Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series: Julia Guthrie

The wind swept sea.  Mermaids, faeries, and Arthurian stories steeped in fantasy and mystery.  The stunning Cornish landscape and the beautifully inspired artwork of UK artist Julia Guthrie has left me completely spellbound.  I'm sure you're going to find Julia's wonderful artwork and words as enchanting as I did!

                                                                                                                        ~ diane fergurson

MBS:  Can you tell us a little bit about your background?  How you got started in art?

Julia: Well, I have always been an artist. As a small child I would draw characters on the inside pages of my books...princesses with big dresses and big red lips!   lol
I loved my 'Big Book of Fairytales' the most, because of the stories but also because I loved the stunning illustrations that accompanied them. Girl's comics were another great favourite of mine...I used to colour in the pictures.  This evolved over the years to drawing portraits of my favourite pop stars and copying the posters I had on my wall, or I would copy their album covers with my paints.
I recall telling a teacher at school once, that I was going "paint record covers" when asked what I wanted to do as a job.
After school I did a year foundation course in Art and Design with a view to moving into Graphic Design. I didn't take that further though and in the last 10 years I have developed my painting skills in a more illustrative direction.

MBS:  I've noticed that many of the themes in your paintings center around goddess, mythological, and metaphysical subjects. How did this evolve into focal point for your work?

Julia:  I guess I have always been fascinated by the metaphysical world, and more recently, perhaps the last 15 years or so in particular, I had begun reading a lot more about various religions and their sources. The progression from believing in spirits/ tarot/ psychic abilities, led me to discover a whole new level which really fired up my imagination in a big way, while also becoming a life changing experience.

The Guide
One of my paintings is of a specific spirit guide who has been with me for a number of years. ('The Guide') It is very much how she appears to me.
Other paintings on this subject also have deep meaning for me, such as 'Inner Journey' (below). I wanted to express how it feels to be in a guided meditation, as I am a very visual person and I see rich, vivid landscapes which naturally I always wish I could capture onto paper!
The Goddess paintings, 'Freyja' (above) and 'White Tara' (bottom of page) came at times in my life when I had a very close connection to them in meditation. White Tara in particular had deeply inspired me during a meditation and when I had the idea to paint her it came together so easily that it genuinely felt as though I had channeled the painting straight from Tara herself.
When that happens I am as thrilled as anyone to see the image reveal itself.
Really I just paint the subjects that touch my life strongly...the parts of life that make me who I am, and my spiritual/ metaphysical side is one of the most important sides for me.
Inner Journey

MBS:  Do you work in a series?

Julia:  Some work is part of a series, such as the 'Storybook Cornwall' collection, which are illustrations created to reflect my love of books as a child growing up. And as I paint more Goddesses that will be a series of sorts, but there are just as many which are stand alone paintings.

MBS:  What materials do you use in your

Julia:  My most used materials are Watercolour paints, because I like the versatility of them. They can be used lightly or layered for a more vibrant effect. Also pencils and sepia pencils.
However I also dabble in Oils and acrylics, and some recent paintings have been worked in mixed media such as acrylic, tissue paper, and gold leaf.

MBS:  Do you prefer a particular size when you work?

Julia:   I generally work with A4 and A3 sizes (approx 8x10" - 11x16") as it can take quite a while to complete a watercolour. Larger sizes always sound like fun but by the time I'm halfway through painting I wish I'd done it smaller!

MBS:  I've read that the inspiration from the visual landscape, legends and lore of where you live has played an important part in your work.  Can you explain where you live and how it has influenced you as an artist?

Julia:   I am lucky enough to live close to the sea in the beautiful County of Cornwall (UK). On the South West Peninsula you are never more than 16 miles from the coast...which for me, is absolute heaven!

I moved here about 16 years ago and fell in love with the Cornish coastline, as many people do!  Cornwall is a place steeped in myth and legend, from mermaids, faeries and giants, to numerous Arthurian stories. I recall the day I realized that I lived right by the shores of the famous 'lost land of Lyonesse', from the tales of Tristan and Isolde; and I knew then that I had to illustrate these captivating legends.  They constantly tug on my heart strings.

