Monday, 7 March 2022

Nature Art and Wellbeing

Nature. What do you think of when you read that? Boring or magical? Something to be controlled or something to leave alone to admire her wildness? 

Moon phase watercolour art in blue and purple on a white mountboard,

 If you’re anything like me, you’ll love nature and her wild side, letting weeds do their thing (because they are, after all, just flowers. But flowers that some don’t want in manicured lawns.) You’ll love hearing rain on leaves or the roof, you’ll love the sky at dawn or sunset, you grow wildflowers in your garden, you love the sound of waves on the shore and the signs of the seasons turning… 

A stem of green leaves on a purple rectangle watercolour art.

Whatever you think of nature and all her aspects, she is good for us. 

It has been shown in numerous studies that nature has a beneficial effect on our wellbeing, soothing our nervous system. Green is a hugely calming colour to humans, probably because we spent thousands of years living within nature, as part of her in the forests and plains. As I said in my last post, the human eye can distinguish more shades of green than any other colour because the rods and cones in our eyes developed in that environment.

Neuroscientists and psychologists have looked at the effect that nature art has on the human mind. They found that natural sights induce positive states in people’s psychology and aid recovery in people who have had operations. It has also been discovered that nature helps with creativity and problem solving, improves focus, it decreases anxiety and stress and it’s comforting and relaxing. Simply put, spending time in nature is good for us. 

Snowdrop watercolour art with a white background on white mountboard.

The wonderful thing is, images of the natural world are just as good. 

Artworks showing nature are as beneficial to our wellbeing as the real thing and spending some time looking at nature art can have the same creative and relaxing effects. Having nature art on your walls can help you remember to take some time out of your day to just be, to stop the constant whirr of your mind. 

A stem of leaves on a silver circle with a white background.

I think it’s a good mindful practice to use a piece of nature art, whether it be a landscape, a vase of flowers or an abstract, as a trigger, so that every time you see it, you’re reminded to take some deep breaths and reconnect with yourself. Do you have nature art that helps you do this? Let me know in the comments or on social media (links below). 

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Monday, 28 February 2022

Nature, Animal and Folklore Art

Welcome back to my art blog! It’s been longer than I can remember since I last wrote a post, but I’m hoping to be back into the swing of things now with more regular posts about my art inspired by nature, animals and folklore.

A watercolour illustration of blue clematis flowers in a pin for Pinterest saying nature, animal and folklore art, shop at

For anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m Sarah, I live in Wales and I’m an artist with an Etsy shop, selling watercolour illustrations and acrylic art. I love nature, animals, particularly cats, foxes, owls and hares and I love mythology, folklore and fantasy. 

Something that really interests me is the mythology and folklore of nature and animals and I have a huge interest in Celtic mythology such as The Mabinogion and the Irish Mythological Cycles.

I feel deeply connected to nature and believe that we are part of nature, not separated from it. Nature has been shown to have a beneficial effect on mental health and wellbeing. Being immersed in the greenery of forests or fields lifts the spirits and lowers stress levels as it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. The human eye can distinguish more shades of green than any other colour due to the make-up of the rods and cones in our eyes. It is thought that this may be an effect of having lived within nature – in forests for example – thousands of years ago. 

A watercolour painting of a spotted wood butterfly on a green and purple patterned background.

I also feel connected to animals, sometimes feeling more at home and at ease with them than humans. We receive companionship and love from them in an accepting, non-judgemental way. If you respect and love animals, they respect and love you whoever you are. Wild animals are such a beautiful part of our landscapes and to share space with one of them can be a magical moment. 

A watercolour illustration of an Emporer penguin in the Antarctic.

Folklore connects us to our ancestors, the old beliefs and wonderful stories of mysterious and magical happenings. It’s a more enchanted way of looking at the world and reminds us that there is beauty and wonder out there if we choose to look for it: the perfection of the petals of a flower, the tides of the oceans, the communication between trees in a forest through the webs of fungi underground, the grace of a deer bounding away… 

A blue dragon breathing fire on a castle battlement. Acrylic fantasy art.

