Monthly Archives: January 2019

Planet series – day 6

‘Planet Series, Saturn’. Oil and mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2019

The Saturn painting updated. I felt it going a bit sci-fi so I’ve simplified it and it works better for me! Its really difficult to colour-balance and contrast with very dark paintings, but this is close. It’s less obviously Saturnine, but the constellation of Capricorn is back in there!

Here are stages of its development …

 

Planets series in progress – day 5

‘January, Nightscape (Planets Series – Saturn)’. Oils and mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2019.

Above – today’s painting in progress – January, Nightscape.

This painting is part of my ‘planets series’, inspired by ‘the Narniad’ and the Medieval view of the cosmos, which you can read about in these previous posts 1  2, 3 and

I think the painting is pretty much there now, which is a relief. I wanted to have it finished by the end of this month since this painting relates to the planet Saturn –  connected to December and January. A bit more detail maybe (I might pick out the constellations of Capricorn and Aquarius in very fine lines) then a couple of layers of varnish will give it a rich, glossy finish.

I feel it’s suitably Saturnine, without being too oppressive, and maybe there’s also a subtly medieval atmosphere. I think the finely scratched lines bring metal-plate etchings to mind anyway.

Here are a few photos showing its development …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not only relieved about this painting nearing completion, I’m also glad that January is on its way out as I find it an oppressive time here in the northern hemisphere. The next planet in focus is Jupiter which rules Pisces and Sagittarius. (Medieval astronomers were limited in what they could see , so Pluto, Neptune and Uranus had not yet been named as planets, hence why nowadays Pisces is said to be ruled by Neptune).

Just to confuse matters further, there’s Sidereal astrology (Indian Vedic approach, and some western astrologers use it) and Tropical astrology. Tropical astrology uses a constellation map from around 2000 years ago, but due to the earth’s wobble this is now about 30 degrees out.

Modern-day astrologers using the Tropical charts say that the constellations relate still to time of year, therefore seasonal influence, sidereal astrologers claim that the influence of the planets is important, therefore a current map of astronomy is important.

If this interests you, I recommend the Skymap mobile app, which shows you the exact position of the stars and planets in real time. You can also search by date going back or forwards in time. I’m a Sagittarius going by the Tropical system, but according to Sidereal astrology I’d be born with the sun in Scorpius (in real time/our time the sun is in Scorpio from the 23rd to 29th November). But, the old-school Tropical system splits all the zodiac constellations into equal segments of the night sky so each is given approximately 30 days.

Make of all that what you will! I’m no expert and I have no idea if planets can actually influence our birth and personality. I am interested in the moon though, which does influence the earth.

The next planet in my series is Jupiter – the medieval planet associated with learning, theology, philosophy and joviality, which governs Sagittarius (centaur) and Pisces (fish). Its associated colours are greens, blues, aqua, silver, purple and blue, its animals horses and fishes, also dolphins – I find these subjects and colours very appealing ! I’ll begin the new painting next week.

I’ll leave this series of posts about Saturn with a suitably profound, mysterious and decidedly eery video (below) by (Capricornian) David Bowie from his last album Black Star (which is in fact an alternate name for Saturn) .

The video and song are laden with symbology and hidden meaning (there are thousands of Bowie fans out there busily attempting to decipher all of this. Good luck to them, ha!) Remember though, that among the themes of Saturn are death, renewal and liberation, giving way to the influence of Jove, Jupiter and happier days! The Narnia book relating to Jupiter is The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe – the end of long winter and the coming of Spring.

A quick sketch, made in biro this very minute ..

Flower illustration, copied from sketch by Pauline Baynes from the Narnia Chronicles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planets series in progress – 4

(In progress) January. Nightscape. Oil on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang

Above – today’s continuing experimentation on the painting – ‘January’.

I’m currently painting a series of seven paintings inspired by the Medieval view of the cosmos and the Narniad. You can read the earlier posts here – 1 , 2  and 3

The current planet I’m exploring is Saturn, related to December and January. In the last post I described my interest in the planets as a subject, and I’m not too structured about this, so other than exploring the planets in their Medieval order I wouldn’t be described as academic in my approach! It’s simply inspiration for painting a new series.

