Carpets of bluebells are spreading across the meadows that surround my studio at the moment. These gorgeous blue and white wildflowers are always a sign that spring is here and summer is on its way.
As we near the end of April, I have been looking forward to celebrating Beltane. This festival always reminds me to greet summer with an open heart and embrace the season of growth in my life and in my practice.
The History of Beltane
I always dig deep into my Celtic roots when it comes to celebrating the changing seasons. Beltane is the traditional Gaelic May Day festival, usually held from sunset on April 30th until sunset on May 1st. It marks the halfway point between the spring equinox and summer solstice.
In its earliest practice, cattle would be released onto summer pastures and rituals would be performed to protect the cattle and the harvest during the season. The most important part of the rituals was the lighting of a fire – “Beltane” means bright fire – to call on the sun to nurture the earth and encourage summer growth. The earth is at its most fertile, ready to burst with the growth it’s been nurturing throughout spring. Fertility and new beginnings are at the heart of these festivities.
Celebrating Beltane Today
This ancient festival is an important part of Irish culture and feels like a really important part of my heritage. This festival of fertility and abundance particularly warms my heart because it signals the gradual return of the gorgeous wildflowers that inspire many of my paintings. This time of year also feels like such a time of manifestation. All the seeds that have been quietly brewing under the earth are doing their magical thing and I love to mirror this in my practice. After sowing the seeds of dreams over winter, I am eager to witness their growth during the summer.
One of the simple ways I love to honour Beltane is by preparing bouquets of yellow flowers – to match the fiery yellow of the festival – and spreading them around the doorways and windows in my home. Some of my favourites are primroses, hyacinths and daffodils. It is simple gestures like this that bring such a simple richness to my life.
Events in May
One of the most exciting manifestations of planted dreams at this time of year is the opportunity to share new works I have been creating in the quiet stillness of the winter months.
I will be participating in so many lovely happenings in May, where I will be showing my paintings and (hopefully!) meeting lots of you gorgeous folk. Here are a few of the upcoming events I am looking forward to.
Open Studios in Dulwich and Totnes
I will be showing in the Dulwich Artists’ Open House once again this year. The event takes place over two weekends in May: 11th – 12th and 18th – 19th. If you are in London do pop by, I would love to meet you. I exhibit in my daughter Poppy’s home, so it’s always a lovely place to spend the weekend.
Also from the 24th – 27th May, I will be opening my home in Totnes for the Totnes & Dartington Open Studios. This is always such a special event for me because this environment feels like a much more informal and welcoming space. Added to which you get to sample my Ma’s infamous and delicious homemade brownies!
I find that open studios are a less intimidating way to meet the artists behind the work and I love the relaxed feel of these events. It is the perfect opportunity to hear artists’ stories and the stories behind their work.
During my own open studio there is always a combination of both new and older works on display. Some archived pieces are often squirreled away during these open studio events, offering up a bargain opportunity to purchase a piece you may not find elsewhere. There’s really something for everybody!
So whether you just want to take a closer look at my work and really get a feel for my wildflower paintings or are interested in a commission I would love to see you!
Flower Power Ball
On the 16th May, I will be attending a very special event: the Plantlife Flower Power Ball in Kensington Palace.
I have spent several months working on a huge, incredibly textured, kaleidoscopic painting that will be auctioned to help raise funds for this important charity. I have poured my heart and soul into this piece and it is a visual feast of wildflowers.
It is such an honour to be part of the solution for these endangered species that are so close to my heart. I paint for so many different reasons but always to embrace joy and to celebrate our natural world. For me, supporting an organisation that is so deeply committed to protecting endangered plants and also to creating and nourishing community is really important. Plantlife host many events that bring people together and there is a strong focus on the power of community. Together, we can make a difference.
I am delighted to be involved in this event. It is always wonderful meeting other people who are as passionate about these themes as I am. I am, of course, excited to be putting on a posh frock and to be in Kensington Palace! A real once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Glasgow Contemporary Art Fair
It is rare for me to be in Scotland but my Celtic blood always makes this part of the world feel special. I am thrilled to be taking part in the Glasgow Contemporary Art Fair for the first time on the 17th and 18th May. So if you are a local Glaswegian, you can meet me on the Friday night for our preview show – just drop us an email to receive a complimentary ticket.
The Fair will take place in the grounds of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which has a long and fascinating history. The gallery and museum was first opened in 1901 for the second Glasgow International Exhibition. The building itself is really beautiful, built in a Spanish Baroque style using the distinctive Glaswegian Locharbriggs red sandstone. There is a funny urban myth that the architect accidentally built the building back to front!
It feels an honour to be exhibiting in this space that has such a rich tradition and impressive global reputation. Do come visit!
Elmer’s Big Parade
Lastly, I must mention that I have an elephant in my studio!
I am currently working on a fun and important project for St Luke’s Hospice in Plymouth. They are organising Elmer’s Big Parade, a trail of 40 colourful and uniquely decorated elephants dotted around Plymouth.
Here’s a little sneak peek of my own contribution to the trail.
I really do hope to meet you at one of these spring happenings. Until then, happy Beltane… keep your heart’s fire burning brightly!
With love and blessings,