Saturday, October 31, 2009

Maple Vein Calligraphy

Maple Vein Calligraphy, originally uploaded by ...escher....

This might take some effort to write. More, I think, than the sculpture. I seem to have developed a woolly-head and feel that my time may be better spent having a snooze. If the story turns into gibberish later on then I expect it is because I am resting my head on the keyboard but I wonder if anyone will be able to tell the difference from one of my regular stories?

After making the Leaf Lightning sculpture I wanted to employ that technique again. The black mud I found at that spot is such a wonderful material to work with and with day being unseasonably warm there was no other choice than to find a place for a canvas and follow my train of thought to it's destination.

As has happened before at this place a Peregrine Falcon sat on a rocky perch (not a fish) and looked over me as I got to work. I wasn't sure whether the mud would stick on something vertical but it gave me little trouble. I had collected some yellow sycamore leaves and my first thought was to do something similar to the leaf lightning design. I liked the style and how the colour seemed to flow almost like electricity from within and I thought a yellow fork aiming towards the roots would bring to mind something about energy (or summink) but as I prepared the leaves I selected only those with right angled veins and these lent themselves better to a different design. With the way each leaf ended in a point it reminded me of a calligraphy script or an old style printing typeface.

Now I was suprised that I was paying enough attention to notice this as most of my awareness was directed towards a common affliction at this time of year - having a soggy a**e. Each of the several times I washed my hands in the stream I wiped them dry on the back of my trousers and now the moisture had seeped through enough to bring on some unpleasantness. I thought you would probably want to know ALL the details.

Anyway...So as I said I followed the right angles in the leaves and created L-shaped sections. They stuck very easily to the mud, a bit like fuzzy felts, so I began doodling some ideas. At once the shape I ended up with seemed right and quickly the whole idea formulated in my head (my bum had dried out by this point) and with the visualisation I believed that everything would now be straightforward. But is it ever?!

I had collected quite a lot of leaves but only very few of them had right-angled veins. Added to that they varied in size quite a lot which meant that I wasn't going to be able to make them all symmetrical.

So I started to place them from the bottom to the top and as I approached the upper section the spacing was all wrong so I shifted them all up a bit. And down about, and up a bit again, and then down a bit and then up a bit some more and then down and then up. This went on for quite a while.

The tree was next to a tumbling stream with a large wall on one side so to get a proper look at it I had to cross over it, climb over the wall and then up a bank for a squint. I am finnicky to the point of driving oneself mental, which is ok if you are next to the sculpture and can tweak it close by. But now I had to tweak it, cross the stream, climb the wall to view it, then reverse the maneouvre to re-tweak (that's a technical term). Eventually I had worn a deep groove where I had walked and created a whole new stream. Geological erosion in action - I guess that might be land art too..

Eventually though, after several days had passed I was happy with it, I washed each leaf with some stream water to remove the mud and crossed back over the stream and wall to take some photos.

Ah, but I had left my camera remote in my bag next to the tree so I had to go back again to get it.

After another return journey I peered through the viewfinder only to see my rucksack and camera bag in the frame. Yes you guessed it I wasn't quite finished with the clambering. After moving my bags out of the way I returned to the camera and took the shots I needed.

"Right now for some close-ups. Where is my telephoto?"

I expect you can guess the answer to this question.

A bell went off in my head and I thought "hey maybe this time I'll go and get ALL my stuff and bring it over here, that would be a good idea wouldn't it?!"

Now I could portray this in a manly and dedicated way and say "I don't like to do anything the easy way - no-one ever achieved anything in life taking the easy road" but really it can be summed up with the word dumb-ass.

Having done enough exercise to last me a good while I packed up my gear only to find a ladybird had taken a liking to my rucksack and was clinging on tightly to a strap. Thinking that she would rather stay here in the woods I tried to gently pick her off. She then pulled really hard into the strap with her hooked legs, and emitted a yellow substance onto my finger.

I've never seen that before and I assume it would be a bitter tasting defence mechanism.

