A Short Story Inspired by George Mackay Brown

As part of the celebrations of the centenary of George Mackay Brown, The GMB Fellowship are asking for contributions of writing inspired by the famous Orkney writer’s work. 

I decided to take part and add a little twist of folklore into my story… 

Read it here

Prose, poetry and photos on the George Mackay Brown Fellowship website

My piece was inspired by a section of George Mackay Brown’s poem ‘The Scottish Bestiary’. In these poems he focuses on 5 animals: Moth, Lobster, Whale, Eagle – but it was the Raven that really captured my imagination. 

I discovered GMB upon moving to Orkney. It was around the same time I remember hearing the tales of Vikings using ravens to find land when sailing. It was only when I opened my big GMB poetry book after hearing about this project that I discovered he had written about this fascinating detail. 

The big, lovely book where I found the collection of poems ‘The Scottish Bestiary’ by GMB

I have loved corvids of all variety for a long time, and know a little of their ways, as a semi-wild rook is a part of my big animal family. So Corbie, whilst not a raven, features a little in my story.

Have a look at the other pieces of writing people have created here. Click on the title of the piece to see the prose and poems inspired by George Mackay Brown. It’s really exciting to see how some of these pieces will be interpreted into music. 

I think it’s an amazing project and I’m pleased to now be a small part of it. 

Check out the GMB fellowship website to see how else they’re celebrating the centenary of this incredible writer. 

Corbie the rook, flying on high, black upon blue

M.E. Friendly Art Materials

I tried some new art materials recently and I became very excitable on social media and in real life too. There was much squeaking and an actual 3 second happy dance. The goal was to make my art more M.E. friendly and I think I’m slowly achieving that – yay!

A few of you may know, I have quite a severe chronic illness, and have been ill since the age of six. (I wasn’t well before then but six is the official age I was diagnosed.) M.E. makes everything from walking, talking to digesting food difficult. I’m extremely tired all the time. But I make art and I write. Which is hopefully why you’re here! 

So I thought I’d talk about my shiny new materials and quite why I’m so excited. 

Traditional dipping pens and Windsor and Newton Black Indian Ink

Firstly the fountain pen. And ink. 

I use Windsor and Newton Black Indian Ink over my pencil sketch. This ink, when dried, doesn’t bleed when wet. I can paint straight on top of it, colouring with paint all those tiny goblin details. It’s even mermaid tear proof – a substance magically wetter than water. I’ve yet to find a black pen that is completely waterproof – I’ve tried a lot of them and have lost many a drawing to a mermaids weepy critique. For years, I’ve used a traditional nibbed pen dipped in the Black Indian Ink. 

Dipping pens are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. As I draw, I think of them being used by everyone from Beatrix Potter to Quentin Blake. But my hand shakes and the fine nib picks up every little squiggle. Also, jerky fingers causes dreaded ink splats! It’s a delightful way to draw when it works and it’s still taking me time to accept it doesn’t work for me.

The company Cult Pens answered by inky woes and recommended a fountain pen with an ink converter. This pumps your chosen ink into the fountain pen. Trupp-Trink the goblin insisted I picked a dashing orange pen – I gave it a go and it works. Viola! Minimal shakes, no ink splats, and I can even draw from the comfort of the sofa with my feet up. 

Tip: This kind of ink wears down the fountain pens faster than cartridges so don’t splash out on an expensive pen – cheap and cheerful work best here!

My new fountain pen with ink converter and waterproof ink

Now the paints. For a couple of years I’ve been using gouache in small paint tubes. Sprites find this hilarious and squeezed the paints onto their teeth like toothpaste! These paints are lovely and need less layers than watercolours because they’re more opaque. But they’re hard for me to squeeze with my weak fingers and tend to dry up and clot quickly. 

I spotted artists on social media using a shiny new set of special watercolour paints and I was instantly intrigued – and maybe a tiny bit jealous! After doing my research, I decided these were the paints for me. Kuretake Gansai Tambi paints can be used as thickly as gouache or thinly as traditional watercolours – it just depends on how much water you add. So less energy layering paintings and a palette easily accessible to weak fingers. Plus – look at those colours! They’re forcing me to be just a bit brighter than I’m used to which is no bad thing. 

The only trouble is sprites are still a little addicted to paint so are now licking my palette and waggling their brightly coloured tongues in my face. Turquoise and purple tongues are in vogue in the sprite world, apparently. 

