On Yer Byke!

This series of 11 paintings is about man’s relationship with bees – extinction and survival. I hope the imagery speaks for itself.

I rescued two wasp bykes from my shed and these paintings are inspired by the stunning delicacy and beauty of the wasp nests although the paintings became more about bees than wasps.

I was inspired by painting dinosaurs for Jurassic Lanark, something that I wouldn’t have chosen to do but was happy to be asked to do. The dinosaurs got me thinking about extinction. Wasps were around at the same time as dinosaurs and am guessing bees were too. Our pollinators continuing life on earth.

I find it unbelievable that we still allow pesticides. When I was a kid I remember coming home and dad having to clean bugs and insects of the windscreen. That never happens now. Not a change for the better! We are in danger!

I have incorporated some of my anatomy drawings into these and it feels really cool to start to bring Alexander Technique ideas into my painting. It’s been a long time coming. Looking forward to taking some of these ideas forward into larger paintings soon…

Bee Light by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Panel, 12 x 12 inches
Pollinating Life
Real Gold by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Panel, 12 x 12 inches
Too Late to Meditate by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Panel, 12 x 12 inches
Up Flow – Life and Death by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Board, 24 x 24 inches
Two Bees by Kirsten Harris Mixed Media on Panel, 12 x 12 inches
Dandelion Field by Kirsten Harris, Mixed Media on Panel, 12 x 12 inches
Honey Comb Bone by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Panel, 12 x 12 inches
Heart of Life by Kirsten Harris, Mixed Media on Panel, 12 x 12 inches
Honey Bee by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Canvas, 12 x 12 inches
No Way Up by Kirsten Harris, Mixed Media on Panel, 12 x 12 inches
Worker Bees by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Panel, 12 x 12 inches
Wasp Byke
Wasp Byke

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Art for Children – Dinomania!

I feel very fortunate to have grown up with real paintings as I am convinced this is how my interest was sparked to learn to paint. I remember spending hours looking at them.

When I was asked to produce a dinosaur exhibition for Jurassic Lanark, my motivation was this – what if some of these paintings found their way into children’s lives and inspired them to paint and to create?

Following a dinosaur thread was compelling and I definitely fell down a dinosaur rabbit hole if such a thing existed! In painting Dinomania I realised that the anatomy of our animals is not so very different despite the millions of years of separation.

We are surrounded by living dinosaurs that we must treasure!

Dinomania is on at the Tolbooth Lanark with paintings at affordable prices.

Velocity 60 x 40 cm
Veloci-rapture 80 x 80cm
Go Away 150 x 100 cm
Dino-snore 40 x 40 cm
Me King! My Party! 100 x 50 cm
Evolution – A Game of Noughts and Crosses 150 x 100 cm
Does My Bun Look Big in This? 80 x 80 cm
Spinosaurus 30 x 30 cm
There were Rainbows when Dinosaurs Lived 50 x 40 cm
Big Mouth Strikes Again 150 x 100 cm
Run Raptor Run, 150 x 100 cm

A selection of artwork from Dinomania! PM me if interested or want to see more…

Next blog I will share the artwork that I made alongside this series of dinosaurs on the theme of extinction.

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Freedom

The dictionary defines freedom as ‘Freedom is the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants. Freedom is the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.’

Freedom to….

Freedom from…

Freedom to be…

There are not so many jobs that allow you freedom, being an artist is one. An Alexander Technique teacher, my other hat, teaches about freedom… to be free to move, free from pain, free to feel, intuit and express yourself…

I don’t know that I consciously realised just how important freedom was to me until recently. Reading several books about William Wallace, (1270 – 1305) a local hero, got me thinking about what freedom is.

For me freedom is following and trusting the creative impulse (harder than it sounds) to express a truth and live a good life.

Art allows freedom from restriction and freedom from being told what to do! In a world of rules and regulations, should and ought to’s, art challenges you to stay free and true to your self. (Again harder than it sounds). I guess that’s why I chose art – of all the subjects at school it was the one that allowed the most freedom. It was both the easiest and hardest at the same time.

A lot of my artwork is also about freedom… feathers floating in the wind, galloping horses, dandelion clocks flying, wild animals, stormy seas…

Our freedom is constantly being impinged… our freedom to eat natural food, drink pure water, breathe clean air, our freedom to roam, our freedom to use our time and speak our truth. We are being spied on by our computers, by cameras in the street, by our phones. There are rules and regulations that we blindly obey…

Freedom. for me, encapsulates words like trust, love, caring, understanding, compassion, acceptance, tolerance, kindness, allowing, generosity, nature, creativity, movement, wildlife, wilderness…

My art it is about looking for ways to to express ideas about freedom whilst keeping the process of applying paint free too, because being free is the most fun you can have on your own! (And again harder than it sounds.)

What does freedom mean to you? I think it is worth pondering…

William Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered for his belief in freedom. Personally I don’t do politics being more a believer in a need for a global consciousness to save our planet but I do believe in freedom from tyranny, in standing up for yourself and having a moral code such as do no harm to others.

Freedom, surely, is a right!

“I tell you the truth, freedom is what is best. Sons, never live life like slaves.” William Wallace.

A Quiet Conversation by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic and ink on canvas, 150 x 100 cm

Would you go to a car mechanic if you had toothache?

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp 1917 (signed R Mutt). Arguably one of the most important and influential artworks of the twentieth century.

Would you go to the a lawyer to buy lipstick or the builders merchant to have a swim? Would you make an appointment with your doctor to get your lawn mowed or phone a plumber to buy toilet paper? Of course you wouldn’t – that would be illogical and stupid!

Hopefully though, if you want a creative solution or something original you will go to an artist!

We live in a largely designed environment. Look around you – someone has designed just about everything you see. That someone spent years studying art and design.

My point – anyone who has studied art and design knows that it is a lifelong quest to hone your skills. Artists don’t retire, they just get better. Design, composition, value, anatomy, drawing, understanding materials, colour theory, art history etc are all huge subjects before you even consider originality and saleability. Yet everyone seems to think they know about art!

I blame us artists for not valuing our skills more!

Creatives deserve as much respect as an accountant, a business manager, a scientist or any other professional and in a world that desperately needs solutions creative thinkers are more essential than ever!

It’s so easy to look at art and say ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it!’ We all have an opinion! As Marcel Duchamp said: ‘Not everyone is an artist but everyone is a fucking critic.’ To critics I say ‘See what happens when you face your ‘self’ to create something out of nothing and then be consistently creative year after year!’

Art is not an easy choice, something for the non-academic or simply ‘mad’, a word thrown at artists all the time!

The job of an artist is to combine intellect with intuition to create something new.

I’ll say it again – art work is a combination of using your intellect and your intuition whilst being in tune with the Zeitgeist or even better creating the Zeitgeist!

As Einstein said ‘Creativity is intelligence having fun!’

Love Kirsten

PS – A cautionary warning to creatives from a dear friend, lifelong artist and furniture maker – Be careful who you show your art to whilst in the process of conceiving and creating it it for “Fools and bairns should not see things half done!” Proverb

A Quiet Conversation 2022, Kirsten Harris, Acylic on Canvas, 150 x 100 cm

‘A Quiet Conversation 2022’ hanging on my studio wall.

www.kirstenharrisart.com

Talking Pictures

(The Devil by Pamela Coleman Smith)

Can you read paintings and what is the point of imagery?

I’m a fan of the the Rider-Waite Tarot, first published in 1909, painted by Pamela Coleman Smith. The more you study the iconography of the 78 paintings the more the images reveal, stimulating imagination and informing awareness. I call them talking cards.

Paintings will talk to you if you care to listen. For me, the tarot is not so much an oracle but a stimulus to question one’s thinking, understand life and allow symbolism to take you beyond the confines of everyday reality. 

In a pre-literate society art was a major form of communicating ideas. From cave paintings to medieval tapestries, stained glass windows to church frescoes, paintings for the population layered images coded with symbolism that played into the imagination and told a story.

These are images that invite contemplation, ask us to slow down to take time to try to understand an interweaving and unfolding of events and how they relate to us. Images that get you to think are worth their weight in gold, as churches knew! Symbols can be hard to decode, but with time and conversation a story unfolds. Great art stays with you.

Earlier societies were probably more visually literate than we are. We seem to be overstimulated with moving pictures and fast scrolling, creating a low attention span and an addiction to a quick visual fix….

”I don’t get it, I am confused”… would be a lazy, critical response to imagery that requires you to take time to look at it and have a conversation about what you see.

Art is not advertising. It doesn’t need you to get it immediately!

Art is not a fast moving image on the screen of life… seen…gone…. forgotten… never looked at again!

Interesting art invites you in and keeps you in – looking and asking questions – it is a talking point, a conversation stimulator and a conveyor of ideas. You want to go back and look again. The more you look, the more you see!

Love Kirsten 

PS – look at the way Pamela Coleman Smith has painted The Devil – At first glance this a scary image, but she is telling us we have a choice! Notice how easily the people can remove the chains. The artist has painted them loose. She is inviting us to question our choices. Are we enslaved by the devil – the ego, others good opinion, our desires, our fear of facing our shadow, illusions etc etc or not! Are we enslaved in servitude or can we take off the shackles that bind? So many great questions are asked in this image. So many different ways to interpret it. This image is not telling us what to think, it is asking us to think! To see the bigger picture.

The devil is in the detail!

The Devil, from a Medieval Painting

Some Archetypes – A Painting Life…

Art Angel by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Panel

The Child – plays with paint, having fun exploring a messy, creative world.

The Creative – essential for the world right now. However the creative is often threatened by less appealing archetypes trying to take control…

The Prostitute – we all have a prostitute archetype but don’t let the prostitute be in charge of what you do. Don’t paint to sell. Paint to paint.

The Critic – the critic questions ‘what will people think?’ The critic is a pain in the what’s it! Don’t fall for the critic. Dump the critic by knowing no-one cares less if you paint or not! This knowledge is freeing because if no-one cares you can paint what you want, how you want. So remember absolutely no-one gives a flying fig, only you!

The Controller – the controller doesn’t want you to be a big messy kid freely having fun as it threatens control. If you’re not in love with painting and feeling freedom doing it, do something else, for the controller has taken over.

The Fuss Pot – the fuss pot gets uptight and hung up over one truly masterful passage of painting and then robs you of hours, days or even weeks of your life trying to fix everything in the paintings around the masterful bit, whilst having totally lost awareness of the whole. Cuss the fuss pot by pouring paint over everything. Don’t waste any more time. Paintings and life work best as a whole!

The People Pleaser – people pleasers generally make dull paintings. The people pleaser is not painting to turn themselves on, rather trying to turn someone else on, which is usually horrific and a bit embarrassing in any context! People pleasing is knocked on the head with courage. If your painting turns you on it will probably turn someone else on too. But who cares if it doesn’t. They don’t. That’s the trick to being creative. Don’t care! Do it because you love doing it, because you mean it, because it’s alive for you. That’s it. One life. If someone else loves it too, well that’s the best feeling in the world!

The Princess – unless your art is actually made from a skull encrusted with diamonds being princess precious will keep you and your art in a very small, safe ivory tower. Rapunzel, let down your hair and escape the blasted prison!

The Egoist – as you know absolutely no-one cares if you paint or not, even if you are the world’s greatest unrecognised talent about to burst forth onto the art scene creating a massive stir causing your art to sell for millions in Hong Kong… the egoist has no choice but to eff off! The egoist loves to compare and finds you lacking. Don’t compare!

The Psychic – be on speaking terms with the world’s greatest artists! Coffee, Picasso? Egon, let’s draw! Rembrandt, may I ask some advice? The past is there to help you! Tune in for help!

The Intuitive – quietly guides you as to what to do next with your painting. However the babble from the critic, the egoist, the fuss pot etc , who can be a very noisome bunch, can make it hard to hear the angelic whisper. Walk away from unhelpful archetypes. An actual walk to find the next step for your painting helps.

The Destroyer – destroys art that is potentially saleable. If you notice you are not turned on by your painting, take the path of destruction. The destoyer is the shadow side of the creative. Understand the destroyer to activate the creative. You will no longer be bored – princess precious will have gone looking for other friends to play less messy games with, whilst the egoist, controller and fuss pot have been sacked. Result! Sometimes we need to call on the destroyer to clear the path to allow space for the happy, creative child to be free to play again, saving us all from ourselves!

Happy Creating, whatever it is you do. xx

Decoding that thing – Art Speak

An artist – Someone who likes playing by themselves 

A painting – a thing to look at

A painter  – Someone who attempts to make things from other things, like paper and runny coloured liquid, to make boring walls less boring 

A figurative painting – a thing of another thing 

An abstract painting  – a thing

Impressionism – a bit of a blurry thing

Expressionism – a bit of a messy thing

Abstract Expressionism – messy

Tight drawing – I think you need to loosen up a bit, love!

Life Drawing – clothed people drawing a naked person but thinking as though the person was a thing such as a bowl of fruit

Equestrian Artist – someone who loves horses more than anything

Experimental Artist – actually I know what chucking paint at a canvas will do, but an experimental artist sounds like an exciting and cool thing to be

The Design – where the paint landed on this thing

Mixed Media – I used lots of different things to make this thing

Landscape – a long rectanglular thing

Portrait – an upright rectanglular thing

Square – a thing favoured by abstract artists who generally don’t see themselves as square

Canvas – a bit of cloth wrapped around some wood

Panel – some flattened wood

Collage – I can’t be bothered to draw or paint so will do some glueing 

Values – Fifty shades of grey not the price 

Checking composition – squinting 

Mark making – messing up a pristine white thing

Texture – lumpy, bumpy things in the painting 

Paintbrush- a magical hairy wand to dip into paint

Paint – one of life’s treasures 

Pigment – coloured dust added to medium

Medium – a vehicle for pigment not a psychic

Acrylic paint – coloured glue

Oil Paint – smelly toxic stuff, addictive!

Clothes – things to ruin with paint 

Work in progress – I have no idea how to finish this thing 

Or 

I think this thing is finished and possibly utterly brilliant, maybe even a masterpiece by an unrecognised genius, but then again it might be shit, so I’ll just say that its work in progress (wip)

Feedback – My delicate artists soul is now tortured by this thing I have been struggling with and I don’t know what else to do – please say you like it!

Interesting – bugger, they don’t like it!

Is it for sale? – Yay! they do like it!

