'Artists are gnostics, and practise what the priests think is long forgotten.' - Hugo Ball

Monday, 7 December 2009

'b' Gallery opening a terrific success

© Sue Wookey

The new 'b' Gallery in Toddington had a terrific opening day yesterday with crowds pouring through the doors. There were times when I could barely move - I kept finding myself trapped in odd corners by the tide. I'm certainly not complaining, it was incredible to see so many people interested in art and appreciating what Melanie Burnell and Julie Boyle have achieved at the Gallery. It's situated in a wonderful old building, built in Tudor times, although the exterior looks as though it's had a bit of an 18th century revamp:

© Sue Wookey

As you can see, it's right in front of the Parish Church, which is also well-worth a visit if you're up this way (there you are - two reasons to come...). The gallery has a wonderful atmosphere and as well as the artworks you can chill on comfy sofas, browse an art book or two and you might even get a cup of coffee to help you along. Mel and Julie have done a terrific job of making the place both lively and relaxing at one and the same time. Downstairs has jewellery, ceramics, cards and prints for Beryl Cook fans, as well as prints by other established artists and a large and beautifully painted view of Machu Picchu by Rolf Harris. Us local artists have most of our stuff upstairs in a huge room with a wonderful beamed roof. There is a LOT of it to see, with such a variety of styles and mediums to enjoy that I think anyone who visits will find something that inspires them. In case there is a slim chance you've forgotten what mine look like, here are some of them on the left:

© Sue Wookey

Hey - this is a GREAT place to do your Christmas shopping! Only 18 days left...).

Check out the post below for details of how to find the Gallery,

Saturday, 7 November 2009

2010 Heren Istarion Calendar

© Heren Istarion/Northeast Tolkien Society. Artwork © Jef Murray

The 3rd 2010 Calendar of the Northeast Tolkien Society is now available for order , featuring work by Jef Murray, Ted Nasmith, Ruth Lacon, Henning Jannsen and myself. I’m thrilled to be included in this year’s line-up with such luminaries.

From Heren Istarion: “The focus of this calendar has been, and we hope will continue, to feature work from artists that may not entirely be “household” names in fandom. Yet have been illustrating and inspired by Tolkien for many years. The 2010 NETS Calendar as a portal of creativity inspired by Tolkien widens the artistic lens with the work of Ruth Lacon, Henning Janssen and Sue Wookey, with sketches and illustrations by renowned Tolkien artist Ted Nasmith. The stunning visual representations of people, places and events from the history of Middle earth by these renowned artists stand as a testament to Tolkien’s plan, message and scope for a creative continuity of individual minds and hands to participate in a complex and beautiful world. A world Tolkien himself set the foundation for us all to build upon. The 2010 NETS Calendar would not be complete without a cover illustration and sketches by Jef Murray. This year, as we all are a part of a modern world with many complex issues, we can all take refuge and healing in what Jef has illustrated. We must remember Galadriel’s words to Sam “Let the Light be a guide for you in dark places,” which many of us find ourselves in right now.”

It’s good to be inspired by Tolkien’s world, to further his vision and explore the Middle-earth of our hearts and minds together.

The Calendar is a
Limited Edition, in the Shire Reckoning format with Gregorian offsets, with funds going to support the Northeast Tolkien Society.

Order Enquiries should be sent to
herenistarion@yahoo.com. The price is $20 + shipping and handling, and a minimum of 3-6 weeks should be allowed for delivery as the calendar is printed in small batches. Go on... you know you want one!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Moons and Mazes

The Road
© Sue Wookey

Well - Open Studios is over and done with and it's been a blast. It's been wonderful to have so many visitors and to have the chance to chat to them all and talk about what we do and why we do it. Hard to do without sounding all arty-farty. It's also been wonderful to have days where you aren't expected to do anything but sit and paint. I thought I'd just dabble with a few example techniques but ended up with some half decent paintings - amazing when you realise that you just can't leave a watercolour wash in mid-flow without total disaster. Somehow I managed to keep painting and talking at one the same time - at least I think I did. There are probably people out there who now think of me as 'that weird lady who talked gibberish while dipping her brush in her tea cup.'

