Being creative in the dark

It's getting darker and these are challenging times. I see it every day in my work with NGOs. The current lack of funding allows very little wriggle room for creativity and it's getting harder to stay upbeat about the future.

I also notice that every time I put my latest work out there in the world, it feels like I might slip right off the edge of my comfort zone and end up barely clinging on by the finger nails. There is so much vulnerability in self promotion and exposure, especially in this time of austerity and lack of opportunity.

There's a conflict going on inside my head as to why it can feel so perilous, and whether this is even worth mentioning? It goes with the territory I know and that's probably why my little book is about staying on the creative path and not throwing the towel in completely!

For November I wrote

" I am becoming ages older and deeper. I am no longer afraid of the dark. It is part of the deepening taking place in the creative process. Not to be avoided or feared anymore." 

The act of creating and sharing your art (or any creative project), is such an act of courage that it would be impossible to avoid some moments of exposure and uncertainty.  So there is no alternative to putting one foot in front of the other and living in colour to the bitter end. While it's not a matter of life and death, sometimes when we find ourselves having to embrace the shadows it can feel like it......

So to celebrate the wonder of creativity and the launch of my first little book I have a GIVE AWAY competition! The winner will get a signed copy of the book "Seek light, embrace shade and live colour" along with a selection of cards from the collection. The announcement will be made here in three weeks on Sunday November 9th.

All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment on the book page here. The winner will be drawn at random. GOOD LUCK!!


On making a book in the presence of butterflies

I have just put my first little book out there into the world!

I started the book back in Greece when I had a "studio" space with a view and free wifi as long as I bought a glass of wine and a few nibbles. (OK, yes it was a bar on the beach!) Most evenings I would sit there screening Instagram photos and figuring out how to bring them together. 

Gradually, the story of what got me here and why the creative path is an exciting choice for any one to make, began to emerge. It became a celebration of beginning on that path, continuing, stumbling and beginning again. A process of phases and seasons, challenges and triumphs.

The book also follows the year in Ireland and how the seasonal cycles reflect in our work. Over time and with a couple of sample drafts in the post from Blurb, the tweaking and editing finally had to stop; the hardest part of all. I called it "Seek light, embrace shade, live colour" which sums up both my photographic aspirations and my take on life!

For two weeks now I have been laid up with flu and bronchitis and for some reason butterflies have been appearing around me as if from nowhere. One landed on my wooly jumper and looked up at me. That little face gave me more support than any mentor could. Because every step along the creative path requires steadfast courage, a whole lot of it and I realised that's what the little book is all about.....

So there will be no fancy launch. Just a gentle breeze to carry the this little book or download to you, where ever you are. 

I would love you to have a peek at the preview of the book here and may it be a companion to you on your creative path wherever it may be taking you!


Embracing shade

During the summer of 1975 when I was on the road with an architect, a singer, an uileann piper and a gypsy guitarist, we diverted from lucrative street performing in Germany to visit Scandinavia. We travelled in a green VW van which had been gifted to us one night during a dinner party in the home of an academic from Alabama. (I promise I will tell more about this part of the story at a later stage!)

Anyway, when we reached Stockholm, there was a debacle with the police who were not too keen on our celtic art and the old Irish come-all-ye's.  A young woman came forward to assist and she ended up inviting us to stay in her small flat. She confided in us that her partner had just passed away and she was going through the whole funeral and burial process during those few weeks.

I am remembering her because of a recent visit to a World Heritage Site Skogskyrkogarden in Stockholm which is actually a grave-yard unlike any I have ever seen. Tiny tomb stones set in 102 acres of mature forest, light filtering through the pines, paths directing you towards the key devotion points. A place of peace for the dead and the living.

Reflecting Swedish sensibilities about equality, there are rules to be abided by; green burials, flowers only in certain places, open plan spacious communities of graves, secular spaces for rituals. The overall effect is of quiet order and beauty, a place of sanctuary and respect.

And yet when I think back to that young woman in her lonely grief I remember how confused we were by the lack of a wake, the absence of ham sandwiches and beer, of callers, neighbours, family. The chaotic week long family occasion that is the typical Irish funeral. She seemed to be isolated except for ourselves.

As I get older and explore more the rituals and shrines we create, I have come to understand the importance of choice in death and dying. Where and how we are buried is part of that. I know I won't belong in a conventional graveyard myself....if it even matters at that stage! So bury me in a bio-degradable mushroom suit, or send me off in a blaze of flames and scatter my ashes where they will add some nourishment to the earth. 

See also an earlier post on the mushroom burial suit here

Thank you dear friends for your kind wishes! Yes, I won the Best Photography Blog for the second year in a row. After the initial delight all I could say to himself was....how am I going to keep this up? A touch of performance anxiety maybe which like all my other short comings I will choose to ignore!! 

Next week the little book will be on sale, so watch this space.


She is honey coloured like Swedish architecture

My sister is honey coloured so she tones in beautifully with traditional Swedish architecture. From the old town of Gamla Stan to the hilly cobbled streets of Sodermalm, the Swedes seem to favour warm Italian tones. That's the first surprise I wanted to share with you. Maybe this is why Stockholm is called the Venice of the North? 

It's also because Stockholm is built on a series of islands, thousands of them spread out between the city and the Baltic Sea. There is a distinct culture, a wonderful language, some western influence, but the northern ambiance is much more prominent.

Did you know for example that Swedes never ever wear their shoes inside their homes? That they eat dozens of variations on salted herring? That they swim in the pristine waters in the middle of their cities, so clean and pollution free are their harbours? 

