The Natural World

bluebell wood 1

In my last post I shared a poem by the American writer Wendell Berry. By coincidence, he was a guest on Monday’s  ‘Start the Week‘ on BBC Radio 4. He was joined by two other guests discussing the natural environment and what we can do to protect it. I found it a really thought-provoking listen, and just wanted to share it.



Hello September

Autumn days

Sketchbook page inspired by the approach of my favourite season. A favourite song from my school days, ‘Autumn Days’ by Estelle White, has been playing on a loop in my head this week. Some of the lyrics are so evocative that I can’t resist including it here:

Autumn days when the grass is jewelled
And the silk inside a chestnut shell.
Jetplanes meeting in the air to be refuelled.
All these thing I love so well

So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget.
To say a great big
Thank You
I mustn’t forget

Clouds that look like familiar faces
And the winters moon with frosted rings.
Smell of bacon as I fasten up my laces
And the song the milkman sings

So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget.
To say a great big
Thank You
I mustn’t forget

Whipped-up spray that is rainbow-scattered
And a swallow curving in the sky
Shoes so comfy though they’re worn out and they’re battered
And the taste of apple pie.

So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget.

Scent of gardens when the rain’s been falling
And a minnow darting down a stream
Picked-up engine that’s been stuttering and stalling
And a win for my home team.

So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget.

Page created using Seawhite ink and Derwent Watercolour and Inktense pencils. Wasn’t sure about the Inktense when I first got them, but now I like using them alongside watercolour pencils to create stronger outlines.

Happy Autumn!

August Break

3 geraniums cropped

For the last couple of years I’ve tried to participate in Susannah Conway’s ‘August Break’ photography project. I’ve come to realise that trying to complete every challenge, daily, doesn’t work for me – I fall behind and end up giving up. But I do find I’ve taken photos I would never have otherwise taken, and sometimes I’m even pleased with the results! Which, after all, is the real point of a creativity challenge. This photo is one I took last year – quite different from my usual landscapes. So this year I’ll be using Susannah’s imaginative list of prompts to inspire and encourage experimentation, at my own pace. Today’s prompt was ‘Morning Light’ – which I will have to catch up with tomorrow morning…

M.E. Awareness Week

Quotations on blue

It’s M.E. Awareness Week 9th-15th May in the UK, and International M.E. Awareness Day today (May 12th). M.E. stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and is defined by the World Health Organisation as a neurological disease. There are 250,000 people living with this debilitating illness in the UK alone, of which I am one.

For many of us the illness was triggered by a viral infection, although there are other possible triggers. The best-known symptom is fatigue, sometimes severe fatigue, although this does lead to misconceptions about the illness. It’s not just about being tired! We have limited reserves of energy, and when we’ve used them up we get ill. ‘Post-exertional malaise’ – a delayed and prolonged reaction to activity – is a defining feature of M.E.

For me, the main problems are headaches/migraines and low blood pressure/dizziness. For others, symptoms include muscle and joint weakness and pain, light and noise sensitivity, and ‘brain fog’ (difficulty speaking or thinking clearly). M.E. varies hugely in severity – a few people lead an almost-normal life while others are bed-bound. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, but severely affected patients live with constant exhaustion and pain. M.E. also fluctuates – we tend to have good days and bad days, and on a good day it can seem to others as though there’s nothing wrong with some of us. If only!

This illness can vary greatly so it’s hard to do it justice in a short paragraph, and I know I won’t have described everybody’s experience (it’s not called a complex multi-system disorder for nothing!). The M.E. Association explains all this sooo much better than I can – please visit their website for more information on the condition and the current research, and to support their valuable work if you can.

Today’s artwork includes some of my favourite quotations, the ones that reflect my experience of, and attitude to, life with a chronic medical condition. Some of the quotes reflect the courage and kindness of my family and my M.E. friends. What words of wisdom get you through the day (and night)?



Beneath the boughs

“Look up at the treetops, and see how finely Nature finishes off her work there.”

                                                                                                                      Henry David Thoreau

All photos © Dark and Bright Art 2014

Ode to Autumn

Autumn sketchbook page 4

I adore Autumn, “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” – the colour, the weather, the light, the scent, the mood. Other seasons just don’t compare. Here are some sketchbook collages inspired by the last few months.

Autumn sketchbook page 1

Autumn sketchbook page 2

Autumn sketchbook page 3

I love the seasonal poems that sound like a prayer or a spell:

“O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being” (Shelley)

“Glory be to God for dappled things” (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

“O western wind, when wilt thou blow/That the small rain down can rain?” (Anon.)

I’ve just finished reading the excellent ‘Lolly Willowes’ by Sylvia Townsend Warner, a novel about a woman who finally gives in to the restlessness she feels every Autumn, moves to the countryside, and becomes a witch. Maybe I’ll do that one day.

© Dark and Bright Art 2013

Seaside Rock

Some pages from my sketchbook plus photos of  rocks at Oxwich bay, South Wales. I plan a few paintings based on these amazing colours and textures. I hope I can do it justice! Materials used here: pencil, terracotta pencil, chalk pastel, watercolour pencil, ink (applied with a matchstick), biro.  Apologies if post is not displaying properly for no apparent reason!