I often make drawings of paintings when I know they’re incomplete, but are at an interesting or important stage; it’s a little like taking a snapshot of the stages in a relationship. In my paintings I often obliterate interesting passages too, and it’s a way of keeping a record of their evolution. Sometimes the signposts indicate areas I need to explore rather than just the final iteration of a painting. Like tracks through an Italian forest…. I might find (the sustaining, equivalent aspects of, for example) a grove of flowering Daphne bushes, or wild boar hoglets playing and squeaking in the undergrowth. There might be an icon as a waymarker, or a ridge above thousands of trees; or a monk tending beehives painted yellow and blue.
Here are some pictures of works in their stages. I think these stages show that the work itself is alive and working towards its own resolution – not just mine.
The show is a mixture of new work made in response to ideas in the Balneum and existing work on relevant themes. The artists vary widely in their styles and approaches, from video documentation of a 2017 performance by Zoe Williams to Natalia González Martín’s delicate, hyperreal bathing nudes.
There is a series of bronze mirrors by Nina Royle and a collection of decorative plasterwork vessels by Melloney Harvey. 2016 Fleming-Wyfold Bursary winner George Ridgway presents a film on a smart phone about volcanic fumaroles. Paloma Proudfoot has made an impressive wall-mounted ceramic of a figure disrobing. Anousha Payne’s serpent beast, painted in watercolour pigment with a glazed ceramic head, is an incarnation of the Tamil sea beast Makara, which (cleverly) merges with the water, even as the water embodies it.
Meanwhile, painters dive into the waters of myth, superstition, spirituality. Kate Walters’ mystical evocation of baptism is one of the best works here. There are mysterious and well executed landscapes by Ithell Colquhoun and Danny Leyland. Jessie Whiteley’s egg tempera paintings combine elements of myth and surrealism with urban modernity.
Danny Leyland, Between Two Worlds, 2021, Oil on canvas, 70 x 40 cm.
Co-curator Ella Walker describes working with the Balneum as an act of multiple translation: from its original Latin to an existing French translation, into English with some help from Google and then into the artworks, by the artists themselves. The show illustrates the spectrum of ways by which artists translate ideas, through the cipher of their own interests, instincts and experience.
But there is another, final act of translation which sometimes gets scant attention at the cutting edges of contemporary art: that between the work and the viewer. Here, if one continues the water metaphor, we are cut adrift, with little information about any of the art we are seeing. We must make of it what we can, which is fair enough, I suppose, though, one suspects there are some fascinating insights which are lost in translation.
Bathing nervous limbs runs at Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh, until 29th August, as part of Edinburgh Art Festival.
“I saw your song alive; there was great beauty. A cord stretching and growing like a branch, or a tree; a synapse, a ganglion; a cord of sinew, or mating rope between Arthropoda; an umbilical cord, twisting, fleshy, rooty, internal, from earth to heaven. With growing points/nodes/staging posts or platforms where happy dark-haired women were sitting, singing, with wide open mouths. They were descending from these platforms, one was a little anxious about the descent. Then they sat in a circle on the ground.”
I’m just home from teaching a course at the wonderful, beautiful School of Art & Wellbeing in Devon.
The School is a haven for Nature: several sweeping acres are set high on a hill overlooking Dartmoor, with a Mongolian yurt, wild gardens, shepherd’s huts, polytunnels for plants, flowers and painting; and a pavilion with a kitchen and tables; easels, paints and showers.
This is a place for deep connection with all that is good and abundant. It has been established and nurtured over many years by Mary-Ann and Geoffrey. I knew it was perfect for my workshops the first time I visited when I ran my dog around the open meadow beside the pavilion.
My first workshop there was about connecting creatively with one’s inner fire, and the life force felt so strongly in this place. We worked with shamanic ceremony; we made journeys riding on shamanic horses to find power animals, plant spirits, and places of beauty in our lives to ask for medicine names or a name a special place would give us.
In some cases these came as ‘vocables’. We worked ceremonially, and also with humour and lightness. I don’t teach in a strict way, and worries about ‘getting things wrong’ were dispelled. I also worked with the ‘hollow bone’ process, one to one, inviting trauma and grief to surface. Images came for drawing by participants, and words.
We talked about First Nations’ Peoples’ poetry, and song, and images. We looked at contemporary artists, and we spoke about the constriction and inheritance of patriarchal and religious systems.
One night we had a wonderful fire and a sunset dance using headphones and bluetooth technology. Our circle was warm and safe. I felt honoured to be working with such a wonderful, brave, inspiring group of women.
The next workshop here will be August 30th – September 2nd.
This will focus on the ancestors; we’ll respond creatively with images, words, dance, and possibly song. This course is fully booked.
The last course this year will be from October 25th – 27th. It will be strongly body-focused, and will also work with a range of responsive sensitive mediums and will be explored ceremonially and with beauty.
