Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Don't think about all those things you fear

I haven't had a proper ramble for ages, well not a public one anyway. In fact there hasn't been any action, from me, out here in cyberspace, for quite a while.

I'm quite prone to introspection, you may have noticed if you hadn't been staring at your own bellybutton. And it is both a gift and a bind. But it is something wrapped up within my insides, feeling tightly wrapped around like I have been rolled over and over inside a carpet so it clasps the whole of my being.

Perhaps introspection is another name for sensitivity, perhaps even hypersensitivity. I crave peace and quiet, loud noises jolt me with impatience and I baulk at how the non-sensitives will shout into their mobile phone whilst sat next to you, or park themselves adjacently to your long-searched-for-solitude on a remote beach ovelooking the sea.

At the hinges of the seasons I feel my sensitivities even more and they career between overwhelm and near blissful wonder at the world.

As autumn begins I feel this the most strongly. My feeling for the world is so fiercely overwhelmed but amongst the raw and vulnerable feelings are glimpses of infinity and heaven. But what can be imagined and intellectually understood is not the same as the experience itself. As to live through a hyper-sensitive episode is to be within it, rather than an impassioned observer of its trials and wonders.

Here's something I wrote just as a stream of conciousness back in September, when I was staying away from home for work and felt the full force of autumnal sensitivity.

"I ache, I ache all over.

People watching: what is it to be old, what is it to be young, transporting my enquiring mind into theirs to live their lives for a brief moment. Looking into each persons eyes through my dark glasses, looking at them looking at me, looking at them. Too many interconnections, too interconnected. Need to turn the volume down.

The inxplicable ache of beauty. An impossible Tsumani of creativity and experience, overwhelming sensitivity. Want to bottle it in a jar, keep it and live with it always but also be able to put the lid on so I can breathe and take a break. Sensitivity is such a paradox. While you ache, things take on such infinite proportions, whether you ache for a break, for the world not to keep rushing you with such force, or whether beauty makes you ache, grabs you and affixes its beauty to your soul so you cannot escape, like your brain is being pulled out through your eyes. The aches oscillate between positive and negative each with pull like a powerful magnet, pulling into its clutches or repelling you strongly.

Hard to escape and hard to resist, a trap so overlwhelming you want it to stop and yet when the pain is gone, back comes mundanity. You don't feel the absence of pain, only at the moment it recedes, when the relief replaces the sensitivity. And yet when it's gone you ache once more, you miss it once it's gone, you want it back. You want to feel alive to your core, once again.

Thoughts and interconnections tumble out of your mind, such a thrill if you can catch a ride on one but so often, you just want to pres the pause button and see what it is like to watch and experience what it is you are experiencing. To sit back and watch yourself deluged in a sensitive flow of tumbling thoughts so you can make sense of them, take a step back, have them happen whilst be able to witness the flow, see them for what they are, bring them altogether, condense and channel them. But as soon often in life your instrospection does not allow you to silently witness the flow, you are ungulfed in its midst a passenger in the torrent."

"I am writing this sat in a hotel room on a sunny Sunday. What a day to be hyper sensitive.

Away from home for work, with no outlet except a pouring out of words into my laptop, like an ever open ear. Earlier I sat in a pub and ordered myself lunch and attempted to read my Sunday newspaper. My brain on overdrive, I could only muster two paragraphs before my eyes would lift and scan around me to see what was happening, jittery and unfocused, the tsunami gathering momentum all the time.

Battling self conciousness, sat on my own, the sad travelling worker. Newspaper and sunday lunch, pint with billy no mates. And yet the feeling of exposure, the looking at people and the lives, and their ways, their companions and them looking back at me. It heightened it all, the flow of words, the introspection. the self loathing, the strong feeling of the utter transience of existence, the overwhelming power of inexplicable beauty in the world, what it is to be alive, what it is to be sensitve, what it is to trying to make sense of all these things, trapped in a wave crashing onto the shore, tumbled over and over and over.

Me watching them, watching me, whathcing myself, always trying to draw back one more level to make sense of it all, put a box round it and be a witness, so desperate to make sense of it all.

And yet when you think you make sense of it, one of two things happens, it suddenly diminishes, to explain is to take out the mystery, to extinguish its flame or sometimes the opposite happens.

Sometimes it is a revelation as two parts of your mind speak to one another for the first time, like an explosion of inspiration, a never bofore made connection opens up an entire new world.

The world comes spinning back and the wave you were once engulfed in is just one roller hitting the shore, there are 100's more following it in, to engulf you once more.

But what becomes so evidently clear is these words are futile, a nothingness, a distraction in pointlessness. My imagination cannot bottle up those and replay them to me at will, I cannot take them home in a little box tied up with string. I need to be living them now, in the here and now, they are there while they're there and it is then when you feel them in your soul. The memory is bitter sweet, it isn't that thing, it has none of its intensity but it has enough of a clue to remind you to go back and feel it once again.

And this leads me to the ache I feel most of all. the transience of existence. Just as a flower is transient so is a thought, so is a life, looking back is neither here nor there, it is all present in the here and now in its infinite beauty and variety.

But each moment is gone as quickly as it arrives as will be my life, my existence. Embrace the brevity for it is all you have. One day soon you and I will be gone."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Norwegian Maple Autumn Fire Wheel

I've got a thing...

I've got a thing about my rear windscreen wiper...

You see, it only has two settings...


Or off...

This really bothers me...

In my old car it used to be intermittent...




That's how I want it...

But in my new car it does too much...

Swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash...

It is very distracting. So much so I can't concentrate on the traffic in front. All I can do is look at it swish-swashing in the rear view mirror.

You see, I'm worried about wearing it out. I'm not going to get my full entitlement of swishes, let alone swashes.

Mostly we consider ourselves to be logical, rational creatures and yet we are surrounded by the evidence of our neuroses, contrariness and irrationality.

Why will I quibble about something cheap being twenty pence too expensive? When I will happily waste one hundred times that amount on something I don't need.

We all know it's better to take the long way round a traffic jam, even if it takes longer, as at least you feel like you are achieving something when you are moving forward in some way towards your destination.

I'm quite happy to switch on my front windscreen wipers whenever it looks even slightly cloudy on the horizon, sometimes putting them on super-fast just for the hell of it. But their less able and incapable rear window cousins couldn't deal with such abuse and I worry how they'll not cope with their current workload.

So just what am I banging on about?

I guess it's something to do with the direction I want to take my life in. I hope to shed off the assumed, the incorrect, the downright delusional. I want to replace the false and blinkered and harmful with something more succinct, more truthful and more accurate.

Don't we all...

The question is "how to separate one from the other?"

I suspect I need to answer that question before all others.

Perhaps that's where art comes in?

Note to self...

If you want to search for answers, through art and through living a life. Then perhaps it would be a good idea to do some and make more of your life whilst you're living it.

Note to self...

Stop making excuses that you're working too much, or uninspired or plainly can't be bothered. It won't happen unless you invest the time and stop worrying about whether there's a point.

After all there isn't a point until you make one and even then one may not materialise. But what is certainly true:-

You can guarantee there will be no answers if you give up asking questions altogether...

Swish-swash, swish-swash, swish-swash...

I made this sculpture almost exactly a year ago. A few days past I went along to the tree I gathered the leaves from and it is producing the same colours as back then. But I'm having trouble reconnecting with nature just because I haven't put in the effort to create as much this year (see excuses above). The disconnected feeling breeds discontent and the solace I seek from that connection being missing makes me feel a little adrift.

