Category Archives: Digital

Candy Stripes and Winter Blues

Tammie and I found ourselves on a deserted beach at West Wittering, one rather cold and wet day this week.

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This punctuated orange triangle stood out from the crowd

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We dried ourselves out and warmed ourselves up in the pub afterwards

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Then I found this in my bedroom.

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For other Converge posts, this weeks’ photo challenge, see here.

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Filed under Digital, Found Objects, my sketchbook pages, Pilgrimage Walks

Layered Textures of a Pilgrimage

Exploring physical textures is a constant theme that runs through my life like a thread that gets woven into every aspect of what I am doing, thinking or creating.  Last month that ‘textures thread’ was ‘grown’ in a digital 3D lab to create a collaborative artwork for the The All Makers Now ? Conference exhibition at Trelissick House, Cornwall.  (see previous post).

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a mechanical device that is programmed to reproduce objects out of extruded plastic, fine enough to replicate fine details and surface textures.

Then, by way of a complete contrast from the mechanical manufacturing of 3D digital textures my focus moves to the spiritual texture of a pilgrimage.  On another one of Richard Dealler’s, 6 day guided Pilgrimages following the Mary / Michael Pilgrim Route.  This time across Bodmin Moor from St. Austell to Liskeard, walking between the pyramids of spoil and aqua waters of China clay mining country to the pony and sheep dotted wilderness that is Bodmin Moor.

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As the days pass, the biggest pyramid gets smaller and smaller as we get further and further away from our starting point until finally it is obliterated from view by the mist.

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I relish the chance to walk once more in silence.  The chance to journey inwards and rekindle that still place within me whilst making visible and felt connections to the natural world around us.  And once more happy to relinquish responsibility for where we are going to our leader, Richard, who has found a new oak staff to walk with.  The one which he had abandoned out of guilt for breaking it free from its mother tree, only to find it again propped up on the gate post where it had been carried by an unknown individual to await his passing by the following day.

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Each overnight camp is marked by a different farm animal and its dung: in order of appearance, cow, horse, dog (heard in the distance only from a rescue centre nearby) and sheep.  Waste products seems to have been a theme running through this pilgrimage.  My shadow on a slurry strewn dairy farmyard on our first camp making a beautiful pattern.  The aroma that stuck to our boots hung around for days.

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Another theme that begins to emerge is that this land has apparently been fashioned by giants.  Lying on the ground as if some giant had just tossed them there with abandonment, are these huge boulders.  They lie scattered across the fields all across this area and have somehow been built into the field boundary walls.

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And then in a clearing in some unidentified wood, there is what is believed to be the largest free-standing boulder in the British Isles.  It lies as if suspended in mid-air, propped up by lesser boulders, huge in their own right.

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This daddy of them all is so big, I struggle to find an angle in which to photograph the whole thing.  It dwarfed us all in its magnificence.  When we toned inside its open chamber, the stones hummed back as if in gratitude of our acknowledgement.

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In this land of giants, we crossed an old viaduct built out of huge blocks of granite.  What is Richard saying?  (Chance for a caption competition here?)

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In the cool, dark woods at Bolitha Falls, we found a spot away from the madding crowd, to sit and eat our lunch.  The deafening sound of rushing white water made having any kind of conversation impossible, anyway.

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We made a mandala of pilgrim feet on the leaf litter in the woods.  The trees giving up their old leaves to be recycled into humus as the circle of life goes on.

a mandala of pilgrim feet

We feed our bodies with nature’s bounty, and Christoffer’s delicious suppers,

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and the porridge bowls are always polished clean.

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We replenish our souls with holy water from sacred wells,

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finding solace, peace and a cool retreat as well as reliving poignant memories inside churches we visit,

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captivated by human stories of war-time heroes,

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or by the patterns and symbols, in the tracery of window panes

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and in the crosses we find outside in the churchyards, like this one at Lostwithiel.

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Or along the way, where the old and the new jostle for our attention alongside each other to signpost our way.

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We walked across many fields of sun-burned grasses,

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and barefoot up scraggy hills to relieve blistered feet.

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Or stopped to meditate or doze away an hour, propped up by the stones in an ancient stone circle of circles that is the Hurlers and shared sacred heart prayers on a node point buzzing with energy.  Here Richard relinquishes his heavy oak staff for someone else to pick up.   Then on to marvel at the stack of boulders that is the Cheesewring on top of Bodmin Moor where the giants seem to have been at work once more.