Of all the things I see, experience, learn about and enjoy whilst out and about I never, ever tire of those little things that are there for us all to find out about if only we would take the time to look. How interesting it is to be alive and what a wonderful world we all share. There is nothing better in life than being outside in nature, well, just being.

Ps. This was made for the Land Art Connections Project on 31/10/09 for the October theme "Haloween". Haloween has never meant much to me as a festival and I don't think this sculpture has much to do with it. But it was made on the day so is connected all the same, and will be to the other sculptures made on this day and, for me, that is what it is all about.

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Maple Vein Calligraphy, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Friday, October 30, 2009

Snow Meander Film

Snow Meander Film, originally uploaded by ...escher....

It's been very cold here and has been snowing heavily. Just kidding! This is footage from back in February and I have been dreaming of more of the same this winter.

By the way, thanks to Rick for bringing it to my attention that you can see the article about me in Lancashire Life here should any of you be interested. It starts on page 24.

Some foul weather is on it's way this weekend so I have no idea whether I'll get anything done or not but I am excited as, shortly, I will be revealing to you a secret project I have been working on since early summer. But keep it under your hat - it's for your eyes only!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wych Elm Leaf Colour Slab

Wych Elm Leaf Colour Slab, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Now this might look unfinished to you, I would have liked to have covered the whole slab but what might look like a idyllic scene does not tell the whole story.

There was quite a bit of rain yesterday and overnight and when I arrived at the river it was much higher than it has been recently. Unbelievably my Equilibrium Stack, was still standing but I couldn't get across to it to see the spider colony. And where the Autumn Beech Water Box once stood there was now considerable white water and several large bow waves. The power of the river was impressive so I went up stream to see what I could find.

On the walk down the strong winds had brought down lots of leaves and we found some particularly striking mottled yellow and green elm leaves and so I decided whatever I made would have to incorporate them. As I clambered over the moss covered roots and river stones along the bank I came across a large flat slab and immediately wanted to use it.

I spent a while man-handling it until it was a few inches above the surface as I thought it would look attractive there and so I begun a few different leaf designs to see what I fancied doing. After a while I could see the different hues present and thought about making a colour fade.

I am quite accustomed to studying leaves but the Land Art lessons I would learn today would not be what I expected and would prove to be quite infuriating! As I finally got the green section done the water had obviously risen and now a wave kept passing over the slab removing some of the leaves. I really, really hate redoing things even though I often have to. As things take shape I get excited about how it is looking and it helps push you on to do more, to go back and redo things upsets the flow and is annoying.

As the first wave hit I had just started to really get into it and could see how it would turn out but there was nothing else for it I had to shore up the slab some or else it was going to keep happening.

That was easier said than done. As I moved it I dipped the leaf end into the water and half of them floated away. Curses! It was still raining and so the water was going to keep rising but this obvious fact did not seem to filter through to the useful part of my brain and each time I started again, after making it higher, more waves would crash over the top of it taking my leaves with it.

The other problem I had was shoring it up without dropping the whole thing into the water. The slab was about three feet long and quite thick and very, very heavy. And the water was now welly height which made it even more diffult to lift up. The flow was so strong that as I dropped in stones, even big ones, into the water to put the slab on top of they would immediately be grabbed by the current and disappear into the depths. I was in a quandry. Should I risk it as it is and hope all the leaves don't get washed away? Or should I persevere and get it higher as any work would end up ruined if I didn't?

Well it took a while to finally get it and realise that I would have to make it much higher or go home with my tail between my legs. After four more times of making it higher but not enough, as the rising water sent new waves over the surface removing loads of leaves I eventually realised I would need to sort it out properly. I raised it even higher and begun, reluctantly, to fill in the ruined sections.

And yet the river was still rising. Hmmm, I am an idiot!

I thought that I would now not fill in the whole slab as I couldn't seem to get the waves to stop or get it high enough. I tried something else, I chucked some big stones in up stream from it to create a break water and that, after throwing in some really big ones, seemed to help. I went back to the little platform I had made to kneel on and carried on. It took a few seconds to notice that I had neglected to raise up my platform and now my horizontal wellies were full of water! Idiot again!

