Category Archives: drawing

Fragment 8

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Baleshare.

Scudding clouds and sunny intervals.

Brisk wind.

 

A long, pooled shore,

scintillating in the sun.

Sea roar obliterates all other sounds.

 

On the strandline

the translucent remains of by-the-wind-sailors,

Velella Velella.

 

I wonder how far they have floated across the sea?

 

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Fragment 7

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Udal.

Sun. 50mph wind.

The tail end of a storm.

 

Huge red waves

are pushed crashing onto the beach by a

strong onshore south-westerly.

 

Coloured by churned seaweed,

this boiling red sea

is a reminder of its irresistible power.

 

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Fragment 3

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Fragment 3

The start.

White sand like wet putty.

Clear, green-blue water.

 

Whistling calls.

Turnstones, ringed plover, sanderling

run along the edge of the water.

 

Fading light.

Sand and water dull and merge to a grey/blue.

 

In tidal lines, shell fragments.

If I look hard I can find tiny cowries, limpets and periwinkles.

 

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Fragments 1 and 2

I have been on holiday to Scotland and have just spent one week on the island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. Berneray is tucked away on the very edge of Britain and is about as far away as you can get and still be in the UK. It is a small island that is attached to a very slightly bigger island, North Uist, by a causeway and it is the ideal place to satisfy my need for remoteness and stillness. It is a place to walk and to experience the natural environment in a slow and contemplative manner. Berneray and North Uist are small islands, surrounded by sea and white shell beaches and about half of North Uist covered with water.

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I took some art materials with me and a few little bags to put collected objects into. I had hoped to draw outside everyday as a record of what I had seen, heard and experienced, but it was windy ….. very windy. Paper, paint, pens and pencils became unwieldy in the high winds which were the tail end of a hurricane and so I had to give up that idea. Instead I collected objects from the walk each day and then when I got back to our cottage I spent a bit of time reflecting on the walk. What stuck in my mind? Was it a happening, or an experience, a process, or even just a colour?

Each day I recorded my memory visually on a small piece of folded watercolour paper and then wrote, as simply as I could, some words to describe the experience. I put the collected objects in the bag alongside the folded book and filled seven little bag altogether. One bag was from my experiences on Lindisfarne  (visited on the way up to Scotland) and the other six bags were for one day spent on Berneray. Each bag holds one remarkable memory taken from a whole days worth of memories – one fragment of a day’s experiences.

I will post one ‘bag’ a day for the next week and today’s two fragments come from Lindisfarne.

Fragment 1

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And now the causeway,

emerging from fast receding waters.

Puddled.

Flashed with light.

I stop and scan with awe

this place that minutes before was inaccessible.

Slick mud.

Still caressed by an ebbing tide.

 

A curlew rises. Calling.

Upwards and away from this mutable place.

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Fragment 2

Along the beach,

eyes down on slippery, tide-bared stones.

 

I pick up a lace of seaweed

and a piece of sea worn slate.

 

An eerie windcall rises from across the flats.

Looking up to qualify

I see dark movement in the distance.

Seals hauled out on dry sand.

 

A plaintive, drawn-out chorus

that describes this liminal space.

 

Making connections

I have a small plinth that has been sitting in a corner of my studio for nearly a year now. It has on it a collection of objects which I have been changing around and adding to regularly over the year. It started with a collection of objects that I gathered on a trip to Iceland, and at the time I felt sure that a piece of work would come from it but although I love the collection, a separate piece has simply not happened.

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I realise now that of course the collection is the work. An array of objects that document my way of interacting with, responding to, and documenting my experience of the natural environment: walking, gathering, keeping, noticing, drawing, making. The plinth is a like sketchbook of objects: a gathering that consists of words, drawings, materials and things. I have found myself adding to and taking away from it over the year in a continuous process of relating one thing to another and I now recognise that the work is not only about linking one object to another but is also concerned with connecting new landscapes to familiar ones.

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Handmade sketchbook dipped in bitumen with ink and graphite drawings of the Norfolk coast, a small linen bag coated with bitumen and paint to keep the sketchbook in.

