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Some inspiration can’t be bought online. However…

May 30, 2014

If you drop by Dancing Beastie from time to time, you might perhaps have noticed a slowly-growing column of images tucked down at the bottom of the right-hand side of the page. It goes by the catchy headline, ‘Inspiring me this month’.

Here is where I put links to books and music that have captured the spirit of the moment for me. I began it in October 2012, fresh from a week’s art course in Venice, when I was bubbling over with enthusiasm for La Serenissima and her cultural treasures. The first link I put on my ‘inspirations’ column was, therefore, to a CD of the sort of resonant choral music I had heard during High Mass in St. Mark’s Basilica; a CD which I listened to over and over again in the following weeks.

St. Mark's, Venice

The glimmering splendour of St. Mark’s, Venice

Back home in Scotland, the year was mellowing into a golden autumn, a season for cooking up comforting dishes and sharing firelit evenings with those you love. Some friends visiting from south-west England brought with them the perfect cookbook to inspire me for the shortening days, which again I wanted to share here.

Gradually, the column of inspirations grew, a mixture of the reading and listening that breathed life into each month or which best encapsulated my current interests. Oddly enough, however, I don’t think that I have ever mentioned it in a post. Perhaps I felt that reviews were best left to more experienced critics; certainly I felt that it was not up to me to try to persuade anyone else to see the world through my eyes. If anyone wanted to follow one of the links, fine: if not, fine.

On reflection, I think that this attitude was rather disingenuous. What is a blog, after all, if not an attempt to show others the world through your own eyes? From now on, then, when I add an item to that list, I will say a bit about it and try to explain why I find it inspiring.

So, the book on Winifred Nicholson which I have belatedly added, for example: it was published for an exhibition of her work at the National Gallery of Scotland in 2003, but I have been re-reading it because of the bluebells, which made me remember her vision of the colour spectrum and of the special qualities of violet. For her, she explained, ‘ “Violet is the colour of highest tension, the colour only visible in its beauty at moments of high vitality and clearest sunlight…It calls to a colour beyond itself on the scale, a colour that our eyes cannot see, although we know that it is there by the power of its ultraviolet rays. Maybe we shall see this colour some day when we have trained our eyes more precisely.” ‘ (W. Nicholson quoted in Winifred Nicholson in Scotland, Alice Strang, NGS, Edinburgh 2003.)


the extraordinary bluebell wood

the  bluebell wood: almost ultraviolet?


Occasionally there are gaps in my ‘inspirations’ list, sometimes lasting several months. This does not necessarily mean that inspiration has been lacking completely in those periods; although there have been patches of mental inertia, of course. More often, however, it means that my main inspiration at the time has been either nature itself – in which case the blog posts are my outlet – or my faith, which is intangible and un-pinnable. The word ‘inspiration’ itself derives from the Latin ‘to breathe into’: the breath of the Holy Spirit is not something you can buy from online bookshops! So I might sometimes refer to a book on the subject which is helping me along, but I shall not be proselytizing here.

There is something beginning next week, however, which I am very excited about and which you can acquire online. Remember that art course in Venice which I mentioned? It was run by an artist friend of mine, Rachel Hazell, and she is about to begin a brand new course of papery inspiration and guidance for aspiring bookbinders and artists – through the internet! There will be daily tutorials and plenty of interaction with other like-minded souls. I have cleared a desk and got my linen thread and washi tape and paper ephemera ready. I have warned my family that as of next week I am, for at least one hour (preferably more) every day, I am Otherwise Engaged.

It starts on Monday. I can’t wait. And I think I can already guess the subject of next month’s inspiration.


My introduction to Rachel’s book art courses – and to the delights of ancient Innerpeffray Library – can be found in ‘They say that life’s the thing…but I prefer books’.






