Apart from my book Awakening Journey that I published in 2017, my previous 50 odd books hardly mentioned Courtney or the process of creating the art, the book chronicled a powerful experience in 2012 that altered my life and how I lived and viewed reality. So as I work on this publication the Art Of Celtia, I am viewing it from a very different perspective to the Courtney who lived through the era of 2004- 2010. I shall of course be documenting it from the perspective that I know the outcome and hopefully because of that I can share the time with some clarity of what came from the work I present within this book.
You may ask why it took from my first publication in 1984 until 2017 before I wrote down the paintings stories, the truth is no publisher ever commissioned that book and to be honest my life was in constant disruption and whatever I would have put down in words, certainly wouldn't have offered any true clarity to the practice of creating the art.
People often comment how wonderfully satisfying it must be working on the paintings, long tranquil hours with probably angelic music playing in the background to soothe and inspire, this was a very long way from the truth. Mostly the driving force was completing a book project and signing for the next as I was in need of the advance. Though this anxious pressure drove the need for this constant output of art and books, there was also a force of expression that was heart based and that needed to be constantly released. I cannot say that it was some great spiritual outpouring that I needed to communicate and that drove the pen and brush, it was fear, anxiety and also being touched by some magical entity of Merlin that overshadowed me each day and who's constant presence seemed to reassure that this was for my ultimate growth. Each lesson learnt now could at some point in a future time be shared and perhaps bring some clearer understanding to a fellow traveler who may be stumbling on their journey.
I have to be very thankful that as an artist with no artistic training, that I was able to come to my studio every morning for over forty years with a work project on the drawing board to do, that is no mean feat and a blessing.
From The Hope Of Dawn 1980
Merlin Initial 1982
IN THE BEGINNING
I was born at 23 Bryn Road, in Cefn Fforest, South Wales on October 31st 1946 at 9pm, my birth was in the same bed and same midwife who had brought my mother into the world and By all accounts my grandmother stood at the top of the stairs and called out to everyone waiting downstairs "Courtney is born" no one had decided on a name before then and it seemed to come out of the blue.
After a few months my mother Ayliffe moved from her mother's home in South Wales to London to be with my father Arthur who worked in a machine tool shop.
We lived in a very small flat at 12 Sheen Buildings on the Bourne Estate in Holborn.
I was born with an un-diagnosed curvature of the spine and was probably in a lot of pain so cried constantly and even being held didn't stop the distress. My mother told me that she would put something called red drops into my drink to make me sleep and one time accidentally overdosed and I slept for the whole day and only awoke through my mother shaking me vigorously.
The pain dogged me through my early life and around 8 years old would often collapse on the floor with sudden jolts of pain. One night I dragged myself on my belly across the floor to my parents bedroom as they had never seen the full extent of the pain I endured. They wrapped me warm with hot water bottles on my back and decided to get me checked out the next day at the hospital.
The fifties were a time when you could arrive at a hospital without a doctor's letter of referral and was taken to various hospitals around London but none could see a problem. There is a two inch difference when I stood straight but when they measured each leg from the hip there was no difference, they did not realise that the hip was sloping because of the curvature.
The problem wasn't found until a couple of years later at an appointment with a doctor to correct in growing toe nails, he looked at me standing there and exclaimed "I can see your problem young man". Once it had been diagnosed I spent some time being photographed and displayed on stage to medical students at various teaching hospitals.
It would not be until 1974 before anything was done to alleviate the pain apart from rubbing on layers heat liniments and regular treatments physiotherapy at Bart's Hospital throughout my school days.
In all that time I accepted and dealt with the pain and could even participate in cross country running, running was my passion and I ran everywhere.
1974 I worked as a diamond cutter in East Cheam, Surrey, the pain began to intensify and would often collapse at work, on one occasion my work mates carried me into the local hospital to get help for me and shortly afterwards was transferred to Kingston Hospital in Surrey for surgery. I had reluctantly agreed to an operation though was under no illusion that there was a 50% chance of ending in a wheelchair. It was while whilst recovering after my first spine operation that I had an experience that was to change the course of my life forever.
I was persuaded into a life changing decision in 1974 when I met a top American surgeon who was in the UK and was talking me through the good and bad points of the spine surgery that it was hoped would alleviate the incessant pain I suffered due to a severe scoliosis. Either agreeing to the operation or not, there was a strong possibility of me looking at my future from a wheelchair, this realisation of what might be was certainly terrifying enough for my partner to leave me as the time of the operation drew near.
I remember the strong feeling of the drama playing out with a feeling of detachment to the story unfolding and experience took a while before it settled and I felt grounded as i organised my small cupboard beside the hospital bed that would be my home for 6 weeks. Not that I would be able to retrieve anything from the cupboard after the operation as I would be laying on my back and unable to move at all apart from being raised by a pulley to go to the toilet. We go to sleep each night with the fair chance that we will awake refreshed the next morning, we hardly ever think of the fact that this might be a sleep we will not wake up from. I vividly remember the moment when the pre-med injection and I was handing over the responsibility of my welfare to total strangers. My hold onto reality began to ease, the thought of what I would wake to had been firmly on my mind, then the grip on this apprehension grew fuzzy, as I was obviously drifting in and out of consciousness.
Laying on my back was never the most comfortable position for me, so I awoke feeling extremely uncomfortable and the discomfiture was made worse by the numerous tubes that were attached to my back and arms and I inwardly panicked.
