Midweek writing prompt – Cast Out

Cast out cr Heather Nevay

Cast Out © Heather Nevay

How I love this painting! Created by the splendidly disquieting Heather Nevay, Cast Out seems to me to capture the moment just after a child has fallen out with her siblings and playmates, and stormed off muttering, “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead!”

But what’s the significance of the dolls’ house on wheels? What doe it represent? Part of me can’t help wondering if her family have been shrunken by her rage and trapped inside, at her mercy. And looking at the anger in that girl’s eyes, I wouldn’t predict a particularly happy ending.

Oh, and before you begin, did you notice the ears sticking out of her intricately braided hair? And is that a tail in the right-hand corner of the picture.

So many options!

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.

All I want for Christmas…

Library-Bookcase-Chair cr Alexander Love…well, not all. I mean, I’d also like a publishing contract, a warm house, a new pair of jeans, and, um, world peace, and quite a lot of other things, but yes, this amazing library chair is definitely high up on my wish list.

It’s designed and made by Alexander Love over in Brooklyn, and would look right at home in the corner of my office, providing I remove a few less beautiful items of furniture.

Foxy enjoying the Library chair cr Alexander Love“My parents had a coffee table that had books all the way round it and I thought it would make a good footstool with a cushion on top,” Alexander says. “When I drew it out with a cushion, I just carried on sketching and it turned into an armchair!”

And, by golly, it’s gorgeous. Deep enough to curl up in (and clearly as comfy for cats as for humans), it features 27-feet of shelf storage for your favourite books. There are several upholstery fabrics to choose from, but I’ve fallen for this rich peacock feather print. I also love the fact the armrests provide a space for steaming coffee cups.

“The sale that touched me the most was to a school in Ohio,” says Alexander. “The Reading and Literature teacher, Barbara Rooney, had died and she was such a popular teacher and had been there so long that the school decided to commemorate her time there and chose the Library Chair for the purpose. We fixed a bronze plaque on the back, stating: ‘The Barbara Rooney Reading Nook.’”

What a fab way to be remembered! In fact, if I managed to get one of these into my home, I’d be tempted to spend all my days, as Alexander puts it, “enveloped by books.” Heaven!

Find full details at www.TheLibraryChair.com.

Become a travel writer for French Entrée

Lamothe_rural France

Rural France © CDT Auvergne/Lamothe

FrenchEntrée, the English-language website for people who love France, is searching for expats eager to describe their experiences of living and working in France.

Originally launched in 2004, the new-look website from the travel and property specialists provides comprehensive advice on everything from buying a property to cultural and leisure tips for those considering moving to, or who are already living in, the country.

The unpaid role will give you a chance to raise your profile as a writer, as well as providing the opportunity to share your love of France and all it has to offer with an audience of around 250,000 people a month.

Founder and Managing Director Guy Hibbert says: “With the new site’s focus on fresh content week in and week out, we are looking for authentic voices of all ages that can add something new to our considerable store of articles – whether that’s the trials and tribulations of a renovation project, or simply navigating the cultural rules of life in France.”

The website has been re-designed to appeal to increasing numbers of users accessing it from a tablet or smartphone.

Interested? Email FrenchEntrée Editor Justin Postlethwaite at justin@francemedia.com with a brief outline of your experience. If possible, include links to blogs or sites you already contribute to, or other examples of your writing.

Find out more about the brand at www.frenchentree.com.

Signs by Louise Gethin

Mardyke Ferry Road cr Judy Darley“It’s around here somewhere.” Martha glanced at the map in her hand and pointed at the sign. “Look, Mardyke Ferry Road.”

            “ Well, I can’t see the lighthouse.” John frowned.

“Maybe it’s just up around the bend. Watch your step, it’s muddy.  I told you you should’ve worn your boots.”

“Okay. You were right.” Behind her, he tried to discreetly rub his plimsolls in the grass at the side of the path. He’d nearly slipped a dozen times already.  He would never live it down if he went flying.

Martha sped on. She, of course, was wearing her sturdy boots, the ones that had taken her to Annapurna Base Camp and back, as well as The Sugar Loaf, Blorenge, Snowdon and, and, and. John smiled. He loved her more than anyone although he could rarely say so. She was so…..resilient and unremittingly positive. She was Tigger to his Eeyore. He moved on. Why hadn’t he worn his boots? There’d been rain for days. He grimaced. It was in his nature never to do what he was told or even let himself feel he was being told. Perhaps if Martha hadn’t mentioned the boots at all, he would’ve worn them without a second thought. But no, they’d been cleaned and put out ready.

Up ahead, she was reaching the bend.

“I can see it.” she shouted back to him before disappearing out of view.  The Mardyke Ferry Landing was a historic site, long out of use since the floods of 1962 had swept Braveheart out to sea and the long awaited New Bridge had spanned the two islands. Nowadays, people drove across, or even walked the two miles. Hardly anyone bothered with the landing anymore and it had made its way into the Forgotten Sites Walks book by David Hellinger.

John made it to the bend and stopped to catch his breath. Wind whistled, leaves rustled and danced in the air. A horn sounded. He couldn’t see her.

“Martha.” He called. The word wavered away from him. “Martha!”

“Move out of the way, mister.” A group of boys in shorts cascaded past him on scooters. “We’ll miss the last ferry and there’ll be hell to pay.”

Clouds gathered overhead.

John made his way down towards the landing. It didn’t look forgotten. It was packed with people pushing to get on the ferry. The horn sounded again.  He looked in all directions. Where was Martha? Surely, she would’ve have waited for him; wouldn’t have just got on. Anyway, that hadn’t been part of the plan.

Drops of rain started to fall.

He would just wait until she arrived. She would show up eventually.

Soon everyone was aboard. The rain was heavier now. Wind whipped his cheeks.

“Are you coming across, Johnnie?” A man with a cap and a so’wester called as he started to pull up the walkway. “I can’t wait, there’s a storm brewing.”

John shook his head and waved.  How did he know his name?

The man untied the ropes and the ferry motored towards Dunbar, its wake washing up on the shore line.

As the ferry reached the mid-point between the islands, a swirl of wind spiralled into view. John watched horrified as the boat was taken and spun out to sea. Screams echoed in his ears as the waves and wind crushed and crashed the vessel into the lighthouse. Martha? A dull ache started in his chest.

“There you are.”

He blinked.

“I’ve been looking all over for you.” Martha was standing in front of him holding two cups of steaming liquid.  Rain glistened on her face. Behind her the landing creaked in the wind. The middle section had fallen away and a Danger  Do Not Enter sign swung across the entrance, on a chain.

“There’s a café just behind that old toilet block there. The waiter, Johnnie, his name is, was so interesting.  He remembers the landing in its prime and the Braveheart. He told me about the day she disappeared. He was only small; said he was watching the last sailing of the day and…”

“…..a wind spun it out to sea where it was lost with all the people?” John finished. The pain in his chest dissipating.

“Yes.”  Martha frowned. “How did you know? It didn’t say anything about it in Forgotten Sites.”

“I just saw it happen, somehow.”

“Are you feeling alright? You look pale.”

“Yes.”

“Let’s go back and speak to him. He swears that whenever there’s a storm, he still hears the screams.”

Martha led John around the old toilet block then stopped in her tracks.  “How strange. It was here a minute ago.” She looked at her drink.

John took a sip of his. “Well, this is real and so are you.” He put his arm around her and led her back to the landing. For some time they stared out to sea, each wondering what it meant

“I thought I’d lost you for a minute back there.” John broke the silence.  “I don’t think I could bear that.”

Martha leaned into him and murmured. “I love you too.”

louise-gethin-reads-signs-at-small-stories-bristol-nov-2014Author bio

Louise Gethin writes about Love, Death and anything in between.  She is a co-founding member of Bristol Writers Group and has appeared in Hidden Bristol and Ashton Walks - anthologies of short stories written by the group.  She is also an affiliate member of Bristol Women’s Writing Group and, in 2013, appeared in Unchained – an anthology of poems and short stories published by Tangent Books.   She has appeared at Word of Mouth Events (Thunderbolt, Bath Road) and took part in this year’s Poetry Slam at the Arnofilni.

Living landscapes with Christa Hillekamp

Shimmering Town cr Christa HillekampThe townscapes of Christa Hillekamp bloom out of the desert like a glimmering heap of scales, shells, petals – aglow with all the light and heat they’ve absorbed.

Rush1 cr Christa Hillekamp

Even her ocean waves suggest sand and sinew – alive with the stories of people met and imagined on Christa’s travels across the world.

In fact, art and travel are the twin driving forces of Christa’s work.

“Since my early childhood I liked to draw and paint with anything I could find: with a stick in the sand, with broken stones or charcoal, on walls and paving slabs, and later on paper – this was for me a way to escape into a fantasy world,” she explains. “The other way to escape as I grew older was by hitchhiking to explore new environments, cities, countries and people of different cultures.”

Though born in Cologne, Germany, Christa sought a sense of belonging overseas. “I think that from a young age I lived my life trying to satisfy my wanderlust,” she says. “Only later I did I realise that the feeling of being rooted nowhere was a strong drive to search for a place where I would feel at home.”

Abandoned fields cr Christa Hillekamp

When her daughter was three years old and Christa had just finished studying for a social work qualification, Christa ventured out into the wider world once more. “We moved to Portugal and later lived in Côte d´azur, France, but still I felt like a stranger and when school started for my daughter we moved back to Germany.”

Around this time, Christa met Thomas, the man she would fall in love with and marry.

“Together we decided to live in South of Spain, where we felt very welcome. We’ve now lived for twenty years in the little mountain village of Cómpeta, Andalucia.”

She adds, “I no longer put too much importance on living somewhere that feels like home, because I feel much more home in myself, surrounded by friends I love, and especially with Thomas.”

I will find you cr Christa Hillekamp

Christa never lost her desire to be an artist. “Though I studied social work and was employed for many years in Germany as a theatre set-builder, there was no question inside me that art was my real profession. “

During her last two years living in Germany, Christa spent time as a social worker at Prison Lübeck, organising art classes with the inmates as part of this. “After moving to Cómpeta I worked in a project for kids and young adults with all sorts of problems. Art became an important part of this, because it provides a wonderful way to connect with people and create dialogues, both verbal and visual.”

Since becoming a full-time artist, Christa has discovered the pleasure of experimenting with a broad range of materials, including metal, wire mesh, plastic, rust, earth, wood, glass, mother of pearl, sand, horse hair, pigments, bark, and glitter. “Underneath the crust of earth there are layers over layers from millions of years,” she comments. “Here in the mountains you often see fissure through huge rocks. I like to reflect this in my work, building up layers, carving the layers, bringing out structures from deep inside the material. Texture both reveals and disguises sections of my paintings, engaging our senses in different ways.”

Christa’s paintings often tell stories too. “’Memory of a Journey with the Lost Friend’ (shown below) is a painting about a good friend who died in 2008,” she says. “We were travelling together in South Marueco in the desert, so the painting is my way of saying goodbye.”

Memory of a journey with the lost friend cr Christa Hillekamp

More recently, Christa has been turning her artist’s eye to the UK, not least because she is represented by Paragon Gallery in Cheltenham.

“Only two month ago Thomas and I visited Cheltenham for the first time, and then went to Exmoor, Cornwall and Devon,” she says. “I was impressed by the wild landscape. Once back in Cómpeta I painted from memory the painting: ‘The Hidden Coast Path’ (detail shown below), which I like very much.”

Discover more of Christa’s work at www.christahillekamp.com.

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

The Hidden Coast Path, detail cr Christa Hillekamp

Midweek writing prompt – open art

RWA Interior Photography by Mark Ashbee

RWA interior © Mark Ashbee

Last week I spend a delicious morning meandering through the breathtakingly diverse array of art of show at the RWA’s 162nd Open Exhibition.

Serena Curmi painting, Images from the Private View 11th OctoberI spotted a characteristically contemplative painting by Serena Curmi (titled Judgment – but who is the girl in the image judging? Herself?), and a beautiful, resonant sculpture (literally – when you run your hand over its spines, which you’re invited to do, it sings) by Kim Francis called Child.

I brought along a largish notepad and a handful of pens, and took my time, pausing to jot down notes whenever an idea or thought nudged me. By the time I left I had ideas for half a dozen stories, a rough first draft of a poem and a complete piece of flash fiction.

I urge you to do the same. The RWA Annual Open Exhibition is on until 7 December 2014, but if you can’t make it to Bristol, why not visit your local gallery or museum? The key is time – a good, solid chunk of it, to soak in the works on display and allow your subconscious to take what you see and turn it into an original piece of writing.

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.

Poetry review – Short Days, Long Shadows by Sheenagh Pugh

Short Days, Long Shadows by Sheenagh PughAs we hurtle towards the time of year when this title becomes ever truer, I’ve been drawn to pick up Sheenagh Pugh’s 12th collection again. I reviewed it for Mslexia’s Sep/Oct/Nov 2014 issue, but with only a handful of words to play with, feel the need to take another, perhaps deeper look.

