Sunday, July 26, 2009

My New Website & Blog Tour

My New Website, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

Well for the first time in a long time I haven't made anything for more than a week. Has my long, prolific run come to an end? I don't think so but it is good to take a break every now and then. Working intuitively brings a lot of satisfaction when you produce something you like but you always have the prospect hanging over you that the next time you try that no ideas will pop out. I always feel that the next sculpture may be my last and as I plan them beforehand less and less you just have to hope the ideas will come when you want them to . The prospect of Autumn and all the wonderful colours it brings has me excited though and I feel a new chapter will begin then.

But still I have been busy. I've made big inroads into my next book and I have been putting together my new updated website which is what this post is all about. I would be grateful for any feedback, if there is anything you would specifically like to see, things to expand or remove or things that you like. You get the idea.

In the future I will be putting up exclusive content - films, photos and stories - on my site and I will be updating it regularly.

I have also entered my book into a competition. If you feel that you would like to vote for me and my book then you can by clicking the voting button on the right hand side. Thanks again for your words of encouragement and support, it means a lot.

I have one more request. I want to promote my book some more and I wonder whether any of you can help me out? I would like to organise a blog tour. This consists of, for anyone that is willing, putting together an interview where I answer some questions and on a particular date you publish the interview on your blog and I will also link to it from mine. This will benefit us both by allowing your contacts to hear about me and my contacts to hear about you. And of course I would be very willing to return the favour. If any of you are interested in helping me with this then please get in touch.

Oh and if any land artists or artists of the non-land variety (sea and air artists?!) are reading this and would like me to add a link to their site on my site, then drop me a line and I will sort that out. My list of links is quite short at the moment but the only reason is that I haven't had the time to do it properly yet.

Cheers everyone

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Rowan Berry Squares with Added Blueberries

This was certainly not what I thought I would spend my day doing today. When I got up I thought I wouldn't bother with anything, I had no ideas, I wanted to listen to the Ashes cricket and thought it would be a waste of time to go out and try to make something. Instead I would do some more work on my second book.

So I went for a stroll and in the wet and warm weather we have been having everything had grown. A lot. An awful lot.

Soon enough I was hiding in a bush examining berries and studying the leaves and grasses and my head was stuffed full with new ideas. I had an errand to run and nipped over to a friends house who has a fair bit of land. He said I could take some rock from a disused quarry to use for a sculpture I want to make in the garden. I parked a couple of miles away and walked. I selected some choice lumps of stone and shoved them in a strong bag and turned towards the car.

"Hang on, there is an even better one!" So I grabbed that too and put it in the bag.

Within minutes I had picked up even more and now had the maximum I could carry. And when I say carry I mean lift off the ground.

A friend of mine commutes to and works in California and likes to hike in the local hills. Once of his favourite activities is to jog back to his car after a long hike and when there are people around let out a loud "aaaahhhhh" as he finally stops. He then proceeds to pretend to unload the huge rocks, he has hidden in his boot/trunk, out of his pack to much consternation from anyone looking at him, as though he has just run down the mountain with those rocks on his back.

This seemed to be what I found myself doing. It has rained a lot this week and everything has grown as I said. Here I was two miles from my car, tramping through thick undergrowth, both shoes full of water and my trousers soaked right up to the waist. Oh yeah and carrying a bag full of rocks. This is not normal behaviour is it?

Do you ever get that feeling when you kind of have an out of body experience and can imagine what you might look like from the outside? Do you ever get this view of yourself and it shows you soaked through carrying a big bag of rocks through thick undergrowth? Do you then see this vision start to run with his bag of rocks so as to get back to the car quicker as the circulation is being cut off from his hands? Well it seems I get this vision all the time, perhaps I ought to seek some help.

So you artists out there, if you find yourself devoid of ideas, with writers block, lacking in enthusiasm and frustrated. Grab yourself a back of rocks, leaky shoes and a manic look and go for a jog through wet undergrowth (copyright escher's fitness plan). It works every time.