But as usual I perservered and the waves now only went over the section I didn't fill in at the end. So it might not look finished and next time I will plan things properly but once again nature herself played a part in what I created and without a crane and a SCUBA suit I could do no more!

Arty-farty alert:-

It occured to me as I was making this that the leaf colours are like the story of a tree's year. The fresh green growth of Spring at one end, continuing through Summer, fading to yellow during early Autumn, then to brown and finally to black as the leaves rot on the forest floor during Winter. It is like a timeline of the seasonal lifecycle.p>

Wych Elm Leaf Colour Slab, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ivy Shadow Cube

Ivy Shadow Cube, originally uploaded by ...escher....

The trials and tribulations of Land Art.

Today we went somewhere different for a change, Barbondale in the Howgills. It is an awe inspiring landscape and with the yellowing grass, russet-brown bracken and dramatic skies the hills of Northern Britain are a treat during Autumn. Despite the inspiring landscape I find being creative much more challenging in limestone country.

The stream we set up next to disappeared in two places no doubt into a cave system. In one place it just petered out but in another you could hear it crashing down into the earth via a subterranean waterfall even though you couldn't see it's passage downwards.

Here the leaves had all but gone and despite it being mild I felt the barrenness of winter as materials were few and far between and as is usual I wandered looking for inspiration.

On the ground thistles were growing in a intriguing star shape so I first tried making a mud frame on a limestone wall to secures some of their leaves but the mud was the same colour as dog poo and really didn't look attractive at all!

Then I tried wrapping stones with bark but that didn't work either. There was plenty of rock to do some rock balancing but that felt like a cop-out. I wanted to make something ephemeral from plant materials.

By now I had spent several hours trying different things and nothing was grabbing me or looking like it was an idea that needed to be carried through. I was ready to give up as I was cold and the dexterity in my hands was fading and I wasn't sure if I could actually come up with anything worthwhile.

There was a raft of ivy growing over small cliff so I studied it's leaves for a bit. I had always overlooked ivy leaves before in favour of something more colourful but as they were the only leaves to be found here I sat down and looked at them more closely. Some had purple veins in them, some were pure green and some variegated. I thought to myself that they are actually very pretty leaves.

The other useful materials to be found there were grasses and thorns so I set about constructing a frame for the leaves.

Earlier I had noticed a calm section of stream and I liked how all the rocks were covered in silt and how dark the bottom was. I put the square sculpture onto the water and it floated but as I lifted it up I immediately saw the shadow. I would have to incorporate that with the idea so I did.

The most difficult part of this last bit was getting the legs to sit vertical so that the cube sides looked reasonably symmetrical. It's not perfect but the flow of the stream and the breeze made it diffuclt to get just right and the bottom was all stones so I couldn't just push the grass stalks into mud as I would have liked. Instead I had to move the stones around on the bottom until it was possible to reveal the full cube shape.

Ivy Shadow Cube, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Ivy Shadow Cube, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

[not] The Full Shilling

< Not > The Full Shilling, originally uploaded by ...escher....

I am very lucky this month to have had a feature article written about me in Lancashire Life magazine.

It is titled 'The Full Shilling' which made me chortle and is only a few graffiti scribbles away from something more accurate!

The article talks about me doing 'guerrilla art in the landscape' which also tickled me. I might start hiding in trees and try dropping coloured leaves on unsuspecting passers-by.

Anyway if you are desperate to buy one then it is available in all good newsagents and supermarkets. Well in Lancashire anyway! And if you are 'normal' and aren't desperate to buy one then you are in luck as it isn't available pretty much anywhere else.

From Lancashire Life to Life in Lancashire and today I took a short walk on the fells during my lunch hour and it was blowing a gale. The leaves are being stripped and it will soon be winter. I've set myself the challenge for the coming season to find the colours of the coldest month.

Here you can see the Leaf Lightning sculpture fade over the period of a few weeks.

