Did you know that unicorns are the guardians of apple orchards? All the more reason to plant an orchard, you might attract a unicorn!
The Apple Guardian by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on panel, 12 x 12 inches
Did you know that unicorns are the guardians of apple orchards? All the more reason to plant an orchard, you might attract a unicorn!
The Apple Guardian by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on panel, 12 x 12 inches
Map – I printed a medieval map and then extended the contours with paint for the entrance hall. Shieldhill is written as Scheelhil.
It’s wonderful to have the chance to make art for a particular space in this case Sheildhill Castle, Quothquorn near Biggar, here in Scotland.
Too often old buildings are over modernised internally, and although the outer walls tell you the age of the building, as soon as you go inside you could be in a modern building.
I think Shieldhill has achieved the blend of old and new well.
The tartan for the soft furnishings was designed for the castle by local mill Calzeat of Biggar.
For my part I aimed to think about the main feature in each room and highlight it through the artwork which all has a local twist.
The entrance with its ancient stone flags called for graphite grey pencil drawings. Each drawing tells a little local history, from the Grey Lady of Sheildhill, the castle’s ghost to ‘On Tintock Tap’ a traditional rhyme.
The art in the hall includes two large paintings of horses. I wanted to tie in the colours of the imposing wooden central staircase. Horses seemed apt as the Clydesdale Horse originates from this part of South Lanarkshire.
The panelled room contains paintings inspired by Medieval tapestries. The Medieval theme is in keeping with the age of the heart of the castle. The Tree of Life hangs over the fireplace flanked by owls.
In the dining room, with it’s beautiful exposed stone walls, hang a series of canvases based on the local landscape. One illustrates the expression ‘If Wishes Were Horses’ which was first recorded in the 1700’s by neighbour to Shieldhill, James Carmichael of Carmichael.
I loved the opportunity to create art for the castle. The new owners of Shieldhill have created a wonderful welcoming atmosphere, well worth a visit.
Time is a weird concept isn’t it? Now, this present, can’t just be a tiny sliver, a knife edge, between the past and the future. Time is vast. Unfathomable. We are not separate from the past and future, but somehow linked on a multi dimensional continuum. Time travels like the light from a distant star.
Painting dinosaurs I realised how little anatomy has changed over millions and millions of years. The more I painted these incredible beings the more mind-boggled I became. This one 50 million years old. 100 millions years ago this one walked the earth…
Our individual Earth walk appears to be the teeniest tiniest blip! Or is there something else going on for it feels vast while we experience life and important too.
Apparently scientists have discovered that life as we know it could be a holographic projection, but I don’t really understand that concept! All I know is that I seem to want to project something onto canvas while I am here, and plant trees and be around my animals.
Chickens are apparently the closest living relative to T Rex. Chickens are adorable!
This summer’s joy has been seeing children loving Jurassic Lanark dinosaur trail around town and New Lanark World Heritage site. So many excited children captivated by dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are an enduring fascination for children and I understand why kids love them.
‘Lanarkausaurus’ on display at The Tolbooth, Lanark until end of August, part of Jurassic Lanark.
Some of the work on display…
And my favourite quote of the exhibition from one little boy to his dad – ‘That’s a proper painting!’
Curious Cats by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Board, 40 x 50 cm
I haven’t blogged much lately, so thought I would write a ‘why blog’ blog to give myself a kick up the creative bum!
Simply put, blogging takes you forward.
It’s an odd thing but it’s an effective way to speed up the creative flow. I think it’s because pressing ‘publish’ has a commitment to it, a slightly scary hurdle to jump, but what a gift it is to be able to send our ideas out into the world in an instant.
Seth Godin describes the three keys to creativity as curiosity, generosity and connection. I like his list.
Blogging seems to foster all three as habits.
Curiosity – It’s definitly a curious thing to not know what to write until committing to write. Like art, I never know what the image will end up looking like. This is both the challenge and excitement. Curiosity is a place of wonder and exploration that’s never boring…
Generosity is a word that speaks to me. I have been feeling a bit closed up, static. I guess a bit of Covid fallout, finding myself stuck in a startle pattern of sorts with white noise playing in my head like a radio out of tune. I’ve been painting a lot but when thinking to write a blog, then fuzz…
So, a blog on blogging!
Blogging kind of focuses the brain, a way of tuning in to a ’higher’ frequency. Writing frequently keeps tuning this frequency! White noise is flipping boring after all. White noise – the sound of a static life!
Generosity is fearless and stimulates fearlessness!
How easy and safe it is to hold on tight, but how much more expansive and joyful to be generous. Sharing our creativity with the world is an act of generosity. We have an unbelievable opportunity to spark generosity through blogging and the connections worldwide we can make by sharing ideas and the ripples these cause.
Connections – through my art, blogging and my facebook page I feel connected to all sorts of people I have never met, but who I know I like enormously. By connecting we have the potential to be incredibly creative for our beautiful world. I intend to keep planting trees through selling my art. Connecting with others through art is my way of doing so.
Thank you Seth, your three keys to creativity have stimulated my thinking and got me going again. I feel better already!
Seth blogs daily, worth checking out. He is an interesting thinker.
This original framed painting is available on my website, as are prints of it. How many cats can you find?
The Last Tree on Earth
One dawn this spring I was watching the bronzy morning light on the tree outside my window, half asleep, drifting. I ‘saw’ an image of the last human in the world lying in the tree reaching for the last apple.
It was a powerful semi-lucid moment. I decided to paint the image to further my commitment to somehow keep planting trees through my art.
A series of paintings started to emerge.
A few days later I was asked by another artist to join her in exhibiting on the theme of Orchards in 2022 and see if we could find a historic orchard to reinstate working alongside a community Orchard Group.
She knows I am into tree planting but had no idea I had started painting apple trees. I was delighted to say ‘yes’ or rather ‘YES PLEASE!!!’ I feel more excited than I have felt all year. A new adventure and clarity of purpose.
We have a potential site for an orchard already. Things are moving fast. It’s exciting.
Series 12 x 12 inches. Acrylic on board.
Please do join my blog to be kept in touch about the art and the orchard as it progresses.
Is there such a thing as a mistake?
There’s a philosophical question if there ever was one!
Maybe everything really IS always working out perfectly…
Sometimes it feels hard to know but loving the artfulness of an attitude of positivity, I would have to choose to say, ‘yes to perfection!’
As Einstein said ‘The most important decision in life is to decide whether it is a friendly or a hostile Universe!’
So when I am hurt, pissed off, angry, disappointed, scared, sick or injured, everything is working out perfectly…
And when I am happy, contented, joyous, healthy, laughing and full of beans it is too…
Whether a painting is going well or badly in entirely subjective.
It’s the Yin Yang, the ‘and but’ of life – holding duality in one’s mind and seeing, or aiming to see, an ever expanding bigger picture.
It’s bloody challenging at times!
One way of finding out whether one’s thinking about something is unhelpful is to ask the question that author Byron Katy works so brilliantly with ‘Is it true?’
Try it next time you find your thinking in a bit of a negative rut.
When you really look at the question there is always more than one answer, which in itself is liberating as it allows ease and freedom, a state which in itself is ever potentially creative.
Take it easy!
Two paintings I had a lot of fun with… Maisie and Action Man. Yes, I have conversations with a bird called Action Man…
Bull’s Close, Lanark was so named as it was where the community bull was historically kept. I love the idea of a community bull! It’s easy to forget that farm-yard animals, especially chickens, lived amongst people in towns.
During lockdown many people have returned to keeping chickens and growing their own vegetables, including me, and there are an increasing number of community gardens, which has to be a brilliant thing.
I’ve also noticed that during lockdown people seem to have got kinder too. Have you noticed that?
Truthfully, I’m dreading a return to noisy skies with people flying around the planet filling their bucket list! The only bucket I’m interested in is the one that holds black gold, ie compost and manure, and is used to grow plants and trees. Creativity not destruction!
My fantasy is a community art forest. The vision is that we plant native and hardwood trees and the forest has interesting art in it too, beautiful seating, planting that frames views… An inspiring place on many levels.
Anyone want to help make something like this happen locally? There will be plenty of enthusiasm!
Do you have a piece of land that would be suitable that they would like to put in trust for an Art Woodland/Forest? (‘You don’t get if you don’t ask!’ my grandmother told me!)
In Japan there is a new healing art called ‘Shirin Yoku’ aka Forest Bathing, where folk are encouraged to be in and with nature. What a brilliant idea. A forest heals people and the planet!
Writing about the community bull has inspired me to share my thoughts. Thank you bull! Slow down, be in nature, stay in your home area more as a long term decision, support local, plant trees…
There is so much beauty to explore locally. It’s not sustainable to run around the planet in crazy self serving ways for much longer!
We are the spoilt and spoiling generation!
Let’s not talk about ‘getting back to normal’ but create an extraordinary thoughtful future for all the young folk. It is terrible to know, from my visits to primary schools to talk to children about their vision for Lanark in the future, that these young souls are anxious about the planet’s future and feel helpless.
Close Encounters with the natural world is the way forward! Please do get in touch if you want to help me find a way to create an art forest for the future!
Love Kirsten and Lanark’s Community Bull!
Lanark’s Closes led to a network of workshops and small businesses. Now they lead mainly to carparks, such is progress! I can’t help thinking, as an artist, that it is small businesses that help keep communities alive and vibrant. Lanark thrived as a market town for 600 years due, I am sure, to these small businesses.
Ritchie’s Close shows a tin smith at work, the tools of his trade around him. If you look closely, a door opens to a school room, once also in this close, with two children on their way to school. A tin kettle boils on an old stove and a tin mug sits on the windowsill.
Thomson’s Close shows both a public house and a coil of rope from the rope works that it led to. And yippee, I had managed to get a unicorn into the drawings. Happy me. The magpies fight over a bit of string, or is it a worm?
McKenzies Close shows the weaving trade. Textiles have been hugely important in Lanark since Medieval times, with Unesco World Heritage site, New Lanark, just down the road. A spider’s web echoes the spinning theme.
Wide Close and Bernard’s Wynd both show the shoe industry. Next to the elephant in Wide Close a family look out from a shoe shop, and Bernard’s Wynd has the word ‘Cobblers’ in the window. I can’t resist a bit of humour in language. Bull’s Close, home to the community bull, has a sign with the words ‘Beware of Bull!’
By this time I had given myself the challenge that the name of each close should be somewhere in each drawing.
Supplying stout shoes to Glasgow and America – wouldn’t it be wonderful to see regular markets in the Castlegate again? They’ve been held there since Medieval times after all!
As I hope you can tell I had a lot of fun with these illustrations. The original drawings are for sale at The Tolbooth Lanark, if anyone would like to invest in a bit of Lanark’s history.
A lovely bonus to this illustration project has been getting to know Ronnie Cruwys of Drawing the Street who too has a passion for history and the clues of what went before us in our built environment. Ronnie has painted the backs of the closes. We hope to see you at Close (but not too close) Encounters!
The commissioners had wanted a different type of art for the panels that were going to adorn the town – serious, proper art! I would have to hope that Lanark, which always seems a good humoured and chilled-out kind of town, would respond to a bit of quirky humour instead. It’s odd being second choice artist when you think the original choice of artist was better qualified for the job too. That very human odd couple, ego and self doubt, would have to leave the room before getting on with the job!
Veitch’s Close had been home to a popular baker. I had already established my supporting cast of characters, (blog here) so warm Scotch pies and begging dogs for the next illustration. The dogs, that reoccur throughout the series, are taken from Lanark’s 600 year old heraldic coat of arms. I reckoned they must be hungry!
The drawing is set in the 50’s when men wore flat caps and women scarves. After a year of lockdown hair – bring back the scarf!
In the original drawing I messed up the spelling of the word ‘Scotch!’ Working in pen and ink, this is a disaster as it means redrawing the whole thing. Lovely Jenny at Lanarkshire Print House came to the rescue and deleted the clumsy word on photoshop, then posted out a print so I could rewrite ‘Scotch’ for the artwork to be printed onto the panels. Thank you Jenny!
My favourite bit in the drawing is the dog sniffing a chicken poking out of a women’s string bag.
Hopefully the drawing gives a sense of gossip and chat as people queue for their buns and pies. Nothing much has changed has it? We’re still prepared to queue for a warm Scotch pie!
Close Encounters opens on the 26th of April at The Tolbooth Lanark. All twelve original artworks for the Lanark Closes street art panels are available to buy alongside Ronnie Cruwys’s beautiful and atmospheric paintings of the backs of the Closes.
Medieval Lanark – a walled town
I love the idea of time travel – finding portals that allow you to travel into a history that’s still alive through fragments in the environment. Clues like echoes or ghosts of souls that trod before us.
Lanark has twelve remaining Medieval public waythrough ‘time passages’ in the form of Closes (covered alleyways) from the High Street, then the King’s Highway.
Two years ago I visited 5 local primary schools and did a ‘town planning’ art project with the children. The children were asked how Lanark could be a better place. Classroom teachers then developed the ideas with the children which led to a wonderful exhibition at The Tolbooth.
Linking ideas of art, history, landscape, street design, architecture, environment, play, nature, gardens and community… the children worked individually and in groups and came up with BRILLIANT ideas.
Seriously, I think children should have more of a say in the decisions that go on in the community. Their ideas were both creative and imaginative as well as thoughtful and loving, showing a high level of concern for others and the environment.
One simple recurring theme was that Lanark’s Closes were dark and scary. Since then the Closes have been sympathetically painted in a light colour and lighting has been installed. During lockdown I was commissioned by Discover Lanark to illustrate the history. The panels were put up in town a month ago.
Each panel has information about the history, and ‘underground’ type map and an illustration that I hope is a ‘time passage’ in itself. Hopefully children will no longer find the closes scary but find humour and a history treasure trail in the drawings.
The more I looked the more I found. If you look at the entrance of Bernard’s Wynd, the entrance is set back to the level of the original Medieval wall. The higgledy piggledy Medieval town was later straightened out with buildings required to be built forward into a straight line.
Interesting to note how the Tolbooth still sticks out. Perhaps it was too important at the time to be changed. I believe it was council rooms then! Although looking at the thatched buildings in the old postcard it looks as though there may have been a close running in that direction that was built over when straightening occurred. Just noticing that now looking at the postcard in the context of the closes. More clues! Love it!
The line of the enclosed Medieval building at Bernard’s Wynd continues through the inside of The Horse and Jockey pub next door. Will definitely need to go and check that out when doors open.
At the back of Bernards Wynd are stone remnants of two arched Medieval windows, the house where William Wallace is believed to have stayed while in Lanark.
The Tolbooth is opening with Close Encounters on 26th April to celebrate Lanark’s historic past.
Exhibited will be 12 beautiful atmospheric paintings depicting the backs of the Closes by restoration architect turned painter, Ronnie Cruwys of Drawing the Street and the 12 original illustrations for the street panels. Plus historic photographs will be shown on the screen.
All original artwork is for sale – twenty four opportunities to invest in a little bit of Lanark’s history!
Ronnie and I look forward to seeing you there.
Thanks for reading
See all the close images below poster…
When the great Tao is forgotten,
Kindness and morality and arise.
When wisdom and intelligence are born,
The great pretence begins.
When there is no peace within the family,
Filial piety and devotion arise.
When the country is confused and in chaos,
Loyal ministers appear.
When The Tao is forgotten…
I didn’t write for the last two days as have been totally absorbed in problem solving shelved paintings, as well as trying to come to terms with acrylic paint. Everything else forgotten.
I have felt stuck in a rut for so long that I wanted to keep pushing through.
Breakthroughs appearing through just staying with it. 12 hour days painting. My arm is sore today so a day off I think.
Painted over some landscapes that I didn’t like. Adding drama though rethinking the design and contrasts.
Lots in the last two days feel like jumping off places to move forward. Will share more discoveries tomorrow. Today my little landscape reworks… I am feeling breakthroughs in these so looking forward to exploring landscape from start and not as paint overs but really need to rethink oil paints as my lungs not happy. So exploring mode – open to chaos to find a new way forward in art and life.
(Just remembered my dream. I was walking up a hill and something was pushing my up. An invisible hand on my back giving me momentum and energy. The hill was overlooking Princess St Gardens in Edinburgh but wasn’t Edinburgh.
The night before I dreamt dad was telling me he had bought a castle up North for us, the oldest castle in Scotland, and I had to go and find it. I did and it was part of a restaurant in a modern ugly shopping centre! The ancient huge hearth and old stone walls were still visible. The restaurant was being done up, so in chaos.)
The ancient masters were subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive.
The depth of their knowledge is unfathomable.
Because it is unfathomable,
All we can do is describe their appearance.
Watchfull like men crossing a winter stream.
Alert, like men aware of danger
Courteous, like visiting guests.
Yielding, like ice about to melt.
Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood.
Hollow, like caves.
Opaque, like muddy pools.
Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
Observers of the Tao do not seek fulfilment.
Not seeking fulfilment, they are not swayed by desire for change.
‘Who can wait quietly while the mud settles. Who can remain still until the moment of action?’ Lao Tsu
Find poise. Poise before action. Calm before the event. Preparation to move forward with ease by coming from the still point. Wait quietly in this time of Covid.
Patience. One step at a time: keep planning the mural. It doesn’t have to be that ideas are formed today, this is a process. A challenging one.
Thumbnails of birds, quietly and quickly drawing by the kitchen door. Committing not to invent lines but to simply observe and move on, looking for the essence of form. Looking for bird characters to imprint on my mind, potential candidates for the wall. Seeking fluency. Woodpeckers, robins, a blackbird, sparrows, tits. Then the crows arrived.
It’s surprisingly tiring to draw like this.
Later a quick stream of consciousness sketch. Ten minutes. Allowing the pencil to flow without thinking about where it’s going. No need for completion or good drawing. Shapes becoming form. Owls appeared.
Later I got muddied. Felt overwhelmed again by the wall. ‘I can’t do it! I don’t know what to do that will look good! I’ll mess it up!’
I walked and spoke to a friend. She laughed out loud, hooting with mirth when I said I didn’t think I was capable. Thank you Woody, it helped!
I returned refreshed, thinking ‘just keep drawing birds.’ Birds for Valentine’s day. A lovely task for the day. Tweet, tweet, twit t’whoo!
Bird cartoons started to appear. Fluency allowing fluidity.
Evening, an idea for a 3d element: planters at wheelchair level, with birds (or other characters) painted underneath. Flowers, becoming hair or plumage. Small sensory gardens. Something for the children to observe growing throughout the year and hopefully be able to engage with. A detail in a bigger picture.
A quick scruffy maquette made with a toilet roll and a couple of scraps of card. It took all day to hatch an idea to develop for the children. I love that the birds brought flowers on Valentines day and true to the verse, the snow began to melt.
Accept disgrace willingly.
Accept misfortune as the human condition.
What do you mean by “Accept disgrace willingly”?
Accept being unimportant.
Do not be concerned with loss or gain.
This is called “accepting disgrace willingly.”
What do you mean by “Accept misfortune as the human condition”?
Misfortune comes from having a body.
Without a body, how could there be misfortune?
Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things.
Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.
Stop: head on books, knees up, hands on rib cage, let go. surrender, allow. Let things give for a bit. It’s called Constructive Rest.
My Alexander Technique table. Maisie just in from the snow, letting go.
‘Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.’ Lao Tsu
Care is needed: our beautiful planet is in crisis, the way we are going is unsustainable. Time to choose another way: allow oneself to stop, to be unimportant, to care.
A call for action!
“If we stop doing the wrong thing, the right thing does itself” FM Alexander.
It sounds easy, but we are all so identified with our habits, the past, in our sense of self, our needs and aspirations, we forget to question appropriateness.
I hear people say ‘when things return to normal.’ Normal is heading for disaster! Disgraceful destruction and selfishness!
The world has slowed down a bit. That has to be good for the planet, surely? Maybe the virus will help us see that everything is everyone’s problem.
‘Care for all things.’ Lao Tsu, The Book of the Way.
What can I give?
Not, what can I get!
Alexander Technique audio here.
The five colours blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavours dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things lead one astray.
Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of that and chooses this.
Two words resonated – five and feel.
Five senses, five fingers, five toes, five sense organs. Balance between the hands, balance between the feet… feel!
Be guided by feel.
Feel is riding a horse. Feel is sensory, intuitive, mysterious. Feel is something to open up to and allow through balance and trust.
Feel, developed for me through The Alexander Technique, yet since messing up my toe, the confidence in my abilities eroded. Time to let that go! I can balance despite!
Feel is the flow of a paint brush, the calling of a colour, an idea wanting to be born. Feel is trust, breath, life itself speaking through you. Listen for feel.
Feel is not the emotions; it’s more than feelings.
Feel is a kind of inner awakening. A knowing that comes through allowing not by chasing or hunting.
This winter, snow most days. Every day the snow is different – crystalline, icy, wet, sticky, slushy… different feels. The last two days, powdery snow for the first time. Blue skies, warmth in the sun, spring around the corner.
I rode my horse, Angus, not ridden all winter with the ground so muddy or icy, rutted and hard. Yesterday and today, perfection.
He hasn’t forgotten the feel we’ve built between us. Neither have I. We were both happy. Blissed!
And a realisation – stop putting yourself down for not being good enough! It is all enough. It’s perfect.
Let go of ego’s nonsense. Comparison feels bad. Comparison blocks feel.
Today, I commit again to feel.
After riding, I up-cycled a small book stand with chalk paint. It belonged to a dear horsy friend, Jen, who died recently of Leukaemia. I painted roses either end.
Why did I want to paint it? It just kept coming into my mind to do it. Listen to what you are being told.
This morning I know why it felt right to up-cycle it. The book stand is symbolic… keep up-cycling one’s life with balance, feel, love, trust and gratitude and most of all enjoy the ride.
A perfect circle.
Thank you Jen!
Carrying body and soul and embracing the one,
Can you avoid separation?
Attending fully and becoming supple,
Can you be as a newborn babe?
Washing and cleansing the primal vision,
Can you be without stain?
Loving all men and ruling the county,
Can you be without cleverness?
Opening and closing the gates of heaven,
Can you play the role of woman?
Understand and being open to all things,
Are you able to do nothing?
Giving birth and nourishing,
Bearing yet not possessing,
Working yet not taking credit,
Leading yet not dominating,
This is the Primal Virtue.
One line – ‘Are you able to do nothing?’
The art of non doing – Alexander Technique.
Tired yet still striving. Why?
Lockdown with no job, yet restlessly pursuing. What?
The how to finding flow – stopping!
If I didn’t have animals I would have stayed in bed.
To do nothing
Or to non do and allow. Trust.
To be, not being lazy.
Walk Maisie. Slow down enough to see. Walking the question ‘are you able to do nothing?’
On the way home – a zero in the snow. And then a spiral.
81 verses in the Tao.
8 – infinity.
1 – at one, the one…
The infinite feel that is present within each of us when we let go. The feel of the infinite – Alexander Technique hands on, riding in balance, a spiral, simply walking the snow.
‘Everything that lives and breathes and moves, lives and breathes and moves spriallically.’ Don Burton
Translation of The Tao Te Ching – Gia-Fu Feng, Jane English
The valley spirit never dies:
It is the woman, primal mother.
Her gateway is the root of heaven and earth.
It is like a veil barely seen.
Use it; it will never fail.
Another cold day. Wind stealing energy. Walking with Maisie, feeling low, thinking about the word ‘valley’ in the verse.
Allowing down. Falling down. Going down to go up, like a ball hitting the ground to gain energy and momentum. A space surrounded by mountains, obstacles.
Finding one’s feet to allow the push of earth to take us up. Actually allowing descent, the lows, not fighting them.
Valley, a metaphor for death.
A surprise realisation of rekindling passion for the Alexander Technique through the Tao. I’ve not taught since messing up my foot.
A fallen tree. Enough roots holding the earth to still grow. Deer prints to the stream.
Resting, holding one of the huge boughs in my arms. Something unexpected. The tree moved on my shoulder easing in the wind, spirals of fluid falling, pulsing, down the branch to the ground. Feeling stunned. The branch seemed too huge to move yet alone to have such a sensitive voice. The feel of a tree. A release through my shoulder to the ground. A burden falling.
And then the green man…
Later, a layer to a large painting – looking for chiaroscuro, depth and warmth. Vandyke brown, alizarin crimson, linseed oil, turps.
Cold hours in the studio absorbed, driven crazy by anatomy. A horse going up to go down. A crown above its head – symbol for these times.
A front hoof striking my leg two winters ago in enthusiasm for hay, a mistake, a dent in the leg, a muscle spiral weakened… and I am sure the cause of the plantar plate in my toe weakening, snapping like a twig.
Words releasing judgment – I am the painter not the painting.
Not exalting the gifted prevents quarrelling.
Not collecting treasures prevents stealing.
Not seeing desirable things prevents confusion of the heart.
The wise therefore rule by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies, by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.
If people lack knowledge and desire, then intellectuals will not try to interfere.
If nothing is done, then all will be well.
Feathers, found treasures. Still Life.
Painting, I thought about friends in hospital. The feathers became angels sending healing – a wing, a prayer, a focus to mediate on, to stay steady and send love. Feathers holding light, air, space.
A long day painting, absorbed by delicacy.
I read the text many times, ‘strengthening bones’ resonated.
Wing feathers flying through the air. Miracle structures. Lifting up.
Walking to strengthen bone…my injured foot, delicate but functional.
The day was cold, bitter. I didn’t walk.
Maisie, my dog, didn’t want to be out in the day more than necessary either.
Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.
Therefore having and not having arise together.
Difficult and easy compliment each other.
Long and short contrast each other;
High and low rest upon each other;
Voice and sound harmonise each other;
Front and back follow each other.
Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no-talking.
The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease,
Creating, yet not possessing,
Working, yet not taking credit.
Work is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.
The words seemed like the point of a pen becoming a line then getting tangled to make a shape before remerging as a straight line and coming to rest. Quick drawings, concentrating. One line drawings.
Later in the day, the sun shone and although temperatures are still well below freezing I wanted to paint in oils, to unleash some emotion. My unheated studio was so cold I painted really quickly looking for the essence of the subject. A hot subject and a subject endlessly challenging – zebras – the horse with stripes.
During the day my mind swung from thinking that being inspired by the Tao was a brilliant idea and perfect learning, inspiration and guidance for now and the horrors of covid to being utterly pretentious. But the games of contrast the mind plays are in this verse so… onwards…. with gratitude for a quiet life and life itself.
‘Drawing is a line around my thoughts’ Gustav Klimt.
I love this quote. It expresses drawing so clearly. Following a line, a train of thoughts, as the hand draws across paper, as the mind flows through the hand, allowing oneself to see where thoughts lead.
Drawing is a withdrawn, introverted pursuit – simply being quiet and drawing. What a brilliant word withdrawn is though – to disentangle, to draw back, and with that a sense of power like an archer drawing back a bow.
Drawing, although simply following a line, can be a great adventure. At its best it’s drawing down inspiration from some mysterious space. Worlds appear before ones eyes as you discover shapes, let ideas flow and bump into characters along the way.
For the last three years I have completed a drawing a day in February and would like to do the same this year though this morning I feel I need to clarify my intentions and set a goal as Covid continues to confuse and upset with close friends in hospital. Art starts to feel irrelevant. Yet, somehow Klimt’s words stand out like a beacon.
‘Drawing is a line around my thoughts.’
Withdrawing into a flow of line is probably the simplest and best idea for the coming month yet this year feels really challenging.
An easy flowing line – a peaceful flowing life, a clear intention and as the Japanese say an expression of an open heart.
We use the expression ‘to draw a line’ meaning to create a boundary or close something down.
Where does one draw the line sharing artwork? I don’t know at the moment. It feels egoistical, nonsensical and unimportant to keep sharing online. Yet withdrawing from connecting with people and the wider world one of the only ways we can doesn’t feel a positive option either, so I am coming to the conclusion all I can do is hope to do some good through drawing and see what happens 28 Drawings Later.
Here is my starting place intention – I want to continue to plant trees this year, to continue to do my tiny bit for the planet in this beautiful corner. I also want to paint a large outdoor mural in the spring for children with complex needs.
So hopefully drawing through February will help to both clarify my ideas for the mural (something I have never done before) whilst creating a folio of drawings to keep raising funds to plant trees into the future.
So I choose to not withdraw from being online, which part of me really wants to, as the slowness of art and the speed of social media have always felt like uncomfortable bed fellows, but aim instead to move fearlessly forward into February with Klimt’s word to inspire and see where I get to 28 drawings later.
Thanks for reading! Stay safe Kirsten
Some of January drawings –
2020 is summed up by the word chicken for me. Just before lockdown I bought two from the farm up the road. Enter Bunty and Jinty. Red, next doors hitherto quiet cockerel (I didn’t know they still had one) soon appeared cock-a-doodling joyously on the fence and pretty soon there were chicks. Gorgeous, fluffy, miraculous chicks.
My previous encounter with chicks was on a school trip with the nuns to Greece in the 70’s. It was Easter. Chicks were being sold on street stalls in plastic see through eggs with little air holes in. I bought one and called in Henrietta, after one of the nuns, which led to an encounter nun wrath.
Any ex convent girls out there will know that nun wrath is not a pretty sight! Red faced, shaking with rage, after a lot of furious berating, Sr Hen pinched me hard telling me to cry and dragged me back to the stall to return dear sweet Henrietta and get my money back. Naughty me, I am still laughing.
Most of 2020 was spent building things for chickens, a chicken circus of ideas to amuse (me mainly) plus attempting to keep the hens from escaping their field, finding them escaped, bribing them back home, drawing them, watching chicks grow and generally marvelling at these wonderful, generous birds that used to be worshiped and are now treated so miserably so often in our society.
Now the chickens are in avian lockdown. I didn’t mind me being locked down but felt mighty miffed at Bunty, Jinty, Barbie, Cindy and Action Man’s liberty being curtailed. No more running around the paddock for the cheerful chooks.
Have you ever seen a chicken run? They’re comical and chickens are much more obedient than my dog, Maisie, which wouldn’t be hard – the chickens actually come when I call. They are now enclosed in a crazy sculptural run made from an old poly tunnel sliced in half, lengthwise and attached to the side of my house with a tunnel to it from their existing roost. Looks mad, but hey ho, it’s temporary and works and was free to make, entirely constructed with someone’s chucked out stuff.
So, whilst I marvel and feel somewhat in awe at how others have embraced online teaching and learning, online exhibitions, online meetings and somehow found a new way forward via online and I haven’t and feel like a Luddite and a bit lost with finding my way forward in the new paradigm, I want to start 2021 in praise of chickens, because they really did keep me amused and busy all year, and I’m truly grateful for that.
Here is a small selection of some chicken art made in 2020 …
2021 – Let’s make it a clucking good one!
Happy New Year
Love Kirsten and the chickens xx
20-20 Vision – Eye Level – Dogs is based on my wee scruffy designer mongrel Maisie, aka Crazy Maisie, who inspired a previous blog 101 Life Lessons from my Dog, link here. I was Maisie’s third home as a 12 week puppy. She was, to say the least, hyper active – literally bouncing off the wall. I love her to bits! She is now six. During lockdown I spent a lot of time clipping her with a tiny pair of scissors and drawing her too.
This collection were all drawn from life in the garden over several days during lockdown, April – May 2020. I admire Picasso’s fluid line drawings – the way he makes a simple line look so easy as it flows out, the result of years of observations and skilled hand to eye coordination. It ain’t easy, I got better as the days progressed.
Previous 20-20 blogs include The Power of Cow, Get Back on Your Unicorn and My Top Twenty Black and White Prints. More to follow – horses, cats and chickens soon. The original drawings in these blogs are not available elsewhere.
Lots of original paintings on my website. Thank you for looking. Kx
I thought I would make a blog collection of my favourite 20 prints, as part of my 20-20 blog series with a bit of info about the ideas behind each drawing. Seemed like an easy idea but it’s taken hours to put together.
Click on the titles, they will take you to the appropriate page on the website.
All prints are black and white. All hand signed and titled A4 size prints are £20/$26
So, as they say, at number one we have …but really in no particular order…
1 – If Wishes Were Horses – this drawing went viral. When I drew this image I thought it was a bit scratchy but was too tired to redraw the idea so posted it to my facebook page Kirsten Harris Art, where it flew into cyberspace and created a stir. Which goes to show how much I know about my own art!
2 – Four Winds Medicine Wheel – I woke up one morning with this idea in my head, so jumped out of bed and drew it. The winds of creation, deep space, feathers and horses – light and power. Goodness knows what I had been dreaming about that night, but the image is like a portal, like sleep itself.
3 – The Journey – I was invited to a hen party to zip wire in the forest. I found my body locking down which was horrible and embarrassing. I bowed out as the forming queue behind me didn’t allow the space enough space to process what was going on. How often do people push horses without giving them enough space to process what is being asked? This drawing is about how everyone, including horses, sometimes need time to find courage to move forward on the journey. As I drew I wondered which is the easier or harder choice – going down the pole or forward on the wire? Saying yes or saying no?
4 – In Our Hands – 5 horses balance on the finger tips. Life balances in our hands. Are our hands balanced or greedy and grasping?
5 – Trust – I hope this drawing speaks for itself?
6 – The Guardians – I see a stand of pine trees from my studio. One day the trees seem to turn into horses and a new series of drawings and paintings emerged.
7 – How The Cat Got Nine Lives – A cat tries to catch dandelion clocks. Nine clocks in his paws and a dandelion seed cat in the wind. The cat is based on my neighbours cat, Orlando, who often watches what is going on at mine, perched on the fence.
8 – How to Make a Dream Come True – I suspect at different times in life we have all experienced the different stages of the drawing, sometimes watching others longingly and sometimes the active participant.
9 – The Magic Stop – A drawing for horse riders. Stopping a horse on an out breath, sensitivity and poise, forward and up into movement.
10 – Dawn Magic – I’m and early riser, I love the dawn, the quietness, the light, the cobwebs and dew. This drawing is the idea that all sorts of magic abounds before we wake up such as horses growing wings and walking on silken threads.
11 – The Magic Forest – Magic is everywhere, horses know it, sense it in the wind and teach us dense humans too!
12 – Feel – Another drawing for riders. I used to have a cockatiel called Custard, a wonderful, incredibly tame bird who was given to me one night in a pub in the Welsh mountains and I took home on the train. The delicate light feel of a bird sitting on my finger, the feel of a horse balancing. I drew this with one hand, the other hand modelling for the drawing.
13 – In Nature We Find Ourselves – this drawing is based on three old Scot’s pines at the end of my neighbours field. I have photographed them hundreds of times, usually from where the horse in the drawing is standing. The ‘three sisters’ are part of my daily winter walk, when the farmers cows are inside. I look forward to winter as this walk inspires me every day. The same walk with a different view each day.
14 – When Dreams Fly – When dreams and aspirations, hopes and wishes fly out into the world, magic happens. Make them good ones. Seeds like wishes can fly over mountains.
15 – Sky Horses – Feathers represent angels for many people, so horses and feathers seemed a perfect combination.
16 – Transformation From seeds to horses to seeds. Life is about continual transformation, one way or another, whether we like it or not, life is about change.
17 – Connections – Webs of muscles and connective tissue, webs of thought and direction, the intricate connections of the web of life. This drawing took some working out. It’s not been a popular seller as a print but I really like it, as it says a lot to me about thinking riding and spatial awareness in movement.
18 – To Earth We Return
Life and death through the journey of a tree. Inspired by the old beech trees in this area of South Lanarkshire and a commitment to keep planting trees.
19 – Heart Horse – This drawing uses heart shapes only to create the horses head. It took a bit of working out but I think it looks like a horse.
20 – The Witching Hour – Horse trees, cats, witches, horses, spider’s webs and an owl. I had great fun drawing this.
All prints – www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk
Prints are £20/ £30 – Click on the titles to go directly to my shop.
Thank you for looking!
My next 20-20 blog will be about unicorns, the symbol of Scotland with original sketches from £20.
Stay safe and
Best wishes, Kirsten x
Blog 1 – 20 -20 Vision The Power of Cow here
The Grey Lady of Shieldhill Castle by Kirsten Harris, Pencil on Paper
Are ghosts real?
At Quothquan near Biggar sits the historic Sheildhill Castle, seat of the Chancellor family for over 750 years. The tower built in 1199 still forms the heart of the current building, dating from 1820.
The Grey Lady, a daughter of the family, is said to haunt the building.
One story goes that the girl was raped by a soldier during the second half of the seventeenth century, known as the Killing Times, when Charles II tried to impose Episcopacy on the Scots.
A second story tells that she fell in love with a lowly farm worker, and became pregnant. The ashamed family locked her in a room. When the baby was born it was taken from her and left in a field. The grieving girl never recovered from the trauma and when she died her spirit remained at Sheildhill.
Reported sightings of a Grey Lady, who appears to be searching for something, have included various rooms in the castle, the roof and grounds.My drawing depicts her waking the grounds.
I have used the heraldic symbols that appear in the stone above the front door of the castle and incorporated them into the landscape. As well as ancient weeping ‘horse trees’ silently aware of her presence and responding to her grief.
And for a bit of added spookiness some gravestones from nearby Dunsyre Kirkyard.
Weathering the Storm by Kirsten Harris
I’ve been thinking about how important it is to to keep a steady course in the midst of a storm, and that maintaining a steady course is a balancing act that requires courage, patience and trust.
I notice people sail mentally into the eye of the storm and then wonder why they feel anxious, stressed, depressed, lost or fearful.
In a storm, find calm waters. Anchor up if you can. Still your mind, still your body. The calm waters are within.
Or be like a horse!
Horses stick their bums to the wind to weather the force of the storm, resting in the most sheltered spot they can find. As my friend nicely put it, ‘animals blend’ with a storm.
Trees rooted to the ground, blend too. Weak rooted trees fall!
I drew this image last year but it seems apt for where we are in 2020, so thought I would share it.
‘How the Cat Got Nine Lives’
Flow, we all want it, but can we always find it?
Flow, that wonderful feeling of ease and spontaneity, when life seems to magically take you forward. It feels great doesn’t it? And it really doesn’t matter what you’re doing because it all flows together seamlessly.
And then there’s the times when you wonder ‘where did the flow go?’ Things seem awkward, frustrating, uneasy, unsettling. Kind of like walking through thick mud and rough terrain, whilst getting caught on thorny branches. We try to grab at flow and it just doesn’t work!
So, how do you find flow?
Do you just make a start at something? Do you decide to have a day off, go for a walk or lie down and rest? Do you pray to the gods of flow to come to the rescue? Do you work on untangling yourself, finding easier ground to ‘walk’ or analysing the mental, emotional or physical blocks that are blocking the flow? Do you talk to a friend, tidy the house or set an intention?
All of these and more are no doubt good strategies…
Flow, when the paint is just the right consistency and applies to the surface with ease
Flow, when your hand draws well and lines have fluidity
Flow, when ideas simply arrive
Flow, when the painting takes you on an unexpected journey and tells you what to do
Flow, when your ego is sound asleep and you’re in the present moment, alive to the creative process not giving two hoots what the end result is
Flow, when you don’t run out of loo paper and have good food to eat!
Flow, when there is a sense of purpose in your art and you’re committed to it
Flow, when you trust the process and that and that alone is enough
Flow, when you allow life and creativity to happen
Flow, when you honour your voice and your life and don’t think it needs fixing or improving
Flow, accepting and enjoying what is
Flow the only way to go!
And here is the dictionary definition ‘…moving in a steady continuous stream or a supply of something…’
I love it!
Moving … steady… continuous… stream… Allowing a steady stream forward. Energy from within, energy from without… allowing the continuous supply of inspiration to move steadily through us…a stream of consciousness, like this blog! Trusting the rainy July Monday morning flow!
This drawing is based on the wizard Merlin’s connections with Scotland. Legend tells that Merlin died at a small settlement called Merlindale at Drumelzier near Broughton, not far from where I live. This drawing is inspired by a visit last year.
About my drawing…
The three moons symbolise Merlin foretelling he would meet his end by threefold death – pierced by stake, suffering by stone and drowning by water.
Merlin is said to have died at the fork of the Powsail burn and the river Tweed, a beautiful magical place with a timeless atmosphere. An old thorn tree marks the spot, thus ‘The Merlin Tree.’ Certainly the name Merlindale appears on ancient maps, so who knows, maybe it is true.
Peering through the railings protecting the gnarled old tree, which replaces an earlier one blown down in a storm, it’s just possible to see a plaque, overgrown with nettles, commemorating Merlin’s death. I love the way Scotland, so rich in history, totally underplays such fabulous legends. You have to know how to find this place.
Tinnis Castle, an ancient hill fort, is in the background of the drawing. The story goes that Merlin fled from Tinnis before he was killed, having revealed a secret. I have used a bit of artistic license and relocated Tinnis geographically so it could be in the drawing, in reality it is behind the line of sight.
Three foxes form the trunk and deer make up its’s crown. These two animals are associated with the Merlin legend being the animals that Merlin is said to shape shift into. In Celtic mythology the fox represents quick thinking and wisdom as well as observing yourself and others whilst remaining unnoticed. The deer represents the gods of the forest and wild animals – the Celtic god, Cernunnos. Merlin was supposed to have spent many years wandering the forests of Scotland.
The wizard is also in the tree. The idea for this came walking in the fields behind my house when I spotted Merlin in a windswept beech tree and took the black and white photo below. I had walked past the tree hundreds of time and never noticed the figure.
The foxes look towards Merlin for wisdom. The roots of the the tree and his hands are one and the same, connecting with the earth. His hands reach towards fungi, pointing towards shamanic altered states of consciousness, and of course I had to draw some dandelion clocks to represent the whispers of legends down the centuries.
This artwork heralds a new technique for me, working pencil on canvas, which has an unexpected fluidity. I made this drawing at the beginning of lockdown, sitting on the floor surrounded by pencils. Luckily I had bought loads of pencils from the car boot sale a couple of weeks earlier for 50p! A pencil point lasted about 2 minutes drawing on the rough surface of canvas, so I sharpened about 50 pencils and after a couple of hours drawing, it was a boring half hour sharpening pencils again.
Apt perhaps that pencils are surrounded with wood. Little magic wands!
‘The Merlin Tree’ by Kirsten Harris, Pencil on Canvas, 100 x 120 cm
Further reading ‘Scotland’s Merlin – A Medieval Legend and Its Dark Age Origins by Tim Clarkson
‘Crucifixion’ by Kirsten Harris, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 150 cm
A jockey friend asked me if I had ever painted a crucifixion? Answer no. But I had been thinking about the symbolism of the vertical and horizontal planes and so decided to attempt this classical and religious subject. Gulp!
‘Crucifixion’ is inspired by Salvador Dali’s (1904 – 1989) famous 1954 Crucifixion painting ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’ at the Kelvingrove Gallery, Glasgow. My aim was to follow Dali’s musculature, structure and chiaroscuro as I placed the horses into the tree and then let my painting emerge.
I painted over a few days just before lockdown and put my shoulder into spasm doing it. I guess it was an intense process! A large painting. Dark, yes, representing my fears for the way we are continuing to crucify the planet, but, fingers crossed, hopeful, expanding and uplifting too.
The horizontal plane is our relationship with earth.
The vertical our relationship with the up that’s up there, the big up, deep space, the unimaginable hugeness.
When we engage both the vertical and horizontal directions in our thinking we have expansion and freedom. Lengthening and widening! Lengthening and widening akin to a cross. Lengthening and widening which allows physical well being. Lengthening and widening into awareness of the space around us!
Two metres, twenty metres, two thousand dark and light years!
Holding awareness of both the vertical and horizontal is a necessary consideration for riding horses as these thoughts release the spiralling movement of muscle into length and allow freedom and flow for both horse and rider.
Forward we move and the horizontal plane travels through us.
Up, we think and we release the spring of life engaging our movement up and over the ground.
The horses in the tree hold space open for us to love through all dimensions of time and existence…. Animals have not forgotten how to love, nor do they leave a hideous hoof or paw print like the dirty destructive foot print man has made.
‘Ascension’ was painted over lockdown and is loosely based on a painting of Jacob’s Ladder by the another Spanish painter, Bartolome Estaban Murillo. (1617 – 1682)
Horses ascend a ladder, seven steps skyward, to be greeted by horse angels, whilst other horses emerge from the seeds.
It is a painting about love of heavenly horses!
The seven steps of the ladder are symbolic. 7 days of the week, 7 chakras, 7 deadly sins…in fact the number 7 is significant in every major religion. Buddha rises and takes 7 steps, The Koran speaks of 7 heavens, Hinduism has 7 higher and 7 lower worlds, Muslim pilgrims walk around Kaaba in Mecca 7 times… 7 is a prime number and so it goes on… 7 is also associated with our short term memory and attention span…It appears 7 is a magic number!
Whilst appearing to be about death and other dimensions, I hope this painting has a lightness and wistfulness to it that it invites us all to think about what small things we can do to make the world a better place.
That we too are delicate and beautiful like shimmering dandelion clocks and the wings of insects and our time is short. That we all hold our own magic and we must learn to use it.
For example the resurgence in interest in individuals, including me, in growing food during lockdown is wonderful. In the darkness miracles take place. When we stop rushing thoughtlessly and are forced to consider our place on the planet we can make different hopefully kinder and healthier choices.
Deep in the grass there is hidden a Mother horse. She was central to the painting to begin with, but as it progressed her presence became more subtle, something to find…
If you would like to be invited to my upcoming postponed exhibition in a wonderful castle here in South Lanarkshire please do email me or subscribe to my blog to stay in touch.
And now to paint…
Thank you so much for reading.
Corvid is the family name the crow belongs to. The crow not only symbolises death but also intelligence and destiny. I wanted to make some art to mark Covid 19. The Crow became my image. In numerology 19 becomes the number 1 which symbolises new beginnings.
The nineteen crows in the drawing aim to suggest peoples different experiences of lockdown, the rainbow coloured leaves hope and new growth. At the centre of the drawing is our local hill, Tinto – mountains to climb, the birds eye view. The dandelion seeds represent wishes and dreams, but also the spread of the virus and ideas.
The majority of the drawing depicts empty skies. Hardly a plane flying, hardly a car, just the sound of the wind and the birds. A space, a chance to breathe…
The second version of Nineteen Corvids is inspired by Medieval art, which I thought was apt as the Medieval era was a time of plagues and pestilence.
The Tree of Life, the lungs of the planet, life so precious! Two rabbits cuddle at its base. A vine of love wraps round the tree. Can we transform destruction to love and growth?
The water of life flows, abundant with fish. A kingfisher and swan guard the precious water. The kingfisher is said to be the first bird to fly from Noah’s ark after the deluge and is considered a symbol of peace, promising prosperity and love. Swan represents our ability to retain grace. A beautiful and elegant bird yet incredibly powerful. The colour white represents purity and the frog cleanliness and healing.
And so the river of life flows on, flowers grow. Spring turns to summer…
The three unicorns remind that life is ultimately mysterious – birth, life, death. The unicorn, an ancient mythological horse is found in antiquity and is the symbol of Scotland, chosen as a beast powerful enough to stand up to the English lion.
In Medieval times the the unicorn was believed to heal sickness. The wild woodland unicorn could only ever be captured by a virgin. This myth is thought to represent the Virgin Mary and so some believed that the healing power of the unicorn and its association with miracles represented Christ.
Magical healing Alicorn powder made from the tusks of unicorns was sold in Europe as late as 1741! Unicorn horn (narwhale horn) was an extremely precious commodity.
It would be easy to laugh at this superstition if it wasn’t for the fact that the Chinese sickeningly still use rhinoceros horn for medicine. They might as well bite their own finger nails for all the good endangered rhino horn is going to do them!!!
Do email me if you would like to come to my upcoming castle exhibition here in South Lanarkshire in due course or join my blog to be kept in touch.
The Dream by Kirsten Harris, Pencil on Paper
In the winter I decided I would like to exhibit in a castle, as you do!
I am a bit of a workaholic and have painted myself into a corner at home so a bit of creative thinking led to the idea that a castle would be ideal! Yes, a castle would be big enough. The idea made me smile… think big, girl!
Several wintery evenings enjoyed sidetracked looking at castles here in Scotland and thinking how cool it would be to win the lottery and buy one, visualising how amazing I would make my castle look. As you do!
But guess what? There are no castles in my price bracket! Dah! So I decided to draw a castle instead!
‘The Dream’ depicts a girl standing on a mounting block beside her horse ready to ride up a mountain. She stands outside a turreted castle protected by her horse tree guardians. Distorted perspective and a ghost like girl suggests that this is the imagination at work, a parallel universe. A dandelion clock represents wishes fulfilled, the mushrooms represent altered states of consciousness. The unicorn on the flagpole says anything is possible, dreams are good, life is mysterious, forward and up!
Whilst drawing ‘The Dream’ I suddenly remembered seeing a post on Facebook months before that a local castle, Sheildhill, had been sold and would be reopening as a hotel at some time in the future. I scrolled Facebook until I found what I was looking for. Bingo!
Why not ask?
I went for a nosy…
There were a couple of white vans parked outside. The downstairs windows were boarded up but there was a light on further inside, the front door was slightly ajar.
I tentatively pushed it open…
‘Hello!’ Hello!’ HELLO!’ No reply!
I could hear the sound of distant banging and ventured in. The place was a mess and obviously being renovated but ‘WOW COOL!’ A spiral stone staircase, dark panelling and a suit of armour. Walking hesitantly past another stairway, this time a grand sweeping one, obviously of a later period, I curiously peeked into some of the downstairs rooms…
This is perfect! Big walls!
Artists love walls!
I followed the sound deeper into the building and found two men with hammer and saw in the kitchen and mayhem everywhere. Full scale and big scale renovations were taking place. Amazing!
‘Um, hi, I’m looking for Mr Frame?’ (Perfect name thinks me!)
They directed me out through a dark passage into a garden where I found Mr Frame with a roaring chainsaw in hand lopping back a yew tree that was blocking a window and causing green mould on the stone.
‘Hello, I’m Kirsten, I’m an artist…”
Mr Frame, still wielding his chainsaw, listened to the daft explanation of my thought that it would be fun to exhibit in a castle as I had run out of space at home and had enough art to fill one, so I had made it a mission to manifest a castle by drawing one.
It sounded daft to me as I was saying it but we got on immediately and had a hilarious conversation and the upshot of it was the family said…
‘Yes… because my work is quirky!’ (Best compliment ever!)
I had manifested a castle to exhibit in! And then Covid 19 disrupted everyone!
At some point I am sure we will be celebrating the grand reopening of the hotel. It should have been in April 2020.
Do email me to find out more.
Copyright Kirsten Harris
I have been making art to fit frames as the picture framer is closed and I had some antique frames in the studio.