I have written before that I believe an encounter with a new environment cannot, in this age of browsing the internet, be completely fresh, but that it is affected by expectations and presumptions. A new place, in this case Iceland, is touched by similarities and associations to known places (the Norfolk coast) in a never-ending, and possibly unconscious, triangulation of place, experience and memory.

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Top: Wood from a Norfolk beach painted with bitumen, rope from a Norfolk beach, knotted and painted with bitumen. Bottom: String from an Icelandic beach dipped in bitumen and coiled, string from an Icelandic beach made into a knot and dipped in bitumen, a linen and bitumen bag to hold them.

I’m trying not to analyse too deeply what I choose to keep, but amongst things relating to both the Icelandic and the North Norfolk coasts I have: collected objects, both in their original form and altered; drawings, in a handmade sketchbook and on scraps of paper; made objects that have been painted with bitumen.

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View from my studio, silverpoint drawing on gesso.

The unifying factor for all of these objects has evolved and is now their blackness or whiteness: either the scoured purity of bird keel bones, soft eider down and oily sheep’s wool or the dark, stickiness of bitumen that preserves all objects from the effects of the weather and the damp, salty air.

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Keel bones of birds found on both Icelandic and North Norfolk beaches.

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From the left: Eider down, white sheep’s wool, black sheep’s wool collected in Iceland, held in waxed linen containers with found threads.

What are the influences? Perhaps Icelandic black beaches of volcanic stones or dark bituminous preservative? Maybe beaches of white Norfolk flint or chalk cliffs that give themselves up to be made into fine gesso to draw onto? I think all are there in my memory, connecting backwards and forwards and backwards again to tell a story of places, experiences and materials.

This work isn’t finished and I expect it to keep evolving and to get larger as I continue to have new ideas and to make new things.

Meaning in material

I have been away on holiday to a place that I have never visited before – Spain. We stayed at a Cortijo in the hills in Andalucia about 80 kms inland from the coast. It was hot – (hotter than I had expected) although a cooling breeze generally appeared in the late afternoon. The sky was a uniform blue the whole time we were there and it was very, very dry.

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We spent our time visiting towns to see the sights: Granada and Cordoba, and spending time in the hills near to where we were staying. I took my sketchbook, but for the first few days I couldn’t write or draw in it – I needed time to absorb and think about this new landscape.

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However, an encounter with a new environment is not a blind happenstance and the experience is affected by expectations and presumptions. Of course I had seen photos of the landscape on the internet and I had a good idea about what to expect.  As E.H. Gombrich writes in Art and Illusion, ‘The innocent eye is a myth…… All perceiving relates to expectations and therefore to comparisons’. In this instance, the comparisons I made were to two long, hot summers spent in the countryside in Provence when I was in my late teens. The heat and the dryness were remembered from that time and also the smell. The landscape smelt dry – of dust, cooking and garlic, mimosa, olive trees and heat – can heat smell?

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The landscape, although new to me, had a familiarity, but nevertheless it took a bit of time to settle in and to begin to really pay attention. I drew where my eyes were drawn. I was always looking up: to the tops of the hills where jagged rocky tops were pale grey in the sun but much darker in the shadows, and to ranks of olive groves that dotted the chalky slopes; serried ranks of rounded globes that merged into a solid greeness with the contours of the hills: chalk, terracotta and green – dry, dusty, colour bleached out by the sun.

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I took my normal, minimalist drawing kit with me: a sketchbook, a black pen, a pencil, a graphite stick, a tiny box of watercolours and a couple of those brushes with a water reservoir. But these materials were wrong. They were too fluid and the colours swirled and ran into each other. This is a dry land. I needed dry materials: pastel or chalk. I wish I had picked up some of the terracotta earth to smear across the page with my finger like the cave dwellers in the Cueva de la Pileta who had drawn on the cave walls in terracotta, ochre and charcoal thousands of years ago. 

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Watercolour is for Norfolk –  a place of water and of flux and change, not for the arid dustiness of Andalucia. The materiality of even a drawing is important as it can evoke ideas of time, place and geography beyond those of the purely visual elements of shape, form and colour. Materials have meaning and consequently I’m not really happy with these watercolour drawings. Wrong materials for the place. It is certainly something to think about the next time I go away and I will have to consider my drawing kit more carefully.