There are other trees from which I gathered leaves last autumn that have not put on the same show this year. Some crab apples nearby, were ablaze with hundreds of hues and yet this year only managed green, yellow and brown. But it's not enough to notice this whilst passing, it's time to become more wholeheartedly involved.

It seems I'm the one who hasn't been listening. Many times I've said land art is all about the process, the doing, the feeling, the seeing. And it's high time I tried to remember that as autumn will be over all too soon.

A life lesson about fleeting existence, the transience and flux of all there is. If you don't take the time to stop and listen then that moment is not grasped but gone forever.

Note to self...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jaume Plensa - Click Here - Much More Within

You really need to go over to Flickr to see this post, there are a few dozen photos embedded within the one post over there, so click on the photo to take a look...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stop Showing Off!

Now, if my mum was standing behind me, as I write this, she may say "Richard, stop showing off!" But really, sometimes you just can't hold it in! (see Gerard's predicament below)

It turns out that the billboards weren't the only thing. To coincide with the A-level results announcement and the mad scramble for University places, Cumbria Uni also put together an advertising campaign in National (I thought it would be nice to use a capital 'N' there) and local newspapers.

I expected to see the odd advert in the special student clearing sections in some of those newspapers but I was really quite flabbergasted to see it on the front page of the Independent, beneath Gerard Depardieu enjoying a tipple (as apparently during the take off of a flight he attempted to piddle in a bottle as the toilets were closed). I'm quite flattered to be in such auspicious company, although I didn't have to embarrass myself to get my picture on the front page. However now I've sold out and gone National (there I did it again), I will do anything for a pay cheque, so if that what's required I am happy to comply.

So my picture was in the Times, the Telegraph, the I (that's a new version of the Independent) on the front page (did I mention that), the Independent (that's the old version of the Independent) on the front page (had you noticed) and the Guardian, and yes I did buy them all! It's also in a couple of dozen local newspapers too (note the small 'l') but now I've got a massively swollen head, I'm not getting out of bed for less than £2.50 if the local newspaper calls.

"Are you still showing off?"

That's all very nice an' all but I did actually do some land art this weekend. I just haven't had the time to write some commentary yet so it's just little old me with my massive ego here at the mo'. I'm sure someone will be along soon, with a pin, to pop me, my wind and hot air.

Next stop, some new land art.

But meanwhile, whilst I shamelessly self promoting: here's something about my exhibition in Kendal.

After finishing up making sculptures at the weekend, we drove down a road we never normally go down and found another billboard.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Billboardtastic by escher is still alive
Billboardtastic, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

Giant colourful flowers made from leaves have been springing up around the city of Lancaster.

Rumour has it that the local population aren't impressed and are campaigning to have them replaced with posters of scantily clad ladies as is normal practice round here.

One passerby was heard to remark "these giant leaf flowers, or whatever they are, are all very colourful and nice, and that, but they aren't going to make me fall off me bike when I'm cycling home."

"I want pictures of young ladies not wearing much, that's what billboards are for, do the advertising execs not know nothin' innit?"

Thanks to Spacedman for the tip. I knew Cumbria Uni were using one of my pictures but they hadn't said when they were going up so it was quite a gleeful surprise to see a couple of billboards with one of my pictures emblazoned across it in my home city.

There's supposed to be some others too, bus shelter posters and in the national press, so if anyone sees anything I'd love to hear about it. I don't know how far and wide they're going to be, or how many either but besides, seeing them in your home city is a pretty thrilling experience.

Oh and I have another exhibition starting Monday in the Warehouse Cafe at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, on for the next six weeks. The other exhibition at Gallery 23 in Lancaster is still on until October too.

Another poster by the bus station.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rainbow Grass Turns

Something I often wonder about is do you make your own luck? Indeed, what is luck exactly?

I seem to always have luck with spotting wildlife. Whenever I'm out somewhere, and not just when making land art, wandering, walking, cycling I always seem to see something or other. And particularly when I'm not trying to spot anything.

The other day my chain popped off on a hill and as I waited by the side of the road I saw a juvenile woodpecker attacking a rotten log on the ground. Ok, that isn't that remarkable but wherever I find myself there's always something. Stoats, brown hares, lizards, rodents, bats, birds of prey, foxes, dolphins, seals, crocodiles, great white sharks, polar bears, albatrosses and hump back whales. No really. Well half that list anyway.

Where I used to live I had a badger run through my garden, in both senses of the phrase, a badger did run through my garden and there also was a regularly used badger run, that ran through my garden. Sometimes in the summer I would hear them charging around in a loop, with the path by my house and the garden forming half the circuit, galloping and grunting. I think it was badger fruitiness in action. After work once I came down the path to be confronted by a fruity badger in full flight. You'd think that he would have turned round and scarpered. But he stood his ground and waited for me to move out of the way so he could resume his grunting gallop.

The other week I saw six kestrels in flight together, calling loudly to each other. My guess is they were four recently fledged youngsters and their parents. It was quite an astounding sight and I can remember many hundreds more interesting events I have been very fortunate to see.

Perhaps any of these encounters are unremarkable when taken on their own but they feel more remarkable when you add them all together.

So what's going on exactly?

I do believe that you make your own luck and much of it is a subconscious process. If you are open to things then you are much more likely to encounter them, if your mind is closed you wouldn't notice it if it was right in front of you in any case. But, perhaps, even more importantly luck is a frame of mind. If you feel fortunate and blessed and appreciate as much as you can in life then you are, indeed, fortunate and blessed, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bad luck is also a self fulfilling prophecy too in many cases. Often you get what your unconcsous mind thinks you deserve as you outwardly act to make those things happen, most of the time not being aware of it at all.

Of course, s**t happens too and not everything is down to good or bad luck. But lots of things are and much of our lives are within the control of our unconcsious minds.

However, that's where I consider my understanding to end. The power of the unconsious is astounding, and even if you cannot pin it down, it is acting on your behalf anyway, not always in a beneficial way but it is there behind you, steering you where it thinks you need to go.

I find, through my art, that I sometimes witness the results of my unconcsious mind without actually being aware of how it did whatever it did. I find this fascinating as there aren't any other things in my life where I've ever been aware of this.

A while back all my stories were filled with humour and that's because funny things always seem to happen whenever I was making something. Often the light would be in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time for a photograph or the materials I needed seemed to have been laid about the place ready for me to find them.

It happened again yesterday when I made this sculpture. For a couple of months I've been pondering how to capture the essence of high summer and that feeling you get when you while away a dreamy, warm afternoon, cooled by a light breeze, sitting in a meadow of gently waving grasses and wild flowers.

Last week I sat in such a place and studied the grasses and marvelled at their beauty, diversity and life force. The life force of nature in high summer is surely something to behold, and be part of and amongst.

I tried to use those grasses but did not have the skills with which to complete the task. So I went back again yesterday and tried again.

This time my unconcsious was ready and with what felt like no volition the scultpure started to make itself. I took some Horse Chestnut stalks and poked a hole in the end with a thorn. I threaded the first piece of grass into the hole and begun winding it around the stem, following the same process with each next piece and so on until I had three.

I showed Julia and she said "I like them, but I'm jealous, you always go the extra mile."

I disagreed and said "it's not like that, I just start and see what happens."

And so it was. The stalks were perfect for this application and the technique I devised was the first one I though of and it just worked. I didn't search for different materials, or try several different techniques. It just worked out this way first go, as though I'd practiced and practiced to come up with the best way to advance.

So often it feels like I'm not responsible, I try something, it works and I think "cool, how did that happen?"

I'm beginning to wonder if it happens because I've always loved nature and spent so much of my time out exploring somewhere on my own, even when I was really small. By opening my mind to the natural world I am afforded little extra glimpses of what's there and this plays out in making sculptures too.