I am very lucky this month to have had a feature article written about me in Lancashire Life magazine.

It is titled 'The Full Shilling' which made me chortle and is only a few graffiti scribbles away from something more accurate!

The article talks about me doing 'guerrilla art in the landscape' which also tickled me. I might start hiding in trees and try dropping coloured leaves on unsuspecting passers-by.

Anyway if you are desperate to buy one then it is available in all good newsagents and supermarkets. Well in Lancashire anyway! And if you are 'normal' and aren't desperate to buy one then you are in luck as it isn't available pretty much anywhere else.

From Lancashire Life to Life in Lancashire and today I took a short walk on the fells during my lunch hour and it was blowing a gale. The leaves are being stripped and it will soon be winter. I've set myself the challenge for the coming season to find the colours of the coldest month.

Here you can see the Leaf Lightning sculpture fade over the period of a few weeks.

I am very lucky this month to have had a feature article written about me in Lancashire Life magazine.

It is titled 'The Full Shilling' which made me chortle and is only a few graffiti scribbles away from something more accurate!

The article talks about me doing 'guerrilla art in the landscape' which also tickled me. I might start hiding in trees and try dropping coloured leaves on unsuspecting passers-by.

Anyway if you are desperate to buy one then it is available in all good newsagents and supermarkets. Well in Lancashire anyway! And if you are 'normal' and aren't desperate to buy one then you are in luck as it isn't available pretty much anywhere else.

From Lancashire Life to Life in Lancashire and today I took a short walk on the fells during my lunch hour and it was blowing a gale. The leaves are being stripped and it will soon be winter. I've set myself the challenge for the coming season to find the colours of the coldest month.

Here you can see the Leaf Lightning sculpture fade over the period of a few weeks.

It's a year and a week since I made this arch, I was amazed it stood for a few days let alone nearly a year. It was still standing a few weeks ago but today I found it had given up the ghost.


But behind it this Inukshuk had appeared. Stone reincarnation...


My Cherry Chevron Circle now looks like some sort of weird slug racing circuit (or something less hygienic - insert your own joke here -).


And finally my Leaf Lightning sculpture. The leaves are still just about hanging but how much longer I do not know!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Autumn Beech Water Box

Autumn Beech Water Box, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Now that's what I call proper Autumn weather. The blue skies and drifting fluffy clouds of yesterday have given way to mist, drizzle and grey skies. It's been an interesting and prolific year making land art and today gave me the first reminder of last Autumn and the sculptures I was making then.

I went back to muddy Middlewood today and back down to that now familiar spot on the river and was amazed to find my stack still standing, see 'spider earthquake', along with JRTPickle's Leaf Candles,. The top stone had moved and now had bird poo on it, I wonder if it had landed on it and moved the stone, given itself a shock and left a marker of it's fleeting presence! How it hadn't toppled I do not know and as I set about trying to think of a new idea two Dippers flew past, loudly twittering as they banked around the corner at high speed and closely in procession.

The original thing that I saw that sparked this idea was an Ash frond laying in the water, with pairs of leaves either side of the stalk. I wanted to recreate that in the flow of the water but I would need to protect it from the moving water by building a wall around it and the wall would act as a frame boxing in the shape of the leaves. It is often something like that that will trigger an idea. I will see something like light shining through a leaf or a leaf that has fallen onto a rock and I will want to make something with the image I have in my mind's eye.

The river here passes between two cliffs and in places runs on top of the bedrock and it has carved several shelves so I immediately thought I wanted to build something there. I haven't made anything from stone for quite a while, save for balances, and as Winter approaches it will become a more often used material but as it is still Autumn and I decided to combine something delicate like a leaf with the hardness of stone.

And so that is how it was, frame a leaf by building a wall but I would need to do it on somewhere flat so the river shelf was perfect.

I went searching for flat square rocks that were suitable for building a structure and it took quite a while to find enough that were straight and flat and yet more time to find enough that were a similar depth so that the wall was the same height all round. The level of the water within the box was lower than outside and it flowed in through one corner and out through another. That gave me ideas for future projects, to see whether it is possible to control the strength and direction of flow and to incorporate that into a sculpture.