My painting process is usually quite experimental – often I’ll create layers then scrape back to reveal earlier parts of the work and I tend to feel my way through a subject – there’s a certain amount of planning and preparation but usually it’s a messy process, so although today’s painting looks like a wave, that might change by tomorrow.

The painting (which is about 3.5×3.5 feet on wood) started with a thin layer of green onto white gesso, then a layer of black, followed by droplets to suggest stars. I experimented with Saturn-appropriate constellations (Capricorn and Aquarius) but it didn’t quite work for me visually, so I scraped back a few layers at the bottom to reveal interesting green patterns below, suggesting a nocturnal seascape, today’s layer of wet gesso will be left to dry, then I’ll scrape back to more layers beneath, possibly add in a few details and then I’ll see how it looks/feels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(In progress) January. Nightscape. Oil on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atmosphere is the elusive thing I try to capture in paintings, so with the melancholic, heavy associations with Saturn this is going to be a fairly moody dark painting let’s face it, but I do want it to evoke a sense of mystery or magic.

As mentioned in previous posts, I’m reading several books at the moment related to the subject of the Medieval view of the planets, in particular Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia , in which he describes and explores his discovery that the seven books of Narnia are each inspired by the seven planets as understood in medieval times, also the philosophy and mythology that surrounded their view of the cosmos.

C.S. Lewis felt that myth was one of the most effective means of conveying the more abstract themes of spirituality or metaphysical ideas, partly because he felt that myth and story sparked imagination – abstract perception beyond the purely factual or observable (that’s an epic subject in itself – one I explored way back in the mists of time at art college, but I’m not writing in any sort of academic capacity here, thankfully for me!). He began the Narnia Chronicles in the early 1950’s,having decided that children’s stories were the ideal form for what he wanted to communicate.

He’d also been inspired by George MacDonald’s writing, and when you read MacDonald’s books you do see the influence. Like MacDonald, Lewis had also written fiction for adults, but similarly their children’s stories had the most popular and enduring appeal.

The sense of depth behind the apparently simple tales in books such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Princess and the Goblin (by MacDonald) is partly due to the underlying wealth of mythology and philosophy, and the magical atmosphere created is also partly due to this underlying (or hidden) meaning, but I think it’s also the fact both authors were (to use a contemporary literary term ) ‘show not tell’ writers.

It’s maybe best described as magic realism –  grounded in the senses and more effective in some ways than writing pure fantasy or a form of science fiction which might alienate the reader with too heavy a slant on stranger, or unknown aspects (though Lewis’s ‘Space Trilogy’ written in the 1930’s was classed as sci-fi).

It’s different from pure allegory, in as much as the reader isn’t required to spot and understand obvious parallels to enjoy the story, though the stories touch on subjects that refer to myths (for example Norse and Greek), or Christian biblical themes. Lewis wanted to inspire imagination, so although the Narnia Chronicles often deal with moral issues or choices, it’s more about a search for truth. That’s a simple way of putting it though  – a way of becoming more fully conscious is maybe a better way to describe it.

I think I’ll explore that theme more when I tackle the subject of Jupiter in my next painting, because I think C.S. Lewis writes about it in a completely unique way that we easily (usually with a mixture of amusement and/or discomfort) recognise as all too human, it’s worth exploring.

On the subject of atmosphere though, Michael Ward explores this quality in some depth in Planet Narnia, he terms it donegality. I think his is a brilliant way of perceiving atmosphere in the Narniad – I won’t go into that here, but recommend you read his book since it’s a fairly complex, rewarding theme.

As a child, this atmospheric quality of the Narniad had a profound impact on me and it’s one I’ve noted in other people who grew up reading these books; whenever I’m in a landscape that feels magical, or particularly alive, I associate it with a ‘Narnian’ quality – for example the rich, cool-green dampness of mossy grass underfoot in a still forest, to me immediately conjures up one of my favourite passages from The Magician’s Nephew, from the chapter titled The Wood Between the Worlds:

The trees grew close together and were so leafy that he could get no glimpse of the sky. All the light was green light that came through the leaves: but there must have been a very strong sun overhead, for this green daylight was bright and warm. It was the quietest wood you could possibly imagine. There were no birds, no insects, no animals, and no wind. You could almost feel the trees growing. The pool he had just got out of was not the only pool. There were dozens of others – a pool every few yards as far as his eye could reach. You could almost feel the trees drinking the water up with their roots. This wood was very much alive.

Illustration: Pauline Baynes. The Narnia Chronicles. ‘The Magician’s Nephew’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mood is enhanced by the beautiful illustrations by Pauline Baynes, which are so much part of the experience of reading these books.

The Magician’s Nephew is associated with the planet Venus, and the above description is very Venusian in feel, in complete contrast to the heavy dark energy of Saturn that influences The Last Battle – last of the Narnia Chronicles.

I’ve also realised that gradually my painting (atmosphere-wise) appears to be heading towards the end of the book where the stars fall out of the sky and Father Time crushes the sun in his hand so the world of Narnia turns black and icy cold.

Illustration: Pauline Baynes. The Narnia Chronicles. ‘The Last Battle’

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a stark, haunting vision, but described by Lewis it’s nonetheless beautifully atmospheric. And, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking ‘of course Rose – paint a scene from imagination from each of the books’.

Whatever I paint I’d better get on with it as these first three planet paintings have to be submitted to the upcoming Battersea Art Fair by the 24th Of February (I’m showing with the Limetree Gallery) and I still have Jupiter and Mars to complete! Towards June I’ll be creating a Sun-themed painting, to coincide with an exhibition and event I’ll be holding at Abbeyhill Studio on the summer solstice (I’ll post more nearer the time).

Planets series in progress – 3

(In progress) January. Nightscape. Oil on 40x40" wood panel. Rose Strang

(In progress) January. Nightscape. Oil on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang

Above, today’s progress on ‘January. Nightscape’, which needs a few more days work …

As mentioned in the last two posts, I’m working on a series inspired by the Medieval view of the planets and cosmos – a complicated yet harmonious and imaginatively inspiring view of the ‘heavens’ as they were known.

My current painting in progress is on the theme of Saturn and its related qualities. (the themes of this post are also entirely related incidentally!)

I’m currently reading Michael Ward’s ‘Planet Narnia’ in which he describes and explores his discovery that each of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles correspond to each of the seven planets.

In Medieval times these were:

Sol (Sun), Luna (Moon), Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. (Neptune, Uranus and Pluto weren’t viewable with the naked eye).

‘Planet’ meant ‘wandering star’, so they classed the sun and moon as planets in that sense. These were the objects in the night sky that moved in regular patterns, against a fixed, un-moving backdrop of stars, which were mapped into recognisable patterns or constellations. This was a world-wide practice of course, given that watching planets and stars enabled people to predict seasons, or navigate seas and so on.

Names of the constellations varied around the world, but it’s fascinating to read about the equally varying myths that surrounded, for example, constellations such as Orion. I’m exploring western ideas and mythology for now though, which is enough to be going on with!

 

 

My tiny mind is currently absorbing a wealth of complicated information about the Medieval view of the cosmos, from a variety of sources – not just Michael Ward’s excellent book, but also books, ideas and explanations suggested by several people I’ve encountered in the last five months or so. Precisely why it fascinates me so much I’m not fully able to explain even to myself as yet, but the mythology is enchanting, and if nothing else I’m learning to recognise constellations.  (Incidentally, star gazers might recognise the two appropriate constellations in my painting above).

My exploration has taken me ‘around the houses’ as it were, and led me back to the Narniad I suppose, but by way of explanation on how I became interested ..