And above all I feel tremendously lucky in so many aspects of my life and if I was to do the opposite of over analysing and sum up all the above in one sentence, I would say:-

"Take some time to sit in a summer meadow and watch the wild grasses wave to and fro, and you will feel like the luckiest person alive."

In a nutshell, I don't think there is anything else I need to know.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I n t e r c o n n e c t e d

At last I got out today to make some 'proper' land art. It didn't really turn out any good but the end result is not what real land art is all about for me. I'm pretty fed up with working late every evening and having little energy for anything creative so today was an all round good day.

Find somewhere quiet and sit down and absorb the ambience. Watch the swallows put on a aerobatic display and the tall grasses bend and flex in the summer breeze. Take time to wind down and pretty soon you become part of the landscape. Real land art means making something for yourself, not for an exhibition or to put on the internet. Look around and see the beauty and diversity around you. Delve deep into these things and see colours and structures you had not seen before. Immerse yourself in studying these things and learn a little more about what you find. With knowledge of new materials must come new ideas in which to use them in a construction.

The inherent properties of a little understood material, will mean you will have to devise new techniques with which to construct something from them. Are they strong and robust? Will they dry and break and become brittle? As you learn about the properties and structures you must create in new and different ways. By moving away from the familiar, the formulaic and the easy path, there are opportunities to feel immersed, meditative and connected once more to nature. Sometimes the learning curve is steep and the final sculpture unsuccessful when presented in an image. But who cares when the point is the discovery, the fascination of seeing the world afresh, anew and with a child's eyes.

I will try again with what I learnt about today and hopefully will have more success with a sculpture and image. But the tougher it is, when you are fully absorbed, is as successful as I ever want it. That's why it's been a good day. Shame it's blody work again tomorrow, late evenings weekends and more drudge! I think I need a holiday!

This is indeed made from Birch Bark and I took a sheet of Paper Birch and carefully cut out the letters. That took many, many days of toil and as well as what you see before you I also ended up with a numb and calloused finger that is only now beginning to come back to life, several weeks after I'd finished it!

I've been researching the colours of Birch for quite a while now and all the hues you see here are from thin sheets of Erman's, Chinese Red, Himalayan and Paper Birch bark, backlit by the sun. I'm quite astounded by the selection of colours available and how radiant they seem in natural light.

I made this for my exhibition and took it into them yesterday. I've been searching for ways to make natural art sculptures, still only made from natural materials but that can be brought into the gallery space or be sold as original artworks. Although bringing land art indoors is missing the point somewhat, most people don't get to see ephemeral artworks in situ and even if they did do, they wouldn't catch them at the optimum moment, as I try to in my photographs.

However, one thing I did learn about this sculpture is that, normally the photography is all part of the process. My best images are a combination of the right sculpture, the right light and the right time. The best stories I right come from that too. They all need to happen on the same day, I need to be in the groove to be inspired in the right way, to make something cool, to get a cool picture and to feel enthused in the story I write. All those things seem to flow together, when I've go my head in the right place. Each thing leads to the next and are all important components of the whole.

What I found with this bark sculpture, that it was bloody hard to get a photo I liked. I've tried for weeks to get what I wanted but none (including these) turned out the way I wanted them too, I'm not happy with any of them at all. It seems, that without the inspiration and meditation that comes from being in a natural place, feeling it and making something based on what you find and feel there and then, leads you to perform better when it comes to the photography. Being more attuned to the elements, the movement of the sun and the best aspects of a place are only gained through that immersion. Making something over several weeks and then taking it out to photograph it just didn't seem to work for me.

But, in a way, I think that's a good think. That this sculpture looks better in real life. After all that's what it is for, whereas the outdoor ephemeral stuff is the other way around. It just seems funny that I can't get a good picture of it, however hard I've tried. But this failure in getting a good image, has given me new insight into the inner workings of my creative process.

So this was my first attempt to capture the magic of land art, the intensity of colour,the surprising variety of materials and the beauty of Mother Nature, encapsulated into a single art object, still without having to use anything artificial that I do not allow myself when working outside.

I might frame it between two pieces of glass, to protect it and enable it to be displayed, perhaps backlit to show off it's colours. Whether I've been successful in creating an original land art object that someone may want to acquire I'm not so sure but if not, at the very least, it's put me onto the path where I might be able to do that in the future.

I have more ideas for ephemeral land art that can be brought into the gallery, in a way that I've never seen before. I just need the opportunity for more gallery space to give me the kick up the bum to give them a try.

I think I'm rambling so I'll sign off for now, I'm weary if you couldn't already tell. It's hard work sitting in the sun watching the swallows and listening to the rustling grass, I obviously need to be back at work for a rest!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Progression by escher is still alive
Progression, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

I learnt an important life lesson today. 'Does a bell make a sound if no-one is there to hear it?' Well the riddle is unravelled...

Should you find yourself cycling up a long and steep hill, lycra-clad, lobster-pink and not a little sweaty, then you really are going to look like a total plank if you reach the top of that slope to be greeted by two young ladies (when I say greeted, what I really mean is gawped at with disdain), to then find yourself accidentally ringing your bell, rather than changing gear. Honestly, the two levers are right next to each other!

It highlights quite clearly how one thing can be interpreted in vastly different ways: on the one hand "who does he think he is? Riding up that hill and announcing what a stellar athlete he is with a 'bing'! What a fat, sweaty, idiot!" and the other "gah, why did I ring my bell, right then? What a fat, sweaty idiot!" Oh hang on, those are actually quite similar...

I've also learnt that my cat has no idea what work is, of course she's not particularly employable (unless there's a vacancy for someone who likes lying around on a cushion having their tummy tickled, whilst being fed scraps of smoked salmon) but she also has no idea about my work either. I work from home sometimes and she believes that this is for her benefit. I regularly take part in important conference calls and she thinks it's quite apt to leap up and miaow into the mouth piece, quite suddenly and before I can activate the mute button. My colleagues already consider me eccentric but mewing and animal noises, perhaps go beyond that simple description. She also thinks there's enough room on my lap for a lapcat and a laptop. There really isn't.

I've been struggling for ages to pin down what art is, what its whys and whens actually are, or at least what its direction of travel actually takes you towards.

I then saw a quote, new to me but surely well-known and famous: 'Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.' -Leo Tolstoy

Like a flea jumping about all over the place and suddenly pinned down with a thumb, this phrase had it all, like walking full-force into a door.

It seems like we are all on a quest to connect things together, to see the joins that were not visible before. Art is simply one expression of that journey we all share.

In anything we do, we want to do it better and more succintly, to use that momentum to drive us to understand, whatever it is, just that little bit more each time that we try.

So surely art is no different from simply being alive and travelling in a forwards direction, it is nothing more than a way to describe that journey, like a simple page in a diary or a snap of a happy day on the beach.

As we live life we make connections between seemingly disparate things, and discover they were actually joined together all along. And now I think that good, great and exceptional art helps you make those connections in your head, as the artist reveals all those links they discovered within themselves and distilled them into blobs of paint or whatever medium is their choice of expression.

Or perhaps:-

"Dog sculptor, how do you sculpt this enormous block of stone?"

"I just take away all the bits that aren't dog."

Because of these things I aspire to paint. I've probably mentioned it before. Great painting, for me, seems to distill so much more than any other medium I've witnessed.

Emotion, narrative, sorrow, symbolism, joy and so much more condensed into something that does not require a plaque to tell you what to think. Line, form and colour, skillfully applied, to convey so much depth and description. I don't know if that is at all possible with other mediums, and especially not with mine.