Sold – Wow, they loved it! Maybe I am not a shit painter after all!

www.kirsenharrisart.co.uk 

Image – Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be – from my Dusting my Whimsies series

24th December – Warning! Christmas Tree Cracker Jokes!

It was the Firs Noel –

‘Trees be with you, And also with you!’ said Firther Xmas to his wee elf, trying to think of a tree joke to enliven his Xmas cracker.

He’d been playing with his crackers all day and his hands had pins and needles. Firther Xmas was stumped. His crackers were a joke. Surely this was elemen-tree fun for an old hand!

‘Rudolph, how are we going to make this tired old tree stand upright?’ asked Firther Xmas.

‘Cover it in hornaments’ Rudolph quipped, giving his baubles a shake.

‘Fir he’s a jolly good fella!’ snorted Firther Xmas looking at the Claus in his contract.

‘It’s the last day before Xmas. I must finish this log today!’ he barked to his elf.

‘One tree-mendous pun and I’ll be there!’ he mumbled wondering if there was any mileage in a joke about coming from the North Pole?

Firther Xmas wished he was more like Spruce Willis. ‘There’s not much action in Xmas tree jokes.’ He looked ruefully at his crackers and wondered if he could finish now.

And with that Firther Xmas took off his Santa hat and put on his welly boots. He had lots of trees to plant this coming year and his tree jokes were making him green.

Merry Christmas and Trees on Earth!

May the Forest be With You!

Firther Xmas smiled to himself

‘I’ve still got it!’

******

My apologies for the terrible jokes.

Thank you for following this advent blog. Have a good Xmas and creative New Year. Here’s to hoping that lots of lovely, life-giving, glorious hardwood and native trees get planted world-wide this coming year!

Much love Kirsten x

The Christmas Story (With Bees) – Adapted and Illustrated by Kirsten Harris

My first video – I’ve been amusing myself over the past few days cartooning. I’ve never tried illustrating a story before, but a bee character showed up a few days ago and inspired an idea. I hope you enjoy the Xmas Story (With Bees). Sorry there is no audio. I am not a musician and sound is definitely a techno challenge too far at this point in time. I’m chuffed I managed to make a little video work. I hope it makes you smile… Kx

The Snow Queen – Bee Your Own Magic

Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year – a time when the sun appears stationary for three days, inviting us too to stop, slow down, chill out, let go….

In the darkest times it can be hard to believe that light will return. Yet life freezes to get on with its own magical transformation. I love the thought of the Queen Bee overwintering under her horse tree gathering energy to bring life to all in spring. She is a reminder to us to take time over winter to constructively rest too.

For inspiration as to the most effective way to do this, check out this Body Magic link here because taking the time to lie in semi-supine, is good for the spine and helps you feel fine!

Constructive rest, aka semi-supine, is a way to care for our whole self and thus the best Xmas gift we could possibly give ourselves. By stopping we have time to dwell in our golden hearted loving natures and bee our own magic, letting go of all that constant doing and busy-ness to experience the gift of just being life itself. Alive without all the stories we tell ourselves or are being told.

Solstice – an invitation to bee the snow queen for three days!

Much love

Kirsten

Body Magic download link

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Advent Calendar – 20th December – I Only Have Ice Fir Yule

Today’s offering is a daft drawing which made me smile. Got to keep your sense of humour, no matter what! Humour is wisdom and makes everything look better, methinks.

I enjoyed making sure every snowflake was different. Worth remembering we people are all snowflakes too and there are always going to be differences – all the more reason for humour. Well, that was my thought drawing snowflakes, at least.

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Advent Calendar – 19th December – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Bee!

Somewhere near you, overwintering in a dry, cold spot under a tree, sleeps a queen bee living on her fat supplies!

This summer I watched bees going in and out of this hole under a beech tree. The cartoon is inspired by the thought of the queen still there, safe for the winter.

I love the way it looks like a nostril in the ground.

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Advent Calendar – 18th December – Wee Bee Kings

Here come the pollinators bringing gifts for all…. wee bee kings.

I know it’s not the right time of year for worker bees but I couldn’t resit the idea of bees as the three wise men, bringing the most important gift of all – life for all!

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

copyright

Advent Calendar – 17th December – The Language of Wolves

Wolves howl to display togetherness. Howls are among many vocal sounds canines make as any dog owner will know. My dog howls when the 1pm Thursday siren sounds at Carstairs State Hospital or if she hears bagpipes! Crazy Maisie!

The Romans and Saxons reported Britain to be abundant with wolves. Wolves are now extinct here due to deforestation and active hunting through the bounty system. The last wolf recorded was killed in the 14th century in Kent.

We know deforestation destroys species and yet world-wide we continue to chop down pristine forest wildernesses. When will it stop? How can we get it to stop? Someone told me the other day they hate trees because they make a mess! Such ignorance makes me want howl in despair!

My only solution is to aim to find ways to keep planting trees and hopefully encourage others to do so too and somehow educate the tree haters! If a drawing or a bit of writing resonates and this advent blog sees someone somewhere deciding to plant a tree or motivates a group to come together to create a community orchard or woodland, it will have been a good idea. Personally this advent calendar is further pointing me to in the direction of art for trees. Somehow….

Sorry to be a bit mournful today, I’ll aim to draw something cheery and festive for tomorrow.

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Advent Calendar – 16th December – Ding Dong!

‘The clearest way to the Universe is through a forest wilderness” John Muir

This cartoon of Ding Dong Merrily on High is inspired by the sparrows in my garden. The more trees we have, the more birds.

Though I am definitely not a musician I had to get the notes in the right place! Funny how the word ‘high’ is the lowest note!

‘Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky” Kalib Gibran

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Advent Calendar – 12th December – The Happiness of Drinking Tea with a Friend

A few years ago a friend gave me some cut willow branches. Easy peasy trees to grow, literally cut branches and stick into the ground in spring. Now I have trees growing drinking up some of the wet areas of ground here. But more than that…

  • Willow bark tea is known as nature’s aspirin. Peel bark from fresh branches and boil for ten minutes, then steep for thirty minutes before drinking.
  • Cut branches in a vase make a beautiful winter display and will soon start to root to plant in spring. A reminder in winter of the promise of life held in a twig – a vase of magical willow wands! (Change the water once a week.)
  • Horses love to eat willow, a natural painkiller willow helps to reduce swelling and inflammation.

If any local friends would like some willow branches now or in the spring, please let me know, I’d be delighted to cut some for you.

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

The Happiness of Drinking Tea with Friend, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 60 cm. Inspired by willow pattern and an appreciation of the simple things in life. Available at The Tolbooth, Lanark Christmas Exhibition.

Advent Calendar – 10th December – The Apple Guardian

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

Advent Calendar – 7th December – The Merlin Tree

Merlin, the sovereign’s magician, not so much one person but a wisdom tradition, a lineage from the heart of the ancient forests of Britain.

Merlin is an important mythical figure, a myth being an idea in which man tries to make sense of the world. He embraces many archetypes – shaman, healer, mystic, animal communicator, alchemist, wise man, hermit, sage, shape-shifter, environmentalist, teacher, green man…

Merlin, the myths tell us, was exiled to the Caledonian Forests, a period of ‘madness’ roaming the vast wild woods of Scotland, where he is enlightened and connects with his magical powers.

It’s fascinating how spending time with trees and wilderness are a process of initiation and enlightenment in so many traditions world-wide.

This drawing is inspired by Merlindale, near Drumelzier here is Scotland where it is said Merlin died.

Previous blog here.

Returned to The Merlin Tree today adding layers of wash to the pencil on canvas. Work in progress. 80 x 100 cm

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Advent Calendar- 4th December – The Woodpecker

Prior to this Advent project I wrote a list of pros and cons re doing it. My lists were equal which led to this insight…In maths (not my favourite subject at school but I do remember this) a positive and a negative make a negative. Dah! Light bulb moment: do the Advent idea otherwise negativity will prevail!

How often do we do nothing because we don’t know if we can manage to do something, if it will be successful or where it will lead to? Perhaps creativity is this balance of positive and negative?

The Woodpecker – a dying horse tree – feast or famine? Life or death?

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Advent Calendar – 5th December – Clyde Dryad

The Dryads of Greek mythology are tree guardians. Hamadryads, nymph spirits of oak and poplar trees, are connected with river-side trees and sacred groves. When a tree dies a Dryad dies.

By planting native trees we plant spirit back into the land. Cash crop mono-forestry plantations have little or no spirit and do not guardian the land – more a destructive army of regular uniformity… (I should have called this project art-vent rather than advent!)

Though Dryads are usually depicted as beautiful young woman, Clyde Dryad is an ancient, gnarled crone viewing the world with her beady eye … ‘It’s not too late! We are not all gone!’ she creaks to the tiny money spider.

Inspired by the oaks on the River Clyde Walkway.

Clyde Dryad, Mixed Media, 12 x 12 inches

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Advent Calendar – 3rd December – This Too Shall Pass!

This too shall pass, such a useful thought in hard and stressful times! A thought that asks us to change our attitude in the moment and be hopeful, knowing that life is short and everything changes. Change is the only certainty.

Crows flock around the Horse Trees. Crows, intelligent, creative and adaptable, a crow feather worn as a head dress was used to amplify psychic abilities.

The Horse Trees are inspired by Scots Pines. Scots Pine is a native of the once extensive Caledonian Forest, the ancient temperate rainforest of Scotland of which only tiny fragments remain, and is the only native timber-producing pine in Scotland. The Scots Pine is known as a pioneer species, due to its ability to regenerate and thrive in poor soils and has a lifespan of 300 years supporting 172 insect species. A wondrous tree.

I wonder why then, do we see endless non-native pine plantations here in Scotland when it’s so easy to grow a useful native pine that also supports wildlife?

The horse finds shelter and comfort from the bitter wind. His gaze is turned towards the trees implying here is an answer – find creative solutions to problems. Don’t pass nature by! Everything we need is already here.

‘This too shall pass’ – attributed to Medieval Persian Sufi poets.

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Advent Calendar – 2nd December – The Return

I started this drawing months ago but it wasn’t speaking. Today the crows arrived at the Unicorn Tree. Crows are intelligent, adaptable and symbolic of transformation. They also have a somewhat sinister presence. The crows brought the drawing to life and with them came an idea…

My dad told me that the beech trees we see lining many of the roads of Britain were planted after World War 1 to commemorate the dead. So many of these century old trees are now dying.

Why? Ditches not maintained so their roots stand in water or salting the roads damaging tree roots? I don’t know. Many fell during Storm Arwen this week.

Perhaps, following the death of so many during Covid, Britain could follow the inspiration of post World War 1 tree planting with a mass tree planting along our road ways again, so that one day someone else’s dad will tell them the story of why they were planted!

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Advent Calendar – 1st December – Creating The Christmas Forest

Traditionally advent was marked with a chalk line on the wall ticking off the days until Christmas. I am marking advent with art, probably drawings, for 24 days as, I hope, a way to bring in ‘the light’ of ideas and inspiration.

There is something about setting an intention and showing up that lets ideas start to flow. I love that Advent and Adventure are the same word from Latin ‘advenire’ arrive and ‘adventurous’ about to happen.

This is something I would love to see happen… Christmas Forests!

Watching thousands upon thousands of soil acidifying cut Christmas trees being transported up Lanark High Street (and this only a tiny fraction of cut Christmas trees this year in the UK alone) an idea came to mind that I hope this drawing captures.

I have drawn a sock hanging outside on a washing line. One for each member of a family. In each sock is a bare root hardwood or fruit tree ready for planting in The Christmas Forest which, in my imagination, are a future concepts across the country. A place where people meet up at Christmas to plant trees and celebrate life. Giving a tree for Christmas as the best pressie ever!

Perhaps a few enlightened farmers who grow cash crop Xmas trees will see a Christmas Forest as a way of giving back – creating amazing woodlands for future generations by tithing a percentage of their land for Christmas Forests? They could sell the bare root stock to be planted on their land or vouchers or some such so it would be a win-win? It just takes a little willingness and imagination. I am sure Christmas Forests could become a thing!

Love

Kirsten

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Romance of the Falls – A Weekend with Turner – part 2

I ended the last blog wondering where Mr Turner was leading with forty painted postcards inspired by him. But I guess if anything it makes me more determined to think about what legacy I can leave. I am no Turner! The answer always seems to be to plant more trees. To let that be my footprint.

I woke up this morning with an idea where a community orchard could be planted locally and have sent an email about it. I have a good feeling about it. I love when ideas are just there on waking, as though planted.

In a funny way the most important thing about this weekend romance is that I listened to the whisper of an idea to paint on the postcards of Turner’s Falls of Clyde. Life (and my art) always seem to work best when I trust the ideas that come …. perhaps… arriving from ‘the gap in the quantum field’, also described as ‘the universal mind’ or the ‘governing intelligence’.

And that means allowing oneself to not know and be open, to simply be present to the flow… which, to my thinking, IS the journey of the artist.

I know it’s not cool to admit, but this whole Covid thing’s been a tad stressful. I do try not to let stressful thoughts run the show. By painting, painting, painting and exploring a multitude of creative ideas I’ve mainly been able to stay at ease though my arm has got sore! Dah!

However, thankfully and thanks to JMW Turner I realise the intuitive voice is still there. Now it’s time to action more ideas…

There’s work to be done. Trees to be planted and paintings to be sold in order to do it!

Forward and Up!

Kirsten x

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

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A selection of postcards from JMW Turner and me!

https://www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Romance of the Falls – A Weekend with Turner

Postcard of The Falls of Clyde by JMW Turner
The original is described as Watercolour over pencil with some scrapings on two sheets of paper joined and laid down. 41.30 x 52.10 cm.

Joseph Maillard William Turner is described as the father of modern art. Every four years the Royal Scottish Academy of Art display a selection of Turner watercolours for about a month in a dimly lit room. Amongst the collection is a watercolour of The Falls of Clyde. I decided to approach the Academy to have a postcard made for an exhibition, The Romance of the Falls at The Tolbooth in Lanark. which took place four years ago.

JMW Turner painted our local beauty spot in 1801. My history of art lecturer at Bretton Hall, David Hill, was a Turner expert and author. I even did my degree thesis on The Turner Prize. An exhibition in the footsteps of Turner was an idea that had been in my head for years. Four years ago I decided to look for local artists and a wonderful exhibition followed.