Medieval tapestries were the initial inspiration for these paintings and it struck me whilst painting that everything is a bit Medieval at the moment.
We are living in the time of a ‘plague’ and the only option for toothache, which I have, is extraction and then only if my face has swollen up like a sheep’s bladder, which it hasn’t! The skies are blissfully silent of metal and bird song is a wonderful to listen and paint to. Getting into the Medieval vibe has been creative time travel this week locked in my tower!
The owl is a symbol of change and intuition and the unicorn a Medieval symbol of purity and grace.
‘Pensive’ is for everyone living alone. ‘Beak to Beak’ and ‘Good Friends’ are about respect and equality. Gosh we need that in the world! Have we progressed at all?
Painting ‘The Tree of Life’ is a contemplation about my place on the tree of life and my continued determination to plant trees whilst I am here. There are over 30 birds as well as other animals in the painting. I slightly regret that I didn’t have a better quality board to paint on, but needs must, so I used what I had. I hope it lasts the tests of time as I loved painting it.
The frame used to house a painting of my great grandmother so have subtitled it ‘The Great Grandmother Tree’ and hope she doesn’t mind that I have pinched her frame! I have a matching frame, and plan to do The Great Grandfather Tree next …
With love, Kirsten
Art work painted on hardboard using chalk paint and wax…
My art has become increasingly about ideas! I guess I’ve spent the first large number of years of my life learning how to paint and draw and now I want to express ideas and do more with my art.
So where do the ideas come from? Truthfully, I walk into them in the field. The ideas for drawings, projects or blogs just pop into my head. I do the same walk most days. The fields behind my house have become my source of inspiration.
For a little while in the summer the farmers cows live there and out of respect I don’t go, but for the majority of the year I am the only human visitor. It’s my own private wildlife sanctuary, my source of inspiration, my talking woodland, my stream of consciousness, my flowing viewpoint.
I love these fields with all my heart. They are ancient fields, many of the beech trees are dying and reeds are taking over the ancient paddocks. Remains of wire, where fences once were, have grown into the trunks of many of the beech trees. Victorian clay drains lie on the surface having been trampled to destruction by the cattle. The ground is rough underfoot testimony to Scottish wet summers. And the fields are full of wildlife. It is perfect habitat – a shallow stream, grassland, trees. Deer, badger, moles, woodpeckers, hare, duck, wrens, owls, duck, geese, wildflowers. The fields are alive.
This is ‘my’ remote island retreat in central Scotland. A burn more or less surrounds the area making it inaccessible to the casual visitor and a stream and stone wall separate it from the far end of the next farm.
These fields are my heaven on earth. They teach me, give me ideas and restore my soul.
In my big abundance manifestation fantasy dream heck why not think big vision, I buy these fields and create a wildlife sanctuary, allowing re wilding. With no cows eating the young saplings as they start to grow the re wilding happens quickly. I restore the ditches so that the beech trees no longer sit in floods causing them to die and pull up any ragwort that has blown in. And beyond that I surround the land with love and give it to nature and the animals.
Four years ago I was in the field admiring a dandelion clock when my mother phoned to say dad had died. Time stood still. The fields took on a whole new resonance.
This past year I have hobbled around the fields with a torn plantar plate in my foot, needing to walk despite pain and it’s never failed to be worth it. Then, returning home nourished, spending the rest of the day drawing or writing ideas that I have walked into in the field.
And these days as I walk I dream that I will manifest the way to buy the land and be a custodian of a wildlife sanctuary. Ahhh! It’s good to have ideas!
And tomorrow I will draw…
A few of the thousands of photos I have taken in the field!
I am drawing my dog Maisie, a little Cockerpoo, this week as an exploration of drawing, character and line.
Today more lighting sketches drawn from life with two thicknesses of pen. Maisie does not keep still even when she is resting she keeps moving, ever alert, so it is a challenge…
All images copyright of the artist
The wind was cold but the cushiony grass looked inviting. I’d often felt the desire to lie down in that spot but had never done so. I guess the desire had always seemed too random. Today I let myself follow the impulse.
I let go for several minutes looking at the grey scudding sky.
‘What next? Let me know what next? What will you have me paint or draw? I need guidance!’
The answer came taking me by surprise – ‘Illustrate the dog blog you did three years ago in a week!’
‘Wow, really, a week? Thats 101 cartoons! That’s 14 or 15 drawings a day! Thats difficult! Where did that idea come from? I’m no good at drawing dogs, it’s a big task, it will take ages, do I have enough ideas to make 101 fun cartoons?
Resistance, lack of self belief, fear, doubt… all the crappy stuff that gets in the way, jumped up to argue with the voice, flattening the inspiration like a big boot on a seedling.
Hurdles. Those self imposed hurdles, that stop us even having a go.
Maisie came and stole her ball out of my pocket demanding play. We played ball at ground level, her level – me flat on my tummy, eye to eye, it was beguiling.
‘Thats it, just play, play at ground level’ the sky voice said.
‘You’re grounded anyway, why not have fun cartooning! Set an alarm clock for 1 minute, 5 minutes, ten minutes to get going. Do lightning sketches to allow fluency and flow to find you. Draw fast, with quick and simple lines. Allow those drawings that you admire so much to come. The ones that look so easy but are born out of practise. You can do it! Play and enjoy yourself without judgement or ego.’
So, today I commit to 101 cartoons of my little dog Maisie. I don’t know if I can do it, but I will never know if I don’t have a go!
I have, according to the voice, one week. All the time in the world!
Should paintings be pleasing? Nice? Attractive? Should they be decorative and easy to live with? Should they look good? Should they make sense? Should they obey rules?
Or are paintings something you have a relationship with? Are they a place to ponder, to lose yourself? A portal into another dimension in some way? Should they have a narrative or a message? Or should they challenge you, confront or inform?
I think the best paintings give you a space for meditation and escape. Good paintings are decorative. Great paintings are extra dimensional. And some paintings are just plain rubbish, but if the artist learned something and had a good time, who cares! And as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
Certain paintings literally talk to me in the process of painting them. Ideas come. The paint makes surprise demands and you follow not knowing where you are going. You let go into the paint. Do this, do that, the paint commands.
This painting – is it finished? Is it rubbish? Does it talk to you like it did to me? Is it just – what it is! Is it just plain odd? Is it work in progress? Is it an idea half formed? I don’t know.
I wanted to paint a landscape but it became about the winds of change. The cold winds then became horses. Unexpectedly, but maybe not surprisingly.
The wind has been strong and cold here for these past 3 weeks in lockdown. I have spent as much time as I can outside. I have to earth myself. Earth girls are ease. An alien amongst trees and animals. I’ve loved the peace! Just the wind and birdsong and the odd tractor passing. I have chosen to just continue doing what I have done for several years, just more so, no distractions, no imperative to do anything else, just be a hermit, paint, not listen to the news, write blogs, paint some more, walk the same walk everyday, be with my animals, plant trees, tend the land. I am used to being alone. It is peaceful and blissful for me.
As the horses came to life in the painting so came the title ‘Birth of the Clydesdale.’ These horses were first bred in sight of Tinto Hill, the defining landscape feature in this part of Lanarkshire. Tinto, a mother hill, a breast hill, a hill of local rhyme.
Thoughts came too… change comes to help us. Mother Earth knows best. This lockdown is wonderful for nature. We all need to rest, to reconsider… change is in the wind, the world is changing and it is for good. Branches get broken in strong winds and trees fall. Don’t be frightened, death comes to all of us, breathe deeply, listen to the wind, the wind carries ideas, be present…
How precious the strong magnificent Clydesdale horse must have been for farmers… What a change for the better to have kindness and strength, power and endurance to work with you. The expression ‘If Wishes were Horses’ was first recorded near Tinto too.’ First collected by James Carmichael in 1628 . The expression is a theme in my art. If Wishes Were Horses – once upon a time the Clydesdale horse was wished into being.
Maybe I will repaint this huge canvas, maybe I will add a Clydesdale or two and trees in the foreground or maybe it is finished, I don’t know! For now the painting has stopped talking to me. So I stop.
And does it matter if anyone likes it? Does it matter if it is good or successful as a painting? Not really! The wind whispered in my ear and I was happy.
Birth of The Clydesdale by Kirsten Harris , 100 x 150 cm, Oil on Canvas
Last week clumsy me damaged a painting. It upset me but in the big scheme of things seemed trivial. Last night I spent half the night dreaming that I should repair it and to repair it by adding horses in the clouds.
As I painted the three horses and restored the painting it seemed a metaphor for the world right now.
We can’t return to ‘normal’ because normal was destroying the planet. We have to do better!
I hope and pray we move forward in a more conscious loving way where we pay more attention to the earth and take more care of nature and each other.
As my friend said the rip in the painting is like a hole in the ozone layer.
So instead of a straight forward seascape this is now a meeting of the sky gods determining our future. Will we commit to consuming less, caring more and taking care of our wonderful earth?
There’s no turning back, we have to
go forward and make things better!
Much love and stay safe
1 – Decide whilst an arctic storm is blowing that it’s a really good idea to go into your unheated studio and work on some large oil paintings that you thought were finished and had framed but have now decided to change.
2 – Repeat this behaviour pretty much daily for three weeks whilst three storms bring wind, rain, snow, sleet, hail, flooding and fallen trees.
3 – Because you have become sensitive to oil paint having painted obsessively since a student, decide to paint as close to the open door as you possibly can, allowing the arctic wind to whistle in thus ensuring good ventilation which you wouldn’t have in better weather. Realise you may have an oil paint addiction and be partially insane!
4 – Because you have put so many layers of clothes on to keep warm the layers keep riding up at the back and the overlarge overtrousers keep falling down. Not so much builders bum as artists bum! Get chilled to the point of being bone cold but keep going because you decide to shove a hot water bottle down your front.
5 – Whilst painting exercise the dog at same time! Repeatedly throw the dogs ball out of the open door at an unnatural throwing angle whist the majority of your attention is still on your painting. This is pretty much guaranteed to create a weird ouchy kind of twist that will eventually cause your back to go into spasm in the middle of the night. You don’t notice what a stupid movement you are doing as you are too engaged in painting and Maisie, who is hyperacive is being entertained which is a big plus.
6 – Between painting battle mud! Dig, barrow, sweep, move as much mud as possible. As the storms have created terrible conditions mud larking is a necessity. If you get your timing just right the weather will get much much worse whilst doing outdoor work. Find yourself singing mud glorious mud as the sleet hits you horizontally in the face and wonder if you remembered to put moisturiser on this morning.
7 – Don’t do any stretches or other warm ups before you do any of the above activities. Warm ups are for exercise freaks! You are only getting on with life, it’s not like you’re going to the gym or anything!
8 – Whilst painting remember to have lots of ‘this painting is crap’ and ‘not good enough’ thoughts. This is pretty much guarenteed to cause your neck to tighten and create a domino effect of muscular tightness throughout the body which will aid in helping your back to seize up!
Mad artist! Me? A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do! I enjoy it!
Three Angels by Kirsten Harris, Oil on Canvas, 80 x 100 cms. One of the paintings I have reworked. Not sure if it is finished yet…
A horse stands on a telegraph pole, other horses bravely move forward, balancing on a wire. The drawing is called The Journey.
Sometimes we get stuck. It feels as though life is moving on without us. Our emotions, fear, circumstances or past experiences leave us in a place of hesitation or doubt.
It may seem as though others are more balanced or more fearless than us, more able to do the things that we want to do.
Do we have the courage to move forward? Are we actually able to take the next step?
I was thinking about how in this day and age it feels as though negative emotions are seen as bad, whilst positive ones are seen as good. When you think about it that’s a bit of a nonsense. Maybe all emotions are absolutely OK, honest and genuine and it is the trying to prescribe emotions as worthy or not that is dishonest.
Perhaps standing still, just being and waiting or saying no is the brave thing to do. Sometimes we are fearless and sometimes we are not. Sometimes we are part of the herd and other times we are not. Sometimes the journey takes us forward and other times it leaves us stranded. The journey is about these choices and realities.
How does the horse turn back and climb down the telegraph pole? He can’t. We are only ever where we are, moving forward…
This drawing was inspired by a hen doo on zip wires with a bunch of great girls. After the first wire, I found my body was unable to move forward. I stood at the second pole and watched the others fearlessly move forward, moving further and further away from me. More people were coming from behind wanting to get on. There was no time for me to listen to what was showing up for me and I was unable to proceed. So I chose to bow out. I beat myself up for being stuck. The drawing helped me understand myself and that it was OK for me to be where I was that day.
I am looking at the drawing now and it moves me. By having compassion to all our emotions I think we find more compassion to others and especially the animals in our care. Sometimes a horse will be unable to do what you want. He is not being stubborn or stupid. All sentient beings have emotions and past experiences that inform the present moment. Patience, understanding, time, love compassion, waiting, willingness to learn, willingness to listen and feel… will help us find the next step and create lasting change…
A simple drawing that means a lot to me.
Available as a hand signed and titled print
I am thinking about feet! I tore a plantar plate in my toe about 5 months, a toe is now floating. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but it has made walking very difficult. It is funny how injury clarifies what is important! Tree planting for me!
A foot is a powerful symbol for taking responsibility. We talk about putting our foot down, standing our ground and walking our talk!
A footprint fossilised in mud on a shore, the barefoot earth walk of our distant anscestor’s, inspires. Human and dinosaur footprints fossilised in the same layer of sedimentary rock seemingly disprove the view that humans and dinosaurs didn’t walk the earth at the same time. Anyway chickens are dinosaurs aren’t they!?
A pair of feet, an individual short journey on planet earth. Can our walk here be meaningful? It is what I am contemplating, how does one do that as a solitary artist?
When you can’t walk or drive you notice how much rushing around is taking place on the planet. People in a hurry, squawking about environmental crisis but still jumping on airplanes and ‘living the dream.’
So my thinking is – if we all cut down the amount of travelling we do, even just a little, and used any extra money we have to plant trees and give something back to the environment, then planet earth might stand a chance. That is what I am trying to do, on a personal and community level.
I have approached the local council to make a piece of land available for tree planting, to then use art and my experiences as an Alexander Technique teacher (think mindful awareness in action) to work with primary school children to teach the value of trees and our relationship with them. I recently did a series of one-off art work shops with primary school children and was deeply moved by the level of fear these young people are experiencing around environmental issues. I want to empower children by creating opportunities to be involved. To see that the act of planting even one tree is an act of love that has a positive and far reaching impact. That a tree teaches so many things. That their actions make a difference. The project is moving on and other agencies are getting involved and I have high hopes of it coming into fruition. Fingers and toes crossed!
Planting trees and making art about it, is work in progress. I’m on a tree planning mission for the rest of my life – Art for Trees! Your support is hugely appreciated.
All these images and many more are available as black and white hand signed art prints. £20 A4/ £30 A3 plus postage. Prints that plant trees!
I’ve always been fascinated by the handprint in cave art. The palpable presence of our ancient ancestors in the decision to make a statement with a simple hand print. The open hand symbolises letting go and release as well as receiving and showing friendliness. The hands are channels for our energy, our mind through the body out into the world and back. The horses respond to our release with release. We sometimes have to learn big lessons in trust to let go into the connection available when we open ourselves as a receptive channel of awareness and discover our presence can be light as a feather yet powerful, our touch fleeting yet meaningful and our being poised and energised like a spring at the same time.
This image is now available as a hand signed black and white print. I am creating quite a collection – drawing to plant a woodland, making prints that plant trees! Your support is hugely appreciated. I am in a drawing frenzy as Autumn approaches and the tree planting season with it.
Riding horses is a destination not a position
Art is a destination not a position
Love is a destination not a position
The open hand is a destination not a position
Forward and up, the way of poise, is a destination not a position …
The open hand is an attitude of the heart and mind through which freedom, love, spirit, destiny and balance flow…
The open hand channels the loving heart and communicates our intention….
The open hand listens in the present moment…
The open hand allows connection…
Being present, heart in hand today determines our future destiny, the destination forward and upwards that is life revealing itself…
Heart in hand is the future flowing us forward…
When we take a position we block the flow of future possibility and thus that of our relationship to the world.
The challenge is to free ourselves from the position and limitation of our habitual self and our ego to be balanced and free in movement, to love what is, to be the heart of the open hand that allows us amongst other things to be the horse in his truth.
The challenge is to meet our art, our heart, our horses, our friends, our lives, ourselves with wonder and joy to the presence of the living soul moment by moment.
www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk – prints and artwork
www.kirstenharris.co.uk – Alexander Technique
copyright Kirsten Harris
Four Winds Medicine Wheel. Print available at www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk
In his book Lives of the Artists, Georgio Vasari (1511 – 1574) recounts a story about the artist Giotto (1267 – 1337). He tells how the Pope was commissioning art and sent messengers throughout Italy to bring back samples or artist’s work. When the messenger visited Giotto’s studio, Giotto took a brush and keeping his arm close to his side painted a perfect circle in red paint with one brush stroke. The messenger thought he was being made a fool of. However when he recounted the ease with which Giotto had painted the perfect circle the Pope commissioned Giotto, recognising mastery.
Whilst teaching in Japan, I took lessons in Japanese brush painting. One of the tasks my teacher had me repeat many times was to paint the Enso, the Zen Circle. The circle is painted as one brushstroke to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. It is a training in one’s ability to be whole in the present moment. The quality of the circle is altered by the quality of one’s presence.
If you are a rider I would like to challenge you to pick up a brush and paint a circle. Can you paint a circle freely and with ease? I would suggest that the circles that you ride (if you ride circles) will reveal themselves to you in the circle you paint!
Circles symbolise wholeness, infinity, eternity, time and timelessness, movement, the rhythm of life, unity, harmony, relationships, breath, Earth and our being in the Universe, connection…
By riding circles we have a way to connect to a wholeness within ourselves and our horse (or not!)
Why not give yourself and your horse a break for a bit to train your mind. If you cannot think or paint a perfect circle I don’t think it is possible to ride a perfect one! What do your circles look like? Practise painting circles with both hands.
I am off to practice my Zen circles…
‘Seeing and Seeding’ Photograph by Kirsten Harris
The etymology of the word illusion comes from the word luminare or lumen meaning to light up, too illuminate, to shine brightly. The words illusion and disillusionment are ones that I believe have changed from their original pure meaning.
I am using the word illusion to mean creative light and disillusionment to mean a dimming of the inner light, that creative spark within all of us that is most powerful.
I was musing with a friend as to why I was feeling out of my creative flow. I realised I was feeling disillusioned by many things, people, events and in the main feeling put off proceeding.
As soon as I realised the word disillusioned meant a dimming of inner light, I felt the spark of creativity re-emerging, re-igniting like a pilot light guiding forward. My whole mood lightened up. Fuck it, no-one or no-thing was going to dim my creative light! I am alive now!
One of the meanings of the word illusion is fantasy or vision. If a population is in the main disillusioned we remain passive, obedient, sticking to the status quo. But if we see disillusionment as a calling to bring our inner light of creative visions into a future reality that does not exist yet, we have power. We become master illusionists! We become powerful magicians using our creative minds as instruments of change right now. Having a future vision or fantasy that doesn’t yet exist is, after all, how all creativity, invention and change comes about.
It may feel hard not to feel disillusioned looking at a planet on the edge of crisis and a population that seems, in the main, to only give lip service to caring. We rush around at high speed in airplanes etc consuming, working, doing our bucket list! Or we are stuck simply trying to survive in an expensive consumer society.
I propose it is time for a creative FUCK IT list instead of a bucket list!
Fuck it I am not doing that anymore.
Fuck it I am going say NO!
Fuck it I am going to create a different vision for the future.
Fuck it I am going to speak out.
Fuck it I am going to find simple ways to change things in the environment that I exist in right here, right now.
Fuck it, I am going to love getting creative!
Fuck it no-one is dimming the power of my light!
Our illusions are in fact not so much fantasy but fantastical vision of creative energy where mighty good power lies, where healing occurs and where miracles (may just) happen!
So as individuals and as a population are we illuminated or ill?
This is a magnificent planet of immense shimmering light and beauty. That same light and beauty is within me and within you, within and without. Switching our creative light on one person at a time to be master creators of a healthy future for our planet is what I believe we need to learn do. We need to create healthy visions for our world and share them with each other!
It is time to learn how to switch our inner vision back on!
So VISION ON my friends…
What lights your creativity up and what’s on your fuck it list?
Written with love
www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk – Art
www.kirstenharris.co.uk – Alexander Technique
(I shared this originally as a facebook post on my art page Kirsten Harris Art. I wanted to write something to go with the drawing and to write from my heart about horses. I thought I should post as a blog here. I hope you enjoy it. )
‘In Our Hands’ by Kirsten Harris
5 Thoughts –
1. Our hands have immense sensitivity. Can you let your hands be neutral? Do your hands know how to listen to follow your horse or do they control and bully? Do you use your hands to pull at your horse’s sensitive mouth and head? Or do you allow the energy of your heart-brain and the elasticity of your body to move through your hands into a flow of union and connection?
2. Can you sit in balance on a chair, easily for a prolonged period of time without discomfort? If not, learn to do so before you sit on a horse. You are only bringing your inbalances to your riding and teaching your horse tension otherwise. You will create imbalances. Find your own poise first and then you will find the poise of your horse. It’s magical when it happens and totally worth the work on your self.
3. Horses are teachers for our heart and soul. We have much to learn from them. If you feel anger, frustration or ego around your horse walk away. Take wise counsel, breathe, let go. A horse is not a sponge for your unprocessed stuff. Negative thoughts and emotions do not belong around your horse
4. Be patient and learn to be at ease with yourself. Meditate. Listen. Let go. Horses will teach you about timelessness, unity, flow, courage, the divine, non verbal communication, boundaries, energy… Horses will teach you how to think into the vastness of the universe and the great mysteries. Be patient with yourself and your horse. Learn to get out of your own way to allow the door of knowledge to open. There is plenty of time. It is all you have. Enjoy the process.
5. It is OK to feel fear. You and your horse are both flight animals. It is not OK to take your fear out on your horse. Let your heart be open and soft. Love your horse with all your heart. Let your ego dissolve so you are pure around your horse. Be a child of wonder and awe in his presence. Be fully present. Enjoy what you are learning and experiencing right now. Don’t compare your journey with your horse with that of other peoples. The journey of ‘should’ and ‘ought’ will only get in your way. You and your horse are both unique and marvellous. Your horse is an honest loving mirror into your essence, your soul in space right now if you dare to peek. Do you love what you see?
Written and drawn with love
Increasingly my painting and drawing is looking at ways to express ideas about mind-body-soul connection, horses and riding, drawing on my experience as a horse owner and Alexander Technique teacher, as well as hopefully connecting with some of the spiriitual magic and timeless inspirational power that is horses and the lessons we learn from being in their presence.
The Wishing Horse by Kirsten Harris
Oil on Canvas
A girl wishes on a dandelion clock, her wish is focussed on horse magic. All she has ever wished for is a horse. Her hands are open, soft hands, light hands, loving hands, giving hands. Hands that will groom, muck out, lift bales of hay and buckets of water. Hands that will rake and sweep and get calloused through the hard physical work of looking after horses. Yet these hands will also learn to listen, to give, to follow the lightest feel into the forward flow. She blows on the dandelion clock in her hand to wish the horse wish. The magic begins …
Wishing in the Flow by Kirsten Harris
Oil on Canvas
The dandelion clocks and seeds represent wishes, the power of intentional thought and timing. Divine timing. Thought seeds are directing from and beyond the open sensing hand. Hands that seem to drop through layers of muscle deeply into the living being finding connections that we never knew existed. Each thought a direct message, a contact, mind to mind, soul to soul, girl to horse. Freedom communicated through the lightest touch, spatial awareness, presence….
‘Forward and up, let go, allow, sense the feel, trust’ she thinks … and up, up the horse takes her into the flow, into the mystery, into poise, into a vastness greater than anything she has ever experienced. Her dreams become embodied. She rides through the light, free as the wind, bravely into the unknown darkness ahead. The horse continues to teach her many lessons. Trusting the truth that the noble honest horse reveals she gives the days of her life to be with these divine creatures …
How to Make a Dream Come True
by Kirsten Harris
Available as a print.
Blog about this drawing here
The Magic Stop by Kirsten Harris
Available as a print
‘The Magic Stop’ was drawn in my minds eye when I woke up one morning. It is about using the breath to stop your horse, to let go and to find the forwards and upwards flow of poise.
The girl holds a dandelion clock in her hand representing delicacy, freedom, light hands. Movement, flow, kinaesthetic awareness are ever present even when seemingly standing still. Seemingly doing nothing the girl makes contact through the breath, her thinking and the delicacy of her poise. She learns to ride a stop with nothing but her breath and then ‘forward and up’ she thinks and rides forward into the wind on her breath too.
My media downloads too –
Walking with Your Horse here
Body Magic here
Alexander Technique website. www.kirstenharris.co.uk
For original art and prints please visit my art website or contact me www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk
All artwork copyright Kirsten Harris.
Best wishes Kirsten
What could be better than gathering a group of artists who are scattered across this much over looked part of rural South Lanarkshire and who in the main don’t know each other and putting together an exhibition on a shared theme.
This time Tinto, our much loved fire hill, is the source of inspiration in a show at the Tolbooth, Lanark called 36 Views of Tinto, a homage to Hokusai’s famous 36 Views of Mount Fuji.
The last exhibition in October was inspired by the Falls of Clyde – Romance of the Falls.
