Friday, November 30, 2012

New Calendar for 2013 and Blurb Christmas discounts


















My calendar for 2013 has finally arrived! 18 months ago a publisher asked me if they could put one together using my images, I was chuffed to bits and to now have one in my greasy mitts, well how cool!

Amber Lotus Publishing are a lovely fluffy company based in Portland, Oregan and they were an absolute pleasure to deal with, I had great fun sorting out the images for them and lots of excitement anticipating what it may look like. And finally it arrived the other day!

Larger than I thought, think of a vinyl album cover (though sadly it doesn't play a tune when you slap it onto a record player but it might ruin your stylus) and printed on dolphin/tuna/donkey sanctuary/hedgehog friendly paper. I can only imagine how many wonderful forests have been planted just to offset the printing of this calendar. I am expecting a massive kick back from the squirrels. They now owe me big time...

I have a few knocking around should you want one (that'll be you people with Paypal accounts and not any squirrels even if you have a PaySquirrel account), about £8 each give or take shipping and where you live in the world, drop me a line if you want one, there's a contact whatchamacallit on my website. You can get them on Amazon too should that mean you can get one cheaper wherever you are. They don't ship to squirrel land so take note nut munchers. You can get them plenty of other places too apparently but you'll probably know better than me about that.

Oh and finally should you want a book for Chrimble, Blurb are knocking £7 off until 13 December, just enter SAVE7 at checkout. If you squirrels want one then you'd better ask Blurb if it is alright to pay in hazelnuts.

Monday, October 08, 2012

I miss you most of all when autumn leaves start to fall

I feel your loss so much more when the autumn leaves start to fall by escher is still alive

I sincerely believe that most of the decisions we make, especially the important ones, are not made consciously. I'm not talking about whether you fancy carrot or fruit cake with your cup of tea, but the choices upon which the direction of your life hinges. There is so much to ponder and process that any conscious decision made is an illusion. The unconscious mind is required to process all the complexities.

During the time you try and make the decision if you continue to feel turmoil then you aren't ready to choose, your unconscious mind has not finished it's job. One day it will cease to be a decision anymore where you have to choose at all. One day you'll just know what is right, you'll feel it in your core without necessarily knowing why. I've been witness to this happening in my life at several key points on my journey.

I've not been one of life's copers, 'you're too senstive!' they'd all say. Where shyness seemed to be the culprit and being forced to confront your sensitivies the solution, I would try and retract myself away from difficult situations. Sensitive people aren't necessarily shy, indeed I can be the life and soul, what we need is space to breathe, when we feel overwhelmed, which is difficult in the midst of a non-sensitive world, so often the urge is to retreat and to hide and to build a brick wall around oneself.

In my early twenties I had my heart broken and I had never felt so shattered and bereft. It brought on the mother of all retreats, outwardly everything was normal but inside the maelstrom was devouring my soul. Contact and vulnerability was dangerous and I tensed every sinew to make sure I could not endanger myself again. Hideously damaged on the front line I ran backwards as fast as I could.

A couple of months later I took on two cats who needed a home - their names were Lottie and Gizmo - and we three became a little family, we needed no-one else but ourselves. I poured into them all my vulnerability and love and as long as it would go on forever then I'd feel safe and happy and reassured. This wasn't a healthy place to be.

More than ten years passed and the wall I had built was solid, high and impregnable and yet I wanted someone to breach the defences. But it was far too high to throw the keys over. I was stuck behind ramparts of my own design.

And then events took another turn and someone managed to scale the ramparts and find their way in (wow! this sounds proper corny! But hey it's all true so I'm just gonna have to carry on). She loves me back the same way I love her and she's my rock. Just by being there she allows me to step outside of myself and grow and mature, without her I'd still be an emotional cripple, although I still have to walk with a stick!

Despite this my feline coven remained and I had not prepared at all for their inevitable passing, I just couldn't contemplate having my heart broken again.

And then Gizmo died quite suddenly and once again I felt snapped in two. I felt she'd been snatched away from me. I felt cheated and angry and desperately hurt. I wasn't prepared then for the realities and harshness of life. it knocked me sideways and I dreaded every single day after that I would lose Lottie at any moment too.

That was six years ago but Lottie's feisty character and vitality lived on and on, never quite quelling the dread I felt but filling my life with many magical moments of comedy and companionship. What a fantastic little character she was.

But I knew the day was coming and I knew I couldn't hide from it. One day soon she would be gone.

She became ill several months ago and it was the beginning of the end but despite this I was going to ensure that her final days would be fantastic and she would have quality of life to the end. I did everything I could for her, and I suppose for me too but I also wondered whether I would be brave enough to know when her time had come.

A week ago she took a turn for the worse and I knew the day was galloping towards me. I felt like things were okay whilst I could do something, make things better, make her happy and she'd let me know that she was okay too. But now I'd run out of things I could do, I'd become helpless in the midst of inevitability and I already felt grief piled upon me.

And then I had a dream:-

I was at the bottom of a sea cliff with another rock climber. I climbed up the face to the top and then it was his turn to follow. Half way up his grip loosened and he fell off breaking the fingers on one of his hands. I lowered him on a rope to the bottom of the cliff and attempted to phone for an ambulance on my mobile phone, but I couldn't raise a signal.

I shouted down to him, "don't worry, I'll go and call for help! There's a building over there, they'll surely have a phone!"

I ran over the building and it was a large office full to the brimwith people working. I frantically went from desk to desk picking up each phone but I couldn't reach the emergency services. I was thwarted at every turn. I tried and tried and tried but it just wasn't going to happen. I could do no more for my friend, my attempts to help were now futile and the gradual realisation was upon me that it was time to give up and let it go.

When I woke up from the dream I knew what it meant, in fact I knew what it meant whilst I was dreaming it too. Lottie should not suffer more than she has to, it was time to let her go.

Today was the day I'd lose her, that day I had dreaded for six years. But I just knew it was time to say goodbye, it felt right, it felt necessary, I wasn't torn. Her spirit remained until the end and it was peaceful when she did go.

