Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wheel of Life Book

Wheel of Life Book, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Phew! I've at last put the finishing touches to my new book 'Wheel of Life'.

It's ready to go off for the first print run and all being well and I should have the first copy in my sweaty mitts in a couple of weeks!

I am dead excited to see it in the flesh after the huge amount of hours I have put into it and I am sure it is going to look really good. It's 50% bigger than the first with 160 pages and stuffed full of photos and stories.

I can hardly wait!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cherry Leaf Slate Fade

Cherry Leaf Slate Fade, originally uploaded by ...escher....

I am quite excited about today. I've found a new place to make land art with huge amounts of scope, lots of interesting nooks and crannies, wild places and interesting materials too. What's more I have permission to make whatever I like there so no more worries about annoying land owners (that's annoying them rather than them being annoying). It will give me the opportunity to persue some more involved projects over the coming winter. I can't wait!

That's where we went this morning for an explore. I didn't take my camera kit with me so didn't make anything but I had to use the wonderfully coloured cherry leaves I collected beforehand, as they fade quite quickly.

I learnt even more things about leaves today, how some hold their colour after being torn whereas some don't. The different colours that cherry leaves turn must all have different chemical properties. In a couple of places where the colour changes in this sculpture there was only one leaf of that shade so I had to be economical with them. One in particular, which was the right shade of green to go between the normal green and the yellow/green, went brown once torn. So you can see towards the bottom that there is a brown line. Despite that line being the right shade of green at first and it being placed there as I was finishing up so they were relatively fresh it still had turned brown by the time I could photo it. But then if I hadn't told you that you probably would have thought I'd done it on purpose!

With the nights drawing in I'll have to be getting out earlier than I have of late. I was having to do 3 second exposures to get these pictures as it was getting dark. And what with getting home late and loading up the photos there has not been time to write proper stories either, and as Monday morning looms so does work after a very nice week off. Autumn may bring wonderful opportunities for colour but as the daylight is squeezed it also brings less opportunity to use those colours. Such is the cycle of life and the seasons.

Oh and I was surprised to see this still there, although the flowers had drooped (must have the knack of making mud balls) and this too.

Cherry Leaf Slate Fade, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Copper Beech Leaf Circle

Copper Beech Leaf Circle, originally uploaded by ...escher....

I have wanted to do this for a while, ever since I made this cherry leaf circle. I gathered the leaves from beneath these copper beech trees in Williamson park. For a few years I have looked at their autumnal flush and wanted to make something with them but I'd never got round to it. I'd even collected some leaves over the last few weeks but I got waylaid and made something else.

Going through the process of making something like this is what it is all about. You set yourself the challenge of making something so that you can learn all you can about the leaves and the variety of colours. There are always more than you think there will be and as you search for the next shade to fade the colours your senses pick up the subtle differences in the leaves more and more. You find out how leaves of a particular colour are more likely to curl up, how others a floppy and thin, how some rip more than others, how some are still thick and waxy and how all leaves are not the same! If you want to get to know leaves then set yourself this challenge and you will learn much more than you might expect.

But that wasn't all. As the colours darken towards the edge of the circle so the leaves become more difficult to manage. The darker colours were less robust and as I edged towards the outside the wind got gustier and gustier to the point where it became a right pain.

The wind kept lifting sections and stripping them off their thorns so I had to change the species of thorn towards the edge and gradually make them longer. If anyone wants a dissertation written about thorns then I'm your man! They needed to be longer to hold the leaves properly and thorns with side barbs were even better but I still had to replace leaves over and over. When I went to set up my camera I looked away for a bit and when I looked back a whole section had blown away!

Gusty wind is the worst as you can't really predict it or prepare for it and the pile of leaves I had gathered to make the circle kept blowing around so much time was wasted chasing after them. The time it takes to make a natural sculpture does not just involve what you can see! But it's all part of the fun.