The painting at the top is one of those that I managed to complete. The words around the outside read:

To finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. - Emerson

The Moon
© Sue Wookey

This was painted from a really amazing Nasa photo called 'Purple Moon'. There is so much detail on the Hubble photograph that the moon looks very dark and 'in your face', instead of the distant, pale, and fragile looking wafer we normally see. Judi, our glass artist, had used it as inspiration for a fused glass wall piece and suggested I had a go at painting it. Interesting to interpret one image in two mediums! My moon has hardly any purple, though, so it's now just 'The Moon'. The words around the outside are a poem I wrote quite a while ago which seemed appropriate:


The moon
is knocking on my window
full on,
no sideways smile
slithering behind the night,
no teasing through
a dusky slip of cloud,
but bare and bright
and fey -
drawing the blood tide
to dancing;
to measuring circles,
to conjuring her reincarnation
under the lunar white.

Sue Wookey

It was jolly difficult to fit all that in around the border without teeny-tiny writing but determination goes a long way....

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Artscape Exhibition

My paintings (left) and Vanessa Jayne Smyth's (right)
© Sue Wookey

Our Open Studios exhibition at Artscape is now up after a whole day of blood, sweat, tears and hammering and we are thrilled with how it looks. But I've discovered that there is no such thing as a straight line and, no matter how hard you try to corral them, paintings creep up and down walls of their own accord and laugh at you. How long is a piece of string? Any length but the length you thought it was when you measured it. That's how long it is.

Teresa Kirkpatrick's paintings (right) with mine again on the left
© Sue Wookey

The exhibition is above the shop at Artscape in Southdown, Harpenden and open from now until the end of the month. There are Open Days on the 12th, 17th-19th and the 24th-26th when some of us will be hanging around to talk arty stuff with you.

Judi Menges' beautiful glass
© Sue Wookey

Betty Stratham's Vogue inspired fashion sketches
© Sue Wookey

This has been a huge amount of preparation and it's good to see it all finally up on the wall. All we have to do now is deliver 1,000 flyers and persuade everyone we know that they haven't lived until they've seen it. Personally I never want see a tape measure or a nail again!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Great balls of fire...

Tree of Transformation
© Sue Wookey

I have two new paintings ready to go to our Open Studios Exhibtion in Harpenden on the 1st September (see post below). The Tree of Transformation came out of nowhere and painted itself while I had no idea what was going on. It just sort of grew. I don't know what you might see in it but I see worlds being re-formed and re-born, and it took me quite a while to realise the bird was going to be a Phoenix. Which is probably why it looks nothing like one. Luckily for me it has hardly any blue in it as blue is horrible to try to match for prints (which will be available very soon). I must remember to do more red and yellow paintings and save myself the agony of Cobalt Blue.

The Sun Boat
© Sue Wookey

This is a larger version of a little painting that I've had for sometime, meaning to work it up into something proper. To save you craning upside down the words around the picture read:

The Seket boat, wherein is thy majesty, goeth forth with might, thy beams are upon all faces, thy rays of red and yellow cannot be known, and thy bright beams cannot be told.

It's from a very old translation of the Papyrus of Ani, from E.A Wallace Budge's 'Egyptian Religion'. I rather like it. 'Thy rays of red and yellow' (and no tricky Cobalt Blue).

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Open Studios Exhibition

It's exhibition time again and this time I'm exhibiting with 4 others at Artscape in Harpenden, Herts. For any of you that managed to get to Purple Poppy - I've been working very hard and will be exhibiting 5 new paintings, the two
Sacred Landscapes (below), the Three Hares and two I haven't posted here yet: The Tree of Transformation and The Sun Boat of Ra.

The exhibition runs for a month from 1st September and there will be artists there on all the Open Studio days listed above. I'll be there myself on the 12th, 17th-19th and the morning of the 24th, attempting to demo some painting, or drawing or whatever is easiest under the circumstances! As well as paintings and glass work there will be limited-edition prints, photography and cards.

This will be a very varied exhibition and well worth a drop in, if you're in the neighbourhood.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Sacred Landscapes 3 and 4

Sacred Landscape 4
© Sue Wookey

I've completed two more in my Sacred Landscape series and prints are now available of both of them. These are imaginary prehistoric landscapes in which I've let my imagination run riot. I'm hoping they come across as full of energy with a dash of mysterious something-or-other thrown in! Making prints of the night time landscape was a hair-pulling-stare-despairingly-at-the-screen nightmare. For some reason certain shades of blue are horribly difficult to reproduce accurately and, after two days of fiddling trying to get the exact shade of cobalt blue (unsuccessfully...) I'm beginning to think I'll never paint with cobalt blue again. Or violet. Or cerulean. Or a particularly springy shade of yellowy green...