This is my aim with what I do: to create art that inspires love for these things and represents these themes for those who already love nature, animals or folklore. Unique artworks that will never be repeated exactly to provide something pretty to look at that will lift your mood and reconnect you with magic and enchantment. 

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Thursday, 24 February 2022

Folklore in Art

Mythology and folklore are subjects that really interest me and influence my art. It’s sometimes a topic that some people dismiss as being “just” stories for children but I think those people are missing the point. Mythology connects us with our ancestors and has themes that still resonate with us today. We may have technology and science but human life is much the same. We can still identify with the things that the characters in myth go through, share their experience. We can learn from stories and they offer a respite from modern life, taking us to another place. 

A fantasy artwork with a brown mushroom in the foreground and trees and mountains in the background.

Folklore is full of wisdom that has been passed down through the generations. Stories are peppered with symbols and metaphors that help us understand life. Images of mythology can remind us of these themes, things that may be close to our hearts, reminding you about what’s important in life.

 “Whether or not they contain the encapsulated wisdom of ages past, what is certain is that myths, fairy tales and folklore offer us a world imbued with participation mystique – a world in which humans are fully enmeshed. In this world, animals always have something to teach us, trees and plants can save or cure us, wise old men and women are waiting in the dark woods to help us, and a well may be a doorway to another world. Myths and folklore can put us back in touch with the seasons and turnings of the year, and they can restore our acceptance of the necessary cycles of life. They can also remind us that we have a responsibility to future generations, and to the planet as a whole.” 

The Enchanted Life by Sharon Blackie.

A watercolour artwork of a white unicorn with a silver horn and purple mane on a blue and green background.

They can also set our imaginations going, making us wonder what’s happening in the picture? What land are they in? Where does that path go? Stories are universal, yet personal too. I’ve heard stories about my grandparents from my mother and father, information that gets passed down through the family. In that way, we are all stories.

A watercolour painting of the Green Man with oak leaves on a white mountboard in a frame surrounded by flowers.

Stories and images can also help us remember the enchantment that can be found in life. In the midst of the difficulties we go through, we can find moments of magic and wonder. The gleam of sunlight on a raindrop on a leaf, for example (and if you’ve seen my social media posts, you’ll know I LOVE those!). A ring of mushrooms growing in the wood - maybe there are faeries about! A face in the bark of a tree. Holes in the ground – what kind of creature might live in it? 

I love seeing the magical side of life. Whatever terrible things are going on in the world, created by humans, the natural world is a beautiful place, full of mystery and marvels. Both stories and nature help us to maintain curiosity about the world we live in as well. Where did the inspiration come from? Who originally told the story? Where did it happen? 

“It is by such statements as, ‘Once upon a time there was a dragon,’ or ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit’ – it is by such beautiful non-facts that we fantastic human beings may arrive, in our peculiar fashion, at the truth.” 

Ursula K. Le Guin, Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons? 

An acrylic painting of the Mari Lwyd, a horse skull with a white sheet over the top with red and green ribbons on a blue grey background.

Do you love myth, folklore or fantasy books? What is your favourite? How do they make you feel? Let me know in the comments or on social media (links below). 

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Animal Art and Wellbeing

Animals are one of my favourite things about the world. Whether it’s our furry family members (our cats and dogs), or birds visiting our gardens, or the wildlife in the fields, we would be much poorer without them. I hope we’ll be able to save them before they go extinct. They enrich our lives and calm us, giving as much love as we give them and sharing a space with a wild animal, however fleeting the moment, is a wonderful thing to experience. 

A watercolour profile of a barn owl with a blue background on white mountboard.

I’m lucky enough to have a cat who is a really gentle soul and I love spending time with her. She does tend to leap up on my shoulders when I’m least expecting it, something my other cats never did, but that’s ok because she nudges my head with hers and makes me happy. 

