am alive
I am alive I am alive

I am London I am Westminster
I am
yesterday yesterday plans changed today
I am alive they died

I am alive
they died


Posted in Music, Singing, Singing Sacred, spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

A Fine Pickle

A recent eco print experiment. This is an iron blanket (or carrier cloth). It ought to have had prints from plant material on it. Didn’t work. Hmmm.

As usual, I sprayed the cloth with a 50/50 vinegar/water solution. It was already carrying iron as I’d soaked the cloth, overnight, some time ago, in a ferrous sulphate and H20 solution.

The only thing I did differently was to use white pickling vinegar. (I didn’t have any other). Was the pickling vinegar the culprit for the failure? Fellow eco printers help me out here!

The leaf sandwiches were bound very tightly between two ceramic tiles then boiled for two hours in madder root dye. I do like the result however. There is plenty of space to animate one way or another, between those dark patterns, the result of the string and rubber bands I used to bind the parcel of prints for boiling. It’s accidental shibori.  The orange is iron.

Forces and energy (pressure, heat, chemicals).

I’ve been working on my artworks web site. I’m linking the little works, experiments, to the blogs in which I’ve written about them, where I have done that.

It is time to take the images and the words and pickle them.

Do go and look at my artworks web site. I’ve cleared the cobwebs.
















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Twitter Charity Art Auction and Exhibition

eco-print-encaustic-watercolour-postcard-ii-21-february-2017I’ve just sent off my contribution (left) for the Twitter Art Exhibit 2017. It’s an encaustic eco print and will be on sale for £30 between 2-19 April 2017 at The ArtsHouse, 14 Rother Street, Stratford upon Avon. 10:00-4:00.

The proceeds of the exhibition will go to the charity Molly Olly’s Wishes.

“Molly Olly’s Wishes was founded in 2011 by Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw. Their daughter Molly Ollerenshaw was diagnosed aged 3 with a Wilms tumour and despite a long and brave 5 year fight, died in 2011.

They spent a large part of those years in and out of hospital and soon realised that many of the patients they met did not have the emotional or financial support that they had for Molly and her siblings. Molly wanted to help these children and so Molly Olly’s Wishes was born.”

Tickets for the opening night are available via Eventbrite. From Eventbrite:

“TWITTER ART EXHIBIT (TAE) is being held in the UK for the first time! Next year it will be somewhere else in the world supporting another worthwhile charity.

The Opening Night of TAE17 in Stratford Upon Avon is a great opportunity to buy some amazing art from our TAE17 artists from all around the world and, at the same time, to support the charity Molly Olly’s Wishes who help support children with terminal and serious illness and their families. This year TAE has had it’s biggest uptake since the event started 6 years ago with 1300 artists registered from 62 countries!

Artist David Sandum will be attending the event from Norway and will be giving a presentation about how and why TAE was set up and about the charities it has helped over the years and what the future holds for TAE.

You are invited to the OPENING NIGHT on the 1 April 2017 in Stratford upon Avon and we hope that you will invite others you know who could enjoy the event. Please come along to purchase the cards and help us raise funds for Molly Olly’s Wishes. (Cost of cards – £30 each of 4 for £100). ALL the proceeds from the sale of the cards goes direct to the charity.

There will be an AUCTION of a wonderful original etching by Norman Ackroyd RA and a sketch by Sir Ian McKellen on the night.

FREE entry. Light refreshments available. Disabled access and facilities.

The TAE17 Exhibition will run 2-19 April 2017 at The ArtsHouse, 14 Rother Street, Stratford upon Avon. 10:00-4:00.  For more about the TAE – www.twitterartexhibit.org

Friends, if you can get to the opening, or the exhibition, please do and please think of buying my work for this worthy cause. And let me know if you do. Let me know if you get to the exhibition. Send me your photos.




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Nature as Reliquary – or Cup Cake

eco-print-encaustic-on-mdf-iii-5-march-2017Here are three recent eco prints on watercolour postcards, mounted on MDF board.

Afterwards, I enhanced the prints with encaustic medium.

Quite a process. I gathered the leaves to make the prints. I sandwiched the gathered leaves between the watercolour cards, then the cards between two ceramic tiles, bound the parcel tightly with rubber bands and string and boiled it for two hours in madder root dye, which stained the edges of the prints.

After mounting the cards, I added the encaustic wax in layers, fusing each layer with a hot gun, then when cold and hardened, I polished the surfaces to a high sheen.

eco-print-encaustic-on-mdf-i-5-march-2017The mounts are three from 12 I bought for next to nothing in 2009 from an outlet selling secondhand furniture, household goods and collectables. It was called La Trocante – it’s a franchise and there are stores scattered across France and Belgium.

This Trocante (Trocante is a fusion of two words – brocante (flea market) and tri from trier (to sort)). It was a big metal warehouse, 20 minutes from our then home, which was situated halfway between Paris and Chartres.

There weEncaustic Medium Cup Cakes 18 Feb 2016re already pictures mounted on the MDF boards. There’s a groove on the back for hanging. After replacing the original pictures with my own work, I polished up the back and edges with liquid beeswax.

I also made the encaustic wax – a mix of unbleached beeswax and damar (tree) resin. I made a big batch of encaustic cakes a year ago this month. I blogged about the process here: The Ginger Echternach Gospels, Ginger Cup Cakes and the Dream of the Ginger Kitten.

I wrote this: “These encaustic cup cakes looked (and smelled – as they smell like honey) delicious. I admit to putting one into my mouth, biting down gently on it, licking it. Sorry, couldn’t resist it. And in my dream that night, a plump little ginger kitten was doing just the same. He was eating and eating.”

eco-print-encaustic-on-mdf-ii-5-march-2017I think in that dream I was the ginger kitten, eating and eating. Starving, eating food for the soul. Art as spiritual nourishment. Was the dream also premonitory? A promise that if I persevered, I would be rewarded with an abundance of spiritual food? For I am experiencing abundance. Yes, while these little works do not in themselves express the things I want to say, they are a part of those cycles of communication.

One thing, contemplating these, and all my recent prints, I was drawn to look at reliquaries – beautiful containers for relics deemed holy.  I have been looking at eco prints on one level as relics. Relics of Nature. But it came to me that maybe they are not the relics but the reliquaries. For while we continue to damage Nature – biodiversity – when we have finally wrung out of Nature the last drops of anything of use to our survival, we will become extinct. Nature, however, will continue, as a beautiful reliquary for humankind.

Or cup cake? Shall we have Nature as reliquary or cup cake?


Posted in Art, Dreams, Eco/Natural Dyeing and Printing, Ecology, Encaustic Art, Mixed Media, Printmaking, spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment