Posted on August 26, 2020
I was really delighted that the story of this painting was featured on this months DRUID CAST podcast read out beautifully by Damh the Bard. I’ve been listening to this podcast for over a decade and it’s wonderful to be featured in one. This is the official podcast of O.B.O.D (the Order of Ovates, Bards and Druids) which is the world’s largest Druid Order.
All the profits for print sales of this painting are going to Hedgehog charities – the print run is limited to 50.
To listen to the the story click on the link below.
This painting is inspired by a real life Hedgehog called Susan. Here is her story…
Words by Lee Kynaston.
A hedgehog called Susan
There was a time when hedgehogs were believed to be witches in disguise. That may, or may not, be true (and it certainly shows Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle in a whole new light if it is true) but that they are truly enchanting, magical creatures nobody can deny.
Living in a village in rural Wiltshire Seán and I are used to hedgehogs snuffling around our garden after dusk. I’ve been witness to many a noisy standoff (when two males meet an almost comical game of huffing and puffing ensues, reminiscent of two beady-eyed boxers squaring off at a weigh-in) and once, while I was gazing at a small Beltane bonfire, I looked behind me to see two curious prickly visitors seemingly as transfixed by the ceremonial flames as I was.
Being lucky enough to have these most characterful of creatures in my life I’ve become accustomed to the annual hedgehog life cycle: the tentative emergence from hibernation in March or April; the noisy mating season (hogs are notoriously ’vocal’ when it comes to love-making); the appearance of late-summer juveniles trundling across the lawn in search of slugs, worms and the hedgehog food I put out for them and, finally, their customary disappearance come late autumn when they root out toasty leaf-covered hideaways in which to hibernate.
So it came as a shock when Seán spotted a small hoglet (yes, that’s what baby hedgehogs are called) chewing on a fat ball that had fallen from our bird table on a cold early January morning just after New Year.
Having read several books about hedgehog behaviour over the years I knew this was not a good sign – a hedgehog who ventures out in mid-winter, in broad daylight, is a hedgehog in trouble.
These increasingly endangered animals need to reach a certain weight (ideally around 600g) in order to survive hibernation and clearly this hoglet, small and obviously starving, had not. Left to fend for itself there was little chance it would survive so we quickly rushed outside, scooped it up in a towel (hedgehogs aren’t as prickly as you might think but they’re still pretty tricky to handle), popped it into a box and took it to the Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital – a local charity who look after sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in our local area.
On arrival the staff quickly ascertained our foundling’s sex (it turned out our little hoglet was a girl), weighed her (she was barely 300g) and logged her in as ‘Hedgehog 3’. Presumably she was the third arrival of the New Year and if you’d seen how many hedgehogs were there already you’d appreciate why numbers are the best way to identify new arrivals. To us, though, she was ‘Susan’ – the name we’d given her on the way to the hospital. (Hey, what can I say? She looked like a Susan.)
After a tour of the hospital and a voluntary donation of £25 – an amount the staff assured us would buy a lot of food for the patients – we left our new-found friend in the care of this amazing charity in the hope that come the spring, when she was fit enough, we could return to collect her and return her to our garden so she could live out the rest of her life snuffling through the undergrowth and munching on slugs and woodlice. Perhaps, we thought, she might even witness a Beltane bonfire herself one day.
Sadly, that wasn’t to be. On calling to see how she was doing late in February we discovered that Susan had passed away the day after we brought her to the wildlife hospital. She had simply been too weak, too malnourished and too small to survive, even with our best intentions and the staff’s dedicated care.
Whilst much of Seán’s artwork is inspired by the animals he encounters when journeying with the drum, occasionally it is inspired by transformative, real-life encounters. ‘Hedgehog and the Moon’ was painted as a celebration of the beauty of one such encounter on a cold morning in January. And in appreciation of the work that organisations like the Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital do, 100% of the profits from sales of this print will be split between the Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, who provide advice about hedgehog welfare and fund research to find the best ways to assist hedgehog survival.
Back in the 1950s an estimated 30 million hedgehogs trundled their way across night-time Britain; today it’s thought there are less than a million of these beautiful, reclusive creatures left. Sadly, no amount of kindness was able to save our little Susan but, in purchasing this print, your kindness could help hundreds of (truly magical) hedgehogs just like her.
I have included a photo Of Susan here too as she was when we took her to hospital .