I’m also lucky to have had several wildlife encounters, the birds that visit my garden for one. I see them regularly and a robin came within a few inches of my feet not so long ago. I’ve had two close encounters with a fox too, one last summer. I was outside as the sun went down and heard something walking through the dry leaves at the bottom of the garden under the trees. It was dark down there already and a silvery being emerged from the shadows to sit down. As he turned his head, I saw the long snout and white chest, but once he saw me, he ducked back into the darkness. Amazing to see though. 

A fox painted in acrylics on a blue background with stars, 15 cm by 15 cm.

Several squirrels have also crossed my path. I’m always happy to see them and any meeting with a wild creature like this lifts my spirits. It’s an emotional and magical thing. Animals have a similar effect on us as nature.

A grey squirrel watercolour on a white background.

As I wrote in my last post, nature is beneficial to our mental health, whether the real thing or in a picture and animals have the same calming influence. They are used to help those with mental health difficulties and those recovering from illness. I know myself that my cats have always been a comfort through life, having experienced depression myself. They provide a non-judgemental source of peace. Someone to just be with. Animals improve your mood, reduce stress, help you to feel relaxed and improve confidence. 

A raven profile in watercolours with a white background on white mountboard.

Art with animals also helps your mood; it gives you something to focus your busy mind on for a while, something to pause the thoughts that constantly race around your head. It’s been said that looking at cat pictures on the internet helps you to concentrate more on the work you do afterwards because it makes you happy and relaxed. Pictures on your wall can do the same thing. In my last post, I wrote about using nature images as reminders to take a moment and breathe, to just be before carrying on with your day. You can do the same with animal images. Choose your favourite animals and enjoy their effect on you. Do you have a favourite animal? How do animals make you feel? Let me know in the comments or on social media (links below). 

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Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Mythical Creatures: Each-Uosge

The Each-Uisge (pronounced ech-ooshka) is a Scottish water horse from the Highlands of Scotland. It is similar to the kelpie, but much fiercer and lives in the sea, sea lochs or fresh water lochs, whereas kelpies live in rivers or streams. It can shapeshift to turn into a horse, a pony, a handsome man or an enormous bird and will drag unsuspecting victims down into the depths of the sea. 

The creature will eat sheep and cows but likes to attack humans on land, or will allow itself to be ridden. Having touched the horse, the victim will become stuck, unable to free himself and the horse will dash into the loch, drowning the rider so the horse can eat him. People who lived in the Highlands were wary of lone animals or people at the side of lochs and kept away, for fear that they might be the each-uisge. 

In the shape of a human man, the each-uisge can be recognised by the weeds and mud in his hair. He will attempt to seduce women, probably to eat them, but there are tales of women escaping, either through their own efforts or the intervention of their father and/or brother.

There is also a version of the each-uisge in Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales. The one on the Isle of Man is like the each-uisge in that it will eat humans, but the Irish and Welsh versions can be tamed and ridden like an ordinary horse. In the Isle of Man, it is called the cabyll-ushtey, in Ireland it is named the each-uisce and in Wales, it is the ceffyl dwr. I know a bit more about this Welsh version, having read more folklore about it.

It is much the same as the others, but will tempt a traveller to ride, then gallop away, throwing the traveller to his death. The horse can be dappled, grey or the colour of sand. There is a tale of one particular ceffyl dwr at St Bride’s Bay in Pembrokeshire. After a storm, a horse appeared in the bay and was captured by a farmer who used the horse to pull the plough in his fields. However, one day, the horse, with no warning, whisked the ploughman and the plough into the waves, dragging them to the deeps. We are not told whether the man survived. 

In my paintings here, I tried to captured the essence of the sea in the horse and to show that the each-uisce is of the sea, a sea spirit, if you like. I couldn’t decide which version to do, a close up or a horse in the seascape, so I did both. 

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Myths and Legends of Wales retold by Tony Roberts

Monday, 23 March 2020

Mythical Creatures: Dryad

The next mythical creature on the list is the dryad. They are tree spirits from Greek mythology and are the daughters of Zeus, the most powerful of the gods. They live in forests or woods and protect it by frightening humans who wish to do it harm. Usually, though, dryads are peaceful beings. They are not immortal, but live for many years and usually take the form of young, beautiful women moving among the trees.

