Chinese Lanterns and Draconids

I promised in my last blog to turn up by the light of Chinese lanterns. Well, here they are – some eco collographs using these spectacular flowers. And if you’re anywhere north, don’t miss out on the weekend’s Draconid Meteor Shower. I can’t wait to see if having transitioned to a dark skies zone, I will be as blessed with a shower of meteors above, as I am with a shower of Chinese lanterns below.

The botanical name for Chinese Lantern is Physalis alkegengi.  And guess what? It has healing properties. The dried fruit, in the Yunani system of medicine is used as a diuretic, antiseptic, liver corrective and sedative. It is known as the golden flower.

I’d not heard of  Yunani and its origins, which are Greco-Arabic, are fascinating. The Medical DictionaryAn Islamic healing philosophy that incorporates major elements of ancient Greek medicine. (Unani means Greek in Arabic).

But I haven’t time to write about Yunani at this time so you’ll have to look it up yourself. Please don’t start eating Chinese lanterns in the hope of a cure for something, as, like all medicines, correct dosage is everything. They may or probably will be, poisonous plucked from the plant.

Got to go. Lots of stuff to do before dark and those meteors.

My Chinese lantern prints remind me of parachutes; and molluscs, falling to earth, like  meteors.

If you’re wondering where the Chinese lantern is in the last image, there is one; it’s at the top left corner. It’s like archaeological remains or fossil remains – you have to know what you’re looking at. The other leaves are Sumac, from the Sumac trees in the garden here. The leaves are richly coloured and I’ve frozen some already for dyeing silk, along with some of the big heads of berry clusters.  I’ll be doing some dyeing early next week.

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First Art from Beyond The Great Transition: Eco Collographs with Healing Sumac and Turmeric, Light and Emily Dickinson

Picking up from where I left off before The Great Transition – which has taken all of six months and still living in some chaos – I was very happy to find a few hours to make a batch of eco collographs. I was overjoyed to discover that there were four staghorn sumac trees – Rhus typhina – in my new garden and they are right now aflame with autumn colour and I’ve already frozen a bag of leaves and fruits to dye with and sometime soon, I hope.

I couldn’t find my watercolour papers so in desperation used cartridge paper pages torn from a sketchbook. A couple of years ago I started off this book by dyeing a batch of the pages with tea and another batch with turmeric. Then couldn’t take them any further.

Sometimes, you just have to wait.

Turmeric is well-known for its healing properties.

I didn’t know about the medicinal properties of sumac. Vitality Magazine carries an article listing its various healing uses by Michael Vertolli, Living Earth School of Herbalism.

The berries can be used to make a refreshing summer lemonade, apparently; but note that some folks can have an allergic reaction to sumac, particularly those with nut allergy, as sumac belongs to the same botanical family as cashew.

I love the glow of the turmeric in the second print, above. It reminds me of stained glass and that not all light is white. Also known as polychromatic light.

And believe it or not, looking into the issue of Light led me to Diotima of Mantinea and his Ladder of Love. I will dally awhile with Diotima and write about the flirtation in a future blog.  Meanwhile, Hammeringshield – a collection of essays, one of which deals with Light, looks like an interesting read.

Light and Love.

And it seems I have another one for my Herbiarum Vocabularum – Sumac.

The great 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson created an herbiarum, I have read (, which “… took the form of an album of dried flowers paired with notes that she assembled as a young woman, described in a New York Times review of a 2006 facsimile (see illustration) in this way:

‘In page after page of these richly detailed reproductions, the young Dickinson comes to life — in the delicate flourishes of the handwritten labels that fix the more than 400 specimens to the page, in the graceful and exacting way she arranged the plants throughout the album and in the selection of plants themselves, most of them picked within walking distance of her home in Amherst, Mass.’

The review then goes on to explain the significance of flowers to Dickinson’s work. She “sent her friends more than 30 poems accompanied by pressed flowers and bouquets. Flowers, both as physical objects and as the subject of her writing, became one of her primary means of communication.”

An insightful biopic of Dickinson which I watched recently is A Quiet Passion.

Dickinson also wrote many poems in which she used light as a carrier. Compare There’s a Certain Slant of Light, Under the Light, It’s Like the Light.

And enjoy the fabulous Barbara Bonney (one of my favourite singers) performing Copland’s 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson. I’ll have to have a go at singing this cycle myself.

Enjoy whatever of the above, discard the rest.  I’ll be back soon, lighting my way with Chinese lanterns.




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I’m Back – And Befriending the Rohingya

I am at last on the other side of my Great Transition and to kick off anew am very happy to have just donated a tiny sum to the Avaaz Foundation help the Rohingya, in the process of transiting, in their case aka ethnically cleansed (what a sparkling expression for mass murder/genocide) out of Burma (Myanmar) to safety in Bangladesh. My tiny donation is for the hire of boats to get these persecuted men women and children across the river dividing Burma and Bangladesh and safety. I ask that you too please think of helping these peoples via Avaaz .