I was excited about the postcard too. I had to buy in bulk as the Academy were doing a special print run. The response, however, was unexpected –

‘It’s a bit dull’, I was told and to my utter surprise no-one was in the least bit interested in Turner.

The other day I came across the pile of postcards in a drawer. Turner whispered in my ear…

‘We’re not finished yet, I’ll help you plant trees. Paint on the postcards…’

This sounds a bit odd but I listen to whispers in the wind!

This weekend I had an affair with Turner. A postcard is small and the original painting fairly large, so detail was hard to see, but analysing the image was absorbing. I definitely know the painting is NOT dull and Turner deserves the title the Father of Modern Art!

My discoveries –

  • Every single mark and shape is different. Turner doesn’t seem to repeat a brush stroke anywhere. They are ever inventive.
  • There are structures within the structure. Light and dark compositions laid down in big bold areas. Following the lights I started to see the painting differently to following the darks.
  • The picture planes are all different – drawing them I found Vorticism and Cubism.
  • Painting big areas of lights and dark with bold brush strokes led to Impressionism, Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism.
  • This is a ‘colour field’ painting of sepias. I played with notans, simple black and whites, and discovered that Turner is telling us he’s not interested in the naturalistic colour of trees or water but tone and composition. He is abstracting the landscape rather than painting exactly what he sees. I watched a Tate Gallery video on his process and learned that he started most watercolours on duck egg blue paper, a mid tone. So he was both adding and subtracting at the same time.
  • It is absolutely beautifully painted. For all the abstract qualities it is unmistakably The Falls of Clyde. A well observed ‘plein-air’ watercolour, probably worked up later in the studio.
  • The eye is funnelled down from the large light area of sky and then zigzagged across the picture. Turner is totally in charge of what he wants us to look at and how he wants us to experience the scene.
  • The lack of drama in the sky creates more drama in the waterfall by contrast.
  • Then I started to see my ‘Horse Trees’ in the painting, perhaps not surprising as they are inspired by the same windswept trees and landscape here in South Lanarkshire. Turner hadn’t painted horses but I seem to see them in everything!
  • Abstracting the big shapes I also found a bird.
  • I found a pin prick of brighter light at the top of the fall contrasted with a strong straight shadow line which seemed to suggest both the light source and vanishing point and to be the centre of the Golden Mean.
  • The horizontal lines are divded by the Golden Section. The darkest dark lies a third of the way up the painting.
  • Turner has rendered water in several different ways – fast falling water, misty water, flowing water, spray, still water, water in light and shadow. It’s truly amazing when you start to look at it. He seems to have achieved this through strong directional lines and dots that describe rocks which like a Zen garden define the space and flow.
  • The rocks at the bottom of the falls are dynamic too. There are no completely horizontal lines on the earth plane, which adds to the sense of drama as the ground is falling away too. Random rocks have a sense of presence and arrival at the foot of the falls at some point in the distant past. Nothing is unobserved.

Mr Turner….how are you going to help me plant trees?

As I write this I wonder if the ever growing group of artists and creatives that have come together via The Tolbooth, gathered by following in Turner’s footsteps, will be the answer? An art forest perhaps?

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And lots more…. forty so far! More to follow in the next blog.

Thanks for reading.

Kirsten x

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Dusting my Whimsies!

I love things – old things, odd things, quirky things, kitsch things, inspiring things, hand made things! It’s deeply unfashionable to like things in this world where minimilism is seen as spiritual and billions of tons of stuff are dumped into landfill every year!

Dah!

I am an unashamed lover of things!

A few weeks ago I decided to follow my enjoyment of collectibles as inspiration to make art, thereby giving myself the perfect excuse to carry on being a collector of stuff and nonsense.

It all came about at the car boot sale where I found myself entranced by a box of Whimsies, small ornaments made by Wade. I collected them as a child, eagerly spending my pocket money buying one a week but they had long since disappeared from my life.

I somehow found myself buying the entire box of Whimsies. 115 of them to be precise! Utter madness, but great fun having coffee with mum and going through the collection. Steptoe and Mum! It was worth the buy just for the laughs and memories evoked of those days back in Nork!

Later I told a friend and fellow thing lover about my crazy purchase and her spontaneous response was ‘Omg, you’re going to have to dust them!’ ‘Yes! I’ll be dusting my whimsies!’ I quipped back and we burst into hysterical, delightful, childish, fnar, fnar giggles.

And so an idea was born.

Introducing ‘Dusting My Whimsies’….

They make me smile…

‘This Little Piggy Went to the Car Boot Sale’ Mixed Media
‘Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be?’ Mixed Media
‘Oh Duck!’ Mixed Media

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Confessions of a Terrible Alexander Technique Teacher!

Travelling Forward, Acylic on Panel, 30 x 30 cm

I have a sore arm from too much painting! 

Thank goodness for some Alexander Technique skills to fall back on to begin to undo the holding caused by holding a paintbrush aka magic wand, obsessively for months! 

A paintbrush for me is a transporter.

While painting I am at peace, in the flow, happy. All the stresses of the world just melt away. However, stupidly, I have completely over-done enjoyment of being transported to somewhere unknown, expansive and full of potential at the expense of my poor arm. Weirdly my neck is free, my shoulder mobile, just one point on my mid arm is ‘ouchy!’ Wake me up at night ‘ouchy!’

So, my point in writing – it’s not that as AT teachers we  have to have constant, perfect, queen-like poise, or that the complexities of being human don’t get us into a bit (or a lot) of shambles at times, but more that there is something about the freedom and release  brought about by Alexander Technique skills that allows us to follow a flow and actually BE passionate. It allows the flow to unfold without putting up obstacles.  Poise is not an end in itself, it is a place of potential…

This week I started wondering why my arm was sore beyond a repetitive movement. I have painted for ever and this hasn’t happened.

My insight – I’ve  started to feel that I shouldn’t be painting more as I have made so much artwork over the past 18 months. Thus I’ve set up a mental pattern of resistance that is creating tension as I paint. ‘I’m painting but I shouldn’t be painting, I have all these paintings – how am I ever going to sell them, who needs paintings when the world is in crisis…’ kind of thinking. 

Human are complex and our thinking effects us. We can set up tension patterns without even realising it. Then to make matters worse we set up a double bind and start to ‘beat ourselves up’ for being in pain – ‘terrible Alexander Teacher, I should know better, maybe the artwork is all shit..’etc.

Now the arm has become the obstacle to painting that I created with my thinking. A self fulfilling prophecy! Now I can’t paint more because it hurts.

Does anyone relate?

So today, I celebrate my sore arm and the fact that I have produced a ton of artwork and thoroughly enjoyed doing it! Art work that I hope will all sell in due course and raise money to plant trees. Today I let go of mental resistance and let my arm come back home! Today I let myself be free to be free. Free to paint or free to just lie on my back and look at the sky and visualise the future forest that my art will create. Today I let negative thoughts melt in the rare Scottish sun!

www.kirstenharriart.co.uk

Painting for a Space – Sheildhill Castle

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.

On Tinto Top there is a mist
And in that mist there is a kist
And in that kist there is a cup
And in that cup there is a drop
Take up that cup, drink of the drop
And set up camp on Tinto top

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.

If Wishes Were Horses by Kirsten Harris

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.

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

The Grey Lady of Shieldhill

Jurassic Art Blip

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!’

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Tree Lovers – Will You Help me Plant Trees?

Tree Lovers by Kirsten Harris

We are heading to autumn and I hope to plant a lot more trees. Will you help me? 

These prints of tree drawings will pay to fence off an area of land to protect the young trees and get more planted. I am on a mission and asking for help! It’s just one artists attempt to do something directly useful for the planet. 

I will blog about ideas and inspirations in the drawings over the coming days and be making more tree art too.

It is time for me to get focussed again! I have been developing my art but not really promoting it during Covid, as it seemed somehow irrelevant in a time of crisis. But this morning I feel focussed again. By keeping my purpose in mind, promoting my art is easy. My purpose is trees! That’s important!

All these prints are available on my website with many others and lots of beautiful original art.

Will you help me make a difference?  Trees for the future for someone else to love after we are gone!

Thank you so much in advance. I look forward to hearing from you.

Perhaps a print would make a nice gift for someone?

Best wishes and big kisses

Kirsten

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

All prints are £20/$28 for A4 size 21 x 29.7 cm

£30/$42 for A3 size 29.7 x 420 cm

Postage £5.50 worldwide. 

PS I will be putting lots of new work on my website over the next few days. Keep an eye out for something you like. xx

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All printed on white art paper

Why Blog?

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. 

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk 

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

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.

With love 

Kirsten 

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

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Art of Positivity!

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!

Love Kirsten

Two paintings I had a lot of fun with… Maisie and Action Man. Yes, I have conversations with a bird called Action Man…

No! by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Board, 12 x 12 inches

Action Man by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Board, 12 x 12 inches

Lanark’s Closes – Astronomy, Magic, Superstitions and Alchemical Brews

The illustrations for Lanark’s Closes house a veritable ark, with two dogs, two magpies, a cat, lion, unicorn, horse, several chickens and an elephant! But I wanted to add some less obvious details too.

Astronomy – The drawing for Hunter’s Close shows a telescope pointing at Orion’s Belt. David Hunter was not only the first person to install electrical lighting in his shop in Lanark but an enthusiastic astronomer he was commissioned by the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh to make a telescope.

Locating Orion’s Belt is the easiest way to find Orion, the hunter. I chose Orion as a pointer to Lanark’s coat of arms with its two hunting dogs when the Forests of Lanark were Royal hunting grounds.

Orion’s Belt is also known in British folklore as Jacob’s Rod, Peter’s Staff, The Golden Yard-arm, The Ell, the Yard Wand, Our Lady’s Wand, the Magi, the Three King’s, the Three Mary’s or simply the Three Stars.

Magic – The dandelion clock in each drawing symbolises wishes and hopes for the future. Who hasn’t blown on a dandelion clock and made a wish? I believe in the power of positive thinking and positive intentions. Mind magic! We create our own reality with our thinking. Or as Einstein famously said “The most important decision is life is to decide whether it is a friendly or hostile Universe!”

The saying ‘If Wishes Were Horses’ was first recorded in by James Carmichael by Tinto in the 1700’s. In several drawings a magpie holds a single seed, the seed of a good idea is indeed magical.

Alchemical Brews – Brewery Close led to Gilroy’s, The Brewers. I decided to add the formula for brewing, or how to make a potion, to the drawing in the hope that it might interest someone. Brewed dandelions are an incredible medicine for lots of things too! For those who like a more simple brew, the kettle’s on in Ritchie’s Close!

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Superstition. Two magpies for joy appear in every drawing. Does anyone else say ‘Good morning Mr Magpie’ if they see a solitary magpie to counter ‘one for sorrow?’

The spider that appears in the window of McKenzies Close is not only a reference to the weaving industry but a money spider, creating abundance! One dead magpie lies on the floor, symbolising the demise of this once huge industry in Lanark.

Lucky horse shoes appear in the image for Duncan’s Close, which is also a reference to Riding the Marches every year during Lanimer week in order to retain Lanark’s Royal Burgh status. Duncan’s Close housed both smiths and stone masons. One dog has a paw on a March Stone showing the importance of the symbolic stone.

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Close Encounters opens today at 10am at the Tolbooth Lanark. The twelve original drawings for the street history panels are for sale alongside drawings of the backs of the Closes by Ronnie Cruwys.

Beware of Bull – Close Encounters with the Community Bull!

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!

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Bull’s Close, Lanark.

Cobblers – More on Illustrating Lanark’s Closes

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?

Thomson’s Close

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.

McKenzie’s Close

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.

Bull’s Close
Bernard’s Wynd. Spot the Medieval window arches!

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!

Buns and Pies – More Waffle on Creating a Series of Illustrations

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.

Two Dogs, a Cat, Two Magpies and a Dandelion Clock – On Illustrating Lanark’s Closes

When I was asked to illustrate the history of Lanark’s Closes I was provided with some factual info about their past. I love history so found it interesting but also dry, as these things often are. I needed to find a way to give the information some life through illustrations that hopefully both children and adults would enjoy.

I began by looking at Lanark’s heraldic shield. Lanark is a Royal Burgh. On its 600 year old heraldry I noticed two dogs. Here was the start of an idea.

Lanark had been royal hunting grounds in Medieval times so this is why, I presume, the dogs are on the shield. I decided the dogs would appear in each cartoon providing a bit of fun and mischief but also linking into the long past of Lanark. Six hundred year old dogs were going to be given a new lease of life and turned into cartoon characters.

Now I had dogs I wanted a cat for cat lovers. Around the corner from the high street is the statue of ‘The Girnin’ Dug.’ The local story of neighbourhood feuds involves a cat chase, so here was my cat.

One idea was leading to another but now I had a cat I wanted two birds. I chose two magpies to symbolise ‘two for joy’ as I wanted the panels to be positive for the town. Lastly, I added a dandelion clock.

Much of my artwork over the past few years has been inspired by the saying ‘If Wishes Were Horses’, which was first recorded by James Carmichael in his book of Scottish proverbs in 1628. The Carmichael lands lie just outside Lanark by Tinto Hill, from where the Clydesdale Horse originates too.

So the dandelion clock acts a kind of signature of my artwork plus referencing more local history, as well as a positive symbol of hope, wishes coming true and transformation.

The dandelion clock too as a reminder of the huge importance of wildflowers as pollinators for bees. I sincerely hope that people will stop seeing dandelions as weeds but as the miraculous plants they are!

Now I had a cast of characters to use in each panel to link the Close illustrations together and attempt to bring to life the hustle and bustle of a busy market town over the centuries.

The historical facts could now wrap around these repeating elements. I really hope locals and visitors to Lanark enjoy the set of 12 drawings. Here is the first pre – drawing I made to bring the dogs to life.

I think we need to name Lanark’s two dogs!?

www.kirstenharrisart.com

The original artwork is going on exhibition and is also for sale, including this first pre project drawing of the heraldic shield …

Open Wide – More on Illustrating Lanark’s Medieval Closes

When I was asked to illustrate the history of Lanark’s Medieval Closes, for information panels to be displayed in the street, I was shocked, to say the least! I am definitely not known for images of buildings! Animals yes, dandelion clocks yes, horses yes, buildings, no! Perspective, Argh! ‘Steer clear’ has always been my motto!

