Monday, October 26, 2015

Glyph Totem

I feel like I'm back in the groove...

As you probably know I went art AWOL for a while and pursued my love for bicycles instead. Of late I've been trying to fit back into the land art groove once again but it seems I don't fit properly as I'd become all cyclist shaped.

But now autumn's coming so the groove has widened to accommodate me whatever shape I have become.

Since I was so prolific I moved house and I haven't acquired the depth of knowledge of what is growing and where, the location of really good thorns and where I can find vibrant colours to enrich my palette.

My art developed while I lived in my previous home and I learnt to use the materials that I found around there and so they became fundamental to my style of art. Dogwood, berberis thorns, reed grass and dark mud were all mainstays of my techniques. But where I am now it is more difficult. There are less public spaces and quiet woods in which I can trespass without being disturbed but instead there are many gardens that tantalise me with views of plants I wish to use but I'm not exactly going to help myself.

There are quite a number of trees that I regularly monitor to see what autumn will produce. I didn't move far away from where I used to live so I took a trip over there today to see what is going on with my favourite trees and to start to get my head together for all the colours this season will bring.

There are two particular maple trees that regularly produce the best leaves. One of them produces unique strong orange colours I've not seen elsewhere, it starts early and always begins on the top of one side of the tree, changes that whole side before the rest follows on and sure enough when I went there today that is exactly what was beginning. The other is a Norwegian Maple and it produces very strongly coloured and clean red leaves. When I visited that tree there was no colour other than green present.

There are two cherry trees in the local cemetery and the first time I worked with it's autumn colours the range was immense, every possible hue I have ever seen present in leaves, they were such a thrill to work with and yet every year since it has never happened again.

On my tour I went to visit a place very near to my old house where I made several sculptures, often harvested dogwood stems and had planted a small Rowan tree that had taken seed in a plant pot in the garden. Oh my how had it changed!

It was totally overgrown, so much so I couldn't get anywhere near the plants I used to use a lot, it was utterly impenetrable, I was amazed how much it had changed but also fascinated to see the power of nature in a place I knew so well.

As I was unable to collect some dogwood I went to another place where I knew a load of it grew and with it the leaves often turned a profusion of purple. Having not been there for a while I was excited to see what I would find.

And what did I find? A new housing estate that's what!

Sometimes I go foraging and then return to base to create something out of what I collected. When I knew where all my favourite materials grew if I needed something I hadn't collected to bring the sculpture together then I could nick off and get some. Where I live now I have to be more resourceful.

The core of the sculpture is a Cotinus coggygria stem (AKA Royal Purple) and I collected it near to where I live now. As it started to come together I knew I would need to support it on some sort of frame but where was I going to get suitable materials from?

I grabbed my rucksack, tucked my trousers into my socks and got on my bike to go hunt. I headed towards the shore as I knew reed grass grew down there and pedalled on my way.

It didn't take long to find what I wanted and soon I was scooting back to base.

It was at this point that I knew I was back in my groove. Just picture the scene:-

Guy on bike clutching a four foot bushel of reed grass in one hand whilst pedaling furiously somewhere or other.

Oh how I'd missed this eccentricity. Looks strange to anyone looking but I just didn't care as I know what I will produce will turn out right. And why does that feel so good? Because when I am not acting eccentrically, when I am just trying to be normal so no-one notices me I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb, that everyone's gaze is boring into me.

But here I am acting strangely and everyone really is staring and deservedly so! And I don't care! So liberating to be slotting back into that groove.

This whole mission is now carrying it's own momentum, the sculpture is making itself, I'm not thinking about how it should be and somehow when that happens certain things just click into place. I don't know how, I can't intentionally make it happen but when it does it is very satisfying.

"This does seem to be going very well? Have you forgotten how difficult it is to keep these ephemeral sculptures held together long enough to take it's picture? Errm, yes I think I have.2

I set off look for some evening sun, these installations come alive when back-lit after all. I'm rolling along on the buzz of good sculpture and in my excitement I'm careless and clumsy.

First I snap the reed grass frame and have to make a little repair, I tell myself to be more careful.

I clamber through the undergrowth looking for a suitable camera spot and spy one just ahead. I set up my camera ready so that the significant breeze doesn't have too long once I erect the sculpture to tear leaves and upset the composition.