So, a short blog of appreciation for all the artists …
What really strikes me about doing a group show with these people, whom I am just getting to know, is what intelligent, interesting, creative, easy going, solution orientated people artists are.
Artists are great!
It takes passion and courage to be an artist and a lot of self awareness.
To me it beggars belief that folk still think of artists as ‘mad’ and are quite happy to say it to their face, even if it is in jest. I am not being PC here, far from it, but making a point that sometimes we don’t question our assumptions.
For more musings in a blog called ‘Mad’ – click here! : )
So my thought for this morning is this – the world needs people with these amazing capacities as advisors, inspirers and general ‘earth angels’!
I love artists!
On my recent trip to the picture framers for 36 Views of Tinto Exhibition I had a conversation that I have been thinking about all week. I want to share it –
I was helping another artist choose a frame for her painting for the show.
A woman in the shop became involved in the discussion.
She was framing her husbands painting, who she described as one of The Scottish Contemporaries.
My artist friend starting belittling her own painting as ‘only an amateur effort that Kirsten has kindly included in the exhibition, I am not sure why, it’s not very good ….’
The other woman replied – ‘Yes, there are only two kinds of artists amateur and professional’ or words to that effect.
She wasn’t being snobby (well maybe slightly) but she was just stating a perceived truth!
‘Is that true?’ …. I thought, and found myself saying what I believe to be true –
‘There is only one kind of artist, and that is artists, because as far as I can see everyone puts there heart and soul into their work and that is the only criteria that matters!’
Come and see the 36 Views of Tinto Exhibition at the Tolbooth, Lanark if you are in the area – where local artists have put their heart and soul into interpreting Tinto our local much loved landscape feature. Maybe you will find something you want to own. It is going to be a great exhibition!
Look forward to seeing you … and by the way, my friends painting is very good and I am sure it will be snapped up!
If Wishes Were Horses
I blow on your clock
Sending wishes into the wind
Tell me when
A year and half ago I was in the field next to my house early in the morning photographing dandelion clocks when my mum phoned from Portugal to say that my dad had died.
This February I decided to do a drawing a day and see what happened 28 drawings later.
As the month started with the full blue blood moon I decided to start the 28 drawings with ideas about the moon and time. Within a couple of days dandelion clocks started to appear. Every day I posted the drawings on my Kirsten Harris Art page on Facebook. On day 16 Something happened that has never happened to me before – the image I shared started to be shared and shared – 662 times in a week. Beautiful ideas for titles were suggested, the most popular being ‘If Wishes Were Horses’ and people started messaging me and writing on the thread. It felt like love was just blowing in on the wind …
It seems that I am not the only one with a personal connection to dandelion clocks. This week I have heard moving stories about what dandelion clocks mean to other folk – memories of lost family members, much missed horses, love, happiness, freedom … a spiritual connection resonating with others.
It has been a deeply moving week for me, with requests for prints and permission to tattoo the image. Folk have sent me gorgeous photos of their horses, photos they have taken of dandelion clocks, stories of arriving home from exhilarating rides with dandelion clocks attached to them …
These seeds on the wind have connected me to other horse lovers world wide. It has been truly amazing and I am utterly grateful to FB and the world wide web for a week that has given me a much appreciated boost and brought joy into my life.
Here are the seven images I have chosen for prints which are now available …
I have never made art prints of my art work before so this week has definitely moved me forward as an artist too. I hope you like them
PRINTS AVAILABLE – These are the eight prints I am getting made. They are a LIMITED EDITION of 100 A4 size and 100 A3. I will hand write the title and hand sign and number each one ready for you to frame. I am happy to write any words you may want to personalise.
A4 – £20 and A3 – £30 plus (plus p&p at cost worldwide.)
FREE postage if you buy more than one print!)
A4 measures 210 x 297 mm or 8.3 x 11.7 inches.
A3 measures 297 x 420 mm or 11.7 x 16.5 inches.
Printed on high quality white art paper. Posted in a cellophane bag and cardboard backed envelope.
AVAILABLE AS BLACK AND WHITE PRINTS (please excuse my photography here)
Please email me if you wish to order any prints email@example.com
1. If Wishes Were Horses
2. Sky Horses
3. When Dreams Fly
4. Free Spirits
5. Flying Horses
6. Seeds of Love
8. Equine Lunar Calendar
Please email me if you wish to order – firstname.lastname@example.org
ON TINTOCK TAP
‘On Tintock Tap there is a mist,
And in that mist there is a kist,
And in the kist there is a caup,
And in that caup there is a drap;
Tak’ up the caup, drink aff the drap
And set up camp on Tintock Tap’
To me the traditional Lanarkshire rhyme, On Tintock Tap, is less a rhyme and more a riddle full of symbolism, though it could of course be suggesting that there is great wealth buried under the 4 metre high Neolithic/Bronze age cairn which, never excavated by archaeologists, is believed to be the biggest in Scotland.
Walking up Tinto I started to think about the meaning of the symbolism in the rhyme, much of which is spiritual symbolism that shows up across cultures and traditions. Here are some musings …
Tintock/Tinto – meaning fire hill, is an immediately recognisable and identifiable hill seen for miles within this part of Scotland. Fire is associated with the sun and the stars. Fire symbolises energy, life, courage, determination, action, risk taking. The inner light, the inner spark, the divine fire burning within. Fire serves as a beacon and messenger, the light can be seen from afar, especially from the top of a hill. It’s fire is an invitation for people to come together. Warmth, hope, energy, passion and will power, transformation, transmutation, creation and destruction, creativity and dynamism are all part of the symbolism. On top of Tinto is an enormous man made cairn, who created it and why? Fire also represents home – the home fires and dance – the dancing fire, primal energy, sexuality. (Many think Tinto looks like a giant breast the cairn being the nipple). Fire is made from burning wood. The element of wood is represented by the staff or magical wand and the tree of life. The ancient Beltane festival and the Baal Fire are associated with Tinto – traditionally lit across Britain on May 1st, half way between the spring equinox and Midsummer to bring good fortune and show togetherness, Beltane was a time when cattle were driven out to summer pasture. The simultaneous lighting of fires stretching across the landscape to show the unity and connection of people. Tinto has associations with the seasonal clock.
Tintock Tap – climbing to the top of a hill or mountain symbolises the will to succeed, aspiration ambition, success, reaching your highest potential, a challenge needing energy, higher attainment, a bigger perspective, leadership, a vantage point, self control. Climbing to the top of a mountain is the closest we can get to heaven on earth. Mountains symbolise eternity, constancy, stillness and firmness. Traditionally the mountain is earth and female. The sky, clouds,rain, thunder and lightning are male. (The River Clyde can be seen snaking through the landscape below Tinto. The view from the top is truly astonishing.)
Mist – Mist symbolises a veil, the hidden, the ethereal, the mysterious. What is shrouded in mystery? Mists of uncertainty, clouds, doubts, questions and anxieties, blurred vision, lack of clarity. Mist is a slow drizzle that blurs and distorts our vision and perception preventing us from seeing clearly. Mist can hide something that is real and true but is perhaps not meant to be understood or seen right now by our rational minds. Mists will lift in time. An invitation to leave the analytical ‘male’ aspect of the mind and enter the ‘feminine’ intuitive state on the top of the mountain?
Kist – meaning chest. A treasure chest, secrets, something that you hold very close to your heart and want to keep safe, the body, the home, security, a container. Here is a mystery within a mystery, the mysterious mist contains a treasure chest with hidden things inside. How do you find the treasure and open the chest? The treasures of the heart.
Cup – The cup is a a container for the spirit to be held as it pours from heaven to earth. Cups symbolise the spirit, receptivity, the heart, love, emotions, water, the holy grail, (Roslyn chapel is within view!?). Suggesting that the top of Tinto is an important spiritual place. As above so below.
Drop – water, a tear, life itself, a drop of blood, the individual, millions of drops of water to make a river, the river of life symbolised by water, the element of life. Purity and fertility. Rain fall. Cleansing. The emotions. The human body is over 60 percent water. Water is linked to the moon, governing tides. Water is symbolised by cups. Water finds a way … Water takes the path of least resistance to find it’s course. Drinking from the cup to quench a thirst, physical or spiritual?
Set up camp – take the path up the hill to set up camp, to stop! A steep path represents a journey that requires the energy to persevere to reach the look out point. To set up camp is an invitation to stop, to meditate, to look, to be and get clarity, take the time out for your self, to be still, to experience a new or different perspective. A high vantage point from which to plan your journey, your next direction.
The astrological elements are represented in this verse – Fire, air, earth, water,. Where better to study the astrological clock than from the top of a hill.
So, to conclude – this traditional rhyme seems to be suggesting to me that Tinto is an ancient place of spiritual and physical importance with a profound message for anyone who wants to seek it …. And perhaps there really is gold hidden under that giant mound of rocks, after all Wanlockhead the source of the pure Scottish gold of Kings is within sight of Tinto. Who knows … a mystery indeed!
7/1/2018 On Tinto Summit
8/1/18 Sunrise over Tinto
I am looking forward to painting Tinto for
36 Views of Tinto Group Exhibition at the Tolbooth in Lanark – 16 May – 6 June, 2018
check out the Facebook page 36 Views of Tinto, Exhibition here
Thanks for reading this blog.
ON TINTOCK TAP
‘On Tintock Tap there is a mist,
And in that mist there is a kist,
And in the kist there is a caup,
And in that caup there is a drap;
Tak’ up the caup, drink aff the drap
And set up camp on Tintock Tap’
Do you want to collect art, but don’t know where to start?
Do you want to give someone a really amazing present for Xmas, a wedding or special birthday?
Do you already collect art and want to add to your collection but are running out of wall space?
Here is a solution –
If you are interested in any of these treasures washed up by the tide of 2017, you might want to check out my blog too. I wrote over 40 blogs called ‘Diary of an Exhibition’ this year about painting the sea
All paintings are oil on canvas or oil and sand on canvas and are £100 each, framed with a white frame and gold slip and signed on the front.
Email me if you see anything you like …
Postage worldwide will be charged at cost.
I just wanted to write a short blog to sum up the Romance of the Falls exhibition.
When I started this project I bought a postcard on ebay, for £3.
Not wanting to promote any one persons work for the group exhibition I needed a strong image for the poster.
The postcard had been sent from Lanark to Calais in 1923.
It reads on the back –
Spending the week-end here. A lovely place. Think you would like it. Love Nessie
Nearly 100 years later, the postcard became the poster for an exhibition, the Facebook banner, the invitation and was screened on the interactive display on the high street.
I love that this simple, thoughtful greeting from Lanark was kept all those years and got a whole new lease of life, finding its way back from France to Lanark!
Butterfly effect through the ages …
In 1923 Lanark and the Falls of Clyde were still a tourist destination. I challenge you to find a postcard of the Falls for sale in Lanark today!
That is because the hydro electric stole the power of the Falls shortly after this card was sent and Lanark as a tourist destination fell into decline.
The landscape around the Falls of Clyde is till under threat.
Please check out this Facebook page
Save Our Landscapes – New Lanark/ Falls of Clyde
For over 200 years visitors, artists, poets and writers flocked to the Falls of Clyde. It would be wonderful to think in 200 years time the same thing is happening. It was a wonderful summer with the falls in full power. I would LOVE to see them like that all the time. I think it would be very good for the area and put Lanark back on the must go map!
Please like the Facebook page
Save Our Landscapes – New Lanark/ Falls of Clyde
(sorry the link not active, you will have to cut and paste onto Facebook to find the page!)
Have you ever thought about investing in a dream?
My current dream goes like this – I want to make more Alexander Technique inspired cartoons next year and I want to plant trees, to do my bit for this beautiful planet we live on! I also want to engage children and teenagers with the Alexander Technique thought processes, so that is simply something that they naturally know from a young age.
I am an artist and Alexander Technique teacher and I have been slowly working away creating images that hopefully express AT in a fun way. A task that I find exceedingly challenging, but very engaging.
One teacher, phoned to ask to use one of my cartoons to promote teaching the technique within the BBC. She said ‘The Alexander Technique needs more images with a sharp wit like these.’ Amazing feedback!
Another teacher said I was wasting my time making art to promote Alexander Technique, that people simply were not interested!
If I am wasting my time, so be it! I care about Alexander Technique with a passion. It can so simply and profoundly transform peoples lives. It transformed mine. If I can do a wee bit to bring it into peoples field of attention via a cartoon or a verse or something else, yippee! To me that attempt is not a waste of time – it is my dream.
What do you think?
It is the sort of thing as a child I would have loved, and I think would have given me a ‘heads up’ on some useful thinking that might have kept me out of trouble in more ways than one!
If you have ever thought about investing in a dream, perhaps you will think about buying one of these. You can enjoy the black and white images as they are, colour them in, read the stories and AT inspired ideas contained within to a child, enjoy them yourself, give as a gift or know that a tree has been planted.
Free postage in the UK, please email me for international postage. email@example.com
Many thanks, Kirsten
The last few months has been filled with organising Romance of the Falls exhibition in Lanark, and I loved it!
It has been a tremendous opportunity to meet other artists and locals in the community. As a self employed artist working from home it is easy to find oneself isolated. I no longer feel isolated. I feel connected to some great people.
The 3 arty parties we threw for the exhibition saw not only artworks bought but friendships formed. Like minded folk connecting. Be that artists with other artists or art lovers getting a chance to meet the artists and vice versa. It’s been great! The feedback has been really positive.
Today is the last chance to see the morphed exhibition – Artists Choice.
A big thank you to everyone who has exhibited or visited and especially those who have bought art work.
A massive thank you to Ian Leitch for his continuous tireless and voluntary work at the Tobooth and support of this exhibition. You’re a star!
Much love Kirsten
Last night at the exhibition opening of Seascapes at the Old Chain Pier in Edinburgh, stories were told about the eccentric landlady who presided there in the 50’s and 60’s. Her family had owned the pub since the turn of the century.
My friends mum and dad, revealing how they went on their second ever date to the Old Chain Pier 55 odd years ago, reminisced. Last night was their first time back…
Apparently Betty Moss was a character and a half, always resplendent in oriental costume and bamboo glasses. She swore like a trooper, shot a gun to the ceiling to call last orders, swung a cutlass over her head to deal with rowdy customers and told everyone to ‘fuck off children’ at the end of the night. It was a sailors pub and she was in charge! 50 years later she is still talked about, her photo, found by the present owner in the cellar, hangs above the bar.
(Betty Moss – check out the earrings!)
Back then every inch of the pub walls were covered in postcards from all over the world. There was no picture windows to the amazing sea view! I guess sailors don’t want to look at the sea whilst drinking a pint and a nip. In fact everything about the inside is different, yet the memory of Betty Moss lives on.
Later in the evening my friends gave me ‘how to’ instructions on a contemporary kind of postcard,Instagram, wondering why as an artist I hadn’t made use of this ‘postcards to the world’ form of communication to show my paintings.
Um, no answer apart from not knowing how to do it! Dah!
So I was given a brilliant impromptu masterclass from a professional marketeer, the art director of an ad agency and someone who has 1000’s of followers on the said platform… WOW! Thank you guys, I hope it all went into my brain. Brilliant stuff.
I wonder what Betty Moss would make of the social media conversation? By the sound of her she would have embraced it long since, have made big ripples in new medias and be talked about all over the world!
Hmmm ….. where are my bamboo glasses?
Exhibition on until the end of January.
Framed seascapes from £100
check out my website… www.kirstenharrisart.com
‘My walls are too small for a big painting!’
It’s a comment I hear a lot and it always makes me laugh. I look at the person and think, ‘What a load of rubbish, you don’t live in a hobbit hut!’
So here is my low down on why ‘my walls are too small’ is not true!
So, go on … I dare you, think about being bold and buying a big painting. A big painting needn’t be more expensive and your walls are probably certainly not too small!
Wind and Sea and my hair being buffeted by the weather! – SOLD
A Falling Romance – SOLD
A big painting and some handsome men!
Michael Douglas and a big giraffe painting … Genius me, I managed to get both him and the painting out of focus! I think I was too excited by having him at my exhibition! What an incredibly nice man. He loved the giraffes ….
There is another big giraffe painting hanging at the Tolbooth in Lanark this week.
Two upcoming private views – this week
and now for something completely different here is a link to my colouring book – I love it! Xmas pressie idea …
How about a giving a gift of planting a tree via a colouring book this Xmas?
At the same time you will be sharing a a healthy dose of Alexander Technique and mindfulness nature wisdom …
If that sounds appealing you have nothing further to do than click here and buy The Daily Ease – A Walk in the Woods, my Alexander Technique inspired colouring story book.
I am super proud of it – it is hand drawn and written with love inspired by walking in the woods with my dog Maisie. All profits will be used to plant trees, so please do consider supporting this environmental/educational project.
Front and back cover .. showing details of drawings inside…
The Daily Ease – A Walk in the Woods buy here!
(sample pages when you follow link)
Please ignore the bit on the link that says local pick up only. I haven’t figured out how to change it!
Free postage in UK.
Please email me for costs to post abroad.
I hope to hear from you
Love Kirsten and Crazy Maisie dog x
Maisie walking int the woods in Scotland
I have been working towards Up-Cycled Danishly for over two years.
That is, painting furniture and doing seascapes for the walls.
This open studio I have achieved it the look I was after… It is not quite a fabulous as I hoped due to lack of space, so everything is a bit crammed, but mission accomplished!
The idea was to up-cycle furniture in an antique Danish peasant style, as inspired by my Danish grandmother, and combine the furniture with seascapes. A look that reminds me of my childhood and one that I have always loved. I have a few inherited pieces of painted furniture so decided to add to the collection. My rule was to take solid pieces of furniture and improve them, rather than just make them look different. They were to look old and as though they were meant to be that way.
Bizarrely the best brush I found for painting the motif details was a Japanese sumie brush, designed for painting on rice paper not wood. But it worked.
It has been a huge amount of work. Painting furniture is a slow business.Also bulky! My house is now beginning to be rather, um, full! Time to let go and sell a few pieces to create space to keep painting.
In order to set the room up I have turned my painting studio aka the garage into a dump. Anything that doesn’t go with the look has been put in there. OMG, total mess! But hey ho, a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do, and being a finisher/completer type (so a human resources friend once told me) Up-cycled Danishly it is.
Essentially the look is striped upholstery and rugs, roses and other flowers, hearts and birds as motifs, colour schemes blues, greens reds …
Carnwath, the nearest village to me, prides itself on being the village in Scotland furthest from the sea, which to my mind says nowhere in Scotland is very far from the sea! But oh to now transport the work to an old farmhouse on the coast with lots of space to see the pieces in interior design vignettes as opposed to squashed together. In the meantime here is is in South Lanarkshire – Up-cycled Danishly.
I hope you like it. All work is for sale.
Next weekend … 28-29 October
My house …
Coffee and Danish biscuits and a warm welcome …
Berry Knowe Cottage, Westsidewood, Carnwath, South Lanarkshire. ML11 8LJ
Phone me for directions – Kirsten 07711 903537
Or by appointment.
The last ever trip I did with my dad before he died was to go and see a field shelter that I wanted to buy for my ponies. Here it is
Sadly within a few short months it started to collapse as the arches were built out of unsuitable material. I phoned the guy who built it who came and stuck a bit of wood in the middle saying ‘I didn’t realise it was this bad’ and promised to come back and fix it. He did not. Nor did he answer my phone calls. I felt so disappointed having saved up for a year to buy it.
So I paid someone to take it down as I was scared of it collapsing on my ponies and felt really upset. A pile of timber sat in my driveway for several months.
This summer a retired friend offered to help me to rebuild it, reusing as much of the wood as possible. Tears came to my eyes when we got the bones of the structure up as it felt enormously healing. Recreating something ten times more solid – I know dad would be really cheered.
Here is the finished shelter …
So despite being really upset about the lack of response and the shoddy workmanship of the original arc here is what I learned …
I learned about the art of hammering, with a free neck and a free wrist, letting the momentum of the hammer do the work.
I learned about the kindness and pure goodness of people ‘I am not doing it for you, but for the ponies so they have shelter in the winter’.
I learned about patience. The original arc was erected in a morning. Our shelter took us many days, making sure that the structure was entirely solid from base up.
I learned about pacing yourself when doing a big job like this. Work away with awareness and consideration and a structure will emerge and you won’t ache.
I also wondered whether in the long run it is entirely more satisfying to make something yourself than to buy off the peg!
My friend tells me that I would now be able to build a shed myself, though I am not entirely convinced, but I do have a much better sense of construction having gone through this.
The tortoise and the hare story springs to mind.
We got there and the ponies LOVE it!
Imagine an art gallery in an industrial unit?
The sort of place you might go to have your car MOT’d!
This is Resonate Arts House in Alloa and I love the space!
An artists dream in fact – big wall spaces, well lit, run by art historian Clark, whose passion and knowledge of the visual arts is contagious.
Mini Rant coming up! …
To be truthful a gallery run by an art expert IS totally wonderful to me! One of my gripes over the years is that most gallery spaces are basically shops, that you the artist hand over free stock to. Usually run as a second ‘nice wee income’ by the wife of an accountant or such like. There is no real interest in the thinking behind the art, the process or the artists development, just how much money are they going to be able to make selling your work! Yes that is commerce, I get it, but it is very limiting for the artist in many ways and not at all exciting. OK moan over!
To have someone who is actually interested in the work itself in it’s own right is flipping fantastic and very unusual! That is Clark and that is Resonate Arts House, putting the development of the arts right into the heart of the community. It is so much more interesting to be able to discuss your work with the public and get critique and comments good or bad, than just to hand it into a gallery with no feedback whatsoever.
Wonderful World, is an exhibition of oil paintings and drawings on show at Resonate over the next month. The name was chosen not only because Louis Armstrong’s Oh What a Wonderful World is one of my absolute favourite songs ever, but to describe the passion I have for painting. In fact I seemed to have rather ‘over egged the pudding’ for this one as I have somehow managed to make rather a lot of work.
This week is wonderful week.
Romance of the Falls exhibition also opens in Lanark. My first go at organising an ‘artist led’ group exhibition at the fabulous 15th century Tolbooth. It makes me smile as, recently refurbished, the Tolbooth now describes itself as ‘community arts hub since 1590!’ Love it …. um, amongst other things it used to be a prison!
Here are a few of my favourite paintings for the Wonderful World Exhibition in Alloa
and Romance of the Falls
‘A Falling Romance’ Oil on Canvas, 100 x 150 cm
Painting on a large scale involves using your legs.
Not only do you stand at the easel but in Alexander Technique speak you have to use your monkey. That is to bend at the hips and knees to get into deep squats. Monkey is a must if you are not going to end up with back ache as a painter of large canvases. (An Alexander Technique teacher will show you how powerful your monkey is!)
Walking back into your back to get a distance perspective also helps. Walking backwards away from the easel is a chance to connect the arms deeply into your back to flick paint, smear, scratch, dab and throw paint as you move forward and up again into the painting.
Staying active up and out of the hips, legs and feet to move while you work is also essential. Move with the paint to let it flow.
Dance like a butterfly, paint like a bee!
This style, as used in ‘A Falling Romance’ could be described as action painting or whole body painting. It is exhilarating, gestural, fun and messy. A bit like pogo dancing at a punk concert – you just have to let go, go for it and not really care!
Inevitably beautiful passages of paint get lost in the craziness of the process.
Creativity, destruction, flow …
If you want to let go more in your creativity adventure with a bit of Alexander Technique thinking thrown in, why not sign up for my free creativity e-course.
It’s fun – 8 emails over 8 days to get you thinking a little differently … hopefully!
It may be a good place to start and was written with love … link below
In the meantime – here is a monkey (ok a chimp)
Darwin, Oil on Canvas, 40 x 50 cm
Link to my free creativity e-course below
To start learning Alexander Technique click here
I smoked as an art student. Nearly all of us did. It was the 80’s after all and we thought we were cool. What we didn’t realise was that the ashtray we were casually flicking ash into was worth a million quid! Now that’s cool!
Professor David Hill, the world renowned Turner expert and author, was our art history lecturer at Bretton Hall College in the 80’s. Every class from cave painting to the High Renaissance, from pop art to pointillism, David Hill would find a way to bring Turner into the conversation.
As a first year I hated Turner, and with artist Jane Tomlinson took a pop at Turner by writing a joke essay about a fictional Mrs Turner and handing it in. Anything to argue against the revered man. By the third year I was converted and wrote my degree thesis on the Turner Prize.
David Hill wrote a book called In Turner’s Footsteps, so of course the big inspiration behind gathering a group of artists for the Romance of the Falls Exhibition at the Tolbooth, Lanark 12 October – 12 November is to follow in Turner’s footsteps drawing inspiration from the Falls of Clyde. Ever since I have visited the Falls I have thought ‘I am walking in Turner’s footsteps’, seeing what he saw. An idea for an exhibition has been brewing for several years. David Hill
For the million pound ashtray story and David Hill’s discovery here is a link to his website … well worth a read, quite amazing.
The Royal Academy of Arts in Edinburgh have kindly allowed us to reproduce Turner’s Falls of Clyde painting as a postcard which will be on sale at Romance of the Falls, Contemporary Art at the Tolbooth, Lanark 12 October – 12 November.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851)
The Falls of Clyde 1801
Detail from a much bigger oil painting’ A Falling Romance’ work in progress ….