I suggested another local artist but was told that she’d been asked and turned the job down saying she could draw buildings but felt she didn’t have the imagination to bring the history to life. So number 2 choice happily said ‘yes’! A job during lockdown and a challenge sounded more than fantastic!

It was obviously time to learn to draw buildings, take on perspective and create narratives. Sack the perfectionist, I decided, and create some comedy and fun to illuminate the history. A bit of possibly dodgy perspective wouldn’t matter and at least there was an elephant in one of the histories so I knew I would be able to do that!

The backside of the elephant was no problem having painted hundreds of elephants. I decided an elephants bum was funnier than a head poking out of the Close. Cartooning people in historically apt costume made me smile and wonder about the lives of folk in the past. So just a matter of some windows and an arch. Bingo!  First one done.

I realised this project was already a lesson to learn not to say ‘I can’t’ do something, ie draw buildings, just because I’ve never done it before! How often do we do that in life? Anyone relate? My mind and art were being opened wider by the Wide Close.

Wide Close was one of the gates to Lanark when it was a Medieval walled town and has a much bigger opening than any of the other Closes because of this.

So why an elephant in central Scotland? Here is the story from a book written in 1895 for anyone who plays the lottery or like me, loves elephants.

I haven’t rewritten it as the style it is written in is a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy the story. 

Close Encounters opens 26th April at the Tolbooth Lanark. The original illustration are for sale with a certificate of authenticity. There are only 12 illustrations up for grabs and 12 paintings of the backs of the Closes by Ronnie Cruwys. Her paintings remind me of Van Gogh. Just fabulous! Poster below.

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

We look forward to seeing you at this celebration of a little bit of the history of the Royal Burgh of Lanark.

Time Passages

Medieval Lanark – a walled town

The Tolbooth on the left. Notice the thatched Medieval cottage to the left of that

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. 

Bull’s close, where the town’s community bull was kept! The Tolbooth is at the white building at the bottom of the high st

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

Kirsten

www.kirstenharrisart.com

See all the close images below poster…

Spring – The March Hare

This painting started as one thing and became something completely different.

It was inspired by seeing a hare and spring springing in the garden with the first snowdrops and an incredible blood orange snow moon at the beginning of the week. The idea of life’s potential about to burst forth, almost vibrating with energy yet still contained by winter’s chill.

This painting emerged over 5 intense days. It wasn’t planned. Or rather I had a plan and it went in a completely different direction.

It is loosely divided into the four elements –

Earth, the hare and dandelion clocks.

Fire, the sun and eye.

Water, the sea and fish and

Air, the dragonfly and seeds.

I allowed myself to stay in not knowing where I was going and enjoy exploring acrylic on board.

Some symbolism –

The Hare – rebirth, resurrection, dawn, fertility, spring, immortality. A hare or maybe the white rabbit of the magician?

The Dragonfly – wisdom, light, transformation, adaptability. Connecting with our own courage, bringing more joy into our lives. A pollinator.

The Fish and Sea – flow, fertility, swimming your own course despite the currents. Environmental awareness.

The Teardrop or Raindrop – My grief for how we treat nature, desiring to do more to help. Renewal, cleansing, healing.

The Webs – The interconnectedness of all things. The importance of insects and pollinators. Creation. The spider spinning magic, connected to the number 8, the sign of infinity. Beginnings and endings being interconnected. Life and death.

The Moon – Tides, time, seasons. The feminine.

The Dandelion Clocks and Seeds – hope, new beginnings, abundance. Wishes and the magic of life. Wishing to plant more trees this spring to allow the magic of nature to flourish.

Toadstools – altered states of consciousness, seeing beyond the mundane.

The Eye – seeing the truth, seeing beyond illusion, the eye of god, being alive. The great mystery of life! There is a trinity here too with a creature of the air, earth and sea, each with an eye, yet the smallest one, the dragonfly has a human eye. We need to take responsibility for what we are doing! I remember as a child that when we went out on a Sunday in my dads car the windscreen would be covered in insects. Now that never happens. With no insects we have no life on Earth.

Not too much symbolism in this painting then! I didn’t realise I had painted so much in until writing this blog. I definitely had fun painting it. At one point I had painted a horse, deer, badger, highland cow, cat and a random fried egg in the scene, but they all got painted out.

Spring – The March Hare, Acrylic on Board, 50 x 60 cm

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Tao Te Ching – Nineteen

Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom,

And it will be a hundred times better for everyone.

Give up kindness, renounce morality,

And men will rediscover filial piety and love.

Give up ingenuity, renounce profit,

And bandits and thieves will disappear.

These three are outward forms alone: they are not sufficeint in themselves.

It is more important

To see the simplicity,

To realise one’s true nature,

To cast off selfishness

And temper desire.

LAO TSU

****

The Tao Te Ching is loaded with ideas so selecting what resonates.

‘To realise one’s true nature’

I think that art is a kind of seeking of one’s self. I guess it’s what motivates to keep making artwork. The joy of ‘Aha’ moments, happy accident, skills coming together, letting go. The pure sensory pleasure of colour or paint on canvas. The thrill of an abstact line turning into something recognisable. The expression of pure feeling…

Great week in the studio resolving problem paintings – the also rans in the reject pile. Quite a big reject pile – I seem to have a lot of problems, some going back ten years!

I want to clear my studio to really learn how to work in non-toxic acrylic paint. So resolving oil paintings seemed like a good plan and instead of wanting to burn the problem paintings I felt on fire this week.

It would appear artists creates problems to solve. A crazy game but the best fun when it comes together.

Simple ideas applied – design, differences and values.

The work came alive and with it me too!

It’s the best feeling being in the zone. Dubbed the zone by children I taught Alexander Technique to at school discovering it was something they could access for themselves through a bit of Alexander Technique ‘forward and up’ thinking. A real ‘life skill’. I used to feel on fire every time I taught.

Today – intention to pack my oils to the shed and create space for acrylics! This is BIG! This is putting myself into being a beginner as I really don’t like acrylics or know what they can do but my lungs really, really don’t like oil paint!

I am finally motivated to give acrylics a real go, rather than simply fiddle half heartedly.

Beginners mind! The first three ‘give up’s’ in this verse perhaps instructions as to how to find it!?

****

These four paintings of speeding cheetahs were part of a series I did about ten years ago and had got stuck with. Happy with the energy in them now, and they definitely portray the feel of shifting forward and my ignited energy this week. Although they don’t really represent themes I am interested in painting now, my ‘finisher/completer’ is doing a happy dance!

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Tao Te Ching – Eighteen

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.

LAO TSU

***

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.)

****

Tao Te Ching – Sixteen

Empty yourself of everything.

Let the mind rest at peace.

The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.

They grow and flourish and then return to the source.

Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.

The way of nature is unchanging.

Knowing constancy is insight.

Not knowing constancy leads to disaster.

Knowing constancy, the mind is open.

With an open mind, you will be openhearted.

Being openhearted you will act royally.

Being royal you will attain the divine.

Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao.

Being at one with the Tao is eternal.

And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away.

LAO TSU

****

I’ve spent a few days sketching ideas for the mural, but I think writing down what I want to achieve might start to clarify ‘ten thousand things!’

So, what do I want to say? My Shirley Valentine wall moment!

Vibe – fun and magical, a place where the children can find imaginative freedom. Smile generator.

Scale – The bigger I can make it the more impact and fun. Need scaffolding! Wheelchair height detailed elements, bigger shapes higher up.

Comical elements – in the form of good ideas and the way I draw – expressions, action etc

About – the natural world and freedom of imagination

Incorporates – wildlife, trees, flowers, animals, birds, insects and perhaps a magical unicorn too. So much potential as to what to paint and how to paint it that the ‘ten thousand things’ become overwhelming. Let ideas rise and fall until I see what is left. I love the words in this verse – ‘the way of nature.’

The Way of Nature – a working title for the wall!

3d elements – planters planted with brightly coloured real flowers. Real nesting boxes attached to drawings of the trees. Eric said he would make some boxes. Could attach bird or other cut out shapes to the front of the boxes, so the nesting holes became mouths. Other 3d ideas?

Colour – Paint the walls a colour first. Get rid of the white! Maybe section areas into key colour elements and get help from the groundsmen to do the big painting job! Good plan. Pale greens and blues for one wall. Maybe reds and brights for the other.

I am realising that good planning is key to the success of this

So here is a thing –

Anxiety, caused by living in the future!

Depression, caused by living in the past!

Creativity, freed by living in the moment!

So my task is to keep staying present with ideas and let them come. That presence is what I think is meant be ‘constancy’ in the verse.

The wall will start to come alive with the planning I do now. Keep planning! Enjoy the planning! It’s a learning curve.

I’ve noticed moments of anxiety over the past couple of days when I jump too far ahead with the project and moment of feeling low when I think because I’ve never done a huge mural before I’m not capable. Past and future mind games. Best avoided by noticing and letting go. Lying in Alexander Technique Constructive Rest for a few minutes usually changes my mind!

This mural is a wonderful challenge – learning loads already.

So another thing – fear and excitement are much the same feeling. Label this excitement, so as not to keep hitting the wall!

Photo – second wall that I can paint.

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Tao Te Ching – Fifteen

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.

LAO TSU

****

‘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.

Good idea!

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.

****

Having fun now…

Tao Te Ching – Fourteen

Look, it cannot be seen – it is beyond from.

Listen, it cannot be heard – it is beyond sound.

Grasp, it cannot be held – it is unintelligible.

These three are indefinable:

Therefore they are joined as one.

From above it is not bright;

From below it is not dark:

An unbroken thread beyond description.

It returns to nothingness.

The form of the formless,

The image of the imageless,

It is called indefinable and beyond imagination.

Stand before it and there is no beginning.

Follow it and there is no end.

Stay with the ancient Tao,

Move with the present.

Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of the Tao.

LAO TSU

***

I started to think in earnest about how to achieve a huge mural in the spring. Something I’ve not done before. I visualised standing before it smiling, a photo being taken, the children happy, inspired. Creative visualisation before the event.

And then an epiphany walking past two big paintings on my wall.

‘Just be you! Paint your art!’

It doesn’t sound much of an epiphany, but it’s as though I had blocked the flow thinking I should be someone else ie a mural artist who knows what she is doing!

The epiphany said – let it flow, it will come, you cannot push water into the pool, it flows into the pool and becomes a pond. You can do this.

I walked, feeling excited, laughing at my own idiocy. Biting wind, drifting snow. Then started drawing out ideas, letting them flow. I know now that it will come together and I will enjoy the process, no longer scared and overwhelmed. It’s as though I have found the straight line, the path, my brain no longer bouncing from side to side with possibilities.

The straight line – self worth.

‘Stand before it there is no beginning

Follow it there is no end.’

Later a conversation with an artist friend and a penny dropping. A great big AHA moment.

Me – You’re the queen of perspective

Ronnie – I just think of a clock face

Me – (penny dropping) OMG, I CAN do perspective. A clock face, that’s BRILLIANT!

I am looking forward to drawing from life today, playing with the clock face. And to continue letting ideas flow for the wall.

Tao Te Ching – Ten

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.

LAO TSU

****

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

*****

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Translation of The Tao Te Ching – Gia-Fu Feng, Jane English

Tao Te Ching – Five

Heaven and earth are ruthless;

They see ten thousand things as dummies.

The wise are ruthless;

They see people as dummies.

The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows.

The shape changes but not the form;

The more it moves, the more it yields.

More words count less.

Hold fast to the centre.

LAO TSU

****

The verse made me think of the sea, the wind, the forces of nature. Another windy bitterly cold day. I felt tired, low.

I found abandoned paintings of seashells in my studio and reworked the small canvases into seascapes.

I wondered why I had given myself the task of going through the Tao Te Ching, The Book of the Way. But I feel rudderless, drifting, and the words are considered sacred, holding meaning to be understood. It is a way to learn from – lessons in the flow of nature.

Does the word dummy means quiet?

or

People are foolish how we treat the planet, dummies indeed.

‘The more it moves the more it yields’ an Alexander Technique like phrase. When we fix our bodies we become stuck in our attitudes, our emotions, our life. Most people are fixed, held together by tension. ‘Yield’ yet ‘hold fast to centre’. Move from the balance point that aligns everything. It is so simple yet a challenge to return to.

I miss the children I used to teach, I miss teaching.

‘The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows’ – the tides, the tides of breath. A sea shell washed up on the shore.

‘The shape changes but not the form.’ We are all connected by breath, by life, on our small precious planet. Now more than ever we should see this truth!

***

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Tao Te Ching – Four

The Tao is an empty vessel; it is used but it is never filled.

Oh, unfathomable source of ten thousand things!

Blunt the sharpness,

Untangle the knot,

Soften the glare,

Merge with dust.

Oh, hidden deep but ever present!

I do not know from whence it comes.

It is the forefather of the emperors.

Four Feathers, Acrylic on Canvas, 40 x 40 cm
Letting Go, Ink and Acrylic on Paper

Tao Te Ching – Three

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.

LAO TSU

****

Feather Study, Acrylic on Canvas

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.

Swan Feather, Acrylic on Canvas
Feather Study 2 – Acrylic on Canvas

Tao Te Ching – Two

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.

LAO TSU

***

Heat, Oil on Canvas, 30 x 30 cm

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.

Stay safe,

Love Kirsten

https://www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

TAO TE CHING – A Journey

Maybe, like me, you feel you need some wisdom and guidance in your life right now but don’t know where to turn or who to turn to. I suspect I am not alone in feeling somewhat lost. Yesterday I picked up the Tao Te Ching from my book shelf.

Reading the first few verses I had a thought that I would like to see if I can do a drawing responding to each verse over the next weeks. There are 81 verses.

This ancient text seems like the perfect wisdom to the challenges of the present time. Letting the verses inspire through drawing seems like a perfect way to aim to embody some of this wisdom.

Lao Tsu, was an older contemporary of Confucius, and keeper of the imperial archives at Loyang in the province of Hunan in the sixth century BC. Taoism is concerned with spiritual levels of being. It has been translated more frequently than any other book than the Bible. The edition I am using is translated by Gia-Fu Feng.

I have no idea where this art journey will go and I set off with trepidation and excitement, and trying to let go of any fear of not doing justice to such a timeless text but just to try and be with the words for the next 81 days or so. Yesterday I thought I would be doing a 28 day project, but it just got wings!

