Tag Archives: marsh

Painting and drawing

Everyone is back where they should be after the Easter holidays and suddenly I find myself on on my own for a couple of days. Although I have things I should be getting on with, I decide to take a break and do some painting and drawing.

So, this is how a near perfect day on my own goes:

  1. Go to the art shop and buy a couple of sheets of lovely 300gsm watercolour paper.
  2. Stop off on the way home at Morston quay and buy a cup of coffee from the National Trust shop.
  3. Drink coffee and take in the view and general hustle and bustle (boats being put in the water for the first time this year, dog walkers, seal boats loading up to take people out to Blakeney Point). Enjoy the sunshine.
  4. Follow the path along the creek and across the marsh with sketchbook and pencil in hand.
  5. Stop every now and again and draw what catches the eye.

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  1. Lunch
  2. Get out painting equipment, put on music (Bach, Brandenburg Concerto’s) and spend the rest of the afternoon painting (keep half an eye on the morning’s drawings but paint mainly from memory).

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Walk 2 – Burnham Overy State

Winter. It is a grey, drizzly day that bodes only to get worse. However, I decide to go out for a walk anyway. As I pull onto the hard standing at Burnham Overy Staithe my first thought is, ‘I should have bought my camera!’. Although the wide grey sky is giving off a surprising amount of light, everything before me is drained of colour and blurred in the mist. It is a monochrome landscape. There is detail in the foreground, but horizontal lines of mud, water and sand dune fade into the haze.

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The raised dyke is slippery. Flints stick up out of the mud; slick and shiny, they add to the feeling of instability underfoot and I have to look at the ground to stop myself from slipping. A few yards on the path gets better and I can look up – there are birds everywhere. It’s low tide and they are dotted, like tiny ants, across the wet, silvery marsh. They are too far away to make out what they are, but with binoculars each one is revealed and there is a huge variety feeding on the mud: Dunlin, redshank, several curlews, and a couple of golden plovers. Suddenly a flock of lapwing rise up into the sky, their frilly wings flap as they twist and turn; dancing in the sky.

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I walk on and movements on all sides grab my attention. A great flock of Brent geese fly over in formation; as they pass over more come in from the west. They are looking for a place to land and graze. The formation breaks as they glide down towards the marsh and chaos breaks out as each bird tries to find a space to land. Their chattering calms to a contented honk as they begin to feed.

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The mud flats are slick and shiny, and in this misty, light they are devoid of colour. Deep channels are cut into the smooth, flat surface by the actions of the tides and here meandering black shadows echo the outline of dunes in the distance. Almost colourless tones of layered marsh and mud fade to the feint smudge of horizon.

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A tinkling, tinselly sound catches my ear: goldfinches. A flock of these small birds fly in from behind and land on a bush just ahead of me. As I get nearer, they rise up and I catch small flashes of yellow as they flit through the air before swooping down into a small bush just ahead. This game is repeated several times more as I follow them along the dyke. Finally, they rise up for a final time and dart off over the marsh to find a new feeding place.

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At the beach it’s really too cold to sit, but with a cup of coffee from the flask I note down the birds out on the sand. In the distance, by the sea edge are a flock of cormorants holding their wings out to dry. Closer in along a curving sea-river are more redshank, oystercatchers, dunlin and a ruff. Just in front of me two turnstones are pecking around in the tideline; there must be goodness amongst the dying sea debris.

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As I turn to walk back along the dyke I notice that the clouds have lifted. Maybe there is a hint of sun low on the horizon. Everything definitely seems brighter and more defined out here on the marsh.

Harrogate Knit & Stitch show

This week I’m gearing up for the next Knitting and Stitching show that starts in Harrogate next week. My gallery is a slightly different size and shape to the one at Ally Pally and so I’ve had to do a rethink of what I am going to show and how it is going to look.

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This gallery is squarer and smaller than before and so, like at Ally Pally, there won’t be room to show all of my Sluice Creek Cloths. At Ally Pally I was able to include the largest of the cloths – Curlew Song, but there won’t be room for it in Harrogate. Because of its large size, Curlew Song needs to be hung on an outside wall of the gallery, (inside it dominates the space and overpowers the other exhibits). On an outside wall it has space and you, as a viewer can look at it from a distance. Unfortunately I haven’t got a large enough outside wall this time around but I am very pleased that the wall is big enough for the Sluice Creek ClothTidal Flow, which I haven’t previously shown. This means that I will be able to hang all the smaller cloths together for the first time.

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I want the gallery space to look uncluttered and let the cloths have room to ‘breathe’, but I think there will still be wall space and so I have made some more small Marshscape Collages to replace the ones that I sold at the last show. I’ve made quite a lot! There are two groups of nine – one greenish/black group and one bluish/black group. They are the same format as before: 20 x 20cms, mounted on painted board with a waxed linen ‘frame’. Until I get there I won’t know whether I will hang both groups – it depends on the space, how I feel, how they look etc. etc….!

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Here are a selection of photos from the greenish group.

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Do come and say hallo if you are at the show.

The Sluice Creek Cloths

There is only a week to go before the Knitting & Stitching show! Nearly everything is packed up in copious amounts of bubblewrap and I am running around deciding on slightly strange things like how to transport 2 buckets of dry sand without it spilling out everywhere. Today I’ll give you a bit of information about the main part of the Moments of Being body of work – The Sluice Creek Cloths.

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Sluice Creek is a tidal inlet just off the main channel at Wells-next-the-Sea. It runs north/south and narrows to the north in a labyrinth of seemingly endless inlets and creeks. It is a quiet place but at the same time it teems with life and movement – there is always something new and interesting to see and experience.

