Friday, 25 November 2016

Cover of Joanna Newsom's 'Peach Plum Pear'


It has been many moons since the last Pipit Nest peep, so I thought I'd flutter my wings over and give a wee update. My grand plan to create a painting every two weeks has been put on hold for a little while, to make room for Norwegian course. It feels very satisfying to hurl myself so completely into learning this lovely old language, but also I feel my creative cogs squeaking and wanting to get back into conjuring up new artworks. The past month has seen my first sale go through on as well, which was so encouraging! I think I will try and work on building up the selection there as well. While my oil paintings have been asked politely to hold on just a little longer, there has been time for a bit of sketching with my munchkins in tow. I'm so looking forward to translating these sketches in to finished paintings! In the meantime, here is a video of me and my Celtic harp Venus, working on a cover of one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite musicians, the wonderful Joanna Newsom.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

'Golden Apple'

I can now unveil a new Pipit Nest painting!! Inspired by the Norwegian faerytale 'Gullfuglen', the painting will be called 'The Golden Apple'.

This painting was so joyful to create! I challenged myself with a two-week deadline and all the stars aligned to make this possible. The munchkins have been sleeping well during the evenings and we've had swathes of sunshine, so I've been feeling energised! 

I'll try not to get frustrated if I can't stick rigidly to the deadlines. It's exciting to have a finish date to aim for, even if just as a poke of inspiration to encourage consistent content creation and stir some adrenaline into the paint mix! I think for the next painting I'm going to add an extra challenge - to not stay up TOO late into the wee small hours painting! I think that could lead to a sizzling case of burnout, so it's definitely about finding a balancing point between feeling like I have achieved a satisfactory amount of painting in the evening and burning that candle at both ends.

Building up thin glazes of water-based oils was an absorbing, meditative process, and I'm so pleased with how the picture came out. I think in the photograph it is slightly warmer and lighter than the painting itself, which I like! I love those warm colours and want to take those further into the next paintings. I think for the next painting I will also conduct some paint layering experiments before I launch on to the canvas, so I feel more certain about how to create the tones I want to achieve. 

I combined looking at the work of Frida Kahlo and photographs of my own face for skin tone reference, and again referred to illustrations from 'The Age of Enchantment' book for atmospheric blue tone inspirations. I used a bit of photographic reference imagery to help me draw the fox, but the rest was from imagination. I talked with a lovely friend for a critique near the end of the painting process and she helped identify some points to modify.

I love using a faerytale as a springboard, and then combining that with whatever evolves imaginatively from that springboard, and will definitely follow that template again.

I feel like the painting speaks of sovereignty and holding one's personal power, that precious golden fruit of one's own inner wisdom. I hope the painting can instil feelings of joy, comfort, and strength in the viewer. When I have got a high quality snap, prints will be for sale on my Epla and Etsy shops, so hang in there if you'd like to pop some pennies on this pic!

Friday, 1 July 2016


I am in the process of creating a painting inspired by the Norwegian faerytale 'Gullfuglen'. Isn't that a beautiful title?! It translates as 'the golden bird'. I have chosen to use the story as a springboard, using elements from the tale including a golden apple, a golden bird, a prince, a fox and a king's garden. 

I began by sketching on a canvas, with the initial intention of drawing a feathered character holding a golden apple, and a fox observing. As the drawing progressed, the dress came into being, the female character became more human, and the fox became entwined with her. I added the crown, inspired by the mention of the king's garden, and the drawing started to speak to me of sovereignty, being the ruler of one's choices, and holding those choices with dignity and assuredness.

I imported the photograph of the canvas to my laptop and experimented with different colourways digitally. I was inspired by paintings seen at a gorgeous fairytale exhibition I went to in London years ago, 'The Age of Enchantment', where many of the images had a beautiful deep blue tint. At this stage the colouring is very rough, because the image is only intended to be a reference for the colours I will use on the canvas.

I am painting the final piece with water-based oils, working mainly in the middle of the day when my two year old Inigo is having his midday snooze, and a little in the evening as well if I don't conk out asleep at munchkin o'clock bedtime!

During the process so far I have encountered one main issue, which was that after drawing on the canvas, the fabric became very loose! However, it turned out to be an easy problem to solve, by spraying water on the back of the canvas, which became taut again when it dried. Apparently canvas can get looser in humid conditions, which we have now in Norway.

Here are a few sneak peeks of the canvas, brushes and palette in action:

Don't you just love paint-adorned palettes?! So tasty!! I aim to be finished with the piece within the next week, mainly working on slightly adjusting some colours, building up thin layers of paint, and adding in the finer details.

