Muse du Jour

My name is Marianne Plumridge. I am an artist of mythic fantasy works and fine art images. I also satisfy my creative muse with sewing, cooking, writing and reading. These are my thoughts and adventures with whichever muse drives me each day. You can find more of my art at

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Location: New England, United States

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Keith Plumridge...a celebration of a life.

Petty Officer Keith Plumridge
(Early 1970s)

Last night, a light winked out in my universe. On Christmas night in Australia, my Uncle Keith Plumridge slipped quietly away. His wife and children surrounded him and gave of their love and strength. Six years ago he was diagnosed with a virulent form of bone cancer and given three years to live. He had those and three extra years to see his boys married, gaining daughters in the process, and grandchildren born. Each day of that time was a gift and he greeted it accordingly – with gusto and laughter. Even the bad days he was thankful for.

Cheeky larrikin, adventurer, storyteller, loving husband, father and father-in-law, brilliantly doting grandfather, mate, pal, buddy, brother, brother-in-law, brother-in-arms, and friend. To those he loved, and who loved him, he was all of the above. And so much more.

Keith appears in many good memories from my earliest years. He was still young enough then to be a playmate to a clingy toddler and suffer all manner of being climbed all over by his niece and nephew. He reckoned we made great aeroplanes when he swung us around or hurled us aloft, accompanied by the prerequisite squeals and giggles.

Our Keith joined the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) when he was approximately fifteen years old, at a time when a Naval forces apprenticeship ran to twelve years of service. He signed up in 1965, or there-abouts, and began to see something of the world. He sent lovely presents home for the family, from exotic places like Hawaii and Suva. I still remember the Christmas that my brother and I received identical transistor radios with our names engraved on them, that had traveled all over the Pacific in his shipboard footlocker, or the blue brocade Chinese jammies that I wore out before their time. Life wasn’t all a bed of roses though, as Keith’s time in the Navy encompassed the turbulent years of the Vietnam War, and he saw combat in those waters. What disturbed him more though was the fatal collision of Australian Naval ship HMAS Melbourne and the American Naval ship USS Frank. E. Evans while on a SEATO exercise in the South China Sea in 1969, when he was a Petty Officer. The ship he was serving on was the first on the scene and the resultant horrors haunted him for some years afterward.

In spite of the resulting trauma, Keith loved the camaraderie of his Naval years and missed them when he eventually left the RAN. He later found new brotherhood in the ranks of the Masonic Lodge. He told me only a year or so ago how much that meant to him.

Once when I was about four or five years old, I remember pestering Keith and giggling a lot while he was trying to hold a conversation with my parents in our living room. Without a mis-step in his conversation, he promptly threw me face down across his knee, hauled out a big black marker and drew a cartoon on my back. Mum reckons it took at least two weeks for it to wear off – with much scrubbing. When I reminded him of this last year, he laughed. He swore it was probably Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse he drew that day, because he was drawing them a lot back then.

Keith’s early 1970s wedding to his beloved Donna was the fairytale of my childhood. It was such a wonderful day, and I remember so well of feeling like a fairy princess in my white eyeleted lace, empire-style dress with the black velvet sash, as I preceded Donna and the other bridesmaids down the isle. I still remember so much of that day – and of the joy.

One of the best memories I have of Keith happened during my own years in the Military. For the last 100 years, one or another of each generation of Plumridges has served in the armed forces: through two world wars, and intervening conflicts. Keith carried the torch in his generation, and I was the first to take it up in mine by joining the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1982. His boys followed suit in joining not only the RAAF and the Royal Australian Army, but the Australian Police Force too. At my 21st birthday party up country in NSW, I had invited quite a few friends from the Air Force Base at Williamtown. While the party itself wasn’t the most successful of events, there was an oasis in it that I regret not partaking of. Late in the evening, my Uncle Keith was seated in amongst half a dozen of my male friends and was telling them stories. That little group didn’t move until dawn. He regaled them with tales from his Navy years and I heard laughter ring out more often than not. Later, the boys told me how wonderful they thought he was. I think he drank them under the table too, but of that I can’t be sure. These Navy swabbies always reckon they can outdrink the RAAFies.