If Picasso had been making his own prints from his paintings he would never have had a Blue Period, it would have been Red, Red, Red.

Sacred Landscape 3
© Sue Wookey

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Three Hares go round and round...

© Sue Wookey
Three Hares

I've finally got around to scanning my latest paintings (more to come!) - I know it's been a while since I posted one. I have been painting, honest! This is a painting based on the ancient symbol of Three Hares. No one knows the real origin or meaning of this strange symbol, but it is found all along the Silk Road from China to South West England where it can be seen on church roof bosses and in stained glass. The Three Hares chase each other around and share three ears (not six) so it's a bit of an optical illusion. It's one of the many symbols that contain a trinity, like the triskelion (the Isle of Man symbol) and the Celtic symbol of three interlocking spirals. The symbol could be connected to the lunar cycle. Or perhaps not. No one knows. I've put moons in the painting anyway because - to me - it represents the cyclical passing of time which both races by faster than we can catch it and repeats at one and the same time.

For those straining to read the upside-down writing it says:

In time take time while time doth last, for time is no time when time is past : Anon


The passing minute is every man's equal posession, but what has once gone by is not ours : Marcus Aurelius

This is my second pass at this painting. I got a long way with it while I was having my boiler replaced (in an attempt to ignore the awful destruction) and made some ghastly errors. Never paint when your whole house is being turned upside down or you end up with the bin as your critic. Heigh ho.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Exhibition Extra

© Sue Wookey
The Purple poppy Gallery.

Well, the exhibition is over and it's gone very well indeed. I've really enjoyed sharing the venue with Steph, Emily and Adele, the other three artists, and I think we all had a wonderful time! I especially enjoyed my day manning the exhibit and talking to all the visitors about all the art on display. I think the combination of watercolour (me), mosaic (Emily Wilde), crochet (Steph Phillips) and mixed media (Adele Vallance) made for a very interesting and varied exhibit and I had a lot of positive feedback about all the work. I do it again like a shot! I'm very glad I invested in a giclee printer as prints have proved very popular and it's a great way to have some affordable art. The cards also went down a storm!

© Sue Wookey
My work on the right with Steph's crochet work in the corner.

Everyone was fascinated by Steph's work. I think it was a shock to most visitors how beautiful and inventive crochet can be - especially the delicate metal crocheted jewellery. A lot of the work was very knubbly and three dimensional and people got very touchy feely with it, tracing the shells and starfish on the bags.

© Sue Wookey
Some more of my paintings with Emily's mosaic work on the right.

The trouble with manning the exhibition for the day is that I started to get so attached to some of the items there that I could have blown any profits just buying stuff. I think Emily's mosaic in the middle of the photo would look fabulous in my bathroom but I had to keep reminding myself that I was there to SELL. But it would look fabulous...

© Sue Wookey
Adele's mixed media in the background and my prints under the window.

You can see some of Adele's work in the photo above. Adele sees the accretion of paint and debris on studio floors and tables as abstracts which show the passage of time affecting the surface of physical objects. She lifts these surfaces using very strong PVA glue and her series of 4 pictures were successive liftings from one area, getting lighter and lighter as there was less surface left to come away. It was interesting seeing people spotting the traces of ring marks and scratches on the surface and realising the random way in which they'd come together to form a design.

Thanks to Steph, Emily, Adele and Gallery owner Myra for a really fun four days!

Friday, 19 June 2009

The exhibition at the Purple Poppy Gallery is finally up and running and I've discovered one of my fellow artists is also a fellow blogger. You can read her report about our rather exhausting hanging (I'll know just how much work is really is next time) over here on her blog Hook and Scrumble, and see some of her inspired crochet work. It's come a long way since my mum used to do doillies. I urge you to take a look and see how inventive it can really be!