Back in September, I took a trip with a couple of friends to Roslin Chapel outside Edinburgh (famous these days for its association with the Da Vinci Code!) I’ve been there many times of course since it’s a short drive from Edinburgh, but this time it was (bizarrely, by my usual standards anyway) in a chauffeur-driven limousine, and our driver happened to be a Grand Master in the Freemasons.

 

I’m cognisant of all the conspiracy theories around Freemasonry, but I think if there is some sort of Illuminati elitist group at the head of the organisation I can safely say our driver wasn’t in on it, as far as I know!

 

 

 

 

I could also digress into my view that such a system has it’s dark side in terms of undue influence, but suffice to say, I was typically just very curious as to what he might know about Roslin Chapel (also known as Rosslyn) given its connection with freemasonry since Medieval times.

He simply said ‘have a good look at the crypt’, which I did. The chapel has an abundance of symbology and beautiful stone carvings, but the crypt is relatively very plain, what I did notice were all the rough markings and symbols that had been graffiti-ed onto the walls. So I took several photos and later showed them to our driver on our way back to Edinburgh.

Photo, Rose Strang. Graffiti on Roslin Chapel wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

He explained that most of these were simply stone masons marks, they helped the overseer to tally up which stone mason had worked on a particular area, and for how long etc. This seemed to me a very prosaic explanation, but I’ve no doubt it’s partially true. The symbols themselves though, spoke of a more ancient system of knowledge – pyramids, circles, inverted or overlayed triangles and so on.

My eye being tuned in to these symbols,  on the way back to Edinburgh I saw them carved into old walls and ancient kerb-stones everywhere, it was surprising I hadn’t noticed them before but that’s syncronicity of course. A search online didn’t yield many results, and mostly led to fairly tedious reports by freemason organisations, or varying conspiracy theories.

I already knew the history of the Knight’s Templar (and their connection with Scotland) which is easily findable online, but it was clear to me that freemasonry involved symbols and practices related to occult (hidden) knowledge. Given the organisation’s Medieval origins I began to search for Medieval occultism.

This research happened informally over a couple of weeks, just something I’d have a look at in spare moments, then one day I was sitting in a taxi on my way to an event (I don’t normally get chaffeur-driven rides around town, or habitually catch taxis, but I was late that day, hence the taxi, and the chauffeur thing was simply that a friend had won it at a charity auction).

I can’t now remember how I got into a conversation about freemasonry with the taxi-driver, but he spoke about his former affiliation with them, and the fact he’d decided to give it up since he felt (as I do) that it leads to un-due or unfair influence. In his case this was in a low-level way, regarding the police, in a situation where he knew he’d benefit from the connection, but admirably chose not to. He felt that though the organisation was committed to some genuinely helpful charitable causes it could lead to corruption.

Anyway, after I’d asked him a few more questions he said ‘Read Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, and take note that he was an early feminist’. This was intriguing, but I didn’t rush out to buy it, as I felt I was probably just meandering down a route that would lead to vague ideas of out-moded magical or theological thought, which it has in a sense, but this is my art diary, so I’ll continue to indulge my explorations here!

I looked up information about Agrippa online, and discovered a fairly eccentric practitioner of occultism living in Texas whose videos and articles went into some depth about what he termed ‘classical Renaissance magic’. I’m not particularly interested in becoming a magician, but clearly he knew his stuff, so I emailed to ask him about Agrippa. Despite the fact he was, no doubt, an evil Satanist, he politely and in friendly manner answered my query and asked why it was I was interested, and what I hoped to achieve through practising classical magic. I replied that if anything I’d quite like to be a better artist, or to perceive more meaningfully, but in the meantime I was just curious about the subject.

He replied that the clear place to start in any such endeavour, is to read Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, and that understanding the planets or Medieval view of the cosmos would probably actually be a good way of perceiving the world and becoming a better artist. As it turned out, he was in fact Christian, but felt that these studies enhanced spiritual practice or understanding. (one thing he has in common as it turns out, with C.S. Lewis).