That doesn't mean I am not going to try, as I mature and learn and grow, my art comes along with me and I want to strive forward to reach a point when my art begins to draw together much more, will make you think, ponder and contemplate. After all these are the things that make me tick, make me feel alive, drive me to learn and develop and evolve. And just like great painting I want my art to grow strong and not need a written description, it should explain whatever it needs to, to whoever wants to look at it and let each person take away whatever they wish.

Perhaps it is a confidence thing. To have enough of it to let it speak for itself. Perhaps that will come with maturity and the time to make more connections between whatever disparate things I find.

What is life without drive and fascination and a journey with which to set yourself on? Whether I ever reach there, who knows, but it is assured you never will, if you put don't put one foot in front of the other.

I made this for my exhibition and it's been there for a few weeks now. I haven't seen it since but my partner said they've dried, cracked and grown a little mould. She added they looked pretty good too :-). Drop into the gallery if you are passing by and let me know how they are changing.

My self-confidence doesn't allow me to keep quiet (ahem, as if you hadn't noticed) but perhaps it will one day soon. But I believe there's a few layers to see here and I'll stop and leave it at that. Except to say that I put them in with no conscious effort and it was revealed gradually afterwards.

Despite not planning their inclusion, I still believe they are manifestly there and I am beginning to learn the power of intuition and, too, of the unconscious mind.

A few years ago I was unaware of those things but maybe they are all a fundamental part of the whole maturing process.

So that one day I may find the confidence, to speak without any words.

Progression by escher is still alive
Progression, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Sycamore Seed Sun

I want to post something but need to write something to go with it. I normally write about my thoughts when I created the sculpture, or something that's preoccupying me or maybe something amusing that's just happened.

Well, I didn't make this today and can't remember much of what I was thinking when I did. Actually that's not strictly true. I remember quite clearly trying to get a photo of it all day. I knew it would be better to wait until the sun was lower but I tried anyway when the sun was high in the sky. It was very windy too and kept falling out of the tree I first put it into, shedding seeds as it did.

I knew that the dogwood ring would begin to dry out and contract, and as it did the thorns would fall out. So I needed to get a photo quick but the wind and sun weren't playing ball. Probably I was expecting too much, the wind might drop but I haven't developed omniscience, recently, with which to control the sun. If I had I expect my land art would be absolutely brilliant but I guess (un)godly powers might be considered cheating.

Eventually I gave up and returned later on, when the wind had dropped and dappled light lit up the undergrowth. Now everything was perfect or at least it would seem so. The light was magical and the breeze light and warming but the dogwood ring had lost some moisture and the thorns decided to drop out like needles on a Christmas tree on January 6th.

So I spent many minutes pushing them back in, cursing and pricking myself. This eventually worked and I had the seeds arranged nicely again. I expect you'd have less success using this technique if you were trying to stop your Christmas tree from going bald.

Once positioned and backlit all that was left was to click the shutter.

As for anything funny happening, that would be depend on your point of view. Some may see it as an opportunity, or perhaps something threatening, but in hindsight I definitely thought it was funny.

I've recently acquired a camper van of the Mazda Bongo variety, complete with elevating roof and electric blinds. We like to go out in it somewhere and brew up a cup of tea, simply because we can.

We went on a trip down south and arrived after midnight near to where we wanted to be. We found a little back road, in a forest where it seemed quiet. Pulled up into a layby, elevated the roof and got ready to sleep until dawn.

It's the great thing about owning a camper, you can just roll up and sleep wherever you like. However not worrying about where you are exactly might have unexpected consequences.

This tiny little lane, supposedly in the middle of nowhere, suddenly turned into a highway. Car after car came past, each one slowing down as they approached our spot. "Just what are they gawping at?" We exasperately exclaimed! "Leave us alone, we just want to sleep!"

When we got home I typed the words 'dogging' and "Devon" into Google and retrieved the answer I was looking for. It seemed some local swingers thought we might be up for some action. We had rolled up to one such particular spot, apparently very popular with those inclined in looking for late night action. The moral of the story is to be careful where you park up for the night, you might get more than you bargained for. Quiet remote spots are popular late at night with people other than just impromptu campers.

For those of a sensitive disposition or anyone who is quite happy with the lack of broadness of their mind, I suggest you don't Google those words, and certainly not look at Google Images. You will definitely get more than you bargained for, you have been warned!

As for ponderings I don't think there is much profundity present. Perturbing me this week would be the News of the World scandal, the sudden addictiveness of Twitter (don't do it unless you can handle it), and whether someone really can eat too many crisps.

But what of email etiquette? I regularly receive emails from different people interested in land art and I always take the time to reply. I know if I had written to someone that I would be upset if I just got ignored. Often it takes time to write the replies, I go into detail about what they have asked about, answer questions or help students with projects and dissertations. It's nice that people are interested enough to write to me and I enjoy writing back to them too. But here's the rub!

If it were me I would thank someone for taking the time to answer my questions but very rarely does this ever happen. I often respond to requests for help 'with sure what do you want to know' and never hear anything again, or write a long answer to posed questions and again hear nothing from them either. It is rare, but gratefully received, when they do reply but really that's only happened a handful of times. Am I too sensitive, is my email etiquette calibrated incorrectly? It all seems a bit strange to me.

Over recent months I've written and emailed a number of (well known, famous and less so) UK based natural artists to express my sincere gratitude to them for the inspiration they've given me, and expressed how my life has been profoundly affected. In addition I wanted to reach out and make contact with likeminded individuals, with the hope that we could perhaps collaborate in the future. Disappointingly I haven't received a single reply.

Perhaps they receive a great deal of mail, of the unsolicited and fan variety, and it has become a burden to reply to it all. But I feel that everyone is an individual and deserves that simple courtesy no matter how busy you are.

I am tempted to compromise my principles when I answer questions and seldom get a reply but perhaps it is really a test of character. If I feel sad when my communications remain unanswered then I expect someone writing to me will too. It's important to resist feeling jaded as without empathy most of us are nowhere.

I really need to get out and make some proper land art soon and when work and time allows. The words come best when making something as do funny encounters and pieces of insight. My interim ponderings are more on the morose side without the solace of creativity. Normal service should be resumed soon!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Cycle Leaf

Cycle Leaf by escher is still alive
Cycle Leaf, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

The End joins onto the Beginning...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tangle Cube

Tangle Cube by escher is still alive
Tangle Cube, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

I expect like most people, or at least those that are reading this (;-)) you often go for strolls around the park, woods, fields, streets and lanes around where you live. Once spring has sprung those places that you wander through change from moment to moment. Grasses grow tall, wild flowers reach for the sky, everything is in leaf and green.

A revisit to any of those places a few days, a week or a fortnight later and you'll see everything taller, seed heads developing, the undergrowth becoming more tangled and dense like a miniature jungle.

It isn't just something you see, it is something you feel, right through to your very core. Moist air full of buzzing insects and all life looking for chances to reach further, colonise, grow and develop and to bring along the next generation.

Amongst what I find so magical is the blueprints that underpin all life. Road maps and assembly instructions that say to each component part 'do this and repeat until you cannot do any more.'

Plants build spirals and circles and all manner of intricate symmetries. Cells build upon cells and those simple instructions to duplicate, replicate and grow lead to all manner of specialities and magical things. So amongst all that tangled undergrowth, whilst our own cells are a-buzz with the headiness of high summer, lies such richness, diversity and complexity. Complexity consisting of simplicity, beauty and regularity.

All life is a fusion of these two things. Complexity and simplicity, order and seemingly random chaosity. The order and the disarray, the turmoil and the calm, the tumult and the peace.

