Saturday, October 30, 2010

7 Dogwood Colour Strips

7 Dogwood Colour Strips, originally uploaded by escher....

I spent most of the morning attempting to photograph maple seeds rotating to the ground like little helicopters. The image I had in my minds eye seemed so simple and yet I came nowhere near to achieving it. Not even close.

In fact out of several hundred shots I managed about three of a blurry object right at the top of the frame. But still I hadn't wasted my time. I learnt a huge amount about maple seeds and how they fly and how to throw them for the best flight. Individual seeds would often just plummet to the ground and yet, when a few were thrown together they would all fly. I wonder why that is? And I learnt myriads more about how dryness, flexibility and shape all affected how they would rotate. In fact so fascinated was I that I spent half an hour throwing single seeds into the air as far as I could whilst trying to catch each one as it came down. Who needs frisbees or footballs when mother nature provides her own version of a boomerang with which to play.

I had killed the battery on my camera so had to relent on spinning seeds, so while they recharged I set about something else I had noticed.

It seems that I am not getting bored of leaf colour studies just yet and the more I look the more I see. Dogwood twigs turn from green to purpley/red this time of year and so do their leaves. They turn such rich colours of lilac and purple, that with light shining through them they almost look unreal, such shades can't possibly exist in nature can they?

Quite aptly my constructions follow an organic path. I don't have a fixed idea of what I will make and often the materials are so fragile that I have to walk a tightrope path, getting away with only what keeps me balanced on the wire.

I first made a rectangular frame with grass and thorns and sorted the leaves into groups of five. I then stitched the first five squares together and pinned them to the top of the frame but it twisted and tore the leaves so I needed some triangles to stiffen the structure. These would be perfect, later on, to hang the whole structure. Not that I had planned it that way.

I made each of the following six strips and when I started to pin the last one on I realised I had not spaced them correctly. The leaves were too fragile to remove and replace so I had to leave them as they were as trying anything else would easily rip and tear them, meaning it would be all over before it had barely begun. So I chopped off the ends of the grass so the bottom was now unsupported. It was going to be even more fragile this way but I had no other choice.

As I said this is how it goes. I could redo what I had already done, and sometimes I do, but the result would be full of holes and tears and although things may be spaced more properly it would be a mess in plenty of other ways. Often it is a battle of what practical ideas I can come up with to keep the sculpture moving towards fruition, against what I learn anew about the materials as I work with them, all the while trying to adapt to the nuances I begin to see.

But I want you to understand this is not all serious, high brow 'work', like an artist destined to suffer for his art. No it isn't that at all. All the while I am thinking 'wow, look at those colours!', 'How cool are those colours!', 'Aren't leaves so vibrant and interesting, diverse and wonderful!'

I guess sometimes, that how other people do things apears to be to a set plan. How I go about my land art must seem to be me deciding it must be this way, that I must learn about this, make things in this fashion and so on. But it isn't that way at all, and I suspect it isn't like that for almost anyone despite how it might appear. No, instead I just follow my nose and see what happens. No plan, no idea of how it might turn out.

And then afterwards I play it back in my head, write it down and share it with you too and then I see how it was as I am explaining it and gain an insight into how I am just as you must do too. No more, no less. Despite how much we might want to change or grow we are still ourselves and we go about the things we do, the way we do them. There really isn't any other way.

I guess that makes me really grateful for my land art coming out the way it does. Because if I had started out two steps to the left everything may have been completely different.

The sun was lovely and low as I played with the seeds but now it had gone and only fleetingly reappeared. But now I needed it to illuminate my leaves. I set up camp at a likely spot and readied my camera in anticipation but I know how rapidly the sun moves through the thick woodland canopy so I would also need to be speedy in setting up the sculpture and capturing it in the sun.

While I waited three teenage lads turned up just behind me and started to throw sticks at each other. I didn't feel particularly happy with them so close by, not really sure whether they would come over and bother me so after ten minutes I picked up everything and decamped to another spot.

The sun was still hiding and the only spot I could find was right next to the entrance to the park. I waited and waited and waited and she didn't appear, unlike several boisterous dogs who bounded over to my sculpture just after I sprinted to protect it from their slobber.

In the end the sun didn't come out as I wanted it to and perhaps that was a really good thing. Sometimes my leaf and light pictures look unreal and I think they look heavily over-processed. That couldn't be farther from the truth as those high contrast images are almost exactly how they come out of the camera. And yet I doubt myself how real they are as they can look strange.

It has become a bit of a challenge, of always trying to better or equal what I have done before. Strong sunshine backlighting leaves is the pinnacle and perhaps I need to stop always chasing that. It always gives a certain look, but is it always appropriate? Perhaps capturing something more of the essence of the season would be better?

I think then that there is more autumn present in this picture than if I had grabbed that high contrast backlighting I was chasing. Instead I think I have framed the different hazy light of the autumn and so it plays a different tune.