(Tangentially, any female readers of this post might feel that this is a very male-oriented world I’m describing. It certainly is, and this is something I’ll explore more fully later, when I create a Venus related painting later in the year. Venus – planet of love and classed as female – is probably the most complex planet in terms of its mythology – presumably because love is the most complex, transcendent yet painful experience or endeavour).

I then ordered Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy and because I was heading off to Iona for a two week artist’s residency at the Iona Youth Hostel at Lagandorain, decided to take it with me. My magician friend had recommended I read just one chapter a day, meditate on it, live with it and see what ideas or experiences came up.

I had so much to do – painting a series of ten works for an exhibition deadline, meeting people there and exploring the island, that in fact I just read one page during the two weeks! It included the following beautiful verse by Virgil:

The Number and the Nature of those

things, Cal’d Elements, what Fire, Earth,

Aire forth brings: From whence the Heavens

their beginnings had; Whence Tide, whence

Rainbow, in gay colours clad. What makes

the Clouds that gathered are, and black, To

send forth Lightnings, and a Thundring

crack; What doth the Nightly Flames, and

Comets make; What makes the Earth to

swell, and then to quake: What is the seed of

Metals, and of Gold What Vertues, Wealth,

doth Nature’s Coffer hold.

Rainbow on Iona, Rose Strang Oct’ 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Dipping randomly into the book, it also explored the planets, and influence or phases of the moon. Chatting about this with the manager at Iona Hostel, he mentioned that he used a mobile app called ‘Skymap’ to observe phases of the moon, also that on this evening the moon was entering full moon phase, and going  from Pisces to Aries.

I forgot all about that, carried on with my painting, then, at about 5:20, went to clean up and have a lie down for half an hour. I couldn’t rest though and after ten minutes, feeling emotionally agitated and restless, I decided to take the two minute walk to the north beach of the island.

If you’ve observed the sea at high tide, or during changes in tide, you’ll maybe have observed the strange shifting effect – it looks almost hallucinogenic. I stood entranced, gazing at the sea for half an hour until it got dark, then returned to the hostel, checked the Skymap app and realised that the moon became full at precisely 5:45pm. I’d walked on to the beach at about 5:40pm!

North Beach Iona. Photo, Rose Strang October 2018.

Sold. ‘Pisces Moon, Isle of Iona’. Mixed media on 10×10 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2018 (£450)

‘Moonscape, Isle of Iona’. Oil and acrylic on 10×10″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2018/2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was an interesting experience; a reminder that the moon does cause the tides, and that we too are made up largely of water. I’m not so particularly interested in the science behind this at present (some of which I know) For my purposes I’m more interested in lived experience and observation, so this felt valuable to me as an artist.

On my return to Edinburgh, I learned more about the Medieval view of the cosmos, and as I’ve mentioned it’s a complicated system, but here is a brief overview for now …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medieval philosophers believed that the cosmos had three levels; the heavens – beyond the planets, where the gods resided, or ‘the divine realm’, the celestial realm where the planets resided, and the earth where everything was a reflection of the heavens.

Anything beneath the moon is termed ‘sub-lunar’ and the gods are separate from this realm, but Medieval philosophers believed we connected with them through energies of the celestial bodies – planets and stars.

The term ‘as above, so below’ refers to the idea that on earth, everything (plants, animals, stones, minerals etc) is a reflection of the heavens. They classified these physical things according to each planet, then each planet connected to the divine realm – the planets were in a sense ‘go-betweens’. So, to evoke their influence by using a talisman (i.e. objects/plants/minerals etc related to a particular planet) you could bring that planet’s influence to bear on your life or events.

That’s it very briefly for today, but since my current painting related to Saturn, below is a very brief description, or flavour at least, of its qualities and related things on earth.

In the next post I’ll explore the mytholgy surrounding Saturn, and C.S. lewis’s literary treatment of it in ‘The Panet’s Trilogy’ and ‘the Last Battle’.

