Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ribblesdale Snow Sentinel

Ribblesdale Snow Sentinel, originally uploaded by ...escher....

I was undecided whether to make anything today. I fancied spending all day playing on my Playstation but that really wouldn't be a good way to finish off an excellent year.

The strong cold winds of yesterday had abated so I headed off again to Ribblesdale to play in the snow.

It had snowed some more and there was new powder on top of the frozen crust and the mountains looked so very beautiful.

This time I took a direct route to where I was going to set up. This seemed like a sensible plan until I sunk one leg up to my knee in a stream, hidden by the snow, only for the cold water to find it's way down the top of my boot. Fortunately I had on my ice climbing boots and they are nice and warm

Rabbits were skipping about on top of the fresh snow and I was surprised to see a jet black one looking like a rabbit shaped hole cut out in the snow. They soon scarpered as I approached.

I had no idea what I was going to make so I set about checking out the condition of the snow to see whether that would spark any ideas. I opened my rucksack and realised I hadn't brought a jacket with me and I was going to get cold. Ever resourceful I pulled out my bothy bag (like a tarp) and my fold up seat. I stuffed the latter down the front of my trousers so that it felt like a bullet proof vest and I wrapped the former around my shoulders before zipping my top over them both. Ray Mears/Bear Grylls/Bush Tucker man/Chuck Norris (delete as applicable) would be proud of me! Then I set about making something.

Engrossed as I was in what I was doing I didn't notice the two gentleman approaching me until they were right upon me. I get a bit precious about freshly fallen snow and don't want anybody to take it's virginity. These two guys walked straight towards me leaving a trail in the fresh powder and I muttered to myself about how they were soiling my snow. That's right MY snow! The first of the pair got closer and I said:-


"Hello" he said back.

"What the 'eck are you doing?" He enquired. You see, Ribblesdale is in Yorkshire.

"I'm making a snow sculpture."

"Different" he replied.

My partner uses the word 'different' to describe food I have cooked for her that she doesn't particularly like.

The second guy came up behind the first and send to his mate "what is he doing?"

"Making a snow sculpture."

"Doing what?"

"Making a snow sculpture" he repeated.

"Oh, a snow culture I see." No I don't know what snow culture is either, something to do with skiing perhaps?

"Have a good day" they both chimed together and were on their way.

After trying a few different things I decided to start on what you can see here. Sentinel seemed an apt name but magnet would be another. As it seemed to be drawing people in my direction.

A family group were obviously intrigued as to what I was doing and I could see them gawping at me from where they were sledging. After a while they climbed up the slope to see what I was making. I won't bore you with all the conversation but here are some edited highlights.

The dad got to me first and stood proud on a rock like a mountain goat who had found the highest vantage point. He bellowed to his two sons "go left there boys."

"Why?" They shouted back.

"Because there is a big hole in front of you." This was like a red rag to a bull and they went straight towards it, just to have a look.

"DON'T!!" their dad shouted at quite some decibels. At this point a nearly knocked the sculpture off it's perch as I jumped out of my skin. It is so peaceful out in the wilds.

As one of the lads got closer, he must have been about 8, he asked me how long I had been making it. "Three or four hours, something like that" I told him.

"Not long then" he replied as he trudged off in the snow. Well, seeing as I was wearing rubber gloves with no insualtion and my fingers were frozen, three hours seemed like plenty thank you!

Then the mum asked me what I was going to call it. I said "I haven't thought of anything yet but it does look a bit like a kebab?" (see below for the snow donner in it's early stages).

Off they all trudged, the magnet had done it's work and now I was left to get on with it again.

When it was at about 3/4 height (it was about 5 foot tall) I started to sculpt it into the shape I wanted as I didn't want to add more weight as I feared it would fall over. Gently I carved the shape and rubbed powder into it to smooth out it's surface. As I collected powder from round and about the boulders I dumped it by it's base and smeared on handfuls just like applying wet clay to a clay sculpture.

I stood on the boulder it was built on ready to attack the top section, all of sudden my foot slipped and my weight went into the sculpture, cracking it around the base. I put my arms around it to keep it upright, swore under my breath, and panicking tried to think what I could do to save it.

The trouble was that it was the base I needed to shore up and I was standing up holding the top. I inched my way down slowly and tipped it towards me whilst pressing snow into the crack. Phew, it steadied and stayed upright. How close was that!

Once I had finished I stood back to look at it and realised that it blended into the background and would disappear in a photo. It was then that I thought about adding the grass stalks.

Just as I was finishing the last of those I admired how the sky looked very beautiful in front of me. I turned round to be confronted by a wall of white as a snow storm hit me full in the face. Within seconds it was a complete whiteout but I did discover that my camera keeps on working despite having three inches of snow caked to it's back.

I waited for the snow to clear and the dramatic skies returned and the sentinel stood proud over the valley.