The tangle and the cube.

Apologies for the watermark, I hate them! But unfortunately it has become necessary to try and protect them a little more (not that it will stop everyone) but I still want to share regardless!

Tangle Cube by escher is still alive
Tangle Cube, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Variegated Oak Leaf Curtain

This turned into yet another two day search for the sun.

I recently read someone's blog entry about my Rowan Berry Swoosh sculpture and they wrote "tedious work I'd expect but worth it."

It rarely is tedious, though sometimes it most definitely is. But instead it can be quite exciting. Because I rarely plan what I am going to make and change and adapt as I am making something then I don't know at all how it will turn out until near the end. And as I approach the end a feeling on excitement deep within begins to build, as I start to see the final effect. Often it doesn't take on the level of vibrancy or symmetry that I am striving for until the very last component is completed. Sometimes it is like a switch going on, right at the very end, and suddenly everything falls into place. It can be quite unexpected and surprising but nearly always thrilling too.

A fundamental part of my leaf and light sculptures is the sun. I may combine leaves, wood, thorns and other natural elements together but they are not complete until they are put in the right position, in the right place, with right light and the right surroundings. Sometimes this comes easy, sometimes it is incredibly difficult. And sometimes the search for the sun can be very tedious. But as that blogger wrote - worth the wait. And the longer I have to wait the bigger the buzz when I finally combine all the elements together and that switch is flicked and the sculpture comes alive.

It's that extra notch that I strive for. The difference between an ordinary sculpture and something with a bit more life. It doesn't feel right unless that light comes on.

I sometimes worry that my photography looks a bit artificial, messed with, overly saturated or unreal. It is important to me to never fake what I do, as there would be no point in demonstrating any skill if it could be dismissed as photoshop trickery. My photos sometimes look unreal because of the effort I go to to search for the right place, the right light and conditions that will combine with my sculpture to show it at its best.

However there is an ilk of internet lurker who think everything is photoshop trickery or everything is fake. One of my photos of a rock stack was on Reddit this week, and I was quite tickled by the comment "The middle has a thin metal pole holding it all together, you can see it if you zoom in. Zoom in and look at the bottom 3 rocks, and the set of rocks 3rd up from the bottom."

'I've been rumbled, thank god for the internet police! I would have got away with it if it wasn't for those pesky kids!' No, but really, it would be much more difficult to go to the beach, find a load of rocks, drill holes in them and then build them up, where would the fun be in that! My advice to the internet sceptics is get out there and make your own rock stacks. It's kinda fun, not very difficult and a whole lot more interesting than land art conspiracy theories! Can you see a metal pole in this!

But land art begins with nature and what might not be obvious in what you see is what i learnt about these leaves. Whilst searching for acorns for the Sessile Oak Spiral I found two Oak trees, one with yellow variegated leaves the other with green. I am not sure why these were different from the rest, the only difference I could see was they were perched on top of a small crag and perhaps they were starved of necessary nutrients. But whatever the reason their leaves were beautiful and so I collected some for later.

By trying to create a symmetrical and uniform square shape I had to try and make each small square the same and by doing this I deepened my relationship with the leaves.

With organic growth there is an infinity of minute differences and as I cut a square out from each leaf I learnt how some were straight, some had a bent central vein, some the lobes cut in too deeply and some were too short. In a nutshell I had to inspect each leaf I looked at to discover its structure, shape and colour and better understand the diversity and variation in the leaves of two specific trees.

It is not a robotic process of simply selecting square after square and then sticthing them together. No, it is a process of appreciating and understanding each individual leaf and with it the beginnings of understanding the tree which bore those leaves. By chasing after form and symmetry I was rewarded with knowledge and experience of these trees and their leaves.

There is nothing tedious about this. Nothing in nature is the same. Each thorn, leaf and berry is subtly different from the next. Each day, hour and minute is different from those that preceeded them. And each new experience and new discovery is fresh fodder for the interested mind. Nature is endless and fascinating even if you are just looking at a single leaf.

So after trying the day before to unsuccessfully find the sun, I tried again before breakfast the next day and the early morning light was perfect and the swicth flicked and all the elements came together once more.

In other news this week I am rapidly approaching the age where I must be permanently grumpy and have to whinge about everything (some might say I am already there)! So I am sorely tempted to have a bit of a rant and here's why:-

My photographs often get nicked and used without my permission. I do like people to ask and if it is for your blog and you want to talk about land art then I generally grant permission. But this week I've found three universities using them, but if that wasn't bad enough I found three artists organisations advertising land art workshops using my pictures, one of them lifted 15 images and an entire article about teaching kids land art! There was no credit given at all, no permission sought and they were using my pictures to advertise their own workshops! If they are any good at land art you'd think they'd have some pictures of their own and you'd think an artist may have more respect another persons work!

I've never wanted to watermark my images as I want you to see them as they should be seen but I am getting close to feeling like I have to. If you all prefer that I didn't then say so and I'll reconsider.

Right, I'm off now to shout at the traffic/neighbours/wildlife/sky/helicopters/general public.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Shine by escher is still alive
Shine, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

I suppose I am supposed to advertise my exhibition that starts next week. I'd prefer to be sat down carrying on making the sculpture that I've started (a unique land art creation that should last many a year without degradation so someone can hang it on their wall, should anyone want to buy it, anyway!). I am sure most artists would rather hide out in their studios (not that I have one of those) rather than pop up from behind the parapet and self promote.

So what's the deal?

It's a group exhibition with a selection of other North West artists who work across a range of different disciplines. It starts next Tuesday and runs until mid October at Arteria featuring Gallery 23, 23 Brock Street, Lancaster. There are some details here.

The exhibition is entitled "Shine" which must be to do with our wealth of talent (and modesty ;-)) rather than the weather. It's raining, but then Wimbledon has nearly started so it should be raining.

They asked me if I could create something for their posters and fliers so I did, Paper Birch bark, Chinese Red Birch bark , Maple leaves and thorns. Just add sunshine, Dandelions and hey presto.

The opening do is on Thursday 16th between 5pm and 8pm. If anyone would like an invitation (you are all welcome - though I cannot pay for any Trans-Atlantic flights) then give me a shout and I will send you one.

That's all for now, need to get back to my sculpture. Laters!

Shine by escher is still alive
Shine, a photo by escher is still alive on Flickr.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Flux Capacitor (Friday night's alright for doodling)

Flux Capacitor (Friday night's alright for doodling)

It's been very hot and sunny today. Blue skies, humidity and thirsty gardens.

This week I've been looking after a neighbour's cat. She's a funny little character with comedy whiskers, a squeak for a miaow, a bum wiggle as she trots along and a propensity to sit legs akimbo licking her wotsits (that's the cat not her owner). I am very fond of Cassie and I look forward to her owner going away so I can spend some time with her. My cat, however, isn't so keen (cue disdainful look from my moggy).

Once I'd finished work and went over the road to give her some grub and I noticed the garden was looking a little dry so I gave it all a much needed drink. Talking of which I've just realised I don't have any beers in the fridge and I could murder a cold one. Cold blooded murder in the first degree, mmmmmmmmmmm yes please.

There's two plants I use quite a lot in non-autumn leaf sculptures: Chamelia (which I have an unfortunate tendency to always refer to as Chlamydia, which was a joke the first time I said it but now it's stuck, and I am afraid I am going to accidentally say it in polite company) which produces yellow, orange and red leaves during the growing season and Photinia which produces scarlet red leaves in spring and summer too.

I thought I'd put together a quick doodle, grabbed some thorns and assembled a little leaf sculpture looking for some sunshine to light up its life.