I shall be covering the exhibition on Sunday and I'm really looking forward to it. Maybe I'll actually remember to take my camera this time and give you some photos!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


© Purple Poppy

I have an exhibition coming up on the 18th-21st June at the Purple Poppy Gallery in Ampthill and am in a frenzy of activity framing paintings and putting all the finishing touches to some prints and cards. I am starting to see cello bags in my sleep ;-). I'll be sharing the venue with three other artists who work in mosaic, crochet and mixed media so it will be a really interesting and varied exhibition, as you can see from the flyer above! The Gallery also has a wonderful shop featuring the work of local artists; everything from paintings to stunning jewellery and pottery, so it's well worth the visit out to Ampthill. I'll be manning the Gallery on Sunday 21st. Maybe I'll see some of you there?

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Standing Stones and stuff

© Sue Wookey

Another Sacred Landscape painting, this time inspired by those mysterious cup-and-ring markings found on so many old stones dotted around the country. I've cut away the hill to show the ground water beneath the stones and tried to make the whole painting pulse with energy. No idea what the markings really meant to the people who carved them but it's fun speculating!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


© Sue Wookey

I've finally got around to posting Fimbrethil, who is busying herself with the 'lesser trees', the 'meads in the sunshine' and the fruits of the earth. I've painted her, as Treebeard describes her, 'bent and browned' with hair 'parched by the sun to the hue of ripe corn' and cheeks 'like red apples'. Underneath the painting it says:

When honey spills, and apple swells, though wind be in the west,
I'll linger here beneath the Sun, because my land is best.

If only we had the entwives tending the good earth and nurturing it for us still.

Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Amon Hen and Mallorn

© Sue Wookey

One of my paintings - Gandalf the White - is on the cover of The Tolkien Society's Bulletin 'Amon Hen' this month and has come out looking very well given the humungous amount of detail crammed into a very small space. I also designed the leafy writing, which was great fun to do - I'll now have to try and come up with an entire leafy alphabet! Many thanks to Andrew Butler for letting me do another cover and scrawl leafily all over it.

The Tolkien Society's Biannual Journal 'Mallorn' also came out this month and is so unexpectedly full of my paintings (I expected 2 and ended up with 4 full colour illustrations and 2 pen sketches) that I really think that I'll have to kiss Henry Gee's feet the next time I see him. A great boost for any artist trying to get their stuff 'out there'. I hope everyone enjoys seeing them as much as I enjoyed painting them!

I have two more Tolkien paintings coming up which I will post when I can get the scans done. I've finally got around to painting Mrs Fangorn AKA Fimbrethil who - due to an unfortunate combination of spiky twigs and cheery red cheeks - went through an totally uncalled for Mrs Tiggywinkle phase before I managed to rescue her. Now she looks like an ent should and not as though she rolls through the grass collecting leaves in her spare time. Plus I'm in the middle of wrestling with a colour version of Glaurung and I think Glaurung is winning. The painting is, at the moment, horrendous and unless Turin comes along (AKA my muse...) Glauring will have the whole painting in shreds in the bin. At least he doesn't look like Mrs Tiggywinkle.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Prints now available!

© Sue Wookey

Success! I've struggled through the technical minefield of setting up my new large-format printer and can finally produce my own prints. These are giclee prints produced on archival fine-art paper. They should outlast us all without withering and fading (would that I could say the same for myself) and I can hardly tell them apart from my originals. Which is a bit disturbing, really.

So... I can now provide prints on demand for all my paintings (and drawings too, I suppose, I haven't tried that yet!). All the paintings above and those posted here in the last 6 months are already available and I can easily set up others on request if I haven't already got there. All the details are on my website at www.galleyhillart.com.

Talking about the website - all I have to do now is figure out how to set up the international shipping options, which are so awful all I ever do is take a peek at it's inner workings and run. If you're out there beyond Britain in the wide, wide world and want a print, just email me on the contact page while I work out how to wrestle the shipping options to the ground.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

I do love a good dragon...

Glaurung's death throes
© Sue Wookey

Like Tolkien I love a good dragon and as dragons go Glaurung is right up there at the top of the treasure heap. I've been trying to capture that most terrifying of all dragon encounters - waiting for one to crawl right over you: 'the watchers from beneath could see the huge shadow of his head against the stars; and his jaws gaped, and he had seven tongues of fire.' The Children of Hurin. I've drawn the moment when Turin has buried Gurthang in Glaurung's belly and the dragon is just beginnig to roll away. I think there is a very scary painting in here somewhere but, for the moment, I quite enjoy the extreme contrasts between dark and light that you can get with a good old pencil drawing. Sometimes it's nice not to think about colour!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

New paintings

Raven with the Sun
Sue Wookey

I've finally completed the colour version of the Raven with the Sun after posting the sketch for this in January:

Here a raven has the sun in his beak (as in the Native American myths where Raven gave light to the world), but the light is at the heart of a maze - in other words in the heart of us, at the centre of our journey. The feathers are souls that the raven is guiding inwards.