In more recent years, my dad told me of the time that Keith took Donna and the three boys to visit his old ship, the Destroyer HMAS Vampire, when it was finally mothballed for good and turned into an exhibit at the Australian Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney. Keith and family joined a tour of the old girl, and Keith was getting frustrated as the tour-guide got facts about the ship inadvertently incorrect. The guide ceded the floor and Keith gave his family, the guide, and the group the tour of their lives. He took them down many places that were not on the tour and told them operational details as well as many, many anecdotes. Like I said, Keith was a storyteller - a brilliant one. And I don’t think he’d enjoyed himself so much in ages, as he did that day.

So, Keith-ee, thank you for the stories, the love, and the memories: they’ll last a lifetime for all of us.

With love from Eric, Margaret, Andrew, and Mandy…

…and especially me,

The Brat.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Down Under…Plum Pudding and Gum trees.

Merry Christmas

Having snow for Christmas is very unseasonable for me. My Aussie homeland is usually hot, dry and dusty about this time of year, with huge bright, blue skies; and our brand of evergreens are usually gum trees (eucalypts) instead of the preferred pine or fir trees. One would wake up Christmas morning expecting to hear about a bushfire somewhere, along with the presents Santa had placed under our Christmas tree. My childhood memories always seem linked with long hot golden summers and rambles in the bush, either walking or riding my bike along the trails. Christmas would sometimes be away from home, either in a tent up at Lake Wangi Wangi, or on a beach somewhere up north, where the sand was white and the water was a clear as the proverbial crystal. There was always a Santa visiting the campsites in those days, doling out bulging bags of mixed lollies (candy) to all of the excited kids, while parents kept an eye on their rambling broods.

My earliest of memories was dinner or lunch at Grandma Plumridge’s or Nanna Beattie’s house. Both were excellent cooks, and used to cooking for a sizeable brood. Grandad Beattie was a pastry cook to boot. So while the main meals were often mouth watering, you just knew that the desserts would be worth waiting for. I know my dad still thinks wistfully of Grandma Plumridge’s huge traditional Christmas puddings. They would be enormous to my kiddie eyes. I used to spot it hanging ponderously from her kitchen ceiling when we’d visit through December. My Grandma Plum’ was the queen of the fruit puddings and cakes – and I do believe I’ve inherited her touch for them, but not her incredible icing skills.

Ah, Santa… Did you know that when Santa visits Australia, he gives the reindeer a break because of the heat? He harnesses up six snow-white kangaroos to do the job! Australian singer/songwriter, Rolf Harris immortalized them in his song “Six White Boomers”. See below…

Meanwhile, while you wait for the red-suited one to shimmy down your chimney or scoot across your threshold tonight, I wish you a magical Christmas Eve, and day. And may you be surrounded by the ones you hold dearest: enjoying peace and love within their company.

And to all those who can’t be with us, I’ll raise my glass to “Absent Friends”…

Peace be with you…

"Six White Boomers"
© Rolf Harris & John D. Brown 1965

Early on one Christmas Day, a Joey Kanga-roo,
Was far from home and lost in a great big zoo.
Mummy, where's my mummy, they've taken her a-way,
We'll help you find your mummy son, hop on the sleigh.

Six white boomers, snow white boomers,
Racing Santa Claus through the blazing sun.
Six white boomers, snow white boomers, ..
On his Aus-tra-lian run.

Up beside the bag of toys, little Joey hopped ,
But they had'nt gone far when Santa stopped.
Un-harnessed all the reindeer and Joey wondered why,
Then he heard a far off booming in the sky.

Six white boomers ...

Pretty soon old Santa began to feel the heat,
Took his fur-lined boots off to cool his feet.
Into one popped Joey, feeling quite OK,
While those old man kangaroos kept pulling on the sleigh.

Six white boomers ...
Joey said to Santa, Santa, what about the toys,
Aren't you giving some to these girls and boys.
They've all got their presents son, we were here last night,
This trip is an extra trip, Joey's special flight.

Six white boomers ...

Soon the sleigh was flashing past, right over Marble Bar,
Slow down there, cried Santa, it can't be far.
Come up on my lap son, and have a look around,
There she is, that's mummy, bounding up and down.