I also recently sold a print! To a lovely lady in Trondheim who has been wonderful to us in the last few months. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

East of the Sun, West of the Moon - in progress painting

I am so excited to share a new canvas in progress with you!

It is snow flurrying into life in on the kitchen table which is my current work space! This is the piece inspired by 'East of the Sun, West of the Moon'. I want to capture a feeling of anticipation, breath-holding, a moment of stillness between the peasant girl and the bear prince - the final touch will be snowflakes falling softly around them. I am loving painting this one and am working on it while Inigo sleeps. It is quite big and an excellent accompaniment to a cuppa tea!

On Friday I went to a Conversation Club with a lovely English friend, and there met an also lovely Italian artist! She has been working in the Sverresborg Museum on artistic projects and was fascinating to chat with. Another lovely lady phoned later to say that Trondheim Kommune is looking for international artists with limited network, to assist them in expanding their network and eventually find work - I think in the area of art!! My heart is pounding about this - looking forward to more information! Perhaps it is project based, maybe working with children? I am so excited!!

Another option I've been starting to research is the artist grants that are available to non-established artists. I would love nothing more than to be able to make a living from painting!! Perhaps by combining commune-led projects, canvas and print sales, self-led projects funded by grants and eventual exhibitions, this dream could be a reality?!

All my feathers crossed!!!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Pipit painting again!

Time for a Pipit Nest update! I am so sorry it has been so quiet here recently!

My wings are twitching, and so thrilled to flutter my feathers to tell you that after an extended period of hatching chicks I am officially back in the swing of painting!! Ooo and it feels sooooo good! I am over the moon to flex those paintbrushes again! (Although I do love a nice bit of baby baking too! And ahem, might not say no to more buns in the oven in the future!)

I thought it would be nice to share a bit of what my life is like at the moment, and how I am beginning to squeeze painting in to the daily schedule. I love in The Artist's Way, a truly fabulous book for any creative going through a period of artist's block!! - how it says a good start is just making art a priority in your time planning. Giving yourself permission! Nurturing that inner artist - beautiful!!

Now littlest mite is over 1 year old, and biggest bug is going on 4, daily routines are beginning to fall into place so I know when my painting slot is! We get up 7, have breakfast together, walk Caspian to kindergarten for 9.30, go on to an open kindergarten or for a wander in the field or the forest, or play at home and sing with Venus, or pick up grub at the shop, come home for lunch between 11-12, then Inigo sleeps until 3 - PAINTING SLOT IDENTIFIED!! The slot is about two hours (as long as the basic tidying is sorted, washing and dishwasher on before we leave in the morning and have hung up washing while Inigo eats lunch - he is a leisurely muncher!)... then I brew a cuppa (current fave Fortnum & Mason Wedding Breakfast, darling!! My own darling and I got married in August), either listen to a witchy / tarot / faery vibe video on youtube or tune in to Norsk radio! - just found this is fabulous multi-tasking for language practice at the same time!), wiggle into my apron and launch straight into those scrumptious water-based oils!! When Inigo wakes up we go straight to pick up Caspers, then play in the garden till 4.30ish - as we live in a flat we have quite a lovely big garden with a sandpit and swings, then it's home for supper and indoors play and TV veggin' and Pappa lovin'!! The piglets are asleep by 8ish, and then I make lunchboxes and tidy up, and then there's an hour or so (or three, but that is if I stay up a weeee bit too late) to have another brew, and some cheeky chocs I mean vegetables!!, either do a bit more painting or just zone out seeking beautiful inspiration treasures on Pinterest - I love collecting gorgeous images of fairytales, book illustration, fine art, harps, studios, nature, artsy clothing, and veggie grub!

Next August Inigo will begin in barnehage and then I will begin a Norwegian course, so my middle of the day painting slot may be zapped! But there is still the evening, and the weekends too of course. There are some fabulous art grants you can apply for in Norway, but not sure if I am eligible, very keen to research though! It would be so exciting to be able to make a living from art, but I am also very interested in becoming an art teacher! I have done art workshops with children before and enjoyed it so much - the only problem being there are very few art teacher job opportunities here. But definitely my future goal, along with selling my canvasses. It would also be so good to work in a school because when the littles begin in school, we will have the same holidays! I am not sure what to do for my job to get to that point though! Thinking about different pathways and how to gain the best experience. Would also love gallery work - I have worked previously in The Green Tree Gallery in Sussex, and it was so lovely being surrounded by gorgeous creativity, and I liked chatting to the customers!

