Welcome to the October issue of
Off the Easel
Welcome new subscribers, and thanks so much to everyone for your continued interest and support of my work! I am delighted to have subscribers and readers from around the world -- thank you all for joining me each month to share in my art practice.
Those who know me know all too well that my favorite holiday is Halloween! This year marks our 20th year of Home Haunting, so I am devoting this issue in large part to the things that go bump in the night! To learn what inspired my love of this holiday, please visit my blog post from last year, Confessions of a Home Haunter.
Trick or Tweet! Are you a fellow Halloween enthusiast? Check out my hashtag #IsAmyScared through October for special tweets! If you are seeing this newsletter on Twitter, please subscribe and have it sent conveniently to your inbox each month!
In this issue:
Currently On the Easel. In this article, I share the current status of two in-progress works -- both involve snakes and stones!
Amy and Jimmy's Top Ten List of Haunted Places. This month, my husband, photographer James C. Williams, joins me to create a very special article in honor of our favorite holiday. We hope you enjoy our ghostly itinerary!
New Website! Since it's Halloween time, dare I say that I have been re-VAMPing my website? It's really coming along -- please read on for highlights of what you'll see when you visit.
Ready for the new chip credit cards. Chip style credit cards have finally hit the US, and I'm ready to accommodate them.
Private art lessons fall special! Read on below for details on a punch card-inspired special for lessons ranging from beginning instruction to tailored art marketing sessions and critiques for the seasoned professional.
I hope you enjoy the October issue of Off the Easel. Fangs a lot for your subscription, and have a Happy Halloween!
All the best,
Currently on the Easel:
Snakes and Stones!
Fictitious Pictish Standing Stone. In the photograph above, you can see me working on this charcoal rubbing drawing, inspired by the Aberlemno Serpent Stone in Scotland. I'm really having fun, and am very pleased with how it is coming along,
This Pictish inscribed megalith, most likely a repurposed prehistoric standing stone, would have been carved around the 7th century C.E. with some common Pictish symbols. A skilled artisan long ago adorned the stone with a snake, Z-rod (a broken spear with two discs and a rectangle), mirror, and small comb, kindling the modern imagination.
Underneath the mulberry paper, I have placed one of the stones from my garden to lend the proper texture to my drawing as I rub charcoal on the surface, and then when necessary, blend it with cotton, as seen above. Normally, I use my left hand to keep the paper steady and taught against the stone, but in this instance, I was using that hand to take the photograph!
To learn a bit more about the Picts and the history of these stones, as well as to read the full origin of this drawing and see my reference photograph of the Aberlemno Serpent Stone, please refer to the article Currently On the Easel......or, Why Does Amy Have a Snake in Her Studio? in my July newsletter.
Serpent Spiral: Second Interactive Drawing in Progress. Studies have shown that you achieve the same sense of calm in your mind by tracing a labyrinth design with a pencil as you gain when physically walking one of these ancient patterns. For these interactive works, I was also inspired by certain sacred prescribed movements I have witnessed at two Irish sites.
During the August and September Gallery Hops, I invited studio visitors to trace within a double stone spiral using watercolor pencil on paper. I recommended that participants trace in, then out, of the shape slowly and carefully as many times as they wished without lifting the pencil, until they felt a sense of tranquility inspired within them.
From the inception of my idea, I have planned to add drawing embellishments around each communal spiral, and to gather several such drawings to make the final collective work. After the August event, I wasn't yet certain which direction I would take with my own contribution to this second interactive work. I had wondered if this would become a water drawing since the first piece had taken on a fire-based theme. Following last month's Hop, perhaps the fake, bright teal snake I had on display with the other rubbing items for Fictitious Pictish Standing Stone subconsciously inspired participants, for the resulting drawing is even sticking out a darting snake tongue!
Both fire and snakes are symbols of transformation, so perhaps we have a theme forming among these labyrinth drawings.
If you missed the August issue of this newsletter, I invite you to read the full background on this interactive drawing project, and to view the various stages of the first drawing in progress.
In my September issue, you will find additional images of inspiration, as well as photos of the initial stage of this serpentine double spiral.
Above: Fictitious Pictish Standing Stone,
in progress detail, September 15th, 2015
charcoal rubbing drawing on mulberry paper
© Amy Funderburk 2015, All Rights Reserved
The Aberlemno Serpent Stone
Aberlemno, Angus, Scotland
Above: Serpent Spiral in progress, with a friend -- the snake subject of Fictitious Pictish Standing Stone
double spiral template: smooth stones gathered from the shore at Topsail Island, NC
12 1/2" diameter
interactive meditative drawing: watercolor pencil on paper, 17" x 14"
state as of September 4th, 2015
© 2015 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
My New Website!
I am thrilled with the changes I've made to my website! While it will take me awhile to get www.AmyFunderburkArtist.com
fully complete and debugged, I have definitely built it to a point worth visiting.
What you will see so far when you visit:
Gallery Slide Shows. I have uploaded all of the installation shots and extant charcoal and ash works from The Wishing Tree Project, and have all but one piece in the Images From the Otherworld series ready for you to view. More photographs that accompany this body of work are coming soon, but I have several landscapes from the Aisling: an Artist's Vision of Ireland series already uploaded.
Larger images, more mobile friendly. Visitors will really get a better feel for the detail within my works thanks to the larger images allowed and protected by this new template.
My blog. I'm delighted that my blog will now be a page on my main site instead of being a separate entity. My top priority has been to get images of my artwork loaded to the site, so the blog is still buggy, but readable. Apologies for the absent photos -- I will replace them as soon as possible.
To learn what inspired my love of Halloween, please visit my blog post from last year, Confessions of a Home Haunter.
To view all my previous entries, from the website home page, hit the blog tab, and then read the list of posts to the left of the screen, or search through the various topics. To view the original version, you can also visit:
I hope you will be as excited as I am with this new website design. A reminder: if you have been so kind as to bookmark my site in the past, please replace it now so that you won't keep returning to the old version. I'll keep you posted on my progress in future newsletters!
Above: My homepage in progress, www.AmyFundeburkArtist.com
as of October 2nd 2015
© 2015 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Featured painting: South Tawton Ceiling Boss: The Green Man (Simhasana -- Lion's Breath)
oil on panel, 16" x 16"
© 2013 Amy Funderburk
All Rights Reserved
St Andrews Church, South Tawton, Dartmoor, Devon, England
New Chip Cards
The US is finally going to the more secure chip credit cards. Thanks to The Square, I'm ready with the appropriate card reader to accommodate this change. Email me today and set up a studio visit to break in your new plastic!
You can also use your Master Card, Visa, Discover, or American Express card for the Fall Art Lessons 10-for-9 Special -- see the next article for details.
Fall Art Lessons Special!
I love those restaurant punch cards where you receive a free meal after purchasing nine. That type of scheme has inspired me to launch my Fall Art Lessons 10-for-9 Special!
Between now and the end of the year, if you purchase nine lessons, critiques*, or tailored art marketing sessions of at least two hours per lesson at my regular 2015 rate of $35 USD per hour, you'll get a tenth two hour lesson or session for free! I welcome artists of all skill levels, as well as those working in a variety of media.
Email me today to schedule your lessons or for more information.
Not a local? Not a problem! I can provide critiques* via your website and marketing materials, and we can conduct the session via Skype. Contact me for more information.
Savings so great they are scary! We'll have a howling good time working together.
*Critiques that take place in my downtown studio or via Skype may qualify for a minimum of nine one-hour sessions. With the purchase of nine such critiques, you will be awarded a tenth one-hour session.
Due to the set up and clean up times involved, a two-hour minimum is required for hands-on lessons to qualify for the Fall Art Lessons 10-for-9 Special.
Above: Second Sight/2nd Site
diptych, oil on oil primed linen, 12" x 30"
© 2012 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
The Rollright Stones, King's Men Stone Circle
Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border, England
The Rollrights come in at number seven on our Top Ten List of Haunted Places, so be sure to read my full account of the site in my April 2015 newsletter.
