Tag Archives: photographs

Walking with Awareness in Wales

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Borrowing my daughter’s tent (meaning I won’t have to sleep in the car for 3 nights – still not sure which is preferable), I set off for a ‘Walking with Awareness‘ weekend in Manorbier, on the South Pembrokeshire coast.  Driving into Wales on the M4 over the Severn Bridge brings back long-lost memories and I’m enjoying the SatNav’s attempt to splutter out the Welsh place names.

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we could do with this sort of clear signage in Cornwall!

She successfully navigates me to the closed gates of an MOD compound at Old Castle Head before she abandons me to venture further down the lane to the Manorbier Youth Hostel, a strange bunkerish shape in the landscape which began life as part of the nearby MOD unit.

deep gully leading to the sea

deep gully leading to the sea

The workshop is run by Fiona Wright and Simone Kenyon, both independent artists with shared backgrounds in performance and visual arts and both currently training as practitioners in the Feldenkrais Method.  If you are wondering what the Feldenkrais Method is, here is a 10 minute video to explain a little of the mysteries of Awareness Through Movement that Feldenkrais advocates.

Of course, Fiona and Simone guide us through their own version of ‘body awareness’ based on their individual experience of somatic practices.  In the community room I dub the Happy Birthday room on account of the frieze left over from a child’s party, our facilitators take us through a variety of ‘experiments’ to get us in touch with our physicality, either in a horizontal position lying flat on the floor, or through vertical body movement on two feet such as: finding where our bodies (bones) make contact points with the ground surface (something I can practice in my sleeping bag); alternating between an exaggerated ‘cat walk’ walk and same-shoulder-same-foot walking (difficult, you try it); making moving star shapes as a graceful way of bringing our bodies from a lying position up to a sitting posture (would like to have had an aerial view of this one) and working with the body as a ‘bag o’ bones‘.

our dawn walk in silence - breathtaking.

our dawn walk in silence – breathtaking.

This last experiment with bones particularly resonates with me.  Apart from the fact that I have always referred to my whippets as a ‘bag o’ bones’ (and they will be wondering why I am feeling their bodies in a new way), the bag o’ bones experiment is the one I feel least prepared for because it is an experiment that involves working with other group members using the whole body, the idea being to bring a ‘dead-weight’ person from lying to standing with just two people using their whole bodies as levers to push and pull to bring about this complicated manoeuvre.  To most of the crew this comes quite naturally because they are all performers, but to a mere visual artist, it is the one where I am left feeling lost and inadequate.  Thus it becomes my own light-bulb moment, and turns my thinking completely upside down.  I begin to appreciate that (as an artist) rather than viewing my hands (painting, making, healing), feet (walking), and eyes (observing, analysing) as being merely extensions of my body, my body is – in essence – an extension of my limbs, and my senses.  It is the very centre of my being, a resonating chamber that nurtures all the essential ingredients for the functioning of that being.  This is the ‘awareness’ I have travelled 300 miles to Wales to understand.  A sobering moment of reflection between the internal and external influences on our bodies, and the realization that – up to this point – I have only been using a small proportion of the potential awareness of my body in my practice.  I am beginning to understand the true meaning of embodied.

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love these flowing grasses and the wind-blown tree in the background reminds me of the one I used for my blog picture

And more than ever, I am aware that moving with attention (walking) through nature is a means of finding metaphors for living.  It is part of my practice to look for signs and signals in the landscape and this one below makes me smile……is it implying that the walking is always uphill?

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We spend time on the beaches, some of us choosing to swim or just paddle in the shallows.  This is a rocky coastline and beach pebbles here are slashed by quartz veins.   I resist the temptation to fill my pockets, choosing to photograph them instead.

quartz veins - here a wonderfully clear horizontal line in the cliff face

quartz veins – here a wonderfully clear horizontal line in the cliff face

You can see more pictures of Manorbier and this extraordinary vertical rock strata here or  more geological information about the Old Red Sandstone of SW Wales here.

vertical sandstone strata

vertical sandstone strata

These two pictures above reflect the vertical and horizontal body positions we have been working with.