But that all said, in chasing the sun I have learnt many things. A glance at a leaden sky will convince you that it is here to stay, just as you might with a blue one too. But a leaden sky can change to a blue one just as quick as that and vice versa too. The sky and light can change ever so quickly and back again too, so it is possible to miss the change altogether.

This all leaves me filled with awe. How the little things can expand to fill your mind, how the world is filled with an infinity of subtle nuances. And how most of the time we miss them completely. If only we can spend the time to concentrate a little on what is about us. What wonders might be revealed.

7 Dogwood Colour Strips, originally uploaded by escher....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crab Apple Autumn Fire Colour Wheel Time Lapse

I've not shown you the original photos of this sculpture, I've been keeping some back for books and prints. But the day after I made and photographed this (it is bigger than you can see here, this is just the centre) I set it up to do a long time lapse.

The circles in the middle are all from the same Crab Apple tree as are the leaves surrounding. They had already started fading and were brighter yellow than this the day before.

This was going to take a couple of weeks so I couldn't use my SLR to do the time lapse, as I would need it to photograph anything else that I made, so instead I used my compact. It was quite limiting and I couldn't control it like I can my main camera.

It will only take 100 pictures in a batch and zooms and autofocusses for every shot. This meant many of the frames were out of focus, each batch of 100 were cropped differently and with several batches the camera had zoomed out completely. Along with this when I kicked off another set the camera would move a tiny amount making more frames misaligned.

This meant many, many hours of post processing attempting to crop the photos to the same size with the circle centred in the same place. It was incredibly difficult to do as I had to do each frame by eye. As you can see there is quite a lot of jerking about but this is the best I could do with the time I had. At least before my head exploded.

Also, sometimes, a batch would finish in the middle of the night or while I was out and so there would be big gaps between starting shooting again, meaning obvious jumps in the decay. Coupled with the blurry frames I had to take out I am surprised I managed to complete what I did.

And finally there is the funny, grey, blurry edge Flickr has added to the left hand side! Quite apt after all the trials and tribulations I've had with this, but seeing as you can't go back and correct the mistakes and each sculpture I make is a 100% one-off, then this is what it is.

The sculpture itself and all the things I had to do to make this film are what you see, it cannot be faked. What you see is what you get.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Autumn Beech Sun Curtain

Autumn Beech Sun Curtain, originally uploaded by escher....

My brain seems to be empty. Empty of anything useful and it certainly does not contain a story. So in the hope that one might materialise I've started to type just to see what might happen.

I watched "There Will be Blood" last night and thought it was quite interesting and thought provoking. It seemed to me to be a study in the search for wealth and how, perhaps to people on the outside, someone's search for wealth will eventually reach a line and when that line is crossed then they will have earnt enough. When you view it from afar it is easy to think "if I had that much wealth then that would be enough for me and I would be happy and stop seeking more." Except when it is you seeking that wealth the line keeps moving, like you are trying to reach the horizon but of course you can never get there.

Daniel Day-Lewis' character in the film seemed to be chasing that horizon, always wanting more and never being happy with what he has. On the one hand wanting more can be seen as positive ambition, but on the other it may be seen as trying to fill an aching hole. The consumer society and the myth that happiness is found in needing and wanting more. Nirvana in shopping.

But is it just consumerism that is the problem? I go by the adage - be happy with what you have - but still it's ok to be ambitious? Perhaps not ambitious for a bigger car/house/ipod/iphone/camera but ambitious for better experiences, more knowledge, happier times.

I believe human beings have reached the top of the food chain because of our need to improve on what we do, how we are, how we live. A ceaseless restlessness to strive to do things better, more efficiently, to always improve on things. An urge to fight against creeping boredom by stimulating yourself to progress.

But I wonder whether these inner drives are not discerning and can be directed and applied to anything. When these urges are pointed towards possessions and then you start to try and improve yourself through the things that you buy. There must be a fundamental disconnect between that inner drive to improve and then satiating that desire by buying the latest gadget. The relief is only fleeting and then you are back to where you were. Needing to improve and yet all you have is a new whizzy phone or whatever. "Perhaps the next latest model will be the one that finally makes me enlightened? When can I get that one? I am already bored of this new one!"

At least if you learn a new skill, take a nice walk, make or create something then you as a person have developed a little more with something that you will keep with you forever. That new gadget simply satiates the desire to have one and once you do the hunger comes back anew so once again you want something new too (is there an Owl in here?). One step forward, one step back. "Why do I never seem to get closer to my destination?"

I noticed the Beech tree that I gathered these leaves from about a week ago. It grows on a steep slope next to an aqueduct crossing a ravine. Being a small tree its leaves were brighter and fresher and the colours more stark.

I wobbled down the slope and used a perfect hooked stick, I found nearby, to hold down a branch whilst I collected some leaves. I couldn't use just any tree so it was necessary to perform such a precarious maneouvre. It wasn't long before my concentration was instantly snapped from the branch I was grasping, to a sudden slip down the slippery slope. But fortunately after coming to stop at the bottom I realised I had enough leaves for my project and so I left my bottom, the tree and the treacherous slope to their own devices. Although, of course, my bottom followed on behind.

