Monday, May 31, 2010

3 Esses & 5 Tees

3 Esses & 5 Tees, originally uploaded by escher....

SSS stands for 'Sycamore Seed Signals' and TTTTT stands for 'The Terrible Tripod Tipping Tragedy.'

The harsh winter seems to have meant that, although late, the spring bloom display has been spectacular.

At the moment the hawthorn blossom is the most amazing I have ever seen, after similar explosions of cherry and apple blossom. If you were ever to wonder how abundant hawthorns are in this part of the country then a short excursion to look over the hedges and hills will reveal white glowing bushes everywhere you can see. Each one looks like it has kept the winter snows and just drips with sweet blossom. It is really quite a sight to behold.

Because of this I wanted to make something with the blossom but try as I might no inspiration was to come. But that didn't matter, just spending some time looking at them was enough and plenty fulfilling all on its own.

I was going to make frames - circles or squares - and attach them to the blossom in an effort to draw attention to the spectacular display and to record it for posteriety so whenever I look back at my pictures I will remember the hawthorn blossom of spring 2010. But as an idea it didn't really work so instead my attention got sucked into the many colours and shapes of sycamore seeds.

I just doodled away making little constructions of grass and seeds but after experimenting with hanging them in the white blooms I noticed this broad-leaved plant growing under the shelter of the thorny bushes. I arranged my doodles on top of the leaves and was happy to leave it at that.

It was then that the 5 tees made an entrance and my camera landed face down and snapped the mount off the lens. The Terrible Tripod Tipping Tragedy had rendered my wide angle lens into several small and expensive pieces.

I cannot afford to replace it nor to get it fixed. But fortunately I have a back up and can make do until I can pay out for whatever it may cost.

I explained to my girlfriend, when she got home from work, and underlined it with "**** happens."

"It sure does" she replied "more **** things happen than good things in this world."

That's not how I see it at all (and nor does she normally, but she just finished a crappy shift at work).

"**** happens" means to me don't fret about what you can't control or change and always try to look on the bright side. I could have broken my favourite lens, which I have no backup for, and totalled my camera all at the same time. Things can always be replaced or you can make do with something else. But to go through life lamenting every little stumble along the way means that all those annoying things will have an affect way beyond what they should.

If I ever become one of those people that spends their life looking for things to disappoint them (you know the sort - the person that complains that card machine in the supermarket says 'insert your card' when all the other supermarket's machines say 'please insert your card' - this is a true tale that someone told me happened last week) then you have my permission to shoot me full of holes. No thank you, I won't be concerned if the postman comes and hour later next week or if next door hasn't cut their grass to the required neighbourhood height (inch and a half if you really want to know).

No, instead I'll be out admiring the blossom or looking at an insect hoovering up sap from the sycamore seeds I picked and the next time the card machine forgets to say please, I'll just smile to myself and feel sorry that that card machine can't go and lay in a meadow full of wild flowers and soak up the rays of the sun.

3 Esses & 5 Tees, originally uploaded by escher....

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Nautilus Flag

Nautilus Flag, originally uploaded by escher....

I am afraid I can't quite muster the energy to write a story today. I woke this morning with a strange scar on my belly and I feel listless and tired.

My dreams were full of magic and wonder and two unicorns whisked me away to a fairy glen where I saw a vision of this sculpture grow from the ground like a seedling reaching for the sun.

The beasts took me deeper and deeper into the dark forest until it went totally pitch black and then I awoke with a headache and an aching tummy.

Perhaps it was the cheese I ate last night?

The police are appealing for witnesses and have made this Reconstruction Film. If you wish to assist the authorities and find out what happened to me last night then please watch this film (to the end) and find out whether it jogs your memory.

If that doesn't quite do it then there is this Sun/Shadow Timelapse Film instead.

Nautilus Flag, originally uploaded by escher....

Nautilus Flag in Context, originally uploaded by escher....

Nautilus Flag Sun Shadow Timelapse

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Birch Bark Squares in the Sky

Birch Bark Squares in the Sky, originally uploaded by escher....

When you make too many things in a day lots of things happen that would fit well into the story but you run out of time and inclination to write them down. I never know where my stories will meander to when I start writing it, just like my art it is an intuitive process that just comes out in one go.

Today was a day for translucency. Obviously I rejoice in sun loving leaves but I want to discover what other materials in nature are translucent too.

My girlfriend suggested bark and said that if it was thin enough the light would shine through but being a know-all and big head I dismissed it out of hand. But of course she was right, in my quest to learn new things I had already decided what I knew before I had bothered to look. How typical of so much of our everyday existence. It's so easy to make your mind up without even trying or finding out and along with it comes the feeling of righteousness which is odd because without experience how would you know you were correct at all.