A few of my earlier works are representative of that, but as my style has improved and changed. They are no longer online to view, but I still intend to capture those tales on paper. 
I spent 8 years living in Penzance, in a wonderful Victorian town house with distant views of the magical 'St Michael's Mount'. A stunning medieval castle on a tiny island just off the village of Marazion. Looking at something like that each day from my art studio window seat has carved a place in my heart which now forms the basis of much of my artistic inspiration.

Living in Cornwall has deeply inspired my creative muse in many ways, and I have also created a number of artworks based on my memories of childhood stories from Enid Blyton's 'Famous Five' and Susan Cooper's 'The Dark is Rising' series'.  These illustrations aim to capture the emotion and adventure of secret and magical places, where children can run free with bottles of ginger beer, and solve exciting mysteries!
'Storybook Cornwall' is a series based on my own photographs of places with a story to tell.
For much more information on 'my Cornwall', and many of the myths and legends I love, you can visit my blog page.

MBS:  That sounds absolutely magical!  Is there a particular favorite myth or legend from the area that has inspired you?

Julia:  It really is magical...every time I go for a walk I am reminded of the reasons why I love it here. I am constantly drawn back to the Arthurian legends... probably because I can stand on the windswept cliffs and look out towards the Scilly Isles, picturing the stretch of land that supposedly once connected them to Cornish shores. Lyonesse, the home of Tristan, was later apparently wiped out by a huge flood. The Atlantis myth has also been linked to this area because of the similarities.
Many tales tell of Cornish fishermen out in their boats, hearing mysterious ghostly church bells ringing out at sea and they say that they have looked down and seen what appeared to be buildings beneath the waves.
The mermaid of Zennor is another one I already have the muse working on ideas for. An ancient mermaid tale set in the tiny coastal village of Zennor, not more than half an hour or so from here. This too has historical references, with a rather curious mermaid carving on an old church pew found in Zennor Church.  Many of my Cornish illustrations echo the folk tales and stories that inspire me, although with those I prefer the picture to tell it's own tale...

I also enjoy photography, and while I'm not trained or a professional in any capacity I have a real love of beautiful photographs. I do a lot of paintings based on my own photographs because I simply wouldn't have time to sketch or paint the locations while I'm there. My husband and I do a lot of walking on the beaches and around the countryside, so it's nice to be able to capture an image with all the magical, fairytale atmosphere within in, then take it back to the studio to turn into a painting.
Riven Tide
My Flickr account houses a vast number of my favourite photographs...some of which have become paintings.  For example... 'Riven Tide' is inspired by one of my favourite Pre-Raphaelite paintings by J.W.Waterhouse, 'Miranda the Tempest'. It is based on photographs I took of a nearby cove that has always reminded me of the Waterhouse painting. In 1588 the Spanish Armada was first sighted on this stretch of coast, the beacons were lit and the alarm was raised. It is an era that fascinates me, so I simply had to paint a picture that hinted at such a historic event, happening right on my own doorstep!

Of course, it wouldn't be complete without the wind chimes and wall hangings I make from driftwood found on these beaches too.  I don't find a great deal unfortunately, so whatever is in my Etsy shop is pretty much all there is until I find a load more to work with. Drilling and gluing driftwood is quite therapeutic really.  It helps keep me connected to the sea, which is my biggest love :)
MBS:  What is a typical work day for you? Do you keep a regular schedule to work on your artwork, or are you less scheduled about it?

Julia:  I do not have a typical work day at the moment, as I have recently begun working a 'day job' once more. But prior to that I would generally have a list with numerous commissions or business/ art related activities that needed completing, and I'd allow my muse to decide which ones got done first. It has to be fun after all...or what is the point? :)

While it is important to keep paperwork up to date and get orders posted quickly, you really have to be flexible when it comes to creating. If I wake up with my muse leaping about excitedly in my head, then that ought to be the first thing I attend to. Later in the day when I have less creative energy is the time for invoices and packing tape.

MBS:  Do you sell your work online?  What has your online experience been like?