I knew that this morning there would be a frost and the hope of blue skies and sunshine. So I stitched together the leaves late on in the day yesterday so it would be ready to photograph at dawn amongst the sparkling crystals that Jack Frost had left behind.

I left it on the ground overnight and it frosted over but melted before I could capture it still frozen. Maybe that'll be a challenge for another day, frosted sculptures at dawn, approriate now I can look forward to winter.

So that's it, frost, sunshine and autumn beech leaves along with the contents of my mind over the last half an hour. Seems there was a little more in there that I thought! But then I can ramble on demand. As anyone who has been on the receiving end of any one of my one-way conversations can testify!

Autumn Beech Sun Curtain, originally uploaded by escher....

Beech Leaf Curtain, originally uploaded by escher....

Friday, October 22, 2010


Gravity, originally uploaded by escher....

This was the original stack collapse I photographed. These are the only ten frames I got and I think it came it pretty well.

I had no plan or idea how it would turn out. I simply threw a stone and pressed the shutter release and this was what I got. I've tried since and it has never come out as well.

Seems the first go at something can be the most successful, even if you didn't know what you were trying to do and it was all a bit of a fluke!

It got selected for a photo competition and exhibition. The large printed version looks cool and I saw people looking at it and it took them a little while to work out what was going on. It's the only time I've been a fly on the wall to see the reaction of someone to something I've made.

I've made some major updates to my website today, any feedback will be gratefully received!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Season Wheel Leaf Lantern

Season Wheel Leaf Lantern, originally uploaded by escher....

I've never made a pumpkin lantern before and I thought it was about time that I did!

So as soon as they hit the shops I was in like Flynn to get myself one with knife and spoon at the ready.

I made a season sun wheel complete with central square and then begun to hollow out my pumpkin. Which to be frank sounds like a euphemism but I assure you that I only had good intentions for the use of my spoon.

Although I was a pumpkin virgin I think I did pretty good!

I wanted to put it on some still water so that I could also capture its reflection so I set off for the lake at the University hoping that the wind was calm enough to give a clear duplicate image.

But as you well know it is never over until the fat pumpkin sings.

Have you ever been up to your knees in gloopy mud? I was wearing wellies of course and they seem to share a specific characteristic. As your feet sink down into the silt there comes a point when you need to turn around and go back the way you came. But the problem is that whilst you turn the whole of your body your feet carry on pointing in the same direction. Normally, at this point, I would expect to rotate my arms like windmills and fall into the water with a splat still with my feet pointing backwards. Fortunately this did not happen. But I did need to see how much I could push it.

So as I trudged out into the water to position the lantern all was fine and dandy. The mud was fairly solid and it took a while to get out far enough so I could position the pumpkin level with the surface of the water. While I did so my feet sank some and I turned into a near windmill and splat which surely would have deserved a 5.9.

I then performed the other compulsory maneouvre for this style of competitive dance which is the welly-pull-suck. Managing to half turn I then started to pull on the most stuck welly with the added bonus of my standing foot now sinking even lower than the first. And just as the suction lets go the momentum tips you over onto your weight bearing foot and this time you go for a one-legged splat with no twists. Fortunately I managed to stay dry this time too.

I went back to the bank and set up my camera but the pumpkin was not level so I had to head out into the black lagoon once again. It was quite dark by this point and I didn't have a torch. I was navigating by pumpkin light only.

The ducks and geese on this lake were not best pleased by my antics and they let me know by some extremely loud quacking. They obviously didn't appreciate the trouble I was having, or perhaps they did and thought it was funny.

I went back out to the lantern but this time the water seemed to be six inches deeper. In the dark I couldn't tell how close it was to the top of my wellies and I guess there was one obvious way I would find out and yet when I got nearer to the lantern it suddenly got quite deep and I had difficulty getting near enough. How did this happen? How did it get so churned up and deep?

I struggled on and despite all the quacking and my best efforts to score
6.0 I remained dry and returned to the bank after several more high scoring maneouvres.

I set up my tripod so it was close to ground in order to protect it as best I could from the breeze. As the exposures would need to be long I would want everything to be still as possible.

But there was a problem. There are a hell of a lot of ducks and geese on this lake, as well as coots and chickens (well there aren't chickens on the lake - who has ever heard of aquatic chickens - but they do live nearby) and when you get so many birds you get a lot of bird poo too. I needed to lay on the ground and peer through the viewfinder but the light of the candle was too far away and I just had to lie down and hope.

It seemed it added up to a full house. I managed to stay dry, free of bird poo and the pictures came out good and sharp. And while I was looking at the lantern on the lake I thought "I love that, it looks really cool!" And it is very nice for an idea to live up to what you imagined, or perhaps even exceed it and it is all the more a thrill when a new idea gives you fuel for many more!

