Saturday, November 28, 2009

Temple Stack

Temple Stack, originally uploaded by ...escher....

I think my stories are getting a bit dull so in the fine tradition of crappy, boring business meetings everywhere I will present you with a bulleted list:-

- Indeed there was snow on the hills today, the day was windless, crisp, blue, the views wonderful and it was perfect for rock balancing

- This looks considerably more stable than it was. It took an age to find good enough rocks but still they needed some careful maneouvring to balance

- None of them were exactly the same height so lots of jiggery-pokery was needed

- I was amazed it stood up after a near collapse half way through

- I was tempted to put another layer on but it was too tall to reach

- This was made for the Land Art Connections project, November theme "stepping stones" - steps into the sky

- Have a look at the collapse time lapse clip, I couldn't leave it standing so I chucked a rock at it to topple it over

Temple Stack, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Time Lapse Collapse

Having witnessed my sculptures being prodded and poked by the unwary before I didn't want to leave this one standing. After several badly aimed thrown stones, one hit and this was the result.

Temple Stack, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sweet Gum Leaf Ball

Sweet Gum Leaf Ball, originally uploaded by ...escher....

What with launching the project (did I mention that? I'm not sure if I did, I have forgotten too! Well worth taking a look at and spending a minute of your time blogging about it if you can ;-) and the not very inspiring wet weather recently, it feels like an age since I got out and made something.

To be honest not thinking too much about doing land art and not planning to do any has been a bit of a relief as sometimes I almost feel like I have to do it but a break is most certainly a double-edged sword. Although having said that it has only been two weeks since I made something but it feels like a lifetime!

That sword edge relates to the feeling that I won't have any new ideas and it will all come to an end. When you love doing something so much but aren't at all sure where the ideas actually come from then each time a sculpture is finished it is like pressing the reset button. I gather that this is a common thing amongst artists and perhaps that is the reason why they continue to make things, as an effort to prove to oneself that they still can.

My ideas come from experiencing nature and from the things that I find. So it really should be no surprise that when not trying that I have no ideas as I am not outside looking at a leaf or feeling the breeze against my face as I walk up a hill.

But sure enough when I am Mother nature fills my head with ideas, she is all the inspiration that I ever need.

As we approach Winter, each day is a little shorter, a little colder and the trees and plants have nearly given up all their colours. Here and there there are still yellow maple leaves desperately hanging onto their life giving branches but soon they will not be able to cling on anymore.

This year I have taken more notice of Autumn than I have before, it seemed to start earlier than I expected and the colours have lasted longer too. There are two Sweet Gum trees in the park nearby and they are still flushed with a rainbow of colours. This was quite apt as this morning the heavy sleet showers were broken apart by clear sections of blue sky which meant that the sky was without it's own rainbow for only a few minutes at a time.

The low light cut through the trees and illuminated the last of the leaves before another heavy shower arrived and turned everything damp and grey. I collected some of the beautiful leaves and sat down to construct something.

I like to follow the structures of the materials so that I see how they are made and so I don't force them into something they are not. These leaves were not flat so as I stitched them together the structure was not flat either but curved, so I trained them into a sphere. When I've made leaf balls before it is for that reason that it is a ball that I have made, because the curve of the leaves dictates the shape and to try and force the leaves into anything else would leave them twisted and bent out of shape.

Once I had finished the air felt noticeably colder and the sun was still low but now unchallenged by mist and cloud. It felt like Winter, breath visible, the sky crisp and blue and the light golden and lovely.

There is talk of the first snow on the hills tomorrow and the possibility of a frost. Though I will long for the days of Spring after months of long Winter nights. A crisp, frosty day in mid-Winter cannot be beaten.

Sweet Gum Leaf Ball, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Land Art for Kids - New Website

Land Art for Kids - Website, originally uploaded by ...escher....

I've been working on something for several months and I am finally ready to tell the world about it.