Now I'll bet that you think that this Land Art lark is all over once I have the photo in the can. Well you'd be wrong! I always make a day of it whether I finish the sculpture early or not so seeing as I am on a (verbal diarrhoea) roll and you know all about how I make each sculpture well now I am going to tell you what else I do!

So photo in the can, stuff packed up and back to the car. Defrost car, change out of boots and drive home.

Get home (partner at work), switch on computer and start to download photos. Start putting dinner on, change out of wet clothes, begin writing my story, have shower. Get out of shower, stir dinner, write a bit more story. Look at photographs, put on some clothes, write some more story, go out to pick my partner from work. Get home, make tea, put some rice on, write some more of the story, stir the chilli, dish up and eat. Finish eating, make some coffee, finish off the story, process photos for Flickr, load up to Flickr, tag, assign to sets and groups, put on my blog and breathe... All in the space of two hours, time to sit down and have a beer I reckon! I am always telling you how Land Art has many hidden layers but I bet you didn't know how many!

That's funny, all I can hear now is snoring!

A happy new year to you all!

Ribblesdale Snow Sentinel, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Ribblesdale Snow Sentinel, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ribblesdale Stacked Snow Squares

It feels like quite a while since I got out and did some Land Art. We've had a fair dump of snow in the last week or so and I've only managed a few abortive attempts at making some sculptures with it. The weather forecasts spoke of a thaw come Boxing Day and I have been itching to get out. But what with working up to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to be spent with relatives I felt that I might be out of luck.

As we drove into Yorkshire on Christmas Day our senses were regaled with stunning azure blue skies, a foot or so of snow and a hard frost that left the trees white all over. Quite stunning but I had left my camera at home and I wouldn't be able to get out in it at all. So while I awaited Christmas dinner I was Mr. Grumpy.

Boxing Day did bring a thaw and only bits and pieces of ice and snow at home remained. Mr Grumpy decided to stay.

This morning the sky was clear and the temperatures low so I headed once again into Yorkshire looking for snow.

I wasn't disappointed.

As I drove inland the temperature dropped and dropped and everything became whiter and whiter. As I arrived in Ribblesdale I was rewarded with a winter wonderland.

But the powder of the days before, stuff that sticks together and could be sculpted, was gone and the snow had turned to sugar and would not stick.

But the setting was still beautiful so I set about making something from grass. As I was collecting some more stalks I suddenly sunk up to my knees in a deeper spot and underneath the frozen, sugary crust was fine powder and it stuck together as I squeezed it. I tried to chop out a section and it came out in one piece. Now this stuff would be perfect for sculpting!

As an experiment I made this first sculpture to learn about the properties of the snow and what I would need to know to make something more involved. Where the snow was compacted powder it was a dream to carve and lent itself to sharp, smooth edges. But in places it was still sugary and icey and this demanded a great deal more care to carve.

I really like Barbara Hepworth's sculptures and her work was the inspiration for this. It is made up of four sections each carefully balanced on the one below it and then carved to let the light show through.

As I finished up a rescue helicopter hovered over the summit of Ingleborough and a hot air balloon was being inflated next to the road. Trains passed over the viaduct quite often and I expect tourists on the Settle to Carlisle route were treated to spectacular views. Snow, blue skies and a bank holiday meant many, many people were out to enjoy the sun and the Winter wonderland.

That's Pen-y-ghent in the background. One of the Yorkshire three peaks.

Square Snow Sun Window

Square Snow Sun Window, originally uploaded by ...escher....

This was the first snow sculpture I made when I arrived at this spot. I used what I learnt making this one, the texture and quality of the snow to improve the result of the three tier sculpture.

Snow Scrapers

Snow Scrapers, originally uploaded by ...escher....

I made the grass sculpture when I first arrived as I didn't think the snow was any good. I took another look at it when I finished the snow sculptures and thought I would add some snow towers to finish it off.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Maple Ice Leaf Disc

Maple Ice Leaf Disc, originally uploaded by ...escher....

The temperatures plunged even further last night, it reached -4 C at home and -5 low on the fells, which is reasonably uncommon for this area.

For Mother Nature to provide me with some different materials to play with left me really inspired and ice, snow and frost are the very definition of ephemeral. So my two favourites things - interesting natural materials and ephemeral sculpture - sent me to bed with the hope that the sun would shine as ice comes alive when hit by low winter sun.

JRTPickle and I had been discussing new ideas and she has come up with some crackers recently (not Christmas ones) so thanks to her for the new ideas and the inspiration.

I prepared these sculptures yesterday so that they would freeze and be ready for the morning. I dashed up to the moors early as low night time temperatures are often followed by melt-warm daytime conditions. I would need to be quick to catch the dawn sun, grab a picture or two before things melted.