As I completed the box the water still flowed strongly through it so I would not be able to lay the leaf on the water so I would have to suspend it above the surface. I went looking for something suitable and came back with some grasses and arranged them in a grid. I laid the mountain ash leaves on top of them but it didn't look quite right.

I wanted it to have a form where the framed structure looked graphical like a well framed photo so I needed something that would fill the space in the right way so I decided on a beech branch many of which were growing nearby. I looked for one with the right shape and with a mixture of green and coloured leaves. It took a while experimenting with different shapes and styles before I was happy that it was framed properly. I removed some of the grass supports as they were upsetting the organic form of the branch and then I was done!

Hopefully that gives you an insight into how I go about making something. Somehow an idea is sparked by something I see, but it isn't the whole idea straight away. And as I start to work on that idea nature constrains what I can do and so I change tack and refine the idea, all the time learning more about the place and the materials I am using, until finally I end up with the finished article. The intutive process is very absorbing, very interesting and fun too.

Autumn Beech Water Box, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Autumn Beech Water Box, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Spider Earthquake

Spider Earthquake, originally uploaded by ...escher....

I was very surprised to find my Middlewood Equilibrium Stack still standing when I went back there today. But not only that it is now home to a little colony of spiders! I saw four living on top of it and they had built several webs. My stacks normally only last minutes, sometimes a few hours but never long enough to be covered in cobwebs and become a home for little creatures! You are never going to believe me again when I say that these structures are very precarious but it seems it is very sheltered down in that gorge and the wind hasn't bothered it and no-one has tried to push it over.

Much like people living along the San Andreas fault, these spiders are living on borrowed time. One day soon a terrible disaster is going to hit their new little spider community and there will be casualties :-(. It will go down in spider history as the great earthquake disaster of 2009.

Ps. You can see one of them sitting on top of the upper most stone.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Rhubarb & Custard Tree