Sheenagh writes of the tenacity of living things to live while speeding towards their own inevitable demise. Yet her pragmatism makes this a far from melancholy thing. Indeed, she seems to suggest that our mortality should make the joy of the everyday that bit more intense.

In her opening poem, Extremophile, Sheenagh marvels at the ability of life to take hold and thrive in the least hospitable environments: molluscs “in the night of the ocean floor”, lichens “on Antarctic valleys where no rain ever fell.” It sets the tone for a collection celebrating vitality in all forms.

In Staying she explores the energies of the ground beneath us: “This fissured sea-cliff/ travelled north from the equator; its heights were once an ocean floor.”

Sheenagh draws the focus in tight too, examining the ageing process in poems like Terra Nova and Catching Up, and the aftermath of death itself in Travelling With Ashes. Yet there’s no sentimentality or regret in lines like “and the sunlight’s morse sent answering flashes/ off broken windscreens, a code he once knew”, simply an awareness that this is what comes to us all – so all that remains is the minutiae others can conjure up in memory.

Medals paints a picture of a military career in the most tender terms, with each stanza named for a different medal and location, telling a different chapter of a life. Other poems highlight the moments we’ll recall forever: a wedding nights in an ice hotel (there is a lot of ice, snow and fog in this collection), encounters with raw nature, and, unexpectedly, an homage to a bronze statue.

Sheenagh seems to be reminding us, I think, that every detail can be important, if we choose it to be.

Her steady humour shines out from between couplets and lines. The Vanishing Bishop made me smile as she describes digging up the ancient corpse of a bishop, sending for someone to come from the museum, and sitting with him, contented. “His whole face/ suddenly settled, fell in on itself, letting go its last memory/ of who he’d been.”

And the bit that made me want to laugh: when the scientists arrive, she confesses wanting to say: “You only just missed him; he was here with me a moment ago.”

The normality of the phrasing is an elegant touch in such an extraordinary circumstance, and clarifies my impression of what this collection is about – not just the wonder of life, but a thrill at its brevity.

Sheenagh revels in the ice hotel that will melt in spring and be rebuilt differently, catches and holds up the moment when your eyes see something not quite there, and relishes the truth that even the most seemingly permanent natural structures are “on the move.”

And as the poet shares her joy in the transience of things, that title seems more apt than ever. Our time here may be fleeting, but if we turn a fierce enough gaze on our time, it will cast a long, enduring shadow.

Short Days, Long Shadows by Sheenagh Pugh is published by Seren Books and available to buy from Amazon.

To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Write a ghost story for Emerald Street

The Ghost of Clearwell Caves cr Judy Darley’tis well and truly the season of ghost stories, so why not follow in the footsteps of Susan Hill and scare yourself (and everyone else) silly?

Emerald Street, the fab online mag affiliated with Stylist magazine, have launched their first writing competition and invite you to enter!

In collaboration with Little Brown’s digital imprint Blackfriars (which is on the search for new writing talent), the winning entry will be published as a free ebook. The winner and the first two runners up will win a Kobo e-reader and the entire shortlist will have their stories published on emeraldstreet.com.

Emerald Street had an enormous impact on the writing career of a SkyLightRain favourite Rachael Chadwick, so being feature by them is a pretty fabulous prize in itself!

To enter the writing competition you need to write an original ghost story or supernatural thriller of 2,000-3,000 words (in English) “with a fresh and distinctive voice.”

Entering is free, but you must be subscribed to the Emerald Street email (also free) to submit your story. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday 2 December 2014.

Find full rules and entry details here.

Entries will be judged by the Emerald Street team, and winners will be notified by email on or by Monday 8 December 2014. The results of the competition will be announced in Emerald Street in January 2015.

Budapest – 10 Top Experiences

Buda and Pest from Gellert Hill cr Judy DarleyThere’s so much to enjoy about the Hungarian capital! For starters, the River Danube flows fatly through it, necessitating, of course, a number of glorious bridges. The landscape here boasts an abundance of thermal springs resulting in countless elegant spas to choose between. Dinky yellow trams rumble through streets lined with extraordinary architecture and artwork, from statues honouring playwrights, artists and musicians to pop-up sculptures by the likes of Ervin Loránth Hervé, (see below). And, perhaps best of all, what we know as Budapest is in fact Buda and Pest, twin cities laid out on either side of the Danube, with two very distinct personalities.