The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu

ONE

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.

The named is the mother of ten thousand things.

Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.

These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness.

Darkness within darkness.

The gate to all mystery.

TAO TE CHING – Lao Tsu

Egg Pyramid by Kirsten Harris

I made the egg shapes dipping the inners of toilet rolls into ink and printing them. They seem to make the perfect egg! Who knew?

Half a Dozen Eggs by Kirsten Harris
or The Tao Te Chicken!

Mountain Art

Glencoe Mountain Rescue by Kirsten Harris, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 80 cms approx

A few years ago I started chatting to a random stranger parked next to me. He was fixing a cable to the front of his Land Rover and talked about fundraising for Glencoe Mountain Rescue to buy them a new Land Rover. His friend had recently tragically died in the mountains. I spontaneously offered to paint something to auction towards the fundraising. This is the painting.

The book cover is something I drew at the start of this year for my good friend Susan, who has climbed every Monroe in Scotland. The Aonach Eagach is, apparently, one of the scarier mountains to climb!

Though I suspect my relationship with mountains will be largely artistic, I thought I would bring Susan’s book together with the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Land Rover painting.

We are so lucky here in Scotland to have such an amazingly stunning landscape and brave volunteers who are willing to risk their own lives when walkers get into trouble in the mountains.

Link to Susan’s book here, recounting some of her adventures hill walking in Scotland.

Swimming the Aonach Eagach by Susan Jack

Available on Amazon

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

How to Fail as an Artist! 12 Fool Proof Steps to Failure!

Sometimes I have a dreadful sense of humour but I guess it’s good I can still make myself smile. So here is – How to fail as an artist! 12 fool proof steps to failure!

  1. Don’t finish anything. It’s safest to not start at all.
  2. If you make the mistake of starting don’t show anything to anyone.
  3. Think everything you do is terrible.
  4. Develop worry while you paint, especially whether people will like your art or not. This will help you mess things up.
  5. Think everything you do should be a masterpiece and then despair that it isn’t and give up.
  6. Copy other artists artwork or style. Definitely DO NOT develop your own style on any account or there is a distinct danger of failing at failing.
  7. Compare yourself to other artists, preferably negatively then beat yourself up for being a useless artist. Even better if you broaden that to being a useless human being. Who needs artists anyway!?
  8. Refuse to sell anything and/or don’t put prices on your art. This is a moot point as you won’t have shown your art to anyone so it shouldn’t ever become a problem.
  9. Don’t take any risks with your art and definitely do not experiment with art materials! You don’t want to accidentally succeed!
  10. Be scared to waste materials. In fact fear is an excellent emotion to develop to guarantee failure. White paper is very scary after all and art materials are scarily expensive! Best to just leave them be, they’re doing no harm sitting in the cupboard.
  11. Procrastinate. That kitchen junk drawer really does need tidying up!
  12. Most importantly, absolutely refuse to believe in yourself so that you don’t happen upon your own confident style. Follow the first eleven steps and this one should be easy!

For goodness sake do not sign up to my blog or you might get more of this nonsense!

Just kidding…

Stay well, stay safe and stay creative.

Love

Kirsten

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Ear Worm

I have an ear worm that I want to clear.

In conversation a friend said she feels she is not a successful artist if she has doesn’t sell and has art ‘hanging around’.

A worm lodged and started to grow. The little wormy voice started telling me I am not successful because I have not been making an effort to sell and have a Covid cancelled exhibitions worth of art stuffed into every nook and cranny of my home.

My wardrobe is full of paintings. Clothes? Who need clothes, art lives in wardrobes! My spare room, stuffed to the gunnels, no friends can visit anyway. Brimming cupboards, heaving drawers of drawings, framed paintings tucked under the bed, every wall space full. In fact my walls look as though an army of worms has attacked there are so many nail holes from hanging and rehanging over the years. 

But truth be told, since Covid I haven’t felt right about proactively marketing my work. I have sold a few pieces when people have approached me, and exhibited in one group show locally when lockdown eased, but somehow, rightly or wrongly, I have had the idea that I shouldn’t expect other people to put themselves at risk delivering parcels for me, and stay home meant stay home. I even produced a calendar that I decided to postpone until 2022. I have also been shielding my mum in her 80’s.

But I want to release the ear worm that is telling me I am not successful because I have a house full of art. Insidious little beastie begone!

I started to wonder if art actually exists if it’s under the bed, or in a cupboard? Does art only exist if it is seen, like Shrodinger’s cat?  And even, due to lack of space, should I stop painting and do something else?

Or is the purpose of art the glimpses at the mysteries of life that one experiences in it’s making? I think success for me this morning as I aim to let go of the poky little ear worm is that I wake up and want to paint and draw and for that I am grateful.

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and the voice will be silenced.” Vincent Van Gogh.

‘Oh No!’ Oil on Canvas by Kirsten Harris
This was painted and sold years ago, but feels apt!

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

In Praise of Chickens

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

Chicken Love, Chalk Paint on Board by Kirsten Harris
Learning to Fly by Kirsten Harris
Black and White print available
Chicken Rhythms by Kirsten Harris Chalk Paint on Board
Bunty, Chalk paint on board
Chicken Halloween by Kirsten Harris
Print Available
hawser
The Chicken Circus by Kirsten Harris
Chicken Thumbprints by Kirsten Harris
Watercolour on Paper
I love you by Kirsten Harris
Chalk Paint on Board

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

The Girnin Dug

Camp, The Girnin Dug

Lanark is home to a nearly 200 year old statue of a  dog called Camp, known locally as The Girnin Dug. 

Camp, a large black and white dog, was the beloved companion of Deacon John McDonald, deacon of the dyers trade.

As a sign of wealth, merchants would aspire to a town house in the Medieval Castlegate, at the foot of the high street. Building his town house, Deacon McDonald found his neighbour, Miss Mary Inglis of Vere House, objecting to both his new house and his loyal but boisterous dog, Camp.

One day in hot pursuit of a cat, Camp knocked over Miss Inglis in the street.  Shortly after Camp was found poisoned. Miss Inglis was the prime suspect. 

Deacon McDonald used art as revenge. Saying nothing to Miss Inglis he instead commissioned a snarling, grimacing, gurning stone statue of his faithful friend, which he erected on the gable end of his new house, staring directly into Miss Inglis’s morning room, her favourite place to sit and watch the world go by. 

Local legend says Miss Inglis eventually blocked up the window. The Girnin Dug still girns at 15 Castlegate.  Vere House is demolished. 

20-20 Vision – Eye Level – Dogs

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.

***

24. Flat Out by Kirsten Harris, Postcard size, Ink on White card. £20
25. Eye Level by Kirsten Harris, Original Drawing. Postcard size, £20
Cultivate Fascination, A5 Print £10
Spring is Magical Pen and Watercolour, A5, £30
Follow Your Nose, Pen and Ink, A5 Size, £25
Playing Ball in Fun, Pen and Watercolour, A5, £35
Silence Speaks Volumes, Pen and Watercolour, A5 size, £35
Meditating is Bliss, Pen and Watercolour, £40
Power Naps are Essential, Pen and Watercolour, £40
This is drawn on white paper despite the bluish tint on the photo
26. Postcard size original drawing. £20
27. Postcard size original drawing £20
28. Postcard size original drawing £20
29. Postcard size original drawing £20
To buy and keep Maisie in an endless supply of balls, email me at kirstenfharris@btopenworld or PM me via my facebook page Kirsten Harris Art.
With very best wishes Kirsten and Crazy Maisie. x

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

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Maisie ball in mouth, chasing a crow

20-20 Vision – My Top 20 Prints – Black and White

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!

If Wishes Were Horses

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.

Four Winds Medicine Wheel by Kirsten Harris

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?

The Journey by Kirsten Harris

4 – In Our Hands – 5 horses balance on the finger tips. Life balances in our hands. Are our hands balanced or greedy and grasping?

In Our Hands by Kirsten Harris

5 – Trust – I hope this drawing speaks for itself?

Trust by Kirsten Harris

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.

The Guardians by Kirsten Harris

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.

How the Cat Got Nine Lives by Kirsten Harris

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.

How to Make a Dream Come True by Kirsten Harris

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.

Dawn Magic by Kirsten Harris

11 – The Magic Forest – Magic is everywhere, horses know it, sense it in the wind and teach us dense humans too!

The Magic Forest

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.

Feel by Kirsten Harris

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.

In Nature We Find Ourselves by Kirsten Harris

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.

When Dreams Fly by Kirsten Harris

15 – Sky Horses – Feathers represent angels for many people, so horses and feathers seemed a perfect combination.

Sky Horses by Kirsten Harris

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.

Transformation by Kirsten Harris

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.

Connections by Kirsten Harris

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.

To Earth We Return by Kirsten Harris

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.

Heart Horse by Kirsten Harris

20 – The Witching Hour – Horse trees, cats, witches, horses, spider’s webs and an owl. I had great fun drawing this.

The Witching Hour

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

20-20 Vision – The Power of Cow

Tough at the Top by Kirsten Harris
14.8 x 21 cms
£20

I love drawing. It underpins everything. It’s a zone, a skill and a challenge. When the hand eye co-ordination works and the line really starts flowing drawing is a wonderful place to hang out. A place to realise ideas through images.

In 2019 everyone was talking about how wonderful 2020 would be, 20 – 20 vision and all that! It went a bit pear shaped but the year’s not over!

My new 2020 vision is a desire to make people smile with my art.

Winter has definitely arrived here. With the wild wind and the nights drawing in, an idea blew in a few days ago.

I will do themes for drawings. 20 at a time, priced from £20. Original art for the price of a print. First come first served!

I don’t tend to sell my original drawings, let alone for twenty quid, but these are extraordinary times and I feel inspired. I’m hoping to channel my inner Picasso, the master of the fluid line!

I feel more fired up with enthusiasm than I have been all year so I hope I will draw 2020 to an end with vision.

My first theme is – The Power of Cow

I have been drawing cows for 10 years. Cartoons, daft drawings, ideas and the odd oil painting of Highlanders in between. Selling my cow drawings online is new to me. Cows have always been local. My lovely vet, for example, has a collection of original cow cartoons.

Join me, support me, make a collection of original art. Why not?

20 – 20 themes that I intend to draw and explore include – horses, cats, chickens, dogs, unicorns, hares, birds, Christmas and angels… and who knows what else. 20 drawings on each theme, from £20. (26 US dollars)

I will post out original drawings worldwide. If you wish to follow me and make a collection over the next couple of months I can reserve drawings for you and post in one go if you like.

Postage and packaging will be charged at cost. Drawings will be no bigger than A4 size. Maybe original art for gifts this year?

Wish me a good fluid line and I hope we connect between now and the end of 2020!

2020 – you are a challenge! Well, I am setting myself a challenge that actually interests me, so there!

Stay safe, love Kirsten

To Laugh is Human, To Moo is Bovine by Kirsten Harris
14.8 x 21 cms
£20
Cow Therapy, Try Mooing by Kirsten Harris
£20
14.8 x 21 cms
Seriously, try mooing, it feels great. Lol
Cow vid Nineteen by Kirsten Harris
£20
14.8 x 21 cms
Gotta love a bad pun!
Mood Moosic by Kirsten Harris
£20
14.8 x 21 cms
Make Moosic by Kirsten Harris,
14.8 x 21 cms
£20
6 Cards with envelopes £10
Limited Stock
I Herd it Through the Bovine by Kirsten Harris
14.8 x 21 cms
Pen on Paper
£20

To buy just email me at kirstenfharris@btopenworld.co.uk

Look out for my next 20-20 drawing project. I think I will be doing 20-20 Cats next. Sign up to my mailing list to be first in line or is that feline!

Stay safe, love Kirsten

Moon Cowlendar by Kirsten Harris
Pen on White Paper
21 x 29.7cm
£50

Email me at kirstenfharris@btopenworld.com

I Miss You by Kirsten Harris
£20

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

COPYRIGHT

A Closer Look – A Photo Document of Lanark’s Closes

There’s so much history on the doorstep.

Not long after lockdown eased I decided it would be fun to take my eighty something mother, who had been shielding, on a tour of Lanark. She has only recently moved to the area. We decided to make a doorstep adventure.

Having once lived in York, I told mum that Lanark’s Closes are like York’s Shambles. Lanark’s Closes go back to the Medieval era too, so it seemed a reasonable if exaggerated comparison. Lanark’s Closes unlike York or Edinburgh’s Medieval narrow streets have been largely neglected. More buildings are scheduled to be knocked down to be turned into car parking or are in a perilous state!

One Sunday morning we had our first outing for months. It was an interesting walk. I took photos. We had a lovely morning looking for history by walking up and down the Closes, first one side of Lanark High street, and then the other.

Some Closes, I learned afterwards, are adopted way-throughs by the Council, others not. Other old alleys are now hidden behind locked doors to the High Street, so inaccessible.

Nowadays Lanark’s Closes seem to mainly lead to carparks. In the past they would have led to workshops and industries including breweries, skin works, rope makers, boot and shoe makers, public houses and more. So much history erased! But the evidence of activity and life through the centuries is still there if you take a closer look.

That evening I shared a few photos on my Facebook page and was amazed by the response including The Tolbooth Lanark asking to exhibit the images.

‘A Closer Look’ is this walk. My mother features on the poster for the Tolbooth exhibition, much to her amusement.

***

All photographs Copyright Kirsten Harris
Prints available on request

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

Artist Seeks Flow!

‘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!

The Merlin Tree

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.

Inspiration for The Merlin Tree. .
Nature says it so much better!

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

www.kirstenharrisart.com

The Merlin Tree
Detail – The Merlin Tree
Detail – The Merlin Tree
Detail – The Merlin Tree

Further reading ‘Scotland’s Merlin – A Medieval Legend and Its Dark Age Origins by Tim Clarkson

Is it True?

Is it true?

I’ve let external criticism get the better of me and it’s been painful!

I’ve felt like the child who, having spent hours happily building a fantasy sandcastle, covering it with shells for windows and doors, building pebble pathways, constructing channels and fetching buckets of water from the sea to make a moat, has an adult walk over it, not noticing the sandcastle let alone the pleasure and delight of creative play, leaving the child bereft, distraught, dismayed and hurt. 

‘Not good enough!’ is the decree! Old voices emerge to bite one hard in the bum!