Six white boomers ...

Well that's the bestest Christmas treat that Joey ever had,
Curled up in mother's pouch all snug and glad.
The last they saw was Santa headed northward from the sun,
The only year the boomers worked a double run.

Six white boomers ...

Friday, December 22, 2006

'Tis the Season to....bust loose!

And the painting of the day is...

'Sea Turtle Surfing'
(9x12", Acrylic on panel)

I braved the Christmas retail frenzy for one last time today to get a few last presents for family. Now it's done, all I want to do is 'bust loose' like the little mermaid in my painting. Hang out; read; paint; what have you... I'm a typical Cancerian who loves water, so you'll see as time goes by, that water is a focal point I keep coming back to. This was the absolute first of my mermaid paintings, and one of the few to be published. It is one of six greeting cards showcasing my art, produced by Milk And Honey Inc.

Acrylic paint is not something I've always been comfortable using - it dries too quickly and at times, can be unforgiving if you make a mistake. I've moved back to using oils almost exclusively this last few years, and only returning to acrylics for illustration purposes. More so, I've discovered the joys of Acrylic Gouache: a medium that remains malleable while there is water or medium still keeping the paint 'wet'. It allows for a slower painting process, and a less confident artist to gain momentum in said painting process.

This little work is painted on gessoed panel. I've never been quite satisfied with panel as a painting surface - particularly in acrylic. The board sort of feels naked without canvas or linen between the paint and the panel. But when you're doing fine detailed illustration, you can't go past it for flexible fine tuning.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Winter Solstice...and Green Men

I wasn't considering posting two book reviews in a row, but it being the Winter Solstice today, I couldn't let it pass without involving the Green Man...

“The Green Man: Tales From the Mythic Forest.” Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

November 2004 – Firebird, an imprint of Penguin. ISBN 0-14-240029-7; Trade Paperback; 388 pages; Price $8.99.

Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge (c) June 2005

This anthology was originally published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, back in 2002 for the young adult market. It might explain why the protagonists are generally youthful, and the stories resemble a ‘coming of age’ as well as the symbolic rebirth that is usually associated with the archetypical ‘Green Man’ of myth. It might also explain the broad range of contemporary styles of narrator ‘voices’, which in the onset, seems to jar the reader. One after all, usually associates the Green Man or Green Woman persona with the silent, brooding, scary depths of mystical deep forests of old and the mythical figures which populate them.

In this collection however, those prosaic assumptions have been given a very fresh and intriguing twist.

Kathe Koje’s REMNANTS is a contemporary, slightly ambiguous story, told from the point of view of someone moderately deranged. I’m not sure if the protagonist is really supposed to be a ‘green person’ lost in the flotsam and jetsam of civilization’s huge amount of rubbish remnants, but it initially appears to be the case. The presence of the ‘Green Figure’ is barely a whisper throughout, despite the forest made of plastic bags. I suppose the symbolism is intended to mean that humans have lost their instinctive intimacy with the forest and environment, and we’re trying to recreate it on our own terms, via the things we consume and discard each day. This story seems more of an environmental statement than an encounter with the ‘Green Man’. The protagonist does not undergo the traditional transformation associated with the ‘Green Figure’ archetype, but returns to what it was doing – making plastic trees; unless of course, the transformation took place before the story began. I liked it, but as a reader, the ‘jury’ is ‘out’ on this one.

THE BOY WHO WAS by Carolyn Dunn is mythical, almost shamanistic story, told from the point of view of a human woman – proud of bearing but crippled physically – who yearns after a warrior. The warrior returns her love, but is killed/transformed during a hunt because the woman, in breaking a taboo by stepping over a pond, inadvertently releases the ‘Green Figure’ spirit – in this case it is the Deer Woman. The Deer Woman transforms the warrior into a large water snake of sorts (?), and the human woman sacrifices herself to him so they can be together.

Carol Emshwiller’s entry, OVERLOOKING, was just a little too experimental to be completely comprehensive to the reader – or at least this reader. I’m not sure what the author intended or where the story was going. While I found this entry somewhat confusing, I’m sure that other readers will possibly find it meaningful. Insight always depends on your point of view, after all.