Narrowing down our list of favorite haunted locations turned out to be quite difficult. Even though you may frequently find them on such lists, some of the most meaningful places to me I would not call simply inhabited by ghosts, but rather, are sites woven into the rich tapestry where mythology, folklore, and history become one. "Haunted" seems too limited a word for these complex places. Lough Gur and its surrounding sacred landscape in Co Limerick, the Republic of Ireland, is one such place.
Certain locations also have a rich history of association with the origins of this holiday long before it was known as the Halloween we know today. Two of my other favorite sites in the Republic of Ireland -- the otherworldly Oweynagat Cave in Co Roscommon and the Hill of Tara in Co Meath -- both have powerful historic and legendary associations with this time of year.
Wild expanses that I love dearly such as Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England almost seem too broadly spectred to narrow down to just one listing. A wide variety of manifestations call Bodmin Moor home -- from the well-documented Beast of Bodmin, the Arthurian Lady of the Lake and the ghost Jan Tregeagle at Dozmary Pool, to a variety of spooky denizens at the reputedly well-haunted Jamaica Inn, immortalized by author Daphne du Maurier. Like Dartmoor in Devon, England, Bodmin Moor is much greater than the sum of its parts.
By this definition, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA should be here rather than kicking off our Top Ten. You might say our ghostly travel adventures began in this city that certainly deserves an honorable mention on our list. October marks our honeymoon in this, the birthplace of Anne Rice's vampires. Be sure to take a walking haunted tour as well as a cemetery tour here. You'll see the famous tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau, as well as the House of the Rising Sun, an 1800's brothel haunted by its madame that was the inspiration for the 1960's song. We also drove out to Oak Alley Plantation, the focus of numerous professional ghost hunts.
These favorite places have inspired my art as well as my heart, and have only served to further feed my wanderlust.
Above: James C. Williams at The Pipers Stones, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall -- the site I am depicting in The Portal painting installation.
© 2008 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Above: Dunluce Castle
silver gelatin print, 5" x 7"
© 2001 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Dunluce Castle, near Bushmills, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland
This castle lands a place on our Top Ten List of Haunted Places, and you may have seen it before! You might recognize Dunluce as the castle inside the Led Zeppelin album cover for Houses of the Holy, or more recently, as a shooting location for the popular HBO program, Game of Thrones.
Above: Entrance to the West Kennet Long Barrow
© 2008 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Near Avebury, Wiltshire, England
Look carefully at the entrance to the West Kennet Long Barrow. Did I capture a paranormal presence within, or is it merely a light anomaly called veiling flare? I got quite excited at first when I looked at my camera display and saw this green-gray cloud, but since I was able to duplicate a very similar light shape in multiple subsequent shots, alas, I do believe it to be veiling flare. Perhaps next time!
Above: Spooktacular Deals
© 2012 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Shop window, Beauly, Inverness-shire, Scotland
|Above: Haunted Wistman's Wood 1
© 2010 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Wistman's Wood, Two Bridges, Dartmoor, Devon, England
Amy and Jimmy's Top Ten List of Haunted Places
It's no secret that my husband Jimmy and I gravitate to liminal sites -- if it's ancient, mythical, folkloric, or haunted, whenever possible, it goes on our itinerary! For this October issue, I thought it would be fun to list our Top Ten Haunted Places we've visited.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list by any means, for I've come to realize that I could list almost every location we've ever been. Our home state also has its fair share of ghosts. Deciding which site should rank higher than any other also felt like splitting hairs -- a visit to any on this list should prove rewarding.
Famous haunts like the Tower of London and Edinburgh Castle are definitely well worth a visit, but for the most part, we've tried to create a list of sites slightly more off the beaten path. I highly encourage interested readers to learn more about the fascinating history behind these sites -- and their preternatural inhabitants!
Not a believer? No problem. Each of these sites are well worth a visit solely on the merits of either history or dramatic location, factors we also took into account when making our selections.
10. Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It's no wonder Dunnottar is considered one of Scotland's most haunted castles, considering these stones have witnessed such events as William Wallace's army burning down the chapel containing a garrison of English troops in 1297, and the cruel mistreatment of a group of Covenanters seeking religious freedom, who were imprisoned there in 1685.