When I first loaded this picture onto my computer the colours looked really saturated and it seemed weird to my eyes but all I have done is cropped square and sharpened it a touch. The colours really are that vibrant and more so when they are set next to each other!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Return of the Living Spores - Cone Spore

I noticed this tree the other day. I've never seen roots like it before. The more I look at it the more faces and distorted figures I can see. It is both beautiful and disturbing at the same time.

Once I had assembled the spore I begun to clear out the needles from inside the structure.

I don't know if any of you remember the 80's film "Flash Gordon" - the one where Queen sung the theme tune and everyone hammed it up a treat. Well there is a scene where Peter Duncan from Blue Peter, Timothy Dalton and Flash (if my memory serves) have to place their hands into a big stump that contains a poisonous creature that if it stings you would give you a painful and prolonged death.

This stump had many holes and I just couldn't get that scene out of my mind whilst I was sweeping the needles. It really gave me the creeps!

Night of the Living Spores - Pollen Spores

This was the first sculpture I made yesterday. When out walking earlier that morning we came across a plant with these fantastic green flowers that were sticky with pollen. The bees absolutely loved them.

Just round the corner from where I live someone has some amazing plants in their garden, one in particular looks like these and was the inspiration for this sculpture.

Day of the Spores - Grass Spore

I nearly always post what I have made the same day unless I am away from home but I have got really behind.

I spent most of yesterday doing land art but didn't get home until late and I went to bed before the photos had finished downloading.

When I do post the same day then that's when I write the accompanying stories. I carry back with me not only the images but the thoughts, feelings and adventures from the day and type them out while they are still fresh. They are not contrived but reflect my mood and the experience of the sculpture. By the next morning things have moved on and a story would be contrived so I am not going to recount everything that happened.

I am also making something else today that I need to get back to and I need to post the three sculptures I made yesterday so I am back on track.

I tried to make a large version of this spore but my construction techinques were lacking so I gave up with it to have a go another day. So instead I made a little grass spore next to where the large one lay broken on the floor.

There are two more spores to come in the Day of the Spores.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More Traffic Lights for River Traffic

Another sculpture I made today. Squares of maple leaves on a mud frame. Inspired by this but really by the three distinct colours I found underneath the maple trees.

Jury still out on whether I like this one...

Copper Beech Window

Copper Beech Window, originally uploaded by ...escher....

What glorious September weather we have had today. Unbroken sunshine, blue skies and coloured leaves are a recipe for easy and fun land art. I've made quite a few things today so I need to start uploading now or I'll be here 'til midnight!

This is just beech leaves stitched together with thorns and hung in a tree, Mother Nature and Ra the sungod did the rest. Although I did take the pictures. ;-)

Hi to Ministry, hope you had a good day.

More details later on what the day did bring.

Copper Beech Window, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Sycamore Sun Star

Sycamore Sun Star, originally uploaded by ...escher....

This was a collaboration with JRTPickle and the final thing that we made yesterday (you must take a look at her photostream - she is a very talented land artist). I had so many photos to download to my computer that I ran out of time and couldn't post them all. Whilst I was photographing this she assembled it and left it on a rock. I asked her if she was going to photograph it and she said "no, it's only a doodle."

I picked it up and looked at it and thought it might look cool upright like a windmill but the seeds kept falling out of the grass struts as it wasn't held together with anything. So I stitched together the ends of the seeds and tried to make it as symmetrical as I could so it would hold together properly and immediately I saw its potential, then mounted it on a stick and I searched for a spot with the right light to photograph it.

How glad am I that I did! What a great little sculpture and the late afternoon light was just perfect for it. Just wish it was all my own work! ;-) But hopefully it is a sign of things to come and has shown us what we might be capable of if we collaborate some more.

The place we were yesterday is called the Trough of Bowland. Bowland being the upland area between Morecambe Bay, the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria. It is an outstandingly beautiful place but not as well known as the previous two honey-pots I mentioned. Most people pass through on their way to the Lake District without knowing what they are missing. I was one of those people when I lived in the South and it is only once I moved to Lancaster that I discovered it. I hope they never make it a national park so that it remains little known.