I don't think there is all that much to say about this sculpture other than it took a looooooong time to make (but of course I will still have lots to say). And when I finally had it done I was merrily snapping away and what did I find? One single-solitary-yellow-berry had broken rank and rolled away. There's always one! It was quickly ushered back in line so the show could carry on.

The real trick to something like this with berries is to choose a surface that is as flat as possible. The first time I did a berry sculpture the surface seemed pretty flat but it wasn't flat enough. Rowan berries are often two colours, one on one side and a different colour on the other. If you want to display a particular colour then you need to have one side pointing up and if they roll because the surface isn't flat enough then the effect is lost as they roll over again and again and show the wrong colour.

You can really back yourself into a corner trying to make something like this. Often you will be beyond half way, well beyond that point where you would want to dismantle it all and start again, and it gets more difficult and frustrating to finish than it did to start. As you adjust a section it knocks everything adjacent to it until you want to pull your hair out and if the surface is uneven and they keep rolling over it can drive you insane. But I don't like giving up on something once I've started and so I will battle against it trying to get it done. That first rowan berry sculpture was a complete nightmare and was enormously frustrating to complete.

So this time I carefully selected a flat slab. Even the tiniest blemish could result in you not being able to place each berry where you would like. The first row went on just so and I thought it wasn't going to give me trouble. Well guess what I am going to say now?


The third and fourth rows had some of those tiny blemishes and there were quite a number of places where they would not sit without rolling. When that happens you have to block them in with other berries and you enter the territory where one false move would move the whole lot. Several times I tapped an already finished square and had to rebuild it sighing all the time. But as always I got there in the end.

Making the Rowan Berry Sculpture

Apologies for the artefacts in this film. I had to compress it as the original is huge!

Yet again you may have to play this twice. The first time I played it it did it at double speed! I have no idea why Flickr videos sometimes do that but it should last about 1 minute.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Andy Goldsworthy's Sculpture on Clougha

This is a stitched shot of the Andy Goldsworthy's sculpture on Clougha. It must be seen large! (click the photo, then all sizes, then click original to see it full size)

As you scroll from left to right you are overlooking Morecambe Bay with Black Combe and the Lake District fells barely visible through the haze. As you come round you can see the Howgills and finally the Yorkshire three peaks: Whernside, the distinctive flat top of Ingleborough and lastly Pen-Y-Ghent.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Splinter Stack

Splinter Stack, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

Recently, over the last couple of months, I have taken some Mondays off work expressly to get out and do some land art. The idea being that some of the places I's like to go will be quieter with everyone back at work. That isn't how it had been at all.

A few months ago we went to Robin Hood's Bay and a party of school kids moved in next to us. Last week we went to Heysham beach and the same thing happened and today as we drove up the lane to where you park there was another school party heading onto the fell we were aiming for. But we got ahead of them and didn't see them again all day.

After the strong winds of the ascent it was a surprise to find it much calmer at the top and so I set about balancing some rocks.

The first was an attempt to complete this and over and over I had to hold the whole thing up as it wobbled all over the place. It took me a good ten minutes to realise why. I was kneeling on one of the rocks it was all stacked on. Talk about making it as difficult as possible! I didn't get a photo of that one but I did get a lot of wobbly stack action on video, to be posted another day.

I changed venue and went over to a handsome boulder. This time the breeze had picked up so I would need to be a little careful especially as the stacks were high enough to be difficult to get the top layers on and this meant I would be in a vulnerable position if they were to topple. Still it is good to be focussed on what you are doing.

I collected the rocks I needed and I gathered some little ones and put them in my pocket. This is the bit you don't see the endless searching, collecting and humping about of rock. It certainly isn't the case that I just pick up a few and build something with them. Most of my stacks consist of specially chosen stones, often ones that are difficult to find and not plentiful. It isn't obvious but I am trying to reflect this in each stack, that there are certain shaped stones in a place that you may not notice immediately. The splinters of rock is one example, the triangles another. Finding uniform ones, ones of the same height and most importantly ones with reasonably flat edges so they will stay upright can take a lot of time and effort. But then that is what my land art is all about. Getting a deeper understanding of a place by seeing what is there and searching for things. I have the goal of resultant sculpture in mind and I need that goal to get me to study the materials and eveything about that place, to immerse myself in it. So there is more to it than just what you see. The journey I took up the point where I got the photo you see is the important for me and it is that that draws me back again and again.