Posted on July 28, 2020
I love visiting stone circles and ancient monuments. It’s not important to tick them off like trophies for me, though, and sometimes the experience can be really fleeting, almost like a dream. Last December, after a couple of glorious stolen days in Cornwall, I found myself reluctantly driving back Eastwards. On the way back I decided to take a break from the drive and look for a stone circle. Something of a traditional treat for the return trip – like a bonus gift on a reluctant journey back from Cornwall, a place I really love which has a rich and diverse crop of ancient sites and monuments. As I drove across Bodmin Moor I stopped briefly and leafed through a book I had bought which listed some of the most important ancient monuments of the area. Sadly there were non listed the immediate vicinity. A random search on Google Maps, however, revealed one just half an hour away and I immediately decided to plot a course to it. My new journey took me off the main road through a farm and along several dirt tracks. The area didn’t feel very inviting. In fact, it felt like I shouldn’t really be there – a feeling that was made worse by the gloomy December drizzle.
I parked up as close as I could to where the sat nav said there was a stone circle and set off on foot using instinct and feeling as to which direction the circle may have been situated. It’s funny visiting circles in this fashion. I’m self-aware enough to realise the irony of using modern technology to randomly select and find ancient monuments, but in truth, over the past few years I have visited some pretty amazing sites that haven’t made the lists, books or websites and to be honest it’s interesting not knowing what you might get when your arrive. Sometimes it’s a single stone or an impressive circle of standing stones, a long barrow or dolmen. Often, what the smaller, lesser-known sites lack in grandeur they gain in atmosphere and energy.
I just didn’t know what to expect or look for on this occasion, however, as there were no photographs listed. I was prepared for this and knew it could take some time. It can be frustrating at times wandering around in the mud (as well as good fun) but when you do find a circle or site that resonates with you, it’s always rewarding. Finally, after wandering around a couple of muddy fields, there it was in the distance – a semi-circle of standing stones and some not-so-standing stones arranged on the ground. It was set spectacularly in the middle of a wide open boggy moor. I like to approach a stone circle or monument from the west and circumnavigate a circle before entering – it’s an old habit, learned I suppose, from my Druidric studies, which have been part of my journey over the last decade or so. I’m not a big fan of marching into circles with drums, gusto and a sense of entitlement. I like to tentatively feel my way in. I much prefer a respectful and sensitive approach asking the spirits of the place if it’s okay to enter. We really don’t know for what purpose these monuments were built but it often feels like they were built for ceremonial or scared purposes (I know this assumption has been labelled ‘HF’ or ‘Hippy Factor’ by some archeologists) but some times you can just feel it .
I really like to acknowledge and honour the spirits of a place – a simple ceremony doesn’t require lots of time or equipment or a cape (although it’s okay if you want to wear one!) but it’s worth allowing time to set a respectful intention when visiting a potentially sacred site. I took my time sitting with the stones. It was December and although only about 2pm it was dark and gloomy. The air was heavy and saturated – a slight fog surrounded me and in the distance I could see I was surrounded by horses roaming freely.
Slowly the horses seemed to move closer and closer until one inquisitively seemed to almost haunt me – he followed me around like a spectre as if he was on castors. I was minded of the tales of Rhiannon on her uncatchable white horse in the ancient Welsh tales of the Mabinogion.
The horse seemed to ‘sit’ with me – to occupy the space, curiously observing me whilst, at the same time, guiding me around the circle. I really started to think and feel about our relationship with horses. Apparently, there’s archaeological evidence which suggests that horses were on this Island when we became separated from mainland Europe in 5600 BCE, in what seems like a (geographical) Brexit! Given the long history of the earth that doesn’t seem all that long ago does it?
I also became mindful of our very special relationship with horses over the millennia and how we have even deified them, as we did with the Gallo/ Roman deity Epona, how we’ve iconified the horse in totemic ancient symbols like the White Horse of Uffington in Oxfordshire, which is possibly 3000 years old or even older. It’s an interesting observation that certainly in the modern era British meat-eaters don’t eat horse – it’s as if our ancient reverence for horse remains with us today like an echo from a time when horses represented the raw powerful qualities of the divine feminine combined with a sense of freedom, travel and journeying – or maybe even the power of he Goddess herself?
For sure, the symbol of the horse will mean different things to different people. Horses have appeared in several of my paintings and artworks – a direct result of journey work in which the animal has appeared. I have a horse skin drum I made with the intention of making journey work and I recently made a horse skin rattle and tail hair rattle – made with similar intentions. The very name of this blog and umbrella term for my art practice is in fact ‘The Shaman’s Horse’ – a title I chose as it’s derived from a description of the drum as used as a method of transport to the other realms for Shamanic/animistic journey work. If you don’t know what this is, it’s a form or meditational work in which a practitioner uses a repetitive drum beat to alter his or her brainwaves into a dream like state where she or he may receive messages,visions or healing. This is a method I use regularly for life and for gaining inspiration for may paintings and artworks. So yet again we have the horse as a totem of a means for journeying – whether its physical or for internal work.