I had tried to imagine this day and the very thought of it made me sick to my stomach but now it was here an inner strength bubbled up from within me and I felt able to cope and to do the right thing. I found peace with the decision I'd made and I knew deep down it was right.

Of course I am sad and bereft but my unconscious mind had been working overtime and through all this I'd reached a point of acceptance. I wasn't to be tossed around in the hell of having my heart broken as I had before, this time I had a chance to come to terms with a little more of the realities of life, when before they would eat me alive. Without my rock looking out for my welfare I don't know how I would have come this far.

Within us all, us non-copers and the rest, an inner strength can appear when we need it. It makes subconscious decisions for us and carries us high on its shoulders exactly when we need it the most.

Perhaps we owe it to ourselves to tap into this inner force at other times too, when we aren't so painted into a corner. Building walls can be a necessary short term solution but you must dismantle them before they get too high. It's not healthy to go along otherwise. But then hindsight is a wonderful teacher, I can only hope I heed my own advice in the future.

I haven't made anything for quite a while and it was about time that I did. This is for you Lottie, I miss you but all ends are a beginning too.

And to the twonk who thought it necessary to drive his Subaru Imprezza WRX at over a ton through the lanes today. Don't worry, you can get penis enlargement surgery these days, I know I get emails about it all the time. And There's Viagra if you don't have the time.

And finally: Today's land art was brought to you by the words 'pretzel' and 'butterfly'.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jungle Leaf

Jungle Leaf by escher is still alive
Jungle Leaf, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

Here's another excerpt from my Nepal trekking journal:-

I expect if you heard the sound of your own kid's noise, the way someone else without the built up tolerance might. Or you could fully appreciate and empathise with those who's peaceful idyll had just been disturbed, then you'd probably go stark-staring, cockle-bonkers mad.

So, dear reader, (always love to begin a paragraph with a so) I am writing this beneath a blue tin roof of the Dhampus Holiday Home trekkers lodge in the foothills in the Annapurna Himalaya in Nepal.

The last of the sun's rays lick at the cold glacial ice cream tumbling down the flanks of the impossibly pointy peak called Macchapuchre or 'Fishtail'.

If the professor of mountains from the mountain's guild and the head of the mountain university had got together to design a peak that would be the mountain to end all mountains, so that hills would have to skulk off in a sulk, then surely this would be it.

I am surprised it hasn't torn a hole in the sky. Its razor sharp edges would surely cut through and rip the most tightly woven oxygen molecules. It should be able to cut a line all the way around the earth as it spins, loosening the top of its scalp like a soft-boiled egg.

In the distance I can hear a farmer goad his oxen to continue their furrow and dig deeply into the parched soil. The shrill peep of an eagle pierces the air and the terraces cascade everywhere like endless staircases.

Truly Shangri-La, what could taint or spoil such tranquillity and wonder at the savage beauty of the mighty Himalaya.

Well how about eight children under the age of ten trekking with their half deaf, two pair parents. Screeching and fighting and running rings around me and my tranquillity.

Now don't get me wrong, I like children but I couldn't eat a whole one. Being a sensitive type, the abrupt transition from peace and quiet to screeching is just ever-so, a-little-bit jarring.

I have a tendency to offload any extra stress by whining. It can feel like I am bobbing along in a little rowing boat, oars up and prostrate, staring at the sky. When a speedboat full of squawking infants draws alongside and their wake fills my boat with unwelcome water and unless I bail furiously, I'm gonna sink without trace. To save myself from a watery demise I have to mutter under my breath “bloody parents, can't they not hear the noise their own children make? And at least ask them to quieten down a little?” But alas surely you'd go a particular nutty type of nut, that would get stuck between anyone's teeth if you really could take in their noise, full-force, unfiltered by the numbed brain of parenthood. And murdering your own children, though temporarily satisfying is probably not a great thing to do.

What's life about if it's not about doing what enthuses you. It matters not what it is as long as it drives you, it's the motivation that's the key.

For a good few months now land art has not been my thing. The drive it once saturated me with, boiled dry and evaporated into the ether. I didn't know where it initially came from and once it had gone, I didn't know where it went.

I only wanted to travel to wild places and be myself within them. Nothing inside of me wanted to commune and express nature through little sculptures at the mercy of the wind. I still felt the buzz for life and Mother nature but through other things, other activities and ideas. I was not cast out or stranded or lost just not artistic or motivated to create. But still I felt like part of my identity was missing. Did I care? Not really, but I did care that I didn't care.

I was left in a little quandary. Would it ever come back and if not what then?

Today a little of it came back and I wanted to make something once again. I didn't have the right tools or the time or opportunity to gather ample materials but I did have the most wonderful landscape in the world to gawp at and a whole gamut of of new plants and trees to feed my soul.

Most importantly of all I had that little flame lit within me and I wanted to feel the warmth of its flickering light. It is that that's all important, the rest is just fluff and nonsense.

Of all the tools I need to create something, it's that that sits at the top of the pile. The result might not be all that, out of practice and away from things and places I know. But whether the image is striking or not, I felt it inside.

Then again it might be gone again just as quickly as it re-arrived. Something else will drive me ever onwards and I may never make anything again. Or I may do nothing but, who knows?

But for today I created something and it made me happy just for today. And really that's enough until tomorrow. And tomorrow is just another day.





























































Friday, March 30, 2012

Annapurna Leaf Colour Discs














I've just come back from another fabulous trip to Nepal, some trekking, some chilling, some peace. She surely is my spiritual home and I was so very glad to visit her warmth once again. Whilst trekking in the Annapurna Himalaya I made some things next to the trail. Here's an excerpt from my journal on the day I made this little sculpture:-

Nepal isn't like anywhere else I've ever been. It seems to change me on the inside, it's not just the outside environs that are different.

Other places in the world have left my soul untouched. It's as though I've simply taken the me from home and travelled with it to a foreign land. I'm still the home 'me', stood somewhere else.