Looking down onto Cora Linn …
Looking across to Bonnington Linn
An old postcard looking up to Bonnington Linn. Details of the upcoming exhibition
In the days when The Falls of Clyde was on the ‘must paint’ list for artists, visitors were able to get to the base of Bonnington Linn to paint the scene. There was also a little red iron bridge, now unusable, over one of the cascades to the rocky island in the middle where the two falls separate, which housed a temple. The island is covered in trees so I have no idea how much remains.
The experience of the waterfalls then must have been more intense. Coupled with the fact that since the 1930’s the hydro electric has ‘stolen’ the water, subverting it though the power station. My guess is that action alone caused the Falls of Clyde to fall off the ‘must see’ list!
Unbelievable luck for this group of contemporary artists ‘Romance of the Falls’ as coincidentally the river have been running in it’s full glory again all summer due to repairs to the substation. So, in part, we have been able to see what Turner, Wordsworth, Naismyth, Burns and countless others greats saw. The left hand cascade on the old postcard is now-a-days usually dry, though not at the moment, so go soon if you get a chance.
Researching the history, I found an old etching by a nameless etcher.
I decided to imagine myself into the view from below, using the etching as inspiration. Many of the romantic paintings and engravings of the past show naked nymphs prostrate at the base of the cascades too. Not a naked nymph in site during my walks in the beautiful woodlands by the Clyde this rainy summer so decided against nymphs!
I began and soon realised what a flipping difficult task painting a waterfall is. I don’t want to paint a portrait but somehow portray something about flow, power, movement, energy, growth in a semi abstract way.
Water coming from the sky, over the falls and into the earth.
Wow and I thought painting seascapes was hard!
The first layer of paint came out as a pretty but fantasy-like waterfall picture. Hmmm, ok, but not what I had in mind… more walks …. more layers of paint …. more and more respect for the unknown etchers level of detail and truth about the landscape ….
To be continued …
The White Elephant, Oil on Canvas, 150 x 100 cm
I remember as a 5 years old at a village fete being totally fascinated by something called The White Elephant Stall. Where was the white elephant? And why a white elephant? It was the best stall as it was full of interesting stuff and weird objects.
I have just googled the origins of the expression and so it goes – the Kings of Siam gave such animals as a gift to courtiers they disliked, in order to ruin the recipient by the great expense incurred in maintaining the animal.
The title The White Elephant came to me towards the end of painting this huge canvas when I added a tiny calf. Despite the fact that the painting is mainly magenta, purple and cerulean blue, the focal point of the painting is the tiny white elephant lit by the moon and the river.
I have painted the theme of elephants at a water hole before (see blog ‘Why Do Artists Repeat Themselves?’) inspired by seeing a huge herd at the river in Chobe, Botswana on a camping trip with mum and dad. An amazing wonderful never to be forgotten sight that I love returning to in my imagination.
So to collecting treasure – art and stuff …
Art is subjective. As well as elephants, you would definitely have to love magenta and want to make a big statement in a room to own The White Elephant. A painting you love may not appeal to someone else. One person’s treasure is another persons white elephant. Exciting.
Car booting is a favourite Sunday morning expedition. Treasure hunting in a field, Maisie gets lots of attention and dog biscuits from kindly fellow treasure hunters, who like me are gleefully clutching their new white elephants.
This summer I seem to have been making a collection of wooden boxes, I even found one with an elephant carved onto the lid. I don’t know why I am drawn to collecting boxes at the moment and I don’t really care, stables for white elephants perhaps, new treasures yet to be found.
Time to get up and go to the car boot, a walk at the Falls of Clyde then back to the studio for the rest of the day to work on a huge waterfall painting ….
Link to The White Elephant painting here
At art school a tutor commented that my brushes looked like they had been at war. A comment that stuck with me, but I did not really understand.
Twenty years later whilst painting I was listening to a Radio 4 programme on post traumatic stress disorder, previously known as shell shock and realised that I had grown up with a father with shell shock. A man blown up in Cyprus working for Special Forces. It came as a shock to me. A revelation – of course why had I not seen it before!? It was so totally obvious. The programme went on to talk about secondary PTSD, that growing up with someone suffering these conditions the child could/would inherit a version of the condition.
Another ten years have passed, I have done nothing with this knowledge apart from to consider it and be utterly grateful that I discovered Alexander Technique at the age of 24 beginning the process of letting go of holding within my system and understanding the incredible power of transformation that our thinking and awareness holds for us. The past thirty years without Alexander Technique seems totally unimaginable!
My dad died a year past, and I have been painting solidly as a way of coping with my grief and the shock and the freezing of my surface emotions that came with his revelation of cancer and painful passing. The only way I have been able to let go is to paint, unable to cry and with no-one about to hold me or comfort me, I channelled my whole self into art, painting and writing. (Having been a person who cries at Lassie movies my entire life this inability to cry really surprised me.)
It came to me the other day whilst painting that what I have been doing since a little girl, when I would hide in my bedroom and paint, is channelling war – channelling the aftermath, turning destruction into creativity, finding a way to stay me and hold my course, be in my life line, despite the reverberations, the echo waves, the explosions, the untransformed shock that these soldiers hold within, past war scenes and battle fields that would leak into a suburban household.
I stopped painting last week, suddenly utterly exhausted. I come out of this phase with the thought that my paintbrushes are my weapons of mass creation and that artists are totally necessary for our beautiful planet right now.
Please create – find ways of expressing your self, your ideas and inspirations, making connections – channeling what comes through you, listening deeply. Our job as artists I believe is to allow beauty, inspiration, truth, light, hope, healing, power, passion, the good stuff to shine through us.
So my war cry is – art warriors of the world rise up!
I truly believe your unique contribution is needed right now!
Enough of this nonsense about artists being mad or self indulgent or your art not being good enough. Art is healing on many many levels and this planet could do with some of that, the more the better methinks …
(written with love and tears)
As a painter my interest lies primarily in the process of painting – brush strokes, mark making, colour – the surface texture of paint, the flow of a line, the feel …
However, what lies behind the feel, flow and joy of painting is something I have started blogging about this year. That is, how my training as an Alexander Technique teacher influences my artwork. An influence much like the wind over the water that creates a wave … the breeze rustling the leaves of a tree … that invisible influence that changed my life and art. The awareness that the direction of my thinking influences me as I paint.
I am becoming more and more interested in what blocks and what allows creativity – yours and mine. I have been writing about it in my blogs on my website. The blogging becoming an important part of my art process this past year.
How does our thinking and sense of ‘self’ affect our artwork and creative minds?
I am sure the world needs unblocked creative thinkers right now!
An open flowing in the moment awareness and conscious balancing psycho-physical presence at the easel reveals something that is both palpable and recognisable to the viewer but at the same time mysterious and somewhat undefinable.You know ‘it is there’ but can’t quite put your finger on ‘it’ …
That mysterious thing was pointed out to me many years ago at an exhibition. Most of my paintings had ‘it’ a few didn’t. The visitor took me around my own exhibition and asked me what I had been thinking about and it struck me that she was absolutely right, the ones where I was truly present, without trying hard or thinking about the end result had a quality that was missing in others. They had it factor!
Since training as an Alexander Technique teacher in 1993 with the late Don Burton, my artwork has flowed. The unblocking of my ‘self’ and return to an easier balance allowed art to move through me, without me getting in my own way all the time. It is of course an ongoing challenge that keeps me going into the studio day after day. Life can be tricky and unhelpful habits can re – emerge. The question, how to stay in the flow, keeps the process of painting interesting and engaging.
As well as ‘presence’, another theme running through much of my work is portraying movement. I am moving at the easel, the natural world I am portraying is moving too! Kinaesthetic awareness in a ‘static’ painting. Seascapes have become the latest challenge to express this interest. The ephemeral quality of the sea and sky provides a huge challenge.
The sea is constant yet moving, light changing and influencing the vision and moment.
The body of water a metaphor for my own body, the light – the living soul.
How can I express the beauty and magnificence of what I see and feel?
A question that I will be working on for a long time.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk – art blog, free creativity e-course
www.kirstenharris.co.uk – alexander technique blog – the daily ease
Cartoon of negative chatter that gets in the way of creativity
I have been writing blogs! And it is interesting to me because it has now become part of the creative process. A bit of a revelation really and something I would recommend to any artist. Totally vulnerable making for sure, but it moves you through your ‘not good enough’ stuff and other unhelpful habits the moment you press PUBLISH. You move forward, learn about your process and despite blogging being solitary, as is painting, it is a fantastic way of connecting with people and the feedback is incredibly useful. Blogging has become part of my creative flow. I would never have thought in a million years that I would become a blogger! Blog on!
I am a painter and an Alexander Technique teacher, not a writer, but the challenge was set about a year ago to see if I could write about how AT influences and impacts on my art. It does for sure but writing about it?
So the title of this blog – well AT people and painters talk to themselves!
As an Alexander Technique passionista I am using my conscious thinking to maintain an easy upright stance. An internal and external present moment engagement. Helpful thinking that brings me to an easier loving sense of balanced self which is turn helps my painting!
As a painter there is a dialogue about which colour next, which mark, which brush to use … following the journey in something I am loving doing. The more I am loving the moment in paint and really comfortable in and with myself (thank you AT for changing my life) the better the result. People see something that they relate to.
Talking to myself in an AT way as I paint causes something to flow that works much better for me AND the artwork.
A line becomes an image becomes a day engaged in the present moment being creative and balancing in the ‘tension’ of it.
A bit like learning to drive … at first it is exhausting being so aware and concentrating on the road, but as you become proficient it becomes an easy habit. Painting with AT thinking driving the creative process is a habit for me. Folk come and visit and say ‘You have so much work!’ … as though it is not right! But what interests me is how artists get into the creative flow – unblock and become prolific.
I look at my paintbrushes( which do look as though I have ‘been at war’ as a tutor remarked way back at art school, nothing has changed there then!) and think – these are my weapons of mass creation! Surely that is what the world needs right now MASS CREATION. Individuals who are in the creative flow. Not locked up tight slumped in front of the TV thinking they are not good enough, not talented, not an artist in any way, filling in time with other peoples creative production instead of bringing their unique creativity out into the world!
So I will continue to talk to myself in my art stream and enjoy the moments of shared positive up flowing connection that the blogging brings too. Another creative layer, the writing informing the art from within and without.
It can be lonely being an artist … blogging connects.
The process of painting is fundamentally abstract – colour brushed onto surface.
So why are artists driven to abstraction? What is the motivation?
And does a painting gather energy – become real, gain a life force, by being seen by you?
Does a painting actually exist if no-one looks at it?
I have a theory that paintings gather energy over time by being looked at, until images, take Van Gogh’s sunflowers, become part of our consciousness. The dialogue that Vincent had with oil on canvas becomes a time and space that we share with him and part of our own visual language. The past act of painting becomes our present. It is simply there in our minds. Images to fall into. Spaces to contemplate and inhabit and mind about.
It is all a bit quantum and no science based arguments here … but I believe the act of looking at art has something very magical in it. Do paintings exist if no-one looks at them? (Sorrow for all the paintings locked in vaults and museum basements and not sharing their soul with people!)
In the abstraction of the act of painting, me the artist, sometimes stops clearly seeing the art work. This is why many of my paintings take years to finish. And I mean years. To work out the answer to the problem started. To find the end of the abstract story for the painting to become its own compete presence and have a ‘soul’ and talk to us in a way that I believe only real paintings can! A place for you to contemplate the abstract – that place that motivates me to show up and paint day after day, year after year. A kind of other world.
Computer generated art undoubtedly makes fantastic images, but the direct bodily relationship, that physical human transmission in the act of painting, I don’t really think is there. That undefinable presence.
This is why we still go to galleries and look at real art.
Standing in front of a painting we are able to talk directly to the artist.
Seeing through the artists eyes – seeing the surfaces, the images, the ideas.
What you are looking at is what the artist looked at, the very thing.
You can feel their soul, their life force, their physical energy.
Their hand and heart and thoughts transmitted through marks and colour, line and form onto canvas.
Their presence in time. That moment then, this moment now.
It is a gift. If you don’t live with a real painting, buy one and see what happens to you (I sell original oil paintings starting at £100 because I really want people to own real art. Small framed gems to contemplate) or go to galleries and be awed. Listen to the artist speak to you across time.
For me it is a two way passage – the mystery returns to me when you look at my art and talk to me about it.
By the time you are looking at it, the painting has its own life force that has nothing to do with me …
I was just part of the abstraction making it …
I showed up and used some of my time on planet earth doing it …
Now when you look at it – your dialogue, interpretation, desire or dislike for the work means I start to see it differently again.
You become part of it’s story too …
Is it talking to you?
Are you held, captivated as I was in the dialogue of paint and colour on canvas?
Is it finished?
Are you seeing things that I haven’t noticed?
Does what you feel about it mean you just have to own it?
If yes, the journey of the painting into the world begins …
How many years, centuries will it be out there?
How many people will look at it?
Will children grown up with these images and colours as part of their psyche?
How many hands will it pass through?
How many conversations will it provoke?
What will the painting witness?
This weekend a friend came to visit and the helpfulness of his eyes over my work was profound. His eyes just looking and honest feedback really helped me see my own work more clearly. I saw through his eyes. Paintings are meant to be a dialogue after all …
So PLEASE KNOW when YOU look at my work and have a response, you are adding energy to the painting.
I don’t need you to be nice and say it is good, JUST honestly look. The paintings have a life force of their own and your energy adds to it, our consciousness becomes shared.
A painting at its best opens a window onto another dimension that is really hard to describe in words …
A dimension that hopefully lasts over time and becomes part of the visual dimension of your life.
OK enough musings on art, back to the studio ….
I painted ‘Darwin’ about 15 years ago and kept him as I love his soulful eyes.
Might however put him into the next exhibition details below.
Exhibition starts this Friday …
In fact he may become the new poster boy as I sold the elephant on the flyer yesterday : )
I have just been offered another solo show. It will be my fourth this year and I have said yes.
Solo – alone! Yup, that is true! Me, my paints and my animals. But somehow when I am working I am not alone. Painting definitely bridges the gap between here and there and keeps me present moment present tense aware and in the flow. And so I work. No point being addicted to worrying about the future. Best just enjoy the journey as I have no idea where I am going, but it is probably to the studio!
Filling four galleries, plus organising a group exhibition and doing an open studio event has made me think of the expression ‘rising to the challenge’, as I crawl into bed for an hour with my computer before going out to teach an Alexander Technique group class this evening! Rising?Perhaps a bit of sinking for now!
Alexander Technique – Forward and Up! FUP! Why not rise to the challenge? FUP It!
Life wouldn’t present the opportunity if I couldn’t do it surely! So just show up and paint. Let the challenge rise me!
The breath breathes itself, we can consciously control it, but we don’t have to think about our every breath. My breath breathes me, why should the art not paint itself? Flowing like the breath onto the canvas. If I get out of my own way enough something interesting happens and the strange thing is that the more present I am to allowing painting, the more other people can recognise an undefinable but palpable quality. It sounds pretentious I know. But the reverse is also true, we can worry the paint to becoming an ugly muddy mess.
Allow painting, allow breathing, allow flow, allow solo … or resist – think the work is not good enough, that there is not enough time, hold the breath, lose trust, worry about lonliness …
Do I live life or does life live me?
Solo! So High!
Can’t wait to start painting again tomorrow …
Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) – Self Portrait as Skin from the Sistine Chapel
We all famously know that Michelangelo lay on his back to paint the magnificent Sistine Chapel. This has always intrigued me – how did he do that? As an Alexander Technique teacher it is appealing to think that he found some sort of blissful connection to his back, his lengthening and releasing spine, allowing his genius to pour out. Some kind of High Renaissance version of semi-supine, aka constructive rest, that allowed him to paint with ease.
As a painter I have always been dubious. It turns out that the fact that he lay on his back to paint is a myth. Michelangelo was not comfortable in his skin at all, as this fascinating poem shows and the Self Portrait as Skin also seems to reveal –
Michelangelo: To Giovanni da Pistoia
“When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel” 1509
I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy
(or anywhere else where the stagnant water’s poison).
My stomach’s squashed under my chin, my beard’s
pointing at heaven, my brain’s crushed in a casket,
my breast twists like a harpy’s. My brush,
above me all the time, dribbles paint
so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!
My haunches are grinding into my guts,
my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
My skin hangs loose below me, my spine’s
all knotted from folding over itself.
I’m bent taut as a Syrian bow.
Because I’m stuck like this, my thoughts
are crazy, perfidious tripe:
anyone shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.
My painting is dead.
Defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honor.
I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.
Michaelangelo describes in great detail the physical discomfort he was in, not lying on his back but squashed into a crazy distortion to do the work. It really does make more sense that he had to contort himself to create such an extraordinary feat on a ceiling.
He says being physically stuck is affecting his thoughts, that he doesn’t feel right, that he has lost his confidence as a painter – ‘anyone shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.’
I find this utterly fascinating and can relate to the lack of confidence that comes from being or feeing ‘screwed up!’ Simply put slumping and holding tension in the body effects the thinking processes and emotions.
Pyscho-physical unity of poise leads to more confidence and better thinking, as Michelangelo says – being in a bent stuck body leads to thinking that is ‘crazy, perdifious tripe!’
Learning Alexander Technique certainly released my creativity. During my training with the late Don Burton I would regularly go into the movement studio in an evening and paint and paint filling the walls with artwork overnight. The art had started to flow as the Alexander work released my ‘knotted and folded’ self.
I would suggest that anyone interested in developing their own creative process would do well to learn some Alexander Technique ‘Body Magic’ and lie on the floor and use the thinking like a magic paint brush. Learn to paint your own anatomy from the inside – exploring the shapes and contours, landscapes and places of your body with your mind to free into your unique creativity.
So does lying on your back makes you a better painter?
When I first came up with the blog idea title it made me titter in a very silly British humour kind of way! However, thinking about the question and discovering the poem by Michelangelo, I think it is a really useful question for painters and other creatives to think about. Maybe we don’t have the extraordinary genius and talent of Michaelangelo, but we can learn from him and recognise the truth in his words that being ‘stuck’ (tense, slumped, held, in pain, sore, physically contorted and out of balance) really does affect our thinking and our creativity and leave you, as he says, ‘not in the right place.’
Cartoon ‘The Zone’
Lying in semi supine to free up your creativity …
If you feel ‘a crooked blowpipe’ here is a link to a media download, BODY MAGIC, to be listened to lying down for you to work with – CLICK HERE
‘The Hallmarks of the Alexander Technique are creativity, spontaneity and adaptability to change.’ A.R. Alexander
Cartoon ‘Art and Anatomy’
(Me screwed up at art school!)
To do a good painting you have to be prepared to do a really, really shit one.
So here is how to do a truly terrible painting in oil paint and have a totally terrific time
Your painting should have gone through several truly terrible stages by now
8. Keep thinking about the thing you want to paint (seascapes for me) and imagine being on the beach and wonder why you are working in the studio today? Promise yourself a trip to the beach asap, you need a holiday! Art is a tough business!
9. Scrape paint off, squeeze more paint on. Repeat process. Repeat again. Try to forget how expensive oil paint is.
10. Start to wonder what the heck you are doing?! How on earth can you make such a terrible painting and wonder how this is ever going to come together? Totally embarrassing!
11. Be appalled by the fact that the horizon isn’t even straight!
12. Beat yourself up mentally a bit more and wonder if Van Gogh had such problems and then remember that he did and feel a bit better.
13. By now you have probably got oil paint on your face, your arms and your bum if you have been for a pee during the process.
14. Oh well ‘keep calm and carry on’ and then you think ‘What calm?!’ Art is about suffering and passion!’ Suffer baby suffer, feel the passion, go for it and paint some more.
15. Somewhat desperately you wonder if you could call on the dead for help and try psychically channeling Turner and Rembrandt to paint for you …
15. ‘Oh! Maybe that worked’ …. suddenly something starts to emerge from the flotsam and jetsam of smeary colour, a beautiful brush stroke, a delightful colour combo that is ‘talking’ to you and then suddenly – AHA there is a seascape!
16. Feeling really rather proud of your masterpiece you reward yourself with a sink full of washing up, because your hands are now so covered in paint, despite the rubber gloves, that they need a jolly good soaking even after several scrubbings. This is no problem for you as you have a terrible habit of using a new mug every time you have a cuppa so there is a tsunami of crockery waiting for your attention …
17. You go to the kitchen, feel appalled and uninspired by the total chaos at the sink, (I thought I washed up this morning) make another cuppa, decide not to wash up and go do another painting instead!
She paints seascapes …
Dreaming of Love
Oil and Sand on Canvas
23 x 30 cm
Beautiful Old Grey North Sea
Oil and Sand on Canvas
23 x 30 cm
How Far to the Other Side?
Oil and Sand on Canvas
23 x 30 cm
The Moon is Falling
Oil and Sand on Canvas
23 x 30 cm
Oil and Sand on Canvas
23 x 30 cm
Oil and Sand on Canvas
23 x 30 cm
Early Light, Oil and Sand on Canvas, 23 x 30 cm
Oil on Canvas
40 x 50 cm
Rain on the Beach
Oil and Sand on Canvas
Rain, Oil and Sand on Canvas, 40 x 50 cm
A Strange and Beautiful Place
Oil on Canvas
Oil on Canvas
40 x 50 cm
Life is Beautiful
Oil on Canvas
40 x 40 cm
Oil on Canvas
40 x 50 cm
Oil on Canvas
40 x 40 cm
Recently a friend suggested I like drama …I do!
As Shakespeare put it ‘All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts.’ (As You Like It)
I used to teach Alexander Technique to actors too – I loved that job and the drama students that I worked with.
So, guilty as charged, give me a good drama with great dialogue and I am happily entertained, especially if it has a joyful, illuminating or interesting ending.
Up until painting in the studio today, I have always seen myself as enthusiastic audience for stage or screen production. Today I recast myself as star of my own production – the drama of art. Well why not … funny thoughts come to you when you are painting.
Today as I worked on a huge very colourful painting of a running cheetah that I started about 15 months ago and abandoned for as long, it came to me that being an artist really isn’t so different to being in theatre … creativity in all its forms is full of drama, pathos, tragedy, comedy, adventure, surprises …
As an artist you are of course the producer and director of your own scene aka a painting, but also the hero or villain of the piece depending on how it plays out.
Your painting can become a stage set for life in someone’s home.
A great painting invites you to look at it over and over and allows a dialogue of thoughts to unfold in the viewers mind over time. A great painting holds the viewer in front of it and even changes a persons breathing. Watch people at an exhibition – you will see it – captured and entranced, the breathing deepens and slows, perhaps something akin to love.
Some paintings are like action movies, in production they unfold rapidly. It is exciting. The excitement and movement recognisable to the viewer. Energy transmitted. When I am the producer of that kind of painting I can say that my direction has been clear. I knew exactly what I wanted, was organised and focussed. I allowed the painting to emerge and enjoyed myself hugely. The painting itself becomes the hero of the action.
Other paintings are like soaps – they go on for months, sometimes years. I did some work on a painting that is at least ten years old today, it is still not finished. It is definitely a soap opera kind of painting – a creation scene with lots of animals swirling in a vortex. These soap opera paintings teach you lessons about art along the way. These paintings are problems waiting to resolve. Every time you spend time at a soap opera painting you leave dissatisfied – oh well next episode I might find out what happens. You rarely do! But it is great fun making all those bits of story line – painting over and over, reworking the same image in a slightly different way.
Other paintings are episodes in a long running series of paintings, complete stories in themselves but starring the same cast, for example Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Munch’s the scream series or Monet’s garden scenes.
And of course there are cartoons and animations. Simply narratives where anything can happen. The madder or more exaggerated the better. Drawings can be just a rough or scratchy stick person, it doesn’t matter – just a great idea played out.
Now to the villain – sometimes paintings are simply bad!
They have to be painted over, destroyed, abandoned, discarded. After you have tried to nurture, coax, reform and bargain with the painting and failed miserably several times, you only have one option – to just give up and put it down to experience. Chucking away all that time can feel like failure.
So before you give up on a painting – fight the good fight with all thy might – with your sword – your pen, crayon, chalk or brush, and use these paintings to make a right old mess of things. It is liberating and something interesting might happen!
Hope it helps thinking about art as a drama?
What dramas are you having with your creativity?
So to the colouring book – how does one introduce the concept of a free neck, prone, supine, whispered ah and other Alexander Technique goodies to kids in a fun way?
Animals are such wonderful teachers … so it’s doggies or dog ease!
These drawings are relatively simple but I am liking the simplicity.
I think I could add more words such as poise, awareness, rest, letting go etc but I will leave that to whoever is working with the book …
Hopefully this page says enough?
I am sure that as an older child and teenager, if I had been encouraged to roll about and rest on the floor as I had as a very young child, I would have avoided the pain I found myself in by the time I hit my early 20’s!
It was the Alexander Technique that was my life saver!
So I guess this colouring book is a bit of a mission …
Hope I am rising to the challenge?
Ok! Back to the drawing board!
To order email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Maisie and Me in the Field!
What is The Field of Intention, other than the name of my next painting exhibition and workshop that I will be giving at The Findhorn Foundation’s Moray Art Centre later this year.
The Field of Intention is my name for the magical creative IT!
It is not only an internal direction – that is a psycho-physical direction that profoundly effects all of you – bringing you into ease but also a simple clear focus.
The Field of Intention is to do with time, amongst other things. Time is magical – infinite, limited, cyclical. The Field of Intention is a magical place that creatives inhabit. Being in it is part of what drives artists to create. We want to be there, because it feels great, mysterious, exciting and wonderful …. and the results are surprising. The creative buzz lives in the Field of Intention.