To save any of you, who would rather not have to read the rest of the spiel below, I'll put a short version first: is a not-for-profit project I have started with JRT Pickle to encourage everyone we can to do Land Art and we are starting with kids aged 3-8. So if you are in any way inclined to agree with the sentiments that Land Art encourages creativity, exercise in the fresh air, appreciation and love for nature, fun, outdoor activity and learning for kids of all ages (myself included) then PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE write a blog entry about it, tell all your friends, inform your schools, shout about it on Facebook, email everyone you know, come look at the website and stand on street corners with a loud hailer! (errm maybe not the last one - unless you REALLY, REALLY think this is a good idea)! And even if you don't think it is that great then tell everyone you know anyway!

I will also be posting Land Art for Kids related stuff with the Land Art for Kids on Flickr account, so please make them a contact and please become a follower of this blog too.

Land Art for Kids Flickr account

Land Art for Kids Flickr group

LandArtforKids blog

Oh and this is my 500th blog post too!

So some more information: takes you through the how, why, where and when of Land Art and has lots of ideas for younger children, their parents and teachers to get kids outside making Land Art, or, more importantly, learning all about and experiencing all the wonders of nature. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Although bear in mind we've done this all ourselves so we're sorry for any mistakes on there, I've tried to check everything but I've got square eyes now!

We are going to be adding new 'how to's' all the time, films and tutorials and will be expanding the site for older children, teenagers, young adults and adults. We will add articles about the philosophy of Land Art, Land Art around the world, all about nature, natural things, natural places, flora and fauna and anything else we can come up with. And the content will be pitched to each age group so the tutorials will be more advanced for older age groups and so on. I am sure you get the idea.

We have also created a group on Flickr called Land Art for Kids and I would encourage you to post your kid's Land Art there and your own too. We will certainly be adding ours and any we do in workshops into there. I want this whole project to be interactive and to hear all about the fun and frolics that you get up to. I want to see photos and hear stories! And feedback and suggestions are most welcome. If you wish to email stories and pictures then we will happily host them for here at the LandArtforKids blog.

Here is an excerpt from the site giving you an idea of why we are doing this and what we want to achieve (and thank you for listening as always), Richard:-

"Modern life, fossil fuels and industry are having more and more impact on our world and many of us are losing touch with nature, it's wonders and it's beauty as the human race's seeming need for more and more things gradually encroaches on our wild and natural places.

There is also worry for the safety of our children and many are denied much of the adventure of the outdoors, to climb trees and to learn all about nature and instead many are leading sedentary lifestyles in front of a computer game or the TV.

Land Art is becoming more and more popular around the world for both adults and children alike. With it comes opportunities to learn about nature, to appreciate it's wonders, to learn respect for it and our place within.

But there is also bag loads of exercise, fresh air, creativity and fun to be had. Each as important for ourselves and our children as a learned respect for the world that we share.

As two Land Artists we wish to provide a place to encourage this activity, to provide ideas and inspiration and somewhere where you can learn about Land Art and share what you have learnt during your own adventures.

If any of these sentiments ring true with you then please spread the word to everyone that you can. Let your school know, tell your friends, write something on your blog about us. We need your help to get the message to everyone that we can.

If you or your kids haven't ever tried Land Art then give it a go, you really won't regret it. The treasures are in the doing and not the seeing and once you've tried it you will see what we mean.

We have started this site with young children up to the age of eight, their parents and teachers in mind. We will be adding new ideas, how to's and articles all the time.

In the near future we will be adding content for older children, teenagers and adults too with more advanced tutorials, how to's and articles all about the world of Land Art.

Whoever and wherever you are let us know what you've been up to, what fun you've had and what you've created and learnt about.

All it takes is the will to get out there and enjoy yourself, however old you are, whoever you are and wherever you are.

You know it makes sense ;-)!

Richard Shilling & Julia Brooklyn"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Castle Crag Tornado Cairn

Castle Crag Tornado Cairn, originally uploaded by ...escher....