You will enjoy this spectacular cliff-top location whether the ghosts decide to show themselves or not. While neither of us had any such encounters there, the rich tales of Dunnottar's plentiful otherworldly occupants inspired me to create the photograph above. Email me to learn the full story behind this piece!
After a lovely day at the castle, for a true hair-raising experience, head to the nearby Dunnottar Woods and take a walk to the Neolithic cairn known as Gallows Hill.
9. Dunluce Castle, near Bushmills, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland. Like Dunnottar, Dunluce is strategically built on a dramatic promontory. Here you may experience tell-tale cold spots, poltergeist activity, and will hear tales of a white-clad Bean Sidhe (Banshee).
My favorite story of Dunluce is the contested local legend that during a fierce storm in the 1600's, part of the kitchen fell into the sea, along with the pots, pans, and servants! During storms, it is said that you can sometimes still hear their cries.
I did not have any personal experiences here, but I was artistically inspired by the atmospheric location and evocative ruins -- please see my black and white photograph under the article, Decisions, decisions!
Be sure to also take in the nearby Giant's Causeway. Legend says it was built by the Irish hero Fionn mac Cumhaill.
8. Wistman's Wood, Two Bridges, Dartmoor, Devon, England. This eerie and moody grove of ancient, stunted oaks could very well be the most haunted place on Dartmoor.
Stories of a ghostly procession, spirits, and black hell hounds leading the otherworldly Wild Hunt all abound. Boulders are thickly covered with lichens and mosses underneath the twisted dwarf trees. Their undulating branches evoke the adders associated with this Wood, and you can easily imagine the ancient Druids worshiping underneath them.
The whole of Dartmoor is well worth a visit, as it is littered with prehistoric remains as well as more haunting locales. Should you find yourself "Pixie-led" across its bleak beauty, beware the Hairy Hands on the B3212 road between Two Bridges and Postbridge!
7. The Rollrights, King's Men Stone Circle, the Oxfordshire and Warwickshire border, England. These weathered stones had an undeniably supernatural air, and Jimmy's friend was previously knocked down here by an unseen force. This is a place chock full of myth and legend, and while it may not fit our personal definition of haunted, because of what happened to our friend, we have ranked it fairly high on our list.
To read my full account of our visit to the Rollrights and how this stone circle inspired me to paint the diptych pictured with the information on my Fall Art Lessons Special, please see the article, Origins of a Painting, in the April 2015 issue of my newsletter.
6. Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Chapel at El Morro is definitely one of those places where you feel like you are being watched, even though you are alone. Despite your proximity to the busy visitor's entrance of this popular tourist destination in the light of day, the hairs are firmly raised on the back of your neck.
Based on the strong sensations I felt in this chapel, I wasn't at all surprised to see El Morro appear on a popular US ghost investigation program. The lighthouse is also said to be haunted.
While you are in Old San Juan, be sure to stay at Hotel el Convento, a former convent converted into our favorite hotel. After she became a widow, a Spanish noblewoman transformed her home into a Carmelite Convent, and she still haunts the hotel. If you oversleep, you might be awakened by a ghostly nun, and bats visit the 300 year old Nispero fruit tree in the open air courtyard!
5. West Kennet Long Barrow, just over a mile from Avebury, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England. Though you may read stories of a man and his dog appearing at Midsummer on top of this Neolithic burial mound, I tend to classify this powerful site as more ancient and primal that simply "haunted", though haunted it may be. Around 50 prehistoric ancestors were buried within, after all. One definitely does not feel alone here, and for me, the presence was tangible as I approached the entrance.
While in nearby Avebury, one of my favorite sites in England, you might as well pop into The Red Lion, said to be quite haunted. Considering the village is in the middle of such a large, impressive stone circle, why not?
4. Quin Abbey, near Ennis, Co Clare, Republic of Ireland. Jimmy relates his experience at this 15th century Abbey during our trip there in 2003:
"When we approached the abbey, Amy went one way around it and I went the other. As we met on the opposite side, she told me to investigate the inside of an arch which seemed creepy.