Err, where has the sculpture gone? I was carrying it on top of a bit of cardboard and it seems to have disappeared!

A bit panicky I retrace my steps and find it hiding in the undergrowth and very gratefully I see it is still, mostly, intact.

I make a few more repairs and just pray that I haven't pushed it over the edge.

As is usual I chase the sun across the forest floor and re-erect the sculpture in multiple places as it only stays lit up for a minute at a time before the sunlight moves to another spot.

As I set it in a good spot it comes alive just for that moment and brings together the materials, that time, that place and the rays of the sun to finally, become complete.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

'Opposable Thumbs'

I resisted for a long time before I got a smartphone. I knew as soon as I did I would become its slave. Sadly I was right.

It seemed quite apt that on my way to photograph this sculpture that I was nearly run down by a driver yakking on his
phone and as I was looking for a suitable location that my other half was checking out Facebook on hers. After all the still, warm autumn air, the dappled light through the trees and the sweet smell of moss and pine needles don't go 'ping' when they share themselves.

That little screen of joy nestled in my pocket waiting for me to salivate when the little bell rings. If TV is the opiate for the masses then this is the full on mainline, jacked-up smack.

It's a relief when I leave it behind or when the battery is nearly flat and I have to put it into another room to charge.

And yet I wouldn't be with out it now. I look forward to the time when I can enjoy a live event by watching it on the little screen as I record it instead of just looking straight at it with my eyes. Seems the thing to do these days.

Anyway enough of all that, let's cut to the important...

What is stuff and why is some of it funny? These are the kind of things that would keep me awake if I wasn't already asleep.

How does one reinvent oneself when the question presupposes that you already have been invented and if so you have a patent registered in patent handbook and therefore *know what you are*?

I go bird-watching quite often, though really it is better described as nature sitting, listening and looking. It's not always birds but they are fascinating, colourful and charming. Remember brown is a colour too.

On the way back from an hour of that I drove to the supermarket to buy a packet of ham, past a pub and onwards. When reading I often transpose letters or syllables and turn a sentence into thingsome unintentionally amusing and tit-ter to myself. You may have just done that yourself reading that last one. But why involuntary comedy remixes? Is it just me?

There was a sign outside that pub and it said "Biker Pitstop". Okay fair enough, bikers like a refreshing pint of ale or two and are generally rotund enough to remain beneath the alcohol-driving-limit. But beneath the "Biker Pitstop" line were the words "Thirst Toilet."

What's that all about then? Is this particular pub a bit of a dive and this is a bit of honest PR "sorry it smells like a toilet but we've got some nice beers" or was it a slightly obtuse review on Tripadvisor? Perhaps if you are really strapped for pennies they don't mind if you drink straight from the loo itself? I'm struggling to think of alternative versions of this phrase with letters or syllables transposed that makes more sense than what I read in my mind's eye. I'm itching to go back and have a look at the sign and confirm what is written on it and if I read it correctly also find out what a thirst toilet actually is. It might sound grim but come on, I know you want to know too.

I suppose the longer more descriptive version of toilet would involve some inclusion of what it is a receptacle for. In the same vein as 'bread bin' or 'jam jar' I supposed you'd have 'wee toilet' and 'poo loo'. We all know what they're for so I suppose it is only polite to shorten them to toilet or loo. So 'Thirst Toilet' could well be a place to dispose of your thirst? Yes, that must be it, it being a pub is not quite enough.

It's got to be a bit like twitter, the modern way to describe something on social media: hashtag #overlydescriptiveadjectives.

The Red Lion Public #ThirstToilet

After I drove past the pub #thirsttoilet (see, it's catching on already), as I said (you were listening weren't you) I went to buy a packet of ham #packetofham #formysandwiches from the supermarket #placethatsellspacketsofham.

I parked in my usual spot in my usual way i.e. a bit wonky and on my way to the shop the car I strode past was a called a Citreon Cactus? It's a wonder I sleep at night.

It's a rare day where I live when you can make a sculpture like this and take a photograph of it. When it is still enough to make the world stop. The whole process tunes you in to the environment and the elements so you can feel a little bit more deeply what is really going on.