You can inhabit it too …
Because I completely believe that EVERY BODY IS CREATIVE.
You live in a miraculous creative body and any lack of creativity is just caused by blocks, habits, old stuff. Simply put if you are not feeling creative you have got in your own way!
My 30 years experience as an explorer and teacher of FM Alexander’s discoveries and career as a selling artist has led me to being asked to bring the two together and teach how Alexander Technique and the flow of creativity work together. I have began writing about creativity and my own creative process over this last year. This is a work in progress, challenging and exciting!
Simply put, to activate the Field of Intention, first you set your direction then you cast your attention forward in time like a spell and allow things to start to line up. Time opens out and the space of The Field is available to you. Then you just show up and get on with it. You give yourself a spell of time to be creative.
It is so simple yet difficult too!
A dichotomy and a bit of a conundrum that takes skill and awareness.
On the one hand it is a lifetime practise and on the other totally available to you right now! It is intriguing, beguiling, bewitching and bemusing and befuddling at times too but totally worth exploring and activating.
Deciding what you want to do can be tricky. We have so many choices that sometimes we simply forget to choose or can’t decide or won’t commit or are scared to.
Another problem is that many people are not living in a way that they can line up with the flow. The psycho-physical mechanism of creativity is out of balance and they have no idea how to activate it.
The magic wand of manifestation, the spine, is out of tune …
Not functioning correctly …
This is where deeply understanding the brilliance of Alexander’s discoveries comes in and why training in the Alexander Technique helped me.
Alexander Teachers can help you tune up your ‘magic wand’ and things start to work again. For me the creative tap completely turned on during my three year Alexander Technique training course with the late great Don Burton. It has not turned off since. Learning Alexander Technique activated my art.
By learning to trust your Field of Intention you open to being a visionary, a seer – a focused flowing creative thinker.
The world needs creative thinkers right now ….
Forward and Up!
All winter Crazy Maisie Cockerpoo and I have walked around the field behind my house. I walked, she ran and ran and tirelessly chased her ball.
‘Be more Maisie!’ My new motto since she came into my life!
All winter I have had the thought that I could do an entire exhibition based on this one field. Every day it changes – the sky, the clouds, weather, light conditions, plant growth, colour. I love the trees – old beech trees, gnarled scots pines, a little stream running down the side, sometimes deer, hare – old land.
Today I was meditating on ‘father time’ before my walk.
Have I enough time to do all the paintings I want to do in the amount of time I have? Of course … I decided!
Time is magical … set your direction, cast your intention forward in time like a spell and it will all line up. Time opens out and the space is available.
Then you just do it, show up. A spell of time to paint.
In the field this morning seeing the first dandelion clocks of the year I remembered I was walking amongst them last year when mum phoned to say dad had died in hospital in Portugal.
Time passes … Ethereal clocks.
The just completed seascape exhibition has been an incredible healing journey.
An emotional voyage.
The emotion palpable in the paintings.
I know it and visitors to the exhibition commented on it.
Today I have decided that I will base my new work for my next exhibition on the field and call it Field of Intention. It will be an exhibition of landscapes and seascapes.
Perhaps metaphorically I have landed on earth again after the voyage of grief.
Intention set, the new work can begin … time to see what happens next!
Field of Intention
Exhibition of Landscapes and Seascapes
Moray Art Centre
Exhibition runs from 29th August – 1 October
Directions, Oil on Canvas, 21 x 26 cm, framed.
Below are some oil paintings that I love that are available for £100 each!
I don’t know about you, but I love to travel and so do my paintings …. they are adventurous creatures!
Here is my choice of little gems who want to launch themselves onto planet earth and travel the seven seas for a few hundred years!
The beauty of the internet and wold wide shipping is that art can travel in search of new homes easily …
Anyone who knows me will know that I love selling original oil paintings at affordable prices …
As well as being unique, originals have endurance and longevity …
They have a life force of there own …
In fact I have a bit of a bee in my proverbial bonnet about the joy of owning real art rather than commercial prints!
And if you are looking for something bigger to make a statement and create some wow factor in your home please follow the link here …
Ice Cream Seaside, Oil on Canvas, 21 x 26 cm
Mysterious Forces, Oil on Canvas, 21 x 26 cm
Tidal, Oil on Canvas, 21 x 26 cm, Framed
The Rock and the Sea, Oil on Canvas, 21 x 26 cm
Directions, Oil on Canvas, 21 x 26 cm, Framed
The Moon Cometh, Oil and Sand on Canvas, 21 x 26 cm
Fire and Water, Oil and Sand on Canvas, 21 x 26 cm
Morning Mood, Oil and Sand on Canvas, 21 x 26 cm
Tidal, Oil and Sand on Canvas, 21 x 26 cm
For more £100 paintings CLICK HERE
These paintings can travel world wide and are only £100 each. (with a little additional cost for shipping)
Me age 19 (hair and photo by Kevin Dalton Johnston)
When I was younger I was accused of being ARTY FARTY!
It was the 80’s for goodness sake, you were MEANT to be Arty Farty!
Now the night before my exhibition I am wondering whatever happened to Miss Arty Farty?
Why …because she has a party to go to aka her own art exhibition and a wooly hat and jeans ain’t going to cut it!
Time to think about what I am going to wear …
A rare opportunity to dress up … (country bumpkin goes to town)
Time to get out of the studio and into glamorous beautiful Edinburgh!
So, I am sitting here this evening wondering what the hell happened to the Arty Farty girl who loved … loved … loved dressing up?
Oh! That’s right! I wanted to be an actual artist, not just a poser!
And actual art, painting in oils, is not the most glamorous job in the world, in fact grimy would be a good description.
Today teaching Alexander Technique at school, before finishing hanging the exhibition, one of the 15 year old girls burst into class and announced –
‘I am going to be on The Voice! It is meant to be a secret, but I am rubbish at keeping secrets. I am so excited! Live your dreams, that’s my motto, and my dreams are coming true!’
We all clapped.
Her excitement was joyous.
Well I guess I have been living my dream too.
When I was 15 I wanted a horse and I wanted to be an artist.
That was it.
I have worked hard painting seascapes for this exhibition with the big hope I can improve the conditions for my horse.
My dream – I want to build an arena …
My field of dreams …
So that we have somewhere safe to ride …
Somehow I have lost my desire to ride on the road – too many cars with too little consideration for animals!
So roll on tomorrow, it is time to dress up and sell some art ….
I am excited and as I was reminded by my pupil today – I am living my dream.
The exhibition is looking good, Jenny’s and my work compliment each other beautifully.
Hope to see you at Sea and the City!
Original oil paintings from £100 at the exhibition and via website – www.kirstenharrisart.com World wide shipping by arrangement.)
Golden Firefly, Oil on Canvas, 120 x 150 cm
Many years ago the famous Zimbabwean silversmith Patrick Mavros gave me some advice …
‘When you hang an exhibition take everything you could possibly need with you! Don’t arrive and then ask the gallery to borrow a hammer or a ladder or a pair of scissors. It is really unprofessional. Turn up and hang your exhibition with minimum fuss. It sounds obvious but the advice will stand you in good stead.’
Today I am going to rent a van and take my seascapes exhibition to town – beautiful Edinburgh.
I AM organised –
Paintings painted and framed
Music system loaded
Bubble wrap on stand by
Wine bought! …. One of the few jobs where throwing a party IS part of the job!
The only thing left to do is buy more red dots!
The red dot, the joyful symbol that a painting is SOLD!
I love red dots!
I am feeling happy and optomistic today as I sold 4 paintings from my website yesterday … unexpectedly!
And even better they are paintings that I was not taking to the exhibition including Golden Firefly. A beautiful leopard looking at a red dot! Ok, it’s a firefly really!
(I am fascinated by the implied movement and poise between the firefly and leopard and have painted three different versions over the years. Blog link here ‘Why do artists repeat themselves?’)
I hope you will come to our exhibition … I am celebrating already!
There is real joy when someone loves your work and wants to hang it in their home.
I am excited about the long day ahead hanging paintings …
And delighted that Golden Firefly is off to the picture framers on my way into town, it is a very big painting and I can utilise the van …
I started wondering why the expression going round in circles is seen as a negative, a frustrating state of being, rather than being seen as wonderful art form, a metaphor for life in a positive way?
Art history tells us the story of the Italian painter Giotto di Bondone (1266-1337) being asked by a messenger to send an example of his work to Pope Bonniface V111 for a commission for St Peters. Giotto quickly formed a perfect circle in red paint to send to the pope, much to the messengers shock. The pope recognised the genius of the perfect circle and awarded Giotto the commission.
In Japanese brush painting one is taught to practise the Zen Circle – repeating the flow of brush on paper. True presence in the moment shown by the whiteness of the paper and the blackness of the ink – they both become truer by your intention, your ‘warmed heart’.
Riding circles on a horse, truthfully and in balance is a high art form. It takes awareness, thought, physical balance, practise, for both horse and rider.
A ‘still’ point of togetherness is sought. At its best the practise becomes invisible. I think circles and Angus, my horse, moves in the thought. So many images for paintings yet unpainted when I ride.
On Easter Sunday as I cracked open my boiled egg with friends, old and new, I asked for transformation. I got it. I rode Angus for the first time in months and my back cracked up. Ouch, but good, it needed to! Transformation can be uncomfortable! We can’t change and stay the same.
Despite hurting for a few hours, the release and contraction my body experiences is an invitation for me to perfect my own circle. My circle is not a good circle at the moment. I am tired from an intense period of painting in the cold. My circle has become small, my muscle spirals tight over the winter. Time to expand.
So where to start? I start by finding the dot, the still point, the centre of the circle and practice spiralling out from there. In my thought, then my movement.
I lie in semi supine, constructive rest, then flow forward into the movement that is life. Let myself move in spirals and circles, not in straight lines. Too much linear thinking and movement is not a good thing!
About a year ago I was teaching Alexander Technique to another rider, who had done exactly the same thing to her lower back riding her horse. We released her back quickly. My back has released quickly. I was reminded of my pupil as I had said to her a year ago – ‘This is a portal, drop in through the pain and you will come out in another place.’
So my questions?
Can I/you draw a perfect circle?
Can I/you walk a perfect circle?
Can I/you think a perfect circle?
It is high art!
This week I fell through a crack in my physicality – tension contracting the whole. Now I must let myself fall onto the ground, perfect planet earth, to re seek the dot, the starting point for all creation, out of which the whole is born.
The dot, my infinite ‘still’ point, the balance of my head atop my spine.
Thank you back for cracking up and inviting me to stop and find the radius of a new circle, a wider field of depth and attention for my new intention and my new creativity.
I am looking forward to the continuing going round in circles in life and thinking up to keep re finding the centre of it all.
It’s difficult and it is so simple too. A dot and a circle. That is all!
Inspired by Giotto!
Forward and Up!
(More information and a recorded talk through on letting go of back pain, click here
More information on Alexander Technique and horse riding click here)
‘Stress Puppy’ by Kirsten Harris
I chose to paint seascapes for my upcoming exhibition partly because I have sold every seascape I have ever made and I hope to increase my chance of success!
The reason I desire to sell well is to fund my next project, which is likely to take many months to complete and be a ‘gift to the universe life mission’ project.
The project is to finish illustrating an Alexander Technique book for children and teenagers that literally downloaded into my head about three years ago.
Strange but true!
It is a monster, fun, quirky, piece of writing.
The high school kids I teach love it. (I don’t think they are just being polite and kind!)
I have tried it out on them, and they are determined for me to ‘get it out there’ as they are sure it will help other kids get through school and life as the Alexander Technique has helped them.
My next art job is to hone my inner cartoonist!
All about letting the line flow simply to tell a story ….
I am writing about my motivation behind my up coming exhibition to boost my confidence and strength of intention to sell and so the ‘angels of abundance’ know what the plan is!!
And because, to be honest, I am feeling a bit like this cartoon at the moment. A Stress Puppy Artist!
A bit of fear creeping in at the last minute. Not helpful, but human!
Time to transform fear to excitement. To be confident having put my heart and soul into painting all winter.
I keep waking up in the morning thinking maybe the big paintings are all too grey and blue, and then the next thought is that grey and blue are bang on trend for interior design and I loved painting them so TRUST! TRUST! TRUST!
Time to let it go and focus on THE BOOK manifesting after the exhibition ….
Let it Flow …
Original seascape oil paintings from £100 – £2000
Many are available to view on my website Click Here
Please email me for more information or come to the exhibition, it would be wonderful to see you.
Sea and the City, 26 – 30 April 2017, Dundas Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh.
I have been hand painting wooden boxes and furniture using sailor tattoo imagery as the source of inspiration, in particular referencing the work of the American tattoo artist Norman Keith Collins (January 14, 1911 – June 12, 1973) known as Sailor Jerry.
So here is the symbolism behind the sailor tattoo imagery I have been slowly painting onto boxes, sea chests and small pieces of furniture …. A contrast in activity to the frenzy of oil painting seascapes.
Swalllow – that a sailor has sailed 5000 nautical miles for each swallow tattooed
Anchor – stability and security
Rope – hold fast, a deck hand
Rigged Sailing Ship – sailed around the Cape of Good Horn
Heart – love, dagger through the heart – broken heart
Mermaid – the dangers of the sea and life, potent female energy
Compass – Making way safely home, direction, protection, getting through rough waters
Octopus – Complexity, diversity, mystery, vision, camouflage, illusion
Sea Horse – Symbol of strength and power, connected to Posiedon and Neptune
Red Rose – love
Key – luck, knowledge and success, freedom and liberation
Shells – love and fertility
All pieces and more will be for sale at my upcoming exhibition Dundas Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh 26 – 30 April 10 – 6pm
Cartoon self portrait of me at art school in the 80’s!
One of the things you learn at art school is how to survive constructive criticism and turn a negative into a positive, a creative solution!
This is why for many art school is an ‘abusive’ environment and many art school graduates never paint again. Or give up for years … It is a challenging path!
At art school in the 80’s you were ‘deconstructed’, but the tutors often forgot to ‘reconstruct’ you at the end of the process. (My Alexander Technique teacher training later did that for me!)
However, artists become creative thinkers because of the rigours of constructive criticism. They look for alternatives, they become truth seekers, they can turn a heap of junk into something beautiful. They look beyond the ‘hurtful’ words and move forward. You learn to stop taking criticism personally and carve out a new path.
So, you are sitting at your easel and a tutor creeps up behind you and says stuff like
You feel anger, annoyance, despair, disheartened, but you never give up. Somehow in this clumsy but honest process the brain starts to seek new solutions, creativity is hatched. Determination is born. A ‘fuck it’ attitude of ‘I am doing it anyway’ starts to emerge. ‘I am going to trust my own process’, develops inside you.
Art is not ‘wanky’ as I was recently informed, but an intense road to self discovery that demands vulnerability, determination and guts. Finding creative solutions to sticky problems and disagreement is what you are trained to do. A development of your creative brain in order to survive the assault course of constructive criticism that is art school. The constructive criticism is not personal – it is another artists attempt to get you to think by challenging your perspective. Being good at art is not the most important thing to be an artist, developing the ‘fuck it there must be a way to do this’ attitude probably is!
Any one think creative solutions might be useful right now?
Perhaps one day artists will not be seen as ‘self indulgent’ and ‘mad’ but having something out of the ordinary to say …
May artists rule the world!
Check out my free creativity e-course link below
Feel free to come and give me your constructive criticism at my up coming exhibition ‘Sea and the City’ with Jennifer Court at the Dundas Gallery, 6 Dundas Gallery, Edinburgh 26 – 30 April 2017 10 – 6 pm
Forward and Up!
I took this photograph driving home over the Lang Wang from Edinburgh on Saturday, April !st.
April Fools Day!
Driving towards this angelic cloud was so amazing I had to stop … a watery formation, an energy shifting…
A moment to listen for the message from The Fool!
It is time for an energy shift for me … time to let go …
Time to put down the paintbrushes, let the oil paints dry and do other aspects of the job of hanging an exhibition i.e. marketing!
I used to find marketing relatively easy, but with the advent of social media have found it increasingly difficult. Weird but true!
I have had to learn to overcome my shyness and fear of Facebook and put myself out there. Be prepared to make a fool of myself …
That is what this ongoing blog has been about …
Letting social media be part of the art process …
Widening the creativity …
I have thoroughly enjoyed writing. A revelation!
I haven’t written about art since art school, and I have loved the start of this new journey.
First writing my free creativity course – link at bottom of this page
and then keeping a diary of an exhibition …
So April – time to let a new energy guide me forward and up …
Spring up and out of the dark cold winter months …
The exhibition will be of wintery waves, grey and cold … dramatic and stormy …
The benefit of painting in freezing conditions is that the oil fumes have not effected my lungs! Thank god!
Now it is warming up, the fumes are becoming harder for me.
It would be foolish to continue …
Time to STOP …. let my bones warm up, my energy increase, my body spring up into spring and BREATHE!
I have worked hard over the winter …
I have enough paintings!
(Anyone who knows me will know that is a very difficult sentence for me to believe, as an artist never gets it done … an inner drive always pushing, pushing, pushing!)
Time to look forward to five days at the end of this month meeting real people in the real world at my exhibition.
When another person looks at my artwork, I see the painting differently …
I look through your eyes …
You teach me and I move forward ….
When you love a painting the painting transforms …
We become connected in a magical way …
It is a strange thing …
That is why I like hosting an exhibition in person, meeting people is a huge part of the process for me. The audience informs the work. I love the connection.
I paint with love and passion, I never know what the work will look like.
When you find something you love in the work it always amazes me.
Passion connects us.
Love Guides Me Forward and Up!
I give myself permission to stop … to let go!
Art – a state of trusting the process – no matter how weird!
I have started previewing some of the paintings for sale in the landscape and seascape section of this website. Click here
Hopefully see you at the Dundas Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh
April 26 – 30th
10am – 6pm
I often get asked – How do I create the feel of movement in my paintings?
So I thought I would attempt to write a ‘HOW TO’ blog!
How to create movement in a painting –
Hope that helps : )
‘The Moon Woke Me’
150 x 100 cm
To be exhibited at Dundas Gallery, Edinburgh in 26 – 30 April 2017.
Wind and Waves
120 x 100 cm
To be exhibited at Dundas Gallery in Edinburgh in 26 – 30 April 2017.
120 x 100 cm
Oil on Canvas
For Sale (click here.)
120 x 100 cm
Oil on Canvas
80 x 100 cm
Currently available on website (click here)
Please contact me for more details …
How come some days I paint well, easily, in the flow… some days I surprise myself and paintings show up, arrive into life and other days painting is clunky, the paint goes muddy, the image unformed, lack lustre?
I have been thinking about it as I am running out of time to paint this exhibition and this is what I have come up with… I recognise that it is when I am in two minds about something that art struggles!
I took yesterday afternoon off to stop and tune in to myself Alexander Technique style as carrying on painting rubbish is not an option!
We have our everyday habitual chitter chatter mind and we have inspiration, a higher state of conscious flow … (for want of a better description).
If there is something bothering me in my everyday thinking it clouds the inspirational mind, it clogs the flow … just as much as a sore neck might ruin the day, a nagging annoyance does so too, and if we keep ignoring the white noise of our chitter chatter we lose the flow and become uptight anyway!
We have to deal with stuff, and that takes courage!
The artist as warrior not worrier!
This is harder than we may think … it takes self awareness, listening skills, honesty, vulnerability, trust …
We dismiss the background noise as unimportant –
‘I am just being silly’ …
‘There is no need for me to get worked up by that nonsense’ …
‘It will go away if I ignore it!’.
‘So and so will think badly of me if I make a fuss!’ ….
‘I can’t decide whether it is a good idea or not … I am in two minds’
Yet it persists, like an annoying tune, the persistent irritation sticks in our head for days, it gets louder and more distracting, more disturbing …
The art, whatever the form it takes, does not come through as a clear signal …
We are trying to paint when the mental receiver is out of tune …
An old fashioned image, but we become like a radio picking up two radio stations at once, the thoughts of our two minds come in and out of focus …
It is exhausting, confusing and uninspiring …
I get grumpy when I am like this!
No wonder the poor paint gets muddy, the image ugly!
No wonder I can’t find completion of the piece!
Learning to paint, or any other creative endeavour, I truly believe calls for us to listen deeply, not only to our higher self but to the sometimes white noise, chalk on a black board, chitter chatter of our thinking.
When we become consciously aware of the background noise, we come into tune and can decide whether we want to listen to that station and respond accordingly or chose something else …
Now we have choice!
Now we have action!
When we truly listen to the everyday mind and get clear, then the inspirational mind seems to tune in and delight …
Creativity as one mind …
Yup, I don’t mind that … That is work in progress!
‘Fire and Water’
Oil and Sand on Canvas
A little painting that arrived quickly, in he flow and took me by surprise!
Free Creativity course – link below ….
(A small and large painting framed, wrapped and ready to go!)
It turns out size matters …
I can do big
Big excites me
Big is a challenge to be enjoyed
Something to build up to and explore
Big is fun
Big is an experience
Big demands your attention
And I get thrilling intimate pleasure from a small size
But that in-between size is just not doing it for me
Something about scale and intent …
Big and I have to really open up and out, spread out my intention, really use my legs and arms and eyes to move across the scale …
Small and I can use my imagination and dive into the space and discover interesting moments
Find delicacy and finesse
Small is an invitation to come in and savour exquisite moments in time
Small is beautiful
But that inbetweeny size seems less exciting
Too predictable perhaps?
Or perhaps just too habitual, too normal, too everyday …
Too much what we are used to seeing …
The trouble is most people want medium, people understand medium
People seem to have a problem with housing big, goodness knows why!
Big makes a statement
Creates a sensation
Big has wow factor
Small is interesting, an invitation to envision and contemplate a private space …
Small is a meditation …
However I am going to really have to get to grips with medium to get this show on the road!
(The crazy things that occur to me when struggling with a medium size painting!)
Somehow I have to find a way through the grinding pressure I am feeling today and get myself out into the cold and paint …
I don’t have – to I want to …
I have committed to paint an exhibition by the end of April …
It is a clear intention!
I can’t let blinding, distracting, deathly boring, unfulfilling, monstrous stress get in the way – all that pressure can F**K off!
There is plenty of everything, including time, and I am claiming it for art.
I remember after surgery nice people telling me I would be able to paint while I recovered. ‘You’re having a laugh’ I thought as I smiled sweetly back.
Painting in oils is not a polite activity, a genteel pursuit. It is demanding, grimy and difficult.
If you want to fast track to self awareness, warts and all, pick up a paintbrush and let it be your magical wand of transformation! I am not kidding, give it a go – paint!
Today I am simply tired, yet I have the space and time to paint. I have freedom to paint. It is a gift. All that is required is that I stretch my energetic direction and find the wave that will take me forward…
The flow thrown up by the sea that I can surf for the rest of the day without having to do any more than show up, be present, balance on the wave and allow ….
How difficult can that be?
I choose to paint … watch this space!
Oil and Sand on Canvas
Painting the sea … It all comes back to flow
This watery world we live in
Surrounded by water … in the air, the ground, our bodies …
Little Britain, our island
We are destroying our clean waters, our clean seas
We are destroying our bodies
Beguiling sea – you are destructive and dangerous … beautifully calm
The theme of the sea for art gets bigger, and more overwhelming, like the sea itself
Despite my fears and inadequacies I will paint the sea
Even the word ‘despite’ has it’s roots in water – spit, bile …
Green water, jealous of other artists brilliance …
Harmful thoughts, totally unhelpful
I fall over on the rocks, slip on the seaweed and jar my back thinking that thought!
Despite myself I paint the sea
The wave of my life has value too!
How to capture a wave, a drop in the ocean?
It feels impossible.
Wave upon wave as my arm freely swings up to the canvas
Brush reaching the shore of the image
A sweep of intention, of colour
Free like the sea
Be the ocean not a rock!
The sea just keeps rolling in, flowing, does the sea get tired?
Each wave different, inspiring, gone …
Each wave like a heart beat … precious
Just show up … get up and go out to the cold studio …
Let the wave of desire for the sea roll over you and carry you forward
Despite myself I paint the sea …
Oil and Sand on Canvas
8.5 x 10 inches (framed)
Oil on Canvas
80 x 100 cms
Yesterday I decided to look at old unresolved canvases and see if I could do a paint over.
This canvas has two under paintings – hidden ghosts.
First incarnation was a kind of fantasy landscape done about 3 years ago, with hare filled fields and hares flying in the sky! Um, no it did not work!
Paint over number two – I attempted turning the crazy green harescape into a seascape a few weeks ago, at the same time using up what ever old paint was on my palettes.
The result was no more landscape and the beginning of some sort of seascape, inspired by my trip to Catterline and visit to the Joan Eardley exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.
I wanted texture and looseness. Old drying colour is good for getting lumps, bumps and crusty surfaces. I also threw sand onto some areas of the foreground.
The result was quite messy but with some interesting bits emerging.
I then dumped the painting in the pony field shelter and forgot all about it for weeks. I wanted it out of the way as there was a lot of paint on the surface and did not want to be breathing the fumes as they cured and had no idea how to proceed.
A couple of days ago I spotted the canvas again, amazed that Walter hadn’t knocked it over and trampled it under hoof. He is a very curious and fearless mini shetland pony! But obviously respects art! (Check out link – Angus and Walt Horse Artists on FB!)
Yesterday I wondered if I could resolve the image.