Swedes don't use curtains on their windows at night. As one said to me, once you've seen everything your naked old man neighbour has to show you get over it! They are practical, humane and clever. They have to be to deal with severe dark winters and still find joy in skiing and hunting in the snow.

There is everything to admire here from their design sensibilities to their white blonde heads. It looks like they share more than a love of raw fish with the Japanese; minimalism, love of rural life, art and interior simplicity. Their social systems, now under threat from right wing tendencies, are the envy of the world. 

Is there a down side? As most Irish people would have it they could do with having a bit more craic, but we say that about everyone.....

The sister has lived and worked here for many years and even forgets English vocabulary now and then. She will soon be a Swedish Farmor (Grandma!) so I suppose after 30 years it's safe to say she has settled here. 

Himself and myself came here first though; way back in 1975. We were enchanted by it and vowed to come back. Little did we know we would be returning so often or that we would have extended family living here. 

Why did we come here in the first place? Why didn't we stay after all? We were busking and making art on the streets of Stockholm. We were hanging out in cool communes during that sunny summer, but of course when it started to get cold we vamoosed. 

Next time I will share photos of a precious Swedish World Heritage Site designed for the living as well as the dead.......one of my sister's favourite places in Stockholm.


The Italian paintbox

When I was in Rome earlier this year as part of this Pilgrimage year,  I remembered those tiny paint boxes that we used to get for Christmas when I was a kid. Each little square or tube of colour had an unfathomable name; Yellow Ochre, Warm Sienna, Burnt Umber, Terracotta, Vermillion. I had no idea what they were or how they should be used. Not for the green fields and purple hills of Ireland anyway....

Later when I studied art in college I began quite literally to get the picture. These were the paint colours of the Italian Masters because they were the authentic colours of their daily lives!

In Italy everything depends on this golden palette of colours. The washy watery tints that cover the buildings, the interiors, even the food seems to based on that little paintbox of warm hues. From the courgette flowers in the market to the majestic painted domes of the churches, colours are warm and deep.

As the Ireland begins to turn to away from the sun, I am travelling again to another majestic city, Stockholm in Sweden. I've enjoyed feeling at home in some beautiful places and if you are wondering what the colour palette in Stockholm might be, next week all will be revealed. Expect to be surprised!

For more of the Rome photos checkout the Gallery here


Enveloped in the purest of pure gold

It's been three and a half years now since I finally made the decision to live again the artist's life that I had dreamt of as a teenager. Even though for 20 years I kept the Artist's Way beside the bed, it was only recently that like a bolt of lightening it hit me, it was now or never! The voice in my head that said you are not a true artist has gone away and I refuse ever let that be an issue again.

It's not about recognition or approval. I blog as a way to share and to somehow make evidence for myself that I am growing and creating a body of work. Starting to blog has been key in completing the creative circle; showing the work. 

And that is why each of you has been so much part of my recovery. Sounds like I had an addiction to something? I think it was survivor guilt in my case.....but that's another story......

Over the last months I've been messing about with a little book about the creative path and putting together a month by month notebook of photos and words which have kept me going over the last few years. I got the first copy of it in the post from Blurb and although it is tiny (7"x7") it is juicy and full of things I've learned along the way. I look forward to sharing it with you when I iron out a few further details. It's called "Seek light, embrace shade and live colour"

Added to that bit of excitement the Foxglove Lane Studio Blog is again a finalist in the Irish Blog Awards. Also in the finals is my friend Eadaoin from  City of Blackbirds. She is a gifted photographer and gave me lots of great advice about blogging when I was starting out and didn't even know her! Her blog is a pure joy to follow. 

I continue to work hard. Managing a day job and an artist's path means there is never, ever a dull moment. And maybe that's all anyone could wish for?  The summer sun has seeped into my bones and as September envelops us all in the purest of pure gold.......that fading summer sun.....I thank each of you for your encouragement and support. 

And if you love golden light too check out the Golden gallery here


To whom are we beautiful?

In the beginning there is a thick mist. 

Somewhere the dawn is breaking but on the lane this morning it happens slowly. A tractor engine is idling. He's warming the engine while he empties the dregs of a pot of tea down on top of two slices of brown bread and marmalade. 

The warm September light filters through, dappled spotlights along the way. By evening time the freezer will be crammed with blackberries, plums and an assortment of currants and apples. Sweetness to be added to morning oatmeal and yoghurt on a winter's day. 

For now it's time to harvest all the good memories of summer as we get ready for the big hibernation. And walking back I repeat again these favourite lines....

I wish I understood the beauty 
in leaves falling.
To whom are we beautiful 
as we go? 

~David Ignatow


Early morning web magic

Very early in the morning, before the sun casts it's spell, there are spidery webs everywhere. Have you ever seen the heavy curtains of sparkly fabric draped between the branches, leaves and blossoms? The first time I saw this phenomenon I was shocked by how much of the land is covered in the creative productions of what must be an army of arachnids!

When it's early like this, the light is soft and dew highlights the patterns and extent of this magical world. By sun up when most people begin to go about their daily lives, the webs have dried out and are strangely invisible again.

Besides the fact that I am not a morning person (in the slightest) over the last three years I have taken every opportunity to get out early with the camera and experience the slowly emerging day. It's a time of calm before the onslaught of alarms ringing and phones hopping. Wandering through this secret webby world always sets me up for a much more positive start to the day ahead. (Except when I lock myself out of the house in the dead of winter!)

This month you can see another web image of mine showing in a group exhibition called Being Here in Aoife's Gallery in Waterford City. This photograph was taken one icy morning in winter when the dawn light created a mini light show of rainbow colours. You can see the image HERE

And if you share this weird fascination for webs You can also visit the Gallery of Web photos here.