‘Ouch!’ 

This morning, after a week of attempting to recalibrate by furious tidying, I ask ‘Is it true?

On whose authority do I decide whether something is right or wrong, good enough or not, or true? Who do I believe and why? 

We are being asked to make these decisions in new ways at the moment. So many different opinions. On whose authority do we decide anything in life? 

And so, I commit to rebuild my ’sandcastle’ and keep creating because at the end of the day my choice is to trust my heart.

Nineteen Corvids, Unicorns and The Tree of Life

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!!!

And so…

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.

Best wishes,

Kirsten

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk 

I Manifested a Castle!

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

A Bit Medieval

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 …

Stay safe!

With love, Kirsten

Art work painted on hardboard using chalk paint and wax…

Going Backwards to Go Forwards!

I’ve been ‘excavating’ my studio as my friend calls tidying up!

Tidying up art style means going through every canvas and seeing if I can finish or polish it.

Years ago I met an artist shaman in Zimbabwe who told me to finish every painting I start as a key to success. It struck me as a very good, simple and yet challenging advice.

Even though I am mad keen to get on and make new work towards my postponed exhibition I have been going backwards to go forwards.

Thoughts drift through my mind as I paint like this phrase, going backwards to go forwards. In horse riding a few backward steps is a good way of gathering the horses energy to go forward with more power. Yesterday I revisited a series of car paintings (now added to website) that were languishing inside a box. As I did more to the series done over 5 years ago the thought that the past is getting resolved kept reoccurring. Energy expended then is being honoured and completed and traumas such as dad’s death from cancer, healed. Art is like that. It kind of talks to you.

And sometimes it just takes years to finish a painting.

I remember years ago I was working on a big lion oil painting. I couldn’t work out why it didn’t look finished. It took a friend to look at it for about ten minutes and then exclaim ‘there’s and ear missing!’ Dah! We both burst into laughter. A few more licks of paint and the painting was done! And then the friend decided he wanted to buy it.

This small thistle oil sketch was half done. I had sketched out the shapes in paint and abandoned it to the eaves of the studio. I thoroughly enjoyed finishing it the other day and it has given me ideas for new work…

And as I have been excavating my studio I see that a robin is nesting in the eaves, flying in and out of an open window. How wonderful life is!

Walking into Ideas

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!

Messages from Dog

I sketched Maisie from life everyday last week to get more fluent at drawing dogs. Yesterday we went for our walk and realised we were in the same bit of field as a week ago when ‘the sky’ told me to draw Maisie for a week.

‘Oh why not? I’ll lie down again!’

Looking at the sky feeling the muscles in my back let go the wispy clouds started forming dog shapes.

‘Ha! I’ve learned how to draw dogs, a sure sign if the clouds are turning into dogs.’

And then as suddenly as the idea to draw dogs a week ago came, a title for a series of drawings popped into my head – Messages from Dog!

Here is the start of the series…

Note to self – lie in the grass more often! I get ideas that way.

Chill by Kirsten Harris
Copyright


Dog Blog – 2 – Sketching from Life

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

Dog Blog 1! Lightning Sketches

How am I going to learn to illustrate dogs?

My plan –

1 – don’t go for finished product

2 – do lightning sketches to work out how to draw hairy hyperactive dog Maisie

3 – see if a character starts to emerge

4 – observe and draw as fast as possible

5 – don’t make up lines

6 – do at least 14 drawings a day



What next? Talking to the Sky and Setting an Intention.

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!

Here goes…


Should Paintings be Pleasing?

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

Portraying Movement

This is an edited version of a 5 day free class given via FB to a local art group during lockdown.

Day 1

Find a photo that speaks to you of something that portrays movement that you would like to paint.. running animals such as cheetahs, horses are favourites of mine, but it could be cars or cyclists, people, weather, the sea etc. Have fun looking for images

Day 2 

– When you have found your inspirational photo decide some words you would use to describe the kind of movement. For example flowing, fast, jumpy, swirling etc. 

Is there more than one kind of movement in the photo? If so describe the different movements 

– then with the minimum amount of lines on a bit of paper (printer paper or back of an envelope will do) draw lines to describe the direction of movement. So you may have a curved line, of several swirly lines or a couple of straight line etc. For example a photo a leg might be moving in one direction and an arm in another. Then you might need to use arrow lines to map it. 

Add your words to your simple lines. You now have a simple direction of movement map and words.

You may find you want to turn you abstract movement map  into an abstract drawing or doodle, but only think about the movement, not the subject. Stay abstract.

Day 3

– You now have your words and direction lines. Stay abstract and work out what medium best describes your words. If your word is glide or flow or swirly for  example find ways to paint in colour those words.  You can experiment with different media to find out what works best for this image – ie watercolour, pastel etc 

Let the brush follow the directional lines you’ve mapped out. This will help give the flow of movement in your finished painting. 

– task 2 – spend the rest of the day playing with actual movement your word describes. 

Gliding round the house or whooshing your arm or hand for example. So a bit of actual movement. Have fun with it. See if you can physically find a feel of the movement. This will help with your painting.

Day 4

A photo captures a static moment in time, a painting can do more than that. 

I think it is important NOT to have strong outlines if you want to portray movement in a painting, or your work will just look like you have copied a photo!  We will add detail in due course but it’s amazing how little detail you need for people to read an image.

So today colour a whole sheet of paper using your 

– direction of movement (your map)

– feel (the words you are going to think about as you paint, ie floaty, flowing, whooshing, punchy, fast…) and let the background and foreground mix together. Almost like camouflage. This will be quite abstract again.  

Think transparency, now you see it, now you don’t! There’s a dancer or dolphins there and now there isn’t. No hard edges! 

You will be getting to know your subject doing this and might be amazed by what you come up with. So think about colour and brush stroke that expressed the energy of movement you want in certain places.

And most of all have fun! Go for it! Swirl and twirl, whoosh and float, punch and walk some paint about…

Day 5 – the finished painting 

If you watch something move 

– you are not going to pick up every detail. So stay loose as you add detail

– you are going to have blurry or broken edges

– the movement is going to leave a trace of where it has been in the background. So let the colour of what has moved ie a piece of red material flowing in the wind, leave traces of red paint strokes in the background as though it’s shedding a bit of itself as it moves

You can add as much or as little detail as you like to your finished painting. It is your painting but If you feel you are losing  the sense movement refer back to day 4. 

This gestural painting is the feel you are looking for as you add detail. Balance your painting between detail and directional flow of the paint. The background now needs to have the directions of movement in it as you add detail to the foreground/subject. This will keep the sense of movement and give a feel of where the movement has already travelled.  

– think movement

– keep your arm nice and loose as you paint (I often swing my arms before I start painting to loosen and warm up,it definitely helps!) 

I really hope this has helped and all makes sense… 😄Most importantly have fun painting and go for it…

‘Boldness has a genius to it!’ Goethe 

Stay safe my friends ❤️

Extra notes – You may feel you have lost something of the abstract joy of day 4 in your finished painting, so there is a great value in having another go. I wrote a blog a while ago called Why Do Artists Repeat Themselves? (link here) and here is another blog on portraying movement link here.

Have fun and happy painting!

Visit me on FB at Kirsten Harris Art

Opening to Angels

Opening to Angels by Kirsten Harris

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.


www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

No Room For Doubt!

No Room for Doubt!

‘There is no room for doubt in art!’ Sean Scully

The opposite of the word doubt is confidence. Other words to describe the opposite of doubt include belief, conviction, trust, definiteness, faith, ease, truthfulness, solution, calm, clarity, knowledge…

At art school we were encouraged to be bold, to be confident, as a key to being an artist! That was the main input. Express yourself no matter what!

‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has a genius, power and magic to it.’ Goethe

In the documentary “Unstoppable, Sean Scully and the Art of Everything’ Sean says ‘There is no room for doubt in art!’ He describes doubt as an entirely unhelpful emotion that gives you nothing and creates a block. He says to be an artist you need to be driven, not care what anyone thinks and not doubt yourself.

I needed to hear those words! Maybe you do too?

I AM AN ARTIST not a doubter! I needed to be reminded to not doubt in order to reconnect with conviction, trust and ease to the flow that drives me forward. Luckily I have never had a problem with motivation up until the past couple of months when I have let doubt creep in, like an unhelpful ear worm, due to a whole bunch of events colliding, including an attempted scam where, despite my body screaming at me ‘there is something wrong’ I doubted what my intuition was shouting with almost disastrous consequences. Thankfully I woke up in time! However it left me traumatised and doubting myself.

Art is about exploring connections with life, love, god, creativity, spirit, whatever you want to call it. Art is about faithfully being yourself, whatever and no matter what! What else can you be!?

‘Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.’ Lao Tzu

We are often ‘taught’ to doubt, to not trust our intuition, to not trust our self, to not have self worth, to be humble and hold back, to not be at ease, to have fear, to give our power away and accept authority without question.

A whole load of (negative) events caused me to allow myself to doubt and block the flow of my art and therefore my life. DAH! How ridiculous can a girl get!? Don’t let the bastards grind you down!

‘If you stop doing the wrong thing, the right thing can do itself!’ FM Alexander

There is no room for doubt in art (or life). It is utterly unhelpful! Having faith and trust in yourself is a good thing, not an arrogance.

Art can transform experiences, trauma, disillusionment, hurt. Art can reconnect us to passion, to love, to life. Art can deepen our understanding of the experiences we have! We just need to show up wholeheartedly to the process and the solution is in front of us.

It is time to clutter clear doubt from my studio!

Time to just embrace that despite feeling a bit broken, including physically from breaking a bone, I can make art and be creative from where I am right now. The pain can have expression. What else? How else can change occur? That is clarity instead of doubt!

It’s a choice – confidence or doubt. Approaching art with definiteness that the years of knowledge and practice allow is an act of faith. In committing to the process the flow finds you …

Let go, make art!

I thought I would share these thoughts as doubt can show up in many areas of our life and I agree with Sean Scully – there is no room for doubt!

Trust your intuition! Trust yourself! Trust your heart! Trust your art!

Forward and up! Love Kirsten

(The image is a painting called The Moon Woke Me, Oil on Canvas)

The Perfect Circle – Lesson from Art History to Apply to Riding

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.

Good luck!

I am off to practice my Zen circles…

Horsy prints and other artwork www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk

For media downloads including Walking With Your Horse www.kirstenharris.co.uk

Disillusionment and Creativity

‘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

K x

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk – Art

www.kirstenharris.co.uk – Alexander Technique

We need bees! Beautiful bumble bee in my garden last summer. LOVE!

In Our Hands

(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
Kx

copyright Kirsten Harris 
www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk – Artwork and prints
www.kirstenharris.co.uk – Alexander Technique

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A Jar Full of Possibilities!

My friend, musician Emma Smith, wrote a lovely blog recently called ‘How to Deal with Overwhelm’. Link here

 

It inspired me to do my take on her idea and to finish off this year with a brain storm of all the thoughts, inspirations, ideas, intentions, goals and wishes I have for my artwork moving forward and write them individually on a piece of paper and put them in a jar. As my blue glass jar filled up I wondered if it would be empty next year or in fact be twice as full as ideas do seem to inspire more ideas!

 

One of Emma’s suggestions for the days when you feel a bit lost, overwhelmed or unsure how to proceed, is to pick out one of the pieces of paper and see what ‘chance’ wants you to do, which might be meditate or go for a walk. As mine is an arty jar I decided to add wild cards too such as go on an art date or lie in semi supine for twenty minutes and let go and let inspiration come to me . Link to Body Magic here 

 

However for me the main benefit of this magic jar is to get all my ideas stored in one place. I have a tendency to write ideas on scraps of paper or in different note books or on my phone, but collating everything in this way in a physical place feels really helpful and very heart pleasing.

 

It doesn’t so much feel like a ‘to do’ list or a bucket list but more a kind of sweetie jar of passion or a cauldron of possibilities and a beacon drawing me forward into the new year.

 

I am sure this idea can be adjusted for any passion such as blogging or health and fitness …

 

Wishing you much love and happy creativity as the year comes to an end.

 

Kirsten xx

 

www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk – Art

www.kirstenharris.co.uk – Alexander Technique

 

Uncluttering My Sluttery!

Apparently the Victorians had a word for a room into which unwanted, unusable, needing to be mended stuff was dumped – a sluttery!  I love it. Why do the useful words drop out of usage? So here’s to admitting that I have a sluttery!

 

I am guessing most other people have a sluttery too, though they may of course be in denial! But I bet I am not the only slattern in the vicinity!

 

Do you have a secret kitchen drawer or cupboard that you would be appalled at the thought of someone looking inside? Or perhaps an attic or shed that even bigger stuff is dumped into. All that ‘it might be useful one day’ stuff that we don’t want to deal with. My sluttery has  got so jam packed that it is overspilling into my life. I hide my inner slut no more!

 

I think we all have a mental sluttery too! Unresolved stuff,  that has got to be a good thing, a creative thing, to own and to take responsibility for.  We hold onto whole load of cluttering thoughts that stop us moving forward in life and keep us in a slatternly frame of mind thereby giving us excuses not to be the person we might really be. The ‘I am not x,y, z enough!’ stuff.  The excuses and procrastinations that we might just need to let go of.

 

From an Alexander Technique perspective this thinking stuff can manifest as physical aches and pains and emotional or creative sticky stuckness too. We all have unhelpful thinking habits in our mental sluttery that may keep us in a physical muddle.

 

So, these last weeks I have been uncluttering my sluttery, and the expression has been making me laugh and making the job a whole lot easier. The acceptance of my sluttish behaviour has been fun.  My inner slattern has been showing up in the stuff that I haven’t wanted to deal with or finish or throw away. The paintings that I am never going to resolve, the ends of paints that have dried out …  I have decided to dump the slut!

 

Good bye to the pretence of being organised and neat by shoving the crap into my sluttery and hello to owning a sluttery and sorting it out to create space and along with it the grace of acceptance of less than perfect me and with that the fluttery exciting possibility of new creativity coming soon and no doubt having fun refilling my sluttery again over time ….

 

So, here’s to our brilliant Victorian anscestors for actually naming the place that they dumped their stuff, rather than pushing it out of the conscious mind and here is to the revival of having a named sluttery and with it our ownership of our difficult to deal with stuff which is just work in progress on many levels after all …

 

 

 

 

Letting Go of Blocks to the Creative Flow

I have felt blocked in my artwork. Despite having masses of ideas bubbling to get out, the flow of energy to pick up a brush has not been there for a few weeks. That is a first for me for years and years!