This turned out not to be the case. Temperatures stayed low and were low enough to stick ice to ice which broadened the possibilities. When I have tried before it has been too warm to do this.

So I constructed each sculpture using spit to weld them together and positioned them to wait for the sun to peep over the ridge. I knew that cloud was expected by lunchtime and poor weather by the evening so I crossed my fingers the sun would appear.

High level clouded blocked the sun and I waited and waited. She came out for a few seconds and I managed a couple of shots but then the cloud spread even more and the sun was gone again. Instead I concentrated on no-sun pictures as my hopes faded that I wouldn't be in luck to get the ice-shine pictures I craved.

I waited and waited some more and was tempted to pack up and go home. I feared the cloud was already here and set in and I would just be wasting my time.

I was wrong, the sun finally burnt through and I hurried to take pictures before she went in again. And that she did but not before I got what I wanted.

Heavy snow is predicted for this evening and tomorrow. I wonder if there will be lots and will it stay long enough for me to play with? Only Mother Nature can decide.

Berries & Leaves Ice Sun Window

Ice Maple Sun Globe

Ice Maple Sun Globe, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Ice Maple Sun Globe, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ice Diamond Stack

Ice Diamond Stack, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Last night I sat excitedly on the couch with my eyes glued to the thermometer and the outside temperature. It was the first time that it had registered a negative value since last Winter.

First thing this morning I headed to the place where I built the Snow Ice Cairn in the hope that there would be some ice. It was very cold but there wasn't any usable ice there.

Instead I went to the little pool where I made these and the ice there was good. I chopped out some sections and searched for a place to stack them.

The slabs of ice weren't perfectly flat and slid about a bit and I needed to handle them with gloves off for dexterity. The first attempt fell over pretty quickly as you can see in this timelapse sequence and it also took on a major lean which I didn't notice until I reviewed the pictures.

I wanted to build it really wide in the middle as you can see from the other attempts below but each time it toppled the longer ones broke so I couldn't make it as wide as I wanted.

The temperature hovered around freezing and so any liquid on their surfaces from the heat of my hands meant that the smallest pieces would slide which made it all the more difficult as the smallest was at the bottom. But I persevered and this was the result.

I left it there in the hope that it would freeze together but when I went to check this evening it had toppled. But I was surprised to find the 3 Sun Wheels still there from last week with only two leaf sections missing.

Oh and I've updated the site with some new 'How to's'.

Attempt 4

Attempts 2, 3 and 5

I had trouble shoring this one up but it wasn't until I saw the pictures on my PC that I saw how much it started tilting as I was trying to finish it off.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2nd Night Frosted 4 Colour Sun Wheels

After the rapid melting of the frost on the sun wheels yesterday I left them overnight again in a frost pocket hoping that the night would be cold.

When we returned they were indeed frosty again so I set up my camera to film a timelapse of the frost melting. In the space of an hour the warmer-than-the-ground air had melted all the frost completely.

On the way back I took them with me and placed them next to the path in the hope that they would brighten someone's afternoon.

The rest of the time we made kid's land art so we can update the site and blog in the next couple of days with new activities and games for Winter.

Frost Melting Timelapse

Frost Melting Timelapse, originally uploaded by ...escher....

This is a timelapse film of the frost melting from the Frosted 4 Colour Sun Wheels after two nights of leaving them out in the cold.

Sun Wheels in the Heather, originally uploaded by ...escher....

After filming the melting frost timelapse I moved them to a spot by the path at Birk Bank, Clougha and arranged them so they would catch the afternoon sun. I hope that passing walkers may chance upon them.

Sun Wheels in the Heather, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Frosty 4 Colour Sun Wheels

Frosty 4 Colour Sun Wheels, originally uploaded by ...escher....

No not a super-sweet kiddies breakfast cereal but a reprise of the 4 Colour Sun Wheel I made in Spring earlier this year.

As a follow up to the 'leaves and light' series that I was following then, which was all about finding out whether Autumn colours were present in Spring and Summer, I am now starting a colours of Winter theme. I realise that Winter doesn't officially start until 21st of December and there are still deciduous leaves hanging onto some trees but the short days and frosty mornings, blue skies and golden light equal the best of Winter for me regardless of the calendar date.

But despite it being the tail end of Autumn these leaves are not Autumn leaves. Each was taken from evergreen shrubs, the same as I did in Spring. So it is clear to me now that it is possible to make these wheels at any time of the year.

I spent yesterday making the wheels but by the time I had finished the light had already turned golden and faded shortly after and I missed the opportunity to get a photograph.

So instead, after dark we headed onto the moors and looked for a sheltered spot to arrange them so they would hopefully become frosted over during the night. I was also hoping that the next day I could sit and watch the frost gradually melt off them as the sun rose and struck their frames.