Please contact me for details of next year’s courses – they’re currently in the planning stage!
For around 3 years Mat Osmond and I have collaborated, at a distance, on a book about the Black Madonna. Mat wrote poems in response to the paintings of Meinrad Craighead; at the same time (up until September 2019) I was working on large watercolour paintings of aspects of the divine feminine.
“The Black Madonna’s Song is dedicated to Sr Meinrad Craighead (d. 8.4.19): an artist, writer and Benedictine nun whose life was steered from early childhood by an intimate sense of encounter with God the Mother. At the heart of the pamphlet is a series of ekphrastic poems by Mat Osmond that reply to paintings by Craighead: works that reflect her lifelong devotion to the Black Madonna.
The Black Madonna’s Song is illuminated by a series of arresting watercolour paintings by Kate Walters, chosen for their resonance with Mat’s poems and offering a third layer to the pamphlet’s oblique meditation on the instinctive process that Craighead herself spoke of as ‘praying with images’.
In honour of the women who’ve recently taken up breaking the windows of UK banks heavily implicated in funding ecological catastrophe, all proceeds from The Black Madonna’s Song are being donated to covering their and fellow Extinction Rebellion arrestee’s court costs. ” Mat Osmond
For a link to the publisher, where you can buy the book:
I’m so thrilled to be part of this show – details above! at Arusha Gallery, now open.
Here is a review, where my work receives a special mention, to my great joy…
Last night these words came, woke me up: Spirit coming through is the fruit of an energetic liaison and a promise too of an aperture of wholeness. Like a child, a holy fruit, a holy kernel inside the fruit of flesh. There is an elixir hidden inside the flesh.
The aperture, to do with seeing, using spirit as an Aperture: seeing through the spirit: drawing and writing in an altered state (with a poet?) …
*Dream on 14.7.21
Of a man I feel comfortable with cuddling up to me, making love to me. I was in a very large house with many rooms, and each one had someone in it, a version of me, female, younger, who needed looking after. It was my job to do this, and I did it well. It/I was sort of my super-id or higher self, taking care of all my different and many parts. The man kept an eye on me, he was around, comforting still, and I knew he accepted me fully, exactly as I am.
The inspirited birds/lovers.
I remember initiatory crystal head-dress dreams (I was giving them to women in a holy place, there were stairs), and an old dream of a soft pink revolving eye on the floor below. For healing and penetration.
Pollen for thanksgiving. Do my painting of ploughing with the heart.
Be alight. Or, be a light.
I have a kind of branded vision. I dream he came to me, he put his fingers into my eyes (like doubting Thomas putting his fingers into Christ’s wounds). He felt his way through all my flesh to my bones, and such bones they are, all silvery and metally and shining strong beneath and blood and sinew red. He branded me with his touch. His touch burned me, punctured me.
This dream came after reading Dom Bury’s wonderful poem Brother.
He wanted to touch my vision, and in a way, he has, by the shaping with his hands of the forms in my dreams – vessels, figure of eight, female, full of fluid; the elixir of life. I gave it to him. He took it. I didn’t know he’d taken it.
Recent Shamanic journey, for painting.
Saw a white spirit dragon full of spirit snakes, it was pregnant with them. And then, I’m told the therapy is over, best now to use my wings (or are they owl wings?) to sweep all the debris together , where it’ll form an owl/raptor pellet (they are vomited up, not excreted). We’ve absorbed all the goodness. Keep the bones contained. The rest: go high. The spirit swoops down like a bird to feed on the physical plane. Like a fishing sea bird or a tern.
The nature of the feelings of desire – their actual nature – is luscious fruit – strawberries – the food of the gods – not to be wasted and essentially so good and fine.
(New piece – creature with flippers- to swim in the spirit sea.)
I find notes about an important dream on 15.10.19 when staying in my brother’s house, of a dark haired man on my right, constructing things together, we were in love, making something lovely, I had an important part in it. My animus? And I had holy hands with holy fingers – pictures of mandorlas on each finger, with deep bright yellows, an eastern feel, like icons on the uppermost fleshy parts of each finger.
Dragon medicine (it was pregnant with – pouring with – spirit snakes)
We must learn to:
Control our intentions. A keeper of the creative force of life. A change to the climate of our lives. Higher perception and intuitive abilities. Guarding our creations. Need for wonder. Snake is opposite. So, the bringing together of opposites?
The need to take care with words and enunciation. Love/harshness, power of words to heal or hurt. Time to act. Great creative and spiritual power.
I was teaching a big group of women around a big table/outside/sense of danger from what was outside the perimeter, but we were contained, it was OK. I was asking them how they were, and they said, ‘dazed’. Huge animals were on the outside, composite, prehistoric animals, black, monstrous (early time?). Slow moving, slightly threatening (the virus?).