Julia:  I have been selling my work online for a few years now and I have found it to be a lot of fun. Through the usual avenues of Twitter, Facebook and Etsy, where I have made many new friends who are both fellow arts and crafters, and customers alike.  I have also tried a few other shopping sites which have not quite stood the test of time.

White Tara
Overall it's a lot of work and anyone joining a site like Etsy thinking that 'if you build it they will come', may be in for a surprise as it takes a great deal of self promotion and effort to make it financially worthwhile.  Over the years I have gathered a number of loyal customers and 'fans', if I can call them that, while building my online presence the best I can with my website and Facebook page, etc. I am truly grateful to each and every one of them. Nothing makes me happier than when I receive an email from a new person who tells me how much they love a particular painting of mine because it reminds them of a place they used to live...a connection they have to a spiritual deity, or however it resonates with them. That heartwarming connection is what really makes everything worthwhile.
Often when I am commissioned to do a painting I will pick up on an idea for a theme, or a particular aspect such as a feather, animal, or a particular type of flower, etc, only to discover that it already has great meaning or significance to the customer. It makes the painting so much more personal for them, and that is very important to me. All my paintings have a symbolic reference to the subject. Whether it's connected to myself or a customer.  I also love the fact that my spiritual/psychic side comes into play even while creating artwork.

MBS:   What are you currently working on?

Julia:  I currently have a number of projects floating about in my head - as always!
My new work will be based heavily on the Pre-Raphaelite style, as it is what first drew me to art as a child.  While I have always been influenced by it, I have long since wanted to move more in that direction with my own work.
I have a new painting of the Norse Goddess Freyja in the pipeline, quite different to my previous one, which is probably one of my favourite paintings to date. (It is also featured in the 2013 Earth Pathways Desk Diary for those in the UK)
And I am working on some sketches to illustrate 'The Mermaid Of Zennor' tale I mentioned earlier. I would very much like to perhaps turn that into an illustrated book, re-written by myself, but we shall see! :)
Aside from the personal work, I have commission work in various forms...from book illustrations, to website banners.

MBS:  What advice do you have to anyone who wishes to (seriously) pursue an 
artistic path?

Julia:  The best advice I could give in the current economical climate, and indeed beyond that, is to paint because you love it! creative...try whatever your muse inspires you to try. Always enjoy what you do, and if you aren't enjoying it, do something else.
The most successful people I know, whether they are artists, jewellery designers or bakers, are successful because of the love & beautiful energy they infuse into their work. 
Take the time to learn how to meditate...then work when your muse calls.
Although saying that, a few business skills wouldn't go amiss either - for when the customers start banging your door down!  :)

thank you Julia!

Links to Julia's work:  Blog - to keep up with my life & inspirations!

Email :

Links to other interviews in the Mind Body Spirit Artist Series.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Gemstones of the Zodiac - Part 4 - Moonstone

Welcome to Part 4 of our “Gemstones of the Zodiac” series. 

The fourth sign of the Zodiac is Cancer (June 21 - July 21).  The Mystical Zodiac stone for Cancer is Moonstone.


Although named for the moon, moonstone is actually a feldspar known as “adularia”, because it was found, among other places, in the Adula Group of the European Alps.  The shimmering effect inside the stone is knows as “adularescence”. 

The classic moonstone comes from Sri Lanka.  Other moonstones can be found in the USA, Australia, Brazil, Myanmar and Madagascar.

Historical Beliefs

Ancient civilizations believed you could see it in the moon during a waning phase.  Because of this, some civilizations would use moonstone during the waxing phase for a love charm, and, during a waning phase, to tell a person’s future.
The Ancient Romans believed it was actually formed from moonlight.
The Ancient Greeks called the stone “Aphroselene”, a combination of the love goddess Aphrodite and the moon goddess Selene.
In India, it is a very sacred stone.  The Indians will only permit it to be displayed on a yellow colored cloth.  They believe that having the light of a full moon touch this stone will awaken its magical powers, which will bring good fortune and let people see the future.
A ring with a moonstone is a great talisman for one in love, especially if that loved one is far away.  It symbolizes that you are both “under the same moon”, a wonderful sentiment.