I found FEE, FIE, FOE, ET CETERA by Gregory Maguire to be a witty and intelligent retelling of the Jack and the Beanstalk tale, but aside from the beanstalk, I’m not sure what it has to do with the ‘Green Man’ unless the ‘Green Man’ was the giant at the top of the stalk.

Perhaps one of the most traditionally told stories in this anthology is JOSHUA TREE by Emma Bull. It is an insightful telling of a young woman’s realization of her ‘true’ self. She begins to ‘see’ the people around her for what they really are – callous, shallow, issue-ridden, and insecure - and the fact that she could end up like them if she lets herself. A distraught night in the desert finds her in a grove of Joshua Trees: there, a green tree-like figure gives of itself to nourish her and save her. With this, her transformation carries through but is by no means complete. This was the happenstance that allowed her to realize that she was worth saving. The acceptance of this moves the girl to start making a stand against the bullies who pester her, and to start making herself visible in class by answering as well as asking questions. The girl is determined to get out of the box that society has put her in – label and all. This is a great story, but I was disappointed a little that the ‘Green Man’ didn’t have more of a visible tenet throughout.

Another traditionally styled story, GROUNDED by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, weaves the mores of music and the natural forest together in a beautiful blend of growth and realization of transformation in the chief protagonist: a young girl. She is forced to deal with her mixed feelings about her mother’s job, her father’s failure to ‘be there’, and the aspects of encountering a prospective strange new stepfather and step-siblings. Themes recurrent throughout are of transformation, and life, death and rebirth, all wrapped around a Green Man sub-text and humankind’s relationship with nature.

All the stories in this Green Man anthology are of a high standard and I recommend them highly to young and old alike. Other stories that stood out and lingered in my mind were: GRAND CENTRAL PARK by Delia Sherman - a charming contemporary encounter with a ‘Green Man’ or in this case, a ‘Green Girl’. It’s a witty tale and also very funny. Charles De Lint’s SOMEWHERE IN MY MIND THERE IS A PAINTING BOX is a nicely told story about transformation, choices, and magic. A charming ‘period piece’ wrapped around a simple artists painting box, telling of how art can enslave as well as release the soul and spirit. DAPHNE by Michael Cadnum is an earthy retelling of the Greek myth of how a girl was turned into a tree to escape the lust of the god, Apollo. AMONG THE LEAVES SO GREEN by Tanith Lee is a pretty, mythical or fairy tale style story of two half sisters who have a similar wish, but find transformation in different ways. One becomes a fairy tale princess but whose descendants wither in grace; the other is a daughter of the ‘Green Man’ and endures like the trees and the forest – gaining brothers and sisters in the other sprites who dwell there. Very nicely told. Patricia A. Mckillip’s HUNTER’S MOON is a cautionary tale about ‘be careful what you hunt, lest it come hunting you’. I rather liked this one. The green spirits aren’t passive or romantically portrayed, but were envisaged more like the elemental spirits that inhabited the lands of Celtic Brittany and England before the French gentrification of the Arthurian legends in the middle ages. In a more contemporary portrayal, and perhaps more relevant to our troubled times, Midori Snyder’s CHARLIE’S AWAY tells of the influence of a ‘Green Figure’ – a woman this time – who affects a family. The themes of loss, grief, transformation, acceptance and understanding are perhaps the most meaningful of all these stories because these issues resonate continuously throughout our daily lives.

This is a wonderfully diverse anthology by some major fantasy talents of our time. Heartily I applaud the deft shaping of the fiction by the editors, Datlow and Windling, and look forward to what ever mythic realms they delve into next, and the stories told there.