"After I got to that location, I pointed my camcorder upward into the arch, and then down. As I turned the camcorder downward, I thought I saw a face in the monitor, and yes, Amy was right -- that spot made me physically shudder! I later told Amy about my experience, and we reviewed the tape. It only showed stone and shadows -- no ghostly face.
"Several days later, before returning home, I bought a book of tales from that region by storyteller Eddie Lenihan. (1) As we were flying home, I read a ghost story from Quin Abbey. In the tale, while some boys were seeking treasure, they encountered the ghost of a monk in the bottom of that very same arch where I had seen the face!"
3. Alsia Well, St Buryan, Cornwall, England. Alsia is one of those Cornish wells where if you don't already believe in Piskies, (2) you will be charmed into it on your first visit, for this is one of the most magical places in Cornwall.
Once we found the right house, the delightful landowner gave us a warm welcome, entertained us with enchanting stories, and led us on a personal tour of the grounds. On the way to the well, he pointed out the remains of an ancient wall, which may suggest that the Alsia well was indeed venerated long ago.
A swath of frothy blackthorn -- a tree symbolizing death and rebirth -- made a natural archway over the simple entrance gate. The low well, surrounded by lush, delicate vegetation, sent its gentle trickle of water out onto the ground. A green-clad earthen embankment rose behind the well.
Prior to approaching the well, I opened my backpack to get a bottle for gathering water. I had just placed it in my pack in the car, but now, it was not there. As I turned to go back to the car for another, there was my empty bottle, right by the gate! It was resting several feet away, at an angle where it could not have rolled -- not to mention, I believe I would have noticed such a large item falling out of my bag!
Later, while seated in front of the well, I saw the reflection of a woman in white, as if she were standing on the embankment above the well in front of me. Her face was in sharp perspective, making it impossible to see facial features. After daring to glance up, I saw no one, and then the reflection was gone.
Excited by what we had experienced, we returned the next day to tell the landowner about our encounter. He then told us a story that offered an explanation, and we were treated to his own tales of such phenomena.
There had recently been a healer in the village named Jean. When she passed on, it had been her wish to have her ashes buried at the gate to the Alsia Well. Had Jean taken my water bottle to get our attention?
2. Penrhiwgwair Cottage, South Wales. Please note this is a private residence, in use as a bed and breakfast at the time of our 2008 stay. When we made our reservations, we did not know of its haunted status.
Some guests have experienced animal phenomena during their stay. This 16th-17th century Welsh longhouse may date from as early as 1542. On the ground floor, cows were originally kept in what became the breakfast room so as to keep them warm and to protect them from thieves.
A bedroom above used to be the hayloft. One guest thought the hosts had a cat, since she felt the weight of a feline presence curl up on her bed one night – only to discover the next morning that no physical cat lived there!
But it is the other resident of the house who we encountered.
Our first evening there, I got up in the night, and when I went into the hallway, I felt an extraordinarily strong presence standing there. It seemed very accusatory and territorial. I could not move fast enough to rush back to my room and get under the protective covers!
The next morning over breakfast, as casually as I could muster, I asked our hosts, “Uh, so, by chance is the cottage…haunted?” It was then we learned of the woman who had lived in the cottage and died within recent memory, the grandmother of a local man. As a result, Jimmy and I refer to her as Granny.
A friend of the homeowners had a more tangible experience with her. As he climbed the stairs, he spoke to a lady on the landing. “She asked what he was doing, and when he said he was visiting friends, she said, ‘Well, that's very nice for YOU,’ in a slightly huffy way,” the homeowner recalled.
I felt Granny in the hallway every night, until our host’s young daughter came to visit during the weekend. At that point, I felt Granny retreat into the daughter’s bedroom, as if to protectively keep watch over her. When asked about his memories of this apparition, Jimmy said, "Granny gave me the shivers!"
The region around the cottage is also rich with folklore. A pwca (3) lives just up the road, and a ghostly woman searches the moor looking for her lost buckle.