Whilst I was collecting some baby sycamore seeds, their hues ranging from lime-green to pink to red, she found a silver birch tree with slivers of parchment-paper bark, so we gathered some and held it up to the light. The sun shone through to reveal shades of brown and orange, different shades depending on how thick the layers were. You could peel off each layer like a cell thick three-ply tissue and the texture was just wonderful underneath my fingertips and I will have to learn more about this fascinating material.

I created small oblongs and framed them with grass. Each straight stick of reed was cut with no plan to create natural -noughts and crosses- frames so I decided to pin them all together into a grid. Each new step lead to the next, I had no idea where each new one would lead me.

I finished making it by lunchtime and I needed the sun to be lower to get its picture so I stored it out of the elements and went on to create something new. But, just before I did that and in case it didn't last all that long I positioned it against the sky and tooks its picture anyway...

Sycamore Seed Sticks

Sycamore Seed Sticks, originally uploaded by escher....

This sculpture is dedicated to my girlfiend and land art partner in crime. Just like her intuition that bark would be translucent she also saw the beauty in sycamore seeds. You can see how in these wonderful photos: Sycamore Seed Sails, Sycamore Butterflies, Sycamore Sun Star.

Ever since she made those sculptures, I've been wanting to use them myself and I loved how the newly grown ones have a range of colours from lime-green, through pink to red.

Their early season delicateness meant I couldn't be rough with them as their soft tissue would not cope so I pinned them to short stalks of grass and then pondered what to do with them next.

It was time to be pierced with a plethora of strange looks and it seemed every car occupant, dog walker and passer by wanted to ensure that we knew we were behaving weirdly. I now felt very translucent myself and we searched for somewhere where were less people around, where there were sycmmore leaves in the sunlight and where we could be at peace if just for a little while. We didn't find anywhere!

Many a time it has been said that 'a picture is worth a thousand words' or 'the camera never lies.' Well I'll let you into a little secret. The camera places a little frame around a microcosm of life, focusses in on only what is there and makes that the whole world and ignores what else is around it. I am just like that when I am concentrating making something or just out looking at a flower or a leaf. I am sure this picture is saying to you: spring sunshine, leaves and the sweet smell of flowers. Well it was true that is what it was like but what you aren't seeing is that this branch was hanging over the pavement next to a roundabout on a busy road.

It was 10 foot or so up and I ensnared it with a bent stick and pulled it down for my partner to hold while I fixed the sticks with the seeds on onto each leaf, before letting go and hoping that as it pinged upwards they would stay attached. I then crouched on the floor and took its photo, while motorists gawped and joggers stared.

But I don't think that my image is lying to you. Even in the midst of nosey people and whizzing traffic, there is beauty in a translucent leaf pierced by the mid-spring sun. If you enclose your thoughts and your senses around it then the road noise and the invasive stares fall away just like if you had enclosed it in a viewfinder frame, in a photograph or a fleeting moment. This is really what I am always trying to say, trying to experience and trying to learn about anew. That everywhere there is wondrous life of such striking beauty just there wherever you look. Always growing and changing and renewing in the epic cycle of life. Mother nature is everything and all that you need.

Sycamore Seed Sticks, originally uploaded by escher....

Birch Bark Squares in the Reeds

As the evening drew on I went to the place where I gather the dried grass and pinned the bark frame into the reeds. The sun had shone all day but now a layer of haze cut through its intensity. Some people came past wondering if I had spied a bird in the reeds but I showed them the sculpture instead. Each was surprised that it was birch bark that they saw and one thought it was glass that I had used.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

4 Holly Stars

4 Holly Stars, originally uploaded by escher....

Quite a few people seemed to like the Holly Star and had asked me for prints so I was spurred on to try something else with the spikeless holly leaves.

I made this on Sunday but the day was shrouded with thick grey cloud and a shivery breeze so all in the land were glum and sad faced :-(, even the chipper land artists were grumpy.

But praise be, today the curse was lifted and the sun shone brightly across azure skies. The land artists across the kingdom all came out to play and everyone throughout the land rejoiced as escher could once again don his wellies and stand in the stream doing funny things with bits of grass.

The wandering dog walkers did then look upon this strange sight on Tuesday lunchtime, as the jester of leaves did steal a few minutes of his lunchbreak to photo his sculpture, and they gazed upon him with contempt as this strange fellow stood bent between and betwixt the river banks behaving like a river loon. 'Boo' they did yell but he was not distracted from his task (as his lunch hour did tick past he knew he would soon have to return to work).

But hooray, the subjects of Flickr did look upon the resultant photo and rejoiced! 'That's not bad' they sang! 'I quite like it' said another!