Marianne Plumridge

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana - a review

"The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana"...
by Jess Nevins

MonkeyBrain Books; Hardcover; ISBN 1-932265-15-5; $50.00 US; 1009 pages.
A Review by Marianne Plumridge (c) 2006

The rise of the Victorian presence in current fiction of the fantastic – be it novel, film, television, graphic novel, etc. – over the last decade or so has become a reflection of the current state of social mind. Up till a quarter century ago, the reading and viewing public saw only the ‘future’ as something to be yearned after; something to strive towards, something exciting, thrilling, magnificent. However, in that last previous quarter-century we have begun to live that future of the fantastic: we have space-flight; walked upon another orbital body in space; built a space-station or two; fast produced technology which grows evermore microscopic, and available to the common person – ie. Cell phones, music players that fit in the palm of one’s hand, satellite tracking for cars, car computers that can transmit self-diagnostic data, email, the internet, fantastic gadgets for life and home, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Unfortunately, the modern world has become all a bit blasé and restricted as the using public tries to conform with so many conflicting signals at once, of what we should and shouldn’t do, wear, buy, prefer… Market research makes our decisions for us in a new kind of conformity that’s almost, hey, Victorian. But in looking back at that century, to that time of new industrialization, changing attitudes and manners, emerging technology and fantastic visions in a previously un-envisioned world, everything appears rosily simple and exotic. The rules were being re-written in the age of England’s Queen Victoria, and during that time, the sky wasn’t the limit. So, in more recent decades there have appeared tomes like ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’, the Amelia Peabody murder mysteries, vintage adventure stories, a plethora of Sherlock Holmes pastiches in film and literary fiction, ‘Steamboy’ (Japanese anime), and a long list of current creative endeavors that reflect the times when invention and imagination knew no bounds. In his book, ‘The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana’, Jess Nevins lovingly and respectfully attempts to place the roots of some of these visions – two hundred years of genre and adventure writing – into perspective, where they belong. So saddle up, hail a hansom cab, put your pipe in your pocket along with the secret documents, your choice of pistol, rifle or elephant gun, swirl the cape and clap on a top hat or bonnet: the adventure is about to begin…

“The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana” looks, at first glance, exactly that: a series of encyclopedic entries describing various characters from Victorian fiction. However, this compilation is far more than that. Each entry – fully annotated – not only states who created a character, but an in-depth synopsis of where and when the character appeared, and in what environment he, she, or it existed, story, etc. Far and above this, each entry is supported by a vibrant and knowledgeable analysis by Mr. Nevins, regarding the character/story’s effect on society at the time of publishing and vice versa. The text brings to life many stories and personalities that have since been swallowed whole by time and history, and gives them new voice. Enough so, that the reader may just go hunt up some of these stories and personas to read them for him or herself. These efforts range from still popular heavyweights like Sherlock Holmes and associates to forgotten creations of brilliance in the vein of Ambrosio, the protagonist from M.G. Lewis’ original gothic novel ‘The Monk: A Romance’ (1796), and beyond. From the truly great efforts of literature down to the merely mediocre, authors across decades and borders spanning most nations of Europe, the United Kingdom, Russia, the Middle East and distant Orient are all exemplified within the copious pages of this Encyclopedia.

Other entries chronicle various stereotypes of the Victorian era, within fiction and without: their evolution and how they were treated by the society of the day. For example, one of these is an apt description of the ‘Adventuress’, both in fiction and real life, and how the meaning of the term changed irrevocably with the growing emancipation of women. Another, ‘Anarchists’ describes why terror-style and anarchy-style fiction became the vogue in the latter two decades of the 19th century as a response to the public’s general feeling of ‘unease’ in these matters. Many more entries cover topics like: Hero-Villain; The Gothic; The New Woman; The School Story; The Great Detective; Future War; The Hypnotist; Martians (I) and (II); The Lost Race Story; and so on – all meticulously and extensively cross-referenced throughout.

This type of book, with its insightful look at the Victorian era literature and social mores would make an excellent addition to any writer’s reference shelf, especially those writers who create modern fiction set in that age. Even readers who are admirers of fiction emanating from Victorian times, whether written then or written now, would find this encyclopedia compelling reading matter. The text and analysis are not only informative, but rather entertainingly so.

Marianne Plumridge

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dark Rum 'n' Raisin Chocolates....a recipe

And the painting of the day is...

Chasing Butterflies (14x18", Alkyd)

Okay, now that I've got your attention...