12 Comments leave one →
  1. Caroline permalink
    May 31, 2014 1:42 pm

    Enjoy your tutorials. I loved the Winifred Nicholson description of violet and your reflections on inspiration.
    The weather might not be making colours vibrate with sunshine (exceptions with your gorgeous pictures of bluebells), but Its a summer of colour in art with big exhibition on the subject at National Gallery in Londonbeginning soon, Matisse at the Tate, and my own workshops involving colour……Dont know if this appropriate to mention this on your blog, but books inspirational, reference, and companions fill my house and …….my son writes songs about books too!- his band called The Bookshop Band is heading towards Scotland this coming week, north of Carlisle and south of Aberdeen. Maybe this is your neck of the woods? I hope you manage to keep your Otherwise Engaged slot!
    p.s. I find your blogs inspirational.

    • June 4, 2014 11:32 pm

      Your workshops sound intriguing, as done a band which rejoices in such a splendid name. (Have they ever played at Mr. B’s Emporium, and if not why not?!) I am beginning to get into the groove of making time for my book workshops this week: ooh, the old addiction is kicking in. 😉 In fact I’m afraid that I seem to spending far more time on crafting than blogging at the moment!

      • Caroline permalink
        June 5, 2014 2:12 pm

        Mr B’s Emporium is the home of The Bookshop Band and where it all began! – Nick really liked Ben’s music and asked him to come and play at author nights, and that was the birth of the band. In fact when you visited the great Mr. B’s, the band’s music might have been playing!
        I am sure your craft of being a wordsmith will not suffer with this intensive course of bookbinding. Happy binding!

  2. christinelaennec permalink
    May 31, 2014 7:14 pm

    That sounds like very good fun! I saw that Winifred Nicholson exhibition at Duff House in Banff. It was quite amazing. I love her colour theory, and am interested that some spiritual healers I have spoken to also feel that life energy / chi corresponds to colours, including those we cannot see with our eyes. It’s all frequency and vibration…
    Thanks for sharing your inspirations.

    • June 4, 2014 11:39 pm

      Yes, I agree with you about frequency/ vibration, which is why I think that crystal healing should not be dismissed too lightly either. And the colours assigned to Chakras are pretty intuitively right, it seems to me.

      One of the best examples of ‘colour therapy’ in action which I experienced was a visit to a Howard Hodgkin exhibition at the South Bank Centre, London. At the time I didn’t really ‘get’ abstract art at all, but took myself along because of an arresting poster on the underground. In the grey concrete gloom of the art gallery, I found room after room of astonishing, bursting, vital colour: jade and emerald, tangerine and crimson, cadmium and cobalt all singing and crackling together. I wandered around with a huge, stupid smile on my face…and then realised that almost everyone I saw – of all ages – was smiling too. How often do you see that at an exhibition? (And in London?!)

  3. June 1, 2014 10:27 pm

    I always love to see what is inspiring others – particularly those whose work I find inspiring itself. Your posts are inspiration enough, but I’ll certainly look out for the things that are inspiring you too!

  4. hmunro permalink
    June 3, 2014 1:57 am

    I very much look forward to reading a few words every now and then about your future inspirations — as they arise, and as you find time to post. In the meantime, I hope you have a lovely time with your Course of Papery Inspiration. It sounds absolutely delightful and utterly satisfying (as are most projects we complete with our hands). Cheers to you, DB!

    • June 4, 2014 11:42 pm

      It is, it is delightful and satisfying. Just giving yourself permission to do some creative play is hugely rewarding. I made my first book in class this morning and was chuffed to bits! Cheers m’dear!

  5. June 6, 2014 9:44 pm

    Being a naturally inquisitive person, I think I’ve clicked on almost all your book links at one time or another, DB, and am halfway through The Morville Hours at the moment, having been given it by a North Coast friend 🙂 The online bookbinding course sounds fascinating, but I think I’ll have to pass on it, as clarinet practice seems to eat up a fair bit of my spare time. Enjoy it and don’t forget to show us the results.

    • June 7, 2014 2:58 pm

      How nice to hear that you have followed my links! Are you enjoying the Morville Hours? I absolutely loved it. Glad that you are able to get on with your clarinet practice again. Hope it’s fun!


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