I pinned the top of this creation to a beech leaf with a thorn on the end of a very thin branch, the weight of it pulled the spindly twig downwards so it hung vertically ready for me to take its photo.

Had I been doing anything else I would have said that there was no breeze at all and that it was perfectly still and yet subtle eddies came and went as it gently bobbed the sculpture and twisted it in the warm air.

It was so very slight but in order to take a sharp image of this picture I needed it to stay still just for a few seconds as the sunlight pierced through it's rear.

I needed all these things to come together: soft autumn sunshine, very little wind, but still with those elements at play

I had to wait and wait. But that gave me the opportunity to stop my mind and see. To be afforded a glimpse into how it was at that very moment. All the world in a tiny breeze that tilted the sculpture to and fro.

That's all there is and all there needs to be.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Made at Lord's Lot Woods, North Lancashire 15-09-2015 from Holly, Laurel, Sycamore and Maple leaves, Paper and Tibetan Cherry Birch bark and Pear tree stems.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


The season of colour is rapidly approaching. I had to go hunting to see what the leaves are doing but time is on the very cusp and there were only a handful of leaves on the turn here and there, just enough to make this sculpture. But sure enough the plants and trees will draw back into their roots and trunks ready to hibernate until the days lengthen again.

In the midst of all this I am left asking myself so many important existential questions:-

Why am I covered in gnat bites and would I be able to feed myself if I lived on an island and the supermarkets were permanently closed?

I went sea fishing the other day for probably the last and definitely the first time.

I used to go coarse fishing as a youngster (it didn't involving swearing at the slimey ichthyoids, coarse fish are freshwater pond, lake and river dwellers)  but I gave it up eventually for a number of reasons: I was very bad at it; I spent many a summer day from dawn to dusk catching absolutely zilch: that's near enough 15 hours staring at the water's surface per session water staring fans; and a fair proportion of that time untangling line from tree branches, getting it stuck around an unseen submarine log, being a rich food source for the local insects and getting rained on. But the thing that really got to me was the abuse of the fish: the catching them at all thing, the throwing them back as it was only for my amusement thing, the sometimes swallowing the hook and needing to dispatch the fish thing, well the whole thing thing. So I gave away all my rods and tackle to someone who may be able to put those things aside.

Nowadays I live near the sea and I have been idly pondering what it would be like to fish in the ocean.

I live just to the south of the Lake District and on the northern edge of Morecambe Bay. The tide would come in only for a few short hours so I would need to be on my game.

I parked up on the promenade with the sea lapping at the base of the wall. I had been swotting up on the internet and watching how-to-fish videos, what could possibly go wrong?

I have a great deal of trouble concentrating when I am being observed, or where there are a lot of distractions. A spot of peaceful fishing would be just the ticket then as I remembered fondly those halcyon days of golden youth sat on a tranquil river bank whilst the water voles swum around in little circles, happily in denial about my seeming inability to do even a passing impression of someone who knows how to fish.

I put together all my kit whilst trying to ignore the heavy and noisy traffic a few yards behind me and carefully unwrapped the carefully folded newspaper bundle containing fresh bait, the innocuously named ragworm.

Oh god, the ragworm, these little critters really creep me out. They have mouth-parts that extend out and bite and they wriggle almost as much as my skin crawls in response. I dare you to google for a video on how to put a ragworm on a hook but believe me when I say it is entirely unpleasant both for me and the poor bloody worm. Nail number one in the will-Richard-go-fishing-again-likelihood-coffin. I'm still shuddering now at the thought of those little blighters. Euurggh.

Finally I hook up a worm and I'm ready to go, I'm not putting another one on so this one will need to get me a fish. Rod held aloft I make the first cast.

Not bad for a first go but I need more distance to get to where the fish are so I try again and for a third time.

Still not far enough so I start reeling in for a fourth try until the line went suddenly very tight. It seemed to be caught on something, I tugged and tugged and tugged as though I was struggling against Jaws himself but it just wouldn't budge.


I eventually cut the line and tied it off to the railings next to me so I could retrieve the tackle once the tide had gone out. This seemed to be going really well.

During all this a van had pulled up along side my pitch and the driver in between bites of his sandwich gawped at my attempts at angling. It wasn't helping.

