Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Green Man Paintings

In about 1996 I painted a series of green people in inks, watercolour and pencil, the first of which was based on the Norwich Green Man, which is the gold coloured image at the beginning of the previous post, unfortunately I do not have a scan of this painting at the moment. There were others in the series, but these are the only three I can find now. The first painting here was my second attempt at the green man and is of the leaf mask variety and not based on any carvings. The other two were also painted around this time. Depictions tend to be of male characters usually, so I thought it would be good to also try a female form.

Instead of using an airbrush to apply sprayed paint I opted for the cheaper method which is to use a spray diffuser, a device used mainly for the application of fixative onto a pastel drawing. With a bit of practise some quite fine results can be achieved, the drawbacks being that they have a tendency to suddenly drip or fling a big drop of ink at the paper which then has to be carefully dabbed away. The other drawback is that you tend to go a bit blue in the face from all that blowing. As of December 2011 all three of these paintings are for sale, if you are interested I have a contact email on my profile page here or leave me a comment instead and I'll email you. All the prices are still very reasonable.

Anyway there they are, I'll be back with some more photo's again soon.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Green Man

Here in England, and in fact throughout Europe, we have some beautiful medieval churches and cathedrals, one of the ideas being that a 'book' in stone could be created, so that certain information and knowledge could be passed on to future generations. One of the things that I like about the old craftsmen and artists was that their work was done anonymously, it being a time before one slapped a signature across such things and it also being before the ego developments of the more modern ages.

If one looks closely into the gloom of these old churches and cathedrals all sorts of wonderful and curious carved figures begin to appear. One such striking character is the figure of the Green Man, who seems to be an unusual choice of subject to be displayed inside a Christian church, him being a symbol of Spring and vitality and looking like a pre-Christian nature spirit of some sort.

These green men can be seen in most of the old churches in cities, towns and villages all over the country, being carved up until the nineteenth century in the forms of roof bosses, misericords and sometimes even on fonts and on bench ends, or anywhere else that decorative patterning may occur. The Green Man is widely felt to be an embodiment of natural fertility, a spirit of the primeval greenwood.

One has to look hard for these masks and figures, as they often seem to be just decorative leaf patterns, or they can be very high up, looking down at us from the roof of the church, or sometimes they can can be as small as just a few inches across.

Another aspect of the Green Man is that he seems to refer to the Green Language, otherwise known as the Language of the Birds. As David Ovason in his remarkable book on Nostradamus puts it:

"The original source for the term Green Language was the French Langue Vert. The Vert (Green) is almost certainly an example of arcane aphesis. In French, ouvert means 'open'. The Langue Ouvert was the open language, the tongue of ordinary men. When Ouvert became Vert by this aphetic change, it means the opposite of open, i.e. closed; the Langue Vert was therefore the 'closed language', the 'occult language', the 'hidden tongue'. The double science of the two languages - the sacred and profane, the closed and the open - is contained in this one French word ouvert. As a result, in this strange language, a word which may appear quite ordinary is invested with another, deeper meaning comprehensible only to those who anticipate such a hidden meaning...

In view of the meaning occulted in the word vert, we may legitimately ask if there is a link between the green of our language, and the enigmatic green 'leaf man' (le feuillu) of the French, the 'Green Man' (der Gruner Mensch) of the Germans. While the term 'Green Man' appears to have been introduced in its arcane context, in reference to the enigmatic floriated faces of cathedral art, into the English language only in 1939, the image of the Green Man face, with its floriated mouth, belongs to the same esoteric cathedral art as so much of the alchemical and astrological lore of the medieval period. There is probably no accident in the fact that the Green Language, like the Green Children and Green Man of Nordic mythology, emerged in the eleventh or twelfth century with the beginnings of what we now call Gothic Art. One of the many names for the Green Language was the 'argot', which, as Fulcanelli has pointed out, is a version of Art Gotique."

Curiously, all of the foliated faces in churches and cathedrals appear to be male, although foliate sprouting females do exist in art and mythology, for example in the form of Chloris in Botticelli's Primavera. In Greek mythology the nymph Daphne turned into a laurel tree when fleeing through the forest to escape the advances of Apollo. Lotis, another nymph who fled from unwanted advances, became the lotus tree. Then of course there are the Dryads (also called Hamadryads) who were nymphs who lived in trees and perished when their trees died or were cut down. One of the earliest English epic poems, Gawain and The Green Knight may refer to yet another manifestation of the Green Man as the God that dies and is reborn. Another variation is the Jack in the Green.