The Rhubarb & Custard Tree, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Autumn days such as these are a feast for the senses: the percussive rustle and crunch of the underfoot leaves, the rainbow hues of those still on the trees and the damp odour of rotting wood as the cycle of life once again returns to hibernation.
And you are dead wrong in thinking that this sculpture is named after a successful chain of gastro-pubs. Indeed if anyone wants to name their new restaurant after my sculpture then I will want royalties paying.
I have two modes for making land art. If I am in a wild, natural place then I will only gather materials there and then from nearby. But if I go to the park, cemetery, university campus or somewhere in the suburbs then I will gather from any or all of these places and construct something from the much wider range of trees and plants present in those locations. More a reflection, if you will, of Victorian plant hunting and our love of gardening. But I don't do that in wild places for several reasons. I don't want to bring in plants alien to that environment and especially not seeds but mainly I want to experience the plants and trees of that place and learn more about it by making sculptures out of what is there. There is more scope for diversity on the outskirts of the urban connurbation but I still think it is true to the essence of my land art to collect more widely as it still reflects the plants and trees that most of us live with everyday, many of them not native but have been grown here for a hundred years or more.
And so that is how I begun my day. It took a long time to get into the groove today and I went collecting and wandering in several different places.
There is a cherry tree a few doors down that has gone stright from green to deep burgundy-red and set against the sunshine and blue sky it looks spectacular. There are several I have now seen along with sumach that are displaying amazing autumn colours but alas they are all in someones garden. On my travels I noticed a row of the same cherries outside the front of the hospital so I went there first and filled up a bag. I didn't look up much from my gathering but I am sure I was getting some funny looks. Then I went to the park to the other cherries I know and these were all green save for a few yellow and orange leaves. Lastly I visited the cherries in the cemetery and found that nearly all their leaves had dropped. It seems that the cherry trees around here are at many different stages, why I do not know.
By the way, if this story ends without a conclusion then it will be clear that dying cherry leaves do indeed contain cyanide! I took what I had gathered and strolled over to the university campus to look for a quiet spot in which to spend a few hours. Large as the campus may be this was not an easy task. With students comes a whole array of life, even during the day! Four hobbits, an orc, two goblins and a barbarian walked past me - must be the LARP society. Live Action Role Play seems to involve dressing up as your favourite Lord of the Rings characters and then beating each other over the head with plastic swords shouting "I will smite thee!" Probably fun to do but really very funny to watch and you think I'm weird! Another group played cricket, yet another football and then someone in a very bright yellow jacket galloped past on a very large horse. I was having trouble concentrating.
I disappeared into the undergrowth looking for inspiration and found only empty beer cans, discarded crisp packets and used disposable barbecues that had indeed been used but not disposed of. I never quite get the habit of going to a nice quiet and often beautiful spot, getting ****-faced and then leaving all your rubbish behind. They obviously have the wherewithall to recognise a beautiful place but then they lose it by making it an eyesore when they've finished.
Now all of this, added to the pooey smell emanating from a hidden drain somewhere was not leaving me very inspired. For a moment I wished that I had gone somewhere else but I persevered.
The most striking of the cherry leaves I had collected were the deep red and the rich yellow. The two colours next to each other set off particularly well so I tore them in half and stitched them together to show the best of autumn cherry. But what to do with them? The idea to pin them to a branch popped into my head and so I began to make several rhubarb and custard leaves.
Once I had made several I set about attaching them to the branch I had found and yet the thorns would not pierce the wood. Hmm, mother nature plays her hand again in constructing each sculpture and so another thought popped into my head.
Earlier in the week a friend had remarked on the technological themes in my art: boxes, squares, wheels and my graphical style and so I thought I would construct my own angular branch from soft wood and attach the leaves to that.
And so with the sculpture finished I was still only half done. The sun came out for only a few short minutes and while I tweaked the sculpture and reset thorns it went in behind a cloud and didn't return for more than an hour. By the time it did the light breeze had played havoc and I had to remake several leaves and pin the whole thing back together. Once it did return it had moved enough to change the aspect of the shot completely so I had to move it all and begin again. Time seemed to pass ever so slowly, not least because I was thinking about lunch, but with my senses attuned each subtle change in the light or wind made me feel more immersed than normal.
Whilst collecting materials you become more aware of what is there, your surroundings, the colours and what there is to find. As you start constructing the sculpture you learn even more, like how the yellow leaves are longer then the red leaves and you have to look through many to find ones the same size. As you set up the sculpture to be photographed you become aware of the changes in the wind, how the sun moves and the little shifts in the level of light. And finally as you get the photo you want, gather up your stuff and head home you find that your head is cleared of the hum-drum and your mind is open to the ways of the world. And it is on those wanders home that I come up with these words that you are reading. I can't do it any other time, it has to be written in that space after the sculpture is completed, the next day is too late.
Land art has many gifts to give and lessons for you to learn. Many more than you might think if you never tried it. So you should try it - if only once.

The Rhubarb & Custard Tree, originally uploaded by ...escher....

The Rhubarb & Custard Tree, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wheel of Life Book

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

My new book has finally arrived! I was hoping it was going to come on Friday but in the end I had to wait until after the weekend. It really was like being a kid waiting for Christmas, everytime I heard a car or van drive past or a door slam I rushed up to the window to see if it was the postman! In the end I didn't notice the van pull up until there was a knock at the door.

Anyway... It looks really good, everything I wanted it to be. The double page, full-bleed spreads look really excellent. This book has 160 pages unlike the first which had 120 and has some essays, thoughts and stories as well as nearly 100 full colour photos, some of them previously unpublished.

I want to start on the third one now! This book making is addictive!

If you want to see a preview, read more about it or buy one then click on the book badge on the right hand side.

Wheel of Life - Contents, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Sunday, October 11, 2009

3 Autumn Beech Leaf Stones

3 Autumn Beech Leaf Stones, originally uploaded by ...escher....

I often have two titles for something I make - the one I publish and the real one! This one's real name is 'fiddly!'