Heather (Flickereno of these here parts) harvested some morning glory stems last year, and made several little twisted rings. (Here they are before their flight over the pond). She sent them to me in a little parcel a few months ago and asked if I could make something with them. They are beautiful just the way they are but nevertheless I've been pondering ways of including them in something for ages. As I have had very little time or energy to make anything lately I just hadn't got around to it even though I had meant to.

So now one of those little rings sits in the middle of the lit up leaves. An across the pond collaboration. Apologies for the delay Heather and there will be more to come with the little rings and something will wing its way across the pond to you too.

The sunny weather sure does motivate me a little more and I can't resist warmth, the lush growth of flaming June and sunlight through vibrant leaves.

I also have an exhibition coming up in two weeks time and as it approaches I feel my mojo returning. Well it could be that or heatstroke, I'm not sure.

Now there's only time to get down the booze shop sharpish and commit murder in the first degree...

Enjoy your weekends!

Flux Capacitor (Friday night's alright for doodling)


EV 0-0111

Monday, May 30, 2011

Loch Fyne Seaweed Beacon

This spring seems to be passing me by but if you were to follow the seasons purely on the weather you experience, you would think summer has been and gone and autumn was well underway.

Our weather has been really weird. In April we had two solid weeks of hot and sunny weather, even here in the North west of England and in Scotland too. Two places known for excessive precipitation. Around here, if you fancy getting wet, just wait a while and a rain cloud will grant your wish.

Shortly afterwards it clouded over and rained, and rained, and rained some more. When it wasn't raining it was windy and when it was raining it was even windier. And yet the rest of the country was dry, very dry indeed.

Fruit crops harvested early and two words that often don't go into a sentence together suddenly did. "British wine" doesn't sound right unless you slip the phrase 'people drinking' into the middle but nevertheless in the South the optimum conditions are prevailing to add the word 'quality' into it instead. It seems our weather is changing or at least is altering its regular pattern at least from my short sighted point of view. I can only see things from day to day. I'm not a glacier nor an oak tree so I see simply from the perspective of an organism where an hour feels like quite a long time and a second a fleeting moment. I expect a tree would see things quite differently and a fly would perceive differently again.

A phrase that is phonetically identical is something us Brits do excel at and I warn you I am about to have a 'quality British whine' myself. It probably isn't going to be fun to read or something you would want to listen to but I feel the need to offload in any case.

Sometimes things that you'd rather not be doing take up all of your time, they eat you up and spit you and out and leave nothing left for the scavengers. My get up and go got up and went and I have little or nothing left for anything else except work.

Working weekends, long hours and feeling like I am always on duty has meant I have no energy. There's none left to create anything but also what has evaporated with the tiredness, is any concern that that creative energy is gone. A burning desire to create but no time with which to do so, well that is one thing, but no desire, no time and no energy is another thing altogether. And it's got me thinking...

An animal's natural life span is preordained by a number of heartbeats. The avian, amphibian, reptilian, mammalian and piscine heart will beat 1 billion times before you become toast for someone's breakfast. The speed your heart beats dictates how long you will live. To our eyes a mouse lives at hyperspeed and to it we must be moving in slow motion. Each of our metabolisms dictate how we view our world. As human beings we are fixed to perceive our universe how our physiologies constrain and instruct us. Our world may be full of ideas and dreams and fantastical stories but ultimately only make sense to us because we share a particular way of being. These things may never make sense to something outside of our time, to a fly or to a tree. Whether we like it or not our dreams may transcend this physical plane but our cellular construction root us to what we are. Well at least that's how I see it when I turn inside out to look inwards but many a gifted philosopher will have pondered this conundrum and revealed more hidden truths of humanity than I ever will.

So what of energy, essence and vitality amongst all this?

Being tired and lacking in oomph has made me wonder whether we are born with a box full of energy, just like the heart we are issued with comes with a guarantee of 'good for a billion beats.'

In my dreams I always see myself able to achieve anything, be anyone and cram all those any's into just one day. But when I try I always get much less done, achieve much less, become much less than those high ideals in my dreams. I look at some people and think "where do they get their energy?" How can someone bring up three kids, work all day, study for a degree in the evening and not disappear into a puff of smoke?

I can always use less energy than my maximum but I've never been able to create more. It seems to be pretty fixed and whatever I try I seem to be able to do only so much. And when the needle reaches 'too much' my body retreats not always with my mind tagging along, and it wants to sleep or switch off or do nothing at all. But my ideas want more, and despite their constant high ideals and nagging for more, my energy box seems to decide how much I have and the cabling only allows a certain current to pass through. I'm fitted with a 60 watt bulb which is plenty to be able to see and read and do all the things someone may want to, but pulling off Pink Floyd's laser light show with a single 60 watt bulb just ain't going to happen despite my mind going supernova at the prospect. What my mind wants my body tries to deliver but it needs to be treated fairly. It needs to work regular hours, have regular tea breaks and pay into a pension plan. There's no point for boss brain to demand the application of an Olympic athlete when the staff pool only has 5 mile fun runners available.

So that's what I've been pondering: are we hard wired to have a certain amount of energy? Are high-flyers full to the brim and preordained to fly high? Perhaps, if true, the answer is, is not to emulate those high flyers but instead to realise how full your energy box is and use that energy only for what you wish to and don't waste it on soul-less energy sapping fripperies.

I guess the real question that needs answering is how to do this while still paying the rent?

Back in mid April when it was high summer I managed a few days away from work to visit a little bit of Scotland. Sometimes things all slot into place and a last minute decision to go somewhere different when only a few minutes from our destination resulted in a trip with each slot slotted.

A wild camp next to a sea loch, sunshine and lapping water rested our souls, and brought calm and peace to all around. Wild dolphins and seals in the water, bobbing, playing and enjoying life. Those moments when time changes, you forget which day it is and don't care whether tomorrow comes tomorrow or in a week's time instead. Pure magic in an experience that lives on and long in the memory.

It took a while for the creativity to kick start, enough for it to get me up from lazing on the beach, letting the ambience lap over me like the salty water of the loch.

Land art is a way of seeing, just like swimming or walking are. If you swim in a river you feel the water, change your perspective and accentuate what you know and what you are. If you walk up a mountain you change rhythms and sense the world anew through your feet.

Land art is at its most challenging in an unfamiliar place. When the materials are foreign and the locations unknown, the time it takes to reveal the essence of those things can be very long and distinctly unguaranteed. Firstly it takes time and concentration to see the nuances of that environment and much more time to conjure up ideas how to reveal those discoveries in a sculpture. With leaves I've spent enough time with them to know what construction techniques I can use to display and reveal their inner properties but with unfamiliar materials I need to fathom out new and different ways to show off what I have discovered.

Its hard, then, to be accomplished, to live up to your own standards, and produce something as intricate and complex as I'd like. But where the process is challenging it is also most rewarding too. It all lies in discovering new things, in learning about something and somewhere when you wouldn't have if you hadn't spent the time.

As I combed up and down the beach I noticed garlands of seaweed, dried and hanging down from washed up driftwood, left high and dry on the edge of the high tide mark. The sun shone strongly through it and it was bright crimson in colour. This triggered me to look at the other seaweed and inspect the colours I might find.