And the fact that it is a whole lot of fun too!

There was quite a bit going on on the fell today. Land rovers going up and down the track and a dumper putting new gravel onto the shooters track. Seems that they are gearing up for the hoorays to go and shoot some defenceless birds. Shame. Why people can't appreciate wildlife without having to kill it first is beyond me.

Triangle Stack

Triangle Stack, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

This stack was very precarious indeed. It was wobbling quite a lot in the wind and it took a long while to get the top triangle on. Every time I tried the whole lot would nearly go. I finally got it on and had to sprint to my camera (already set up with high speed shutter release and readily framed) to grab the remote shutter release and within half a second I had three shots and then it collapsed. I wouldn't have had a chance for another go as the toppling had shattered some of the stones.

Triangle Window Stack

Triangle Window Stack, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

I wanted another layer on top of this one. Once I turned my back it toppled and the stones had shattered once again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pebble Colour Circle

Pebble Colour Circle, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

I haven't been able to dedicate as much time recently as I would like to making sculptures, that's been why I've been talking of doodling, but it seems there is some mileage in the doodles (oodles in fact) and here is another one.

The other week we went for a fascinating walk around Silverdale in Cumbria and the walk finished at this spot. We thought it was very nice with lots of potential and made a mental note to return soon.

Here the pebbles are predominantly limestone but with veins of russet red amongst the dirty white, different to some of the other places I frequent for pebbles, and so I thought I could make something representative of the geology of this place.

When we arrived it was very windy and there was nothing else for it but out with the kite. I haven't flown a kite since I was a kid and my partner recently bought me one and I was yet to give it a go.

And was it fun? Of course! In fact I had to force myself to put it away as there was land art to do although now land art felt like work compared to flying my kite. Still it was so windy that I tied it to the back of my pack and it continued to fly as we marched on to the place we were going to work in.

I've done quite a bit with pebbles in the past and I arrogantly thought that I had a good idea of the colours that were there and what I would do with them. Wrong, yet again!

At first glance I could see the dirty white and russet red already mentioned and also grey, black, a little yellow sandstone, some white quartz and purple slate. That was enough for what I had in mind and I didn't expect to find more. But of course once I did start to look many more hues appeared. I was suprised to see every hue ranging from pinky white to deep purple, running through scarlet and mauve and lilac. Really an incredible amount of colours and different types of rock. By studying the pebbles I took in the varied geology of the whole area, the limestone cliffs, the slate of the mountains and the sandstone brought down by the rivers. Without fail you will find more than you expect and I am yet to have that not happen.

I laid out the pebbles in a line to see what colours were there so that I collect more of each for what I had in mind. But the single line looked good in itself so I spent some time thinking what background would bring out the colours. Available to me was grass, rock, earth, sand and mudflats and my first choice would be stone. But the wind was so very strong that my pebbles kept blowing away! I am quite used to battling the strong westerlies we have round here with leaves (that's sounds like I have been literally battling the wind with a sword and shield made with leaves - but you get my drift) and the like but I was a bit perturbed when my pebbles started to blow away!

Hmmm, what to do....

They are going to have to go into mud or sand to try and hold them down a little. Also I noticed that the colours at each end of the line will join up with a few more intervening colours so what else but a circle.

Well this all sounds very simple and so I thought it would be until I started to make it.

I took all of the little pebbles and strode over to the flat sand and began trying to sort out the colours. Now I thought this next bit would be plain sailing, I have all the pebbles and all the colours. All I need to do is lay them out in the right order again. Easy eh?