I cut open the remains of a big tube of buff oil paint and decided to pull the image together with one colour whilst using up the dregs of paint.
Waste not want not … So my granny told me!
Then I scratched into the paint and wiped away to reveal bits of the under painting and added a bit more colour and detail.
The result is a textural surface and a fairly abstract image.
Today I feel happy with it.
Will I do more?
I am blogging about over painting as encouragement to not throw the crappy paintings away. You never know what they will become if you have the courage to do a seemingly destructive thing and paint over!
(The title – Influence – the moons influence over the sea and the tides in our bodies and our influence over each other, often positive, sometimes destructive.)
And then a couple of weeks later, I painted over it again – and it became this
‘The Old Man and the Sea’
The new title that came to me today
Releasing art flow
Muscles as water
I paint the sea and become the ocean
Body 70 percent water
Frozen body freeing to a flowing tidal wave of art
The heart my art
Muscles releasing – contracting to release again
Finally bouncing like the brush on the stretched canvas
Spring is springing
Warming my heart, earth
Love and art
Flexing art’s muscle
Tight or toned?
Held or free?
Lengthening muscles into the art
Releasing art muscle into the flow
The heart of all that is matter
Muscles flowing as spirals
Tight muscles tight art!
Long free ecstatic muscles flowing into art
Paint brush spiralling freely from my back
From the energising out breath
Loving the feel
The way I feel
A tidal wave through my body onto canvas
Energy in motion
Given away, no expectation of return, just explored right now
I am free to dance the paint
Egg Morning on the Beach
Oil on Canvas
40 x 50 cms
‘Sometimes there are Rainbows’
Oil on Canvas
40 x 50 cms
‘Be yourself everyone else is taken.’ Oscar Wilde
This is great advise for any artist and I found myself saying words to that effect out loud in the studio a couple of days ago.
‘This is MY painting’ I exclaimed!
The reason for my outburst was that other artists had got into my head and it was NOT helpful.
Looking at art is great, being inspired is fantastic, but when it comes down to it we need to turn up in the moment and be ourselves.
Just let go and make art!
How hard can that be?
So simple yet a work of conscious awareness.
I know when I am making art and when I am just making pictures – there is a difference, it is a lot to do with my thinking.
Am I right here right now responding to the colour and canvas?
Or am I interfering by ‘watching’ myself doing the painting, trying hard to do something good rather than simply enjoying painting, feeling it, being it, judgement and everything else suspended for now.
This painting caused the outburst ‘It is my painting!’ and that outburst was me claiming me.
The painting arrived.
I wanted to paint a rainbow seen at the beach at North Berwick on Sunday.
Could I paint a rainbow without it being naff or cutesy?
The title came too …
‘Sometimes there are Rainbows.’
Sometimes there are rainbows in our thinking …
In other words like the clouds, rain and sun that creates rainbows, a combinations of emotion, flow and energy creates gaps in our habitual thinking that allows something magical and unexpected to happen … rainbows out of the blue, delightful always.
This is a painting that seemed to paint itself because I got out of the way and let it happen.
No matter what we think of our creative results – these rainbow moments of surprise in our creativity methinks are to be honoured and cherished.
As Edgar Degas said
‘Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.’
Try letting go to make art … just be you!
You might surprise yourself with some rainbow moments in your creative passion.
Find a link to a free 8 day based creativity e-course – Let Go Make Art – Link below.
Written to free up your creative thinking combining art and Alexander Technique. It’s fun …
‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’
I have been struggling with that ‘not good enough’ habit!
A habit that I am convinced for many of us started at school when we were told, as some kind of weird encouragement, that our work was ‘not good enough’ or to ‘try harder.’
Words that for many of us result in instant neck tightening tension habits.
Can you feel tension or tightening right now if you think about being ‘not good enough’ or ‘trying harder’?
My up-coming exhibition in April is in the ‘best’ street in Edinburgh for art, the Edinburgh version of Cork Street in London, and because of this daft value judgement a nasty little insidious voice in me has been taunting –
‘Your work’s not good enough!’
‘Who do you think you are?’
‘You are going to make a giant fool of yourself.’… and other horrible scary jibes.
Do you recognise any of these getting in the way of your art making fun, destroying your creativity?
So I have been asking the question – not good enough for what?
Not good enough to play with paint on canvas or paper?
Is that true?
Little children don’t worry about paintings being ‘not good enough!’
It is when ‘grown ups’ start to teach them to ‘keep paint within the lines’ and ‘be neat not messy’ that the ‘not good enough’ starts to set in.
‘If you find a voice within you that says you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.’
Vincent Van Gogh
So my thought for silencing the ‘not good enough’ habit is to paint paint paint …
Cover canvas as fast as I can …
Any way I like …
Music on, dancing with colour …
Playing with feel and pressure of brush stroke …
That is all …
Like a child!
Picasso again ….
‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.’
To paint like a child!
Art is a worthwhile journey – we can get out of our own way, let go of thinking habits that do not serve us and paint like a child.
So easy and yet so challenging with our ego based comparative habits rearing there ugly little heads and ruining the fun.
So my question now, when I hear that creepy ‘not good enough’ thought form, is to ask the rebellious childlike question – Not good enough for what?!
photo – Yes, I am a very messy painter!
Hmmm, good enough or not good enough? Who cares! It is the way I work! : )
Perhaps you would like to try me free Alexander Technique inspired 8 day creativity e-course? It’s fun. Link below …
‘Good artist copy, great artists steal!’
I want to steal the clouds, capture them, own them, trap them on canvas …
I am obsessed by clouds.
My friend it turns out is jealous …
‘I wish the the clouds did it for me like they do it for you. I don’t even notice them.’
There was silence between us for a while as we drove along contemplating each others experience of life – mine wowing and ooo-ing at the clouds, each journey or day experienced through the sky, her assurance that most people don’t bother noticing!
It is my new obsession … to learn to paint the clouds … and my head has felt cloudy and foggy for days thinking unhelpful thoughts such as I don’t know how to do this … how is it even possible …how on earth can I express what I feel and see?
I must let go of any thoughts about not good enough for how can the clouds be wrong – they are all about change.
Time for me to change my thinking …
So I think about Picasso’s wisdom – “Good artists copy, great artists steal!’
I will learn to steal the clouds –
When I expressed my cloudy thinking and doubts about my ability to paint the clouds a dancer friend suggested I reread my own free creativity e-course – Let Go Make Art! That it would unblock me as it had unblocked her. I love my friends who won’t let me get away with foggy thinking! (link below)
I know what I want – a clear intention is a good start.
I am on a cloud stealing mission …
I will be like an art thief planing to steal a masterpiece …
Strategising, preparing, pouring over books and plans, trying out different versions until I have the perfect crime …
Despicable me I am planning to steal the clouds!
Painting is a quick route into learning about wonderful brilliant you – your thinking, your emotions, your body, your self image, in short who you are today.
Pick up a paintbrush and some colour and you will soon discover interesting things about yourself – your hopes and dreams, the things that worry, your ego, frustration and habits, the things that inspire and interest you, your inner brilliance and radiance.
Painting allows us to let go, to unwind, to be present to ourselves –
The higher self, the lower self and the mundane everyday me!
Just you facing yourself in a magic mirror … the blandness of a blank sheet of paper, a canvas or lump of clay … calling out inner beauty, fabulous ideas, unknown as yet insights and destinies …
Give paint a go today ….As Cezanne says it may be ‘your salvation.’
To kick start your own unique creative process – here is a free 8 day e-course …
Written with love form the perspective of a painter, applicable to all budding creatives whatever your preferred medium, writing, photography, art …
Enjoy! Link below …
(link to free 8 day e-course at end of this blog)
How do we find our creative sweet spot, our zone, that magical place where our creativity flows?
It is the thing that all creatives – artists, musicians, horse riders, meditators, dancers – have in common. The knowledge that the sweet spot is indeed SWEET and that returning to it, renewing it, replenishing it, is a joy – nourishing, fulfilling, inspiring, invigorating … In short the reason that we peruse our passion!
Here is an Alexander Technique inspired take on the art of finding the sweet spot – A.R.T
A – attention, awareness, arriving in the present moment. The intention and ability to really show up right now to allow something to appear before us.
The appearance, the apparition, the manifestation, our art, can only arrive when we attend fully to what we are doing now – allowing it to happen. Asking for it, the magical, to awaken.
R – respecting our selves and what we receive when we open our creative antenna into the space around us. The space that we have created that we are giving our full present moment attention to in order to allow the sweet spot of art.
Respecting our creativity and rolling with it, flowing with it, going with it.
Rejecting any thoughts of not good enough as those thoughts mean we are rejecting our creative self. Respect rather than reject as you respond to the moment.
Rejoice in what you have made, honouring your creativity, your art. It is replenishing you. It is a gift.
T – Time – giving ourselves the gift of precious time to devote to our creativity. Decide to take time for the creative self often no matter what! Time to develop skills. Time to listen to the guidance of our thoughts. Time to humbly allow art to move through us. To be a creative is to be a transformer of thoughts and ideas, inspirations and dreams into action.
Trust the process of creativity. Really trust yourself and what you make as valuable.
Our creativity has something to tell us and teach us as it moves through us and out into the world.
Be thankful for and treasure your creative self.
If I am to pick 3 words to sum up ART it would be Allow – Respect – Time!
What 3 would you pick or add to the list?
More on creativity?
You may like my 8 day free creativity course – find a sign up below to have it delivered straight to your in-box now …
Yesterday I didn’t listen to my own wisdom … and painted in oils despite not having found a mask that makes this possible ….. YET!
I coughed a lot and felt pretty rough after an hours work. I had also ignored my intention to paint in acrylic, deferring instead to my habit!
It is so much easier to DO our habits than to BE open to something new…. Alexander Technique teaches it over and over again… do the same thing in the same way and get the same result! So simple and yet so challenging to change.
After a mini strop with myself and a really helpful phone call with a friend, I decided to go LEARN to paint with acrylics and be excited by and open to the challenge.
I have been picking up shells on the beach –
Shells remind me of the inner ear, and my thought has been about listening…
Expanded awareness and balance can come just from opening our ears to sounds and sounds between sounds, layers of sound … shells as reminders …
Symbolism and the shells painted yesterday –
Cockles – warming the cockles of my heart – attracting love, feeling love, the food of love
Conch type shells – The human journey of life, spirals, the Golden Mean
Limpets – courage, confidence, strength to endure, strength to be yourself despite forces
Moon snails – the moon, tides, planetary forces, the feminine, psychic awareness, purification, peace
Scallops – travel, sharing, holding
Spirals – ‘Everything that lives and breathes and moves, lives and breathes and moves in spirals’ (Don Burton), the mystery of life, DNA
Shells – protection, the home, containers of life, treasures being thrown up from the deep …
I painted a quick series of ‘shell-scapes’ in acrylic … very small canvas sketches … here they are … ideas in motion … just where I left off, some finished some not.
I had fun, when I got out of my own way, my oily art habit, and allowed something new!
By listening to the seashells I found form within the formless and the unformed – seashells to draw upon within the formless sea – an idea to play with.
Today I am going to see the JMW Turner watercolours at the National Gallery in Edinburgh which are only on show once a year to protect them from the light.
Excited to be inspired by watercolours from one of my art heroes!
Diary of an Exhibition – The Joy of Stuff and Clutter
The last couple of days I have been thinking I want to write something about the joy of clutter and stuff, in response to the many articles around that are advocating clearing out and living in empty spaces as some kind of new years resolution!
I am an artist – I make stuff!
Stuff to last into the future, hopefully investments into and for the future.
I love rummaging in charity shops and car boot sales finding interesting and inspiring stuff…
My philosophy is that all my stuff is only ever borrowed, loaned to me for a while, until it finds another home either in my lifetime or after I die …. so why not enjoy your stuff while you are here, instead of feeling like you are less spiritual or less evolved than those who have fengshui-ed their environment to live in a white space!
Lovely – give me your white space to fill with paintings!
Stuff and clutter are ideas made manifest, mine or other peoples … how wonderful!
I want to live a life where ideas are inspiring me on a daily basis, not one that is sanitised and empty …
Nature abhors a vacuum anyway … Bring on the stuff and clutter!
Buy it … make it … enjoy it … give it away … sell it … give to charity shops … support other peoples needs …buy some more … let the stuff and clutter flow … transform it .. up-cycle it … recycle it… it has a life force too!
Enriching, enlivening, enjoyable stuff!
One of the interests I have in my painting is how to make a busy surface unified …
Creating chaos and clutter is part of the process of finding the image, the way forward…
The painting surfaces are full of stuff … paint stuff, pigments from all over the world –
scratched and dabbed
scumbled and brushed
flicked and poured
applied in impasto smears with a palette knife or finger or back of a fist
I am having fun playing with stuff, making stuff, creating stuff, making a mess and making some kind of order at the same time.
Anyhow there are only 2 ways to make a living either
I do both, I make stuff and I teach Alexander Technique.
But back to stuff and clutter –
For a start an artist can NEVER have enough brushes – bring on the clutter, bring on the brushes!
Make me joyful and buy me brushes, any shape or size or quality will do, they all have
stories to tell!
The word clutter, comes from the medieval root word clot as in blood clot …
Clutter and flow belong together, they are linked!
Paint in a tube or even squeezed onto a palette is like a clot waiting to flow…
Add enough medium and it will flow …
The medium is your intention, your thinking, your action plus water or other carriers …
Your blood life force energy, your heart, is revealed in your painting.
I learned that in Japan – the more present you are the more present your paining is.
‘Unclotting’ a painting has nothing to do with physical stuff and clutter and everything to do with present attention.
Can you be present despite …. ? Despite a less than pristine clutter free environment .. despite ideas about perfection?
I guess everything comes back to water in the end … A blog about clutter and stuff and I am thinking about water … the carrier of my watery ‘un – formed’ feeling onto paper and canvas … manifesting seascapes …
Today a day of creating more clutter and stuff for the world – I set my intention to paint small seascapes in gouache and acrylic paint.
Minimalistic clutter free living?
No thanks, I am going to paint!
Detail – ‘Energy Vortex at Sea’ Oil on Canvas, 100 x 120 cm
‘Energy Vortex at Sea’ Oil on Canvas, 100 x 120 cm
Painting yesterday I was thinking about the stories we tell ourselves or the things we have been told and taken on as THE TRUTH, which may be unexamined and therefore NOT TRUE.
In terms of art here are a few stories that I have had to examine or am in the process of examining
As we go into 2017 I am going to pay attention to the stories I tell myself and ask the simple question ‘Is it true?’.
Happy New Year
Love Kirsten x
Acrylic sketch on Canvas
23 x 30 cms
‘Homeward Bound’ Sea Chest
On Boxing Day after finishing painting and writing about ‘Homeward Bound’ I texted this photo to an extraordinary man I know who has been diagnosed with cancer for the second time. I knew he was spending Xmas alone in quiet contemplation. It felt important to send it to him.
His reply – ‘Christ almighty!’. and shortly after a second text …
‘Dreamt last year was exploring a huge attic – I found an old chest and opened it. Was full of old embroidered cloths, gold brocades and gold chains – that is the chest in my dream. I especially remember the picture.’
I phoned him.
What followed was an amazing conversation about the symbols of the gold and jewels and the incredible embroidered patterned textiles that he described in further detail, being a metaphor for the music he still has to compose.
His unrealised, unfinished creativity. That the dream was a gift.
‘Your reminder of that dream is perfect timing’, he said, ‘literally half an hour before I came to know that the time left here on planet earth, and unknown but finite time, is to be creative. I am scared, but I am excited too. This has made me certain of what I have to do.’
‘I saw this quote today from Isaac Asimov, the great scientist and writer’ he continued
‘Asimov was asked what would you do if you only had a year to live.’
His reply – ‘Type faster.’
The symbol of the ship was traditionally a tattooed badge of honour that sailors would get after sailing round the notoriously dangerous waters of the Cape of Good Hope.
‘You have already sailed the Cape of Good Hope defeating illness once, the stormy dangerous sea. Now you are called to sail again, this time with a treasure chest of golden cloth…’
‘Kirsten, I want you to be my magic seeing mirror for this next journey…when I hold it up and look at myself in the mirror, I see you … keeping me moving forward in creativity.’
‘Yes!’ (Finding it hard to write what I feel about this. Yes is a powerful word!)
The ship represents passage – our life journey
From one life to another
Earth bound to spirit (a gift for my dad)
For my friend, the passage from teacher, to which his life has been devoted, to composer – a different energy, a different voyage.
The beginning of new journey … an exciting one, but one on a stormy dangerous sea.
Clouds – emotions, change, problems, drama.
The stars – guides, hope, the cosmic up, thinking up, inner strength. 9 stars representing an ending, a completion of 2016.
Water represents emotion. But it is also our planet and our body.
Water is everywhere – the clouds and vapours in the air, the water held in earth, water composing the majority of all living things. And water transmits vibration and stores memory. The body is 70 percent water. Healing, life giving water.
Water is flow, water is the vehicle for the painting
Without water the tree that became the chest would not have grown …
The sails – Harnessing the power of the wind, our thoughts, our inspiration, to move forward
The waves – Energy and movement, change, fear, depth and surface, form and the formless, undercurrents
The angels guides, the unseen, the unknown, the mysterious, hope, trust, faith and love, history and time, flights of fancy
Two angels The number 2 – union, mother father, two hands, symmetry
The circle – represents wholeness, birth, nothing and everything, eternity
The rope around the circle – ties, binds, the things that hold us safe but also stop us, connections, strength, weaving, creating
The treasure chest – our unique gifts and talents, our individual creativity, totally unique to us … our gold …
The Chest also represents the body as a container for our heart and soul …
keeping our treasures or our emotions close to our chest, hidden or opening our abundant treasure chest and releasing them fearlessly into the world.
None of us are getting out of here alive, how we spend our time is of the essence…
When we create something we never know who or how is is going to inspire or move another person forward… and move ourselves forward to in the process … dreams turning to gold … trust the creative flow …
There is treasure in store, me hearties!
I painted the inside image on the old sailors sea chest on Xmas Day and today, Boxing Day. I am home alone with a throat and chest infection. Painting a box, when my voice box is not functioning seems apt.
The title is ‘Homeward Bound’ and is in memory of dad, it would have been his birthday today. A memory box on Boxing Day.
As I painted I also started to remember my tutor at Epsom School of Art, in 1982, the infamous performance artist, Kerry Trengove (1946 – 1991). Kerry once said to me ‘You will know that art IS your life when you paint on Christmas day.’ I remember being quite shocked by his statement. Who paints on Christmas day my 18 year old self wondered.
I thought about Kerrys influence too … How small moments in time, single sentences even, can have a huge impact. Losing your voice makes you think about having one. In 1977 Kerry created an endurance work ‘Eight Day Passage’ where he was buried in a small cell under the Acme Gallery in London and had to dig his way out. Buried alive… a rebirth…
The second angel on the lid was painted this morning, listening to the radio – memories and music of George Michael who died on Xmas day. Wham was definitely one of the soundtracks of art school days in the 80’s.
And so this box lid IS about death …
I had a dream a couple of nights ago that dad needed help to get ‘home’. He was very sick before he died in June, and the transit to fully embody as a spirit has been slow, the dream told me. The angels on the box are to help him on his passage. Homeward Bound we will all be one day… We don’t know when. May our passage be smooth.
This box has been here longer than me and hopefully will last longer too. It has already seen many lives, losing it’s own life as a tree, to become a sea chest.
Someone asked me a few days ago, why are you wanting to paint on the inside, no-one can see the painting.
That to me is the point – a surprise, a secret, a hidden something…
A metaphor for the mystery of life …
The body as a container of life …
The mysterious workings under the lid …
The journey everyday to be at home inside ourselves …
This may all sound gloomy and odd to you, but really despite physically being unwell over this festive period my spirit has been peaceful and serene and painting the image gave me a feeling of joy, hope and renewal for the coming new year.
(The Chest when I bought it, painted in blue gloss paint! I distressed it with several layers of chalk paint and wax and lots of elbow grease sanding a few days ago. Under the blue gloss was white gloss and under that yellow! I think the finish I have given it looks antique now. In keeping with the actual age of the chest, revealing some of the antique pine. I will probably sand back some of the image inside when I am well. I like the way the surface of the chest echoes the surface of the sea in the oil painting.)
I am painting treasure chests – sea chests to go with my seascapes for the exhibition in April.
Here is the first one….
It is a lovely old pine box that was painted in horrible black gloss paint, and had obviously spent it’s life in a shed somewhere.
I have let some of the age and history of the box shine through – the old pine and the black paint, by knocking back my painting and giving it an aged look in keeping with its age, but more importantly hopefully I have given it a whole new lease of life and it can continue gathering a history and not end up thrown into the dump or burnt, which may well have been its fate otherwise.
I like the idea of drawing with sand paper on painted wood, a bit like drawing with and eraser on pencil on paper.
I am using Danish painted furniture, antique sea chests and retro sailor tattoos as the inspiration for the imagery.
Am looking forward to setting up some photos of the treasure chests together when the oil paintings are properly dry.
I still want to ‘weather beat’ the inside of the box, but am loving the red.
I have consistently produced artwork over the past twenty years …
I have not only paid my living expenses, but I have bought a house, some land, a horse – from selling my art. I am an independent artist!
Despite the fact that as a child I heard at school and from the adults around me –
‘You will never make it as an artist’
‘You are not good enough’
‘Artists are crazy!’
‘It is too difficult to make your living as an artist’
‘Do something sensible with your life!’ ….
And despite being rejected from 5 art schools!
I have proved them all wrong!
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A day at the the beach
Walking the spine
Drawing a line in the sand
Shifts in energy patterns
I have been looking at the wave patterns on the beach seeing bodies … body consciousness … body maps on the beach …
I am lying in semi-supine a lot
Coming back to my back
For inspiration, release, rest, renewal and because it is cold and dark and winter and my Alexander Technique table is warm and rejuvenating
I can imagine lying on a warm beach, letting go, feeling good …
When I lie in semi supine, my realising muscles let go like grains of shifting sand, changing my perceptions and my feel …
Waves of my breath and the waves of my thinking effecting my muscles
Allowing change …
Allowing shifts in form and consciousness …
There is time to find freedom …
Angels, dancing being
Ribs, a spine, connective tissue…
Female forms, a circle dance, rhythms
The embrace – a madonna and child
Walking the ribcage..
Diary of an Exhibition – Flow is a Wavy Line
I walked on the beach yesterday thinking about painting seascapes and really hoping the sea air would clear my lungs
I was in a great flow of painting these last two weeks, then I messed up my lungs by having the wrong filter in the mask
A high followed by a low
But it has got me thinking about breathing again – to breathe, to be inspired
Breathe out, breathe out, breathe out, let go….
I have been doing lots of Alexander Technique whispered ah’s and it has helped a lot
I started to think about flow as a wavy line, the ups and downs of it
Flow is certainly not linear
Trying to control flow doesn’t work (well not for me)
But in such a linear wold it is easy to forget that, and bang our head against a hard wall
Flow, as in inspiration, being in the flow and letting artwork flow, just happens…
We don’t have to think about every breath
Yet we can bring our breath under our conscious control
Painting or drawing is like that
We make a conscious decision to show up to paint
To organise the art materials
To be present
Yet we don’t have to think about every brush stroke
We can let it flow
Not know where the next line is gong to go to
Be surprised by the journey of hand and eye on paper or canvas
Arrive at a new place, a new painting
Breathe and draw
Breathe and flow
Breathe and be delighted
Moments in time
Moments of breath
Flow surprises us
Flow is changeable
Flow is shifting and shifts
Present moment present time
Flow is present to oneself and more
Flow is getting out of the way
Flow is a gift
Whispers of intuition
Barely heard ideas murmmering in the back of our mind take us there
Ignoring what comes in as intuition on the breath stops or limits the flow
When flow arrives it feels great
Flow is timeless
Flow is unpredictable
Flow is interesting
Flow cannot be contained…
‘Flow take me over and bring grace’ – a prayer, a meditation….
I visited the bridge in the sea yesterday
The starting place for this exhibition
The tide was out again
I will keep going back until the tide is in…
Breathe out, breathe out, breathe out, the tide is out
Just keep breathing out
Allow it out
Take your time
Release slowly, softly, calmly, consciously
Waves come in groups of seven I believe… the seventh wave the biggest…
Breathe out…the in breath will simply flow in
Someone had graffited a message onto the bridge
Scrawled the words EASY on it’s structure
Flow is easy
Yet finding flow can seem tricky
In reality it is never more than a few breaths away
Maybe it is always there, just our perception is clouded, our breath held, fear masking the flow… breathing can be the bridge…
Flow and courage
A brave heart to be that vulnerable
Breath massages the heart
This week I chose not to worry or nag the flow but to let it take me….
Breathing my heart
A few conscious inspired out breaths are all I need to bring to the drawing board
Awakening the feel
Awakening drawings with my breath
Let flow take me up or down, into light or shade, let flow be a wavy line
A wavering line
Uncertainty is Ok
This week I choose to flow into drawing with no expectation of outcome, which is just as well as I have only ever painted the sea in oils so far…
‘Forward and up and over the bridge’….
A title for a painting perhaps
For more about breath and inspiration CLICK HERE
Diary of an Exhibition – Vapours, The Incident of the Mask
GOOD NEWS! I am more an idiot than a lunatic!
Turns out that the mask I have been wearing had a dust filter and not a vapour filter in it! Who knew? Not me!