But Nepal is different, it seeps through my pores and changes me to what I should be. I feel at peace, confident and full of joy. My sensitivity becomes a blessing and never a chore. It's as though my sensitivity was designed to live in and appreciate the multi-faceted beauty of this place.

It is much more than the mountains, the landscape, the trails, the walking. It's the people, the magical encounters, the just about bloody everything. But most of all it's the way I can open my heart and soul and let all the world pour in. Without cynicism, without fear, without shyness, without worrying about difficult emotions and how I will handle them. Without the need to manufacture situations so I can sheild myself from things I can't cope with, all and everything that holds me back, makes my sensitivity difficult and taxing and sometimes the bane of my life. Here I am free, unleashed, filled with joy and happiness.

I can let my sensitivity fly free and grab onto every wonderful flower, tree or bird and to experience the rhythmic magic of simply placing one foot in front of the other. This is where I am meant to be , unshackled and home at last.

Now don't get me wrong. I have a rich and fulfilled time at home. But the mundanaties of life push spikily against my psyche and make some everyday tasks and relationships difficult. To feel every nuance can render you often vulnerable, confused and overwhelmed. Aching to hide from the world and to launch my vessel into the river of my own inner thoughts. That's why I love to cycle, to run, to walk, to climb and to create. The sublime lives within these things and I go looking for them to release my soul on a long leash and to let it stretch its legs for a while.

But being in Nepal is not simply a holiday, a break from those taxing minutiae of everyday life. I am not free of those things through simply being away, when I've travelled to somewhere in the States, Europe or South America I've brought a lot of those things with me.

But here I've stepped through the secret door in the back of the wardrobe into another me and another realm.

It's only when I'm here that I remember. It's only here when I am totally me once again. All those times when my innards soared skywards when climbing a snow covered mountain at home, when I've cycled to a long toiled for hill summit or lived the moment when a sculpture resonates, becomes vibrant and electric, when it is more than the sum of its parts. All those times join together with all the months I've spent in Nepal, connecting together all the sublime times in my life.

Another existence running in parallel, rich and diverse and perfect. Perhaps that's what Buddhist enlightenment feels like. Where you can ride the waves and ripples of life. It does not matter what happens, it only matters how it affects you. If the rough feels as important and as interesting as the smooth then maybe you've found the secret to how you should live your life.

I cannot manage to live in this enlightened way much of the time but I am so very grateful to have as much of it as I do. I hope to extend the length of these moments and tie the ends together with little knots in the strands of experience. And maybe one day I'll have a very long length of tightly woven cord, stretching from one side of my existence to the other and nothing, and everything will matter all at the same time.

Aside from how this place makes me feel it is brimful of brilliant in such a wonderful myriad of ways. Today was an experience of a thousand different treats.

We waited for the sun to warm us before shouldering packs and trudging into dense bamboo forest. We entered a deep gorge that is the gateway into the Annapurna Sanctuary and the trail cuts a path along the steep gorge walls like a wound.

Laim, Bamboo and Rhododendron forest dapple the light onto our faces and beneath our feet is a carpet of fallen coloured leaves while massive, savage peaks cut holes in the fabric of the sky.

Julia was a little way behind so I stopped awhile and sat on a warmed, sunlit stone. I collected up some red, orange and yellow leaves and cut circles around a five rupee coin. I stripped some sedge grass and pinned them on with Berberis thorns.

Unusually I could step off the trail here and pin my sculpture up in a tree. Normally the drop offs, either side of the trail, are so steep that you can touch the top of the trees. Nepal is so very corrugated and dramatic but not so good for setting up a little sculpture amongst the foliage. But here was perfect with plenty of room to pick a good spot with bright sunshine and plenty of contrast. Within a few minutes it was positioned and set against the dark trunk of a Rhododendron tree. The breeze swung the branch it was fixed to so I snapped away hoping for something good and sharp and clear.

My land art comes in thirds. Every third attempt just seems to click. All the elements combine just as I imagine they may do if I had had a plan in the first place.

A quick stop on a rock in the sunshine, surrounded by beautiful hued leaves. A quick circular route with scissors and a construction was soon created. Everything combined as I would want it. The place, the materials, the sunshine: click, it was all there.

So this was the third of the three and how I would want it to be. All the pieces fell into place without me really trying very hard.

If you live your life without expecting anything and then are happy with whatever life dishes up, then surely that's a better way to be. If you can conjure up that carefree existence, go with the flow and live from moment to moment it just seems to come together how you may have wanted it to if you'd spent any time wondering how you will want it to be. But the key seems to be not wasting any time pondering on what you would wish for and grasping gently and just letting everything be. Maybe not everything will be just how you would like it, but surely you'll settle for one in three!















































































Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Don't think about all those things you fear

I haven't had a proper ramble for ages, well not a public one anyway. In fact there hasn't been any action, from me, out here in cyberspace, for quite a while.

I'm quite prone to introspection, you may have noticed if you hadn't been staring at your own bellybutton. And it is both a gift and a bind. But it is something wrapped up within my insides, feeling tightly wrapped around like I have been rolled over and over inside a carpet so it clasps the whole of my being.

Perhaps introspection is another name for sensitivity, perhaps even hypersensitivity. I crave peace and quiet, loud noises jolt me with impatience and I baulk at how the non-sensitives will shout into their mobile phone whilst sat next to you, or park themselves adjacently to your long-searched-for-solitude on a remote beach ovelooking the sea.

At the hinges of the seasons I feel my sensitivities even more and they career between overwhelm and near blissful wonder at the world.

As autumn begins I feel this the most strongly. My feeling for the world is so fiercely overwhelmed but amongst the raw and vulnerable feelings are glimpses of infinity and heaven. But what can be imagined and intellectually understood is not the same as the experience itself. As to live through a hyper-sensitive episode is to be within it, rather than an impassioned observer of its trials and wonders.