I am sure that if you made a coloured pebble line that it would come out different each time. Each pebble can fade colour into quite a few other colours and some are different colours on different sides and edges, so you look at the colour of the previous one and then find one to match and you pick one from a larger selection. Here I already had all the stones and like a jigsaw puzzle with 10 different possible solutions, how to arrange them wasn't obvious. I don't have a picture in my head of "purple one end, then red, white in the middle, into brown" or somesuch, instead one just leads into another. Anyway to cut a long story short, something like this should be created first go and not dismantled and rebuilt, something of the intuitive process is lost. So I gathered some more and created it as if from scratch.

A circle is easy to make though isn't it? Well it probably would be if the colours don't have to match but with this it was a case of making a strange lopsided poor excuse for a circle and then rearranging them all to make it rounder, and then again, and again, and again, and once more and yet another time and so on! All the while having to straighten the little divots the pebbles made until I finally had it right.

Or so I thought!

Tripod up, camera positioned, snap away. Looks good, I'm happy - one last look through the viewfinder.


One of the pebbles at the top was completely in the wrong place messing up the flow of colour and so I swapped it with it's neighbour and now it looked right. It just goes to show that you can stare and stare and stare at something and still not see it properly. There are quite a few pictures of mine that I can only see the errors and not the hours of work that went into the rest as there is a slight flaw. I am fascinated by how our perception works and how we spend so much time missing everything around us. Regardless of how much you are tuned in you still miss stuff. I wonder whether buddhist meditation is all about that. Tuning our awareness until you can see so much more. Seems like a very worthy cause to me.

As William Blake wrote:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour

Too true...

Pebble Colour Circle, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

Shadow Leaves

Shadow Leaves, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

There is a place I run where there is a tunnel of trees and in bright sunshine and breezy weather the patterns that are cast on the ground are utterly mesmerising (the endorphins from running probably help with that)!

Following on from my light and leaves series I have been pondering light in a different way and how to use it to show the shape rather than the colour of leaves. A shadow almost makes an imprint of the shape of leaves in strong sunshine and this is what I want to explore.

These are simply experiments to begin the exploration of this theme and as such are most definitely works in progress. I am looking forward to where this theme will take me and I just hope the sun shines enough to allow me the chance to get down to it. This morning started off bright and calm but soon it clouded over and the wind got up, those conditions meant I couldn't pursue what I had in mind. But clipped wings can definitely fill you with enthusiasm for the next time the sun comes out.

Shadow Leaves, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fern Doodles

Fern Doodles, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

Ok I know what you are thinking "doodle ferns" what a strange name?

It just popped into my head while I was making them and stuck. So there you go. I've been mulling over a new direction recently and because of that I thought I would knock up something simple and quick so that I could get my mind into the groove and at least have something in the can before I went home, doodle seemed to be quite apt. I also had some unfinished business with the yellow ferns. I had spotted them last week and was a little disappointed I couldn't think of what to do with them. It was a little strange though. I picked a few of the yellow ferns last week and so there were less to pick today. But for some reason they seemed to be less vibrant, "glowed" less in the sun and yet I couldn't work out why. I don't actually think it was the ferns themselves, I think it was me, or possibly the light was different today to what it was last week. I do think it is possible to see things differently on different days. Sometimes things leap out at you and other times you barely notice them. I think that is interesting.

Often when I make three of something the first one is easiest, the second more difficult and the third a real pain. This is counter-intuitive and you would expect it to be the other way around. But the bracken of the third one just kept disintegrating and wouldn't stay intact. Yet the first went together first go. I wouldn't think much of it other than it has happened like that many times.

So there isn't much to these, or at least they are a sketch of something within several forms I have explored quite widely recently. But still the peace of sitting on a rock constructing something simple with materials gathered nearby, listening to the sheep and the birds, seeing the two owl pellets next to where I was which confirmed that my perch was popular with others too (t-wit t-woo) just gladdens the soul.

Honourable mention must go to the dad and son who skirmished their way down the hillside each armed with a very large super-soaker water pistol. It brings a grin to think of those care-free days when games are only limited by your imagination.

They saw me pacing up and down waiting for the sun to come out, camera sat on top of my tripod poised to get a photo.

"Dad? That man over their must be a spy. He has got a camera and everything. Really he must be a spy." Ahh - takes you back.