After a break for tea I found a bit of this red seaweed floating in the bottom of the cup, as I'd already drunk it I couldn't spit it out so I had to settle with the idea that the dried hard seaweed had started to soften in the liquid. I could find four colours there, yellow, orange, red and green and all the hues in between, each in a different state of dryness, flexibility and robustness. I tried all I could think off with each coloured material to attempt to bring them all together. Cutting, soaking, drying, sticking together, pulling apart, stripping, twisting, tying together. What I learnt then about all the different types of seaweed on that beach was fascinating. The variety and intricacy of each, and how they changed depending on the height up the beach they were. For me that is the essence of land art but time was quickly passing and soaking and drying seaweed takes more time than I had so this sculpture was not going to culminate into something that would reveal everything I had learnt.

So instead of something that took all those colours of seaweed, I took one single variety and attempted to reveal its properties alone. By attaching them to a large piece of driftwood and backlighting them with the strong, early spring sun I hoped to leave a beacon at that place. A beacon that would signal to the dolphins and seals a truth they already know. That our world is infinite and intricate and interconnected and everyrthing has its very own beauty within, if only we would stop and take the time to look.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Aura Leaf

Aura Leaf, originally uploaded by escher (spring is here).

A Mirbeck's Oak leaf surrounded by thin layers of Paper Birch bark, one white, one orange and positioned to catch the last red rays of the setting winter sun.

I made this back in January and this sculpture has become the cover for my new book Flux. You can read about it here.

Sometimes land art comes easy and sometimes you have to put the work in. I didn't really have any idea what I would do when I arrived in the wood (but that is hardly unusual) so I kept warm by wandering around inspecting the twisted oaks, looking for the right spot to make something. Often this is where the inspiration will come from. A shape, a colour, a particular place, something will trigger an idea. I found a dead branch with a perfectly formed zig-zag that would be perfect to attach leaves to, to make an abstract tree whilst the real ones surrounding it laid dormant waiting for the spring.

I had found some nice, thin layers of Paper Birch bark earlier, translucent and glowing when held up to the light. So I decided to layer them onto oak leaves to see if the light would catch the edges.

I made seven of these layered leaves and attached them with thorns to the dead branch to create a surreal, abstract, electric tree. But one of those leaves was more shapely and brighter than the rest. The layer of white bark was almost perfect and didn't have any lentincels lentincels to break up the colour, so it appeared to be pure white, like paper. The orange layer was very similar. Since making that leaf I have searched and searched and searched for more bark with unbroken colour. I have not found a single piece such as that first one and at that time, luck would have it, that I had attached the best bark to the best leaf and put that leaf at the top of my abstract tree. The other leaves were not the same, the colours not as strong and the graphic representation not as striking.

I only found this out after a few hours spent freezing my brass monkeys off. The air was cold and frosty (this was back in January) and the wind strong and cut right through to the bone. I cocooned myself in my bivvy bag to try and retain some warmth, the nylon flapping around my face, my breath condensing on it making me damp and colder all over. To try and wake my bum from its slumber and to keep the rest of me from freezing solid I had to jump up and run around every ten minutes to get my, now thickening blood, to take warmth back down to my extremities. But, nevertheless, I cowered back under my bivvy bag, back on my perch on the rock to fashion more pieces of bark and pin them to another leaf.

It would be times like that that I question my sanity. It isn't like I know whether what I am doing will turn out any good or not but despite all that I seemed to carry on. I still don't know why I do, when I do, but I guess the times when I have given up have nothing to remember them by so I am glad that I can be persistent some of the time.

Anyway, when I got home to look at the pictures of my Aura Tree. I saw the leaf sitting on top and was taken by its form and colour. The low winter sun was strongly red and brought out the most amazing colours from the bark. So I went back the next evening to find that leaf and to single it out for a photo shoot all of its own. The golden hour, that evening, went through every hue of gold, orange, purple and red and lit up that leaf and its bark as though it was on fire, or painted or somehow made in a computer program.

I've not found a leaf or a bit of bark like it since. Everything came together to make it all that it could be without any volition from me. Sometimes land art is like that, just like moments in life can be. All the elements slot together to make your experience timeless and special, whether or not you are freezing your butt off wrapped up in giant plastic bag!

This sculpture became the cover for my all new book Flux, none of its contents ever seen before in print. You can read all about it here.

New Book: Flux

New Book: Flux, originally uploaded by escher (spring is here).

Via Flickr:
I've been holding back many of my images, including quite a few of my best and most recent sculptures. I'd been experimenting, trying new things, new materials, new ideas and I've put these all together into my new book entitled Flux. None of the photos have been published in print before and 101 of them have never been seen in print or online.

Flux has:-

257 Photos
160 Pages
101 New Unseen Photos
12 New Unseen Sculptures

I've just spent a fabulous few days in Scotland where I was very lucky to see wild Dolphins and Seals swimming in Loch Fyne and a Red Squirrel in a tree next to where my tent was pitched. All exciting firsts for me and it has really opened my eyes to the wonders of Scotland. The joy of nature just makes my soul sing, there is nothing more I need to feel content with myself and the world.

I made some sculptures whilst I was there but the virus I've had for nearly a month is clinging on by its fingernails, lingering much longer than it should. And it means I am lacking the energy to show you those, just now, and to tell you about the fun and adventures I had. So I thought I would tell you about my new book today and save my tale of Scotland and the accompanying sculptures for another day.

Thanks for stopping by!

Ps. Carry on to the next pictures and I'll tell you a little about the cover photograph. It may look drawn or painted by it is not and the colours are real too.

Aura Leaf, originally uploaded by escher (spring is here).

Aura Leaf, originally uploaded by escher (spring is here).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tree of Life

Tree of Life, originally uploaded by escher (spring is here).

It's late and it's time to relax so I can only spend a little time recapping my last few weeks and tell you about things I've never seen before...

I saw a bat flying and feeding in broad daylight... Never seen that before...

I saw an Apache Gunship flying only a few feet above the trees in Lancaster... Never seen that before...

I saw a ewe give birth to two lambs... Never seen that before...

Warm sunshine on Easter bank holiday... Never, ever seen that before...

It's really warm and it feels like summer rather than spring.

Although the oak leaves are only just appearing and there are Bluebells, Wood Sorrel and Primroses carpeting the woodland floor everything else feels much farther on. The birds are singing like its mid June and the weeds are growing like they know it is all they have to do.

Finally everything grows and my pallette is enriched once again.

Oh boy, I love the spring. There is nothing quite like it...

Tree of Life, originally uploaded by escher (spring is here).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Dandelion Sun

Dandelion Sun, originally uploaded by escher (spring is here).

I remember the day, a couple of weeks ago, when I saw the first Dandelions of spring. On a half hour run I saw four and knew within a few days they would be everywhere. I collected all of these in a 100 metre radius and only picked a small proportion of what was there.

They are so bright and ubiquitous that I just have to make something with them at this time of year, despite the fact that it will take weeks now, to remove the stains from my hands.

It is so warm today it feels like mid summer, I don't recollect such balmy temperatures in April. But I do remember early spring colds and I have one now and feel pretty bushed from todays endeavours.

There is already so much life growing everywhere, even though there are hardly any leaves on the trees. When the weather is like this, sunny and warm, you think it'll last forever. But when the rain and wind return, as inevitably they will, I'll remember how damn cold it can be in April and think back to the warmth while I made this Dandelion Sun.

A lemsip and early to bed, with the hope that tomorrow is also a sunshine filled day.

Flux is coming soon...

Dandelion Sun, originally uploaded by escher (spring is here).

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011

3 Flower Flags for Spring

The sun is shining and it is a wonderful, early spring day.

Should I sit indoors and write a story? Errm, nope!

I'm off out for a frolic, the story will have to wait for another day!


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spring Revolution ~ Liberation

Not so many years ago the human world changed. It changed for you and it changed for me. It changed for almost everyone.

Individuals, throughout the world, quite suddenly had a way to take a step into the outside world.