Ervin Loranth Herve pop up sculpture_Szechenyi Ter cr Judy Darley

Then there are the cafés, the ruin bars, the antique shops, and so much more. We flew in late on Tuesday and left halfway through Saturday, and in that time saw, walked, ate, drank, and experienced as much as we possibly could.

Here are my top ten recommendations for Budapest.

Budapest Tram cr Judy Darley

1 Sample the public transport

A bit of an unlikely one, this, but truly, the public transport is a joy. Even getting from the airport into Pest was a joyful adventure, and the beautiful elderly Millennium metro line added a happy dollop of vintage gorgeousness into the mix. Look at the wood panelling! Admire the ceramic titles! It’s the second oldest in Europe (London wins), and certainly the most elegant I’ve experienced.

Vorosmarty utca Millennium Metro stop cr James Hainsworth

2 Take a walking tour of Buda

Budapest castle district Vienna Gate cr Judy DarleyThis is the ideal way to find out all about the city’s history, take in some beautiful scenery, glean some local knowledge (our guide’s told us that when Hungarian children talk back, their parents say their mouths are as wide as the Vienna Gate, (shown left), and work off a fraction of the cake you’ve eaten/are about to eat.

If, as we did, you get a Budapest Card, there are free walking tours leaving daily from daily from Szentháromság Square (just opposite St Matthias church) in the Castle District at 2pm.

3 Eat cake

Judy eating cake at Anna Cafe cr James HainsworthSuch hardship! Coffee and cake are cultural staples here, and every street you walk down will offer a few options. This is definitely not a city for the weight- or waist-conscious, though we found a mid-morning cake saw us through to late afternoon. The Hungarians are no doubt preparing for the cold winter ahead. Our excuse? We were on holiday!

We peeked in at famous confectionary Gerbeaud on Vorosmarty Ter, but thought the prices were high and the portions small, so we walked onwards along the riverside to Fővám tér, where we discovered Anna Café. The spectacular wedge of cake, shown left cost around £3 with a coffee.

4 Explore Budapest Central Market

Budapest Central Market cr Judy Darley

The best place for buying paprika, sausages, and yes, yet more cake. It’s a beautiful building, and also has a number of excellent little eateries on the mezzanine floor, including Fakanal Restaurant, where you can lunch on hearty goulash and watch all the activity unfolding in the market below. The market closes at around 6pm, though, so don’t bank on eating your evening meal there too.

Budapest salami shop cr James Hainsworth

Oh, and by the by, CNN named Budapest’s Central Market Hall as the greatest one in Europe, better than Mercat de San Josep de la Boqueira in Barcelona, The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Portobello Road market in London and Les Puces in Paris. Quite an accolade!

5 Stroll over the Danube

Liberty Bridge cr Judy Darley

There are several divinely strung bridges to choose from, but the grandest is the green-painted Liberty Bridge, close to the Central Market. Choose a sunny day and you’ll be in for fabulous views of Buda and Pest, the river, the boats and the other bridges.

And yes, that is the famed Hungarian Statue of Liberty poised on the hillside in the above image – we’re just getting to that.

6 Hike up Gellért Hill

This rural oasis hill is on the Buda side of the river, and is topped by Hungary’s very own Statue of Liberty, the Szabadság Szobor.

Gellert Hill Statue of Liberty cr Judy Darley

At 14 metres tall, perched atop a 26-metre pedestal, the statue is undeniably impressive, wafting her palm leaf over both sides of the capital. She was installed in 1947 to commemorate the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi forces – ironic really, given the years of terror that would follow under socialism.

Gellert Hill cr Judy Darley

The views from the summit are outstanding, especially in autumn as the leaves turn gold.

7 Discover The Whale

Where better to spend a rainy afternoon than in the belly of a whale? This glimmering building, known locally as the Bálna, rests between Petőfi Bridge and Szabadság Bridge.

The Whale cr Judy Darley It houses exhibition spaces, dinky shops, bars and cafés, and is a great place to meander while waiting for the sun to reappear.

8 Visit Liszt

Visiting Liszt Ferenc cr Judy Darley

Budapest is a city of music, not least because composer Franz Liszt hailed from here – you may have noticed that the airport you flew into is named after him. If you catch the Millennium Metro to Octagon, you can stroll to Liszt Ferenc Ter (Franz Liszt Square). Take a stroll around this area and you’ll discover the Liszt Academy of Music, and the Hungarian State opera house (daily tours offer a glimpse into this gorgeous building), as well as an exuberant statue of the man himself, surrounded by lovely street cafés, and, um, Hooters. Something for everyone, then.

