Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New Years Eve

Running towards the New Year ?

this is actually a half finished painting
towards the end of a series of paintings
on Mary of Magdala...
come back later in 2015 to see the finished picture !

Friday, 26 December 2014

Short Christmas Meditation

Madonna & Child,  no 5.

Not knowing how to make himself understood, God came to earth himself, poor and humble. If Christ Jesus had not lived among us, God would remain far off, inaccessible. Jesus allows us to see God shining through his life. (5)  
5. John 14:9

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve

Beautiful clear dark sky;
The beginning of a frosty nip in the air,
And a new crescent moon arises among distant stars.
Was it such a night as this
That shepherds were out keeping watch over their flocks near Bethlehem?
And after the angel, which scared the life out of them,
Just imagine vast flocks of angels spiraling around, 
Like streams of coloured light dancing in the darkness...
Wow... all that joyful breathtaking glory...

this oil painting was requested as a Christmas card this year by Cornerstone, Charitas, Diocese of Salford

Thursday, 18 December 2014

How can this be ?

I originally painted this as part of a series on Mary of Magdala (John ch 20 ),
when the person she thinks is the gardener finally calls her by name...

I had spent days...weeks... trying to visualize that part of the story...
thinking that it must have taken Mary some time to really turn around from her grief and wailing compounded by the fear that Jesus' tomb had been desecrated and his body removed.

 I wanted to try and portray that initial surprise, an in-drawn breath,
 part of her mind must have been saying "how do you know my name ?"
 even though a deeper level of herself actually recognized his voice.

 Surely, I thought, there must have been an "in between" moment
 when time stood still: 'but how can that be...?"
and then her mind began to adjust to the "impossible"...

 and that moment was what I tried to convey in this painting.

 But when my husband first saw the painting, he thought it depicted the Annunciation.

He saw the bright background as the presence of the Angel Gabriel,
and then Jesus' mother Mary reacting in surprise,
wondering just what this could mean...

another in-between moment
when time stood still
and her mind needed to adjust to the impossible

"how can this be...? "        

I find it fascinating when people react in very different ways to a painting...

and so I offer it to you...
perhaps you see something different ?

I would love to know if it communicates something to you...

do leave me a comment... I will not publish your name or email address:
your comment will come direct to me
and if you do not wish me to make it public on this blog,
then just say so and it will be for my eyes only.

Just after writing this blog I received an email sharing another blog on the Annunciation with paintings for reflection... "the pause before yes" by Debbie Thomas:

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Advent Hands 3

Now for the final verse of Catherine Alder's poem Advent Hands...

the first verse invited us to imagine the hands of Joseph,
then we moved on to envisage the hands of John the Baptist in verse 2;

But whose are these hands ... ?

"I see a fist held tight and fingers blanched to white.
Prying is no easy task.
These fingers find a way of pulling back to old positions,
protecting all that was and is. 
Blanched to white. No openness. All fright.
But then the Spirit comes.
A holy Christmas dance begins
and blows between the twisted paths.
This fist opens
the twisted fingers letting go.
Their rock-solid place in line has eased.
And one by one the fingers lift
True colour is returned 
And through the deepest of mysteries,
The holiest of holies,
O longing of longings
Beyond all human imagining 
this fist,
as if awakened from Lazarus’ cold stone dream
reaches out to hold the tiny newborn hand of God."

El Greco: Adoration of the Shepherds

"...But then the Spirit comes.
                                                         A holy Christmas dance begins..."

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Advent Hands : John the Baptist

second verse of the poem: Advent Hands by Catherine Alder
the hands of John the Baptist

I see the hands of John,
worn from desert raging storms
and plucking locusts from sand ripped rocks 
beneath the remnant of a Bethlehem star.
A howling wind like some lost wolf 
cries out beneath the moon,
or was that John? 
This loneliness, 
enough to make a grown man mad.
He’s waiting for this, God’s whisper. 
“Go now. He is coming. 
You have prepared your hands enough. 
Go. He needs your servant hands, 
your cupping hands to lift the water, 
and place his feet upon the path to service and to death.
Go now, John, and open your hands to him.
It is time.”