I rigged up again: new hook, new weights and oh god, another ragworm and tried to cast again. On the positive side my casting was very consistent. I had the right skill level to cast the same distance each and every time. This would be very useful if I needed to cast 15 yards but it really needed to be 100.

I unpacked my folding chair and sat down deflated under no illusion that I'd catch anything except some nasty ragworm-borne virus with my bait only 15 yards out from the shore. Especially as the tide had receded for 5 of those.

It was a showery and blustery day and the wind whipped up as a large black cloud threatened overhead. I imagined myself stoof proud on the prow of a fishing boat, complete with beard and yellow sou'wester, the plumes of spray carrying away my words as I shout 'thar she blows!"

My reverie was dashed on the rocks as an especially large gust blew straight underneath my chair and lifted the newspaper parcel beside me before depositing the wriggling ragworms all down the sea wall.

I actually thought this was quite funny. I now clearly remembered the real reason I gave up fishing. Fish welfare was the least of my issues. Ineptitude was a much bigger barrier to breach.

A couple of minutes after this an old guy in a clapped out car parked even closer than mr van man, wound down his window, perched an elbow on the sill and pointedly shot a toothless grin right in my direction.

Call it ESP but I could hear his thoughts in my mind: "what you caught then? Anyfing big?"

By this point I was pretending to actually fish. I'd reeled in the tackle I had left, put it back into the tackle box and retied the stuck tackle to my rod and line. All I was doing now was waiting for the tide to go out so I could retrieve the stuck mess and go home.

I wondered to myself how I would like to spend the next cringe-worthy hour pretending to fish in the sea? Well for starters I would like to have at least two people watch me do that and one of them in particular should be found to be staring at me every time I turned round to catch his eye, with a grin and a nod as if saying "eh, eh, fishing, hmm, eh?"

Yes those things would make time absolutely fly by and being a very nice way to spend one hour that would actually feel like several decades.

And finally when the tide did eventually go out I'd want them to witness me go an retrieve my tackle snagged beneath the tiniest of pebbles as if that is what real fisherman do.

Sea fishing? Nah.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

High Summer Petal Colour Wheel

I sat down and meditated this morning for the first time in quite a while. The relief from the rut I was in was almost instant, the knot in my back unwound and the cloud of malaise, tension and distraction started to lift as the sun shone through.

When I make sculptures I find it opens me up. I have to write down my thoughts within a few hours of finishing or else, like a flower at sunset, my petals curl up and I am closed again until the sun warms me up another day.

If I wait too long the flow of ideas and consciousness are gone right up to the point where I am unaware I had them in the first place.

I made this sculpture over a month ago and as is normal I involuntarily hooked up with my unconsciousness, the dam was breached and the river of thoughts poured out of me.

I never find it hard work writing what I do, it just tumbles out of me and seems to write itself. I simply need to listen to the dictation and jot down what I hear. But I waited too long and the lock gates slammed shut, the tide held back and from that moment I have been unable to write, create or do anything but spend all my energy trying to avoid myself.

Sometimes a day, a week, a month or even a couple of years pass before I stop and realise that there is even a well within me that needs to be unblocked and left to flow. When the dam wall is holding back the flood a general feeling of stress and anxiety pervades.

If at that point I don't take the chance to check into myself then instead of the sluice gates being opened every now and then to relieve the pressure, I issue a diktat to the little crew of men who maintain the dam to build it a little higher as that will hold back the flood. As the wall grows ever higher it soon becomes so tall that I can't even see there is flood water being held behind it. And soon after that I *forget* what the dam is even for, it's only purpose is to grow taller and taller.

There's a few things in my life that I've done that have given me clarity but many thousands that have had the opposite effect. All of the latter seek to distract me from my anxiety with the unfortunate consequence of being temporary, increasing the low level stress and malaise I experience and moving me ever further from any clarity at all to the point where the distraction techniques need to be even more ruthless and destructive, none of which deal with the root causes at all.

The result is inaction, procrastination and fear and an inability to even be aware that you are descending in a spiral further and further away from the life giving rays of the sun.