Fern Doodles, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

Oak Leaf Sculpture 1 Week Later

I went back to the place where I made the oak leaf sculpture to make something new but I went to see what had happened to it. I really like how the mud has dried and cracked.

The top one was from when I first did it, the middle a day later after a rain storm and lastly exactly a week later.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

4 Colour Sun Wheel Film

4 Colour Sun Wheel Film, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

This is a film of this that I made back in April. If you've seen the original picture you probably didn't realise I was getting eaten alive by midges. Now you can see the gory action all to yourself. I defy you not to feel itchy once you have watched this through!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Triangle Stack

Triangle Stack, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

We went for a walk on Clougha today. It is a very familiar walk, but a beautiful one nonetheless and one that often throws up a few surprises. We went to watch birds and see the heather beginning to flower and to follow wherever our noses pointed us to. The temperature was very much cooler, perfect for walking.

I only intended to have a dabble at land art today so I created this triangle stack. It was very much more precarious than it looks, I did not expect it to stand up at all and when it did a small breath of wind meant it only did for a couple of minutes. That wind was a portent of what was to come.

A Bit Worse for Wear, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

First we went past the sculpture I made yesterday. After the heavy rain of yesterday afternoon it was looking decidedly worse for wear. We carried on up the track and paid another visit to the stunning Andy Goldsworthy sculpture that is up there. It doesn't matter how many times you see it, it is still an amazing sight and one of his best permanent sculptures.

Half built Stack, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

I gathered more stone to make another sculpture and begun to construct it on top of a large pile of quarried stone. The sky was darkening all the time. It started to spit and like an idiot I stood on one of the supporting rocks, it tipped to one side but I managed to catch it. But I could not get it back into balance again. Strangely this would turn out to be lucky.

Thank You Andy Goldsworthy, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

I clambered down from the pile of stones and within seconds the rain increased. I grabbed what I could and headed over to the Goldsworthy sculpture and within a few seconds more the intensity was monsoon like. We stood inside the person size recesses of the sculpture and thanked our lucky stars they were there. Otherwise we would have been utterly drenched. In the space of a minute a few spots of rain had turned into flash flood potential.

After the Storm, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

Safe in our cocoons (which do leak quite a lot by the way) I pondered how long it would last and as the storm clouds rolled over us sunshine soon appeared again and the fresh rain had brought wonderful colour to the landscape. I have not altered the colours in any way in these shots, the moorland flora just shone with vibrant colour.

Clouds Tower Over the Moors, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

Dry and thankful we packed up and set off down to be greeted by a group of adolescent red grouse, comically doing roadrunner impressions and bobbing their heads up out of the undergrowth to see if we were still there. They were ever so funny.

By all accounts a fine walk and Clougha never fails to disappoint.

Adolescent Red Grouse, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

Ingleborough, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Oak Leaf Colour Square

Oak Leaf Colour Square, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

So what lessons did I learn today?

1) Put sun block on before you start digging up thick black earth with your hands, especially if you have no way to wash them or else you are going to smear it all over yourself and will look like some Rambo wannabe who lives in a cave and eats rabbits and berries.

2) Don't slice off the end of your finger (or someone elses) when you are preparing thorns. First of all it really hurts. Secondly it will bleed a lot. Thirdly you will get blood on the sculpture you are making, it may be natural but it might spoil the affect you are trying to achieve. And fourthly, don't do it after you have just been digging up black earth and you can't wash you hands and you don't have a first aid kit.

3) Don't drink too much wine the previous night and fall asleep on the sofa. This is especially important to remember when your girlfriend comes home from an evening shift, you have left the door locked with your keys in the lock, she cannot wake you and has to climb in through a window. Please believe me, you won't be popular if you do this! ;-) (Note to self: you will be particularly unpopular if you do this more than once).

Perhaps less important but more interesting:-

1) Wasps feed or forage on oak trees. While I was collecting leaves I noticed a large number of wasps and I have not seen them at all before at that place. Are they collecting material to pulp into paper to make their nests?