Here's something I wrote just as a stream of conciousness back in September, when I was staying away from home for work and felt the full force of autumnal sensitivity.

"I ache, I ache all over.

People watching: what is it to be old, what is it to be young, transporting my enquiring mind into theirs to live their lives for a brief moment. Looking into each persons eyes through my dark glasses, looking at them looking at me, looking at them. Too many interconnections, too interconnected. Need to turn the volume down.

The inxplicable ache of beauty. An impossible Tsumani of creativity and experience, overwhelming sensitivity. Want to bottle it in a jar, keep it and live with it always but also be able to put the lid on so I can breathe and take a break. Sensitivity is such a paradox. While you ache, things take on such infinite proportions, whether you ache for a break, for the world not to keep rushing you with such force, or whether beauty makes you ache, grabs you and affixes its beauty to your soul so you cannot escape, like your brain is being pulled out through your eyes. The aches oscillate between positive and negative each with pull like a powerful magnet, pulling into its clutches or repelling you strongly.

Hard to escape and hard to resist, a trap so overlwhelming you want it to stop and yet when the pain is gone, back comes mundanity. You don't feel the absence of pain, only at the moment it recedes, when the relief replaces the sensitivity. And yet when it's gone you ache once more, you miss it once it's gone, you want it back. You want to feel alive to your core, once again.

Thoughts and interconnections tumble out of your mind, such a thrill if you can catch a ride on one but so often, you just want to pres the pause button and see what it is like to watch and experience what it is you are experiencing. To sit back and watch yourself deluged in a sensitive flow of tumbling thoughts so you can make sense of them, take a step back, have them happen whilst be able to witness the flow, see them for what they are, bring them altogether, condense and channel them. But as soon often in life your instrospection does not allow you to silently witness the flow, you are ungulfed in its midst a passenger in the torrent."

"I am writing this sat in a hotel room on a sunny Sunday. What a day to be hyper sensitive.

Away from home for work, with no outlet except a pouring out of words into my laptop, like an ever open ear. Earlier I sat in a pub and ordered myself lunch and attempted to read my Sunday newspaper. My brain on overdrive, I could only muster two paragraphs before my eyes would lift and scan around me to see what was happening, jittery and unfocused, the tsunami gathering momentum all the time.

Battling self conciousness, sat on my own, the sad travelling worker. Newspaper and sunday lunch, pint with billy no mates. And yet the feeling of exposure, the looking at people and the lives, and their ways, their companions and them looking back at me. It heightened it all, the flow of words, the introspection. the self loathing, the strong feeling of the utter transience of existence, the overwhelming power of inexplicable beauty in the world, what it is to be alive, what it is to be sensitve, what it is to trying to make sense of all these things, trapped in a wave crashing onto the shore, tumbled over and over and over.

Me watching them, watching me, whathcing myself, always trying to draw back one more level to make sense of it all, put a box round it and be a witness, so desperate to make sense of it all.

And yet when you think you make sense of it, one of two things happens, it suddenly diminishes, to explain is to take out the mystery, to extinguish its flame or sometimes the opposite happens.

Sometimes it is a revelation as two parts of your mind speak to one another for the first time, like an explosion of inspiration, a never bofore made connection opens up an entire new world.

The world comes spinning back and the wave you were once engulfed in is just one roller hitting the shore, there are 100's more following it in, to engulf you once more.

But what becomes so evidently clear is these words are futile, a nothingness, a distraction in pointlessness. My imagination cannot bottle up those and replay them to me at will, I cannot take them home in a little box tied up with string. I need to be living them now, in the here and now, they are there while they're there and it is then when you feel them in your soul. The memory is bitter sweet, it isn't that thing, it has none of its intensity but it has enough of a clue to remind you to go back and feel it once again.

And this leads me to the ache I feel most of all. the transience of existence. Just as a flower is transient so is a thought, so is a life, looking back is neither here nor there, it is all present in the here and now in its infinite beauty and variety.

But each moment is gone as quickly as it arrives as will be my life, my existence. Embrace the brevity for it is all you have. One day soon you and I will be gone."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Norwegian Maple Autumn Fire Wheel

I've got a thing...

I've got a thing about my rear windscreen wiper...

You see, it only has two settings...

On...

Or off...

This really bothers me...

In my old car it used to be intermittent...

Swish...

Wait...

Swish...

That's how I want it...

But in my new car it does too much...

Swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash...

It is very distracting. So much so I can't concentrate on the traffic in front. All I can do is look at it swish-swashing in the rear view mirror.

You see, I'm worried about wearing it out. I'm not going to get my full entitlement of swishes, let alone swashes.

Mostly we consider ourselves to be logical, rational creatures and yet we are surrounded by the evidence of our neuroses, contrariness and irrationality.

Why will I quibble about something cheap being twenty pence too expensive? When I will happily waste one hundred times that amount on something I don't need.

We all know it's better to take the long way round a traffic jam, even if it takes longer, as at least you feel like you are achieving something when you are moving forward in some way towards your destination.

I'm quite happy to switch on my front windscreen wipers whenever it looks even slightly cloudy on the horizon, sometimes putting them on super-fast just for the hell of it. But their less able and incapable rear window cousins couldn't deal with such abuse and I worry how they'll not cope with their current workload.

So just what am I banging on about?

I guess it's something to do with the direction I want to take my life in. I hope to shed off the assumed, the incorrect, the downright delusional. I want to replace the false and blinkered and harmful with something more succinct, more truthful and more accurate.

Don't we all...

The question is "how to separate one from the other?"

I suspect I need to answer that question before all others.

Perhaps that's where art comes in?

Note to self...

If you want to search for answers, through art and through living a life. Then perhaps it would be a good idea to do some and make more of your life whilst you're living it.

Note to self...

Stop making excuses that you're working too much, or uninspired or plainly can't be bothered. It won't happen unless you invest the time and stop worrying about whether there's a point.

After all there isn't a point until you make one and even then one may not materialise. But what is certainly true:-

You can guarantee there will be no answers if you give up asking questions altogether...