Saturn:

January. Winter. Winter Solstice (21st December). Saturday. Black

Qualities and associations: Time (father time), structure, form, renewal and liberation, brooding, melancholy, death, the occult (hidden, veiled, secret), teaching, pedantry, oppression, rules and boundaries.

Earth, water, lead, all ‘dark, weighty things’, ‘those things which stupifie’, dark berries, the black fig tree, pine, cypress, trees used at burials, owls, crows, animals that live by night.

Zodiac signs of Capricorn and Aquarius.

Roman feast of Saturnalia: held at winter solstice on 21st – all people celebrated, executions were cancelled or postponed, gifts were exchanged.

Capricorn and Aquarius contsellations.

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibitions and available paintings Jan’ 2019

Current round-up of current exhibitions and (as yet) unsold paintings  …

 

Limetree Gallery, Bristol. (Contact gallery for enquiries Here)

Paintings available from the Limetree Gallery …

Winter Show. Resipole Gallery, 10th Nov’ to 22nd March. Ardnamurchan, Scotland. (Contact gallery for enquiries Here)

Paintings at the Resipole …

 

Small Paintings. Morningside Gallery, Edinburgh.  (contact gallery for enquiries Here)

Paintings at the Morningside Gallery …

Planets Series in progress – 2

(In progress) January. Nightscape. Oil on 40×40″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2019

I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, ninety-odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

Quote: C.S. Lewis, ‘Meditation in a Toolshed’ (from essays collection). Planet Narnia, by Michael Ward

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m painting a new series inspired by the classic Medieval view of the universe, in particular the planets. It’s a complicated picture and (though scientifically inaccurate!) quite beautiful in its imagery, mythology, associations and sense of unified harmony.

I’ve long been inspired by Medievalism, no doubt originally inspired by reading the Narniad, as it’s known today, by C.S. Lewis

The above quote by C.S. Lewis (left, enjoying a cigarette – absolutely unacceptable in these times!) is a wonderful illustration of his way of explaining philosophical concepts through lived experience and imaginative observation. It’s probably one reason for the enduring appeal of his Narnia Chronicles and writings on Theology.

 

Lewis had read the philosopher Samuel Alexander’s theory of Enjoyment and Contemplation, which crystallised ideas he’d been exploring. The quote above illustrates the difference beautifully; contemplation of the beam of light is a different experience to being in the beam of light – you’re no longer looking at light, you’re in it, or in other words experiencing it subjectively (enjoyment) not objectively (contemplation).

For Lewis this concept informed his writing and way of life. It’s well-known that Lewis was a committed Christian (incidentally if it’s of interest this is not how I’d describe myself – I’m not a member of any religious group, though I find Lewis’s exploration of Christianity fascinating and inspiring).

As an academic he specialised in Medieval and Renaissance literature and one of his expressed regrets was the way that Medieval myth and imagination had been sidestepped or rejected by later religious practice or theology.

It wasn’t just that he found Norse, Roman, Greek, Hindu (or any source of ancient mythology) fascinating, he also felt as a Christian that exploring these myths, or finding them spiritually inspirational was as valid an aspect of worship as following Christian religious doctrine. Similar to Blake in some ways, he profoundly appreciated the power of imagination – for Lewis this partly informed ideas about Enjoyment, as opposed to Contemplation.

At the moment, I’m reading Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia, (for which I’m grateful for providing much of the information about Lewis described above) in which Michael Ward describes and philosophically explores his discovery that each of the Narnia Chronicles was in fact inspired by the seven planets as understood from a Medieval perspective. C.S. Lewis never stated this as his partial inspiration at the time, though in retrospect, once explained, it’s startlingly obvious. It is as he states himself, surprising that he was the first person (publicly at least) to recognise it.

 

My painting in progress (at the top of this post) is the first in a series of seven I’ll be painting this year. I’ll write more about the inspiration as I go, but this one, titled ‘January. Nightscape’ is inspired by the planet Saturn – a somewhat dark and heavy energy by all Medieval accounts! I’ll write more about  Saturn and its influence according to Medieval mythology as the painting progresses this month.