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Advent Hands : a meditative poem by Catherine Alder

I discovered this poem & used it for a short Advent Meditation, and thought it would be better taken even more slowly... a week at a time to savour each verse... with the addition of one or two visuals.

First, focus on this cave painting...


What do you notice ?

[ even in this small section of the cave, covered with so many hands, you can begin to see how individual they are, and the longer you look, the more you notice about them: right hands,left hands,
different shapes & sizes of fingers, and at least one in deep yellow ochre... ]

This Advent poem focuses first on the hands of Joseph... just imagine....

"I see the hands of Joseph,
Back and forth along bare wood they move.
There is worry in those working hands,
sorting out confusing thoughts with every stroke.
'How can this be, my beautiful Mary now with child?'
Rough with deep splinters, these hands,
small, painful splinters like tiny crosses embedded deeply in this choice to stay with her.
He could have closed his hands to her,
said 'No' and let her go to stoning.
But, dear Joseph opened both his heart and hands to this mother and her child.
Preparing in these days before
with working hands and wood pressed tight between them.
It is these rough hands
that will open and be the first to hold the child.  "

Among so many Madonna & Child paintings, it seems that artists have tended to leave Joseph out, let alone thought of painting him actually holding the baby... but Georges de la Tour painted this beautiful picture of Joseph with Jesus holding a light for him to work by.

next week I will post the second verse of this poem by Catherine Alder

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Trouble with Indigo oil paint

Having seen the beautiful dark indigo background of a Chinese book printed during the Ming Dynasty [ at the current British Museum Exhibition ]

I decided to experiment with indigo myself.

After two glazes of Indigo I realized that this blue has a bitterness that will set my teeth on edge when warmer colours are placed anywhere nearby. Fortunately it will take umpteen more layers until I reach the depth of colour on the label, and so I decide to see what will happen if I glaze it over with ultramarine blue.
 Despite searching all over the Indigo tube of paint [ Artists Quality oil paint ] I can find none of the usual marking code to indicate whether this is a transparent, staining, semi-transparent or opaque colour. I have to guess therefore that it is opaque; I know Ultramarine in artists quality oil paint is transparent and wonder whether its warmth will actually have any effect on the cold layer below.

I thought maybe three glaze layers might help, but it took five glazes before I really had some degree of warmth and real depth of colour. Now in fact I enjoy the beautiful velvety deep blue background that has been created. I wanted a really deep background to offset the paler tones, and a background that would recede. I think I have discovered a way to take off the Indigo bitter edge, but only time will tell as I continue with the painting.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

White Peace Poppies

Seeing the moving pictures of the "River of Blood" installation leaves me wondering why no one has thought to do anything with white peace poppies...perhaps we might think of that for 2018 when we celebrate the end of the first world war ?

Thinking along these lines made me begin to sketch some white poppies in pastels on black paper:

 As I began drawing white on black
I found myself thinking of the black IS flag, and their menacing black uniforms,
and how Muslim leaders have asked us not to call them Islamic State, because their violence has nothing to do with the true Islamic faith.

Then, whilst sketching this white poppy, I thought of all the warmth and love being shown by those who have suddenly found hundreds of refugees in their midst and risen to the challenge of housing them in schools, church halls and makeshift tents; somehow managing to find food... of all the aid workers & those who have donated money, sent supplies...and risk their lives.

Yes, red poppies are an immediate reminder of sacrifice and blood shed during war...
but I post these white poppies in remembrance of all those who work for peace, risking their lives as medical volunteers among Ebola victims; those who stand in solidarity with all who are persecuted; those who listen and care and in whatever way give their lives for others...far too many to name or number... but who also need to be remembered.

Friday, 31 October 2014

A rushing mighty sound of wings...

Just as I was taking this photo of the colour of autumn sunlight glowing on the leaves, 

the stillness of late afternoon was suddenly filled with an incredible cacophony of noise overhead.