I've spent the last week making homemade chocolates, christmas cakes (don't laugh until you've tasted mine), chocolate decadence pound cakes, and chocolate dipped dried fruits like ginger and papaya. Well, now that I'm coming to the end of it all, and all of the gift food boxes are wrapped and ready to send out, I'd thought I'd share some of the recipes with you. Today's recipe is a simple one that I threw together several Christmases ago in sheer desperation - and an abundance of left-over chocolate - to create gift-box fillers. So, please enjoy...

Dark Rum ‘n’ Raisin Chocolates

2 x 11.5oz bags of Ghiradelli (dark) Bittersweet Chocolate (or any equivalent good quality dark chocolate) chips.
1 cup (heaped) of dark seedless raisins.
Captain Morgan Spiced Rum – enough to cover raisins.
72-75 Wilton Foil Bon Bon Cups (mini foil patty papers) – your color of choice.

Place raisins in a small bowl and pour in enough of the Rum to cover them. Cover and set aside to allow raisins to absorb some of the rum. Can be left overnight if desired.

In a double boiler, melt half of one packet of the chocolate chips. Separate and place foil cups on a large cookie tray – one with sides so that the cups don’t slide off it when the tray is picked up.

Spoon approximately 1/3 teaspoon of the hot melted chocolate in to a cup/paper, then, using a toothpick or a Popsicle stick, gently push some of the chocolate half way up the inside of the cup. Repeat with each Bon Bon cup and allow all to set.

Drain raisins. With a teaspoon, gently place 2-5 raisins (depending on how plump they are) in each chocolate bowl. Melt rest of chocolate and spoon over raisins, making sure to cover each raisin well. Let set – refrigerate if needed.

The chocolates can be packed into plastic treat bags and twist-tied to seal. Approx. 8 chocolates to each bag is what I use.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Feels Like Spring...

And the flower painting of the day is...

Mini Magnolias (5x7", Oil)

I can't believe the weather outside. Normally, at this time of year, I've usually got my Australian hide wrapped up like an Eskimo expecting a snowstorm. But strangely enough, today was pretty well Spring-like: warm, sunny and pleasant. Definitely not American Christmas at all. For once the unseasonal warmth reawakens my memories of mild Christmases back home in Australia. So the mild summer/burgeoning spring bring me to my other favourite flower - magnolias. Elegant, candle-flame flowers ranging from snowy white, some with touches of pink, to the deep plummy coloured ones. Fortunately there are some trees around our neighbourhood so that I can indulge my magnolia-watching each spring. The above painting was one of my first flower paintings in 2005, and is still a favourite. I enjoyed every brushstroke and serendipitous smudge. Now, I have to wait until spring for more to paint. If winter doesn't get on with its stuff real soon, the spring blossoming season is going to be completely out of wack. :-)

So, please enjoy...


Thursday, December 14, 2006

In the Bleak Almost Winter...Roses!!

Painting inspiration of the day...

Tea Roses (1), oil
When I was seriously burned out last year, I found that I ended up wanting to paint 'something' - anything - as long as it wasn't too large and complicated. What touched my inspiration the most were flowers - most particularly roses, my birth flower. Again, painting small kept an intimate connection to the models and the painting itself. This small work is painted wet-in-wet in oil, on size 6x8" canvas panel.
Brandy Tea Roses (4x5"), oil

Tiny Brandy Tea Roses (1 6/8x2"), oil

I never throw away off-cuts of canvas board and canvas. There always seems to be odd sized small frames lying about the place, and you never know when an off-cut might fit one. So, that's how the really teeny paintings come about.

When I've been working on a painting, and there seems to be an abundance of paint still left on the palette, I will pull out some small canvas boards and make some instant backgrounds for future paintings. I swirl the wet paint around on a canvas until the colour variations appeal to me, then I whisk the surface quickly with a big soft fluffy blending brush to smooth the sharp edges. When these dry, I have a painting 'already started' in any one of them. A mid-value that I can use to bounce new images off, or pull from the patterns in the base painted background.

Why roses? Because I love them in all their myriad forms and colours. And because of the rose's legacy in history, mythology and symbolism. It is perfect in every way...a symbol of purity and unity.