That said, yesterday was a beautiful day and the road through the Trough is very popular with cyclists, motorbike riders and Sunday drivers. I can understand the thrill of riding a motorbike through wild countryside but they sure do spoil it for everyone who loves peace and quiet, it is quite a selfish activity in my opinion and many a quiet afternoon is impinged upon by bikes ridden dangerously with illegal exhausts that make a hell of a racket. Three sports bikes passed us today doing two or three times the speed limit. A bit foolhardy as the elderly sunday drivers like to do a third of the speed limit. It seems these two things shouldn't really mix.

One of the cyclists who passed us today was Ministry who has been a contact on Flickr for a while. We have swapped many comments but not met and when he dismounted I was greeted with "there could only be one person round here doing that with leaves!" Very similar to what happened when I met Litrate and he was spot on. Normally I am out in less obvious places but we were bound to meet at some point.

Sycamore Sun Star, originally uploaded by ...escher....

3 Colour Maple Stars

3 Colour Maple Stars, originally uploaded by ...escher....

This was the first thing I made yesterday. Just a quick doodle of stitched together maple leaves in a beech tree.

What a difference a day makes. It is grey and windy today. Not seen the sun at all!

3 Colour Maple Stars, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cherry Chevron Circle

Cherry Chevron Circle, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Have you ever stood in a particular place and really felt the need to immediately run away screaming? This was not any fun to make as half way through the weather seemed to change to conditions that the midges like and just like baddies being beaten by Bruce Lee in a Kung Fu film, several million queued up to have a go at me one after another.

What is the collective term for midges anyway? I think 'obnoxious', 'beeping', 'gits' although apt are not accurate and 'arrgggh' is probably the same. I reckon the proper term is 'cloud' but that doesn't seem right in my eyes as all clouds do is rain on you, strike you with lightning or suck you and your caravan up into a tornado - all much more preferable to being savaged by midges.

So I had to invent a new type of land art and I called it 'gangland art.' I was going to shorten it to 'glandart' but I suspect that will put the wrong image into your head entirely.

'Gangland art' fortunately does not involve drive-by shootings, fitting someone with concrete slippers or having Joe Pesci ask you if you think he is funny (funnily enough I do). What you have to do is wear a baseball cap and a hood and make sure that the hood is done up tight so only your eyes can be seen. This means that all the midges can manage to bite is your eyelids and so the finished sculpture (a 'fusion' if you will between insect and human) is a letter box shaped stripe across your face peppered with red dots a la midge. It's rather fetching and the look is finished off with socks that are tucked into trousers. Right now it's all the rage in the land art community.

My favourite cherry trees are displaying their full range of autumn colours right now and each chevron is a single vein taken from a leaf to show that full range. I think this is an idea with still a little way to go and isn't the finished article. The size and position of the circle meant it was difficult to get a photograph that does it justice, it is one of those that probably needs to be seen in person. But each step down a new creative path is another step you don't have to take to bring an idea to its full potential.

Oh and one other thing. My 4 colour sun wheel got it's 1000th favourite today! I am dead chuffed and don't think I will ever get anywhere near that again. Thanks to all that faved it.

Cherry Chevron Circle, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Leaf Lightning 1 Week Later

Leaf Lightning 1 Week Later, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Mother Nature has added her own tounch to me sculpture and one week later I think it looks pretty cool!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Zack the feline art critic

For Escher, originally uploaded by Peggy_V.

One of my contacts on Flickr has a lovely kitten named Zack who is seriously cute. When I posted the picture of the 'Leaf Lightning' sculpture the other day apparently he sat there for five minutes staring at my photo and here is the proof! I'd love to know what he was thinking but it really made my day to see this so thanks to Peggy V and to Zack too.

I am in two minds about what to make next time as I want to make sure that Zack likes it as much!

Please click through to Peggy's photos on Flickr and take a look at her little crew of felines. They are a great collection of little characters!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stone Stick Stack

Do you remember that old parable or kiddies song "don't build your house on the sand ('and the rain comes tumbling down') well rock balancing fans, don't build your balances on springy moss, rotten tree stumps or with rotten wood, they're already difficult enough as it is!