Swish-swash, swish-swash, swish-swash...

I made this sculpture almost exactly a year ago. A few days past I went along to the tree I gathered the leaves from and it is producing the same colours as back then. But I'm having trouble reconnecting with nature just because I haven't put in the effort to create as much this year (see excuses above). The disconnected feeling breeds discontent and the solace I seek from that connection being missing makes me feel a little adrift.

There are other trees from which I gathered leaves last autumn that have not put on the same show this year. Some crab apples nearby, were ablaze with hundreds of hues and yet this year only managed green, yellow and brown. But it's not enough to notice this whilst passing, it's time to become more wholeheartedly involved.

It seems I'm the one who hasn't been listening. Many times I've said land art is all about the process, the doing, the feeling, the seeing. And it's high time I tried to remember that as autumn will be over all too soon.

A life lesson about fleeting existence, the transience and flux of all there is. If you don't take the time to stop and listen then that moment is not grasped but gone forever.

Note to self...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jaume Plensa - Click Here - Much More Within

You really need to go over to Flickr to see this post, there are a few dozen photos embedded within the one post over there, so click on the photo to take a look...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stop Showing Off!


Now, if my mum was standing behind me, as I write this, she may say "Richard, stop showing off!" But really, sometimes you just can't hold it in! (see Gerard's predicament below)

It turns out that the billboards weren't the only thing. To coincide with the A-level results announcement and the mad scramble for University places, Cumbria Uni also put together an advertising campaign in National (I thought it would be nice to use a capital 'N' there) and local newspapers.

I expected to see the odd advert in the special student clearing sections in some of those newspapers but I was really quite flabbergasted to see it on the front page of the Independent, beneath Gerard Depardieu enjoying a tipple (as apparently during the take off of a flight he attempted to piddle in a bottle as the toilets were closed). I'm quite flattered to be in such auspicious company, although I didn't have to embarrass myself to get my picture on the front page. However now I've sold out and gone National (there I did it again), I will do anything for a pay cheque, so if that what's required I am happy to comply.

So my picture was in the Times, the Telegraph, the I (that's a new version of the Independent) on the front page (did I mention that), the Independent (that's the old version of the Independent) on the front page (had you noticed) and the Guardian, and yes I did buy them all! It's also in a couple of dozen local newspapers too (note the small 'l') but now I've got a massively swollen head, I'm not getting out of bed for less than £2.50 if the local newspaper calls.

"Are you still showing off?"

That's all very nice an' all but I did actually do some land art this weekend. I just haven't had the time to write some commentary yet so it's just little old me with my massive ego here at the mo'. I'm sure someone will be along soon, with a pin, to pop me, my wind and hot air.

Next stop, some new land art.

But meanwhile, whilst I shamelessly self promoting: here's something about my exhibition in Kendal.

After finishing up making sculptures at the weekend, we drove down a road we never normally go down and found another billboard.



Monday, August 15, 2011

Billboardtastic


Billboardtastic by escher is still alive
Billboardtastic, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

Giant colourful flowers made from leaves have been springing up around the city of Lancaster.

Rumour has it that the local population aren't impressed and are campaigning to have them replaced with posters of scantily clad ladies as is normal practice round here.

One passerby was heard to remark "these giant leaf flowers, or whatever they are, are all very colourful and nice, and that, but they aren't going to make me fall off me bike when I'm cycling home."

"I want pictures of young ladies not wearing much, that's what billboards are for, do the advertising execs not know nothin' innit?"

Thanks to Spacedman for the tip. I knew Cumbria Uni were using one of my pictures but they hadn't said when they were going up so it was quite a gleeful surprise to see a couple of billboards with one of my pictures emblazoned across it in my home city.

There's supposed to be some others too, bus shelter posters and in the national press, so if anyone sees anything I'd love to hear about it. I don't know how far and wide they're going to be, or how many either but besides, seeing them in your home city is a pretty thrilling experience.

Oh and I have another exhibition starting Monday in the Warehouse Cafe at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, on for the next six weeks. The other exhibition at Gallery 23 in Lancaster is still on until October too.

Another poster by the bus station.



Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rainbow Grass Turns

Something I often wonder about is do you make your own luck? Indeed, what is luck exactly?

I seem to always have luck with spotting wildlife. Whenever I'm out somewhere, and not just when making land art, wandering, walking, cycling I always seem to see something or other. And particularly when I'm not trying to spot anything.

The other day my chain popped off on a hill and as I waited by the side of the road I saw a juvenile woodpecker attacking a rotten log on the ground. Ok, that isn't that remarkable but wherever I find myself there's always something. Stoats, brown hares, lizards, rodents, bats, birds of prey, foxes, dolphins, seals, crocodiles, great white sharks, polar bears, albatrosses and hump back whales. No really. Well half that list anyway.

Where I used to live I had a badger run through my garden, in both senses of the phrase, a badger did run through my garden and there also was a regularly used badger run, that ran through my garden. Sometimes in the summer I would hear them charging around in a loop, with the path by my house and the garden forming half the circuit, galloping and grunting. I think it was badger fruitiness in action. After work once I came down the path to be confronted by a fruity badger in full flight. You'd think that he would have turned round and scarpered. But he stood his ground and waited for me to move out of the way so he could resume his grunting gallop.

The other week I saw six kestrels in flight together, calling loudly to each other. My guess is they were four recently fledged youngsters and their parents. It was quite an astounding sight and I can remember many hundreds more interesting events I have been very fortunate to see.

Perhaps any of these encounters are unremarkable when taken on their own but they feel more remarkable when you add them all together.

So what's going on exactly?

I do believe that you make your own luck and much of it is a subconscious process. If you are open to things then you are much more likely to encounter them, if your mind is closed you wouldn't notice it if it was right in front of you in any case. But, perhaps, even more importantly luck is a frame of mind. If you feel fortunate and blessed and appreciate as much as you can in life then you are, indeed, fortunate and blessed, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bad luck is also a self fulfilling prophecy too in many cases. Often you get what your unconcsous mind thinks you deserve as you outwardly act to make those things happen, most of the time not being aware of it at all.

