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The Wheel of the Year – with not beginning and no end.

‘The cycle of light and dark, of planting and harvest, of leaves budding, opening and falling, is an ever-turning wheel that has no beginning and no end.   It rolls through the seasons, changing the landscape, and influencing the things that we do and the way that we feel.    Each time of the year is special, with its own particular feelings, smells and atmospheres – and, if we allow it, it’s effect on our lives……’   From the introduction of  – Gail Duff’s book – The Wheel of the Wiccan Year. 

The winter tradition of ice skating at Hampton Court Palace. hampton-court-panorama

I enjoyed a very special and lovely holiday season.   I spent it with my friends, Gail and Mick in their home in Kent.      A home set in the middle of countryside in a place where one can still believe that life hasn’t changed too much.

We have known one another since starting school together at five years old….Mick and Gail married and have just celebrated their 50th anniversary.

We are all artists.      Gail a writer, singer, song-writer – to name a few of her attributes and Mick a photographer, musician.

Gail Duff – Watercolour1094709_10151869967675396_22212606_oMick Duff – photographer, musician

1048835_10151869969370396_914185022_oI was invited to their annual Yule celebration on the 21st December – celebrating the winter solstice.       A lovely event, considered to be one of the most joyful celebrations of the year.     

In the evening, friends arrived bearing food and gifts.    In their sitting room with the Christmas tree sparkling and candles ablaze there was a wonderfully festive feeling.

From Gail’s book – The Wheel of the Wican Year, we learn that Yule is the festival most rich in remembered tradition and ritual.    In the early days of Christianity people were reluctant to give up their Pagan path and the Midwinter celebrations.    It was therefore decided that the birth of Christ should be celebrated at the same time.    This enabled the ritual dramas, songs and decorations to be be continued with Christian meaning.

rapid watercolour of their daughter Lucy with violin.     20-11-15 - 1 (1134)For the first time in many years,  I enjoyed carol singing.    We went from house to house  in one of the local villages and it was wonderful.    I had forgotten how joyful an experience it is.

For Christmas day we enjoyed a Goose with all the trimmings – plus of course plum pudding and Christmas Cake – and it seems to me numerous mince pies and chocolate……This was followed by games and much laughter.

On Boxing Day (for the uninitiated the day after Christmas) we went to Leeds Castle, where we walked, communed with the swans, ducks and other birds, and enjoyed the beautiful Christmas trees throughout the castle.

Ducks in the moat diving for the seeds. 20-11-15 - 1 (1372)Leeds Castle – during the Solstice – The mid winter atmosphere was perfect. 20-11-15 - 1 (1356)Geese in a row – Leeds Castle Kent20-11-15 - 1 (1361)During this period, I realised that in so many ways we have lost touch with the rhythms and magic of each season.

From a commercial stand point, the large corporations remind us constantly of the next holiday – prompting us to purchase all sorts of unnecessary stuff – which brings me to the big question.      Our we still in touch with the emotional and physical effects on our lives that the different seasons bring?     

A musical celebration in a local pub.    A lovely way to spend a mid winter’s afternoon. 20-11-15 - 1 (1411)Given the way we shop and live, we have come to believe that all fruits and vegetables are available at any time during the year.

In out techno charged world, there are many who have lost touch with the rhythms of our 24 hour day, let alone the seasons.

Our cities are flooded with artificial light, which disturbs our body clocks causing for many a lack of sleep and feelings of well being.

How different a place the world would have been for the people  in this photograph which was hanging in the pub – and it wasn’t that long ago!20-11-15 - 1 (1387)  All of this has brought to mind, the rapid and dramatic changes that have occurred for all of us during recent years.

For anyone interested in learning more about the natural rhythms and seasons of the year, I highly recommend Gail’s book ‘The Wheel of the Wiccan’.      Through the book we can learn about the ancient traditions that brought us to the holidays we have today…..

There are some that might say ancient traditions are gone – and that we need to focus on the future.

These ancient traditions were put in place to protect our natural world and how we live in it and relate to it.       I think it is of vital importance that we respect them.

Of course, I must close with magical hummingbirds…..a little bird that adheres to the ever changing seasons.

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A BIentot

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A Traditional English Christmas Cake story – sustaining life and enhancing international relations…….