Moonstone is an opalescent type of Orthoclase, an alkai feldspar.   The sheen inside a moonstone is created when light reflects off the internal layers of albite.  The albite adds that little touch of blue that can be seen inside a moonstone.

Colors of Moonstone

Peach or Apricot Moonstone - it will calm and brighten the emotions and will help with the wearer’s self image.

Rainbow Moonstone - helps to strengthen intuition and perceptions, and will bring balance to the wearer.

Silver Grey Moonstone - eases frustrations and allows you to move more easily, more in harmony with the ebb and flow of life.

Healing and Metaphysical Properties

Because this stone is so closely tied to the moon, this stone is used in many fertility symbols and rituals.  It is also believed to help people get more in touch with the feminine side of their psyche.
It is believed that if you put a moonstone under your pillow, it will help cure your insomnia.  If you pair it under your pillow with amethyst, that will only increase the power.  Additionally, the combination will make for purer dreams that will be easier to remember.  (hyperlink “amethyst” to the amethyst article).
When worn in contact with the skin, it is said to help with epilepsy, depression, hormonal and endocrine system issues. 
Although moonstone shares a similar opalescence to the opal, it works in the exact opposite fashion.  Whereas opals can intensify and exaggerate emotions, moonstone works to calm and soothe them.  It brings the positive qualities of the moon and promotes joy, as well as spiritual growth.

Moonstone vs Selenite

The stone known as Selenite, which is a gypsum, was named for Selene, the moon goddess.  Selenite translates as “the moon stone”.  However, it is not to be confused with actual Moonstone.  Moonstone is a feldspar and selenite is a gypsum.  They are not the same stone.

For information on how to cleanse your stones, you can refer to the recent article by Diane Fergurson, published recently on Mind Body Spirit Odyssey.

~ Giani


You can read Giani's Tarot reviews in the Review section of this blog.
This is the fourth article in this wonderful series, and I am definitely looking forward to more of
 in the upcoming months.  I thank Giani
 for his wonderful continued contributions to Mind Body Spirit Odyssey.
                                                                                   ~ diane

Series Article Part 1 - Opals 
Series Article Part 2 - Sapphire
Series Article 3 - Amethyst
Series Article 6 - Agate 


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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Roses - Herb Of The Year, 2012

I was working in the rose garden the other day when I mentioned to my husband that The Herb Quarterly magazine mentioned in their Summer issue that the International Herb Society had named the rose to be "Herb of the Year" for 2012.  He said that he was surprised - he never really thought about roses being consider an herb.

I have to admit I was surprised too when I read the article.  I've been in love with roses since I was a child.  The colors, fragrance and mystical history.  But I never really considered it an herb.  Sure, I would have the occasional salad 'sprinkled' with rose petals.  But to me that always seemed like more of an attention getting gesture by chefs and restaurants rather then more of an actual culinary ingredient.  Even growing up with a mother and grandmother who both very skilled with their use of herbs and very proficient in their herb gardening, they never incorporated roses into their medicinal and culinary repertoire.

According to the Herb Quarterly article - before vanilla was used to enhance the majority of our baked goods and sweets, roses were actually used a the primary flavoring.  The pioneers brought roses with them when they settled in America and in the first cookbook that was published in 1796, rosewater was mentioned more times then any other seasoning- including pepper and nutmeg.  Roses were used by traditional medicine for their astringent quality and many herbal teas contain rose hips, which is a good source of vitamin C and can act as a laxative and diuretic.  Many people use dried rose petals today to fragrance potpourris.  It is also used to smudges and to scent candles.

It's important to mention that although roses have been named Herb of the Year, not all variates belong in the herb garden.  According to The Herb Quarterly:

 "Roses bred before 1867 - before tea roses were introduced into the western world from China and hybridization took off - offer the best flavor, fragrance, and medicine.  If you are looking to add roses to your herb garden, here's a rundown of the major categories to look for:

 White or Alba Roses  (R. alba)
Cabbage or Centifolia Roses  (R, centifolia)
Damask Roses  (R. damascena)
Dog Roses  (R. cania)
Gallica Roses  (R. gallica)
Japanese or Rugosa Roses  (R. rugosa)
Sweetbriar  (R. rubinginosa"

For more a more extensive description of the rose varieties listed above and more information about roses in general, consult the Summer 2012 issue of Herb Quarterly.