Notes from my notebook
From Braiding Sweetgrass:
“Go among the Standing People, the Flower People, the Bird People. The capacity of others as our teachers. There are intelligences other than our own, all around us. We can be less lonely if we learn to listen.”
P59 “they love to hear the old language” he said,…but, with his fingers on his lips, “you don’t have to speak it here.” “If you speak it here”, he said, with his fingers on his heart, “they will hear you.”
The current wants to return. I send it in a new direction.
In a new drawing: the man’s heart gives up Little Kate (where she took herself in desperation). She burrowed in there, looking for love and safety. Heart pocket. He empties it. Infant like a flame. The fire of her. Her being aflame; a flame. Alight; a light. Spirit tongue. Ignition. She appears to be birthing into air contained by a thin phallus skin. She is ejaculated into beauty. The testicles will be within his abdomen. His wings are folded back delicately.
“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” Iris Murdoch.
I wrote the bones of this piece during a workshop with the poet Dom Bury.
Finding the heart crack, a place to write from, the place of tension between extinction and joy…
Photo by Andrew McDouall, East Voe Beach, Shetland, 2017
Birds on the bank
the wing and the rock, wings done pulsing, nor lifting anymore
the screaming terns
white blood flights
the wet mother lays flat before me, the lip of her wave my arm, the side of her finger my brow
Curlew hiding in the moaning grass, he walks delicately through my scalp, down my face;
eye lashes wet, heavy, I’m gathering tears on the leaves of all the branches of your thoughts
and still it’s a blessing
(Or I think it is)
You far away in time
and tomorrow too
think of me in the space you make between your fingers as you spread them on the animal skin laid on the dirt floor beneath the sky
Black as night and tucked with the stitches of stars the coverlet hangs a crescent body
a curling fleshy belly
pale and round
the colour of honey
you lie my twin in the bubble I blow between my brows
it hangs there, and rides the current
and collapsing my lips fall with the others
The man is brought before me, twisted and dry.
Ancient you come hard against my palm, I fold my fingers around you, an earth, a sett, a burrow for this stone to rest for the next 2000 years.
Yellow butterflies squeeze out their perfume pale as dawn
Creamy white peals the bell at your crown
and I swim in the seas of your body, anemone pink.
Your dusky cloak, the edges of your hair stroke me man-god: Or ant. Mouse.
We embrace; for a moment I feel your hair against my face. I like it.
The bridges your breath makes sharing this love with all you ones who nest:
I sit beside the chapel, treasure wrapped in wool on the lonely isle. I’d already left him.
Asking for spells and trances and the vibration of cells, he brings me alive; he fears me.
The cut of the tongue of the spider, the carmine stab of the tern
the holes which might tear wider, though which we could drop, my son would fall
(I’d already have fallen)
As I drummed, a robe of white feathers was given to me. It gathered me up in itself, from head to foot. It was both weighty and light.
I’m becoming the apple which floats; hovers kestrel-like in the space between us. You sit. I float above your face with my desire.
The eye, the mandorla between my legs sees you as you fidget. I say, ‘swollen, shining, full’ and you are aroused. There’s sex magic here. I’m the fruit you hold between your teeth (they’re shining as you laugh). You bite me gently.
The open force field my chest your chest
The tops of my thighs
With your testicles clustered as winged seeds I’m sitting on them in the drawings: somewhat small, girlish, absorbed.
(I read old notes:The need to be born as a black sheep when it’s time to make a big leap with soul learning.)
I’m lost when I try to shut down Eros, to control it. I cant control it.
There’s pain when you’re surrounded by desire, and the sense of Eros is rooted in someone else. I ask how can it not be rooted in someone else? By not being their exclusive property you say. I think, so it’s an eros which floats, can inhabit anyone? What happens when I try to stop the face of Eros arriving in my paintings? It feels like chaos… but with time I see something else, something new:
The picture is a parent picture. Its a garden, overgrown and wild. There are new plants growing. There’s a sky opening. It’s a creature, it has open lips. It might be my two legs blue as night, the spirit line bisecting them. The rein from the horse’s lips is blue too, you caress it in your open palm.
The face of Eros is not you (you said). I need to let it be the face of Eros and not worry if it looks like you (I ask). Am I painting the fleshy embodiment of Psyche? Eros needs the spirituality of Psyche…what about the fleshy part, what happens to that? Is it burned away? Is it what I carry in my un-kissed face? I ask you questions, you don’t answer.
I paint a mare who’s waited long. She carries me in her arms. Her udder swells and sends a jet of milk, a stiff tail feather, it roots this Bird-Child in milkiness. It’s milk made erect; it’s flying milk, milk made stiff; a tail-feather tension. Sweet milk as semen-wand; I ask her.