But my brilliant 80 year old retired biochemist friend, listened to my woes and thought something was odd, so took down the details, researched the mask and told me of my mistake.
No wonder my lungs have been hurting!
An artist with the vapours, Victorian melodrama scenario, light headed damsel in distress. and my very own Miss Marple… plot solved.
However, I AM going to experiment with other mediums for a while, and a couple of wonderful folk have pointed me in the direction of water soluble oil paints which I have NEVER tried. So something new waiting to be discovered.
I have been thinking about relationships – lungs, air, the sea, breathing, waves, Alexander Technique, wind, form… and getting ideas for paintings. So am turning a depressing blip of a few days into something positive in my mental sketchbook.
Meantime AHA, the incident of the mask over and note to self lots of Whispered AHHHHH’s – releasing out breaths to clear my lungs deeply.
I keep mentioning the whispered ah – if you want to find out more and why the school kids I teach call them ‘get out of jail free cards’…Click here
Today am feeling a huge sigh of relief and blessed to have the Alexander Technique and clever problem solving caring friends in my life!
Detail from ‘Luna Sea’
Oil on Canvas
80 x 100 cms
Diary of an Exhibition – Luna Sea
A grumpy two days of thinking oils and me are OVER! Not because I am not totally in love with oils, but because my lungs don’t like them anymore
This morning I decided to go into the studio and pack my oil paints away for now and let the atmosphere detox
The drying paintings can be locked into a contained space where the door can stay firmly shut until they have dried out!
I couldn’t help it…. once I was in there I just had to attempt to finish the painting started 2 days ago ‘Luna Sea’, painted over the couple of days of this super moon
A girl can’t help herself….Oil paint addict or something?
Here it is unfinished and finished
Waves and wind and rain
They photographs look like 2 different paintings, begging the question is a painting a physical object or in this digital era just an image?
I HAVE packed my paints up for now, to let my lungs recover, and am sitting wondering how to move forward with my seascape exhibition
Draw, draw, draw – the anatomy of a wave – seems to be the answer
I have no idea what kind of drawings I will make or what they will look like but it will be interesting to get clearer about the anatomy, if that is the right word, of wave energy, chaos or structure?
So that when I have a sneaky paint in oils sometime in the future….
Oil on Canvas
80 x 100 cms
Diary of an Exhibition – Lunatic
I have been busy – painting like a crazy loon
Well it is a super lune
This painting has been hanging around my studio all summer – unfinished, unsure how I was going to move forward with it…
Today I started working on a seascape and as I did my usual, madly attempt to cover the white canvas as quickly as possible, I had an idea to work on this canvas too. That the super moon had awoken a new horse power….sea charged!
As I painted the words ‘The Moon Woke Me’ rattled around my head, a title…
‘The Moon Woke Me’
Oil on Canvas
152 x 100 cms
It is a huge painting…
Then I went back to the seascape… thinking about how the moon affects the sea, affects bodies, waves of energy emerging and subsiding..
Wishing I lived closer to the sea to go there tonight..
Oil on Canvas 100 x 80 cms – unfinished (?)
So why lunatic?
Because my lungs hurt, even though I have been wearing the crazy spectacle steaming mask!
I feel like an utter crazy lunatic – a super loon indeed!
I know I have breathed too many fumes from oil paint over 30 years of painting
I am sensitive to the fumes…. worse luck!
Yet because I love oil paint best, like a loony, I persist for it’s feel
I am feeling mega cheesed off and wheezy
Maybe the super moon is illuminating my super stupidity!
So tonight I keep going outside to breathe fresh air, working my lungs, hoping for the prickly feeling to GO AWAY!
Lots of Alexander Technique Whispered Ah’s…..
Waves of life
Breathe out, breathe out, breathe out – let go…
Allow the fresh and new in…
And out there – not a super moon in sight
Just a dank dark cloudy Scottish night and a lunatic stubborn artist who probably had better give up oil paints!
So, what happens next? I don’t know…A new moon!?
But one way or another, I am going to have to pack up my oils for now, to clear out the gunk of fumes that is hurting me and experiment with other mediums for a while…
(William Blake has come into my life in weird ways twice in two days – so maybe it’s a signpost forward… Time to look at William Blake again… I love his work… tomorrow….)
Diary of an Exhibition – Lost Moments in Paint
As soon as you start a painting it becomes an attempt to find resolution to a problem
A visual solution
An idea unformed trying to find form
Each start is a commitment to the relationship
You are undertaking a journey
There is no turning back
The dialogue between colour and canvas, paint brush and intention
It’s no good stopping a painting before it is finished, no matter how hard the journey
If, by it’s completion, it is not your best painting, there are lessons to be learned
The next one will be better
I love oil paint because along the way you can change, change, change
Oil paint allows change in a way no other medium does
However lost moments in oil paint are the result
Brave goodbyes (hankie moment coming up – sob sob..)
These images are some of the lost moments this week
Paintings that have emerged briefly
Moments of thought
Moments of almost resolution
The paintings that lie beneath are waiting to emerge another day
Glimpses of potential
I learned a word this week form my singer songwriter friend Woodstock Taylor – palimpsest
– a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed
– something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form
These images are some of the painting that lies underneath
The painting hidden within my paintings this week
The moments that existed – were enjoyed and now are gone
Paintings surfacing briefly now hidden under the surface
The sacrificed teaches – You have got to be brave, be prepared to lose and still move forward
You have to be prepared to change
So, my palimpsest paintings are starting places for the next paintings to be made
Ideas to come back to and reclaim
40 x 40 cms
40 x 40 cms
40 x 40 cms
‘Hope at Sea’
by Kirsten Harris
Triptych 120 x 40 cms
Oil on Canvas
I woke up this morning brooding on my triptych and whether I could resolve the problem of bridging the three images or not…
So I have been working on it…
The painting needs to dry now, the oil is so thick it is becoming unworkable and then I will decide if I have made 3 separate paintings or a triptych.
Hanging them on a big wall with space between each picture is the next step when the paint dries. But I am happy to leave the painting alone for now, and maybe I will decide it is complete.
I have been working on a triptych
The triptych started colourfully but the snowy light of the day seemed to influence the paint robbing the colour to a more subtle scheme
A triptych – 3 individual paintings becoming one
They have to work alone and together
I started to think of the painting in terms of relationship
And the thing between us – the relationship
Alone and connected, all of us
The thing between, in this case the middle painting, has to connect from both sides and make sense of the other paintings
The middle painting is a bridge
From one place to another
With this thought the painting started to develop a narrative…
Two boats on the horizon
The viewer is seperated
Hope lies far out to sea…
A heavy cloud has gathered over the small boats
Light is needed
A way to reach the boats…
The boats are alone
Connected only by waves and sky
Are the boats going away or coming towards?
For me, the painting works as 3 individual images
Do I stop here?
Or sacrifice the individual to make a cohesive whole?
Is it possible in this painting?
Finishing a painting is a little bit like correcting spelling mistakes and punctuation in a piece of writing
It doesn’t necessarily need much to bring it all together
To make sense of the structure
But often we need to look for a long time to find the missing comma
The missing brush stroke
Finishing a painting is finding a full stop.
Perhaps the full stop for now is the separated triptych
The bridge may not be possible in this work this time
A problem to solve another day
‘Wind and Sea’
by Kirsten Harris
Oil on Canvas
122 x 92 cms
On the way….to a painting..
Sometimes interesting paint appears…
Only to disappear again…
Paintings hidden within paintings
Every brush stroke a thought
Like the wind changing the sea and sky
Our form changed by our thinking
Moments in paint
On the way to itself
Diary of an Exhibition – Mask
I allow myself to fail…. it’s a good strategy for success with oil paint, oil paint allows change
I am wearing a mask in the studio thinking about choices
Wear the mask and paint, or chose another medium?
I love to paint in oils
So today I chose to paint, and I will paint big and go for it
I will put my mask on and paint for the day….I will be disciplined and not breathe in any fumes
Painting the sea, I decide that it is easier to paint form than the formless
Painting the sea and the wind and the feeling of the beach is a challenge
Painting a horse or a lion feels easier
I stand at my easel and stay with it
The job is to feel – feel the movement, feel the space, feel the wind, feel myself there
A photograph is always going to be 2d and flat, no matter how beautiful
A painting has a chance of expressing something of the multi dimensional experience of being on the beach
Painting might seem old hat, but it does it for me!
When painting, it is best not to judge the progress of the painting
Stay present to every brush mark
Be in the painting
I am painting a large seascape
Evoking the beach
Disciplined about wearing my mask
The day is cold and sunny and bright, the door is open
Maisie dog is being undemanding
I woke this morning thinking about chalk pastels
The perfect medium to take to the beach
A solution for sketching
I am happy with that thought
I must make every brush mark count today
I can’t afford to waste my lungs – too many years painting in oils and breathing in toxic fumes
Now I have to limit the amount of oil paintings I make
Today I painted the sea
Wind and Sea
Oil on Canvas
80 x 100 cms
Tools of the trade
I am a very messy painter!
Diary of an Exhibition – Chasing Light – Day 2
I am chasing light
Obsessed with clouds
Tormented by the sky
I visited the bridge again today
The tide was out
Driving towards him – a weather front
Torrential rain for the last few miles
But I could see clear sky in the direction of the bridge
I was excited
These are painterly clouds
The stream was bigger today, much bigger
She had a new energy, the rain had filled her
I painted the bridge before I left for the sea, getting to know him
He interested me more than I thought he would
I thought I would be scared of his structure, but I am not
Though I don’t yet know how to describe him
The oil sketch was terrible
My lungs started to hurt even though I was wearing a mask
I think the culprit was a ‘fast drying white oil paint’
I have thrown it away
But I have started
Better to start than to be scared of starting
Scared of making a fool of oneself
Who cares about that – only me – and that is a hindrance
Let it go – be the fool
There were more rainbows over the sea today
I ran towards them
I took many photographs and wondered why I would need to paint
But a photograph is always inadequate
The grandeur is lost
No-one would chose a photograph over a Turner sea, a Constable sky…
The sky and sea of the last two days – the paintings of August Strindberg
Homeward a grey sky with greyer pig clouds – they really did look like pigs, lots of them
Should I just continue painting animals?
i can paint animals!
Why am I wanting to paint the ethereal…the not there?
The sky is incredible today
The sky has wow factor
A giant leopard sky accompanied me home across the moor stretching her orange light body across the horizon, small clouds her spots
A horse appears next to the moon
The sky is mocking me
I should be painting animals
Another doubt thought
Who am I kidding.. wanting to paint like the great masters of paint
An expanding circular rainbow opens around the crescent moon lighting a lonely hill… Samuel Palmer would know how to paint this mystical, yet very British landscape..
I want to paint the night
Paintings in words
I had a strange vision of light and colour at the harbour
Steely graphite grey sea contained by the harbour wall
A richer deeper coloured sea beyond the limitations
I have set myself up to fail
Is it safe to leave the harbour?
The sea is rough
A moored red fishing boat
The horizon turns pink
Singing steel grey and pink – it’s a great look
The harbour sucks in the pink light energy
The rose tinted ease of sunset glows
The enclosure is suddenly circled by a large flight of spiralling white gulls
A painted vortex of light moving
Everything will be alright
Hunger is making me strangely visionary
It changes fast
It all changes too fast
I am questioning mediums…
My love is oils
How can I paint an entire exhibition in oils if my lungs hurt after an hour?
A painting is an object as well as an image
My lungs object to oils!
What kind of object am I making?
Diary of an Exhibition – Day 1
The Bridge in the Sea
A bridge on a beach crosses a stream
When the tide comes in the stream is immersed by the sea
The bridge is stranded in the middle of the ocean
No one can cross to him
He is useless… a bridge from nowhere to nowhere
Little stream flowing out to sea, you will become changed forever
You will become salty
Today the bridge is useful –
A crossing place from one shifting sand to another
The tide rises and the stream disappears
The little stream is consumed by an energy bigger than herself
There is nothing she can do
She merges and becomes one with the sea
She hasn’t reached her destination but the sea has claimed her
Is she lost?
Incoming sea, my emotions rise high, I too must wait
There is no bridge for me
The bridge is unreachable
I am at sea
Wait for the tide to go out, there is nothing to do
Wait – the flow of the little stream will reappear
Little stream will you take me forward into my flow?
Now you are here again… up and over the bridge I can go
Up and over the bridge…a whisper to my ankles… up and over the bridge… a whisper to my legs …. up and over the bridge….my hips… many bridges…
The tide has risen, there is nothing to do, be present
I cannot swim out to you I will drown
The current will consume me
There is nowhere for me to be but here alone
The winter’s night is long
Only the ocean is available
Merge and become one
I have done it before
The stream has been eaten by the tide
The sea has devoured her
She has lost her own path
Her course is invisible
She accepts and waits
The moon pushes and pulls
Days and nights will pass
The tide comes in, the tide goes out
I breathe… I must remember to breathe
Ahhhh… I whisper to the wind
Arghhh… the wind screams back
The gust is so strong, but the stream is not altered
I look to you, the bridge in the sea today
You with your strange metaphors
A bridge from this non place to that non place
My unmade image is in the ocean, my seascape
Help me bridge!
You are solid and structured, but strange too
When the tide comes in – you bridge the present invisible
When the tide is out – you bridge the flow
I cannot see the flow but it is here
I wait for my flow to emerge thinking the wind
Little stream I am here…waiting for YOU
I know YOU will appear
I am lost staring out
The sea of uncertain change becomes a dark streak of power on the horizon
I watch white horses
I want to capture the power you have over me, but I know I never can
I am awash with choppy emotions
I will paint you to the best of my ability
It is all I can do
You are a very little stream but you seem confident and tireless
You are strong resolute bridge for such a little stream…the sea must really bash you up sometimes
My paintbrush you are a bridge
My intention another bridge
Today we are separated – the sea, the paint, the desire
I am clear I will paint seascapes all winter…and the spring will come again
I will paint the colour of love into the captured tide….I will let you obsess me
No-one can help me to the other side…the painting done
The tide goes out at a certain time, there is a rhythm to it
I paint, but I can only paint at certain times… there is a rhythm to that too…time….wait for me…I need you
Today I visited the bridge in the sea
The wind was high and cold
Exhilarating and freezing
The tide was out
The bridge let me glimpse the stream below to pass to the other side
I visited the sea who had pulled away from the shore
I was glad
The wind was in control of the day
‘I am here and I want to paint!’ I said
‘NO!’ said the wind ‘You may not!’
You can not capture the sea today
I am too strong for you
My force is penetrating
I will blow you away
You who are nothing’
I can transform stuff with a thought!
Oh, what a wonderful sentence!
The one I so wanted to be true when I was a ittle girl. I’d watch Bewitched and twiddle my nose and nothing would happen. I’d climb into the wardrobe and go absolutely no-where. No Narnia in the back of my bedroom cupboard. Worse luck!
How I yearned to be able to transform stuff.
Perhaps we all do?
Perhaps that’s the reason Harry Potter is so popular!?
We want to transform stuff with a thought – to be magicians!
And we can!
I learned how to transform stuff when I started having Alexander lessons age 24. The light bulb switched on in my befuddled brain in that first lesson in Edinburgh with Astrid Cox. The heavenly choirs sang, cartoon birds flew around my head. It was amazing! It was magical transformation, and I was in charge of it. My life changed for ever in that first lesson. I was being shown the way to finding my inner power, to being the magician I so longed to be!
So, I can transform stuff!
I pick up my paintbrush and make a mark on paper or canvas. It is transformed. Creatively or destructively… that’s up to me, but the transformation is…
I send a thought through my neck, my shoulder, my armpit down my long arm and out of my fingers – my arm releases, lengthens. Transformed by my magical thinking…
I have choice, masses and masses or transforming choices, moment by moment, day by day..
But I am human! So what do I do?
I get stuck on the things I have no control over!
Batter my head against walls I cannot climb…
Try to push heavy rocks up hills…..
I can’t change you!
I can’t make you think or act differently…
I can’t make you speak to me…
I can’t make you see my point of view….
I can’t bring you back from the dead….
But I can change me…
Can I think differently?
Can I speak to me?
Can I see your point of view?
Can I bring me back from the dead?
This year has been hard, cancer – death in the family.
I have carried on making art, but my art has become smaller, tighter, controlled, safe.
It is time again for me to transform my stuff.
Stand up and face myself in the studio.
Let go and transform the death stuff into the stuff of life…
Not worry about what is going to happen next. Trust!
Come back to creation…
Squeeze vibrant oil colour onto my glass palette and be present to the materials that speak to me…
Let the colour tell me what to do…
Feel my way forward with oil on brush again…(my wand)
Show up and let my transformation happen…
Allow myself not to know what the painting is going to look like, where it is going to take me…
Let my life appear on canvas…
Only my fear has kept me away form my beloved oil paints.
Death got in the way.
Painting calls on us to show up, really show up and be open to the transformation that we will discover when we let go of fear, release ourselves from old stuff, bad stuff to let ourselves transform.
Making any art is an act of transformation.
It requires a certain boldness and a certain devil may care attitude to stand in our own presence, to allow vulnerability. To let our stuffiness out…
We become magicians for a short while.
We become extra-ordinary.
And people recognise it, instinctively, intuitively…
They offer you money for your work!
A thought becomes the sea… thought upon thought building up to become moving waves of energy…the energy becomes a horse… becomes breath.. a diaphragm…space…
I am processing my life as I paint, meditating in colour, feeling my way forward, listening to shades of blue, white light…
It is work and it is play. It is serious and it is fun! Thought after thought. Alexander Technique’s conscious control….
Art has presence
Spirit contained on canvas
Life transformed into colour
Thought speaking through visual image…
And yes, sometimes we get stuck.
We can’t face ourselves in this way because life has got horrible and scary.
Life has become too much…We might go wrong. Paint something ghastly…
I can’t be bothered! Can I hide in the cupboard?
Transformation? No thanks!…. I want to be safe.
Quite OK stuck in my habit, thanks awfully!
Standing in a cold studio on a bleak day in Scotland meeting my true self or watching crap TV on a squashy warm sofa? Hmmmmm….
Can I transform stuff?
At the end of this blog is a link to a free 8 day course ‘Any Body Can Paint.’
Exploring ideas around creativity and Alexander Technique….
by Kirsten Harris
Do you ever get stuck – physically, mentally, emotionally?
Stuck in your work?
Stuck with your creativity?
Stuck in your relationships?
Stuck in your thinking?….
I do! For sure!
Pondering my present ‘stuck-ness’ I decided I would use the notion of being stuck as a subject for teaching my high school teenagers, as the sentence ‘I’m stuck’ reminded me of being at school….
Here are some answers from the children from yesterdays class-
What happens when you think ‘I am stuck?’
My shoulders tighten
I get frustrated
I get a headache
My breathing goes weird
I feel stupid
I stop trying
I feel defeated
I feel frozen
I don’t know how to move forward
I feel anger, annoyance or irritation
I feel worried
What solutions could we find when we feel stuck?
See the bigger picture.
Know when to stop – noticing when I feel tiredness, sore or achey.
Notice when I have stopped being productive.
Notice when I am practising my mistakes.
Notice when I am losing focus.
Notice that I am creating obstacles.
Need to think about how to get around the obstacle.
Notice I can’t do it as I am trying to do it.
Think about how I am, how my body is.
Ask for help, but that’s difficult because of fear of being wrong especially in class and my stubbornness or pride!
Sometimes I feel stuck before I give it a go. I think I can’t do it.
I don’t want to do the things that are tricky so I put them off until last, then I spend more time feeling stuck.
I need to prioritise, because sometimes I feel there is not enough time, and that makes me feel stuck.
Notice that when I am all tight and bunched up it gets harder.
Aren’t kids insightful and brilliant!
What really struck me about the conversations is – are we taught how to ‘deal’ with being stuck or being wrong or making a mistake? Do we just fear being wrong and get defensive instead of welcoming not knowing or our mistakes as a chance to learn, grow and create better connections?
What is your strategy for being stuck?
The skills that Alexander Technique provide consistently surprise me as a ‘fool proof’ paradigm for working through my stuck-ness.
Good job I find Alexander Technique consistency foolproof as I am so often a fool!
I love that the principles consistently move me to seeking truth.
Are children who are naturally questioning taught the art of questioning?
Or does asking a question become something to be ashamed of?
I remember a school report saying ‘Kirsten asks too many questions why!’ I thought it was a crazy report when I was 9 years old, and I still do!
The kids that I teach Alexander Technique to know how to access poise and the inner strength that it gives them. They know how to think and change instantly. However they informed me yesterday that they do not like to be forward and up in poise and direction in general class situations for fear of ‘being seen to be the teachers pet!’ They prefer to slump!
The school culture is slump.
Culturally we are allowing kids to become stuck!
Physically stuck and therefore inevitably mentally and emotionally stuck.
A class room of kids with the consensus downward pull of gravity being the major unconscious influence on the growing bodies. School education is not teaching an understanding of up or buoyancy or balance.
The kids want to be seen as normal. Slump is the norm!
The lucky few who get Alexander lessons as part of education at this state high school, constantly ask –
‘Why doesn’t everyone at school get Alexander Technique? School would be better!’
They know they are lucky…
They know they are being taught skills that they can apply to all sorts of situations…
They know they are getting an advantage….
I remember the late Don Burton saying during our training – ‘As Alexander Technique teachers we will know our job is done when the world no longer needs us!’
In schools our job has not even begun!
And so yesterday we ended the class discussion on being stuck with the kids choosing to stop and constructively rest. A bit of semi-supine in the middle of a hectic school day.
But first the children decided to do the mathematics and see if there really is enough time to stop in a day.
They worked out (I was stuck with the maths) that if we take the ubiquitous seventeen minutes for semi supine, in a 24 hour period there are 84.7 seventeen minute slots available!
Insightful teenagers who are great at maths. I love my job!
I am currently writing about unsticking creatively, see link below or
If you would like to find out more about the benefits of constructive rest click the links below to take you to my media downloads.
What’s nagging away at you?
I am chewing the cud with regard those thoughts that nag away at me. What are they saying and what they are about? Why are they so persistent?
I have decided to call these nagging thoughts horse power thoughts, as I am realising that they are important messengers.
These are the kind of thoughts that I intuitively know are going to take me forward in life. However I so often ignore them!
Do you know the ones I mean?
Does it happen to you?
The really good idea that feels difficult. The brilliant intuition that calls on you to move out of the so called ‘comfort’ zone, that to be honest with the nagging horse power thoughts in the background is more of a ‘discomfort zone.’
So why do I so often ignore these useful thoughts, ideas and inspirations? Those little whinnies from my stable brain that are not going to go away.
I ignore and they nag, nag, nag….For days, weeks, months and even years. And I carry on with the ‘donkey’ work, chained to the known and the should and oughts that I think I have to do..
Low level guilt accompanies my mule like resistance, as I plough through life’s duties.
So today my thought is that those nag thoughts are a call of my creative flow…
They are horse power thoughts…. and like a lively magnificent steed pawing the ground, inviting me to climb aboard, exciting and unnerving…
Horse power thoughts scare us because they are going to move us forward.
They are going to transform us.
Lift us out of the mundane, give us wings, help us charge forward in life. In short, horse power thoughts may just change us to become the magical mystical creatures we really are.
Perhaps it is an inbred herd mentality that choses to stay safe rather than run wild and free with the horses of our creative mind.
We want to change yet stay exactly the same! Change means confronting our ‘true’ self? Yes, that can be a little unnerving for sure!
And so I plod along in life instead of galloping forward.
Just like our equestrian counterparts I can tighten my neck when frightened…a horse power thought, hmmm, not today! Not enough time! Not enough money!
I freeze and fix myself, hold my breathe or run away, pulling in the opposite direction or work even harder on what I already know.
So what is going to encourage me to move forward? The carrot or the stick? Probably neither….
I am called to tune into and listen to what my ‘horses’ are saying… to show up and be really present to that nagging, see it as whispers from my intuition, my higher self…and follow the impulses.
Follow the float.
Allow myself a little time each day to BE my horse power thoughts.
Those nagging voices are not going to shut up, I might as well listen, for perhaps they really are encouraging me gently to let go into the creative flow. To giddy up and enjoy the ride!
Get Out of My Way!
by Kirsten Harris
Get out of my way I want to create
GET OUT OF MY WAY!
Who or what is in the way?
Me of course!
It is only ever me, my thinking, that gets in the way of my creativity. Like a rabbit caught in the headlights I let fear, ‘excusitis’, laziness, procrastination, not good enough, no time, startle pattern trapped in my body – and another large dose and dollop of fear get in my way. Get out of my way you lot!
If it’s not love, it’s fear…..The two states are a choice, simple. I chose love! Not scared rabbit.
Creativity, be it painting or any other art form, is a work of love.
It feels vulnerable. We are falling in love…with ourselves…with our work, and we have absolutely no idea what the outcome will be. It is scary.
To be creative we have to allow the vulnerability and just go for it. Let go of the reasons why we can’t. Turn up and allow ourselves to love in the moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing is guaranteed! But it will NEVER be a waste of time.
Creativity may feel vulnerable but it is also powerful and safe.
Your feet are on the ground…. you are not going to fly off planet earth.
Your breath nourishes the work… inspiration.
Your head in the air….. let it soar, up up up to your wildest imaginations, dreaming in cosmic space.
Your heart is open …. allowing love to pour through you and out of you, onto paper, canvas, as painting, writing, music….
Being creative is a work in the present continuous…. you will never get it done.
It is an experiment with bei