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But no sign of the Beast.  Only muddy tractor tyre tracks to be found.

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and rusting pieces of old farm machinery seemingly abandoned by the wayside.

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On the final day, we begin our walk with a shamanic walking practice led by Andrew.  Walking with a creeping, cat-like stalk, this very slow, high-stepping crocodile, connected by an imaginary thread begins its snaking progress along the path.  What a sight this must have been and after I managed to suppress my initial urge to giggle, it did provide an opportunity for us to stop and really observe the details in the landscape around us.  To appreciate the ‘accidental beauty’.   Something that I felt up until that moment, because of the pressure to reach our destinations, had been somewhat missing.

And those observations, for me, summed up the sensory textures of this pilgrimage: noticing the variety of grasses with their different seed heads swaying together in the gentle breeze.  Noticing underfoot, the contrast between the dry, ruminant-nibbled grasses and the cool squelchiness of the boggy patches of moss and reed, or the sharp, stoney graveliness of the farm track, remembering the ‘trudge’ through the rain on our first day.  As we turned in unison to gaze upon the slope of the hill rising before us, seeing it as if for the first time: the fields divided by remains of old, crumbling stone walls now dotted with pristine white, sheared sheep, no doubt washed clean by the very squally wind and rain that had blown through the night before.  It was a biblical scene to be sure.  The symphony of bleating notes as ewes and their lambs call to one another, echoing around the hills.

In this place of sleeping giants and semi-wilderness, and in this very moment, the silence is both deafening and beautiful, the scenery both harsh and nurturing.  Wiping the sheep poo off my boots, I am minded to relinquish the old, the wasted, in order to replenish the new as the cycle of birth, death and rebirth is an ever-present element that is woven into the textural fabric of our evolving lives.  Every breath we take is an acknowledgement of that.

 

 

For more WordPress photo challenge: Texture here

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Filed under Digital, Mandalas, Paths of Enlightenment, Pilgrimage Walks, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Corroded Quarry Doors: A New Surface Landscape Narrative

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a layered history of degraded paint and rusting metal

“….I began to photograph the detail in the huge rusting metal doors belonging to the largest building on the site when I heard what I at first thought to be people working inside.  Squinting into the interior gloom through a hole in the rust, I realised it must be some loose shuttering banging in the breeze (or was it?  I’m really not so sure)”. 
Extract taken from previous post, Quarry Dot Drawing

a 'forest' of rust

a ‘forest’ of rust

the bite of erosion

the bite of corrosion

a smudged drawing

a smudgy drawing, deeply etched with rust

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Filed under Digital, my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project

Marking Time.

Landslip, c.1995. acrylic on board

Landslip 1, c.1995. (the beach at Le Couperon, Jersey), acrylic on board

Landslip, 2013, pencil, ink, gouache, digital print.

Landslip 2, 2013, (Praa Sands, Cornwall), pencil, ink, gouache, digital print.

Landslip 1 & 2

The subject is the same for both images but there are seventeen years that separate them.  There is nothing new about whole chunks of cliff face falling onto the beach and we have witnessed more cliff falls than usual this winter.  But as a subject that I have returned to it is interesting for me to compare these two images from different time zones in my artistic practice.

The actions are the sameLandslip: a geological phenomenon which involves a wide range of ground movement.  In this instance, natural erosion by the action of over-saturated ground causing the slide of a large mass of earth and rock down a cliff face to be deposited on the beach below.  These cliff-falls are nothing new and we are sure to see many more in the future.

Technique.  The difference between these two images is that they represent differences in technique and reflect the changes that have taken place in digital technology over this time span.

Landslip 1 was painted in the still relatively modern medium of plastics made by mixing polymers and pigment to produce acrylics. Once the paint is dry, (theoretically) it is not possible to undo any of the previous stages of the process.  (In practice it is possible to erase some of the layers but there will be traces of paint left behind which frankly creates  a very interesting surface texture).  The standard way to proceed is to add another layer of paint (or drawing or whatever) on top of what is already there.