I've been a bit ill this week so out of boredom I am posting something from a little while ago that didn't quite make it onto the blog.

Castle Crag in Cumbria is a small hill by Lakeland fell standards but an interesting one nonetheless. At it's top there is a disused slate quarry and there a large piles of slate just itching to be stacked on top of each other.

The outing was more for the walk and to appreciate the countryside but I still lugged my tripod and camera stuff up there just in case.

There are already a lot of rock sculptures up there although they are all the same size and style. Nothing very precarious, just pinnacles stood upright with a few smaller stones around the tallest. Their existence drew me like a moth to a flame and with slate being the primary material I thought that it would be straightforward to make shapely stacks. But it wasn't as easy as I anticipated and it was all the better for it too.

Land Art, as I regularly say, is not really about the final sculpture but the path leading up to it and what you discover on the way. A rock stack such as this one and my style of making them requires that the stones are flat and symmetrical, square edged and in matched pairs. Regardless of whether there are all the right-shaped rocks I need right by my feet (not that that ever happens) or if I have to look far and wide for them the effect I want is the same.

So I turned up at the top of Castle Crag with the attitude that the rocks would be perfect and with very little effort the stack would erect itself (or something).

Well all I can say to you is 'rombus'.

Very few of the splinters of rock were indeed flat or square-edged and the place from where I could view the stack was a short jog down from it's perch so I spend much of the time jogging to and from the sculpture, checking it's shapeliness and removing many wrong shaped stones, and the rest hunched over looking for some better ones.

Finding matched pairs was the problem. And with one of the layers I just couldn't find a matched pair no matter how much I looked.

So once again I learnt many Land Art lessons. I learnt all about the shape of this variety of slate and how many of each you could find in that place. Through having to search for just the right stones I sifted through a great number and immersed my senses into studying those that I found.

That is the point of Land Art, to discover all about what is there, what is possible to make with what you find and to peel back the layers of what the fleeting eye might miss.

As I finished up taking pictures a group of walkers came up the path and proceeded to noisily stomp past us. Regaled in day-glo head-bands, double walking poles and not much sense of how loud they were speaking, our silent idyll was broken.

"Wow, what's with all the rock sculptures here?" One said to another in the group. They hadn't noticed mine but were taken aback by the dozens already there.

"No-one knows how they got here" another replied, "it's a mystery as to what they mean."

"But why are they here?" she responded.

"No-one knows" came the second reply "maybe druids in ancient times placed them here as some sort of symbol of worship?"

The to and fro of question and answer went on for quite a bit and I tried to hide my smirk. It's funny how we always tag on a mystical and complex explanation to something we do not understand when a much simpler explanation would do. I know very well that people make stuff just for the hell of it.

A friend asked me recently why I made Land Art sculptures and his question was insightful and amusing: "do you make your Land Art to express some deep and meaningful connection with the earth? Or are you just having a laugh like the people who made Stonehenge?"

In my opinion the people who made Stonehenge got it just right. What's the point of deep and meaningful if you aren't having any fun?

Castle Crag Tornado Cairn, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Castle Crag Tornado Cairn, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Floating Red Oak Leaf Squares

I expected to do some land art yesterday but once I got up I just couldn't muster the enthusiam. Something in me was saying that I 'should' go out do some but then I thought that was a good reason not to. If I am not filled with enthusiasm and want to go out and make something then I suspect the end result would be lack-lustre and the process frustrating. But still for some reason if I waste a day I feel guilty. But it did rain a lot yesterday so as always it's a paradox. If I had gone out I would have thought I should have stayed indoors and vice versa.

And so it was like that today and although the weather had improved my resolve and enthusiasm had not. There is nothing wrong with taking a break, I keep telling myself (sometimes I need to), and so I decided to not do any art this weekend.