And the stiff milk is masculine (it’s you); you’re filling the milk cells, giving them direction, taking the rounded softly curving forms of the udders and making them arrow-like, a tail-feather flight path into the body of the child.
In the new painting the magician touches my chin with his out-stretched pale fingers. As his hands come towards me they become pale as light. The way his hand just touches my chin, it looks as if he is about to gently turn my face away from the world, and towards him. I would like to do this, to turn away from the world, and towards him. I love him and I want to turn towards him.
His other hand gently guides my lower body, he keeps me from swinging too much. The gold enters my crown when he is beside me. I am inspired when he is beside me. He’s always been beside me. I had to wait to know him. I always knew I’d find him. I wasn’t impatient. The Angel Out Ahead let me know.
He is made of gold, a deeper red-gold like the colour of my horse when she was young, touched by the sun. I’m paler gold, and deepest blue, and white. My eyes are pale blue, the colour of spirit. I remember telling you about that blue.
There is a dream-vessel gathering sky fluid which came to me in a dream. A dream of you and me, and fish, and love. I know the sky can open, it’s a pattern full of spirit lines, like the body I am when I open for spirit, when I open for you.
I’m fluid, and that’s ok. I’ve been traumatised, my body has reflected this. I can let go to an extent, and expect nothing of myself. I feel dizzy, swimmy, writing this.
What I feel for you is desire distilled:layer upon layer of petal, of skin, of kiss, of breath; of the magical stone I found in my garden. There was a musical retort when my trowel struck it, and my inquisitive fingers find you, the part you left for me to find there. Rounded, perfect for my hand, smaller than you are when aroused, but nevertheless a talisman, a reminder of you. I brought it with me yesterday but I didn’t show you. Perhaps I needed to write about it first. Or perhaps its about the male member, the loving male member, about to come into my life. My trowel found it. My hand, my arm. Seeking to make a hole in the earth to plant something. Musical sound as I strike stone with metal. I draw out the stone phallus from the earth. I wipe off the damp soil, I study it, I take it indoors, I keep it with me, in my bag. I should make it a bag of its own, to keep it precious.
Every passing touch, every time I’ve thought of you, and you aren’t here: all goes into my distilled desire. My paintings are distilled desire, desire distilled. You are with me in my studio as I paint, as I dance, as I eat chocolate. When you tend your bees I move about the grasses on the path. I helped a man once, in southern France, we moved his hives from a mountain side to the valley. The air was clean. It was night. I was young, it was all mysterious.
From a Moleskine Fassbinder notebook, a few notes ++++++++++ 2019
From the Annunciation, Marla
A man born from a flower in space a man
Riding a colt foaled from a sterile mare…
Purcell Funeral Sentences Herreweghe
Eating flowers for healing
Wearing flowers of animal skin for healing.
Horse milk/flower milk for redemption. Drinking it.
Becoming pregnant with flowers/birds/fire
The buzzard-plaited wound
I pull birds from my mouth
A dream of writing about how a mountain is made (he is a man, he is masculine, strong) : of a morning’s birdsong and butterfly wings. A damsel fly hatching in the garden. Flying in circles. Standing with my son among the leaves and the sunshine, watching the creature fill her wings and fly heavenwards, a green and dusky joy (the quality of the black that absorbs all light yet is not dark).
I’m a tree with palpitations, with a swollen tongue, reaching out to save herself from falling; who loves her son; who was beaten;
She carries eggs, searches for meaning in her leaves and dead sticks. She’s sad, with a swollen tongue, growing a horn. She learns to stretch her love, to make it flow like a river.
A dream of a room with three fireplaces and three mothers. Soul bundles hanging from a tree.
The memories of creatures who dream of this place; who visit at night. The badger by the front door. I hang the bones you gave me from the tree, from my body they hang, hard as sun-dried sea plants. I’m a tree with a song.
You run to greet me. You take me, you gather me up.
I write about the child with her own milk, she came in the painting. She makes her own wings with the milk. Where does it come from? Could it be a shower of heavenly fluid spurting from the phallus, the man-creature standing near? It’s also, at the same time, mare’s milk. She absorbed it through the tips of her growing hair. The milk soaks into her scalp; bathing her brain it seeps through her cells into her breasts making wings of whiteness for her heart. Horse milk, man-milk for redemption. Drinking it. Holiness.
And there’s a horse with a golden hoof. Perpetually waiting to be born, the soft-tipped golden hoof doesn’t pierce the wall of the horse’s womb.
A friend across the seas gives me a golden spine. It grows out beneath my tail, and sinks into the earth, holding me fast.
Labia – wings from behind the sexual area. A Minotaur head/tops of the body minus head. Is it a wing or a rock behind her? Both? The conversation between a wing and a rock.
