I was born in Sussex, south east England, where I was brought up on the edge of Ashdown Forest. My love for the trees, the rivers and wild life was everything to me. It has inspired virtually all my painting, drawing and photography. Since early childhood I knew I was an artist. I had a sketch book and pencils with me wherever I went. I drew everything around me; landscapes, details of country life, buildings and self-portraits. My creativity and imagination was free. At fifteen I was taught traditional water colour painting by a wildlife illustrator. I painted birds, fish, animals, phenomena of light, clouds, even rain. I found the subtle medium sprang to life with such luminosity especially when enhanced with intricate detail from another medium. Art was nearly all I did apart from dreaming out in the forest. I was a solitary character, happily quiet and introspective. My pallette extended when I began carrying around a tripod and camera bag full of lenses. I took long walks out into nature to try to capture the beauty I saw everywhere. I became fascinated by the tonal qualities of Black and White photographs and spent hours in the darkroom, burning and dodging.
On one excursion into the forest I stalked up to a Doe and Fawn, taking pictures. Something took me over while crawling over the leafy ground towards them. I remember leaving my camera and edging my way right up to the fawn. We ended up curled up next to each other in a hollow full of autumn leaves. So began a lifetime relationship with these beautiful, gentle animals.I was fifteen when I was told my name was SIKA, which is the name of a type of deer. This happened as I was out in the forest watching some Sika deer. The deer is my totem. In ceremony some time later I was given the name Little deer that walks strong upon the Earth.
Art became my obsession. I added acrylic and oil painting but also started writing. Each new medium fed my creativity, generating more and more energy. The influence of music took me deeper into the realm of spirit and different realities. I was listening to bands like Pink Floyd, Gong, Steve Hillage and Led Zeppelin. Music from Rock to Folk to Progressive and Psychedelic began to affect the way I saw the world.
One day, I received a vision, in which I saw that my life’s work was to create multi-media shows designed to take people on journeys into other realities. I have been doing that ever since!
Art College was fantastic fun. Total immersion into my passion with no distractions…
Although I fully wanted to do a course in fine art I actually took photography not painting as my main subject. For some time I struggled with this choice and only found peace doing both. I began printing photographs onto ceramics and made huge pictures 3m x 2m merging paint and photos. I befriended the lecturers and technicians in all the departments. Doing this gave me access to any art materials and studios that I wanted. I was so prolific that I had two portfolios of work which was enough to have earned me a degree in each subject. I also begun sculpting in wood and clay.
I had always expressed my deep relationship to the natural world, and when I discovered Deep Ecology it completely resonated with me. My consciousness expanded and my art grew too.
I began to manifest the subjects of my art. Images of hand built houses, wind turbines and tipis began to become real. The subject of my Degree show, was a year long study of a community of people living in Tipis in Wales. A growing interest in alternative architecture lead me to want to live in a commune and off I trudged to experience this in the only one I knew of. This proved to be quite an adventure…
I arrived off a bus late at night. It was pitch black and raining heavily. I had no torch and could not see a thing. I called out and and was given directions by an invisible someone who just happened to be walking by. He told me to ask for Steve. I stumbled up a grassy hill and remember the eerie feeling as a big white shape appeared in front of me. The tipi was huge. I had not seen one or stood next to one before.
A voice from inside said ‘Come in” when I called out for Steve.
I walked right around the tipi, but couldn’t see a door.
‘How?’ I asked in despair.
Laughing, Steve opened the canvas door. There before me, was a beautiful warm fire. Behind it was Steve, his wife and their son. It was so dry, warm and cosy. I took off my wet coat and boots and joined them. They handed me a wooden bowl and we shared dinner. No questions asked – just completely open hospitality.
I stayed with Steve and his family for nearly a month. During that time they taught me everything about how to make a tipi by the simple expedient of making one.
I photographed the people in Tipi Valley and learned their simple way of living which was close to the earth. We gathered firewood and water, cut and laid the reeds on the tipi floor, cooked on a fire and shared communal tasks. I gradually sank into a completely different way of being. We made sweat lodges, we drummed, sang and prayed and tended the vegie gardens. Some of them were third generation tipi dwellers and they shared their amazing stories.
I returned to the tipi people, a month later for a second visit. That time I lived in the ‘Big Lodge’ (tipi) along with twenty other people. It was winter and snow covered the ground. It was hard core tipi living but we did everything together.
Kids, couples, nutters, single people young and old. My concept of life was stretched beyond my wildest imagination.
When I returned to college, to process the photos and complete my exhibition, I was a changed man. I couldn’t live indoors anymore. The walls were separating me from nature and I just couldn’t hear or feel the outside. The only possible thing for me was to make a tipi.
I decided to exhibit my final degree show in a tipi. I made one on my own using the college facilities. I lived in it for the last six months of college.
The exhibition was open to the public and people flocked to have a look. The response was so great that it received a write up in the British Journal of Photography. I was awarded a B.A. Hons Degree in Photography. There was a constant flow of other students wanting to stay in the tipi which brought me out of myself and boosted my confidence.
I lived in that tipi for the next ten years. I moved it about and lived in it right across the south of England all year around. The joy it brought to my spirit is indescribable.
Just after college, I went to a Green Collective meeting held near Glastonbury. I caused quite a stir when I pitched my tipi in the grounds of the farm now called Earth Spirit Centre. This was my arrival on the alternative scene and the beginning of a life long friendship with the owners of the centre. It was a significant gathering, because it was the first time I had ever seen or heard a Didjeridoo. Gaboo Ted Thomas, an Aboriginal Elder from Australia was there teaching about the Dreamtime. I sat and listened, soaking up the ancient wisdom but after three days I was no closer to understanding what the Dreamtime is…. but something must have been triggered off in me!
It was at Glastonbury festival, that I was given my first drum. A Chinese ceremonial drum, with a skin on either side. I taught myself to play it using a technique to stretch the skin and bend the tone. In those days, there were about eight tipis at the festival. Nowadays, there are somewhere in the region of one hundred. At those gatherings we often sang Native American chants and I became friends with a band called Prana. Summers were spent on the road, going from one festival to another. Winter was time to make a permanent camp and keep warm and dry. I began to play flute after I was given a bamboo flute by a young boy who had made it himself.
One summer, I looked after a young family from Australia. They were tipi dwellers too. I lent them a second tipi I used for the summer. Our friendship grew and as we sat around the fire he would play his Didjeridoo. He shared with me the ‘way’ of being a Didjeridoo carrier and player. I never played it or even touched it because that was taboo. At that time my life path was dedicated to the Native American traditions. The aboriginal way he taught came from people he lived had amongst in North Queensland. It fascinated me but seemed to be opposite to what I practiced. Little did I know that the Didjeridoo would become such a massive part of my life.
One day my friend came into my tipi as I sat by the fire in prayer. Silently he held out his Didjeridoo as a gift to me. Holding it for the first time I knew that my world was about to change. Like a lightning bolt shooting into me the Didjeridoo began transmitting information to and from me and has done so ever since. My friend left my tipi bowing and respectfully backing out. His gift was given in the silent knowing that we always had between us. The next day he and his family left to return to Australia and I have not seen or heard from him since. I am hugely grateful for what he shared with me.
For the next three days I took the Didjeridoo with me as I sat by the river, under a tree, or in the tipi. I let the wind speak through it whispering it’s song to my awestruck heart. Eventually I put it to my lips and blew. The theory had been told to me and I began teaching myself. In those days there were only a handful of people in the UK playing Didjeridoo but I was basically on my own. For two years I played it on my own. I carried the Didjeridoo with me everywhere I went.