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...

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