9 Step inside the basilica

St Stephen's Basilica cr Judy Darley

St Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic marvel of domes and turrets, named after Hungary’s first Christian king. You can enter this religious edifice in exchange for a 200 forint donation (less than £1), and gawp at the statues, candelabras and an opulent embarrassment of paintings and ornamentation by famous Hungarian artists.

St Stephen's Basilica, dome cr Judy Darley

10 Wallow at Gellért Baths

Opened in 1918, this is the ideal place to wallow, dream and relax, and was the highlight of my visit to Budapest.

Gellert Thermal Bath

Image supplied by Gellért Baths

We started in the outdoor adventure pool, a thermal bath around which trees waft their leaves and classical statues add to the ambiance. As the warm mineral-rich water and bubbles eased away every trace of travel-tension, the sight of people emerging from the nearby sauna to submit themselves to an icy plunge pool kept us endlessly entertained.

Gellert Spa

Image supplied by Gellért Baths

Inside, more pools await, as well as saunas and Turkish baths, with art nouveau tiling, stained glass recesses and sculptures adding to the sense of having slipped into the faded grandeur of a bygone, far more civilised age. Along with tourists like ourselves, we encountered locals enjoying their regular soak and steam. There’s clearly nowhere better to enjoy a morning gossiping with friends and setting the world to rights. An absolute pleasure.

Find more Budapest highlights at uk.gotohungary.com.

Unsettling childhoods with Heather Nevay

The Murder 1 cr Heather Nevay

The Murder © Heather Nevay

The best fairytales enchant and dismay in equal measure – just as childhood can be a time of joy and fear, often switching as swiftly as the wind. Think of childhood games where one chases the other, and raucous laughter turns to panicked shrieks as the imagination takes control. Heather Nevay’s rich oil paintings capture this duality, where the wild and the tame rest within her subjects, dictating whether the doll they hold will be cradled or beheaded.

“I have ‘collections’ of paintings – like Playroom and Flesch and Blood – which I work out totally in my sketchbook before I start painting,” Heather says, bringing the working methods of filmmakers to mind. “The subject, composition and colour palette are all clear in my head before I begin.”

The collections examine different themes or ideas Heather is intrigued by, mulling them over before starting work, sometimes for a couple of years. “The title can sometimes come first,” she says.

Betrayal cr Heather Nevay

Betrayal © Heather Nevay

Each of the figures is based on real children that Heather knows. “I photograph their faces and make up the rest, which is why the faces have continuity.”

Scattered through the scenes are toy animals, building blocks, dolls houses and boats, all of which help to flesh out the symbolism Heather is exploring in her work. “The toys help build an iconography I can draw on,” she says. “The dolls’ house is pivotal. In a child’s mind it can be a palace, a refuge, a prison or the chance to have power over the inhabitants – it allows them to  create their own world.”

Carnival of the Relics cr Heather Nevay

Carnival of the Relics © Heather Nevay

Heather insists that her own upbringing was happy. “I had a lovely childhood, very ordinary, with a mum, dad and a sister 18 months older than me,” she says. “I had a very close, loving family life and enjoyed a great school life too. People often think I must have been very troubled but I think my security allows me space to dig deep!”

Heather exploits the savagery of childhood, where myth, nightmares and daydreams all overlap with squabbles over hierarchy, jealously and misunderstandings. The misheard becomes real, and event the sweetest imaginings can have teeth that snap and snarl when no one else is looking.

In this context, Heather says, not having children helps with her creations. “I have no children and have never wanted any, and so have a very practical, unromantic overview of all the kids I come into contact with.”

The Corruption of the Maidens cr Heather Nevay

The Corruption of the Maidens © Heather Nevay

Inspiration comes from some unexpected sources too. “ I listen to Radio 4 a lot, so I hear a vast amount of diverse programmes with information seeping in by osmosis. Articles in the newspapers, images and just random words can trigger something.”

Despite their grotesqueness, Heather’s works exude elegance too, perhaps because she reference the Renaissance painters and Flemish artists as “a constant reminder of quality in draughtsmanship and beauty.”

Heather’s latest collection, Flesch and Blood, was based on the Salem Witch Trials, “though most folks wouldn’t know it. I heard a programme about collective hysteria and it kind of clicked.”

Find Heather at www.heathernevay.net.

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com.