We went back to Middlewood again to the place I went to yesterday and last week. I was suprised to see the equilibrium stack still there despite the rain and wind last night and the mystery mushroom balance was still there too, although by the time we left it had collapsed, I don't know why it seemed quite sturdy and any gusts of wind strong enough to topple it would have made mincemeat of my stack too. But what was more remarkable was the cormorant that we spooked that flew right past us only a few feet away. I really wasn't expecting to see one of them there, must be a good fishing spot. After it had flown off I saw it again above the trees. It must have been a bit miffed that we had nicked it's favourite spot.

Beech leaves turn a wonderful trio of colours in Autumn - brown, yellow and green - and for some inexplicable reason they don't seem to change to the hues in between. The leaves I used yesterday did display the intermediate colours but perhaps they were from a different variety of beech, the ones I used today seemed to be green, yellow and brown as though they instantly chnage colour without fading. Also I love how the beech produces little delicate leaves, perfectly formed but not full size as well as fully gorwn ones. I dangled myself out over the river on a big rock to get to the best ones and selected three little leaves with which to show off those three colours. Then I went off up the river for a few hundred yards searching for some nice rounded river stones with which to work with. This took some time as flat stones, rounded without cracks or an uneven surface were hard to come by and I had used quite a few in the stack I made yesterday.

I did the green leaf on the yellow background first and this was the most difficult. The yellow leaves were not as flat as the green and brown for some reason so the sections had to be smaller to lay flat. At first I started to try and fade the yellow into brown but that didn't look right. A solid slab of colour would be much better. I finished it off and then sheltered it from the wind before starting on the yellow leaf on brown. This one was easier as the brown sections were flatter and so was the brown on green. Why do beech leaves display different properties depending on the colour? Do the yellow leaves actually turn brown or are they different altogether? There is so much to learn about leaves that you could spend a lifetime studying them.

Once I had completed the last one I set to work setting them up. Now it would be spectacularly stupid to dig a small hole for each stone and cover the yellow leaves with dirt while you furiously dig up the black earth, that is something you would really not want to do after all that effort! But still I don't like anything to be too easy do I?! Much cursing and fiddling ensued, I must have been missing that part of the process recently.

Finally I had to clean the stones with water to finish them off being very careful this time and at last they were done.

3 Autumn Beech Leaf Stones, originally uploaded by ...escher....

3 Autumn Beech Leaf Stones, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Autumn Beech Leaf Tear

Autumn Beech Leaf Tear, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Shall we start with what I learnt today? Well it is probably wise to check that your brought your own wellies and not your partner's as the latter are snug to say the least! Although once my toes had gone numb they weren't too bad.

I went back to the place where I made the Wych Elm Circle at Middlewood in Roeburndale to have an explore and to see what other interesting locations I could find. When I arrived I found that someone had made a rock balance on a boulder but the leaf circle and
JRTPickles hanging oak leaves had gone. I wonder whether the rock balancer had seen our sculptures or whether they just liked the spot as we did and felt inspired to create something? I took some photos of it as I really liked what they had made. It was only later that I saw the mushroom placed next to the stack, it had definitely been placed there and it looked a little 'magic', perhaps it was an offering to the god of swirly things?

I crossed over the river in my second skin wellingtons (ouch) and the scenery around the bend in the river was quite striking, sandstone cliffs and jagged boulders and twisted roots and moss. There is so much scope there that it is like heaven for the land artist.

I climbed up out of the deep cut gorge and found more and more interesting nooks, this place could provide me with inspiration for many years and I had only explored this one spot and a few yards either side of where I first looked.

Immediately the coloured leaves on the ground caught my eye. The fallen beech leaves had become variegated keeping their colour closest to the veins, each one in a different state of decay.