 Looking up, wondering what on earth it was,  I saw skein after skein of geese in V formation cackling  across the sky,  closely followed by a rushing sound of wings, lingering in the still air.  My camera hastily aimed at the sky managed to catch these last stragglers ...

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Open Studios Weekends

Just spent a fascinating afternoon looking round some Wivenhoe Artists Studios. Such a wide range of creativity & many within just a short walk from one another.

for details click here:

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Hildegarde von Bingen

fascinating to celebrate the life of Hildegarde ... looking at some of her visionary paintings, and remembering what a powerful influence she had as an Abbess, and yet pondering her wish to become like a feather on the breath of God. : let me be like a feather on the breath of God

 When painting this, I interpreted Hildegarde's 'feather' in terms of becoming as light as a feather, letting go of fears & worries that can weigh me down, and trusting to the life giving breath of God to carry us where he wills... something I often wish for, especially when feeling far too heavily weighed down !   

Yesterday someone sent me this link to a sonnet written about Hildegarde, which gives an added slant to this image ... interpreting it as a feather floating on the playfulness of God:

Thursday, 11 September 2014

12th & 13th September: Wivenhoe : Art in the Church

Come & see a wide variety of paintings by local artists.

This morning I took down three of my most recent oil paintings for this exhibition... My painting of the Houses of Parliament was naturally inspired by Monet... though I often pushed a pram along by the Thames, seeing this famous view when we lived in Lambeth.  So I have painted three H of P sunsets, each one with a different effect. The cliffs above are near Linton: again filled with the warmth of evening light. I am always attracted by the light at dawn or sunset shining through a sea mist.

If you visit the exhibition you may also find my painting of the River Colne transformed at Sunset, which is one of four paintings inspired by the amazing effect of sunlight shining though the evening mist, transforming the whole stretch of riverbank. I remember how the golden light changed to deeper orange, flooding the water at high tide: swimming in this was unforgettable !


Saturday, 30 August 2014

Essential Oils. Part 1. Beginning first week in October 2015

is oil painting 4 U ?

why not try it and see ?

5 weekly sessions on either Wednesday mornings or afternoons 
Friday afternoons or Saturday afternoons

Thursday, 26 June 2014

29th July...through August... to 9th September 2014

Wivenhoe Library

have invited me to do another Exhibition of my Oil Paintings 

Library Opening times: click link below or scroll down to next blog

Look above the bookshelves and elsewhere on the walls : 
sunsets on the River Colne, dawn sea mists, butterflies...and more...
30% on all sales goes to Library Funds.
click here for my website

at a recent exhibition someone asked me

     Why on earth is this painting called 'The Eye of the Needle' ?

Can you guess ?

clue :  the small natural archway:
apparently it is only just wide enough for a dingy & oars to go through, and, so the story goes, the stone masons who cut stone from these cliffs nicknamed the bay "the eye of the needle".

  I would like to know why the contrast between shadows and brilliant sunlight shining on these limestone cliffs reveal so many abstract human-like shapes. Is it just the result of natural weathering, or did the stone masons enliven their labour by cutting these shapes ?

 I made two studies before painting this, and nearly called it "Stone Carnival", but then I suddenly saw the link with what Jesus said: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God". Certainly these gigantic "stone people" could never pass through this particular "eye of the needle" archway. It seemed to make a visual tongue in cheek parallel.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

May & June 2014

13th May - 17th June:  Exhibition of Paintings
@ Wivenhoe Library 

Come along to the Library and see a selection of my oil paintings up on the walls above the bookshelves and by the noticeboard & desk .

 For the first week there is also the Wild Life exhibition as you enter the Library,  with sketches by Richard Allen and a colourful  children's sculpture.

Wivenhoe Library Opening Times:  

Library Opening Times:
Tuesday:2.00 - 7.00
Thursday:2.00 - 7.00
Friday:10.00 - 1.00
Saturday:10.00 - 1.00 & 2.00 - 5.00
View paintings on my website:

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Celebrating 20 years of the ordination of women


One banner read : " A womans place ?
               WHERE SHE IS CALLED !