The following is a true story about my Mother’s traditional English Christmas Cake…and how it saved my life and helped to sustain others….:and at the same time enhanced international relations………:)

In 1960 when I was 16 years old, my parents sent me to Holland for the summer.    Travelling by ferry and train,  I was to stay with friends who lived in the countryside outside of Eindhoven.

Before leaving my Mother made sure to pack some of her traditional Christmas Cake into my suitcase.     No matter where I went this always happened.   It was my Mother’s theory that if I got lost, or ran out of food, her cake would sustain me.

A traditional English Christmas Cake xmas cakeFor those who are not familiar with traditional English Christmas Cakes – a little more information.

My Mother made the cake months before Christmas every year.    All manner of fruits and spices were mixed and liberally doused with brandy in order to preserve the cake.

During the several month standing process the cake would be fed with more alcohol during two week intervals…..then wrapped in a cheese cloth and put into our north facing pantry to settle.    Christmas-Cake-easyAbout two weeks before Christmas the cake would be covered in marzipan along with a  thick white icing resembling snow….and then Christmas decorations added.

Given that the cake was very rich….there was always quite a lot left over….plus my Mother would make two cakes at a time….leaving one un-iced, filled with booze, waiting for any natural or man made disasters to occur!5245504474_028169b808_zAfter a wonderful summer in Holland…swimming in canals with local children, riding bicycles around the countryside – stopping at farms where we were given the most delicious fresh cheese and milk straight from the cow, and of course sketching…..even back then I carried a sketch book with me.        Alas, it was time to return home.

This was the sort of canal we swam in…boys-in-canalI was put on a train heading towards the Ferry port at Calais France.       

I am not sure when I realised that something was wrong…..I suppose when I arrived in Germany!!

In those days it was quite normal for trains to split – one end gong to one country and the other to another, and this is what had happened.    I got on the wrong end of the train.

This meant getting back on the right train, and then arriving at the Calais Ferry Terminal far too late to catch the ferry that my parents would be meeting me from at the Dover Ferry Terminal – which in turn meant a long wait.

And this is where Mother’s Traditional English Christmas Cake came into its own.

Calais France Ferry Terminal – just 29.4 miles from Dover UK. car-ferry-terminal-at-calais-france-BM6WAKWhen I arrived at the Calais Terminal I joined many other young people from all around Europe sitting on the floor waiting for ferries.

Remember this was many years before fast food, mobile phones, and of course the Euro Star train.

I was hungry as were many of my fellow travellers.      I removed the tin containing Mother’s English Christmas Cake from my suit case and shared it with young people from around Europe.      The Christmas cake brought us together. 

Ferry docking at Dover Ferry Terminal   2464338180_d3b492f903_b    After docking at the Dover Ferry Terminal, I found a policeman waiting for me.      Clearly alerts had been sent out…..

The policeman took me and a young German boy I had befriended to the Dover Police Station.     There we were given a slap up breakfast while we waited for my parents to arrive.      I had assured the German boy that my parents would give him a lift to Canterbury and then he could hitch hike on to London.       The German boy and I kept in touch for many years.

So what’s the moral of this story?

Be Prepared and always carry extra food – especially traditional English Christmas Cake. 

(I was reminded of my story when recently a 100 year old fruit cake was found in Antarctica – perfectly preserved.     I rest my case. )

As always magical hummingbirds were with me – watercolour. 20-11-15 - 1 (139)I am away with good friends for the holidays which means that this will be my last post until the new year.

I wish everyone a beautiful holiday season filled with peace and love…..and of course magical hummingbirds.    Janet 10514440_10153357891290396_5852947368901642044_o

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A Christmas story about a homeless little cat and how she found hope, trust and courage….

The subject of homelessness becomes more prevalent every day.     Whether one of the millions of stateless people roaming the earth, or people we encounter on the streets of our towns and cities – the problem looms ever greater.

I wrote and illustrated a children’s Christmas story 15 years ago entitled ‘Christeve the Cat Finds Her Home’.     Based on a true story, it focuses on the arrival of a little cat into my life on Christmas Eve 1996 when I was living in Crickhowell, Wales.   

I have been displaced a couple of times in my life, and know what it is to yearn for a home of my own.    In many ways this story is autobiographical.   It is filled with symbolism including of course the magical hummingbirds.

In the story the little cat was homeless and had been living in a tree across from my cottage.   I believed that she belonged to Mr. Pickford, one of my neighbours and so had not been concerned about her.