Of course, s**t happens too and not everything is down to good or bad luck. But lots of things are and much of our lives are within the control of our unconcsious minds.

However, that's where I consider my understanding to end. The power of the unconsious is astounding, and even if you cannot pin it down, it is acting on your behalf anyway, not always in a beneficial way but it is there behind you, steering you where it thinks you need to go.

I find, through my art, that I sometimes witness the results of my unconcsious mind without actually being aware of how it did whatever it did. I find this fascinating as there aren't any other things in my life where I've ever been aware of this.

A while back all my stories were filled with humour and that's because funny things always seem to happen whenever I was making something. Often the light would be in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time for a photograph or the materials I needed seemed to have been laid about the place ready for me to find them.

It happened again yesterday when I made this sculpture. For a couple of months I've been pondering how to capture the essence of high summer and that feeling you get when you while away a dreamy, warm afternoon, cooled by a light breeze, sitting in a meadow of gently waving grasses and wild flowers.

Last week I sat in such a place and studied the grasses and marvelled at their beauty, diversity and life force. The life force of nature in high summer is surely something to behold, and be part of and amongst.

I tried to use those grasses but did not have the skills with which to complete the task. So I went back again yesterday and tried again.

This time my unconcsious was ready and with what felt like no volition the scultpure started to make itself. I took some Horse Chestnut stalks and poked a hole in the end with a thorn. I threaded the first piece of grass into the hole and begun winding it around the stem, following the same process with each next piece and so on until I had three.

I showed Julia and she said "I like them, but I'm jealous, you always go the extra mile."

I disagreed and said "it's not like that, I just start and see what happens."

And so it was. The stalks were perfect for this application and the technique I devised was the first one I though of and it just worked. I didn't search for different materials, or try several different techniques. It just worked out this way first go, as though I'd practiced and practiced to come up with the best way to advance.

So often it feels like I'm not responsible, I try something, it works and I think "cool, how did that happen?"

I'm beginning to wonder if it happens because I've always loved nature and spent so much of my time out exploring somewhere on my own, even when I was really small. By opening my mind to the natural world I am afforded little extra glimpses of what's there and this plays out in making sculptures too.

And above all I feel tremendously lucky in so many aspects of my life and if I was to do the opposite of over analysing and sum up all the above in one sentence, I would say:-

"Take some time to sit in a summer meadow and watch the wild grasses wave to and fro, and you will feel like the luckiest person alive."

In a nutshell, I don't think there is anything else I need to know.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I n t e r c o n n e c t e d

At last I got out today to make some 'proper' land art. It didn't really turn out any good but the end result is not what real land art is all about for me. I'm pretty fed up with working late every evening and having little energy for anything creative so today was an all round good day.

Find somewhere quiet and sit down and absorb the ambience. Watch the swallows put on a aerobatic display and the tall grasses bend and flex in the summer breeze. Take time to wind down and pretty soon you become part of the landscape. Real land art means making something for yourself, not for an exhibition or to put on the internet. Look around and see the beauty and diversity around you. Delve deep into these things and see colours and structures you had not seen before. Immerse yourself in studying these things and learn a little more about what you find. With knowledge of new materials must come new ideas in which to use them in a construction.

The inherent properties of a little understood material, will mean you will have to devise new techniques with which to construct something from them. Are they strong and robust? Will they dry and break and become brittle? As you learn about the properties and structures you must create in new and different ways. By moving away from the familiar, the formulaic and the easy path, there are opportunities to feel immersed, meditative and connected once more to nature. Sometimes the learning curve is steep and the final sculpture unsuccessful when presented in an image. But who cares when the point is the discovery, the fascination of seeing the world afresh, anew and with a child's eyes.

I will try again with what I learnt about today and hopefully will have more success with a sculpture and image. But the tougher it is, when you are fully absorbed, is as successful as I ever want it. That's why it's been a good day. Shame it's blody work again tomorrow, late evenings weekends and more drudge! I think I need a holiday!

This is indeed made from Birch Bark and I took a sheet of Paper Birch and carefully cut out the letters. That took many, many days of toil and as well as what you see before you I also ended up with a numb and calloused finger that is only now beginning to come back to life, several weeks after I'd finished it!

I've been researching the colours of Birch for quite a while now and all the hues you see here are from thin sheets of Erman's, Chinese Red, Himalayan and Paper Birch bark, backlit by the sun. I'm quite astounded by the selection of colours available and how radiant they seem in natural light.

I made this for my exhibition and took it into them yesterday. I've been searching for ways to make natural art sculptures, still only made from natural materials but that can be brought into the gallery space or be sold as original artworks. Although bringing land art indoors is missing the point somewhat, most people don't get to see ephemeral artworks in situ and even if they did do, they wouldn't catch them at the optimum moment, as I try to in my photographs.

However, one thing I did learn about this sculpture is that, normally the photography is all part of the process. My best images are a combination of the right sculpture, the right light and the right time. The best stories I right come from that too. They all need to happen on the same day, I need to be in the groove to be inspired in the right way, to make something cool, to get a cool picture and to feel enthused in the story I write. All those things seem to flow together, when I've go my head in the right place. Each thing leads to the next and are all important components of the whole.

What I found with this bark sculpture, that it was bloody hard to get a photo I liked. I've tried for weeks to get what I wanted but none (including these) turned out the way I wanted them too, I'm not happy with any of them at all. It seems, that without the inspiration and meditation that comes from being in a natural place, feeling it and making something based on what you find and feel there and then, leads you to perform better when it comes to the photography. Being more attuned to the elements, the movement of the sun and the best aspects of a place are only gained through that immersion. Making something over several weeks and then taking it out to photograph it just didn't seem to work for me.