Hamadryads, on the other hand, are beings within individual trees, each spirit having her own tree, unable to move and living as long as the tree does.

This is the sort of spirit that the Celts and many other cultures around the world believed in. Spirits were everywhere in the landscape. Each tree, each stone, each river had its own spirit. I love this idea and so I painted an image of a tree with its spirit inside it, something you might miss unless you look really closely when you pass by….

 Back in the time of the Celts - the Bronze Age and Iron Age - and among cultures such as the Native Americans, the landscape was sacred and commanded respect. If a tree was cut down for its wood to be used, an offering was given back to make up for what was taken. They only took what was needed.

I wonder if we had kept that belief whether we might have continued with that respect for the natural world and treated it and its animals better.

The idea that each tree has a spirit is actually not that far away from the truth, because its been shown that trees are full of life; the trunk pulling up the water and food from the ground, the leaves doing their thing with photosynthesis, lichen and moss on the bark, insects living in and on the bark and – this is what I really love – trees can actually communicate with each other. If one is being attacked, it can send out a chemical to warn the other trees around it. They can’t move to escape, obviously, but those trees can then produce another chemical to make their leaves less tasty to whatever is eating them.

As well as that, trees have a symbiotic relationship with fungus in the ground. They share nutrients and the trees communicate through the fungus too. How they do it is not really within the scope of this blog, I’m here for art, myth and stories, but there are plenty of books or websites that you can find information in. If you’re interested, do go and find out. Nature is wonderful. 

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Monday, 16 March 2020

Mythical Creatures: Cat Sidhe

The third Mythical Creature in our alphabetical list from Animal Alphabets is Cat Sidhe.

The Cat Sidhe is an Irish or Scottish creature which is all black except for a white spot on its chest. Names for it vary; as well as Cat Sidhe, there is also Cait Sidhe and Cath Sith. It is a large fairy cat which will try to steal the souls of the dead before they are buried, but in my painting, he seems like he’d look really cute while doing it!

Just as a side note, in case you’re wondering, the Sidhe are Irish fairies, which are divided into the Seelies and the Unseelies.

The cat is meant to haunt the Scottish Highlands and there are many legends about it in Scotland and some in Ireland. He will try to steal the souls of the dead before they are claimed by the gods by walking over the corpse. To prevent this, people held wakes to keep the cat away and used games to distract the cat, such as riddles and wrestling. The riddles were always left unanswered for the cat to ponder, therefore taking his mind off the dead body. They also spread catnip in other rooms to take the cat’s attention and played music, as the cat loved to dance. They also never lit fires in the room where the corpse was as the cat was attracted to the warmth.

The cat may also be a witch who can shape-shift, but she can only become a cat nine times. If she transformed into a cat for the ninth time, she would stay a cat permanently. This is thought to be where the idea of cats having nine lives originated from.

It was believed that on Samhain (Halloween) the cat sidhe would bless the house of those who left a saucer of milk out for him to drink. Those who didn’t would be cursed, their cows failing to produce milk.

There are tales of the cat transforming into human shape, but retaining his cat legs and his tail and feline features. They are also told to be able to perform basic magic.

There are other cats in mythology which you may find interesting too:

In France there are fairies called White Ladies. They wait near bridges after dark and ask a lone man walking past to dance. If he refuses, the White Lady throws him over the bridge or sets her pet owls and cats on him.

Witches had familiars, of course, which were most often cats.

Vampires, as well as being able to turn into bats, dogs and wolves, could also become cats.

In Japan, there was a two-tailed vampire cat who didn’t bite her victims, but strangled them.

Finally, there is a creature called the barguest, which haunts lanes and churchyards at night. It is usually a huge dog, but can become a cat or a goblin.

I hope, if you are interested in this, that my brief summary of mythical beings leads you on to find out more. If you do, beware! It can lead you down a mythical rabbit hole. I’ve been there! So much to read about.

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Information from:


Fantasy Encyclopedia, A Guide to Fabulous Beasts and Magical Beings by Judy Allen