Ravens can have a lot of negative associations (Poe, anyone?) but I see them as a positive symbol, a guide through difficult transitions.

Indian Tree of Life and Knowledge
Sue Wookey

This has gone all colourful - it didn't start out like this at all! It's based on a wonderful 17th century bronze chola sculpture, although I've simplified it a lot. I just loved the shape and simplicity of the design. I've tried to incorporate a balance of opposites into it as the Tree of Life stands at the centre of all things, the place where the one separates into the many. When I finished it I realised that the tree looks rather brain-like, which is sort of cool and rather disturbing at one and the same time...

Monday, 9 February 2009

The problem with Ents...

I've been thinking around the whole knotty problem of Treebeard and the Ents (especially the Entwives) for a good while now and am still at the drawing stage, trying to work out what they actually look like. As Treebeard says, let's not be hasty. Tolkien's descriptions really don't help, creating additional problems like how does Treebeard's head work when there doesn't appear to be a neck as such? How do you stop Treebeard's barky 'trunk' with smooth arms from looking like he's striding about wearing an all weather gilet? And how do you make female ents look... well... female when they also must have rough barky skin and 'treeish' proportions.

I've only got as far as Treebeard's head - the rest of his body is still an unknown country - and he has come out very twiggy with peeling bark and lichen eyebrows, owl-like eyes and a circular, knotty effect that looks very satisfyingly like wrinkles and wierd facial tatoos all in one go:

Sue Wookey

The Entwives gave me a lot of problems. They need to be plainly female but if you make them too barky you can't refine their features and they look rather male, if you make them smooth they look rather naked. I've given them some strategically placed peeling bark that leaves most of their heads and faces clear. Here is a sketch for a Fimbrethil painting. She appears as Treebeard would have last seen her, bent and rosy cheeked, and if it was in colour you'd see the straw like, bleached colour of her hair:

Sue Wookey

It's not a final version and I've done some more Entwives since which shows them evolving a little so I expect she'll end up looking quite different when I get around to painting her! I have tall thin Entwives and a fat, jolly Entwife. I guess, like Ents and people, they come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. I think the bottom one looks as though she might be rather hasty, given half a chance:

Sue Wookey

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

What do you do with an 8 legged horse?

Well - with raven references seemingly cropping up everywhere I look and crows divebombing my car everytime I go for a drive, I've decided that it's time I took note and contemplated my inner raven (don't blame me, blame the universe. Sometimes it's just very wierd). So I've been practising my drawing skills by exploring raven folklore and myth, starting off with Odin and his two faithful ravens, Hugin and Munin (Thought and Memory). How great to have a couple of ravens looking after those for you. Actually, ravens are very nice to draw and I could be doing this for a while, exploring those extraordinary beaks and the way ravens change shape - sometimes sleek and slim, sometimes menacing and fluffed up (can a raven fluff?)

Odin, Hugin and Mugin
© Sue Wookey

This finally led me to the basis for a new painting I've just started. Here a raven has the sun in his beak (as in the Native American myths where Raven gave light to the world), but the light is at the heart of a maze - in other words in the heart of us, at the centre of our journey. The feathers are souls that the raven is guiding inwards. Mucho deep stuff there to explore.

Raven with the sun
© Sue Wookey

On another tack, all the Odin related sketching led me to thinking about Sleipnir, his eight legged horse. I mean, how does an 8 legged horse work? After looking at some stuff and scribbling a bit, I came to the conclusion that the old Norse peoples had it right with their carvings. The only way to draw Sleipnir is from the side so you can fudge the massive space where all those legs are supposed to fit. That way he still looks horsey (i.e. elegant and streamlined) as opposed to looking like an oncoming tank that wouldn't fit though a barn door. So I finally managed to produce a Sleipnir I'm (fairly) happy with and had quite a bit of fun doing it.

Odin's 8 legged super horse, Sleipnir
© Sue Wookey

I'd put Odin up on top of him but there is only so much fun one can cope with in one day.