Friday, December 08, 2006

Celtic Rhythms and Imagery

A little over two years ago, I came to a turning point in my artistic career. To a point, I had no career: nothing with any continuity or satisfaction. Just painting things I thought people at Science Fiction Convention art shows might appreciate enough to buy - or re-licensing to magazines, etcetera. I felt like I’d sold out, and had no idea how to again find the creative path I should be on. Where was my creative self hibernating, my real ‘art’? It felt like I hadn’t seen it in some years. I lay awake one night, looking meditatively at the darkened ceiling and asked the universe at large “How do I get back in touch with my painting? How do I find it again?” From out of the ether, I clearly heard in my mind…”Go back to the beginning…” Just a bit gob-smacked, I thought about where the beginning might be. It had begun, of course, when I was thirteen years old, and my beloved creative mentor, my Grandma Plumridge had taught me how to paint in oils like a real artist. My memories of those long afternoons in the 1970s reverberated, and I decided then and there to discard the later mediums and go back to my grass-roots lessons on painting in oils – with a small palette of colours. Determined to forget some of the shallow paintings I’d attempted and abandoned, I felt something more intrinsic call to me. Something more earthy and worthy of oil paint than I’d previously thought of. In honour of my Grandma, and her strong Scots heritage, I turned to the Celtic archetypes and imagery that had been filtering in and out of my imagination for some years. The following images are the result of that journey…

'Greenman – Mask'....4x4”, Alkyd/Oil, 2004

'Greenman – Disgorger'....5x5”, Alkyd/Oil, 2004

These folate heads, commonly referred to as The Greenman are only two of several styles of pre-christian nature archetypes found carved and painted on historic buildings all over Europe. The Greenman is the Guardian and Revealer of mysteries. As the Mask, he is linked to drama and the world of spirits, and of what lies behind death. As the Disgorger, he speaks of the mysteries of creation in time, of the hidden sources of inspiration, and of the dark nothingness from which we are born and are returned to upon death.

Below are the images of a more ambitious project: Cernunnos – Lord of the Forest. He is also a facet of the Greenman legacy. This is painted quite a bit larger than the first Greenman paintings. I like painting small because of the intimacy of feeling I get when I work on such a reduced scale. Larger paintings are always a huge challenge – and not all get completed.

'Cernunnos – Drawing'....14x18”, Pastel on Paper, 2004


'Cernunnos'....14x18”, Oil, 2004


Other divergences into Celtic imagery include:

'Green Spirit'....11x14”, Oil, 2004

'Sad Dryad'....11x14”, Oil, 2004

This was painted after visit to Silver Falls in Oregon in 2004. I felt such a wonderful connection to the woodlands there. Note the wood-grain skin, lichen hair, the feminine orchid that lives on trees, ivy décolleté, and sap tear.


'The Oak King'....11x14”, Oil, 2004


'The Holly King'....11x14”, Oil, 2004

The Oak King represents the Summer and the Holly King represents the Winter. In Celtic lore, they fight each other twice a year – at the solstices - to become the consort of the Goddess. Their life/death/rebirth cycle symbolizes the turning of the seasons. Their manifestations were semi-complicated ritualistic semblances of the waxing and waning sun each year, the planting and harvest, and home and community, material and spiritual survival of communities. And oh, so much more.

Other influences have shifted my vision away from the Celtic world this past year or so, but recently I have been inspired to return to work on my “Cosmic Greenman”. The masked Green spirit set amongst a nebula of my favourite colours. But that is for another post. :-D So, until then…


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

16th Annual Les Petites Oeuvres...aka 2006 Small Works Show


The '16th Annual Les Petites Oeuvres' is the annual December small works show at the Spring Bull Gallery in Newport, Rhode Island. Members of the gallery and non-members are allowed to enter small works of art for sale to a buying public out looking for unique Christmas gifts. These are my entries...

Title: "Little Pumpkins" 6x8", Oil........................Price: USD $300.00

Title: "Little Pumpkins Too" 6x8", Oil................Price: USD $300.00

Title: "Perfect Moment Roses" 9x12", Oil...............Price: USD 160.00

Queries about these pieces can be made to:

Spring Bull Studio and Gallery........................... 55 Bellevue Ave, Newport RI 02840 PH: 401-849-9166

Until January 2nd, 2007

Happy Christmas to all!