I mentally scanned my body for notable changes and quickly realised that the whole of my right side of my body was heavily bruised, with further exploration I noticed that there was no sense of feeling in the lower part of my left leg and foot, as I brushed my right foot against the left the returning sensation was only one way.
My agitation attracted a nurse to my bedside and she explained that I could administer my own dosage of morphine via a button attached to a tube going into my arm, I was never a great user of pain medication and even though I was encouraged to keep the levels up, I still used the morphine sparingly.
The first few days after the operation were spent getting used to the routine of the ward, being woken at 6 am for breakfast and being washed in readiness for the consultants regimented tour of the ward. I listened to the hospital radio a lot as personal music players were not allowed in the ward, the day was dull and was almost wished away.
One afternoon I felt the strong impression of someone taking hold of my lifeless left foot and grip it tight, raising my head slightly I could see there wasn't anyone there, yet the gripping continued and oddly I never thought more than acknowledging and acceptance of the sensation. As the afternoon progressed so the unseen hand began to massage the foot and then gradually started to move up the leg and as it worked so i had the feeling that the roughness of the hand reminded me of my grandmother. That evening after supper and the last of the relatives had left the other patients in the ward, the lights were put down and the t.v in the center of the room was switched on for the Sun T.V Awards. The room was still and the massage of my leg continued then moving back to the foot it gripped very tightly. As this happened so there was a strong impression of someone standing to my left, this sensation suddenly swept right across my body from left to right as a cold breeze and then drew back to my left side. There was no fear only awareness of the role being played out and this continued as i suddenly found myself traveling through the wall of the building, in my mind I asked to stay with my physical body and returned to the ward. The t.v was still playing the awards show though it seemed much of the ward was now asleep. I suddenly felt my spirit body was dropping through the floor into some deep otherworld and shadowy figures drew close, so close that our faces almost touched, and some inner impression told me not to be afraid as they couldn't harm me. Suddenly I then shot upwards and it felt like I was traveling upwards past the outside of some vast skyscraper whose lit windows flashed past me, I was then overwhelmed by a moment of brilliant light then suddenly returned to my body and to the ward.
I quickly became aware of hovering above my body then slipped back in. For the next hour and while I was watching the tv they ran through a series of manoeuvres that involved what seemed like cutting sections out of my body and taking them away, releasing me from my physical body and after replacing the section that had been cut was then reinserted again. Eventually I was conscious of a slipping into what felt like a bath of very wet clay, it was in fact me returning and reconnecting into my physical body.
The operation had stopped, and I saw eight hooded monks at the end of my bed discussing what had occurred. In the centre of the ward appeared a staircase that passed through the ceiling, the room was full of a white swirling smoke and to my left I could see the ward door and a nurse in the corridor coming towards the ward. As if in slow motion, the monks turned and started to ascend the stairs, the smoke drifted through an open window and as the door opened all evidence of the event had gone.
Greetings Card 1979
The experience I had awoke a feeling that I wanted to offer myself to the energies who had worked on me. I left my job in the jewelry company and spent a few years trying to find my path, working through Spiritualism, the Baha'i , Hindu and Buddhist faiths , but none satisfied the inner longing and the Door stayed closed.
Often we are through the Door without knowing, mine had opened when my father died and I needed to look after my mother. I started to sketch for the first time in years. My first efforts were heavily labored pencil drawings filled with a deep symbolism inspired by the work of William Blake. They were very dark and troubled expressions of my feelings around the loss of my father.
After visiting an exhibition of pointillism, I began to experiment with this art form and superimposing imagery on top of each other. Working with the fine ink Rotring nibs also allowed me to express myself in a more ethereal way.
When it became clear that these new drawings I was creating needed a border, a book by George Bain, Celtic Art: The Methods Of Construction, found its way into my life and I began using and adapting these patterns in the book for my new art. My wife, who wasn’t keen on my earlier figurative work and ink imagery, encouraged me to work more with the decorative Celtic artwork.
Gradually the pictures became fully Celtic in style. The art was mainly black and white, pen and ink. The creative process was long and laborious as I struggled to add as much symbolism as I could to empower the picture.
Yet the work went quickly and that same year, 1997, I exhibited my art at the first Festival Of Mind Body and Spirit in London. One of the first people I met was Michael Joseph who immediately commissioned a portrait of Merlin for a friend of his who was in communication with the Sage. The only guidance he would give me was to look at the Plough Constellation ask ‘M’ (I always preferred to refer to him in this way rather than using his name.) for help.
I was living in Reading on Edgehill Street at the time. As I stood on the edge of the hill one starry night and looked up at the Plough while asking ‘M’ for help, a shooting star shot right through the middle of the constellation. Later that night when I returned to the studio, I began to see small blue lights touching the drawing board and when I sat down I felt hands resting on my hands. The
lights started to direct my drawing by moving over the artwork. They would stop when I tried to include my own ideas and only reappear when I removed my additions.
Unseen hands rested on my shoulders as I worked and they would hold my hands when I stood back for a break. I was often guided to make additions to what I felt was clearly a finished piece of art. Sometimes this meant redrawing the whole picture again. When I resisted, a gentle poking in my back would encourage me to make the change and wouldn’t relent until I began the changes
they wanted. It was the energies way of teaching me to give myself over to them even when a picture looked like it was going nowhere. It was a message to trust the process and their guidance. This always worked although there were many times I was frankly very surprised that it did.