I suspect that if anyone else wants to buy a pumpkin in the Lancaster area in the next few weeksthat you will be behind me in a very long queue!

Season Wheel Leaf Lantern, originally uploaded by escher....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scarlet Oak Leaf Fire Star

Scarlet Oak Leaf Fire Star, originally uploaded by escher....

I am coming towards the end of a long weekend. every day of which has had gloriously bright, autumn weather. Saturday I re-did my commission, Sunday we did the workshop. Yesterday we went to Manchester as my partner had a hospital appointment so we went to a gallery too and today I could finally get stuck into some land art for myself.

I started off with high ideas. I was going to make a disco-dancing-ultra-flashing-multi-coloured-mega-leaf-lantern-in-space but in the end I just couldn't be bothered. Like the Duracell bunny's inferiorly powered cousin I started to fade into slow motion. I was just enjoying taking it slooooowwww far too much.

I am sure when I have a new set of batteries put in I will wish that I'd made use of the still weather to go all mega-leaf-lantern on you all but there you go. When you want to kick back then why not?

I still had to make something though just something far less ambitious. I really liked the Holly Star I made back in April and it seemed quite apt to abut the two seasons that bookend summer with green for spring and now red for autumn. I also liked the Holly Star sculpture as I seem to get quite a few hits from people searching for the name. It certainly isn't anyone looking for my artwork however as there is what is commonly termed a 'news-hottie' called Holly Starr who works in Kansas City reporting on the local news. She is described as an actress/model/presenter and isn't afraid to pose in bikinis. I have tried that approach to further my own career but it seemed it back fired. Apparently you have to look nice in a bikini not just be prepared to wear one for anyone that asks. (Now they tell me).

The name Holly Starr struck me as one suitable for a porn actress (no disrespect intended) so in an attempt to drum up more hits I thought about naming this sculpture (children please look away now) "Big ***** and ***** love getting *** ****** **** from the guy next door whilst bent over ******* at the **** ******". or something. Do you think it would be a good idea to name my sculptures in such a way? It'd be sure to get me up the google rankings.

I am sure someone will see some deep artistic symbolism in the phrase
"Big Terry and Nigel love getting car fixing tips from the guy next door whilst bent over looking at the car's engine." So perhaps there is more to this idea that at first glance. A new direction for my art?

No but seriously. I'll go for 'Scarlet Oak Fire Star' it seems more appropriate and if you are starting out in the porn industry then feel free to use the moniker for your name.

One of the exhibits at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, that we visited yesterday, was about outsider art. I thought it was very interesting and I shared some of my thoughts on my blog. But what I forgot to mention there was another exhibit by Olafur Eliasson who I had not encountered before.

His installation consisted of miniature trees from floor to ceiling, made from cut branches stripped of their leaves. A path meandered through the sculpture which was set in a dark room. As you walked through the lights got dimmer until it was nearly dark and it brought forward thoughts of being a child, fairytales and being lost in a dark wood. The smell of the wood and the lighting was very evocative but it did make me wonder what the point was of trying to bring a natural outdoor experience inside and whether you could better achieve the feeling the artist was trying to evoke outside the gallery setting. It is something I've been pondering a lot recently on how it may be possible to bring authentic land art inside a gallery space, and indeed whether you should really try at all.

At one point I became part of the installation. As I meandered through, it was getting darker and darker and two ladies approached from the opposite direction. The path through the wood was not wide enough for us all so I propped myself up in a corner so that they could get past. Instead of walking past me though they stopped and one peered closely into my face.

"There's a statue here" she said.

"No, I'm just trying to let you get through" I replied.

She leapt in the air like a scalded cat and let out a piercing scream. It seemed the dark wood of fairy tales was having quite a strong affect on this lady.

I gathered these Scarlet Oak leaves, and many others, from a tree I had noticed by the side of the road. On the way we passed many others and I was amazed that I had not noticed them before. Last year when I made this ball I managed to find six trees to collect leaves from after searching and searching. And yet this year I keep tripping over them everywhere.

Just like when you buy a new car you suddenly notice that make and model everywhere and it seems it is so with everything else in life. How much passes us by because we simply take no notice? Even if we are convinced of the contrary.

I never fail to be amazed at what new and interesting things I constantly find and how I missed so much before despite how hard I was looking. Land art and mother nature are the gifts that keep on giving all that is required is to open your eyes and mind.

Scarlet Oak Leaf Fire Star, originally uploaded by escher....

Monday, October 11, 2010

Outsider Art Comes of Age

Painting by Albert Louden

I went to the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester today, I didn't know what they were exhibiting but was looking for stimulation and inspiration.

And I found it!

These days I find contemporary art more stimulating than classical art, although I do very much enjoy the latter. So the first exhibition about landscapes left me a little cold despite getting to view some stunning paintings by Turner, Constable and many others.

What really grabbed me was the exhibition about outsider art. I hadn't really heard the term before and find the phrase filled with irony.