My friend just told me of another house legend at the cottage. If you hear the horses and hounds of the Wild Hunt outside, death is imminent. When a guest who did not know this story came down for breakfast, he told his hosts that he’d had a vivid dream about a hunt gathering outside the window. “We did check him out online for quite some time,” shared my friend, “but all seemed fine!”
Many thanks to our friend in Wales for the information she provided for this entry!
And for Number One, we had a tie:
1. Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland. This is Jimmy's Number One on our list, because it is the only location where he has ever captured a full body apparition with his infrared film. Based on the grisly history of this cemetery, Jimmy exclaimed, "It's no wonder the place is so haunted. I'm surprised I only caught one apparition!"
Founded in 1561, Greyfriar's saw a particularly tragic event in 1679. Some 1200 Covenanters were imprisoned and mistreated in an area of the churchyard that featured vaulted tombs; the area became known as the "Covenanters' Prison."
Reported poltergeist activity experienced by visitors in the so-called Black Mausoleum includes bruises, scratches, burns, being knocked unconscious, and broken bones. Thankfully, no one in our tour group had any such unwelcome advances.
This poltergeist activity is attributed to Bloody or Bluidy George Mackenzie, whose tomb is depicted in Jimmy's photograph. In life, the Lord Advocate Sir George Mackenzie persecuted the Covenanters, but since his death in 1691, he haunts Greyfriars -- or at least since a homeless man disturbed his tomb in 1998.
What do you see in the photograph below? The ephemeral figure does NOT appear in the frame just before this shot, so you decide -- ghost, or a trick of the light?
Harry Potter fans will want to ramble around the tombstones of Greyfriars in the daylight to find the names that inspired J.K. Rowling as she was writing her first novel about the young wizard hero.
Be sure to take a walking tour of haunted Edinburgh that also takes in the Edinburgh Vaults. After the vaults were opened in 1985, numerous accounts of paranormal activities have been reported. There was one particular vault that I felt was quite haunted. It is perhaps not for the faint of heart, however, for the presence did not feel at all friendly.
1. Pengersick Castle, near Praa Sands, Cornwall, England. Said to house an excess of 20 ghosts, some call Pengersick the most haunted castle in all of Europe. The tower bedroom is at the very least considered Cornwall's, if not Britain's, most haunted, and based on my own experiences there, I concur! This earns Pengersick my vote for the top of our list.
We had the pleasure of attending a haunted investigation at the castle. Every one of our numerous personal experiences and vivid impressions were substantiated afterwards by reading the books of evidence, history, and other visitor accounts that were placed in each room, as well as in conversation with our guide following the investigation. I appreciated that our excellent guide, a published author, recommended that visitors consult these books only after having sufficient time within each room so as to draw our own conclusions.
I will refrain from elaborating on the specifics of our experiences further so as to give you the same opportunity to confirm your own encounters there, but if you'd like more information, feel free to email or tweet me!
OK, you caught us -- this ended up being a Top Eleven List, but where's the alliteration in that?
I hope you've enjoyed our haunting itinerary! Just think, we haven't been to places like Ireland's infamous Leap Castle, the Paris catacombs, or The Stanley Hotel in Colorado yet -- what stories will we come home with next to fuel our art?
(1) Eddie Lenihan, Long Ago Shannonside (Mercier Press, 2002), 55-57.
(2) Cornish pixies
(3) Pwca: Welsh; in Irish it is the púca. Also pooka, a shape-changing creature who can be benevolent or mischievous.
Above: Dunnottar Ghost
archival pigment print
12” x 18”, framed to 20” x 27”
© 2013 Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved
Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland
|Above: Bluidy George Mackenzie's Tomb
© 2012 James C. Williams, All Rights Reserved
Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland
If you have any questions about his photograph, please contact Jimmy.
Many thanks to Jimmy for his assistance in preparing this Top Ten List! Please be sure to visit Shutterbug Magazine's online features page to read Jimmy's article in which he pays tribute to his late friend, English photographer Sir Simon Marsden.
Incidentally, Simon was our friend who was pulled down by an unseen force at the Rollrights.