And so the kingdom returned to normal, evil was banished from the four corners of the land and escher slept easy once more in the knowledge that the blinking thing he had made on Sunday now had had its photograph taken, and whenever he fails to do that it gets right on his piggin' nerves.


4 Holly Stars, originally uploaded by escher....

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Maple Sun Diamond

Maple Sun Diamond, originally uploaded by escher....

Have you heard of LARP or 'Live Action Roleplay'? It involves dressing up as hobbits, barbarians, elves and warriors and smiting each other with plastic swords. Imagine acting out Lord of the Rings with your mates on Saturday afternoon, that's LARP and it seems to be taking over from land art as the most popular strange activity to carry out in the woods, in the hope that passers-by will look at you weirdly.

I am quite used to receiving strange looks from passers by as I cobble together leaves and bits of wood. I am also quite used to battling the wind and rain and ephemeral materials when trying to create a little sculpture. What I am less used to is having an assortment of Orcs, Chinese dignatories, Roman centurions and people with blue faces wandering around in the background of my shot. I haven't yet developed any techniques to deal with such a situation perhaps using thorns and a stick and I didn't bring a plastic sword with me with which to do my own smiting.

A few years ago someone sent me some links to some LARP websites and some of the costumes were hilarious and possibly a little kinky. One person wore a full size racoon outfit complete with quiver and bow and arrow. I don't know about you but I don't remember many racoons in Lord of the Rings. And on another site accompanying the barbarians and elves were people dressed as sheep who spent their whole time on all fours being abused by the rest of the role players. I'm fairly broadminded but sheep-submissiveness was a new one on me. But hey, consenting sheep, consenting barbarian? Where's the harm?

So thinking Lord of the Rings is slightly misleading. This group of LARP'ers at the university included two people dressed as medieval Chinese, not soldiers but what looked like figures straight off of a painted plate complete with paper parasols. There was a single Roman centurion kitted out in white leather armour, helmet, shield and sword. I wonder if he wore that for his girlfriend? Or indeed whether he had one?! Then there was the guy with the blue face but the remainder stuck more closely to the Tolkien blueprint: Hobbits, Orcs, warriors and Elves. And there was one more, a guy with a clipboard and a hi-vis jacket. I haven't heard of the 'Legend of the Car Parking Attendant' so I suspect that he was actually adjudicating the whole affair (there are rules with LARP) or maybe he was on hand to administer first aid if someone got poked in the eye with a rubber spear.

I expect you want to know a little about this sculpture now? Well aren't people with blue faces enough for you? Sheesh...

I made this just over a year ago and I had been thinking about using those leaves again as they are so colourful, intricate and wonderful. They soon get ravaged by insects and the elements so it is now when they are at the most fresh and enchanting. I gathered just a few as the tree is not big and I try to take only what I need.

I'm always saying that nature helps construct each sculpture (and I am always saying that I am always saying that!) and this is the way it was with this one. I wanted to display the leaves in sunlight and so I would need to create some sort of frame on which to display them. I thought about a circle, like I did the first time but today it has been really windy and so these delicate leaves would need to be pinned to a more complex frame so that they could maintain their shape without flapping or tearing. Many times in the past the leaves have torn from their thorns which has rendered them ragged and more difficult to fix once again. So instead I made a square frame, reminiscent of oriental designs, which I thought would go with the Japanese maple.

The ends of the square overlapped so that I could chop off the excess when the thorns were in but I saw that where they overlapped I could fit the central veins of the leaves over the top. None of the leaves had right-angled veins so I made the square more diamond shaped so as to line up with the veins of each of the leaves.

As you can see from what I have explained the process of making a sculpture follows what the materials allow you to do, what the elements allow you to do and also by using the structures and properties of the materials themselves each sculpture uses the beauty of nature itself to be the main focus. I can take little credit for the end result, all I am doing is taking nature's photograph.

I don't decide I will make a cube, for example, and then find some materials and make them conform to being a cube. No, instead I look at the materials, the place, the environment and let those things guide me. If I see curved shapes then I think, sphere or circle. If I find straight lines then maybe a square or a cube.

This is the essence of my land art from start to finish. As I wander around looking at what has grown, it is the beauty, the colours, the textures, the shapes and structures that inspire me. I will then gather some of what I find and sitting still in one place I can feel the environment and sense what and how I shoud make something. And then I let the elements and materials guide me. Such a personal relationshp with these things is my solace.

Find beauty in the little things and you will find contentment. Open your senses to look, smell and feel the wonder of nature and the myriad of things that she has to offer and you will not need to look for anything else. All you need is right tlhere, right now should you be willing to look.

Should you be willing to look at pictures of LARP'ers then click on the picture and go through to Flickr and wonder at the collection of Jedi Knights and Elves underneath!