I travelled away for work for a few days again this past week. I was surprised how distracted by leaves I was when away from home as I didn't have the opportunity to make something. And yet every tree I walked past caught my attention as did every interesting leaf on the ground. My hotel room window overlooked the park and I studied the coloured trees and shrubs in front of me. It seems I am completely entranced by just the sight of a leaf these days, I don't even have to be planning on making something. I've started to be able to remember what varieties of trees are where, when their colours change and where to find thorns to the point where I have a map in my head of several different places. Making Land Art does have a profound effect on me.

So those beech leaves had caught my eye and as is usual it is something that I see that inspires me to make something. I had no plan or preconceived ideas but those leaves were so pretty I just had to use them. My first thought was a circle frame to stitch the leaves to but in Middlewood there is no dogwood that I would usually use for a circle. So I found a short section of hazel and some thorns and attempted to make a circle. The thorns were too brittle and the hazel too hard to get the thorns to penetrate so I wove the frame instead which meant I ended up with the semi teardrop shape which lent itself well to the shape of the leaves. And as is also usual: the shapes of the leaves, the colours I could find and how the hazel lent itself to being a frame all had an input to the creative process as my ideas and the properties of the materials themselves conspire to create the finished sculpture. I really enjoy this relationship with nature. You can never make 'exactly' what you want, nature plays a hand. I find that fascinating and wouldn't want it any other way.

After the early morning mist had burnt through the sun only stayed for a little while. I hung the curtain in a tree high up above the river so that it looked out upon the canopy of the trees from where the leaves came.

Autumn Beech Leaf Tear, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Middlewood Equilibrium Stack

The rocks by the River Roeburn are lovely and flat and ideal for my style of rock sculpture. There was no wind to speak of so I set about making an equilibrium stack near to the magic mushroom stack I mentioned here. I've made this design a few times now and having looked at the photographs often and possibly not thought about the process of making one much, I set about making it expecting it to be easy. It got a major wobble on almost from the start but as long as you are careful and meticulous, when there is no wind it should stay upright. But despite that once I had got half way my body decided that some nerves and adrenaline might be a good idea. My body obviously thought I was going to get crushed by falling stones which became considerably more likely as the adrenaline was making my hands shake! This Land Art stuff is supposed to be relaxing and yet here I was like a coiled spring!

Anyway despite all that I persevered and without any wind it should stay put, and it did. I will probably go back there tomorrow and I wonder whether it will still be standing? Perhaps a psilocybin pixie will have knocked it over?!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Wych Elm Circle

Wych Elm Circle, originally uploaded by ...escher....

This is the first sculpture I've made at the Middle Wood Trust in Roeburndale and perhaps it is quite fitting for it to have Goldsworthy leanings as my association with the Trust is bringing with it a whole new set of opportunities and new beginnings. And as Goldsworthy was where it all started for me then an homage to him as I start anew in a new and exciting place is quite apt.

The Middle Wood Trust is a charity who are interested in sustainable farming practices and their organic hill farm is set in beautiful Roeburndale, has the wonderful River Roeburn and a fantastic strip of ancient woodland running through it. There is so much scope there that I can barely contain myself and to have permission from the owners who are really quite keen to encourage creative arts on their land is just so great too. I am very much looking forward to spending many days there exploring and creating.

When we visited before to look around we found this gorgeous spot next to the river so we headed straight there. As it was my first visit for artistic purposes I wanted to start to get to know the place so whatever I was to make would have to be made with materials gathered from within a few feet. The gales of yesterday had brought down a lot of leaves and so I collected what was right there on the river bank and set to work. By spending several hours doing that you start to peel back the layers, feel the power of the river, see how the light changes and where it strikes the ground, you start to see which trees are growing there and what their leaves are doing. 'Proper' land art (at least my definition of it) must reflect the place you are in and you achieve this by learning about that place by making something. The resultant sculpture is the least important bit. It's the time spent there, the time spent learning and the time spent looking, hearing and feeling. Without those things the process is pointless and unfulfilling but with them each moment is a joy of stillness, contemplation and contentment. That is aside from the midges and frozen hands. Long gone are the days of summer!

Wych Elm Circle, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Wych Elm Circle, originally uploaded by ...escher....