The only pebble I do pick up and carry away with me is this strange pock-marked one I found on Manobier beach where we sat and had an impromptu picnic.

Do I detect a gentle heart shape?

do I detect a gentle heart shape?

Maybe a fragment that has been broken off from this strange anomaly on the beach at Church Doors, below the YH, (different from the more usual vertical sandstones) and in the same way a reminder that we too are also part of the larger mass of humanity and not the only pebble on the beach.

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Only later do I realise why I have picked up this pebble, over and above all the possible ones I could have chosen to keep.  It resembles bone tissue, connecting deeply with what we have been doing in the Happy Birthday room.   It also gives me a visible connection to the bed-rock of the local landscape – as the bones of the earth – to the bones of my own body (and a slightly decaying one at that).  I will take it home, treasure it and meditate on it to remind me of the lessons I have learned here and grateful for this poetic endorsement of my learning.

a rather crude reminder of the amount of steps on the steep climb on the 'dawn' walk

a rather crude reminder of the amount of steps cut into the hillside on the ‘dawn’ walk

And what about the walking?  Although walking cliff paths is familiar to me, lets face it, the landscape here is the real star of the show.  We explore the notion of ‘edges’, and plenty abound: sea to land to sky to air to body and how pressures on our lungs, bones, mental processes might help to keep us safe;

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group walking in silence as a collective experience of going on a journey together.  Fiona has nick-named us the Meerkat Group on account of our habit of stopping at viewing points to scan the horizon.

The 'meerkat' group looking out towards Caldey Island (just out of view on the right), home to a community of Cistercian monks.

The ‘meerkat’ group looking out towards Caldey Island (just out of view on the right), home to a community of Cistercian monks.

From the beginning, it soon becomes clear that as a group we have gelled, and I feel surprisingly emotional when the time comes for us to say our goodbyes.   Thinking about it, we have not done very much at all, yet it feels like we have been here for a week.  These past 3 days have been packed with exploration, laughter, shared experiences and plenty of space for contemplation and reflection.  More like a retreat than I had expected.   Shrinkle Haven is indeed just that.

the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path symbol

the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park symbol.   Puffin or penguin?  According to metaphysics, the symbolic meaning of puffin is ‘abundance through prayer (meditation) and humour’.  For Penguin, lucid dreaming, astral projection.  I’ll take either.

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks

On the Right Track

Track 1 (Baker's Pit)

Track 1 (Baker’s Pit Puddles)

If you think you have suddenly landed on the wrong page in the wrong blog, then ‘bear with’ dear friends.   You haven’t gone mad.   It is I who have decided it is time for a minor change!  After not much deliberation, I have opted for a more fitting title for this blog.

Track 2 (scorched earth, Bodrifty)

Track 2 (scorched earth, Mulfra)

My sketchbook pages will, from this moment onwards, be ‘morphed’ into: The Artist as Pilgrim.

Track 3 (granite, moss, lichen and blond grasses)

Track 3 (granite, moss, lichen and blond grasses)

This change of title marks a shift in emphasis from a retrospective view of my artistic practice to a more reflective view of what the future might hold in store and in particular, what is currently happening ‘now’.    Much less about a sketch pad and more about the philosophical splutterings of my mind.  As I enter into this new phase, I wanted to mirror more closely what is going on in my creative world.   Ideally, you will not notice much of a change because the content will continue in the usual vein following the same threads of enquiry, visual notes, occasional pontifications on my understanding about the meaning of life and sometimes, rare snippets from the internal workings of my soul, recorded in the ordinary textures and patterns of my often, extra-ordinary daily life.  Yes, and sometimes ‘sketches’ too!

The Nature of Pilgrimage

A pilgrimage is a journey embarked upon in which an expectation that inner change or transformation will take place along the way.  For example, the writing of this blog has become a kind of metamorphosis in itself.