My neighbour, Mr. Pickford. 20-11-15 - 1 (1340)Here is the lonely little cat wishing she could live in a nice warm cottage like the one across from her tree. 20-11-15 - 1 (1330)“Sitting between mountains and watched by the moon, with magical hummingbirds weaving their love” this story takes place in The Magical Town of Crickadoon. 

The little cat looking over the Magical Town of Crickadoon. 20-11-15 - 1 (1339)During the long dark cold nights, every noise would give the little cat a fright, and sometimes she would cry.20-11-15 - 1 (1328)   One night when the winds began to roar and howl, the little cat had a visit from a wise old owl.    The wise owl told the little cat to be patient and trust.    To close her eyes and dream of magical hummingbirds.

Something inside of  her always knew that there was nothing to fear and that help was always near……..20-11-15 - 1 (1337)The little cat began to make friends with the birds and animals that lived beneath her tree.      After days of fun and play with her new friends the little cat would fall into a deep sleep and dream about finding a home of her own.

Some of the little cat’s new friends 20-11-15 - 1 (1336)One of her new friends, a red robin, told the little cat that she would never be alone because hummingbirds were always near, helping her to find a new home of her own. 20-11-15 - 1 (1325)One morning red robin and little cat woke to see that the Magical Town of Crickadoon was completely covered in snow.    everywhere the little cat looked, there was a special glow.20-11-15 - 1 (1335)Later that night when little cat was dreaming in her tree, a beautiful white hummingbird appeared.      White hummingbird told little cat that there was nothing to fear, and that after a terrible storm, all would be clear. 20-11-15 - 1 (1338)The next morning when the snow swirled and whirled and the winds roared and howled, the little cat felt so cold and alone was beginning to think that she would never find a home of her own.        20-11-15 - 1 (1334)In her dreams the little cat heard White Hummingbird say – “Don’t give into your fear, soon all will be clear. – Follow the light through the storm and there you will find your home, so cosy and warm”. 

As the little cat came closer to the only light she could see, she realised that it was shining from the cottage across from her tree.     As little cat reached the door and raised her paw she called out as loudly as could be…Meeeeeoooooowwwww, I am here, I am here…….

The door to the cottage across from her tree opened wide and there was Janet the Artist waiting inside. 20-11-15 - 1 (1333)Janet the Artist scooped up little cat with tenderness and love, and from high above the Magical Town of Crickadoon, hummingbirds of every colour were flying under the moon. 20-11-15 - 1 (1332)Janet the Artist named the little cat, Christeve the Cat because she had arrived on a very special Christmas Eve.

THE END

This is the actual cottage where Christeve the Cat and Janet the Artist lived together in The Magical Town of Crickadoon. 

30371_309193229185374_253873514_nChristeve the Cat settled into her new home and sitting on her favourite chair302846_309648909139806_918859733_nChristeve the Cat (on the left) with one of her friends sitting in her favourite place in the garden of her new home. til August 10 119http://www.janetweightreed.co.uk    http://www.zazzle.com/janet+weight+reed+gifts

A bientôt.

Happy Thanksgiving……

I saw this mural in Ipswich, Massachusetts a few years ago…It tells the story of the first Thanksgiving.      In front of the  mural stands my niece, daughter and mini niece…a very happy memory. 13603834_10154207083495396_5242055752857820943_oI Lived in the States from 1966 til 1993 when I enjoyed many a happy Thanksgiving celebration.      I always look upon this holiday with great affection.

I came across this example of Mother Nature’s magnificent bounty when visiting a friend in Haye on Wye.        20-11-15 - 1 (1120)We are reminded today to be thankful for each moment and grateful for all our blessings.

I have just had a beautiful time away for which I am so grateful.    To spend time with good friends is one of life’s greatest joys.

May everyone be surrounded with magical hummingbirds this day.   – watercolour

15129403_10154629951660396_7254253705154814862_oA Bientôt.

The colours of Autumn….

“Autumn’s the mellow time”      William Allingham

I am off to Wales and Somerset to be with good friends and of course take photographs and make watercolour sketches.     As usual I will take a break from technology during this period.

Back here around the 24th November.