Daler Rowney gouache tube paints

I’ve only made these changes recently but already they’re having a big impact on my creative life. Nothing is easy with M.E. and, as enjoyable as it is, art takes a big toll on my health. So anything to minimise that is a pretty big deal. 

I hope you continue to enjoy my artwork and the faeries that occupy my world. Do give me a follow on Facebook at Ellen Forkin Art and Instagram and Twitter too! 

And if you’re an artist, do watch out for those sprites, you’ll find tiny smudges of paint in the oddest of places… 

Kuretake Gansai Tambi paint palette and other art materials

Prunella Flies Her Flags!

Prunella finds joy in the small things of life. Coffee and doughnuts, apples and peanut butter, flowers and herbs, pebbles and seaglass, jumpers and tartan check trousers! She flies the flag for them all. Literally.

Prunella flying her flag for coffee!

Prunella has hundreds of little flags. Probably thousands. Puppies. Peonies. Enamel pins. Rainbows and sunsets. Scratchy pencils and clicky pens. Colourful candles in sparkly candlesticks. She’s got a flag for them all. Prunella is passionate. Which is why I love her so much. But who is she?

Prunella’s a monster who has been told she looks like a pig disguised as a Highland Coo. Seeing as she champions both intelligent pigs and cute Highlanders, Prunella wasn’t the least bit offended. She says her spirit animal is a haggis.

Coffee. She loves coffee. Prunella drinks it black, but sometimes enjoys snuffling up a cappuccino with her snout. She has her own special take-away cup, and a dozen little coffee-cup cozies to match her jumper. All the coffee does make her whirlwind of positivity. She would be annoying if it wasn’t for her enthusiastic oink!

Prunella loves all things bookish!

Prunella has an exuberant Scottish accent that even the most Scottish Scot can have difficulty understanding. She adores dictionaries and uses lots of weird and random words with a few Scottish classics thrown in. Here’s a few of her favourites:

  • Peediesmall
  • Swagdeto relax after a big, big meal
  • Pumple-footedaccident prone, a bit clumsy
  • Shoogleshake, move to side to side, wiggle
  • Polyphloisboisterousnoisy

Despite reading many a long dictionary, Prunella’s spelling is…. interesting. But she usually gets her message across. She also enjoys everything bookish, including Scottish poetry, cook books, rom coms, notebooks, tartan noir and will carefully read any vintage manual to a Singer sewing machine.

The lists could go on and on. (Yes, she likes writing lists.) Prunella has shared with me so many tiny passions I can’t possibly fit them in one blog post. Instead, each and every day, she’ll continue to fly the flag for the small joy she’s loving that day. I think we could learn a lot from Prunella. Even if we can’t always catch exactly what she’s saying…

A few things Prunella loves…

Thanks for reading!

Ellen x

A Wild Unicorn

Shh! Don’t startle this shy creature. For though this wee wild unicorn tiptoes through the wilderness as quietly as can be, it too can be fierce and feisty.

With cloven hooves, a wiggly beard and long lush lion’s tail, this is far from your domesticated unicorn. A beautifully rare beast of Scotland, these unicorns love to roam forests, nibble flowers and occasionally give chase to a hairy haggis!

An illustration of a wild unicorn foal

A very few well guarded wild unicorns do roam the islands of Orkney…

I was lucky to spot this foal, just on the cusp of adulthood, silently sipping from a loch. Perhaps for safety, or simply for the magic of it, wild unicorns are most active at dawn and dusk. The latter is known locally as grimleens, and is truly an enchanted time of day for humans and faeries alike.

Grimleens: Orcadian dialect for twilight, dusk, the magical moment between day and night.

Head to where the four-leaf clover springs up from the ground, where there’s a soft tinkling in the breeze, where rainbows bloom in the sky…

And if you are quiet, patient and granted a large dose of luck, you may be able to spot a wild unicorn too!

Please note: Do not follow directions from local trows, they’ll send you on a wild unicorn race. This usually involves the dizzying heights of Hoy, a boggart attack at Birsay and a possible drowning in Stenness loch. It’s not fun.

Hoarding Haggis Activity

This haggis likes to hoard – what weird and wonderfuss stuff does it collect?

Tartan underpants? Unicorn magnets? Mouldy old Scotch eggs maybe?

Doodle some fantastic things – from fidget spinners to buttercups – that this haggis has been gathering. It might be busy sneaking something from right under your nose!