Maple Sun Diamond, originally uploaded by escher....

Monday, May 03, 2010

May Day Colour Totem

May Day Colour Totem, originally uploaded by escher....

As I've got more and more into land art and have developed my own style with use of colour, lighting, positioning of the sculpture and selecting the natural setting in which to make, place and photo each creation, I've reached a point where I think everyone will doubt the authencity of what you see before you. Well it isn't true I tells ya!

Some of my more successful sculptures have been where time of day, the ambient light, the location and the artwork itself all came together better than I could imagine. Nearly always with these successes the final photograph requires no processing at all. The contrast and atmosphere is already punchy without me needing to adjust anything. I do very little to my pictures anyway and obsess about making sure that what is captured reflects how it was to be there. It is important to me that I try and transport the viewer to the place where the sculpture is and that they see it at its best and that it is clear that what you see is authentic, or else you may think that much of it is done in photoshop and then I feel my art would be devalued. So I put a lot of effort into choosing the right place and waiting for the right light at the right time of day.

While I was photographing this one I knew it would look good, the scudding clouds and dappled light can all produce nice results when the picture is taken at the right time.

Firstly I positioned it between two trees with a tree contrasted behind but when the sun returned the rear tree cast a perfect shadow along the entirety of the sculpture. I moved it a little to the left and then as soon as the sun hit it came alive. Leaves always do in strong light.

But when I got home and loaded up my photos I was struck by how surreal they looked and immediately thought "everyone's gonna think these are fake!"

All I did to these shots was sharpen and resize for Flickr, that's it - nada, nicht, nothing more. And about that I am as surprised as anyone!

First thing, we went out to collect leaves and to see what had grown more since last week. Nearly everything was growing now just the oak and poplar trees seemed to be lagging behind. Everywhere was full of birdsong, buzzing bees and tendrils reaching for the sun. Unlike yesterday, though, it seemed everyone else seemed to have got up early too and were already out walking their any-size pooches.

Dog watching is even more fun that people watching and it is true that owners do start to look like their dogs. And along with that I have to giggle at how owners talk to their dogs, never toning it down when in public either.

First we encountered an old lady emerge from a hedge, hands on hips and resplendent with a squeaky voice.

She was using her squeaky voice (imagine air escaping from a balloon) to scold her black lab by saying "oooh, he's so naughty, look he is doing it again, grrrrr!"

"Will you stop that, will you stop that, WILL YOU STOP THAT!!!"

She didn't seem at all perturbed that we were there, giggling at her indignance, posture and squeal, while the dog took absolutely no notice whatsoever. Tee hee!

Next two Afghan Hounds breezed past like two pairs of curtains flapping
next to an open window.

Following on was a Doberman and a Jack Russell puppy. No-one seems to have told Jack Russells that they are shorter than most dogs and I always imagine them barking out "come 'ere, I'll 'ave yer, I'll bite yer ankles, I'm not short I can have anyone!" and it was very amusing seeing him playing stick tug-o-war with the German attack dog.

Whilst bent over scooping up yellow leaves another black lab met me at face level, with wagging tail and what seemed to be a snarling growl. These two things seemed to be unmatched but my partner said "one of my friend's dogs does that, he is smiling!"

I'd never seen that before. The curled lip and the bared teeth was normally aggressive but this wiggly friendly fellow was grinning! I wanted
to take him home.

As I fussed over him along came his owner and he shouted "TREACLE! Don't jump up like that!"

I very nearly had a cardiac arrest as the shock of him shouting, as I was getting acquainted with "Treacle", was far worse than anything the dog might have done. Just like parents can't hear their own children in public it seems dog owners have a broken volume control when scolding their animals. Still, Treacle smiled at me once again, and went on his way.

As we followed behind them it struck me that choosing an appropriate name for your dog is very important. Shouting "TREACLE, come here, TREACLE don't eat that, and TREACLE stop humping that poor lady!" doesn't do a great deal for your street cred.

May Day Colour Totem, originally uploaded by escher....

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Spring Beech Leaf Circle

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

One thing I love about making land art is solitude and peace and quiet, or is that three things?

So I will leave you in peace and quiet today by saying very little.

It was my first visit today to Tithe Barn woods when there were leaves on the trees. The atmosphere was different, tranquil but full of life.

After making sculptures there, so far only with brown, I needed to add in the new element of growth.

There's nothing wrong with brown:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I decided to bring together all the different beech leaves I could find. The lime-green of new growth, bleached white by the sun, mid-brown fallen leaves that were protected from the radiation and darker brown leaves, half rotten in the water.

So there you go. That's all that is needed for land art. One material, the action of the sun and some peace and quiet.

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