Eating crap, eating too much, drinking alcohol, taking drugs. Interacting with your laptop, iPad, smartphone all at once at the same time as watching telly, reading a book and flicking through a magazine. Spreading your attention all over the place, like a micro thin smear of marmite on toast, never concentrating on any one thing entirely whilst the grains of your life fall out through your fingers as you squeeze tighter and tighter.

As I said earlier, this morning I sat down and meditated for half an hour for the first time in a few years and within seconds there was instant relief. The dawn sun peeped over the horizon and the petals felt the first kiss of warmth. As the earth slowly rotated and the sliver became the hints of a disc the core of the flower began to thaw and the petals unfurled like a clenched fist gripping tight onto its tension and fear.

And then I felt it, like the flower bathed in sunlight, I could see clearly once again. The workers marched up to the rusty wheel at the base of the dam and armed with metal bars wrenched it open with a loud squeak until the water began to trickle through again.

As the flow increased a pool of these words gathered below the dam wall and here I am watching the whirlpool dictate to me and typing out all these sentences as they swirl round and around.

It is with palpable relief that I am writing this and feeling a moment of clarity, the knot in my back is still gone and I feel lighter than air.

I must grasp this opportunity wholeheartedly. All I need to do is sit down and meditate again tomorrow. It's all too easy to shut up the sluice gates again and forget myself entirely. What a terrible waste that is.

There's a couple of times a year where I feel the need to take action and for me they are around the cusp of spring and autumn. Perhaps there's something that has evolved within us that in times past drove us to prepare for the growing season and to harvest and prepare for the upcoming days of darkness.

In the last couple of weeks I've felt the oncoming of autumn and with it have been delivered a gift. A moment to pause and reflect and take stock and ponder on what is to come.

Over the last few years I have created much less in total after a long period of almost obsessive prolific-ness. But during those less productive times I still felt compelled to create something to mark these two times of the year. It feels organic and something physiological drawn from within.

Thank **** there's a bit of me deep down in my core somewhere that's in cahoots with nature and the real world! Even if I sometimes I lose it down the back of the sofa and forget I even had it until I go looking down there for some spare change, it comes knocking to wake me from my slumber and slaps me round the face before calling me 'idiot!'

Or else I may have spent another year becoming ever more blind, getting fatter and feeling like my only connection to what's out there is through the diddy screen on my smartphone, endlessly waiting for a bell to ring like a dog under the tutelage of Prof Pavlov.

How much more fulfilling, compelling and thrilling it is to start drooling when mother nature rings her bell instead. The flowers have turned to seed and the days are shortening and at last I can see the trees in the forest once again.

And not a single bloody moment too late in the day!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How very bloody ironic. 

I can just hear it now. "Ooh isn't that so very zen." "I love those pebbles in such perfect balance."

Well this stack is the very essence of everything that isn't zen, this is it's antithesis. This is the anti-zen.

There's what I want my art to be and then there is what it is. The better I get at it the harder it becomes. I want to up my game, I want the things I make to be well, 'better', more accomplished, more *worthy*. I casserole these feelings while sat at home, creating stewed dumplings of desire, intention and enthusiam. "I'm going to try harder", "I'm going to put more energy into it", "I'm going to get better at this stuff".

And then I'm there. Standing in some place ready to begin. Now what?  

My art and me have an identity crisis, neither of us know who we are. We recognise each other but we don't identify with ourselves at least not when the actual art is taking place. I am an artist when I'm not actually doing any and someone else entirely when I am. I can look through my back catalogue of creations and say "I made that" yet when I am actually trying to create something it's a maelstrom of doubt, inability and confusion. And then the chaos ends and I grab my camera and photograph whatver it is I have made.

I have a feeling that there's a lot of this about. The veneer and the chaos.

On the way to the beach I said good morning to the dog walkers and discussed the chilly July breeze and flashed smiles and greetings to everyone I passed. The cheery fellow off to do his work with his polished veneer.

By the cliffs I was alone and I scanned to the left and right for fear of being disturbed by anyone passing through. What a revealing word 'disturbed' is.

Now people are at a distance my mask is not active or available to hide behind so my reactions are true to myself once again. As I see a family clamber down the rocks I internally plead 'please don't come over here, please just go away, leave me the hell alone!"

I wander up and down the beach looking at the pebbles, 30% of my attention on the ground and 70% directed randomly to imagined threats and worries and things all around me. I would think Yoda would have a word or two to say about that.