But, in a way, I think that's a good think. That this sculpture looks better in real life. After all that's what it is for, whereas the outdoor ephemeral stuff is the other way around. It just seems funny that I can't get a good picture of it, however hard I've tried. But this failure in getting a good image, has given me new insight into the inner workings of my creative process.

So this was my first attempt to capture the magic of land art, the intensity of colour,the surprising variety of materials and the beauty of Mother Nature, encapsulated into a single art object, still without having to use anything artificial that I do not allow myself when working outside.

I might frame it between two pieces of glass, to protect it and enable it to be displayed, perhaps backlit to show off it's colours. Whether I've been successful in creating an original land art object that someone may want to acquire I'm not so sure but if not, at the very least, it's put me onto the path where I might be able to do that in the future.

I have more ideas for ephemeral land art that can be brought into the gallery, in a way that I've never seen before. I just need the opportunity for more gallery space to give me the kick up the bum to give them a try.

I think I'm rambling so I'll sign off for now, I'm weary if you couldn't already tell. It's hard work sitting in the sun watching the swallows and listening to the rustling grass, I obviously need to be back at work for a rest!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Progression

Progression by escher is still alive
Progression, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

I learnt an important life lesson today. 'Does a bell make a sound if no-one is there to hear it?' Well the riddle is unravelled...

Should you find yourself cycling up a long and steep hill, lycra-clad, lobster-pink and not a little sweaty, then you really are going to look like a total plank if you reach the top of that slope to be greeted by two young ladies (when I say greeted, what I really mean is gawped at with disdain), to then find yourself accidentally ringing your bell, rather than changing gear. Honestly, the two levers are right next to each other!

It highlights quite clearly how one thing can be interpreted in vastly different ways: on the one hand "who does he think he is? Riding up that hill and announcing what a stellar athlete he is with a 'bing'! What a fat, sweaty, idiot!" and the other "gah, why did I ring my bell, right then? What a fat, sweaty idiot!" Oh hang on, those are actually quite similar...

I've also learnt that my cat has no idea what work is, of course she's not particularly employable (unless there's a vacancy for someone who likes lying around on a cushion having their tummy tickled, whilst being fed scraps of smoked salmon) but she also has no idea about my work either. I work from home sometimes and she believes that this is for her benefit. I regularly take part in important conference calls and she thinks it's quite apt to leap up and miaow into the mouth piece, quite suddenly and before I can activate the mute button. My colleagues already consider me eccentric but mewing and animal noises, perhaps go beyond that simple description. She also thinks there's enough room on my lap for a lapcat and a laptop. There really isn't.

I've been struggling for ages to pin down what art is, what its whys and whens actually are, or at least what its direction of travel actually takes you towards.

I then saw a quote, new to me but surely well-known and famous: 'Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.' -Leo Tolstoy

Like a flea jumping about all over the place and suddenly pinned down with a thumb, this phrase had it all, like walking full-force into a door.

It seems like we are all on a quest to connect things together, to see the joins that were not visible before. Art is simply one expression of that journey we all share.

In anything we do, we want to do it better and more succintly, to use that momentum to drive us to understand, whatever it is, just that little bit more each time that we try.

So surely art is no different from simply being alive and travelling in a forwards direction, it is nothing more than a way to describe that journey, like a simple page in a diary or a snap of a happy day on the beach.

As we live life we make connections between seemingly disparate things, and discover they were actually joined together all along. And now I think that good, great and exceptional art helps you make those connections in your head, as the artist reveals all those links they discovered within themselves and distilled them into blobs of paint or whatever medium is their choice of expression.

Or perhaps:-

"Dog sculptor, how do you sculpt this enormous block of stone?"

"I just take away all the bits that aren't dog."

Because of these things I aspire to paint. I've probably mentioned it before. Great painting, for me, seems to distill so much more than any other medium I've witnessed.

Emotion, narrative, sorrow, symbolism, joy and so much more condensed into something that does not require a plaque to tell you what to think. Line, form and colour, skillfully applied, to convey so much depth and description. I don't know if that is at all possible with other mediums, and especially not with mine.

That doesn't mean I am not going to try, as I mature and learn and grow, my art comes along with me and I want to strive forward to reach a point when my art begins to draw together much more, will make you think, ponder and contemplate. After all these are the things that make me tick, make me feel alive, drive me to learn and develop and evolve. And just like great painting I want my art to grow strong and not need a written description, it should explain whatever it needs to, to whoever wants to look at it and let each person take away whatever they wish.

Perhaps it is a confidence thing. To have enough of it to let it speak for itself. Perhaps that will come with maturity and the time to make more connections between whatever disparate things I find.

What is life without drive and fascination and a journey with which to set yourself on? Whether I ever reach there, who knows, but it is assured you never will, if you put don't put one foot in front of the other.

I made this for my exhibition and it's been there for a few weeks now. I haven't seen it since but my partner said they've dried, cracked and grown a little mould. She added they looked pretty good too :-). Drop into the gallery if you are passing by and let me know how they are changing.

My self-confidence doesn't allow me to keep quiet (ahem, as if you hadn't noticed) but perhaps it will one day soon. But I believe there's a few layers to see here and I'll stop and leave it at that. Except to say that I put them in with no conscious effort and it was revealed gradually afterwards.

Despite not planning their inclusion, I still believe they are manifestly there and I am beginning to learn the power of intuition and, too, of the unconscious mind.

A few years ago I was unaware of those things but maybe they are all a fundamental part of the whole maturing process.

So that one day I may find the confidence, to speak without any words.

Progression by escher is still alive
Progression, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Sycamore Seed Sun

I want to post something but need to write something to go with it. I normally write about my thoughts when I created the sculpture, or something that's preoccupying me or maybe something amusing that's just happened.

Well, I didn't make this today and can't remember much of what I was thinking when I did. Actually that's not strictly true. I remember quite clearly trying to get a photo of it all day. I knew it would be better to wait until the sun was lower but I tried anyway when the sun was high in the sky. It was very windy too and kept falling out of the tree I first put it into, shedding seeds as it did.

