If you are a bit of a perfectionist then the word's "that'll do" are a false economy. I've been out and finished this sculpture once already, written the notes, processed the photos and been ready to upload. Unfortunately what I ended up with was rubbish and I knew it but I carried on regardless. Well it saved me no time at all saying that'll do as I had to go back (to fortunately find it all still there) and put it together properly (I wouldn't have been able to sleep tonight if I hadn't). Finally I am happy with the result. I won't settle for second best again! Not being able to do it is one thing but not trying hard enough is another entirely. I am exhausted now and not feeling very funny or entertaining so I will just leave you with what I had written for the first attempt and go and crack myself open a beer. Happy Saturday evening all...
After spilling a glass of water on my laptop last night (that will teach me not to drink - it should have been wine or beer) and rendering it operational but severely tempremental I wasn't in the mood to make anything today. Which is ironic as what I ended up with looks like balloons released from a kids party. It doesn't best describe my current demeanour but perhaps my subconcious is trying to tell me something.
I set off to a secret location this morning (one where grouse are not shot for fun) with the intention of building a new cairn. There is loads of suitable stone there and it is quite a good spot for one (although not as good as the previous place) and I thought with three days spare over the bank holiday weekend then I would have plenty of time to get it a fair way towards finished. The hardest part of constructing a cairn is carrying all the stone. I wish I could rope in some helpers but as usual I would have to do all the work myself. As I carried the tenth load I remembered my knackered foot, which is just beginning to heal, and thought that three days shifting stone wasn't really a good idea.
So I came home and went to see what colours my favourite cherry trees are producing. There were a few more coloured leaves but the most striking I found were vibrant red horse chestnut leaves. They are quite old and tattered by the time they produce this colour but they are striking nonetheless.
My obsession with leaves is undiminished so I just followed my nose without a plan or a preconceived idea of what was to follow.
The white leaves are poplar, the yellow/orange are cherry, the yellow/green is from an unidentified shrub, the green is hazel and lastly the red is horse chestnut.
I am not sure if the result is too childish but as I say I go about things without preconceptions. What comes out comes out and it either works or it doesn't. I am not sure whether this has worked or not. (In fact there is no doubt - it is rubbish!)
I am struggling a little with my land art at the moment and it seems that the funny stories have dried up too... These posts have always been real and from the heart, warts and all. I hope normal service will be resumed soon. We are complicated creatures and the more I learn the more I realise that I know nothing.
(And what's more I had my camera set up wrong - wrong ISO, wrong exposure comp - and had to take the pictures all over again twice. Just seemed I was running on 50% today).
Land Art Site
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
We went looking for some new land art locations this morning and found a wonderful valley with a river in spate raging through the middle, a mini-gorge and a massive land slide. Every time we find a new magic hidden corner I am amazed at how much wonderful countryside there is around here, and we seem to find new magical places all the time. Northern Lancashire is fantastic for those of us who like to explore and delight at every mushroom, bird, flower and stream that is found. There is wide-eyed, child-like joy to be found round every corner. Or perhaps that's just me?
The rolling lane we took from the main road soon lifted us high onto the moor, the heather in flower glowed pink and the scudding clouds dragged dappled sunlight across the fells. There is nowhere more beautiful than the wild places of Northern Britain in such conditions. The rain and the shards of sun make the greens seem unreal and the pinks outlandish and the whole place wild and desolate and thrilling. It is though the saturation is permanently turned up and there is nowhere else you would want to be.
Uncle Hurricane Bill has come to visit us for a few days and his solo trip across the pond as left him much weakened and weary but he has still managed to lash us with wild winds and heavy rains. These pictures tell of the gaps between the squally showers as the wind dropped and the sun came out only for it to whip up again and for the heavens to open.
The branch that the ball is sat on was certainly not static and it got shaken off several times before I was finished, like a little seed ready to germinate, hitting the ground with a thunk. Each time a few more thorns would fall out and it was rendered a little bit more battered and out of shape.
The poplar leaves are like suede underneath, soft to the touch and white like no other leaves I know. As usual my land art ideas begin with simply finding something in nature that intrigues me with its beauty, so much so I have to make something with it. And then something about its structure or colour or another attribute will lead me want to follow the flow of what I see and see where it takes me. Intuitively exploring whatever I have found to feel and learn more about it.
These leaves have a delicate curve so that when you join them together they at first begin to form a bowl and the logical progression of this is of course a sphere. So that is the thought process I go through. First I see the leaves and pick one and feel its texture and marvel at its white underneath, the maple like shape that interlocks when joined together and the gentle curve that forms a sphere once the curve flows back around to join with itself once again.
I have a dream that one day I will have my own exhibition in a gallery and that some people will be interested enough to come see and will be enthralled enough to say that they enjoyed it. But ephemeral land art is as much about natural places and nature herself as it is about sculptures made from natural materials. To try and bring these things indoors divorces them from their home and can render them soulless and lost and lacking the energy and vibrancy that an ephemeral sculpture can be embued with outside. I have visited Andy Goldsworthy exhibitions and have seen some of his art keep that magic to such an extent that it takes your breath away and yet I have seen others that seem to be cut off from the source of their life. Perhaps this is simply how I viewed each sculpture, or perhaps that is indeed how they were but I long to discover how to bring that magic from outside to in so that more than a picture of an artwork can be shared.