This image came from a combination of my experience visiting the stone circle combined with later journey or meditational work. Inspiration came from the connection made to that place; from the feeling of a liminal space that can exist in between the ancient time and modern times – in fact, a space that may even exist outside of time. That day served as reminder that these spaces can hold a place for a magical connection that endures and that just because a place isn’t in the list of must-see tourist spots it can be experientially powerful nonetheless – maybe even more so for its lack of human acknowledgement and footfall.
Subsequent meditational journey work also fed into the imagery. Geometric lines run around and in-between the stones, linking us to our ancestral routes, to other dimensions and spaces and to each other – maybe even to ourselves. The moon sits shining, resting above as a reminder or possible invitation to investigate the darker parts of our psyche – the realm of dreams and shadows. This could be time to investigate, acknowledge and accept the darker, possibly more magical, parts of our selves. This could serve as a chance to creatively investigate our inner connections (and our ancestry) that we may have never recognised or have forgotten – a place where the past meets the future and where imagination meets what we might call ‘reality’. Within the image is a hidden key which suggests an opening or opportunity which may come forth. Will you be curious and brave enough to use the key ?
Posted on July 1, 2020
It can be really strange releasing some artwork into the world .There is of course a journey ( always ) before making the image . Then a second to create the image – often the process becomes one of story telling as you create your own relationship with the image .
All the imagery is meant to be symbolic , metaphorical .. just like the journeys that created it ,Allowing the viewer hopefully a rich and personal interpretation .
This is how I would d like people to react to the images – to loose yourself in the colors and imagery . Not to look for obvious meaning but to possibly create your own narrative … so make it your own .
Posted on June 11, 2020
It’s been quite a year hasn’t it ? Is not easy to know how or where to start .My world has been shaken up and is now starting to settle down and I’m sure the same is true for many .There are probably still also unsettling times ahead .The virus plods on with is 360 degree arguments and theories while the tragic George Floyd incident promises to permanently change the world (hopefully )for the better. Yesterday in my journeys and meditations I was shown the skin on my back as painful spikes poked through .Theses turned out to be wings – not of the angelic kind but of the kind birds use to fly like blackbird wingsThe message I took from this was growth and change may also require some discomfort and maybe a little pain …growing pains .So maybe for now we will just need to be a little patient with each other as the new world paradigms come into being .I had stated this image earlier and for some reason was drawn to paint this humming bird – a delicate bird strongly carrying or new world into being – carrying it , creating it .People have the power – if they want it ..if we want it .
Posted on May 10, 2020
Posted on March 26, 2020
I’ve just been meditating with the birds thinking what a wonderful time this is to connect with nature – to ourselves .
What an opportunity we have right now – which way do we turn ? Which colour pill do we swallow next ?
Posted on February 13, 2020
We are magnificent ,we are resourceful .
Dig deep …dive deep .
Posted on January 4, 2020
Come and drum and journey with us as we celebrate Imbolc the first of the three Celtic spring festivals .
This is a perfect time to tune into the earths emerging energies and set intentions for the coming seasons .
Imbolc is sacred to Bridgit the goddess of healing ,poetry and childbirth .
Tuning into this energy we can nurture our creative selves and our inner self healing.
This time is perfect incubate our hopes and dreams for the coming year for our selves our communities and our beautiful planet .
As the planet burns and we witness never has there been a more prefect time to tune into the healing waters of Imbolc .
Posted on October 25, 2019
Recently I made a fallow skin drum.
This was the culmination of a whole years quest to find sustainably and ethically sourced hoops and skins that come from these islands not imported or easily ‘clicked “into my internet shopping basket .I was luckily able to join a group of magnificent people last week to celebrate the spirit of the drum .After I had made the drum I was called to make a painting to compliment and inspired by the spirit of the drum I had made .I now realise the painting is not only inspired by the drum I made but also by the spirit of ‘the’ drum .
Mother drum ,the world drum …the spirit of the drum .
Posted on September 8, 2019
What if there were places which we cant see with the human eye, places populated by higher beings we can only journey to ?
What if everything we ever needed we already have?
What if we don’t need to learn, we just need to remember ?
Everything is real .