Outsider art is the art made by anyone and everyone who just feels the need to create. But what is the difference between this and insider art? Quality? Or simply acceptance by the mainstream?

To become an 'insider' artist your art must be selected by the art cogniscenti to be included in their special club. But is this a guarantee of quality? Do you need to go to art school, have a degree and be part of the establishment to be any good? Could you argue that arbitary selection for inclusion in the club may actually devalue what you are doing.

I watched a short film about a painter called Albert Louden. His work plays with scale, perspective, colour and form and to my eye is reminiscent of Picasso. I liked it a lot and could see why it was popular. Before becoming successful he was a part time lorry driver who lived with his mum, had no artistic training but just did it for himself. Once he was discovered he has very much moved from the outside to the in but he is a perfect example of an outsider artist at the time.

I watched another film where Jarvis Cocker went to meet eccentric characters who had created amazing homes with every inch covered in mosaics or stone carvings. Each one a labour of love done only for themselves. Yet more outsider art.

The rest of the gallery space was filled with diverse creations by many outsider artists in many forms. Some I didn't like, some grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. It brought home to me that the creative spirit is within us all.

The irony of having an exhibition in a mainstream gallery of outsider art to make it acceptable was not lost on me though!

Despite Goldsworthy's success it is said that he has not received much critical acclaim from the cogniscenti. Perhaps this is a symptom of land art and its inability to be brought indoors successfully. Despite it being possible to create natural art installation indoors that are still enthralling something is inevitably lost. Can land art ever be insider art?

It seems to me that the age of the outsider artist has come. With the birth of the internet and social networking many an artists gallery is now online, instantly accessible and with feedback be being provided from art critics all over the world.

Successful art (visual, music, acting etc) is an industry just like any other but with a subtle difference. Of course the vast majority of successful artists are deservedly so but then there are others who are chosen by one of a few influential individuals and then they are made for their whole career but not necessarily to universal acclaim. Do you believe that the cream always rises to the top? Of perhaps that for every successful, famous artist there are a hundred more equally skilled but always destined to remain on the outside as they just didn't get the right break at the right time?

Just as music is being claimed back from the big music companies and now bands can become well known on the internet and sell out an album without ever signing a deal. Artists can show their work to a worldwide audience instantly online and whatever is good will be emailed and tweeted and 'liked' by whoever sees it.

I know I have been amazed by the endless creativity of everyone I encounter on Flickr and the blogosphere. So much inspiration, imagination and diversity in the creations that I find. Warhol famously said that in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. With such diverse talent out there, Youtube, Farcebook, Flickr and everything else then this is coming true right now.

So is this the age of the outsider artist?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

101010 - Land Art Workshop - Giant Spiral

101010 - Land Art Workshop - Giant Spiral

This is what I did on 10/10/10, ran a land art workshop with Julia for a group of kids and adults on behalf of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

We were tasked with helping create awareness of the beautiful places around here and the diverse flora and fauna.

The weather was great and we all had a fine old day making cool sculpures.

I'd be hard pressed to say whether the adults (I can't call them grown-ups) or the kids had more fun.

Once we'd finished this spiral it was so big it could be seen from space. Honest!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Commission - Tendril Spiral

Commission - Tendril Spiral, originally uploaded by escher....

The trouble with attempting to espouse 'wisdom' is appearing to be 'holier than thou.'

BTW if you have neither the time nor the inclination to trawl through my ramblings but would like to hear about the commission and the meaning of what I created then go and look # here.

And if you want to see the 'making of', click on this photo to be taken to Flickr where there are more photos in the comments.

It's something I find annoying when I am on on the receiving end and one thing I have learnt is that what you find annoying in others is often something that you do yourself but are not completely aware of. So I feel duty bound to point out that anything that I bang on about are things I most definitely aspire to but, probably, very rarely actually achieve. I'd say self-awareness is a good thing to aim for as you really can't improve yourself unless you are honest about what you are like.

I don't particularly want to be lectured about the rain forest or world poverty by pop stars or green issues by people with influence but who are not leading by example. So if you find this annoying too then you can listen to me about land art but I'd change channel if I were you if I start banging on about animal rights or self improvement. After all there is nothing quite like a hamburger or the philosophy I find at the bottom of a wine glass. I will start to find myself annoying if this starts to turn into land art sermon hour every time I make something new.

However I am always surprised at human being's capacity for self delusion and it is quite easy to spot it in others. But does this mean that I am just as bad? What am I managing to hide from myself.

To demonstrate how enlightened I am I'll tell you about one of my favourite hobbies. You know I like making things and going for a walk but this other activity keeps me very busy too. As I live just south of the Lake District I get many chances to practice the craft.

And what is it? Shouting at people towing caravans.

Especially if they commit the heinous crime of one caravan overtaking another on a dual carriageway.