I cannot but be acutely aware of the vastness of the difference between my transition and that of these poor people, who have recently been described as “… the most friendless people on the world …”, and to be glad to be a drop in the ocean of aid. A drop isn’t much, but when it’s part of an ocean of drops … that’s an ocean of friends, isn’t it?

Avaaz – The World in Action

And I hope by this time next week I will be able to publish some pictures of my new artistic territory and some new art to showcase.




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Passing It On: Rob Stevens

I’m not able to progress much of my own work to blog about in what has been a difficult and prolonged transitional period (I’ve already had to set writing and singing to one side quite a while back). I am often uplifted and encouraged by the work of my Internet friends, however and thought that Passing It On is something I could do in the interim. Passing it on might just be the no. 1 best aspect of the Internet, anyway.

Passing It On might just become a regular feature of my blog. As it has occurred to me during the writing of this, that in these very troubled times, when yet another terrorist attack has been enacted in a large city – this time Barcelona – it is even more important to emphasise the positive, the creative, to reinforce and continue to reinforce the Truth that hate is the domain of the minute few. Creativity is the domain, mindset and activity of the vast majority. A creative act being (to me) synonymous with an act of Love, hate will never prevail; hate will never prevail; hate will never prevail.

So here I am passing on a musical composition by my multi-talented Internet friend, Rob Stevens. I’ve known Rob online for maybe seven or eight years now. In addition to this piano composition, which I’ve praised elsewhere for its insistency (which speaks to me also of persistency – a fundamentally necessary quality of the artist – and life in general).

Rob has a beautiful singing voice and he kindly allows me to continue to use his breathtakingly lovely and haunting composition, sung by himself, In This Simple Place Called Love. Here it is and here he is, on my You Tube video The Healing Power of Animals.



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Post-Walkabout, I Run into Archimedes and Tangerine Meg in the Pursuit of An Eco Collograph and Its Ghost

My Internet friend, and artist, Tangerine Meg, has just posted a blog listing different apologetics for Art, mentioning, among other things, the apparent dichotomy between Art and Science. That the dichotomy is just that, an apparency; that Art and Science are just two different routes to understanding the world.

It’s true that there’d be no scientific progress without imagination. What d’you think propelled Archimedes from his bath to run naked through the streets shouting, “Eureka!”?  And he did have it – Archimedes Principle (which I can to this day recite by heart only because when I was 13 I was made to write it out 500 times by my science teacher for failing to do my Physics homework).

Likewise, there’d be no art if it failed to progress beyond the idea: an idea comes into being through the development of technique. Both Art and Science are about problem-solving.

I am reminded of my very first art project at university. We were sent out onto the streets of the city to make drawings to translate into one huge drawing – a work of art in black and white. We were to go out and …”activate a space.” I didn’t have a clue as to how to activate a space, so I went out and did some drawings. I do recall being chased off a piece of land belonging to British Rail by a very angry official – I escaped by climbing up the side of a multi-storey car park, clutching a small section of abandoned rusty rail while shouting, “I’m an art student!” at the official as he accused me of theft of British Rail property. I used the rail in my second project, which was to develop a piece of sculpture from the spaces I’d activated (drawings). It never occurred to me at the time that I could have developed a project around the car park climbing incident.

The sculpture was hopeless and fell apart, as did British Rail, some years later. During the process of the first project, however – the large black and white drawing – I found myself going back to the departmental art shop time and again in frustration, in search of something to make blacker blacks. My professor came up behind me on one of those occasions and said something to the effect that black was black you know and maybe my problem was one of contrast. That was a Eureka! moment for me, though luckily it didn’t inspire me to run up and down a (British) rail track naked, shouting in Greek. That was the last time I trespassed on railway property, too.

I am back from my Walkabout as you see. I’m transitioning through a big change in my life. More on that another time. And I’m picking up where I left off with my Eco Collographs, but with an especial aim. More on that, also, another time. The above are from a series of prints of Purple Sage. For the first time, I made prints on both sides of the paper. As I’d noticed that the colour seeps through the paper during the printing process, I wanted to make use of that aspect. The first two images here are of prints made on one side of the paper and mirror images of each other.  The third image is a shot of the other side, on which there is a ghosting of the print on the reverse. Oh and these prints are longer at each side – too big for the scanner. So I’m back to contrast – a way of adding dimension and many other things. In fact, contrast is going to play a big part in  developing these works into something meaningful, what may be called Works of Art.

I wondered if there was a subliminal reason I was drawn to the Purple Sage and went to my delightful copy of Flowers and Flower Lore: Revd Hilderic Friend. I found the following about sage in the Plant Augury section of his Introduction:

“… a farmer recently informed me that the same plant [sage] would thrive or decline as the master’s business prospered or failed. He asserted that it was perfectly true, for at one time he was doing badly, and the Sage began to wither; but as soon as the tide turned the plant began to thrive again. This curious association of plants with the weal and woe of individuals and nations is widespread, …”

My tide is turning, I hope. I will soon be in a more settled position in which to give better form to my ideas. Like Archimedes and his Principle.

