On being an artist: lost for 2 hrs staring at an eye

 by Ruth McIntosh

Sibylesque Paul Klee quote

I have just spent two hours staring at an eye I’m painting. What happened? Where did the time go?…and I still haven’t done the other one!

Being an artist is a lonely business but wonderfully transporting at the same time. Transporting where though? Well, transporting away from everything except those colours and that purpose in front of me to achieve Charlottes’ eye and all that it conveys.

Charlotte's Eyes 2014  Ruth McIntosh

One of the most important and difficult things I have come to terms with in painting is that most of the art I produce is simply practice and therapy, not some end product. The image is usually being wiped off, or painted over.

However the therapy is blissful. Putting on the music, singing at the top of my voice intermittently after making some strokes, having moments of immense energy accompanied by beautiful quiet interludes. Not thinking about dinner, children or any domesticities. Ahhh, bliss!

My studio is full of visual evidence of my whimsical thoughts. Sometimes it’s a bit depressing and sometimes it’s very comforting. My visual diaries document my life with amazing accuracy even without words.

Well, that’s enough of this little interlude and its back to Charlotte and the other eye and the smell of paint, turps and the heavy decision of which music to play. I’ll see the world in another two hours!


Ruth McIntosh

Ruth McIntosh

Ruth McIntosh is an extraordinary  and passionate artist, who has been involved in art and art education for many years. She has held various solo exhibitions and has been involved in group shows. Ruth specializes in portraiture using both traditional methods of oil on canvas/linen and incorporating experimental use of media. Ruth is committed to extending her art to enjoy the riches of traditional workmanship alongside the excitement of contemporary application.

Her website is: Ruth McIntosh


The kids have left; the dog has died. Is it time to downsize?

by Helen Elliott

Sibylesque Monet quoteWe decided to downsize. The children had left, the dogs had died, as had one cat. The other was thinking about it. The garden, my adored, beloved garden was making me anxious and there was the problem of Upstairs. Upstairs, where the children had lived so happily all those years was now where I hurled anything I didn’t use but was too lazy to pitch out. Or sentimental. Upstairs was over my head. I never went there if I could help it but it hovered, symbolic of a paralysing weight .

So why not sell when someone knocked on the door, said they were in love with your house and garden and here’s an offer you can’t refuse. We didn’t. In three months we were in a flat.

Garden mount-macedon

Oh. What do you do with a grandchild in a flat? Sure, we could walk in the Botanical gardens, find playgrounds, sit in cafes, go to museums. But something was shockingly out of kiltre. These lovely places were public, not personal. I couldn’t say: “Grandma planted that kolkwitzia twenty years ago”. Why was I waking in tears every morning, dreaming of my old garden? And why did I feel my hands and feet were cut off, disabled by my inability to step out onto the earth and into that intimate natural space I had been creating for over two decades?

Helen in her garden

Helen in her garden

Life is change, I know this. But my change was in the wrong direction. I heard that word “de-natured” and everything made sense. Without nature at my door I was a shadow of myself. It made me think hard about nature in the lives of my small grand children.

Two years, two flats later we decided to upsize. An acre, a tranquil house, a stream, a pond, a vegetable garden. I have never been happier. And the grandchildren know about this thrilling thing called The Country.


Helen Elliot 2Helen Elliott is a thoughtful and analytical reader, informed and soulful writer and unyielding literary critic for many Australian newspapers. She is also a dedicated gardener.


Notable Women: Christine de Pizan

by Lorna Ebringer

 Sibylesque Virginia Woolf Quote

A lot has been written about the life and work of Christine de Pizan, late medieval scholar and writer but I had never heard of her until Sibyl in chief Kerry asked me to write about her for Sibylesque. Here is a potted history for those of you who would like to become acquainted with this extraordinary woman.

Sibylesque Christine de Pizan in her studyAccording to the British Library Christine de Pizan was born in Venice in 1365, the daughter of Tommaso de Benvenuto da Pizzano who was a physician and a court astrologer. After her birth the family moved to France where Tommaso accepted an appointment as court astrologer to Charles V. It was here at the court that Christine received an extensive and wide ranging education supervised by her father, an education that was normally reserved for men of the wealthy class in that time.