You've probably noticed that maybe this isn't really a hobby but a character flaw that makes me angry. It's not big or clever to shout at people in caravans but nevertheless I feel obsessed enough to do it everytime and I feel entitled to do it as I will NEVER own one. But now there is a problem. I have a dream of downsizing and making art all day and to LIVE IN A CARAVAN.

(That's in capitals as I was shouting at myself).

I expect if I ever do live in one I will deserve everyone else to shout at me and it will be quite a fitting punishment. Perhaps doing exactly that will be the final piece of the puzzle towards enlightment. Living in a caravan that is not being an artist. Either that or it'll be the death of me as I implode into a trap of self pity whilst I gradually die of self imposed embarrassment.

I am sure there is some sort of buddhist lesson about taking on your nemesis by accepting it whole heartedly. It seems mine is a caravan and my destiny is to live in one but I am not sure that it will ever make it into the 'Little book of Meditations.'

- Simplify your life and live in a caravan, grasshopper

- But why master?

- Because they are really annoying buggers on the motorway and always get in the way pootling along on minor roads. Isn't that obvious?

Has a nice ring to it don't you think?

I went to Grasmere again today to redo the commissioned sculpture. The first one was in a pile at the bottom of the slab as torrential rain has washed it away soon after I had created. Fortunately the client saw it at its best but I still needed to go along and recreate it.

Nearly always I try and make something new. Very rarely have I made the same thing twice. I like to be lead by nature and what I find and I need to be inspired by new ideas to find the drive to make and complete something. So it was interesting experience to make something for a second time.

It's done me a lot of good having the pressure of being commissioned. It has meant that I have had a different focus from my normal mode of keeping everything together long enough to get its photograph and to let the elements do whatever they want afterwards. Sometimes things last months and I am always very surprised. But less so when the wind destroys something in seconds.

I had to think a lot about how to make it more permanent, consider the techniques I am using and how to improve them. It is something I need right now as I feel I need to up my game and work out how to construct things in a better way. Use what I have learnt already and take it to the next level.

So although it kind of felt like work today I felt like I needed it, a whole new perspective.

This is the original sculpture and I went about it like I always do. Create it like I normally do, make it is neat as I can and then hope that it will last long enough but without really knowing if it will.

This is the first time I've had the opportunity to reconsider that approach with the same sculpture and do it again but better. I still don't know whether it will endure any longer but I tried to make it so. And as I only have myself to learn from I cannot do much more than that.

I was less bothered by the caravans on the way home as I felt a little more chilled. Helped on by the wonderful autumn sunshine we've had today and the wonderland of golden trees. There's nothing quite like a bright and warm autumn day.

We are doing another workshop tomorrow, fingers crossed that this weather continues!

Making the Tendril Spiral

Making the Tendril Spiral, originally uploaded by escher....

This is the blurb that goes with the sculpture. I made it for Kevin Roberts who is the worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi (you can see why I nearly fell off my chair when his PA first contacted me about the commission). He has a residence in Grasmere in the Lake District. But his main home is in New Zealand and he asked me to create something that connected with Maori culture.

Tendril Spiral – by Richard Shilling

'The Maori koru is a spiral shape based on the unfurling of a silver fern frond and symbolizes new life, growth, strength and peace. The circular shape conveys the idea of perpetual movement, the cycle of life, whilst the inner coil suggests a return to the point of origin. Nature is an endless cycle of birth, growth, procreation and death. What decays becomes the food for new life as the cycle repeats itself forever.

The symbolism of the koru matches up exactly with themes I regularly depict in my art. I use different symbols to depict these themes so in this sculpture I have drawn together both the Maori and my own symbols to express the cycle of life. I hope that in some way this links your home in Grasmere to your home in New Zealand by bringing together my ideas about nature and those in Maori culture as they are universal themes shared by all humans.

I find the seasonal changes when autumn fades into winter and spring fades into summer are barely noticeable but when summer turns to autumn and winter turns to spring then I feel those times within my core. I believe we are hard-wired to feel these changes as we either prepare for the long dark winter or the season of growth and plenty. It is something in the air, the quality of the light, a feeling that is unmistakeable and it is this week that I have been feeling it and I expect you do too as you encounter the coolness of the mornings and the colour in the trees. The southern hemisphere must also be feeling a similar change as winter turns to spring. It is an auspicious time deeply entwined in what it means to be human. And as you have travelled from one hemisphere to another you have linked these two changes just as I have attempted to with the sculpture.

I have depicted the change in seasons with a circle in the centre, something I call a 'season wheel.' Four sections of coloured leaves brought together into a circle. Brown for winter, green for spring, yellow for summer and red for autumn and the circle depicts the endless cycle. The dark mud I have used as a canvas is the rotted leaf litter of the forest floor. What dies and rots on the ground, as the leaves fall during autumn and the damp and cold of winter reduce to thick mud, becomes the food, rich with nutrients for the new shoots of life that begin to unfurl during spring.