Flower and Flowerlore, in the chapter entitled The Magic Wand, makes mention of Red Sage. Apparently it will afford “… sight of one’s future husband. On Midsummer’s Eve, just at sunset, three, five, or seven, young women are to go into a garden in which there is no other person, and each gather a sprig of Red Sage. Then going into a room by themselves, they must set a stool in the middle of the room, and on it a clean basin full of Rose-water, into which the sprigs of sage are to be put. When certain other operations have been gone through, it is thought that the lover of each will appear at midnight.”

I already have a husband and am keeping him, but all ye young maidens out there, take note. It’s a great pity that the Revd Friend wasn’t more specific about those “… certain other operations …” that have to be gone through during the ritual for the apparitions to be brought forth. If any of you reading this have the rest of the spell, do let me know and I’ll pass it on to the world’s maidens.

The latin name for sage is Salvia – salve. It is a healing plant. I have sent away for some Red Sage, in the form of tea. Apparently, there are properties in Red Sage which lower cholesterol and as mine is sky high – despite the fact I’ve been a vegetarian for about 25 years – and I won’t take statins, it’s worth a shot.

And so you see that my colourful Internet friend Tangerine Meg writes true – Art is a way of understanding the world and Art and Science are not dichotomies, but intertwined. The practice of both Art and Science is an activity that leads to uses to humankind on all levels.

Have you had a Eureka! moment? What did it lead to?  I’d like to hear about it.








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An Hiatus: Back Soon

Going walkabout.  See you soon.

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Seeds Fallen from an Elm

“Everything changes and nothing remains still …
you cannot step twice into the same stream.”    Heraclitus

I walk through a park almost daily. It is never the same park twice. Yesterday I passed beneath an elm, my feet ankle deep in a soft carpet of fallen seeds in their springy green husks. I filled my bag with handfuls of them and later the same day turned them into a suite of eco collographs. The above is one of them.

Earlier in the week I passed a pleasantly prickly hour picking blackberries and turned them into 3lbs of zingy blackberry jam. (Next time I go blackberrying I won’t wear white pants – by the time I’d finished I looked like I’d been savaged by The Hound of the Baskervilles).

What park will I find there tomorrow? I’m hoping for more blackberries, to turn into blackberry vinegar.

I like finding things to turn into other things.








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Purple Sage, Accolade

Purple Sage (Eco Collograph)

“Practicing creativity in every way we can think of feels like the most powerful response to current events that we can make. Adding to the beauty of the world and allowing our work to reflect the highest qualities of our soul feels to me like a way of helping to create positive change in our world.” Suzanne Miller

There are times when as an artist I feel utterly pointless and powerless. This is especially so when I hear of yet another terrorist or other terrible outrage and there have been several of these here in London recently. 

Invariably, one of my Internet friends will turn up and put my hat on the right way round again. So it was with the above quote, which  reminds me of the power and purpose of art, the innate goodness of the activity and practice and restores my spirit and resilience.

Aren’t Suzanne’s words inspiring and uplifting?

Suzanne lives in Warrnambool, on the south-western coast of Victoria, Australia. The best aspect of the Internet for me is that it’s made it possible to connect with wise and creative folks like Suzanne, living and creating far away on the other side of the world, to connect and in doing so, be reminded of the power and purpose of art and to keep on keeping on with it.















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Conjuror’s Trick: Blueberry Eco Collograph: Acid v Alkaline

Eco Collograph II Blueberry Leaves on Watercolour Paper 18 July 2017

Eco Collograph: Young Blueberry Shoots on Watercolour Paper

“Why there hasn’t been time for the bushes to grow.
That’s always the way with the blueberries, though:
There may not have been the ghost of a sign
Of them anywhere under the shade of the pine,
But get the pine out of the way, you may burn
The pasture all over until not a fern
Or grass-blade is left, not to mention a stick,
And presto, they’re up all around you as thick
And hard to explain as a conjuror’s trick.”

Robert Frost: Blueberries

P S  The poem isn’t really about blueberries.  Or magic.  It’s about acidity versus alkalinity.

Sort of.



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Eco Collography – A New Development – St John’s Wort

Looking like fossilised remains of some ancient creature, this is an eco collograph of St John’s Wort, including stems, leaves and luscious red berries. I made a couple of little chemical changes to the process to ‘see what would happen’. I’ve decided to explain the process in a tutorial which I’ll post at some time on my cobwebby web site, rather than trying to describe it here. For health and safety reasons, basically. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy this addition to my herbiarum vocabularum.

I will be writing in greater depth about St John’s Wort, named for St John the Baptist. For now, this intriguing morsel:  know that its Greek botanical name – Hypericum – means “… to hold over in such a way as to protect from anything”, indicating how the plant was once held in high regard as “… possessing magic properties over evil spirits.”  Flowers & Flower Lore, (Revd Hilderic Friend) his chapter entitled The Magic Wand.

My collograph does seem to be taking the stance of protector, an erstwhile knight in shining armour, don’t you think?



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