Hermaphroditism of the child. Conjunction of female and male.
Initiation by Holy Bird. Drawing with oil pastels. April 2021. One of a sequence.
In a new drawing (in my sketchbook, not yet developed) the phallus has energetic fields which move beyond itself in a looping, orbiting way. Like a slingshot of energetic dust, a force field of attraction, with a pulling power, a gentle stroking towards its erect self. It is like a planet which is elongated, in a solar system which is not open on all sides.
And when kissing in the drawings, the faces become open, like a cove/beach/land/ receiving the sea.
I draw the Song of the Navel. It calls the hand of the Man into its sound bath/field/site; as the young bird opens its gape, she finds the parent-lover bird has thrust his beak inwards. The point of the bill tickles my throat.
In the drawing the wings are folded or pointed forwards, they protect the front of the body.
Electricity snakes from my nipples, charging the air with fire.
The tongue from the navel. The serpent emerging behind her, her arms hold it between her shoulders. She opens herself to the ground. She reflects the spring; the waters gather in her, she holds them in a bud inside.
The serpent’s head smooth and ancient, a rock painting remembered; it travelled here in dreams, in the breath of ghosts, in mineral dust and fingerprint traces. ‘How did it get here?’, A child might ask. Her little animal sculpture, bowing in grace, body decorated with flowers and love:how did that get here? How did she know it looked like that? The beauty bud emerging through the movements of her fingers, moisture, and clay. She made the creature, her teacher could not believe she hadn’t copied it from books. But no. It arose spontaneously, there is an uninterrupted line of energy/messages between her consciousness and that of the ancients.
The song of the navel, it calls his hands into her field. They open and cup the airs as they emerge. Dappled they drift like dusty motes, then caught on his palm he presses onto paper, the voices of the old ones call to us once more.
The child in the school room makes the sculpture, she’s visited by spirits through her little red hands. They shape the clay. Her love for animals pours itself into the creature, and her fear, and her alone-ness. She doesn’t understand what she has made. She doesn’t understand that it’s come through her navel and her pores. It’s genetic and spirit. Her teacher doesn’t believe she’s made it alone, without help. She didn’t make it alone; she had help. She didn’t know it then.
I think of making a painting of a couple holding a fire in their hands, it’s a shared fire, one they share, they hold it up, they breathe into it. The tiniest speck of dust blown into it becomes a furnace:they can’t help themselves. The fire is there, it’s the life-force that burns in the heart of the damp, rounded early life forms walking over the mud, on all their tiny legs.
I spoke of the silver dagger in my throat, before remembering today that it was a needle, for sewing.
I spoke of the dream of the primordial beings, the twins, the caterpillars together beside the spring, in the dark woods, in the mud, the beginnings of new life. You spoke of how the dream is uncovering what is already there (and hidden), and it’s what I do in my art too, and my work as a shamanic practitioner: it’s all the same. And you spoke of the thing between us, the life-force – it’s bigger than us, it just is. And we’re the same, the same soul in two bodies. And I’m so grateful to you for what you reflect back about my work. You give voice to the mythic third.
You speak of sacrifice, the making sacred, the silver nail driven through (me). And death, transformation, metamorphosis. Piercing, the mirror, being able to look at something, see something, through a mirror – used when gazing on the gods….something unbearable, unsee-able. It’s too much, too vast, unknowable, too godly. Also any image can be a reflection of something (we can’t yet see?).
In the painting I showed you, you wondered if she is melting….the red, the flame-riddled flesh below her navel. She’s melting with desire, sexual fluids, literally? Or with power, the power of desire, its force is transforming her into something else, another creature? Or emerging from another state of being, of desire, of being fluid, only just held in a membrane as she builds another body which even now is rising up and filling up her breasts, making them potent, swollen…new
Is she being cooked by her desire, made ripe?
She would draw him like this, as he laughs, as the skin is gathered on his face, sewn by the spirits who are happy, they’re gathering it up like nets or skirts and holding it for a moment or two; so she can glimpse the inside of his shining mouth.
Yesterday two drawings: Meditating Angel with forward-facing wings (in this one your phallus flowers; it’s budded, germinal); and Baptising with an Eye, which became the Unspeakable Girl supporting the bird as it grew from her heart; and weeping, his tears making a baptismal pool between their feet. The tip of the bird’s bill pierces the upper chest of her father-figure: he is initiated.
In the night, in the dark, the back of my hand passes over the hard cold glass. I’m feeling for – reaching for – water.
I suddenly remember my father saying to me countless times, “if you’re not careful you’re going to feel the back of my hand, my girl.” The feeling is a spinning, a numbing, a stiffness in my legs. A spaciousness in my head not unlike meditation, but not good or productive. It leads to loss. Loss of time, of self, of heart, of will, of life.