There are also the examples of faces manifesting in patterns, as Leonardo da Vinci describes in his notebooks, where he stares at a patch of mould on a wall and imagines fantastic landscapes and faces, this can also happen when one looks into the moving leaves of a tree whilst resting out in the woods, and so may be another possible origin for the leaf mask variety of Green Man.

There are many other unusual figures carved into churches all over the country, some of which suggest not only the earthy sense of humour and imagination of the masons and woodcarvers, but may also contain other hidden symbolism, though they may also be a sly poke at the prudishness of the established church.

Thanks to Nobody for pointing us towards this as a choice of subject. Quote taken from 'The Nostradamus Code' by David Ovason. Most photographs by Tina Manthorpe, whose flickr site is linked in the above title. I have some of my own paintings of the Green Man which I will try to put up here at some point.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

a quick one with craig murray

Just a quick note to say that the former UK Ambassador to the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is giving away his latest book "The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known" for free here mainly due to his publishers backing off because of legal threats. If you have some time to read a book at the moment go to his website and scroll down to the entry FREEDOM OF SPEECH - FOR FREE where there is a link to It only takes a couple of seconds to download and promises to be a very good read. I read his first book "Murder in Samarkand" and it was interesting to see how he got stitched up by our government and also some of the other things they get up to. There are also other places to download it from in his comments. His blog is always well worth a look and I think he is a very brave man indeed. Here is a review:

Craig Murray's adventures in Africa from 1997 to 2001 are a rollicking good read. He exposes for the first time the full truth about the "Arms to Africa" affair which was the first major scandal of the Blair Years. He lays bare the sordid facts about British mercenary involvement in Africa and its motives. This is at heart an extraordinary account of Craig Murray's work in negotiating peace with the murderous rebels of Sierra Leone, and in acting as the midwife of Ghanaian democracy. Clearly his efforts were not only difficult but at times very dangerous indeed. Yet the story is told with great humour. Not only do we meet Charles Taylor, Olusegun Obasanjo, Jerry Rawlings and Foday Sankoh, but there are unexpected encounters with others including Roger Moore, Jamie Theakston and Bobby Charlton! Above all this book is about Africa. Craig Murray eschews the banal remedies of the left and right to share with us the deep knowledge and understanding that comes over 30 years working in or with Africa. Gems of wisdom and observation scatter the book, as does a deep sense of moral outrage at the consequences of centuries of European involvement: even though he explains that much of it was well-intentioned but disastrous.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

badgerland and stovular update

As the world becomes increasingly insane it is good for me to get out of town and walk on the hills, the only trouble being that it is freezing cold here at the moment though walking up a big hill certainly does warm you up. These photo's were taken on Christmas Eve around the badger land, a place so steep that it cannot be farmed so rubbish conifers are grown upon it. For some reason my last series of photo's appeared blurryer than usual although I reduced them in the same way that I usually do, maybe it was something to do with blogger not liking me putting so many up in one go. It's a pity as they were lovely and sharp and the last one looked like the leaves were actually spinning or dancing around the beech tree.

As I am beginning to get a bit low on wood I have taken to burning some of the coal that I bought and have found that the metal grate is best removed for burning coal (and wood actually) as otherwise the heat just goes straight up the chimney instead of warming up the firebricks and the cast iron stove will not radiate heat properly.

One of the unanticipated problems that I have encountered is that a lot of the wood I have is unchoppable and because it is hardwood it is not very good for kindling whereas pine or gash wood is ideal as it burns quickly and produces a good instant hot ash layer for putting the hardwood and coal onto. Because I have a small room here I find that in the morning it is still pleasantly warm and the stove is still warm to the touch at lunchtime from the fire the night before. Coal embers will still be glowing at around five thirty in the afternoon from the previous nights fire making a new fire burn easier.

My parents used to buy a bootfull of gash wood from the local dump but the man there has stopped selling it and is taking it home for his own woodburner instead, so sources of kindling are becoming harder to find. I can pick up wood from the beach which is good for kindling but if TSHTF everybody will be down there fighting over it, though we are surrounded by woods here so there is plenty around, it just means that you have to carry it further. The learning process goes on and on anyway.

The good thing about wood is that you get warm a few times from it. Firstly by collecting and carrying it, secondly by chopping it and thirdly by burning it. I love chopping wood, there is a real nice zen-ness about hitting a piece of wood in just the right place to split it and it has nothing to do with brute force. I have a nice big three foot axe and a smaller hand axe for doing the kindling with, both of which I am slightly in love with.