In the midst of this I'm trying to relax and balance rocks but all I do is pace up and down hoping that my unconscious will do my frontal lobes a favour and deliver up some ideas and inspiration.

What of the other conundrum? How do I know if whatever I've made is any good? Is it good if I enjoyed it? Is it good if I struggled through the creation instead? Is it good just because I made it? How hard exactly do you have to try?

I'm starting to wonder if we have a finite amount of 'trying' energy. You might want more, you might *want* to try harder but you only have a certain amount to expend before a recharge needs to take place. My techniques have improved which allow me do more with the same effort and time. I don't think I've managed to be able to try harder one little bit.

My sculptures come out like they do and it is them that decide what they'll be. Whether they'll come easy or with a struggle, are a success or are a little bit meh.

I don't know how to do better or try harder, they happen in their own way whatever. When I look at work I admire and aspire to I think "I want to do that" but when I try I end up being me all over again, it's like talking or ranting or whinging. It's comes out like me everytime without fail.

But is this a cop out? Shouldn't I just *try* harder?

I wonder how much veneer and core there is about, how many people say "good morning" out loud and "leave me alone" on the inside.

Everyday on (two)Face(d)book I am bombarded with trite quotes and pearlised nuggets of wisdom about how I should spend the rest of my day, with such gems like:-

"Don't be afraid of opposition, remember a kite rises against not with the wind"

"We do not remember days, we remember moments"

"If you want to be trusted be honest, if you want to be honest be true, if you want to be true be yourself"

Sure there are kernels of truth in these phrases but to be brutally honest (and true to myself) everytime I read one of these quotes on FB I want to repeatedly beat myself in the face with a frozen leg of lamb until it all goes away :-)

Well so bloody what? 

Life is so much more tumultuous than a photo of a rock balance or the facebook persona of someone with the 'perfect' life. When I peep at what I don't have, and stare into the face of what I should be I should remember that not everything is quite as it appears.

As someone wise once said then got quoted and shared on Facebook. Tomorrow is another day. And maybe the angst will be forgotten then. Until the next time anyway.

And yet this sculpture contains all that. It probably looks like I just grabbed a couple of pebbles, stacked them up, took a pic, wandered home. What it doesn't show is the hours of pacing, the failed sculptures that didn't make it, the scratching around for ideas, the wanting to go home, the tension, the self doubt and quite how long it took to find a selection of nice round pebbles that would actually balance together without falling over, over and over again. 

So there it is again. Beneath the peaceful surface lies turmoil.

Oh how very zen...

Just a little something I made in the garden this morning...

I wasn't sure if I could have made anything today. You see, I often have a peculiar affliction and I wonder if any of you experience it too.

I've heard many different opinions and with mine I think a lot of what people tell me is based on how they experience the world rather than how I do.

Let me explain: nearly every single night I dream vividly. It feels like I have been dreaming all night and upon waking I can accurately remember 5 or 6 dreams and little details about each.

One person suggested I may have a sleep disorder and should get it checked out. Another said that I was only sleeping lightly and must be doing so all night, whilst others suggested that I should avoid caffeine and cheese before bed.

Now some of those things might be factors and explanations for why I feel a little bit wasted, like a zombie and almost strangley bereft after a full on dreaming session.

The thing is my dreams are eventful, enjoyable and quite thrilling. Even when I meet a dangerous foe I normally come out fighting and then winning. My dreams are not often frightening or frustrating, in fact they are a lot of fun.

But when I wake up I can't seem to think straight, it's not just tiredness it's something else. I feel emotionally wasted, edgy and unable to engage with the world. It feels like I've done all my living while I'm asleep and now I'm awake I need to retreat to recharge.

In the midst of all those explanations I think there is something they're missing. It's the curse/blessing sandwich of being sensitive. I think I'm just wired to dream in hyper-stereo and rainbow-technicolour.

Trouble is I can't run away and hide behind the sofa when I am overwhelmed in dream world so I awake having started my day the night before.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Song Number 2

 Let the gibberish commence...

A couple of years ago I had a kind of synaesthetic vision. I was listening to some music which included different female vocalists and then I started to drift off to sleep and the music began to weave itself inot my dreams.