In the morning I practice the gesture (to understand the ‘back of the hand’ part): the sweeping of the arm out and forwards in an ugly arc: the batting away (of something unwanted, inconsequential, loathsome – his word) the rejection, the force, the dismissal. The poisoned patriarchy in action through the graze of an arm, the sweep of a cuffing fist, a vicious lunge into a permanent future of dismissal and disregard. I focus on the trajectory of the arm, I can feel the pain in my heart like a sore tooth. I stay with the pain, I don’t leave it.
I turn on the great beam, my dazzling searchlight. It’s wide and strong. It shines from a rocky outcrop black and sheer, in the middle of a churning ocean. It’s surrounded by seabirds and whales and clouds of spirit dwell above.
*Dream: Of a bridegroom with thick, padded, white sole/soul: soft, flexible, repaired….
I think of my painting , it’s a child giving birth to the world through her mouth/voice. It’s the act of speaking, of bearing witness (to herself). Her mouth is closed, her skin transparent, her eyes are closed, turned inwards.
In another on wood a figure with closed eyes holds an infant on her crown. Her hands are gold, delineated with the blue of night. The infant might have a bird’s bill piercing her crown. Or maybe the bird is extracting her bill. Maybe the bill has always been there, and will return there at death?
Maybe it comes out to allow the child to live here on earth, for her allotted time?
Maybe the bill pierces her, follows the line of her spine, activates her when she isn’t in skin-form. We don’t know if the bird is inserting his bill or removing it.
We don’t know what messages are carried in the bill, or in the act of piercing or withdrawal. Might there be a bird coming into her from the other end, into her sexual channel?
What coolness I’d feel, being pierced by a bird’s bill. The fat dagger of a Solan, a Shetland gannet carrying all the wild beauty of that place (and he’d close his eyes as he dived into me: a deep and black ocean); or perhaps the tiny carmine needle of a tern, a bird of light, a clitoris-tickler, a sun-bird; or a gaggle of sparrows descending with a shout of their tawny wings, little brown bills no threat, no penetration; or an eagle, who’d hook his great beak into my navel, spread his wings wide along the length of my open legs.
I think again of the messages tattoo-ed on the long yellow dagger of the Solan. They’re written by the airs of the rocky ledges where he was born. They’re incised by the guardians of that place; the eyes inside of my body can decipher them.
Fledgling mother with wing stumps, wing stems like unfurling leaves, foetal roundness, softness, so as not to pierce the amniotic sac, my tender growing-ness pushing against the pregnant air. The rounding air, the skin of the paper smoothed around me, I stretch out my growing limbs beneath your hand, your fat oily crayon, your sea-green, your petal-pink, chalky-white marks. Your eyes closed in bliss or weariness, your sense of finding your way with your hands. Of trusting the music today, the fire, the small fire growing from my nipple, the flame you inhale, you welcome me with your lips.
Then I’m walking across ancient commons of moor and marsh, lighting a candle beside a well; you gaze into the darkening pool, the noonday shade made by slabs of granite; I danced nearby once, full of hope; I learn at last to yield, to give up desire.
The School of Art and Wellbeing is found on a hill overlooking Honiton and Dartmoor to the west. It is a profoundly beautiful place, with polytunnels for painting, a Mongolian yurt for shamanic journeying, shepherd’s huts for sleeping in, and extensive beautiful and productive gardens. This is a place of great natural harmony, light and power; it is perfect for my creative shamanic courses!
August 1 @ 11:00 am – August 3 @ 5:00 pm
Working with the inner Fire of Nature as our inspiration
Painting and drawing – with writing/notes where prescient/if wished – inspired by time spent outside with the natural world. We’ll consider the cycles of life in nature, and pay attention to the symbolism of plants, flowers, animals, birds and elements of the natural world. This course will involve a step-by-step introduction to shamanic processes, including gazing deeply into the patterns/matrix of nature.
This three-day course will take you back to basics and guide you through various techniques developed to improve your sensitivity and expressive range with your drawing and/or writing. We’ll work with music, the breath, the body, poetry; – responding to rhythm, timbre, emotional colour; you’ll have access to a range of mediums and exciting starting points to open up ways of responding. We’ll consider how other artists employ a love for nature in their practice. This will be a reflective, immersive course where you will learn about many techniques for respectfully approaching and learning from nature. The price of the course is £350.
August 30 @ 11:00 am – September 2 @ 5:00 pm
Connecting with the Ancestors
Ancestors can be our blood relatives, or they may be soul-kin. We might also feel we have connections with/are held by animal, plant or place spirits.
In this workshop we will work with reverence, love and care to approach those who came before us. We will think about the nature of time, of cycles, of a returning from exile for the soul. We’ll think about the nature of connection, and how it comes to show itself to us.