Earlier on we went for a stroll then visited the car boot sale up the road but soon returned home to the warm. I had gathered some tall grasses yesterday and so I just sat in front of the TV just doodling with some thorns not really thinking I would make anything at all. But as one minute lead to the next a construction started to take shape and finally I ended up with a cube. The leathery red oak leaves I had found the week before (our house is full up with plastic bags full of leaves in varying states of decay) were beginning to lost their colour and I was unhappy I hadn't used them for anything yet. So I pinned a leaf to each face of the cube and thought that I liked what I saw.

In the backt of my mind I was thinking about the deep dark pool I had found on the moors recently and the fact I hadn't used it for anything yet. As the construction of the cube was similar to the shadow cube I made a few weeks ago I imagined suspending it above the dark water and seeing the shadow that this one made.

There hadn't been a speck of rain all day and we arrived at the moorland parking spot to it just deciding to start. It was light but I wasn't sure when it would cease.

We trudged up to the pool and I set about rigging something to place the cube on. It didn't look right at all so I poked with a stick to teach it lesson. The top face of the cube fell off and started to float around on the surface. That looked much better so I set about dismantling the cube and took each square and set them off on a sailing adventure across the pool.

The breeze was light and it was interesting how the subtle changes in strength were almost imperceptible whilst stood there, but you could see the little rafts all start to spin and move over the surface in unison.

This all looked good in real life but their movement wasn't helpful for a photograph and my video camera had decided it wanted a new battery. I warmed the battery up and it allowed a few seconds to be recorded.

By the way, these are bigger than they might appear as these oak leaves are quite large. Perhaps from a scarlet or pin oak, I cannot tell, as the leaves are a similar size.

It didn't rain for long and soon the raindrops stopped disturbing the surface of the pool. We had arrived at just the right time and we were treated to the start of the 'golden hour.' Although it is hard to be inspired by cold, dull grey days, Autumn and Winter also produces great light. With the low sun casting golden light across the gritstone and the died-back bracken, the senses are treated to a wonderland of glowing landscapes. Opportunities might be short lived but they are so worth seeking out at this time of year.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Roeburn River Sculptures

Here is a little footage of the Wych Elm Circle, Equilibrium Stack and the Autumn Beech Water Box all made at a particularly beautiful spot on the River Roeburn. I am showing you this by way of contrast to Part 2 of this film taken when we visited the River today. The change from gentle and idyllic to raging torrent takes the breath away, it's thrilling how one night of rain on saturated ground can change a river's character so fundamentally.

Part 2 is below.

Oh and for Halloween fans. Look out for the Blair Witch remake - answers on a postcard for the chance to win a prize.

The weather is just a little too wet and wild today to really chance on trying to make something so instead we went down to Roeburndale to see what state the plentiful rain had left the river in and to see what Land Art Mother Nature could conjure up without our intervention.

We went past the River Lune at Caton on the way and it was high. I've seen it higher a year ago and then, by the two bridges, it was absolutely raging and I took some epic film footage. I spent quite a few hours trying to track down those clips on Friday but I think I might have deleted them. I was hoping that the Roeburn in spate would make up for it.

I wasn't disappointed.

Spider Earthquake was the least of their worries, instead it was biblical flood.

The place where we had made sculptures both sides of the river was now a raging torrent and the Equilibrium Stack was long gone. We could hear not only the power through the sound of the rushing water but could hear the thunks of rolling boulders too.

With the majesty of the river and the strong winds bringing down a procession of beautiful leaves that carpeted the ground like a rainbow of sweetie wrappers, it was hard to ever imagine how one could beat or even match the power and beauty of nature. My humble dabbles are just that in the face of such things.

I wonder if the kayakers we saw upstream of that section were brave enough to shoot through that place.

On the way home as we returned past the Lune again she had burst her banks and now filled the flood plain. The first of November has certainly brought changes just like the first of October did.

It's from about 45 seconds where you can see the place where Part 1 was filmed.

Roeburn In Spate (Part 2), originally uploaded by ...escher....