The materials I have used bring together what is beautiful about the North West of England. The slate slab was quarried at Kirkstone pass, just over the hill from Grasmere. This piece of stone is very resonant and when I had it on wooden rollers it rang like a glockenspiel when struck, unfortunately the stones holding it in place have deadened this but it is a fine piece of stone aptly telling the story of the geology of the Lake District. The silver birch bark was collected from Grizedale woods near Lancaster, dense and beautiful woodland. The mud was gathered from a central point in the Forest of Bowland. Rich, dark and moist, it is the perfect soil for the myriad of plants and trees that grow there. And lastly the leaves. A yellow and green rhododendron leaf picked from different shrubs in Fenham Carr next to Standen and Williamson Park in Lancaster. A red Pieris Japonica leaf picked from the garden in Grasmere and a brown rhododendron leaf found on the ground. Four materials from Lancaster and the surrounding area and three from the Lake District.

And finally the sculpture has begun a new life itself. All my sculptures are ephemeral and are subject to the whims of the weather and elements. Each mud sculpture I create is different and the wind, sun and rain (as well as slugs, snails and worms) all have a different effect. The last one I made was complete just before a two week period of hot weather, followed by strong winds and then heavy rain. This meant that the sun and wind dried and cracked the mud before the rain washed it away. Before that it rained for ages and my mud sculptures also endured as the dampness kept them intact. Their life and decay is dictated by the conditions it encounters. What will happen with this? Will it be damp and last for months? Will the sun be strong and dry it and crack it?

It is my hope that this sculpture brings together all of these things. I hope that it lives up to your expectations and that you enjoy it. Thanks for the opportunity. It has been a very enjoyable experience for me.'

Thursday, October 07, 2010

5 Colour Weave Wheel

5 Colour Weave Wheel, originally uploaded by escher....

This sculpture is very significant to me in quite a number of different ways.

I suppose it represents the perpetual turning of the wheel but this time it has clicked into a new gear. New materials, new techniques, new horizons. Something less ephemeral, that has taken longer to create and yet still made only from materials gathered from hedgerows nearby. All natural colours, no dyeing or anything else required.

Land art has opened me up and turned me inside out and revealed my soul. It has shown me there may be a different way to exist, provided clarity through the fog and given me a whole new purpose. A purpose that now seems deep set within me and crucially it is now coupled with the drive and self confidence to make something happen. This was always missing from my life before.

I am amazed and also saddened by the amount of people I talk to who feel they are trapped in the hamster wheel of working life. Each one of them dreaming of a statistically very unlikely lottery win or a key that will unlock the padlock that chains them to their desk and a life of boredom and drudgery.

I used to spend my life like many others do trying to portray to the world something I was not. I bought gadgets and expensive things to create an aura around myself of success and wealth and yet I was neither successful nor wealthy, monetarily or within my soul.

I know now that all I was trying to do was fill the hole inside of me but instead all I did was draw a curtain across it. And I now see this going on all around me.

Some people I know in particular are very much stuck running around this wheel. A wheel that gradually screws itself into the ground as their ostentatiousness that is needed to cover their path has to grow and grow and grow. New car? Check. New big house? Check. Personalised number plates? Check. The constant need to tell everyone how successful and happy you are? Check. The never ending urge to be better than everyone around you? Check. Real contentment and happiness inside? That check bounces.

If you feel the need to constantly tell people that you are very successful and happy then you are really missing the point. If there is a hole in the bottom of your boat that is letting in water then spending your cash on a bigger and bigger ladle to bail out the water until it is solid gold and diamond encrusted means you haven't noticed that your boat is still sinking. If you spend long enough telling all your friends that you are better, happier and more successful than them then eventually you won't have any friends to tell any more. One day you'll need to realise that you need to fix the boat and stop bailing. A brand new GPS boat navigation system isn't going to do that even if your boating neighbours are still using a compass and a sextant.

The last few years due to unforeseen circumstances I've had to live a more frugal life. What at first seemed like something to endure turned into a blessing in disguise. During this time I learned to make land art sculptures. I tried to get the best out of my camera when before, in order to improve the quality of results I would have spent excessive money on bigger and more expensive equipment whilst never getting to grips with what I already had. And as I emerge from this period and once again I could spend money on pointless gadgets I find I am not tempted. In fact I want to down size and have less, want to want less and strive to have less.

Land art is free. Free of constraints of the modern world and nature provides her materials for free. Walking, wondering and exploring are free and freeing. There isn't much else that I need.

I had a lucid dream last night. It was my first spontaneous one. A few years ago I trained myself to have them and after a lot of effort I had a few, so it was very interesting to have another one without any volition.

When I realised I was dreaming in my dream the intensity of everything increased ten fold. I tried to make the sun rise and it did and then I had another go at flying. Normally when I have tried this before I kind of float four foot above the ground Superman style, but can only manage a walking pace glide. I will myself to go faster and climb into the sky but it doesn't happen, it's like I am only powered by wound up elastic band and not a Rolls Royce engine.