I went back again to the spot were I made the leaf lightning sculpture and I wanted to make a tornado cairn out of wood, this proved to be nigh on impossible with my current level of skill. I attempted several different ways of doing it and learnt quite a bit but it didn't work the way I wanted it too and so it will become a future project as I really want to make one now.

I wandered around looking at the rocks and trees and leaves, taking in the atmosphere of the place - and it is very atmospheric - and I had several ideas but not the time after spending several hours trying to make the first idea come to fruition.

I looked for interesting features upon which I could build a balance but it was all a bit half-hearted as I knew the soft moss would not be stable enough however striking it looked. But I did like the constrast of textures between the stone and the wood so I moved the rocks I had gathered to a different spot.

The dead wood layers in between the slabs were quite old and rotten and so the whole thing was more flexible and precarious than usual. I had to catch it several times and get it back into balance after it tipped and each time the bottom left hand stick would roll out meaning I had to hold up the whole construction balanced on one single twig while I re-inserted the one next to it.

The dappled sunlight coming through the trees gave the sense that the sculpture was moving (well it was moving a bit in the breeze but the feeling of vertigo you get when you change focus onto a stick you are snapping or when you study a rock to see how it needs to be orientated, through the movement of the sunlight meant that I expected it (or me) to go over any second) and it was hard to tell when it actually would, but fortunately I did catch it each time but you can't take you eyes away even for a second, even if that has to be just your periperhal vision. Anyway it took several readjustments and rebalances and I sprinted for the camera. It stood for only a couple of minutes before the strong breeze rocked it beyond what it could cope with so there was only time for close up shots. No context and no video but I like it all the same!

Leaf Lightning 2 Days Later

All the leaves are still intact but around the slug dawbings cracks are beginning to show (I know the feeling)! I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing will just peel off at some point as there are gaps around the edges. I'd love to be there to see that. A good dousing of rain will probably mean it's demise though, it'll be interesting to see how long it lasts.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Stitched Red Leaf Sun Square

I spent all day making what I did yesterday and as I didn't have a watch with me I was surprised to find it was 6.30pm by the time I got home. I quickly showered, loaded and processed my photos, wrote two accompanying stories, cooked dinner and finally sat down and relaxed an hour later.

Saturday is my normal "land art day" but as I had the day off yesterday I took full advantage. My partner works Saturdays so I was looking forward to doing some more sculpturing today.

My cat is a very good alarm clock and at 7am without fail she announces her presence with a trill miaow. The trouble is she won't have anyone else feed her, she just ignores my partner so I have to get up to do it. No lie-ins for me! I felt very bleary eyed and not at all in a fit state to do some art. So instead of getting at it I had some brekkie, went to the supermarket and then came home and went back to bed! I'll bet proper, dedicated artists would never do that!

I went to the park once I was properly all snoozed out and found some lovely red and yellow variegated leaves that had dropped to the floor. I don't know their variety but they had a similar vein structure to maple leaves. The park attendants were doing their rounds clearing the bins in their green buggy. They saw me collecting leaves and pulled up and stared at me scowling. I just carried on and eventually they drove away. They can't have thought I really was up to much or perhaps they would have actually said something?!

Although there have been quite a few leaves on the ground for a few weeks, this morning was the first time I saw some beech and birch trees actively shedding in the light early morning breeze. It must be the cooler night time temperatures we have had accompanying this gorgeous clear weather.

I took the leaves back to the place where I was yesterday and found the lightning leaves sculpture 100% intact apart from an artistic slug which had dawbed silvery graffiti across it. I wonder if anyone will come across it? It is very near to a well travelled path but far enough away that perhaps no-one except sheep will pass that way. I hope someone does and they are intrigued as to how it came to be there. I know I would be if I came across such a thing.