Talking of noses… haggis like to show off their collection by balancing their favourite things on their snouts! Draw the bestest thing in this collection on the very tip of its snouty-nose!

Top Tip: Haggis are usually gingery-brown. So get some orange and brown pencils to colour your haggis in!

Note: This haggis is the Fierce Orkney kind, instead of the longer-sleeker-haired Braw Haggis of the Highlands.

Download and print this free PDF Activity Sheet and get doodling some hoarding haggis stuff!

This design was created specially for all the kids and parents in lockdown and to cheer things up in these tough times.  Snout raspberries to all!

Be sure to comment, tweet, instagram, email, message me your haggis collections!

Ellen’s Wonderfuss Faeries on Facebook

@ellen_forkin on Instagram

@ellen_forkin on Twitter

Happy Doodling!

Ellen x

Mermaid Top and Tail Activity

What kind of mermaid will you doodle?

A mercat? A dinomaid? Or maybe a Deep-Water-Kelp-Breath mermaid with long seaweed hair who likes to slurp up limpets? Yuck!

Design your very own mermaid top using the slippery-swishy tail. You can draw inspiration from animals and magical creatures – from rhinos to vampires – to create your own unique creature.

Or simply doodle the top half of a friend or family member onto the tail to magic them into a mermaid! Just don’t forget the clam bra!

Top Tip: If your mermaid has hands, remember to give them bubble-icious webbed fingers!

Download and print this free PDF Activity Sheet and get colouring some fantastic mer-creatures!

This design was created specially for all the kids and parents in lockdown and to cheer things up in these tough times.  Bubble kisses to all!

Be sure to comment, tweet, instagram, email, message me your swishy-swash mermaids!

Ellen’s Wonderfuss Faeries on Facebook

@ellen_forkin on Instagram

@ellen_forkin on Twitter

Happy Doodling!

Ellen x

Mester Stoorworm Activity

Watch out – this Mester Stoorworm is an extra giant sort of dragon that likes to gobble a human or two!

But what colour is it? Does it have slippery scales or slithery stripes or bright red danger spots?

Colour and doodle magical patterns or dragon-tastic designs on this dastardly Mester Stoorworm… just make sure you don’t become dragon lunch!

You can also try draw your own squiggly stoorworms – all you need are sharp teeth and a pointy tail!

Download and print this free PDF Activity Sheet and get colouring some scary Mester Stoorworms!

This design was created specially for all the kids and parents in lockdown and to cheer things up in these tough times. 

Be sure to comment, tweet, instagram, email, message me your funky Mester Stoorworms!

Ellen’s Wonderfuss Faeries on Facebook

@ellen_forkin on Instagram

@ellen_forkin on Twitter

Happy Doodling!

Ellen x

Selkie Song Activity

What do selkies sing about deep under the ocean waves?

Seashells? Seagulls? Sea serpents!?

Name your selkie and doodle what you think would make a magical selkie song… Maybe she loves fish and chips or playing with dolphins or blowing bubbles up a basking sharks bum! Naughty!

Top Tip: You can draw swirly musical spirals or jazzy zigzags or maybe even a jiggedly fiddle to make your song more magical!

Download and print this free PDF Activity Sheet and get doodling some magical selkie music!

This design was created specially for all the kids and parents in lockdown and to cheer things up in these tough times. 

Be sure to comment, tweet, instagram, email, message me your beautiful selkie songs!

Ellen’s Wonderfuss Faeries on Facebook

@ellen_forkin on Instagram

@ellen_forkin on Twitter

Happy Doodling!

Ellen x

Doodle Monster Activity 2

I’ve got some more Doodle Monsters for you to get scribbling on!

These mini monsters need a magic wand – or a pencil – to make them magnificently monstrous! Doodle a new ginormous nose, sharp go-faster spikes, two big twitchy ears and some flappity-flap wings to whizz around the clouds!

When you’re finished, you can also create your own mish-mash monster full of squiggly legs, googly eyes, gnashing teeth, and squiggly claws!

Download and print this free PDF Activity Sheet and get doodling them mini monsters!

This design was created specially for all the kids and parents in lockdown and to cheer things up in these tough times. 

Be sure to comment, tweet, instagram, email, message me your fun little Doodle Monsters!

Ellen’s Wonderfuss Faeries on Facebook

@ellen_forkin on Instagram

@ellen_forkin on Twitter

Happy Doodling!

Ellen x