We’ll work with dreams, shamanic journeying, drawing, writing, responding to music. Many ways into the numinous will be explored in this 4-day course, gently, step by step.
This path can lead to profound inner change, acceptance, joy, and peace.
The price for 4 days is £475
No previous experience is necessary. This course is now fully booked. I can take bookings for next year…
October 25 @ 11:00 am – October 27 @ 5:00 pm
Making your Mark: drawing on, and being inspired by, inner impulses of your body.
Painting, writing and drawing on bodily impulses, including memory, fantasy and longing.
This course will involve working with breath, music, sound, colour, mark-making, and poetry as some of our starting points.
Most humans draw as their first, primary means to record their experiences, ideas and feelings about being in the world. Artists use many forms of drawing/note-making to explore, set down and refine sensations, observations, and ideas about their work and their surroundings. Having confidence in one’s ability to draw/work with words is invaluable.
This three-day course will take you back to basics and guide you through various techniques developed to improve your sensitivity and expressive range with your drawing and/or writing.
We’ll work with music, the breath, the body, poetry; – responding to rhythm, timbre, emotional colour; you’ll have access to a range of mediums, surfaces, and exciting starting points to show you what can be possible with drawing/writing. This will be a reflective, immersive course where you will learn about many techniques as well as a wide range of thinking about practice – from Eastern traditions to Sufi, Aboriginal, first Nations’ people’s thoughts and European perspectives.
The price of the course is £350.
Here is some recent feedback:
Having Kate as a mentor has allowed a fundamental shift in my wellbeing as an artist and how I view both myself and my creative path. Whether on a workshop in Iona or on a one to one in person or by Zoom, I always feel held, always feel listened to and have always been guided gently to the point I am meant to be at. Its always about the art… but yet its not. Thats what I love and appreciate.
Kate’s Solstice workshops have become an integral part of my year. They reach straight to the deepest levels where art can emerge. She is a brilliant artist and teacher, warm and intuitive.
Professor Penny Florence.
Professor Emerita, The Slade.
For more of Penny’s writing and reflections please see this page:
Today I pay tribute to the mesmerising work and soul of artist Kate Walters. I met Kate a few years ago when she led a painting workshop I attended at the Newlyn School of Art and I fell in love with her work and her fascinating approach to her art. For me, Kate epitomises the fearlessness of a warrior goddess, she is bold and brave, warm and generous hearted. This, and much more, is represented in her work, which calls you to step you into a deeper relationship with yourself and the world around you. In some ways she may well be ahead of her time, but I think she is one of the most exciting artist to be creating out of Cornwall right now. Kate is a true inspiration and it is an honour to be featuring her work on my new website. Thank you dear Kate.
Dr Alice Laskey
If you are looking for authentic ways to consider and develop your art practice, I highly recommend anyone who is thinking about taking up the opportunity to work alongside Kate. Her workshops will enable you to tap in unknown energies , if you allow yourself , and your work will take on a different life and a new journey will begin. Kate is kind, respectful and her workshops are well planned and considered. Kate provides you with access to a wide range of relevant reading and resources that can support you in th development of your thoughts and ideas. Kate is generous of self and always willing to offer you extra space and time to consider you work … I would recommend any workshop she facilities , she welcomes all levels of practice and mediums, the experience will be life changing.
I cannot wait to attend her new workshops in Devon and meeting likeminded artists , as Kate is excited to begin her new journey, I am also excited to be part of her new experience and will be attending with and an open heart and high energy curiosity.
‘Kate is the most grounded and challenging mentor I’ve had in my life, her powerful reflections always bear some heavy fruit.’
Artist and Director of Studio Kind
‘Kate has been the most influential tutor on my work and development as an artist; and though I can count the time we spent together in hours, her guidance, ideas and sensibility continue to guide me today. That this is happening two years on from when we reviewed my work I think is remarkable, and a testament to the quality of her teaching.
She does not instruct you, although she can (her knowledge of art history and thought, materials, processes and techniques is hugely impressive and she is more than happy to share it to resolve technical problems). Rather I found her to be the best kind of tutor : I think the Japanese word is sensei – a master practitioner who encourages through insight and example, and who, from an authentic connection with what she does and the limitless natural and spiritual world around her, helps you understand and find your own voice.’
Abstract Intuitive Artist
If you want to access those spiritual places, thought processes and energies that are so vital to setting free the creative process then sign up for a course with Kate Walters .
Over the last two years I have been privileged to have her as mentor and experience with her shamanic guidance the unique island of Iona , which was thrilling .
She is gifted with steely resilience to plough her own artistic furrow and inspires you to free yourself of the inhibitions that hold you back . I am very lucky to have found her.