To highlight the vein structure I cut out squares and stitched them together and then I had to think of a way of displaying as the leaves which were very delicate and would tear under their own weight if not well supported. So I constructed a square frame and pinned everything together with thorns. Next job was to find a pool of sunlight and somewhere to display it. This was the hardest part of all and took more than an hour of faffing and trying different places. The wind had got up at this point and it was starting to shed thorns meaning each time that it did I had to restitch a section and the leaves got more and holes and tears in them. The clock is always running with leaf sculptures like this. But finally I did get it sorted and hung it from a branch and the sunlight caught it just right.

Time for a beer and barbecued chicken now!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Leaf Lightning

Earlier this week I went for a stroll around the university campus as it is only a few minutes away. There were lots of new students arriving with demeanours ranging from shocked looking to abject excitement. I joined the latter group when some wonderful maples caught my eye as they were resplendent with all the colours of a New England fall. That isn't usual with the trees in this country and I could barely contain myself. However they were all just out of reach. Hmm I thought how am I going to get to them?

Right that second the director of facilities walked past busily texting on his mobile (a bit of a coincidence seeing as I have only met three people who work there and very handy as he is the one who can give me permission to collect leaves). I bounded over to him and excitedly exclaimed "is it okay if I get a ladder and collect some of these leaves?!"

I don't think he recognised me immediately and unsurprisingly he was a bit taken aback. "Err yes, no-one will mind, feel free." I guess dealing with students leaves you a little desensitized to mad behaviour.

I am not used to asking for permission to be eccentric nor having it granted and this made a nice change so I returned the next day with a ladder and a stick and began plucking down the colourful lovelies err I mean leaves.

I woke up this morning and the image of this sculpture lingered in my mind as it must have been the subject of my last dream. I've been dreaming about land art all week and I think I am back in the groove again.

When I arrived at the place I was going to make it I searched for a place to gather some peat. Everywhere I tried there was nothing but curled up millipedes and thick roots, this wasn't going to work. So I climbed over the dry stone wall and surveyed the side of the stream and found a good spot for nice wet and dark peat.

I piled what I collected onto several flat stones and balanced them on top of the wall and then I clambered back over to where I was going to make the peat canvas.

I used the maple leaves I collected from the Uni campus and sealed them in with more black mud and this is the result.

On the way home a black wild rabbit ran out in front of me. Is that some sort of omen? I know about black cats but I have never seen a black rabbit before but I think I will decide that it means that this wonderful spell of glorious weather is going to last at least a couple of weeks. Happy weekend all!

Oak Leaf Sun Star

I made this as a little doodle as I was waiting for the sun to go in to photograph the much more involved sculpture I had just finished making (I will post pictures of that later). Photography is weird (or perhaps I am) as normally I wait for the sun to come out to take a picture but direct sun on leaves bleaches the colour from the shot and so I needed shade.
It has rained and rained recently and finally high pressure has hit and we have been rewarded with glorious sunshine. There seems to be a pattern and this has happened in September at exactly the same time for the last few years. I've not been able to dabble in making my favourite leaves and light sculptures, too windy, too wet and no sun. But today has been glorious and yet I made something that needed shade. Hmmm...

But while I waited I inspected the oak trees and one had these wonderful variegated leaves, I think it was possibly diseased but they looked lovely all the same. A few thorns later and it was done and the hardest bit was getting the camera high enough to get a dark background. After all sorts of teetering on boulders and hanging on to tree branches this is what I ended up with.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Scarlet Oak Ball on Leaves

I took the ball on a trip this morning: to a quarry to see some rock; on the moor to show it some heather in flower; to a bog to get it’s feet wet and to a wood to sit it on some leaves.

As the leaves dry and contract the thorns start to drop out. It can be quite an effort to keep something like this intact. At the first venue it fell off its perch and it went for quite a long roll. Fortunately it didn’t get too battered. But as I took it from place to place the travelling and the wind took its toll and it became more and more tatty. Some serious repair work is now required. It seems to be an odd combination – ephemeral land art. Not only are the sculptures fragile with a tendency to degrade quickly over time they also live outside amongst the elements and have to suffer the abuse that is thrown at it.

I met two guys walking at the quarry today and we chatted while I took some photos.

“What’s in the middle?” Jim asked me, “is it polystyrene?”