As the melodies seeped into my brain I started to see them as colours and shapes that flowed and warped and changed. Each different singer would have their own particular shapes, colours and movements and I was filled with the sense that just like each variety of Bird of Paradise has their own song, colourful plumes and mating dance, each singer displayed their song like a beautiful array of multi coloured feathers.

I felt like I was the dull brown male bird being entranced by the female siren, beguiled by her myriad of majestic colours, her dance and her song.

I can still see those shapes and colours in my mind's eye and the strong feeling that human beings singing is so very much like complex animal kingdom displays, has stayed with me too.

Ever since I have wanted to express those synaesthetic visions through my art, backlit translucent sculptures would live up to the vividness of the colours I saw but I did not know where I would find the colours. Also the shapes would be very difficult to emulate when constructing fragile structures from only materials I find nature.

Over the last couple of years these ideas have continuously been doing lengths, backstroke, up and down in my mind-pool in the backyard. Sometimes it was widths if I was bored with thinking but the splashing continued nonetheless.

This morning I wandered into the garden and saw a carpet of petals on the grass beneath some corn flowers and then someone pulled the plug out of the pool.

For some reason I have very seldomly used flowers save for a couple of times when I used a load of dandelions. Somehow I felt that using flower colours was cheating, too easy, not difficult enough so I would have to immerse myself deeply in the environment. But here were the colours I needed, the hues that matched up with my vision. Art is full of arbritary, self-imposed rules but sometimes you need to break them to move on to something new.

As I searched for different colours I started to see the variance in structure and colour in petals. How buttercup petals are very shiny on one side and corn flowers are different shades of blue on each side. These would help me move one step closer to expressing my vision, of bringing my Song into life.

Sometimes I wonder whether some of the things I talk about here ring true to you or whether they sound embellished to fill out my artwork into something more fulfilled. I never do that, they are what they are and I jot them down as real as I can and express them to you how I experienced them at the time.
Just the same as my sculptures are real and only photographed to extract their essence, there's no trickery beyond bokeh, shutter speed and aperture and it is the same with my words too.

So, just what the hell am I going on about?

Last night on the local news they talked about the last flight of the majestic Vulcan, a cold war era long range nuclear bomber, delta winged and very, very loud. A stalwart of airshows, it really is a sight to behold, thunder held within aluminium, perspex and rivets.

The very last one is about to be decommissioned and it was to make it's last flight this very afternoon. It would set off from Carlisle at 2.30pm and land in Manchester at 3.

Very much the end of an era and I reckoned we might be near it's flight path. I looked at the clock in the corner of my screen and it said 2.45. I jumped up and crashed down the stairs and said to the missus, let's go outside and see if we can see the Vulcan.

As I opened the door, immediately I could hear it's roar and disorientated for a second I scanned the sky and there it was directly overhead, straight up, 12 o-clock on the dot. We watched her disappear over the horizon and felt a little sad to see her go.

I said to Julia "well, how about that, there it was as soon as we stepped out the door and it was flying directly over our house."

"It must be something to do with doing some land art today, things always happen when I do as though someone knows I need material for my story."

I like to pretend I believe in fate, it is generally a nice thing to do. I don't really though, although everything is intertwined and interconnected, I do not believe anything in life is predestined or determined.

But I'm happy to pretend that they are, it is satisfying to think that I opened my mind through my work today and the Vulcan flew over to say hi, just for me and, just because. It's a nice thing to believe even if you are just pretending.

Nature had a hand in this sculpture too. The stems sunk a little as I put it into the water and the surface tension grabbed some of the petals and separated them from the discs they were stuck onto with spit. Of course mother nature plays a big hand in what I make, indeed in everything you and I ever do. But the slow spread of the blue and yellow petals revealed her calm hand gently moving the passage of time along one more tick of the clock.

Song Number 2 by Richard Shilling - Leighton Moss, Silverdale, Cumbria 27th June 2015

Made with pear tree branches, discs of bark and cornflower, poppy, rose, wild rose, geranium and buttercup petals

Thanks to Marcin for his work with flowers and for the inspiration.

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Song Number 1

It's been a while but it's time to share some new work. The beginning of a new project: Song.