Kate creates the most inspiring and magical space in her workshops. Her approach is holistic and goes far beyond simply teaching a well-rehearsed technique. She is attentive to everyone’s particular circumstances and is incredibly perceptive and gentle. I’ve attended many of her workshops and each time I leave with a renewed sense of wonder and creative enrichment.
Professor, Digital Games
Editor, Games and Culture http://gac.sagepub.com
June 2021 Summer Solstice workshops, outdoors…
I’ll be running two Summer Solstice workshops in June. One on Sunday 20th from 3 – 8 pm (the exact time of the solstice is 04:31 on the 21st), and the other on the Monday 21st from 10 – 3 pm. They will be held outside on a beautiful wild and open Common not far from St. Just. There’s a strong and rocky Carn, a stone circle, a meadow, old tracks, and a group of 5000 year old holed stones. It will involve walking quietly and steadily for around 2-3 km, with frequent stops for rest, prayer and tuning-in. We will draw, make notes, and take time to tune in to wild and impeccable place…the coming of summer, and of course the Sun! You will need walking boots, a sketchbook/s, water bottle, a snack and something to sit on (a sitting mat or plastic bag). We will walk meditatively for some of the time and think about the energies which animate and bless this place. There will also be time to release some of what the past 15 months have brought us.
Both sessions will be run according to Covid safe guidelines.
The price is £50 per person per session. You may attend both if you wish for the discounted price of £85.
Please email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org for further information and to book.
I’ll also be teaching at Newlyn School of Art, Monotype and Landscape Course, September 3rd -6th, details here: https://www.newlynartschool.co.uk/courses/monoprinting-with-landscape/date:1891/
In a dream we’re going through a field of tall crops, hovering, we go through the middle, hovering, we’re propelled with some force, we go to a house, we’re looking for a key, we’re searching, we go into a place beneath the stairs, we find it, I tell you where it is, I give you one of my painted books.
There is a room of water, I bathe in it. I’m helping a woman with fire.
This work, in progress, explores my current theme ‘Lovers Not Lovers’ and Baptism; also different kinds of love.
I’m feeling anxious today, worried. I have pain in my right shoulder blade, close to the spine, the place where a wing would grow from. I’m full of longing.
In the painting the lovers seem to be changing into small birds, songbirds, finches or tits. I raise my spirits by thinking about the spirit of things in their beautiful abundance.
I see the man pouring salt into all my holes:making towers of them, tall, swaying, balancing columns of salt. I want to do this work but I don’t want it to hurt so much.
In the painting the two Angels are about to pass through one another/each other. Or an Angel about to pass through (me). The Man she meets on the path.
There is another man (or is he an Angel?) in the painting; he appeared last, beside the woman, on her right. He is pointing upwards, reminding her of her path perhaps. He is roughly indicated, as though not quite materialised, only just beginning to take on physical form; or perhaps about to leave again, just wearing enough flesh for me to grasp a slight sense of him, this Thursday afternoon, when I am also perhaps only just here.
Later I watch Ch 4 news about the women who are raped and have their children shot in front of them. It cannot be borne. I lose my appetite. I count my blessings.
It comes down through a halo. The funnel mouth is a halo – I’ve only just seen it. The halo also resembles a spent seed case.
Notes about meeting and passing through the Angel, (and the Angel passing through me): both beings altered (nothing lost or taken)
Notes from all the World an Icon P 120
“The feminine images are not the Eros itself, but objects of its longing….we fall in and out of love or are carried and redeemed, or cursed, through its working, but that which love works upon is not love but soul.”
P126 “the most familiar creature a thing unknown.”
I make a tiny drawing in my notebook about Spirit descending through the crown of the holy horse, to emerge from its mouth (or penis/udders/pores/birth canal?) as breath or semen or sweat or milk or creamy white saliva.
I have a dream about my body being inhabited by a man, we can swap places with each other, we blend energetically. There are doors opening and closing. He is there. I ask: Is this how the phallus comes to inhabit me? I’m painting inwardly as I sit across the room, I move across the room, or around the room. You are still, you my pole in the south for these minutes. I’m a star revolving, breathing, expanding and shrinking. I feed myself by absorbing the atoms I sense around you. They come to me easily. They are agitated, fiery, they show me how not still you are, how you are as intense as me in your stillness.
And I think about how to express the feeling which comes upon me when I sense you are thinking of me (little painting). It’s like my flesh is a grating mesh, full of holes, and you slot into all those holes. You arrive, suddenly. Even if I’m absorbed in another’s conversation, or perhaps a film, my awareness becomes filled by you. There is a sense of catching, or of being caught; of the tiny teeth or barbs nature uses to spread herself about; of being a seeded head in a meadow, and of being carried away dry and free in an animal’s coat, taken off somewhere by your hairy scented pelt to a den, a nest, a lair. I ride your extremities. Your rough tongue rolls around me. Sometimes you know, and sometimes you don’t know if I’m there.