City of Women by Christine de Pizan. She supervised the production of the illustrated manuscript.

City of Women by Christine de Pizan. She supervised the production of the illustrated manuscript.

At the age of 15 Christine married Ettiene du Castel. She had three children before being widowed 10 years later. It is clear from her poems that Christine loved her husband and felt her loss deeply

Alone and in great suffering in this

deserted world full of sadness has my

sweet lover left me. He possessed my

heart, in greatest joy, without grief.

Now he is dead; I’m weighted down by

grievous mourning and such sadness has

gripped my heart that I will always weep

for his death.

(from One Hundred Ballads, completed before 1402, translated by Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski)

As her father had also died four years earlier Christine had to find a way to support herself, her children and her mother. She turned to writing and in the following 30 years published both prose works and poetry enjoying great success serving as court writer for several dukes and the French royal court of Charles VI. It is claimed that she was the first woman in western literature known to have made a living as a writer.

 Sibylesque Christine de Pizan being instructed by the Sibyl in the spheres of heaven

Initially she wrote love ballads for wealthy patrons often on commission. These proved very popular and she wrote 300 in all. Her prose works include The City of Women, the Faytte of Armies or The Deeds of War and Chivalry, The Book of Peace and the book of the Changes of Fortune.

Nowadays Christine is of interest to feminist scholars for her writings on the position of women in society. Simone de Bouvoir wrote in 1949 that she was the first woman to take up a pen in defence of her sex. In her plea for the education of girls Christine wrote

“If it were customary to send little girls to school and teach them the same subjects as are taught to boys, they would learn just as fully and would understand the subtleties of all arts and sciences.”

Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies

 Sibylesque Christine de Pizan and 'The City of Ladies'

and on domestic violence

“How many women are there … who because of their husbands’ harshness spend their weary lives in the bond of marriage in greater suffering than if they were slaves among the Saracens?”

Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies

At the age of 55 Christine retired to a convent at Poissy.




Lorna Ebringer’s passions include trekking  in remote areas of Georgia, China and Japan, opera appreciation and rock ‘n roll dancing. Her previous post was When god had a wife.


Photo Source: British LIbrary Manuscripts online.………………………………………………..



It’s Detox or Dementia: Why Pill Poppin’ Mamas should be worried!

Kerry Cue

Sibuylesque Orwell Quote 1As we age, many of us collect more and more medications. But specialists in geriatric medicine (Oops! That’s the 65+ age group) are telling patients around the world it is time to DETOX. Overmedication is causing more dementia than it is curing.

Sibylesque pill bottlesFor instance, 40% of Australians in the 65+ age group take 5 or more medications. In an article by Jill Robotham (Health Risk for Over Medicated Elderly, The Age, 5 Jan 2009) David Le Couteur, director of the Centre for Education and Research on Ageing at the University of Sydney said ‘Ceasing to take medicines such as sleeping pills and antidepressants improved people’s mental abilities and reduced the likelihood of serious falls’. Professor Le Couteur, a geriatrician at Concord Hospital, Sydney, explained that evidence based research looking into the effects of taking multiple drugs is “almost non-existent”. Meanwhile, in one study 85% of older patients had stable blood pressure 6 months to five years after being taken off blood pressure tablets.

Dr Tannenbaum's 18 week Benzodiapapinne DETOX schedule.

Dr Tannenbaum’s 18 week benzodiazepine DETOX schedule.

Meanwhile, in another informative article in the New York Times by honorary Sibyl, Paula Span (Weaning Older Patients Off Sleeping Pills, 2 Jul 2014), Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, who holds an endowed chair in geriatric pharmacy at the University of Montreal, explained ‘People taking sleeping pills are five times more likely to report problems with concentration and memory … Twice as likely to have a hip fracture. Twice as likely to have a car accident the next day if they’re driving.’

They also experience more incontinence.

Not only does Dr. Tannenbaum and colleagues want older people to detox by weaning themselves from benzodiazepines (Sleep and anxiety medication. Brand names include: Ativan, Ambien, Halcion, Klonopin, Lunesta, Sonata, Valium and Xanax.), they have produced a downloadable brochure to help them do it.