 

So I have been thinking about letting go of psycho-physcial and emotional blocks and how to do it and why we get blocked in the first place. There are no profound insights here, but some musings as I declutter my studio.

 

– From an Alexander Technique perspective the answer to letting go would be to simply STOP,  lie down in semi supine, let the ground support you and allow time for the whole system to come back into balance.  A little bit of Body Magic required.

 

I haven’t particularly wanted to lie down recently but I have wanted to sit in the garden a LOT and just listen to the birds and watch the garden grow. I have spent mornings recording bird song and found balance through simply being the listening. And I have taken photos on my iPhone of bugs and dandelion clocks. Intuitive listening as to what to do next has always been part of my creative process. Trusting that listening and looking are simply enough has to, I guess, be enough.

 

– I am decluttering my studio ruthlessly. I totally understand now how folk in these TV documentaries become hoarders. The hoarding and holding on seems to come about in response to some emotional trauma that they feel unable to deal with, and thus holding on to a physical manifestation of their love and life becomes their way of dealing with that trauma.

 

My response to my dad having cancer and his horrible death was to paint even more than ever. The result being that I have physically run out of space in my house and studio for any more paintings or furniture to Up-Cycle Danishly! Short of moving house some radical decluttering is needed. Letting go physcically is feeling good emotionally. I have always aimed to finish paintings, an aim which can take years, as once the painting is started they can become problems that are hard to resolve. A couple of days ago I decided I was simply not interested in those problems anymore. They have been recycled. The first glimmer of space in my studio and brain. Yippee! I have let go of the physical manifestation of some past problems.

 

– As I oil paint in a space which could benefit from a lot more natural light, I had come up with the solution to hang lots of mirrors to throw light around. The mirrors are now all going back to the charity shop. Everything is only borrowed, let the borrowed light flow forward! I realised yesterday that the space they are taking could hang finished artwork and I will invest in some better lighting. Let there be light! More brain space and flow potential awakening. No doubt it is bad Feng Shui to have loads of mirrors anyway but I am no expert!

 

– I heard Robert Holden describe decluttering ‘as taking you back to what is important’ or words to that effect the other day. I think that is a lovely description. In this decluttering what I am left with are art materials and paintings and a desire to make my grotty garage studio a more light filled lovely space.

 

– Having always been someone with easy access to my emotions it has felt strange to me to hold on, unable to cry, needing to stay strong and solid rather than let go and potentially disintegrate. Probably living alone has solidified the need to stay strong. In some ways I have beaten myself up for this ‘lack’ of grief, but am now finding out that I am not alone in the inability to cry at the big events and that there is simply no right or wrong or ‘how to’ with grief. Death, like life, is a process.

 

Life and death surrounds us daily when we open to it. We are as part of death as we are of life, denying that or putting a ‘should’ in the mix of how to deal with life or death is to block the flow. My way to move through it has been to paint and write blogs. I have learned huge amounts in this process and am still learning.

 

Holding on and letting go are perhaps just mirrors to each other and part of the necessary human experience.

 

**********

 

Some of my bug photos – short, important, beautiful lives  ….

 

 

 

I Love Artists!

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!

 

 

The Path of a Painting

The idea for this painting came from walking in the mountains. I wanted to make a painting which was more about the experience of walking uphill, than a portrait of a hill or mountain. I have called it ‘A Spiritual Path’, as it is about the push to keep going in life when the path seems steep or challenging.

 

I looked at Hokusai’s ‘Climbing on Mount Fuji’ as inspiration, in particular the abstract, atmospheric feel, the mark making and colour

 

 

Climbing on Mount Fuji

by Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849)

 

Maisie on my lap while I contemplate the work of Hokusai and plan my painting and Walter mows the lawn!

 

Painting mapped out

 

‘A Spiritual Path’ is a large canvas, 110 x 150 cm.

I painted standing up keeping the thought of walking on rough ground as I made the marks on canvas, inspired too by my current explorations with The Alexander Technique.  I wrote a blog as a warm up to the painting ‘On Being Wiggly, Part 2 – Here is a link to part 1 and 2

 

And here is the path of the painting –

Maisie with ball on table, she knows the game of art or the art of the game!

I have to chuck the ball out of the open studio door between brush strokes to keep her entertained while I paint.

 

Looking like a big breast at this stage!

I guess that is Tinto the fire hill for you.

Wanting to bring in a suggestion of

Fallburn Roman Fort at the bottom of Tinto,

the semi circle marks

 

Decide to

 

 

 

 

A Spiritual Path

by Kirsten Harris

Oil on Canvas

110 x 150 cm

 

 

Before

 

After!!!! Several days later

 

Brushes stuffed into rubber gloves to stop them drying out during the process!

Messy Painter! : )

 

This painting will be exhibited at 36 Views of Tinto Exhibition, Tolbooth, Lanark

16 May – 6 June 2018

A Conversation at the Picture Framers …

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!

 

 

Withdrawn and I

In my last blog (link) about drawing through February I used the word withdrawn, realising I have been a little withdrawn of late. It is an interesting word in the context of drawing as it appears negative, withdrawn as in stand offish or depressed, but is it?

 

The act of drawing – to move a pencil around paper, to make images, marks, lines on a flat surface – is by it’s very nature withdrawn, a solitary activity.  A degree of withdrawing from the world is necessary to make time for art, to be in the alone zone, that is creative. Withdrawn can mean to be depressed but it also means to take money out, withdrawing a deposit made earlier.

 

To draw is to put money into the bank as an artist. Explorations in drawing are deposits of energy that can be taken out for future use later, either as skills, ideas or artworks to sell. To draw, is to make a journey into the unknown To draw can mean to leave something undecided, no obvious winners – it’s a draw. Drawings don’t have to be finished.

 

To withdraw also means to inhibit, to draw back, to step or retreat back, which is interesting in an Alexander Technique context as being back in your back allows a space to occur where something ‘magic’ happens. ‘Back back’ we say.  It is a skill that that is as profound as it is light.

 

Withdrawing can also be a form of meditation or constructive rest (link), withdrawing from the urgencies of the day at least for a while, to allow ease, change.

 

Staying back in your back is important for drawing, not only the arm connecting to the back to avoid pain, but back enough from your work so as to not be lost in the detail. Backing off enough to stay aware of the whole image but being drawn forward enough to actually create something. An opposition of direction, an expansion of awareness.  It is an art in itself.

 

Withdrawing can mean knowing when to stop because this is a ‘battle’ you are never going to win. A waste of unfocussed energy. A waste of life. Why is withdrawing seen as negative when it is in fact powerful?!  Withdrawing to allow change. Withdrawing, not so much about being defeated but more about looking after yourself.

 

Backing up a horse is a useful exercise. Asking the horse to take a few steps backwards gathers the horse’s energy so that stepping forward again is done with more controlled spring, coil, balance, poise … You can train a  horse so that you only have to think ‘back back’ and your horse will go back, drawing his energy up into poise, drawing you up on his back. (link)

 

As a self employed single person I have to draw on my own resources constantly. Withdrawn in terms of a relatively isolated location it would be easy to fall into feeling lonely, especially in the middle of winter. But day after day, year after year, the act of drawing, literally drawing up energy from the well of a creative source somewhere inside, takes me to a place of peace, calm and ease, where the days pass happily and drawings are made. If I feel negativity I only have to show up at the drawing board to be drawn into a happy focussed place within minutes. I learn to trust , my mantra –  ‘everything I need is already here, I just have to line up with it!’

 

Withdrawn? I guess I am just with drawing!

 

 

‘Ahhh Ha!’ by Kirsten Harris

Pen on White Paper

 

The Daily Ease, A Walk in the Woods, Colouring Book LINK TO BUY

28 Drawings Later – Drawing some conclusions, half way through

I’m doing a project called 28 Drawings Later aka getting through a shitty February in the wilderness! (Us Brits like to moan about the weather, a national form of therapy and endless fascination!)

The title 28 Drawings Later appealed – the suggestion of a journey, the suggestion of arriving in a new place – bring it on!

 

Hmm, I thinks to myself – drawing through the depth of a snowy winter means I can stay inside and watch daytime TV, not like last years madness of painting seascapes in oils all winter in my freezing cold studio. Drawing will be a doddle by comparison and give me a focus through the hideous weather.  I’ll do it!

 

I envision myself knocking off a quick sketch everyday no problem, but instead it has got me ‘drawing conclusions’ about my lack of method and random processes as an artist as well as my desires and hopes. It’s the 13th of Feb and I’m nearly half way through this drawing everyday thing and feeling like I haven’t even got going …

 

Conclusions drawn so far

  • I have different styles of drawings for different moods. Guess I must be moody!
  • Initial enthusiasm soon turns into an inner dialogue of … why are you doing this? You work every day anyway … why am I making myself DO a drawing project, it’s not like I need motivating … I ignore the chatter and start
  • I have an idea that I want to draw horse anatomy. So far, day 13, I have got nowhere near that work. Procrastination February!
  • Week one, I seem to be in a quiet cartooning mood, with ideas developing around lightness, buoyancy and uplift.  The drawings make me smile and feel ridiculously content and happy, which is just as well as the TV seems to have got stuck on a channel entirely devoted to true life murder stories.  Days pass and daytime telly becomes a gruesome backdrop of how and why people kill each other, horrible and yet quite fascinating! I convince myself that Goya would have watched these documentaries unable to switch back to my usual diet of antique and cookery programmes or put some music on. Animals start floating off the page … I discover programmes about forensics, I like anatomy I tell myself, watching cop shows is research!
  • Week 2, I manage to turn the telly off, but rather than get on with the ‘oh so accomplished’ anatomically correct horse drawings that I can see in my ever hopeful mind’s eye, I start finishing bits of furniture, up-cycling Danishly! Doodling and finishing stuff is part of the process, I console myself, feeling like the Queen of the Procrastinators whilst sensing some fear around finding that my inner Leonardo da Vinci really doesn’t exist!
  • Having got rather carried away with buying and painting furniture recently I spend most of the second week thinking I really must sell some of it. (Artist as hoarder.) I seem to have a particular ‘thing’ for chairs. Feeling sad at the thought of restraining my trips to the car boot I get a genius brainwave –  if I rid the house of two sofas and a very large arm chair, bought for my even larger now sadly deceased dad, that I never sit in, I can paint more furniture and buy more random objects that appeal and I don’t have to sell my painted furniture that I like and takes ages to do.  I could even do some still life drawings to justify buying more stuff! Realising the total genius of this idea I conclude that sofa’s are crap for the back anyway, take up a ton of space and it means I can make another drawing area where the sofa was and start channeling my inner Leonardo properly. It is now totally obvious to me that I am not drawing the way that I want to because of the sofas! I  just need to find a van and a man to help me take said lumps of back breakers, posing as comfy chairs, to the charity shop. I am, it turns out, not a hoarder at all but the High Priestess of clutter clearing!
  • Feb 13th happy with my plan to release sofas from my life, I realise that I have been a bit withdrawn (interesting word) of late. I am just tired, tired of the endless snow and rain in South Lanarkshire and mud, lots of mud, but my brain is now racing with  ideas of what I would like to achieve with my drawing and painting. The next painting is always going to be the best one! This is exciting! This is motivating! So as it is February and snowing again, I decide to allow myself to be with nature, and rather than beat myself up with my coloured pencils and sticks of charcoal, align myself with the bulbs in the garden that are just beginning to show and know that all these brilliant drawings too are hiding just out of sight, a bit frozen in my consciousness but about to burst forth when ‘winter’ lets go of its grip.
  • This seems like a jolly good reason to do lots of resting in semi supine aka The Alexander Technique aka Body Magic (link) to help the budding art grow from the inside out and of course give Leonardo a chance to find his way to Scotland … maybe he just doesn’t like the snow either! Happy that the Alexander Technique always illuminates,  I am off do do some drawing … or maybe just lie down for now … Spring up spring!

‘Love Time’

by Kirsten Harris

Pen and watercolour on White Paper

The Lightness of Being a Horse

by Kirsten Harris

Pen and Watercolour on white paper

‘Up!’

by Kirsten Harris

Watercolour and pen on white paper

‘The Bird that Wanted to Fly’

by Kirsten Harris

Pen on white paper

 

 

My painted furniture – side panels from a corner cabinet and set of shelves

 

More Alexander Technique drawings here The Daily Ease A Walk in the Woods. Colouring Book

 

On Tintock Tap – Symbolism in a Traditional Lanarkshire Rhyme

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’

 

 

Tinto, 1/1/2018

 

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.

Kirsten

www.kirstenharrisart.com

 

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’

 

 

 

 

Mad!? Part 2

About a year ago I wrote a blog called Mad!? It was a rant about why artists aren’t mad, in response to being called a mad artist one too many times. Mad!? Link to blog

 

This blog is a consideration of the fact that ‘mad’ might be a very apt term after all!

 

Mad – when you find your self dressed in oversized, second hand, blokes’ sallopets and wooly bonnet, painting in an unheated studio, with the door open for ventilation and a hot water bottle strapped to you, when it is minus 2 outside and blowing a gale.

 

Mad – when in those said conditions you are painting a herd of zebras in the warmest colours you can find for an exhibition straight after Xmas in Lanark, and realising that the painting will never dry in time.

 

Mad – when you are wishing Xmas could be cancelled so you could get on with painting and then realise that you painted right through Xmas for the last few years anyway.

 

Mad – When you would rather paint than do anything else, but every painting is a giant struggle to achieve.

 

Mad – when your dog plonks her ball on your paint table and between brush strokes you throw it out through said open door to keep her amused, over and over and over again.

 

Mad – that the dog loves it when you paint as she finds distracting you a very good game indeed.

 

Mad – When the electrics in your studio are not working so mid winter Scotland you are working in the near dark, trying to catch the last rays of light before night falls at the ridiculously early 3.30pm, and then feel frustrated for the rest of the evening as it is over 16 hours before the sun rises again.

 

Mad – when you wake at 4 am, think bugger – still 5 hours before daylight, might as well write a blog about art in the meantime.

 

Mad – when you have long since run out of wall space in your own house, and can barely swing a cat for finished paintings and painted furniture, but rather than focus on selling you just want to paint more, as the next one will be THE good one!