Brecon Beacons – Wales – watercolour22289730_10155714657220396_7484313288302574968_oMist over the Usk Valley – Wales – watercolour21731439_10155640296835396_1011210038349474506_oCrug Howell – Usk Valley Wales – watercolour20-11-15 - 1 (1)view from Curlews – overlooking the Usk Valley Wales – watercolour21587193_10155634459635396_3638491708032799665_oBrecon Beacons Wales – watercolour/gouache22424479_10155722668785396_4972642561881605246_oI will of course travel with the Magical Hummingbirds….20-11-15 - 1 (772)

A Bientôt.

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Painting exercise – An Iris, symbolising love a wisdo

Even though we are still in February, I am feeling the onset of Spring.     Everywhere I look, I see the signs.    So many bulbs shooting up through the soil and that tell tale sign of the sap beginning to rise.     Such an exciting time of the year.    These feelings are begging me to use vibrant colour…..and so I am using an Iris as my jumping off point for a watercolour/gouache painting exercise.

rapid watercolour with a little gouache here and there…….20-11-15-1-731I have learned that the Iris symbolises love and wisdom  – two elements that we can never have enough of…..

This is a playful exercise….a good way to warm up.

Using a big brush, I apply bold colourful marks to the paper….You can do this exercise on newspaper, inexpensive wallpaper lining, anything at hand.   The key is to go for it and enjoy. 

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I begin to establish the form of the Iris….important to note that all the whites you see thus far are dry white paper.     I am emphasising keeping dry white paper areas in this exercise, rather than wetting the whole sheet.    This will give more control and ultimately those dry white areas bring sparkle to a watercolour painting.

20-11-15-1-726I add paint to the background and pull out certain areas with a clean wet brush….all the white areas showing are dry white paper.

To avoid muddiness – a clean wet brush can do wonders in moving paint around.     20-11-15-1-727I then decide to give the image more drama and add a dark wash into the negative space surrounding the Iris.      I don’t use black…this dark is made up from  a Burnt sienna/ Prussian Blue mix plus some of the purple I have used in the Iris. 20-11-15-1-729While the surface is wet, I scrape out some areas with a knife.   I have also added a little Permanent White Gouache into the final frame….note how the gouache bleeds from the Irish into the surrounding paint.

Very important to move colour around the picture and to allow the paint to do its own thing….this is where watercolour mediums are quite magical20-11-15-1-731I have several short videos on YouTube which can be helpful.   They can be found by entering my name into the YouTube search engine.

Along with Podcasts I plan to do some longer videos during the coming year.

Remember love and wisdom are the words for today….two elements the Magical Hummingbirds understand well.

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A Bientôt.

Spontaneous watercolour/gouache painting plus assorted palettes.

“The creative process is all about experimenting, letting go of the logical information that our brains have processed during our lifetimes, and embracing the concept of seeing our world in a much broader sense”    Janet Weight Reed – The Apple Exercise

This image is about being spontaneous – not being governed by an imagined outcome.  a case of going with the flow.…...watercolour/gouache20-11-15-1-510

I began with a mix of burnt sienna and prussian blue to make the darks, along with glorious Winsor & Newton Green Gold – a wonderfully transparent pigment.

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Working very fast and using an old image as a  ‘jumping off point’ I begin to build up the whole composition.

All white areas are dry white paper…..

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Continuing to work rapidly, I start to build up the image..using a mix of transparent watercolour and opaque designer gouache.      I use a knife to scrape out areas…to give a sense of energy.

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I am not concerned about the end result…rather am enjoying the process of letting go and applying juicy paint to the paper…

As is the case with all of life...it’s all about the journey and not the destination……..

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Building layers of paint, I have allowed some of the transparent watercolours to show through.   At the same time I add gouache to add opaque areas to the image.    All whites are dry white paper. 

I was going to add a hummingbird – maybe later…..

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I have been asked what palettes I use for my watercolours…..this image shows a selection.

I am a creature of habit…and have had some of these palettes for over thirty years..namely the round palette and the tiny sketching palette.

The smaller palette in bottom left corner with fold over lid is perfect for travelling – and the large palette on right with lid is also goof for long haul trips.      When I run out of colour in my tiny palette, I simply refill it with tube paint.

I don’t clean off all the paint between painting sessions.     I run the palette under the tap using a brush to remove the messy areas.      This leaves blobs of pure colour which are still perfectly usable!     If it dries completely, you simply re-activate with water.

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A magical hummingbird for the week ahead….

If you visit http://www.zazzle.com/janet+weight+reed+gifts  you will see that the magical hummingbirds have been very busy:)

 

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A bientôt