So I think I am going to make a much larger poplar ball just to see if I can and to see if it develops sufficiently to be shown inside. I've brought home this one as I want to see what happens as the leaves dry out and to see how long it will last. The leaves are unlike any other deciduous leaves that I know so I am sure the result will be a surprise. I also expect my mood may have changed by tomorrow so I won't spout quite so much twaddle!
I photoed this amongst deciduous trees as that is where it came from but I also intended to take it onto the moor and set it upon dark, wet peat. That was going to be my entry into this months Land Art Connections project, theme "opposites", the white on black, growth of leaves on life giving earth. But I have a knackered foot and once we had stopped wandering this morning I winced at the thought of climbing high onto the moor and decided rest was a better idea. So here is my entry lacking a little of the concept aside from the whiteness of the leaves being the opposite of the green on top.
Made at Roeburndale Lancashire on 28th August 2009 from poplar, hazel and thorns.
Land Art Site
Monday, August 24, 2009
I've been using nearly all my spare time recently to make inroads into my second book, trying to drum up some commissions, exhibitions and any interest that I can. It's been quite hard work, but reasonably fruitful. However despite my intentions it is work and not play. That won't be news to anyone of course but a combination of things seem to have conspired to have changed my life.
A few months ago I changed job and started to work from home more. This has meant longer hours and less spare time, but also I have not craved being outside as much as I would when stuck at the office.
Earlier in the year I went through an extremely prolific period of producing sculpture after sculpture. Ideas and more importantly the will to carry them through was in abundance. I knew that that couldn't continue indefinitely and it seems to have come to an end. So my ponderings are to ask why and perhaps the answer may also reveal an insight into why the prolific period begun at all.
As I said these experiences are new to me and I am interested in what I can learn from them.
Also I have noticed how I seem less inclined to make the most of the weather right now. During spring and early summer 2 minutes of sunshine meant an attempt at a barbecue or trying to pin translucent leaves to little wooden frame! And I mean every opportunity was taken! But now as the season seems to be remaining the same and I can't recall winter anymore I seem less inclined to make the most of what there is.
With my land art I try to explore the changes and factors of a season, what grows and what changes and how nature feels at any particular time. I don't think that it is contrived, instead my intention to learn about nature is a symptom rather than a cause. I make the discoveries by just going out and doing it and then finding out afterwards what I learnt. I don't try to learn this or that by preplanning, I find stuff out by accident but I find that all the more fascinating because it is that way. I simply wander and look, find a leaf that is beautiful (or whatever else) and then make something out of it and by doing I learn all about that thing, that place, nature and me.
But what I didn't realise until now is that my land art is not just about how nature changes and grows but it is about the affect those things have on me and how I feel. The hours of daylight, the need to be active during summer and the evocative feelings that a change in seasons can bring.
It dawned on me then that my land art is teaching me about myself and how as a living being the natural world affects me too, how I am a part of it and the seasons and cycles are felt and reveal change in me too. I now believe that the prolific period I enjoyed at the beginning of spring was borne of the long dark winter and those long nights built up in me a need to express the spring through what I did. Just as spring brings an explosion of life it also brought to me an explosion of ideas. But again this wasn't contrived spring brings a burst of energy to us all. It is real and not just a wish to put winter behind. I was born in January so I know what my parents were doing in spring!
What will the coming autumn bring to me? What will I learn about nature and what will I learn about myself? I can hardly wait!
This is a quote from my new book. Despite writing it I didn't really understand the level to which it may be true until now.
'Isn't it wonderful that every leaf, every stone has a moment in the limelight.
As the light hits each of them they come alive. The beauty of these things puts my life into perspective. I am sure it is the same thing that inspires religion in some people, but for me it just makes me feel humble with an inner-contentness, calmness and connectness. When I am making sculptures I feel I am the child I used to be. Wondering at the little things, the ripples in the water and the veins in a leaf as the sun pierces its translucent skin.
What I understand now is that nature's beauty isn't just in what I see, it's in what looking for it does to me.'
I'd be interested to know if artists of any persuasion (obsessed with nature and not) go through the same seasonal changes.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Well what is there to say? Its a cube made out of conkers.
Conkers aren't what the used to be, they've turned soft. I remember collecting them from the Horse Chestnut tree that hunger over my primary school playground. The green cases were very spiky and took a precision stomp to retrieve the brown nut from within.
These ones I collected this morning came in three varieties.
1) A little bit spiky
2) Bumps instead of spikes
3) Like miniature coconuts, soft and with no spikes at all
It's health and safety gone mad!
Land Art Site
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
A couple of you were asking how long these things last. Well here you go. You can see the leaves have gone brown and have dried up.
I have visited the tree where I got the leaves twice since I made this and each time, the number of leaves that had turned, had risen ten fold.