But before that we would have to make it back to the car in the dark. There was just enough light to see, but for some reason the path back (despite being the same path but in reverse) was much trickier to negotiate than on the way out. Someone had placed odd shaped rocks all along the way, that tripped us and weren't there on the way out and I can tell you it isn't much fun walking into a gorse bush in the dark, although I obviously needed convicing of that fact as I repeated the experience several times.

My first thought as I woke up this morning was what the temperature was and how frosty the wheels will look. It was 1 c and so I raced out the door as quickly as I could.

When I found them they weren't as frosted up as I hoped but then the frost wasn't as heavy anywhere as it was yesterday. I took some shots of them where they were then headed off to find a spot where the dawn light would strike them. Despite the ground being hard and frosted, the air was not as cold. Within minutes of setting off walking the frost began to melt from the wheels and it was all gone after a few short minutes. So I set them up on a patch of frost and waited for the sun to appear.

Once I was done I looked for a really cold frost pocket and once more placed them out ready for tonights frost. The UV of the sun had faded the yellow and as ever the sculpture's appearance changed with time, just as everything does, the only key factor is how quickly or slowly things change, but as sure as sure everything changes whether we are aware of it or not.

The time I spent out this morning tuned me in to the temperature of the ground and the different temperature of the air. The low arc that the sun follows and the places where the sun hits at different times and the other places where the sun doesn't hit again until Spring. Although I made the sculptures yesterday and just photographed them today they still gave me the opportunity to experience the changes and cycles of a crisp winters day, the fluctuations and eddies and transitions that one might miss if you did not spend the time to study so closely.

Frosted 4 Colour Sun Wheels, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Blurb reduces prices for Christmas

Blurb have just sent me an email that says:-

" have books in the Blurb Bookstore that might make great holiday gifts. Get the word out to your network — we'll even give them $10/£6/€8/AUD $12 off any books you've made with a value of $29.95/£16.95/€24.95/AUD $39.95 or more..."

So you can get 'Land Art' or 'Wheel of Life' softcover or hardcover for cheaper than you could before, so if you're still looking for that elusive but special ;-) Christmas present then look no further! ;-)

"Just share the codes below, which are based on location and currency (the promo code must match currency used).

Orders from the US (using US $): GREATGIFT

Orders from UK (using UK £): GREATGIFT2

Orders from EU (using EU €): GREATGIFT3

Orders from AU (using AUD $): GREATGIFT4"

Saturday, December 05, 2009

5 Bark Boxes

5 Bark Boxes, originally uploaded by ...escher....

1 Bark Box, originally uploaded by ...escher....

5 Bark Boxes, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Friday, December 04, 2009

Framed Wave

Framed Wave, originally uploaded by ...escher....

I should sub title this one "Hunt for Orange Stick." It's not quite as exciting as "Hunt for Red October" and doesn't involve submarines but I wouldn't be surprised if someone made a Hollywood movie out of it.

I've not done any beach art for a while and when I woke up this morning I immediately thought "head to the coast."

The tide was due in at 12.15 and darkness and bad weather due later at 4.00pm so time was going to be short.

We arrived at 11.50, according to the clock in the car, so I expected the tide to be going out just as we got set up.

I fancied doing a sculpture similar to this but with the tide up I didn't have access to the sand. I collected rocks and started assembling them on a flat slab while I waited for the tide to recede.

But the thing was it didn't, it carried on getting higher and higher.

A 10 watt bulb lit up in my head - I still hadn't reset the clock in the car since the end of British summertime and there would be another hour before the tide would head back!

So I thought I would have to change tack and build it on the slab instead of in the sand and hope that the tide would reveal the sand in time to fill the centre and leave enough light for a photo.

But it is often the case that what you expect to be easy turns out to be the hard bit, the frame came together reasonably quickly so I set off to comb the beach for suitable driftwood to make the framed tree. I looked and looked and looked and not a single piece of wood was shapely enough and I was reminded of how I built the original and how it was all based around the stick I found to go into the centre.

After spending a long time looking I had noticed how the driftwood was lots of different colours. Black, brown, white, green and orange - so I changed tack and thought I would show off the different colours I had found.

I started from the bottom and worked my way up and everything seemed to be going well until I got to the very last stick needed to finish it. It needed to be quite long and orange and so the "Hunt for the Orange Stick" begun.

I swear to god there was only one vaguely orange stick that was long enough and it took me hours to find it and whats more it was bent!

I gently tried to straighten it out and the obvious thing happened, it snapped! Curses!

I looked again but there were no more damn orange sticks on that beach! I don't even like bloody orange anyway!

Unhappily I placed the snapped stick at the top and knew that it would have to do and I had learnt more about orange sticks than I ever wanted to know.

Land art lessons learnt today? Don't use orange sticks.

Framed Wave, originally uploaded by ...escher....

Framed Wave, originally uploaded by ...escher....