The soft November morning spills sun across these paintings that were born two days ago.  I awoke today into the same magic I felt as a child on Christmas:  bees, bells, and frequencies, all over my studio walls, all transforming into their new place in paint before my eyes.

You owe me five farthings,  Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

photo by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper friend
photo from 3 weeks ago by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper friend

How can the world be less than benevolent, when this is so?  Time for listening and responding, for empathy and awareness – there is time for these things, and plenty more for acceptance and then, collaboration.

When will you pay me?  Say the bells of Old Bailey.


After a year of building income so I can spend serious time in the studio I am so grateful to be here.  Images of Robbin’s bees drinking water over prints from my feet resonate and make sense in this place.  Image, symbol, thought and intuition can swim freely in this room, and then speak, when there’s time to listen.  And now there is.

When I grow rich,  Say the bells of Shoreditch.


In five and a half weeks I will paint ten paintings – to show at Open Studio day on December 5, then to hang on the Bean Cellar walls until Feb 2016.  I’m hoping that somewhere in that time (at the Bean) we will gather to sing and celebrate Leonard Cohen, whose songs have been singing these paintings awake.

When will that be?  Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,  Says the great bell of Bow.

ships bell for the first painting (loud!!!), tibetan bell for the second. I'm photographing all the church bells in town that I can find for the rest. 'All the bells that still can ring...'
ships bell for the first painting (loud!!!), tibetan bell for the second. I’m photographing all the church bells in town that I can find for the rest. ‘All the bells that still can ring…’

These paintings are full of sound – clanging, pealing, ringing, dinging…. offset now, thanks to Robbin, by a soft, comforting buzz from the bees.

I’m looking forward very much to sharing this marvelous space with visitors and fellow artists on December 5, and to singing & hanging at the Bean again, where I’ve had many art shows over the years.  It’s important to me to put these pieces in a place where people go to do everyday things – eating, talking, laughing, crying, debating, drinking coffee. I do all of that in this studio while the paintings come to life – along with my fellow collectivists who visit.

But before Studio Tour and art show/ live music happen, I exult in the privilege of working with these paintings as they come into full voice.


Here comes a candle to light you to bed,

almost done
almost finished

And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!


‘The Bells of Rhymney’ is a song first recorded by folk singer Pete Seeger, then The Byrds, using words (published 1938) written by Welsh poet Idris Davies after a mining disaster that occurred in 1926.  Quoted in the blog is the nursery rhyme that Davies used as his template, also a (rather chilling) children’s game known as ‘Oranges and Lemons’, which I played as a child.  I quoted Cohen’s ‘Anthem’ two weeks ago, and

three strong bell poems make a show.

Reference & for the Record:

Bells of Rhymney:

Is there hope for the future?
Say the brown bells of Merther
Who made the mine open?
Say the black bells of Rhonda
And who killed the miner?
Say the grim bells of Lina

Who aband’ us in court?
Say the bells of Newport
All will be well if-if-if-if-if,
Say the green bells of Cardiff
Why so worried, sister why?
Say the silver bells of Whye
And what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney

And here, for the record is Cohen’s Anthem, from his 1992  album ‘The Future’:
(I will thread parts of this through the next post….)

The birds they sang At the break of day

Start again, I heard them say

Don’t dwell on what Has passed away

Or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will Be fought again

The holy dove, She will be caught again

Bought and sold And bought again

The dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs, The signs were sent

The birth betrayed, The marriage spent

Yeah the widowhood, Of every government

Signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more With that lawless crowd

While the killers in high places Say their prayers out loud.

But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up A thundercloud

And they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring…

You can add up the parts But you won’t have the sum

You can strike up the march, There is no drum

Every heart, every heart To love will come

But like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

That’s how the light gets in.

That’s how the light gets in

This 2015 Canadian election.

I don’t want to know how many hours I’ve spent online trying to write through and responding to ‘stick with the brand’ thinking, or the conversations that possibly should have been more focused on personal issues.

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Ring the bells that still can ring…

At the beginning of each day I tear myself from Guardian articles and online debates about the pros and cons of strategic voting and move on to more immediate and practical things, like building the integrity and health of my meagre artist’s income:  details about rehearsals and performances, venues and instruments, music part distribution, class schedules and coaching in schools, cello practise and pedagogical research about teaching; the development of a new art course about Line, Light and Colour in time for folks to make Christmas gifts; the development and manifestation of new functional art for the November Studio Tour; at home, gathering up fall bounty and cooking/freezing soups, stews, stock for the winter, putting Summer into the back shed…

...forget your perfect offering...
…forget your perfect offering…

To not attend to these things would be to exhibit a total lack of self respect.  But I’m aware that the current reward at the end of each day is permission to engage wholeheartedly in the process of this election, which grows more and more like a comic book each day.

The personal is political.  In this 2015 National Election Canada struggles to reclaim, rebuild and then manifest our Self Respect, while the world watches.

...there's a crack - a crack in everything...
…there’s a crack – a crack in everything…

I fully intended to use these days in my studio to work on the #Water project, but this election has changed my mind.

The Massie Hall #Water show has been postponed until April 2016, when the ice cracks and the streams flow again after our long long freeze.

Instead of a Massie Hall show in November, I’m opening my studio to show new work, inspired by the election, by Canada, the state of the world, and by Leonard Cohen.  That will be on November 28, we’re thinking (several artists will be involved), and you’ll hear more details from me soon.

...that's how the light gets in. L.Cohen, 'Anthem'
…that’s how the light gets in.                                       L.Cohen, ‘Anthem’

I’m alarmed that we have come to this, in Canada, in my beautiful riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound.  I want to be represented regionally by a states-woman, who can articulate my concern to Ottawa, about Truth and Reconciliation with First Nations people, about the toxic distortion of human governance that is Bill C-51, about climate change and the development of clean energy sources, about access to our own locally grown food, about poverty and dignity and full support for the arts in this country.  Our Beloved CBC under threat via TPP.  Our Beloved lakes, streams and waterways sold to China through FIPA.

I’m painting ships bells that call all hands on deck.  They will be hung at The Bean Cellar in Owen Sound the week after my studio tour, on December 4.  I’ll be posting them here in process until then.

Please Canada.  Election day is tomorrow.

Please vote for Self-Respect.