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.

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