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Lent Meditations: 1. Glimpses of Jesus in St John's Gospel

This year we have a wonderful gift, 
with all the Sunday Readings during Lent from St John’s Gospel.

Reading St John’s Gospel again, right the way through in a few days was a real eye-opener.

 I had difficulty at first as I kept wanting to look something up / delve into a commentary, but resisting the temptation and just allowing the writer to tell his story made me notice all sorts of things I had forgotten or just missed out on before. I think you need to find out by reading it through for yourself !

WEEK 1:  A few Glimpses of Jesus in St John’s Gospel

John 20 v 1-8     The defining moment for the author : v 8 “He saw & he believed “

Now & then you discover a painting where the artist really speaks to you. With this one, by Henry Tanner,
 it slowly dawned on me how well the artist encapsulated Peter’s character revealed in John’s Gospel...of his running straight into the tomb & then feeling stunned & unsure of himself, while the brilliant light on the other disciple reveals how deeply he begins to see ...

 I am also reminded of how sensitive this other disciple is in writing his last two chapters...and the picture he gives us of the Risen Christ who respects each individual’s needs, revealing himself in different ways to each one. Surely an Easter meditation on these would be very moving

Two paintings people really enjoyed were by the Indian artist, Jyoti Sahi, who began an art ashram where artists may meditate and paint.

Both paintings are very meditative, and the more you look at them, the more you see,
rather like St John's Gospel

The glimpse of Jesus bending down & writing in the dust, defusing the antagonism of the angry mob with the adulterous woman was painted by a French artist in collaboration with the Mafa people in the Cameroon who acted out the scenes that were to be painted.
 Over the past few years a great variety of New Testament scenes have been painted in an African setting, and are available to be purchased as prints & cards. 
click on this link:

If you would like some very readable background on St John's Gospel, try this slim paperback:

Another look at St John’s Gospel : Ivan Clutterbuck
[ Publ: 2007  Gracewing  ISBN 978-0-85244-496-2 ]

“This is a small book for a large subject. However, I hope to tempt those who do not have very much time for reading to take another look at St John’s Gospel.” (from the Introduction )

 This paperback is just what it says; and gives a quick overview of theories on date & authorship together with other interesting background eg on fishing / fish merchants on the Sea of Galilee.

Next Wednesday : 7 pm  Nicodemus  John ch 3

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Glimpses of Jesus in St John's Gospel : 6 Visual Meditations : March 12th - April 16th 2014


            Wednesdays 7 pm  @ St James Church, Brightlingsea

                                with paintings of Christ by artists around the world

                                             to aid reflection and lead into silence

for venue details click this link :

week 1:  Glimpses of Christ in John's Gospel  : 12th March

This picture is from the frontispiece of a 13th Century MSS

I wonder, is this meant to represent God measuring out & creating the world,
or was it inspired by the beginning of St John's Gospel ?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

beautiful stained glass

Need a change from all the floods, wind & mayhem in the news ?
then click on this link and enjoy a whole series of beautiful, innovative, contemporary stained glass :
St Raphael Window 

Sunday, 5 January 2014


"In the beginning was the Word...the Word was the true light that enlightens all humankind... John 1 v 1-18

Maybe one year I will be inspired to paint the Maji daring to follow the star... however, some years ago I followed my 'star' / vision / intuition: to try and communicate the beginning of John's Gospel : his poetic Prologue... and over the years I have painted several versions, hoping each time to go more deeply into this mystery.

click this link for my website:

One Christmas I asked : If Christ were born these days, where would we be most likely to find him ?  Of course I could have painted any baby, anywhere, for surely each one of us reveals a glimpse of God's likeness in some way or another? But at the time the TV news was full of the Sudan refugee crisis, and showing starving mothers & young children flooding into refugee camps, and in order to pray for them I began drawing ... and decided to paint a Madonna & Child based  on these images, as a prayer painting.  I share this painting here
in the hope that within our darkest night Christ comes among us in some hidden way.