Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Beginnings Everyone!

When I start a new piece of work I need to have the basic ingredients in place. I need pictures in my head and preferably a title. No piece I've ever made that has any merit at all has come into existence without the all important name! It's never any good trying to conjure a title after it's made - the name comes first and the work has to grow into it. I've struggled with the Oriental theme because I usually work from everyday subjects. It feels quite foreign (no pun intended) to use anything so far removed from my personal experience so, although I did until she died a few years ago, have a Japanese aunt, I have no other connection even vaguely oriental to inspire new work. I draw and paint crows and rooks all the time because I am aware of them on a daily basis and fascinated by their appearance and behaviour.

They have a mixed reputation don't they? I am aware that some people consider them omens of bad fortune whilst to others they are thought of as clever and inventive. You may remember on a recent visit to Wolverhampton Art Gallery I photographed crows that decorated a number of Victorian chinoiserie objects like this one above and this prompted me to read a little more around the symbolism associated with them. Imagine my delight to find the following (much edited) in of all places, wikipedia!

The most popular depiction is that of a sun crow called 陽烏 or more commonly referred to as the 金烏 or "golden crow". Even though it is described as a crow or raven, it is usually colored red instead of black.
According to folklore, there were originally ten sun crows which settled in 10 separate suns. They perched on a red mulberry tree in the East at the foot of the Valley of the Sun. The sun crows loved eating two sorts of mythical grasses of immortality. The sun crows would often descend from heaven on to the earth and feast on these grasses.  

These grasses in my garden look mythical enough to me - I'm sure they could rise to the challenge.

Folklore also held that, at around 2170 BC, all ten sun crows came out on the same day, causing the world to burn; the celestial archer saved the day by shooting down all but one of the birds.

Doesn't that just conjure up wonderful images in your head? I have included suns and moons in my paintings and quilts for years and now it seems I might even have a reason (other than the fact I love them) for them to be there. All I have to do now is make my black crows red and find out what a mulberry tree looks like!

Hope you are all feeling excited by the coming year and all the creative opportunities it offers! Love Linda


  1. I thought of you the other night. Did you see that programme on BBC2 with Chris Packham about nature's amazing (can't remember what it was called, sorry!) There was a group of corvids who realized that dropping walnuts onto a road meant that the shells would be broken by the passing traffic. But then it was a bit difficult to get at the nuts and avoid the cars. So they started dropping them on the pedestrian crossing, so that when the green light went on and the pedestrians began to cross, they could just tag on at the back, pick up the nuts, and return in safety. Absolute GENIUS!!

  2. Oh - I love that Annabel .... I shall forever be keeping an eye out for a queue of birds at the pedestrian crossing now!

  3. Well there was another story about them too, but it was a bit more gruesome! There were 2 lakes - in Canada I think - where the locals were astonished and disgusted and what looked like exploding toads. The toads - which were poisonous - had blown apart and their innards had been cast to the four winds. Eventually after examining the bodies, they noticed that a small incision had been made in the toads in exactly the right spot to extract the liver. The toads skin was poisonous so being exact was important. They found that the local corvids had found how to grab a toad and take out the very nutritious liver in one go. Unfortunately for the toads this meant that it affected their diaphragms, and as their defence mechanism was to puff themselves up with air, there was nothing in their bodies to stop them getting bigger and bigger...and...well..they just exploded.