Warhol predicted it in the sixties. Everyone would have their 15 minutes of fame. Perhaps we didn't understand his message, or he got it slightly wrong but each of our fifteen minutes consist of a blog, a flickr stream, a facebook page, a tweet, a digg, a viral video. So many of us who would have never got to bare our souls, or to connect and meet in our virtual would, are able to do that every single day.

The compassion, the creativity, the connections we can make, the internet has made this all possible. Of course it is not all good, nothing in human endeavour ever is but where it is good it is very, very good.

As a species we are more alike than we are different, and the ordinary people that inhabit this planet just wish to get on with their lives in peace and freedom.

The threads of this have been spreading like a mycellium, unseen by the overlords, a creeping network connecting the like-minded.

Things were about to change...

Tragically and symbolically the flame that ignited the fire was the plight of a poor man in Tunisia. A man who couldn't even live his life in dignity and in utter desperation he burned himself to death.

This became the catalyst for disaffected youth across the region. Already they had been talking of the future they desired and were organising themselves into active groups. But now, with the desperate actions of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunusia and his brutal death at his own hands, an idea spread through the collective unconscious "if he can lay his life down for us, then what can we do?"

And this is how revolution begins. The people lose their fear and one more day of repression is too high a price to pay. Ordinary people become willing to lay down their lives so that others can live in freedom.

One must have a heart of stone not to feel profoundly moved by the images on our TV sets and the passion and joy of the voices of unified, down-trodden peoples. To see them risk all to be free after so many years of brutal oppression brings home what a cossetted and privileged life we lead in the free world. Can we truly understand what it means to be free if we have not had to live under the rule of some psychopathic nutter or another? I guess we are lucky not to have to know what we take for granted.

First the Tunisians, then the Egyptians and now the Libyans. I can only sit back in awe and total admiration to witness their utter bravery. I don't think I would have the moral courage to do what they are doing, in fact I know I wouldn't. In the face of utter terror and brutality, they continue to make their stand. Godspeed to them all.

I just wish that any and all oppressed peoples throughout the Middle East, the Bahrainis, Saudis, Syrians, Iranians and everyone else can find their liberation too. Everyone on this planet deserves to live in peace and freedom. I also wish that we in the free West find the moral courage to do the right thing by these people and stop selling arms to oppressive regimes and propping up whomever suits our aims in the so-called name of "stability" or too feed our addiction to oil. I count myself in that too.

So what of land art amongst all these things? Well, spring is an auspicious time. Something stirs within us all
. It is in our genetic makeups, deep within our souls. We are creatures of nature and all born of this shared planet.

That may be why spring is the season of revolution. The French and Russian revolutions began in spring. Czechoslovakia began a period of liberalisation in 1968, known as the Prague spring. The fall of the Eastern bloc begun in autumn 1988 but gathered apace in the spring of 1989 when Solidarity was made legal in Poland in April and they won an overwhelming 99% of seats in the parliamentary elections. And there are many more too.

I am touched deeply by spring as I am sure all that are experiencing it right now, are too. I am also deeply touched by the struggle and bravery of the people of the Middle East. The internet is an example and a symbol combined, of the power of the interconnectedness of all things. Where oppression and brutality seek to divide and conquer. The seasons, the natural world and the power of information and communication brings us all back together again.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tendrils for Spring

I thought it would be a good idea to laze about in bed this morning so that I could make my land art excursion even more frantic than usual. The weather people had said that the sun would come out today. I am sure it was up the somewhere but there was still a blanket of cloud between me and it. I suppose I could grow really tall and go find it but it might just be easier to wait for the clouds to clear.

I've been reading a book at Meso-American art, it's been a long time interest of mine, and my mind was full of the ancient peoples icons and designs. As I ran about getting together my camera gear I started to think about what I read about the Olmecs and the way they depict clouds and smoke. I really liked how they did this and thought, that perhaps today I would incorporate some of that into what I would do.

The components I would need would be mud, bark and stone. Now how could I make this much more difficult than it needed to be?

First the stone. I would need a slab and my favourites are nowhere near the mud. Off I trudged with my 80 litre rucksack to select a shapely stone. And I would most definitely need to make sure it was damn heavy. That would come in handy later. As I looked through the slabs of stone I tried to imagine in my minds eye how the design would fit onto each one. None of them looked right but I selected one anyway and then tried to carry it back down the hill. Where's Fred Flinstone when you need him.

Even though it had rained all night I thought it was a good idea to wear cotton trousers and leaky trainers. When I finally got back to the car I was quite a sight. Pink faced and sweaty, my trousers wet-through from the knees down so that they looked like I had two colour trews on. My trainers weren't left out, they squeaked as though they enjoyed the moistness.

It was several miles to destination mud and it was also on the other side of a river. I had forgotten my wellies again, so I convinced myself that my day would truly be land art rich, as I would need to ford the river without any shoes. Grrr, and mountaineers think they're tough.

The place we were going to go after collecting, was yet another few miles away but at this rate we weren't going to finish until midnight and at least a little daylight is helpful with photography. So against my best of intentions I relented and went home to get the aforementioned wellingtons and instead would make something where the mud was. Of course, I would have much rather had waded across in bare feet and been soggy most of the day but sometimes circumstances go against you and you just have to be warm and happy all day. Ho-hum, maybe next time.

The river was quite high and the water very cold. "Damn you" I said to my wellies, "am I going to be doomed to this cosy life?" How I wished that I could feel the icey water through my toes and the delicious, accompanying pain. I sat down and drank my freshly brewed tea that seconds earlier had sat atop my camping stove and looked with disdain at my sandwich. Just what had happened to me? Where had those days gone where I felt weak from the bloodloss to midges or I had to snap off my own frostbitten toes. One must suffer for one's art and this sandwich, though delicious, wasn't helping.

I was soon up to my elbows in mud and searching for slivers of paper birch and in a flash (well an hour or two really) I was done with the Olmec inspired design. Is it the first tendrils of spring or the wisps of smoke from a fire?

Birch bark glows in the sun, so I scanned all around for a tree upon which I could position my slab. There was one nearby but on this side of the river so I dashed over to it carrying the slab.I soon realised this wasn't such a good idea. The slab weighed a ton and as it was covered in dark mud, I couldn't rest it against me and had to take all the weight on my arms. Between me and the tree was a bog and I very nearly catapulted over as my wellies went several inches in. I carried on regardless and muttered to myself "cripes this is heavy." Just as I got to the tree the sun went in again and my bog trotting, slab dash suddenly seemed as mad as it must have appeared to someone watching.

The next trick would have to be trying to wobble across the river carrying the slab, the trick being not to fall in. Fortunately the level had dropped a bit so it was easier but I still let in some over the top of my wellies. All that was left was to find a magnificent tree and in this particular place that's as easy as falling off a log.

I made this sculpture yesterday and the above is the account from then. I had left it propped up against a magnificent beech tree next to the road through the Trough of Bowland. I went back again today to see what had happened to it. The overnight rain had smeared itself across the surface but it was pretty much intact. I wonder whether anyone had noticed it, as it is easily visible if going past there, or better yet if someone had got out of their vehicle to take a look. I hope that it stays dry for a while as I'd like to go back to see how it changes, dries and cracks up. If it survives that long.


I am on the lookout for some particular plants and trees so if there are any locals who can help I'd be most grateful. Paper Birch is the first, I know of four trees but would like to find more. Anyone have any ideas? And lastly different varieties of Dogwood. I can find the green and red varieties but I am also looking for the yellow and orange, anyone know of any in north Lancashire. Cheers for any replies.