The roses pictured in this article are from my garden.  Although I have a pretty extensive rose collection, I don't think I have the varieties listed above.  Since reading this wonderful article though, next season I will definitely be looking for them.

~ diane fergurson

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Yantras (kolam) for the Sun

Kolam (Mandala) the Sun

Navagraha kolams are yantras (tantric drawings) drawn to propitiate the planets and to invoke their blessings. These yantras for the the planets are said to originate from Soundarya Lahiri, a poem composed in praise of Devi by Sankara. Though yantras are typically etched on a copper plate, kolam is drawn in front of the home shrine using rice flour or can be drawn on paper also.

The image above is the kolam for the Sun. The line drawing is the kolam; I have added color and embellishments. Here are some significant astrological details regarding the Sun, the most important of nine grahas (planets):

Name in Sanskrit: Surya
Sign: Simha (Leo)
Day of the week: Ravivar (Sunday)
Direction: East
Season: Grishma (summer)
Nature: mildly malefic
Kaalapurusha rulership: Soul
Gender: Masculine
Father of: Yama (god of death) and Saturn (planet)

Karaka (significator): 1st and the 10th house
Exalted: Aries 10 deg; Moolatrikona sign: Leo 0-20 deg
Directional strength: 10th house
Natural friends: Jupiter, Mars and the Moon
Represents: Father, government, authority, temple
Represents (physical): Bones, heart, eyesight, head
Lordship of nakshatras (lunar mansions): Krittika, Uttara Phalguni, Uttara Ashada
Dasa length: 6 years
Favorable in houses: 3, 6, 10 and 11
Aspects: the 7th house from itself
Yogas: budhaaditya , veshi, voshi and ubhayachari 

Represents: devotion to lord Shiva

Navagraha Kirtana: Surya murte namostuthe by Muthuswami Dikshithar

Temples: The Sun Temple at Konarak, Orissa, India

Suriyanar Koil at Thirumangalakkudi, Tamilnadu, India

Mantra to chant: Om suryaya namah

Note: You may copy the kolam for your personal use.

~ I'd like to thank Indira Govindan, DharmaKarmaArts, for sharing this wonderful post with us ~

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Meditating Through Noise

I was beginning my meditation session the other day when the crane that was working down the street started up it's engine.  I chucked to myself and thought - well, that figures.  I didn't dwell on the noise though, and aside from that one quick thought the sound quickly faded away.  I drifted into my meditative state not bothered or interrupted by the crane or anything else around me.

When my meditation ended I found myself once again thinking about the noise from the crane.  It made me reflect back to some of the classes I have taken over the years and the varied approaches different teachers would take whenever some sound, noise or vibration would filter through the walls during our periods of meditation.

I had one teacher who would always hastily apologize to the class at the end of the session for any disturbance.  And there were always several students who would stand in front of her nodding right along, as if they really needed to hear her say those words.

Another teacher I had would not say anything if an unwanted noise made it's way into our class.  But if a student would mention the noise she would just shrug it off and answer - We don't live on top of a mountain in Tibet, do we?  It is what it is.

Then I had another class a few years ago where the students would never, ever mention anything about an unwanted noise...except one time.  I remember it so well.  The student was new and our teacher 'answered' by just standing there - with the sweetest most benevolent smile on his face that I have ever seen.  He didn't say a word.

Why did he do that?  Well, no we don't live on top of a mountain.  Our lives are and never will be completely serene.  Sure, going into meditation, among other things, will help us be able to get into a more calm receptive state - but it, as with everything else in life, is fluid.  Not perfect.  The conditions are not always as we may want it to be.  So you deal with it because meditation time is just another facet of life.  Smiling does help though ~

enjoy your day

 ~ diane fergurson

'Flower Mandala, Lavender Pink Peony - Love is Within' courtesy of Karen Casey-Smith.
Prints are available in her shop on Etsy.

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Artist,Writer, Jewelry Design