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The Sluice Creek Cloths are inspired by the memory of encounters with physical processes that I have encountered whilst out walking or sailing: the sun moving over the marsh and creating shadows, the clink of halyards knocking against masts, the shape of a bend in the creek or the way saltwater marks my clothes.

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I have invested a huge amount of time and effort in these cloths and they have taken me about 18 months to make. There are seven cloths in the series. Each one is made from linen and hangs double over a shiny, varnished pole. The mark I have chosen to use as my personal notation for this body of work is the hole. It is a space – an immaterial emptiness that is surrounded by a physical material that describes its shape and allows us to see a nothing. The holes I have sewn into the linen of The Sluice Creek Cloths are edged with thread-bound iron wire. These evoke the small metal eyelets and fastenings that are in tarpaulins, boat covers and sails found in a coastal environment. Each cloth has been dipped in the sea several times to rust the eyelets and to mark the cloth.
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The information I have written over the past three posts has come from a book that I have designed and self-published to accompany the Moments of Being exhibition. It is a 20 x 20cms, soft-covered book with 60 pages. It includes text that describes my inspiration and way of working and has photographs that I have taken myself of the work and the environment that inspired it. It will be on sale at the show next week. It will also be on sale  after the show in my shop.
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Do come and say hello if you are there!

Marshscape Collage

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It is only three weeks now until the Knitting and Stitching show and I have finished making all the work for my gallery. There are just the fiddly (but surprisingly time consuming) things left to do to make sure that everything is in perfect order – finishing off, sewing in ends, thinking about what I need to actually hang the work and other paper/computer related things.

I thought that in the lead up to the show I would give you a taste of what I will be showing and a short explanation of the work’s inspiration. First the title of the work – Moments of Being.

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Moments of Being is a concept that occurs in an essay by Virginia Woolf called A Sketch of the Past. In it she wonders why it is that some ordinary, but powerful memories rise above the forgotten trivia of everyday life. She concludes that there are two types of experience: moments of non-being and of being. Moments of non-being are experiences that one lives through but are not consciously aware of, whereas a moment of being is a flash of conscious awareness.

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My new body of work is inspired by a series of vividly remembered encounters and engagements with the marshes and beach of the North Norfolk coastline. I have taken my own quite ordinary, but powerful, recollections to form the basis of the work. Each work notates the memory of a commonplace event or observation: the sun moving over the marsh and creating shadows, the clink of halyards knocking against masts, the shape of a bend in the creek or the way saltwater marks my clothes. These are not unusual experiences, but are personal and intensely remembered moments.

The last of this work to be finished is a set of 16 small Marshscape Collages and so I’ll start there. The collages are mounted on thick board and framed with a waxed cloth border. They are 20 x 20 cms each.

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The collages have been created intuitively. They are images of the Norfolk coastline that come from my memory: the shape of a bend in the creek, the rocking of moored boats or the outline of the saltmarsh. They are about shape, colour, light and space. I have made them from bits pulled out of my big bag of odds and ends (mainly unfinished or discarded work and left-overs) and specially painted paper and cloth. It is rather like doing a puzzle. I move shapes and colours around until they suddenly jump into the right place – what Sandra Blow calls that ‘startling rightness’.

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The first of the Knitting & Stitching shows is at Alexandra Palace, London from 5 – 9 October. Please do come and say hello to me if you are there.

Sea Lavender

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I’m hiding away, hermit like, at the moment, sewing for hours each day to get the work for my gallery at the Knitting and Stitching shows in the autumn finished. I already have a great deal of work, but it is amazing that the nearer the show gets, the more concentrated I become. I have been finding that work I made nearly a year ago doesn’t seem to work and I keep making one last thing in order to push things a bit further. This obviously has to stop at some point as I don’t have the time to go on for ever, so I have set my self a deadline of the end of July to finish the series of cloths – The Sluice Creek Cloths – and I am presently sewing the very last one (it will be the very last one!).

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It isn’t all nose to the grindstone however, and I am  getting out at least once a day to sail or walk.

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This is one of my favourite times of year out on the marsh as the sea lavender (limonium vulgar) is flowering and a soft purple haze is covering large areas of the saltings. It is a tolerant, hardy plant that gets covered by the sea when there is a high marsh tide.

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Each stem is about 30cm tall and the flower heads have a dry look to them. It is a bit of a pilgramage to go and pick a small bunch each year. It keeps, out of water, for months although by Christmas it has lost its colour and is usually rather dusty and cobwebby.

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Gun Hill

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Despite the fact that it has rained just about everyday for the last few weeks the paths along the edge of the marsh are dry. In winter they are permanently wet and muddy – too muddy to walk along without wellies. However the irregular intervals of warm sun and wind at this time of year, coupled with a week of small tides, means that the paths have dried out to a crazy paving of cracked mud and they are now negotiable.

I reach the hut (portacabin) where I was hoping to sit and draw but someone is there before me, perched on a convenient ledge, face up to the sun and quietly enjoying the heat. This is a favourite spot and I have sat here and drawn many times. I move on and find a dry, sand-pebbled spot at the end of the point overlooking the Scolt Head channel.

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The tide is out and there are many birds poking about in the mud. A group of oystercatchers chirp continuously with their ‘peeping’ call. They run around on short, red legs and then suddenly rise up, black and white stripy wings flashing in the light, only to land a few yards away, to continue feeding, talking and bickering – a typical family.

A streak of white comes in from the left and lands. Elegant legs and a crooked neck. A little egret stands out brightly against the dark mud. These egrets are a common sight here now on the marshes. At this distance I can’t see its bright yellow feet.

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Gulls wheel on the thermals and a skylark rises up from the dunes behind me. Its melodious song strengthens as it flaps its wings and climbs higher and higher. It is still singing half an hour later as I get up and walk on.