I knew that the dogwood ring would begin to dry out and contract, and as it did the thorns would fall out. So I needed to get a photo quick but the wind and sun weren't playing ball. Probably I was expecting too much, the wind might drop but I haven't developed omniscience, recently, with which to control the sun. If I had I expect my land art would be absolutely brilliant but I guess (un)godly powers might be considered cheating.

Eventually I gave up and returned later on, when the wind had dropped and dappled light lit up the undergrowth. Now everything was perfect or at least it would seem so. The light was magical and the breeze light and warming but the dogwood ring had lost some moisture and the thorns decided to drop out like needles on a Christmas tree on January 6th.

So I spent many minutes pushing them back in, cursing and pricking myself. This eventually worked and I had the seeds arranged nicely again. I expect you'd have less success using this technique if you were trying to stop your Christmas tree from going bald.

Once positioned and backlit all that was left was to click the shutter.

As for anything funny happening, that would be depend on your point of view. Some may see it as an opportunity, or perhaps something threatening, but in hindsight I definitely thought it was funny.

I've recently acquired a camper van of the Mazda Bongo variety, complete with elevating roof and electric blinds. We like to go out in it somewhere and brew up a cup of tea, simply because we can.

We went on a trip down south and arrived after midnight near to where we wanted to be. We found a little back road, in a forest where it seemed quiet. Pulled up into a layby, elevated the roof and got ready to sleep until dawn.

It's the great thing about owning a camper, you can just roll up and sleep wherever you like. However not worrying about where you are exactly might have unexpected consequences.

This tiny little lane, supposedly in the middle of nowhere, suddenly turned into a highway. Car after car came past, each one slowing down as they approached our spot. "Just what are they gawping at?" We exasperately exclaimed! "Leave us alone, we just want to sleep!"

When we got home I typed the words 'dogging' and "Devon" into Google and retrieved the answer I was looking for. It seemed some local swingers thought we might be up for some action. We had rolled up to one such particular spot, apparently very popular with those inclined in looking for late night action. The moral of the story is to be careful where you park up for the night, you might get more than you bargained for. Quiet remote spots are popular late at night with people other than just impromptu campers.

For those of a sensitive disposition or anyone who is quite happy with the lack of broadness of their mind, I suggest you don't Google those words, and certainly not look at Google Images. You will definitely get more than you bargained for, you have been warned!

As for ponderings I don't think there is much profundity present. Perturbing me this week would be the News of the World scandal, the sudden addictiveness of Twitter (don't do it unless you can handle it), and whether someone really can eat too many crisps.

But what of email etiquette? I regularly receive emails from different people interested in land art and I always take the time to reply. I know if I had written to someone that I would be upset if I just got ignored. Often it takes time to write the replies, I go into detail about what they have asked about, answer questions or help students with projects and dissertations. It's nice that people are interested enough to write to me and I enjoy writing back to them too. But here's the rub!

If it were me I would thank someone for taking the time to answer my questions but very rarely does this ever happen. I often respond to requests for help 'with sure what do you want to know' and never hear anything again, or write a long answer to posed questions and again hear nothing from them either. It is rare, but gratefully received, when they do reply but really that's only happened a handful of times. Am I too sensitive, is my email etiquette calibrated incorrectly? It all seems a bit strange to me.

Over recent months I've written and emailed a number of (well known, famous and less so) UK based natural artists to express my sincere gratitude to them for the inspiration they've given me, and expressed how my life has been profoundly affected. In addition I wanted to reach out and make contact with likeminded individuals, with the hope that we could perhaps collaborate in the future. Disappointingly I haven't received a single reply.

Perhaps they receive a great deal of mail, of the unsolicited and fan variety, and it has become a burden to reply to it all. But I feel that everyone is an individual and deserves that simple courtesy no matter how busy you are.

I am tempted to compromise my principles when I answer questions and seldom get a reply but perhaps it is really a test of character. If I feel sad when my communications remain unanswered then I expect someone writing to me will too. It's important to resist feeling jaded as without empathy most of us are nowhere.

I really need to get out and make some proper land art soon and when work and time allows. The words come best when making something as do funny encounters and pieces of insight. My interim ponderings are more on the morose side without the solace of creativity. Normal service should be resumed soon!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Cycle Leaf

Cycle Leaf by escher is still alive
Cycle Leaf, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

The End joins onto the Beginning...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tangle Cube

Tangle Cube by escher is still alive
Tangle Cube, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

I expect like most people, or at least those that are reading this (;-)) you often go for strolls around the park, woods, fields, streets and lanes around where you live. Once spring has sprung those places that you wander through change from moment to moment. Grasses grow tall, wild flowers reach for the sky, everything is in leaf and green.

A revisit to any of those places a few days, a week or a fortnight later and you'll see everything taller, seed heads developing, the undergrowth becoming more tangled and dense like a miniature jungle.

It isn't just something you see, it is something you feel, right through to your very core. Moist air full of buzzing insects and all life looking for chances to reach further, colonise, grow and develop and to bring along the next generation.

Amongst what I find so magical is the blueprints that underpin all life. Road maps and assembly instructions that say to each component part 'do this and repeat until you cannot do any more.'

Plants build spirals and circles and all manner of intricate symmetries. Cells build upon cells and those simple instructions to duplicate, replicate and grow lead to all manner of specialities and magical things. So amongst all that tangled undergrowth, whilst our own cells are a-buzz with the headiness of high summer, lies such richness, diversity and complexity. Complexity consisting of simplicity, beauty and regularity.

All life is a fusion of these two things. Complexity and simplicity, order and seemingly random chaosity. The order and the disarray, the turmoil and the calm, the tumult and the peace.

The tangle and the cube.

Apologies for the watermark, I hate them! But unfortunately it has become necessary to try and protect them a little more (not that it will stop everyone) but I still want to share regardless!

Tangle Cube by escher is still alive
Tangle Cube, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.