“No I said, I only use natural materials.”

“And the leaves are stitched together are they? What did you use? Cocktail sticks?”

“No” I said, “I used thorns, I only use what I can gather from nature.”

Art is all about self imposed rules and then seeing what you can do from within them. Whether applying paint to canvas, or sculpting a figure from stone they are all the same thing. By placing constraints on what you can do the hope is that you learn on many levels. About the material, about your imagination and about how you want to express yourself, all the time trying to learn more and improve what you are capable of.

Autumn Horse Chestnut Leaves

I've always been tempted by these particular leaves, each year they are some of the first ones to turn, but unfortunately they are well out of reach.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Scarlet Oak Leaf Ball

I’ve been making this for several days, mostly because it has taken me time to locate enough trees to be able to find enough leaves. Many of them had been ravaged by insects and I could only reach a few of the lower branches so I had to find six different trees before I had enough leaves that were intact enough to use. I cannot tell you the exact variety of each tree but I think the leaves are a mixture of scarlet, red and pin oaks and they were several miles apart. The leaves are mostly quite large (larger than your hand), and none of the trees are native to Britain, although they are often grown here, so I am not too familiar with them. The photos were taken beneath one of the trees from which I gathered the leaves.

Whilst out gathering them I have received dozens of strange looks. I think people automatically assume you are up to no good if they cannot work out what you are doing. We live in such a distrusting society.

Yesterday’s sunshine didn’t last too long and today is again grey and drizzly. I took a walk around my usual haunts to see what the trees were doing and I was surprised to find that the trees from which I gathered the leaves to make this were already awash with colour. Despite originally calling that sculpture Sycamore Square I don’t think they are sycamore and I have not managed to correctly identify them. As I have become more interested in trees over the last few months I have realised my identifications are often wrong and I have a great deal more to learn. But I am guaranteed that the learning process will be very interesting indeed.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Maple Vein Squares

Wow, what a crap week it has been. It has rained pretty much non-stop, it has been extremely windy and autumn is certainly upon us as the nights are so obviously drawing in. I've been feeling really depressed and directionless and despite wanting to curl up in a corner and hide I have had endless crappy things to deal with that I could not avoid. A consequence of this mood is that my creativity has dried up and so I've not felt the satisfaction or the much needed solace that comes from making some art that I liked. With all the stress I started to feel that my creative edge was beginning to dissipate and I would not know how to ignite it once again.

But perhaps this demeanour is land art after all as the coming change in season dredges up deep feelings of melancholy as the period of abundance draws to a close. Perhaps I am feeling mother nature changing as all creatures at this time of year must do.

As the working week drew to a close the sun started to shine so I took a lunchtime stroll to blow away the cobwebs. The warmth on my face started to change the feeling in my stomach from sadness to a glow and it soon grew to genuine contentedness.

It is those things we call the small things that have the most profound affect on us whether we are aware of them or not. The small things should really be called the big things as that is how they really feel.

So I turned over a new leaf (do you see what I did there J) and as I looked at the dappled sunshine sparkle through the translucent leaves in their first autumnal flush I knew that where you lose one season you gain another and autumn is as wonderful as spring.

I stood beneath a single maple tree and the leaves on three of it’s dozens of branches were now turning every colour under the sun and another of those small things – the beauty of nature - was there in front of me in all it’s glory.

I took some of those and some yellowed leaves from a black poplar tree and just followed wherever my imagination took me. The right-angled veins of the dark maple leaves, the banana yellow of the black poplar and the red of the maple stalks were combined together until it felt just right.

The wind was still blowing strong so I would need some luck to get a picture in the can.

The leaves kept twisting in the wind but as I stepped back to my camera the arch frame tilted and put the whole sculpture into tension keeping it upright and straight and still.

It seems luck had returned to me and my art where just hours before I thought there was none. We can all find joy in the small things you just need to leave yourself open to find them.

And as I write these last sentences I glance to my right into the garden and a beautiful sparrowhawk is sitting on the wall in a pool of sunshine. How grateful I am for the small things.

Land Art Site