2) The colours of developing oak leaves are very varied. I was surprised to find the amount of colours I did and there were more than I have displayed here. Through making this sculpture I learnt just how many there were and I want to do another one where I can display all the colours. They ranged from deep burgundy, through red, yellow and orange to green with every hue in between. They are very beautiful.

I went out today with the intention of making more rock sculptures. Yet when I got onto the fell the bright yellow colour of some dying bracken fronds drew me into thinking about making something else. Regardless of whether I intend to make one thing I have to go where inspiration takes me. It would be too contrived to have too much of a plan, I just see what ideas appear and often I don't know what something will look like until the end. I might be overdoing sculptures with leaves at the moment but I just have to make what comes to me and inspires me. And I do not know what that will be until I am there making it. I think it is important to be true to yourself and to do what comes from inside, whether or not I think that people are jaded with seeing endless leaf sculptures.

I started to gather some bracken and then noticed a nice upturned slab of rock. The idea of making a mud canvas came to me and then I could display the bright yellow colour contrasted against the dark earth. But it was dry where I found the slab so finding wet earth would be difficult.

I carried on walking and found an ideal location, boggy nearby and a slab that was nice and symmetrical. I created the square and then tried to arrange the fronds in a pleasing way. It just wasn't working. None of the arrangements looked right so disappointedly I gave up and changed tack. The image in my head was striking I just couldn't conceive how to get it out of there and into something tangible.

Then I noticed the stunted oaks around where I was and saw new red leaves amongst the green. I collected some and began to make the square and as I collected more and more I noticed there were even more colours than I had first seen so I dismantled what I had already made several times to incorporate the new colours into what I was making.

Yet again this is the essence of land art for me. As I looked at the leaves and gathered them I became more aware of how many colours there are, how they were subtly different on different trees and how all the colours of autumn seem to be ever present in the growing season.

I came away knowing a little bit more about oak trees than I did before. As long as I learn something I am happy even if the sculpture is not a good one. It is these discoveries that spur me on and there are an infinite number of them to be searched for and found. It feeds the soul and draws one closer to nature each time that I try.

Oak Leaf Colour Square, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Equilibrium Stack Wobbles

Equilibrium Stack Wobbles, originally uploaded by e s c h e r.

This might give you some idea why I called this "equilibrium stack."

I am really glad I captured this bit of footage. One thing I have mentioned before is the challenge of capturing an ephemeral sculpture at it's most vital and often that is just before it collapses, is washed or blown away or falls apart. It is something I first heard Andy Goldsworthy talk about and now I know exactly what he means.

With a stack like this it is often a little different. The most vital moment comes when you beat the imminent collapse and yet keep it together long enough to get it complete and standing. The dodgy moments come half or three-quarters of the way through as the last layers are lighter and don't have such an affect on it's balance. With leaf sculptures it is often at the end when something will fall apart. With those you see the most vital moment captured in the photograph. Yet with stacks you don't, you just see the result of it getting past that critical moment. You have to get the whole thing in equilibrium and often once built it will stay up for a while (unless it is windy) as it is not disturbed from it's balanced position.

This is best viewed large in HD (let it download then watch once it all has) so you can really see how much this thing wobbles. What I love about this is I managed to get on film the most vital moment and still get the thing to stay upright first go. I either don't bother filming or it collapses there and then. It is rare to complete one after such big shift in the balance.

You can see as I try to place the stone on the top, despite it being quite a small one, that it immediately tips it out of balance and rolls on some of the pebbles at the bottom. I hold it up with two fingers and remove that layer, and amazingly it holds. And really I was amazed! Not breathing and heart pounding! I try again and the same thing happens again, yet I manage to keep it upright. A big slice of luck was needed to do that and I was still amazed!

The other thing I remembered was how the moving water flowing underneath the layer I was adding (as in it was directly in my line of sight) was really giving me vertigo which made it very hard to tell if the structure was wobbling, especially when I added a new layer. It was making me dizzy and meant I couldn't tell when it had stopped wobbling. It even looks to me, on the film, as though it continues to wobble, but in balance when I remove that layer. Anyway I think it is cool!