The canvas I have started working on is an illustration for 'East of the Sun, West of the Moon'. It is quite a close-up, with the peasant girl kneeling in the snow at the feet of the great white bear prince. I have added a hint of a crown in his fur behind his ears, to add a bit of royal intrigue! I'm having such a hoot with this painting. It was originally the under-drawing for the Spring / pregnancy picture, but that just wasn't working, I wasn't feeling it! This one is working though!! The textures are starting to build up and I'm focussing on trying to capture a moment of still anticipation between the girl and the bear. I just love water-based oils, definitely my favourite canvas medium. I will try and get a snap of the in-progress work. It would be so nice to show all the stages when it's finished!

Just a wee update then, to tweet that the nest is still rustling in the branches, and I am so excited to share new work!!

Friday, 19 June 2015

What draws me to faerytales?

TEA! Say it with me, baby! Tea is my fuel of choice for art o clock, and I've dedicated a drawer now to tea, bang next to the kitchen table which is my studio space. The drawer is now groaning under the weight, and it's such a joy to see all those beautiful boxes, and sniff all those luscious leaves just jostling to be glugged down! These are some of my favourite cuppas at the mo:

Yogi Ginger, Orange and Vanilla, Yogi Rose, Yogi Classic, Pukka Womankind, Pukka Love, Pukka Three Mint, Twinings Everyday

Apart from rejoicing in tea, I have now restarted a notebook / sketchbook - it has been sooo many moons. It felt so good to scribble down all the ideas crashing into each other in my head like confused bees! I had some really good chats with my sweet mamma this week too. She is a creativity whizz and takes lots of art courses. She creates gorgeous silver jewellery of leaves and cups of acorn and tea, which I am very honoured to 'zoink'! We were talking about a lot of questions I had about the areas of art which get me fired up and came up with some whopping conclusions that have sorted out some really scrambly feelings I was having:

Contrast - the importance of light and dark in the painting. Both in terms of light and shadow aesthetically, but also a hint of some darker presence or element in a scene of beauty or innocence. Enforcing both the light and the dark by them being juxtaposed.
Which brings me onto - the importance of beauty! There is a super documentary about beauty in art, and this feels so important to me. 'Why Beauty Matters' by Roger Scruton. Such a fabulous analysis and well worth an ogle. Faerytale art seems like such an epitome of beauty to me. But also encapsulates that darker side effectively. As Neil Gaiman says,  

'Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.'

Why I want to paint faerytales - Being part of a long history or tradition feels so bewitching to me! Being able to connect with so many people who have shaped the malleable fabric of a folk tale or faerytale over time. It is so touching how these tales live, evolve, and grow - which Neil Gaiman has also discussed quite marvellously in a recent talk, which you can see on Brain Pickings!

'Stories … are genuinely symbiotic organisms that we live with, that allow human beings to advance.'

Such an eloquent and insightful musing! Love this bit too:

'Nearly half a century after French molecular biologist Jacques Monod proposed what he called the “abstract kingdom” — a conceptual parallel to the biosphere, populated by ideas that propagate like organisms do in the natural world — and after Richard Dawkins built upon this concept to coin the word “meme,” Gaiman suggests stories are a life-form obeying the same rules of genesis, reproduction, and propagation that organic matter does.'

So beautiful!! I love the idea of these tales existing in a sort of nebulous floaty realm, (and being reliant on human beans to stay alive.) It reminds me so much of Carl Jung's idea of the collective unconscious. Sort of like a big swooshy cosmic bog of experience squelching out universal symbols and behaviours which humans and animals seem to automatically know. And the faerytale realm is similarly a stonking great marshful of wisdom (or wishdom as I wrote first, he he) from which we can draw to gain knowledge of certain archetypes, plunder for life guidance and have a face whacked on abstract concepts (eg. trolls representing the shadows we have in ourselves) to make them more appealing to confront. Fascinating! 

I hope that all makes sense - I will research more and try and clarify more as I go along. But I feel like there's a lovely foundation now for launching from in terms of what fascinates me about these tales. I'm focussing first on East of the Sun, West of the Moon, and particularly the bit where the youngest daughter is riding off on the back of the white bear. Such a compelling image! I love how she grips his fur tightly as she rides off to her new life - such emotion you could capture in that gesture I think.