The after affects of a lucid dream are a feeling of elation carried into the waking day. To go with this the sky was blue and bright and the golden autumn sunshine made my soul soar up into the clouds that I couldn't quite reach in my dream.

Whether my feeling of optimism for the future is due to the weather and the intensity of the dream doesn't matter to me. As I sit here typing these words I feel the clock has turned one more notch into a new phase of my life. A future with many more days feeling free amongst nature, the sun shining and the sky blue.

And then perhaps one day I can release myself from that low level hover and at last fly up into the sky.

Oh and hello to the art teacher I met out at Birk Bank this evening. It was nice to chat and I hope one day I do as well as your electrician mate!

5 Colour Weave Wheel, originally uploaded by escher....

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Autumn Fire Whirlpool

Autumn Fire Whirlpool, originally uploaded by escher....

It's a funny thing this land art. Obviously I love doing it but then it is a paradox too, like much of life.

I remember seeing a film about an Everest climb when reknowned mountaineer Doug Scott said "when you are sat at home you long to be out on another expedition and yet when you are you wish you were at home with all your creature comforts."

Sometimes the flow of life takes you where you want to be. You just sit down in the current and are taken away. But sometimes you want to swim upstream, or, at least not go where the flow wants to take you and whatever you do seems to be against the tide. The yin and the yang, the dark and the light, flow and boredom. Constantly we seem to ebb between the two. Sometimes everything clicks and sometimes you have no idea what you want and most of the time you are travelling between them both.

I wasn't going to make anything this morning. I've made quite a few things recently and perhaps didn't feel the need or the drive for more. And there's another paradox. I've not posted everything that I've made recently for a number of reasons, one of them being that I wanted to see what happened if I didn't feel the pressure of posting everything that I do and always trying to increase the standard too. I used to feel compelled to always post what I've done but now I am only posting some of it I feel compelled to post nothing! Why's that then? Why's it an all or nothing thing? When I post everything part of the art is sharing it and yet when I don't it feels more personal. Go figure. It is something I can't quite work out but I suspect it is a window into my character and how an activity that I do for solitude and also for attention can swing between those two opposing feelings. I need both as most people do and my land art gives me them but not all of one side all the time. More yin and yang.

So this morning I sat between the two. Thinking that I couldn't be bothered and yet feeling guilty that I was wasting the day. What a common feeling that is.

I managed to extricate myself from the sofa and went for a walk. It wasn't long before I came upon some maple trees. The seeds were yellow and purple like rhubarb and custard sweets and the leaves every colour of autumn fire.

I wanted to make a sun wheel within a black mud circle, bringing together some of my styles of sculpture. The sun stayed out all morning but the sky turned milky white by lunchtime. I took the wheel, just the centre surrounded by mud, to the top of a rock outcrop but quite honestly it looked rubbish. It was then I decided the spiral was needed.

All the while I was doing this I was trying to talk myself out of completing it. "Why bother? You've made lots of things before, you can take a day off!" But yet I felt compelled to carry on despite my lack of intention. Unless it's going to turn out any good then what's the point? There's other things I could be doing and this one is not going to turn out any good at all. That's what my inner voice was telling me and yet I carried on regardless.

Which brings up yet another odd feeling I have when making land art sculptures.

I started doing it after first discovering Andy Goldsworthy's art and the when I first saw it a light went on in my head and I thought "that's so cool, I want to have a go!" And so I did.

And it's never changed, it's always like that. When I look at other people's land art and also when I look at my own.

Now that might sound conceited, that I like my own art like I like others. But there it is, that's how I feel. The whole time I'm making something I don't think it will turn out any good and yet, often, right at the end it all comes together and I look at it and go 'ooh, that's cool!" And it is always a surprise just like leafing through an Andy Goldsworthy book with sculptures I haven't seen before. I don't understand where the ideas come from or how I bring them to fruition. It just happens as I follow my nose and I am surprised as anyone when I like the final result.

Perhaps that is what all art is about? Tapping into stuff deep inside but only later, much later, perhaps a lifetime later you start to see and understand what is deep inside. I know I have no clue what it is at the moment, only that I seem to make land art and it brings me answers and many, many more questions. Much of it paradoxical, just like life.

When I positioned the spiral beneath the tree it suddenly all came together. What I thought was an okay sculpture made me think "ooh, that looks cool!" With no connection to whether I made it or not.

And then the sun came out and I moved it so that the rays could come through the centre. That was my day. Not knowing what I wanted to do, wanting to give up and carrying on anyway. So without really trying and not really wanting to I let my subconscious take the lead (not that I knew I was doing that) and this was the result.

A spiral beneath a tree and head full of paradoxes. Not many answers but a whole load of questions. Such is life.

Autumn Fire Whirlpool, originally uploaded by escher....

Autumn Fire Whirlpool, originally uploaded by escher....

And with the sun shining through the centre.

Autumn Fire Whirlpool, originally uploaded by escher....