Of interest to C.S. Lewis appreciators, the correspondingly Saturnine Narnia book is ‘The Last Battle’ (last of the series). Lewis, in keeping with the quote at the top of this post, doesn’t mention Saturn (as far as I recall) in the book, but the book is saturated with its influence throughout. I’ll explore this more as my January/Saturn painting develops.

 

These dark January days, I’m finding it therapeutic to light the fire, of an evening, switch off all the wifi, mobile and other distractions, and immerse myself in a book. I also really enjoy keeping an arts diary (this blog) as a way of recording my inspirations.

Also, on a pragmatic note, the resulting paintings will be for sale in the galleries that currently represent my work, namely the Limetree Gallery (Bristol), Resipole Gallery (Acharacle, Scotland) and Morningside Gallery (Edinburgh). I appreciate their support, also the supportive creative ethos of these galleries to artists they represent.

In the meantime, Happy January to readers of this blog – it is indeed a dark month here in the Northern hemisphere, I hope you’re finding ways to enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

New series in progress

(Work in progress). ‘Portrait of Donald Ferguson’. Oil on 5×7″ canvas. Rose Strang

Though I haven’t posted new works here in a while, I’ve been working on several things. They’re taking longer as I’m working in oils, which is a much slower process.

Above is an oil portrait of my friend Donald. It needs a bit more work and you can probably see I’m sort of winging it as I don’t really have a process with oils as yet. Once I’ve created a few more of these I’ll do larger portraits with a bit more life and characteristics of the subjects and I’ll also post more information about the people I’m painting.

Donald has been a great friend since the early 90’s, and this doesn’t hugely capture the aspects I’d like to (for example his mercurial, fun qualities – though he can be very contemplative as seen here) but as an exercise in observation and technique it’s worthwhile, and definitely looks like him! I’ll be adding more of these from now to Spring.

Here are a couple more showing progress ..

 

 

 

 

The other series I’m working on this year involves themes that have been on my mind since September last year. I’ve been exploring avenues of Medieval history. from a variety of angles I suppose.

This probably stems from a lifelong love of the ‘Narniad’ – the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, whose imaginative and immersive approach to fantasy belies a rigorous education in Classics, and a dedication to theology and Christianity in later life.

Lewis was deeply interested in the Neo-Platonic view of the cosmos, which was a complicated yet harmonious view of the universe and our place in it. It’s only in recent years (fifty years after Lewis’s death in 1963) that the writer Michael Ward realised that the seven books of Narnia were each inspired by the seven planets. He published his observations in a book I’m currently reading called Planet Narnia (published I think in about 2008).

Once I understood more about the neo Platonic view of planets, it was stunningly obvious that each of the books absolutely immerses you in the ideas and qualities of the planet it explores, though the relevant planet might not even be mentioned.

I’ll save this complicated and fascinating subject for future posts, but suffice to say for now I find it a magical and quite beautiful way of perceiving nature and the subjects I paint, so this year I’ll be painting something each month that corresponds to month, time of year and related subjects.

With the month of January relating to the planet Saturn (associated with black among other things) I’m working on a very large night-scape at the moment. This smaller painting was one I began on the Isle of Iona back in October; every night I’d go out to look at the stars in a sky unpolluted by human-made light. (If you’re as mesmerised by a clear starry sky as I am, you’ll know that I ended up with a nasty crick in my neck!)

‘Night-scape, Isle of Iona’. Acrylic and oil on 10×10″ wood panel. Rose Strang 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The larger painting (in progress, below) is on a 40×40″ (about 3.5 feet) wood panel, in oils. Already I’m appreciating the density of colour and texture of oil paint, as contrasted with acrylic, I’m not appreciating how long it takes to dry, but as someone who’s pretty impatient temperamentally I suppose it gives me more time to consider the subject. I find it stymies my creative flow and inspiration somewhat, but the quality of paint adds something special to the process and finish. I also like the smell of linseed oil!

(In progress). ‘January’. Oil on 40×40″ wood panel.