Landslip 2 is a product of two key stages using different media.  An initial drawing – using age-old, low-tech materials – carbon pencil, ink, gouache and gum arabic washes, laid onto a piece of paper primed with gesso.  A digital photograph of the image was taken and then developed further within the digital arena.  (In this case, the software on my iphone).  At this stage, I have options.  I might decide to print the image onto a piece of watercolour paper and rework back into it using my original organic materials: pencil, pen, washes of colour, oil resist etc.  The real difference is that I can digitally record certain stages along the way which means it becomes a much more flexible process.  I am able to go back to any of these steps that I have saved and rework them.

Copyright.  By the same token, although I no longer own the original Landslip 1 (painted in 1995), I could take the photographic record I have of it (or any other come to that) and ‘re-work’ it digitally into another artwork because as the creator, I still own the copyright.

detail of post-it note sketches

detail of post-it note sketches

However, ever since I started the digital experiment I have pondered where exactly does it fit into my practice?  If I have produced a piece of artwork using digital software somewhere in the process, is it still art?  At first, I found it hard to accept that it was art.  But of course, the answer is undoubtedly yes!  I have creative control over all the processes.  The idea is conceived by me, the facilitator, I make the decisions and it is all my own work.  Phew!  David Hockney did it so it must be OK.

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sketch for landslip 2, (alternate view)

Landslip 1 & 2.

The sentiments are the same: I, me, the artist, am a silent witness.  A witness to the natural destruction of localised, unstable land-forms.  A witness to order turned into chaos: the reshaping of the landmass in the natural process of erosion.   A witness to the danger of its unpredictable nature which can cause death to human life.  I can see the layers of history once safely locked in the subsoil strata now a darkly-spewed stain on the beach.  Branches and roots, ripped from their beds, now lie exposed like bare, bleached bones, the process of buffering and polishing already begun by the pounding of the sea and the sand.  I watch as it becomes part of the ebb and flow rhythm of the beach until finally, consumed by the mighty ocean, there is nothing left to see.

The landslip thus becomes a mere snapshot of time in motion and I am here to witness it.  I was there seventeen years ago, another place another time, and I am here now.  It is just part of a normal cycle of nature.  Nothing has changed except my means of expressing it.

 

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Filed under Digital, my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project, Personal Philosophy, Studio Practice

Note to Self

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As my working space has shrunk to a small kitchen table, I have cut my (table) cloth accordingly.  Thus, the humble post-it note has become my scaled-down sketchbook for the time-being.  These images all began with pencil drawings arranged on a grid of post-it notes.  Layers have been added to build up images with overlays and digital media.  The inspiration comes from the recent landslips on the beach at Praa Sands.

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Filed under Digital, Drawings, my sketchbook pages

Beach Chevron

The post has arrived and no messages of love for me today (though I did get a special text message)!

a sign in the sand

a sign in the sand

If you look hard enough you often find signs in nature that capture your imagination and make you believe that they were meant for you as a personal symbol.  Sometimes I will ask for a sign to confirm some sort of question I am pondering.  I discovered this beautiful rock lying in the sand whilst walking the dogs with David on Praa Sands last week.  At first glance I thought it might be a lump of gabbro or schist from the Lizard, but on closer inspection we both agreed it was definitely some sort of sedimentary rock.

 

 

Anyway, I was struck by the wonderfully architectural shape of it: arrow head; chevron; heart shape; directional pointer; signal; depending on which way round you looked at it.  I had a bit of fun with the image in the ‘Mobile’ Sketchbook app on my phone.

looking ahead

looking ahead

boomerang

boomerang

Happy Valentine

Happy Valentine

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you seek you shall find the messages we need from nature.   For today, it is the heart shape that I send (and receive) with all my love. x.

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My Exoskeleton

Carapace. Noun. Hard outer coating of certain organisms such as arthropods and turtles. syn: shell, cuticle, shield.

While we are on the subject of hard outer coatings, (apropo previous post, Crustaceans), by changing one simple vowel for another in the middle of the word carapace, turns it into my very own version: caropace.

IMG_3105IMG_3106Caropace. Noun. Tough outer coating of a certain Homo sapiens, more commonly known by the name, Caro.  syn: a virtual outer shell invisible to the naked eye designed to protect the soft, sensitive and vulnerable interior spaces of this particular being.

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Filed under Digital, my sketchbook pages, Personal Philosophy