 

Mad – to live in the middle of absolutely bloody nowhere and be a self employed artist. Great for the peace to get on with it, terrible for the scarcity of folk and general total lack of social life. Urban self gone missing!

 

Mad – that despite that you realise that being a somewhat reclusive artist might be who you really are!

 

Mad – to rather buy art materials than clothes or have a holiday. Nothing makes you happier than to buy white paper, clean canvas, tubes of oil paint and new brushes.

 

Mad – the price of aforementioned paper, canvas, oil paint and decent brushes!

 

Mad – to be the great ruiner of brushes!

 

Mad  – because it’s only 4.15 am and not daylight for another 4 hours at least!

 

Mad – because due to freezing studio conditions over last 3 days, your back is feeling somewhat tight and you have a bit of a chill, but you can’t wait to get back out there and try to resolve the massive painting you have started!

 

Mad – to start a massive oil painting in the first place when you could sit in the warm house and draw.

 

Mad – about art!

 

Time for a another coffee and to do some drawing until dawn  ….

 

With love,

Mad artist … or not so mad …

Mad!? Part 1, link here 

 

www.kirstenharrisart.com

 

 

 

Framed for £100!

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 –

  • This collection of small seascapes framed for £100. They are like windows to the beach. An attempt to portray a feeling that looking out to sea the view is unchanged … I am seeing what the cave people saw. Our distant ancestors of the neolithic, the bronze age … Perhaps when I paint the sea, I am connecting to my inner cavewoman! Looking inland at the landscape it is changed probably beyond all recognition from that distant past, but gazing to the horizon of the sea, there is a sense of the infinite and the timeless.
  • Small paintings are ideas being worked out, emotions explored, a passion for the sea and the sky – the moving elements captured in paint. Small paintings are intimate and personal.

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

 

I LOVE THE BEACH  AND I LOVE THESE SMALL SEASCAPES 

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.

 

 

SMALL SEASCAPES GALLERY – FRAMED FOR £100 Click this link to see what is available. 

 

Email me if you see anything you like …

kirstenfharris@btopenworld.com

Postage worldwide will be charged at cost.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Postcard from Lanark

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!)

 

Best wishes

Kirsten

 

 

 

 

Have you ever thought about investing in a dream?

EPSON MFP image

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?

This is my latest project. The Daily Ease – A Walk in the Woods.  An Alexander Technique inspired colouring story book for children and adults. All profits will be used to plant trees.

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.

To buy click here

 

Free postage in the UK, please email me for international postage. kirstenfharris@btopenworld.com

Many thanks, Kirsten

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‘Feeling a Bit Prickly!?’ detail from ‘The Daily Ease – A Walk in the Woods’

 

Kirsten Harris 001

‘News – Skeleton Slumps at Screen!’

FB logo for The Daily Ease – Alexander Technique.

Organising a Group Exhibition

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

www.kirstenharrisart.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art, Bamboo Glasses and a Foul Mouthed Pub Landlady

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!’

‘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!

 

  • It may just be a matter of education, you may never have tried a big painting on a wall and so have no idea how amazing it will look, so are possibly assuming your walls are too small.
  • Did you know that a big painting in a small room will make the space look bigger?Breaking up the space with lots of small paintings can actually make a room look smaller.
  • A big painting adds wow factor to a room. It can save decorating. Just hang a big painting and bobs your uncle, you have impact. I am not a fan of rooms with a TV a sofa and white walls, the so called minimalism. Add a big painting and your room will suddenly have a heart!
  • Most ceilings are much taller than you! (I will make an exception for very tall folk entering low ceilinged ancient cottages) Most big paintings won’t be taller than you. Therefore your walls are definitely not too small!
  • If you buy directly from an artist most artists will be more than happy to let you try before you buy. I am like to hang a painting for someone who is interested in my work and try different wall positions to see if the painting is going to work in the space,  with absolutely no obligation to buy. So do ask. In fact my sister would say I should come with a warning as I will probably help you rearrange the furniture too!
  • On the subject of redecorating – if you are redecorating think about choosing the art work first then the wall colours after. It’s logical if you think about it!
  • A big painting can add structure and cohesion and flow to the look of a room, pulling all the elements together. By the way you can hang oil paintings in bathrooms.
  • And here is a radical thought, it is ok to take paintings down and put new ones up. I rotate my paintings all the time creating a new vibe in the room instantly!

 

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!

SOLD

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 …

The Daily Ease – A Walk in the Woods  Colouring Story Book HERE

 

My Colouring Book

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…

 

  • ‘A very beautiful combination of writing and pictures’ John, AT teacher
  • ‘It’s making me want to go for a walk … That’s amazing in itself!’ Dougie
  • ‘Within the Words and magical illustrations are lots of wonderful reminders of the wisdom and teachings of the Alexander Technique. It is a delightful, gentle, joyous book of wisdom for all ages.’ Sally

 

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.

kirstenfharris@btopenworld.com

 

I hope to hear from you

 

Love Kirsten and Crazy Maisie dog x

Maisie walking int the woods in Scotland

 

 

If you love art you will adore an open studio …

Every year all over the country artists open their studios to the public.

This is a fantastic chance to buy directly from an artist. It is a win win situation for both artist and art lover. Here is why …

 

  • No commissions to pay to middle men aka galleries, art websites etc. This means that the artist does not have to add money to the price of the artwork to allow for commission, meaning that you the buyer can purchase the work at a better price.
  • The artist gets to meet you the buyer. Over the years many of the people who have bought my work have become great friends! Why? Because we share a similar vibe as evidenced by the art that we both like. Some unspoken, unquantifiable, joyous link is established. When you buy through a gallery or a website the opportunity to make that connection is not there. It is huge loss.
  • From an artists point of view it is absolutely brilliant to get feedback, positive or otherwise from your visitors. You learn so much by folk coming to your studio. Don’t be shy to talk to the artist about their work. It is also brilliant to know who has bought your art. Having put your heart and soul into the art work, to not know who has bought it is a little bit sad.
  • Open studios are often in the artists home. Visiting you get to see what influences the artist, how they live, what they surround themselves with, the environment the work is made in. Very famous artists studios have been known to be dismantled intact and rebuilt in a gallery situation after their demise! I can think of two examples local to me. Ian Hamilton Findlay’s amazing garden Little Sparta is now an out post of the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. I was lucky enough to meet Hamilton Findlay and look around his garden before his death. Link to Little Sparta Trust here. Also Leith born artist Eduardo Paolozzi’s studio has been rebuilt in the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh Link here.
  • An artist will want to find you something to sell at a price you can afford! Trust me on this! It is such a good feeling when someone want to have your work in their home, it gives you impetus to keep on creating. At an open studio you will see work that you won’t find on websites or in galleries. Ideas, work in progress, sketch books, unframed masterpieces … you will find treasures!
  • The artist will be delighted to see you. It is a lonely business being an artist. Folk paying an interest in your work is amazing. You will probably get a cuppa or a glass of wine or a bit of amazing home made cake!
  • It is a great day out. These days artists  often collaborate to make a yearly artist trail in their area. My open studio this weekend is part of the Biggar Little Festival.
  • www.kirstenharrisart.com

Open Studio – Up Cycled Danishly

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.

 

Up-cycled Danishly

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out this Free Creativity E-Course Testemonial

This blog is a letter from someone who took my free creativity e-course. (link below.) Maybe you can relate to what she says about spending 50 years thinking she wasn’t creative …

 

‘Kirsten, through your online art course you made me feel like I CAN be creative after 50 years of thinking I can’t! You opened my mind to a new possibility and showed me art – my art creations – in the simplest of things. This is a mind opening, chink of possibility. I have yet to transform this new way of thinking into an actual, physical piece of art although I did go and cover my walls (the canvas) in paint recently. It was hard physical work and my arms ached for days afterwards but as I did it I reminded myself that this too, the simple act of decorating a room, could be classed as art when thought of in this way. Paint on a canvas. Strong roller strokes of a colour I love … And now I love the new feel of the room I have recoloured and recreated.

 

I want to find another slightly less physical way of covering a canvas in paint. I like words. They too are art I now realise. Squiggly lines on a piece of paper that convey something – a thought, an idea. I love the thought that putting on my moisturiser and painting my face with makeup is also an art form. This opens up my mind so much to all these ways of being creative. My garden – selecting just the right flowers and placing them in certain places that I choose, is a creation. Who knew? Me! Artistic. What a concept!

 

I love the concept of the physical body and the mind working together (or maybe letting go together) to allow a piece of art to flow and become. My art. My expression of something – as it is and as it shows up in that moment. But can I manage not to judge it? That’s a challenge. Years of internal criticism habits are hard to erase. A lot of old thinking patterns to break and yet you have helped me make a beginning. I don’t think I shall really draw or paint – I don’t think it’s my medium although I don’t rule it out, but you have opened my mind to the possibility that I can be artistic in so many other ways… my signature, my writing, an arrangement of objects, flowers, a choice of a photograph to take – oh so many possibilities suddenly appear. And art can be fun it seems – not too serious a business after all.

 

You work your magic in so many ways. Thank you for all the thought, love, experiences and fun you poured into this wonderful creation of a course – I loved it. It is a gift.’  Sally, Scotland

 

Why don’t you sign up for 8 days of ideas about creativity in the free e-course below, it is totally free, just an artists way of making connections …

 

 

 

Free Creativity E – Course – Testemonial

This blog is a letter from someone who took my free creativity e-course. (link below.) Maybe you can relate to what she says about spending 50 years thinking she wasn’t creative …

 

‘Kirsten, through your online art course you made me feel like I CAN be creative after 50 years of thinking I can’t! You opened my mind to a new possibility and showed me art – my art creations – in the simplest of things. This is a mind opening, chink of possibility. I have yet to transform this new way of thinking into an actual, physical piece of art although I did go and cover my walls (the canvas) in paint recently. It was hard physical work and my arms ached for days afterwards but as I did it I reminded myself that this too, the simple act of decorating a room, could be classed as art when thought of in this way. Paint on a canvas. Strong roller strokes of a colour I love … And now I love the new feel of the room I have recoloured and recreated.

 

I want to find another slightly less physical way of covering a canvas in paint. I like words. They too are art I now realise. Squiggly lines on a piece of paper that convey something – a thought, an idea. I love the thought that putting on my moisturiser and painting my face with makeup is also an art form. This opens up my mind so much to all these ways of being creative. My garden – selecting just the right flowers and placing them in certain places that I choose, is a creation. Who knew? Me! Artistic. What a concept!

 

I love the concept of the physical body and the mind working together (or maybe letting go together) to allow a piece of art to flow and become. My art. My expression of something – as it is and as it shows up in that moment. But can I manage not to judge it? That’s a challenge. Years of internal criticism habits are hard to erase. A lot of old thinking patterns to break and yet you have helped me make a beginning. I don’t think I shall really draw or paint – I don’t think it’s my medium although I don’t rule it out, but you have opened my mind to the possibility that I can be artistic in so many other ways… my signature, my writing, an arrangement of objects, flowers, a choice of a photograph to take – oh so many possibilities suddenly appear. And art can be fun it seems – not too serious a business after all.

 

You work your magic in so many ways. Thank you for all the thought, love, experiences and fun you poured into this wonderful creation of a course – I loved it. It is a gift.’  Sally, Scotland

 

Why don’t you sign up for 8 days of ideas about creativity in the free e-course below, it is totally free, just an artists way of making connections …

 

 

 

Disappointment, Destruction and Recreating

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Press Release – Romance of the Falls Exhibition

During the Napoleonic Wars when Europe was closed for The Grand Tour, The Falls of Clyde at Lanark became a ‘must visit’ place on what became known as Le Petit Tour.

 

Determined to continue the Romantic tradition, Romance of the Falls is an eclectic, exciting group contemporary art exhibition at the newly refurbished historic Tollbooth in Lanark’s High Street, opening on the 12 October for a month.

 

Following in the the footsteps of JMW Turner, Jacob More, The Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott to name a few of the greats who have drawn inspiration from this spectacular scenery over the past centuries, a collection of artists are once again being inspired by The Falls of Clyde which have been flowing at full power all summer. It was the building of the hydro electric power station in the 1920’s that caused the Falls of Clyde to fall off the art map! (See before and after photos at end of this post).

 

Painters, sculptors, steam punk makers, furniture creators, illustrators, glass workers, jewellers, textile artists and a film maker exhibit side by side in this powerful exhibition, each interpreting the theme of Romance of the Falls in their own style, ranging from wildlife to landscape, abstraction to surrealism.

 

A percentage of sales from the art will go to the Tolbooth to continue their exciting refurbishment work, bringing this fifteenth century former prison into an exhibition and event space with wow factor. The next phase is refurbishing the magnificent high ceiling upstairs room.

 

Art work will be exhibited on both floors during this show.

Come and see what amazing artistic talent there is in the area!

 

ARTISTS EXHIBITING – Jacqueline MacAteer, Mark Davies, Myra Gibson, Veronica Liddell, Stephanie Whatley, Julie Grey, Evelyn McEwan, May Carnan, Nancy Scott, Kathleen Stewart, Pat McKenzie, Ellen Mc CAnn, Isobel Stamford, Jill Sievewrithg, Jean Mellin, Eve Whittle, Trudi Green, Kaye Shearer, Andy Cross, Hazel Findlay, Elspeth Wight, Jo Green, Janey Horberry, Eileen Hood, Christine Brown, Jane Kirkwood, David Randall, Ewan Cameron, Trevor Taylor, Kirsten Harris

The Falls of Clyde by JMW Turner

Two photos of the same view at Bonnington Linn.

Firstly as Turner and the Romantic artists and writers saw it and the second with the hydro electric diverting it’s power most of the time these days.

 

Above the left hand waterfall is a little iron bridge, now uncrossable, that led to the island in the middle of the falls and a folly temple. It must have been so exciting to cross the fall with it’s 30 ft drop.

 

Remains of the ‘Hall of Mirrors’ opposite Corra Linn.

Mirrors gave visitors the feeling that they were standing inside the waterfall.

Now under threat of collapse from development work at the hydro electric sub station.

 

 

 

Romance of the Falls Exhibition venue – The historic 15th century Tolbooth in Lanark’s High Street and it’s beautiful community gallery.

 

 

Press in the Lanark Gazette

Monkey at a Waterfall

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