What draws you to faerytales, and just as importantly, what's in your cup?!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Fairytales and the psyche - a fascinating pairing

Two ideas I want to research more this week include:

Carl Jung's research into folktales, fairytales, myths and legends and his ideas about their inclusion of universal archetypes

The idea of self-destructive rage in fairytales - eg. Rumpelstiltskin and the troll in East of the Sun, West of the Moon

The twist on the story of Narcissus in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist (which I am yearning to own and read!!! - it sounds absolutely spectacular) - where the river and Narcissus could be said to be in a symbiotic relationship - each seeing only their own beauty in the other's eyes - they seem reliant on each other - I imagine two people only able to perceive themselves as lovable through someone else's loving eyes. Interesting to wonder if such a relationship is constructive or destructive - or maybe a bit of both! Such an interesting theme which I'd love to explore in a painting.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Celtic harp inspiration

Two magical harpists whose music I adore are Elisabeth Jane Baldry and Àine Minogue. Elisabeth Jane Baldry features in a super documentary called The Fairy Faith, and she is so sweet! She has dedicated a lot of work to Victorian fairy music and I hope to buy her CD soon - I think it must be wonderful. I have also just heard of a magical folk song called The Selkie - Àine Minogue's enchanting version has captured my heart.

An extract from the lyrics:

"I'm a man upon the land, I'm a selkie in the sea; and when I'm far frae every stand, my dwelling is in Suleskerry."

Aine Minogue - one of my favourite musicians - her music is a direct export from eventyr land

Eventyr! A beauteous new book and personification inspiration

I have just bought the beautifulest, weightiest, whopping great brick of a tome and I'm so excited I could pop!!

Entitled Eventyr (isn't that just the most magical word? It means fantastical, fairytale escapade in Norwegian. What could be more evocative? It sounds like 'adventure' and 'eventide' squished together! Mm, adventures at eventide, anyone??... *disappears in a sigh to a mystical land*). The book is enormous and stuffed to the spine with folk tales and faery tales from Norway, with illustrations by my beloved Theodor Kittelsen among some lovely others who I'm getting to know. The text is all in Norwegian so it's good practice for me to flex my dusty braincells and translate!

The front cover of the book features this gorgeous Kittelsen painting, an illustration to a tale called Kvitebjørn kong Valemon (White Bear King Valemon) Stories combining human beans and personified wild forest animals ignite so many fireworks in my heart... throw in a pawful of shadowy woodland and I'm sold!

I've read the first six stories and about to embark on Østenfor sol og vestenfor måne (East of the sun and west of the moon), which is a longer tale than those I've tackled so far, and also features a walkin' talkin' white bear. I think it will be an inspiring one!

The previous story I read, Risen som ikke hadde noe hjerte på seg (The giant who had no heart in him) was also a golden chestnut! At one point in the tale, Askeladden (Ash Lad in English - a recurring character in Norwegian faery tales who, though small, packs a punch when it comes to outwitting foes) is riding on the back of an anthropomorphic grey wolf (who has grown quite sizeable  after being permitted to gobble up Askeladden's horse - gotta love those dark gory twists), hunting for the heart of the giant on a faraway island so he can squish it! He needs to enlist the help of several other animals along the way, one of them being the raven. I love the image of Askeladden and the oversized grey wolf, on a little misty island, calling to the raven. Would he call with an instrument, a horn, maybe? Would the wolf howl to help? You can almost hear raven's wings flapping! This would be such a beautiful painting!

When our oldest munchkin Caspian was a babby, he loved to play in the ashes at the open kindergarten at the historical museum up our road and Hilde, one of the tutors there, pointed out he was just like Askeladden. That's my babe! He has moved on these days to whizzing trains about at Japanese high-speed bullet train speeds but is still a crafty wee fox, very good at outwitting his (gullible) mamma (especially when it comes to sjokolade!!!)

Caspian Askeladden

On a separate note, while poking about hunting for other magical tales online, I came across The North Wind and the Sun. This is from Aesop's Fables and features a personified wind and sun, who try to strip a traveller of his cloak. It is about persuasion triumphing over force. I love the idea of personified weather! Fantastic!

An illustration by Milo Winter from a 1919 edition of Aesop's Fables, showing the personified north wind attempting to strip the traveler of his cloak

'The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak.
They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other.
Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him;
and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak.
And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two. '

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Snippets of poetry from old notebooks

Saturday afternoon skating moonbeams gently glittering out from old notebooks!
They feel like a gateway into an old world of inspiration <3 p="">Maybe to use in songs, or future paintings?

Some of my favourites:

And the cosmos drew in his breath
'til he was blue in the face

We stand poised on the sill of this astral land
Silver nails of rain in our hands
We gape, wide-eyed, at saffron-soaked limbs
While from her coccoon, Calisto sings.

Will I be found in uncertain lack?
A pipeclay thorn pockmarking my back?

Also - the earth is the third planet from the sun - fascinating also that three is an essential number within the realms of folklore, fairytales, and aesthetically pleasing sequences / proportions.