Is autumn early this year? I haven't looked as closely in previous years as I have started to this, but still it seems weird that some trees are turning already.
Land Art Site
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Well I think the wait may be over. Autumn has arrived. I haven't visited my favourite cherry trees this year and finally they are starting to produce their most wonderful autumn colours.
But what is autumn and when does it start?
The Americans have a good system for this, they call it fall. So I propose that we rename spring to grow, summer to wilt and winter to shiver (the French nearly got that one right). Or how about using colours? Autumn could be red, summer yellow, spring green and winter white.
I noticed the first signs of colour earlier this week. Several beech trees were changing but they did look diseased. But every one of the ten cherry trees I searched out this morning had small clusters of orangey-pink leaves and these looked disease free.
It has been very wet in the UK over the last few weeks so it can't be that the trees need a drink but I don't remember seeing colour this early before. But again just like I hadn't ever noticed the colours that I found this spring and summer perhaps it is always this way. That autumn starts earlier and lasts longer than you might think and by putting my self on standby (escher waiting for autumn) then this year I have noticed the change. Another layer peeled back.
The autumnal theme is quite apt though as you may have noticed that this sculpture is sitting on a window sill. It has been very, very windy today. Far too windy for anything ephemeral to reach a point where I could take its photograph so I collected all the materials and went home. Whilst collecting I was lucky it was dry but a few short minutes after I got home the heavens opened so I have spent the day making this, listening to the radio whilst the rain lashed the window and the wind rocked the flowers and trees to and fro. The only evidence that belied it not being a full on autumnal day was the humidity and the temperature, everything else was just as it should be for an October day.
The other thing I learnt today is if you are going to make something indoors and photograph it there too then don't use the window sill that the cat likes to sit on because you will find that when you review the photos on your computer that the cat hair and paw smears on the glass will spoil the result. And after cleaning it inside and out beware of interested partners who suggest that you photograph it in front of several other windows. It isn't that they appreciate your art, it is more that the appreciate you cleaning the windows.
Land Art Site
Saturday, August 08, 2009
I am not sure how this story will turn out. While I was out making this sculpture I realised that I hadn't had any breakfast and my blood sugar had plummeted. I felt very light headed and woosy and a handful of sugary wild blueberries didn't help. So this story may write itself as I still haven't recovered. It might be a true account or it may be a hypoglycaemic reverie of imagination. I'll let you know once I have finshed, or perhaps you can tell me when you stop reading.
Since I made the first spore I have wanted to make another. Bigger and stronger so that I can roll it down a hill. I used dogwood to construct it and I was taken aback by just how much material I needed. It was very dense and heavy and as I made it at the bottom of the hill so then I had to lug it to the top to take it's photo (plus camera, two tripods, a rock and a set Chinese meal for one). It was not an easy thing to carry, heavy and unweildy and it made it quite plain that it was not the only dense thing around here. Someone else must be too, to think that carrying such a spiky, twisty, heavy thing through thick undergrowth was a suitable leisure activity! Not only that but the dense undergrowth was sodden with dew and soon I emerged soaking wet from the chest down, trainers filled with water, leg stabbed multiple times with sharpened sticks and a sore wrist bent out of shape by the fruit of my labour. My "cover" story would sound about as plausible as the "I was vacuuming in the nude when..." tale told to hospital emergency staff.
The heather was in full bloom and the rowan trees dense with ripened red fruit. The blueberry leaves had turned golden and marroon red and the fell was awash with colours. Low blood sugar was not needed to enhance the riot of hues but I am sure it helped a little bit.
And then began a long period of fiddling with the sculpture just that little bit too much in the forlorn hope of going home to eat something. I'll bring a golf analogy in here as I think one is needed as they don't come past here very often, although I have to add that I hate golf. Sculpture fiddling as us "land art profeshkneealls" call it is like being two foot from the hole and putting twelve feet past it. In your desperation to get it right you fiddle past the point of no return and make a mess of what was nearly finished. It's like driving 1000 miles only to turn off one junction early and getting lost. Faint and light-headed as I was and desperate to go home and do the washing up, I really needed to get this finished but I also needed to get it right too.
So I fiddled and fiddled and fiddled and as I write this I am still not sure if I over or under fiddled or reached fiddler perfection. The photos are still downloading and none so far are any good and what's more I still haven't done the washing up. So if the photos are rubbish you won''t even get to read this and then I will have to eat off of dirty plates tonight. No-one realises that all this stuff goes on. I'll bet you look at a picture and go "ooh that's nice" but you have no inkling of the trials I have to go through to get that picture. Missing breakfast, rolling out golf analogies when I don't even like gof and eating off dirty plates. Really, you lot have it sooooo easy. ;-)
There is a riddle for the locals here. The place the spore is positioned is well known to me and putting it there is a sign of things to come.
Friday, August 07, 2009
This new film chronicles the Leaves & Light series that I followed in Spring and early Summer this year.
Thanks to Orb Gettarr for the excellent music. The two tracks are Crystalline Lattice and Meditation One. You should really check out their site, there are some superb tracks on there for the ambient aficionado.