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To Be A Pilgrim

Unlike the title of this famous Christian hymn, my quest is a secular one.   People have many different reasons for undertaking a pilgrimage.  Apart from adopting the pilgrimage as the creative theme for this blog, I do also intend to undertake an actual, physical pilgrimage at some stage, quite soon.  It has been a secret ambition of mine for many years and I feel that time is drawing nearer to a reality.  The nature of the journey will be revealed to me when I am ready, as will the actual route / place.  For the moment, I have no idea where, when and how this might take place.  All I know for sure is that it will happen.  (see the ‘brief encounter‘ when this was first revealed to me).

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An American ‘wise’ woman called Mildrid Norman, otherwise known as the Peace Pilgrim (check out video on YouTube), crisscrossed the American Continent 7 times and gave up counting the miles after 25,000, convinced that her message of peace would prevail.

She said, ‘a pilgrim is a wanderer with a purpose.  A pilgrimage can be either: to a place or for a thing.‘  Hers of course was for a thing: Peace.

My motives are far less altruistic, I’m afraid.  I intend to use my pilgrimage as a means of finding a framework for a new aesthetic by investigating our sensory connections to landscape.

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As much as I like the idea of following in the steps of countless other pilgrims on well-worn paths such as the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain or walking to the mouth of the Ganges in India, I feel drawn to finding a path less well trodden.  Perhaps another sort of wilderness, or rediscover a path that has been hidden for generations.  A creative path I can call my own in which I can make my own discoveries ‘unburdened’ by the souls who have gone before.  And in the process add to the pool of knowledge by making a  contribution (albeit small) to the understanding of our presence in this world.  I hope you will continue to keep me company as I navigate this new path?

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Filed under About My Blog, my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project, Paths of Enlightenment, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks

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

Intriguing Papery Parcels?

I have not tampered with this picture.  Caught it in the light as the sun came out.

Caught in the light as the sun came out.

Spent a couple of hours in the drizzle this morning turning over the beds in preparation for some vegetable planting.   The plot is exposed so we have to leave it as late as we dare before planting anything.  In one of the beds I haven’t tackled yet, I came across these beautiful papery lanterns hanging from woody stems.

Can anyone enlighten me?

I am surprised they have managed to withstand all the wind and rain.  Some of the bodies are beginning to pop and spill their tiny black seeds.

They are obviously the fruiting bodies of something.  But what?  Such exquisite pieces of natural engineering.  So fragile yet bursting with new life.  I am completely smitten.

I've brought them indoors to collect the seeds and do some drawings.

I’ve rescued them from the compost heap and brought them indoors to collect the seeds and do some drawings.

Does anybody know what they are?  They look like a benign form of belladonna, but the word persimmon keeps piercing my consciousness.  Is someone trying to tell me something?  Am I right or am I right?  Can someone kindly enlighten me please?

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Arboreal Masonry

IMG_8611On Easter Sunday morning, I ventured forth with an old friend (my x) out onto Brent Moor on the Southern slopes of Dartmoor to join the ponies and the little black-legged lambs and a few hardy individuals willing to brave the sub-zero conditions for a bracing pre-lunch walk.

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We headed up the track  which runs alongside the stream from Didworthy Bottom where we came across the scant remains of tin mine workings in a small sheltered clearing.

Figure holding back the wall

Figure holding back the wall

In one of the crumbling pieces of granite walling, the roots of an old tree are embedded between the stones and is distinctly human in form.  I am wondering is the wall holding up the tree or the tree still holding the wall together?  I suspect they are mutually dependent but some of the roots appear to be flailing around in search of somewhere to anchor themselves.

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And some of the the boughs have grown heavy, twisting themselves into gnarled arcs and u bends.

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The wind is threatening to chill us to the bone and tiny ice crystals begin blasting us like frozen sand particles.  We don’t dally for long and once we reach the head of the dam, with the thought of a hearty lunch to prepare, we turn back to join the rest of the house party, vowing next time to come back with some drawing materials and fingerless mitts.  I tuck a pristine tufted curl of lanolin-rich wool into my coat pocket mildly aware that I may be depriving some poor parent bird of some cosy nesting material.

a little tangled bundle of moss, wool and dried leaves.

a little tangled bundle of moss, wool and dried leaves.

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Brindle Beach Streaker

The streaker in question is Zola whippet.  Whilst out enjoying a bit of welcome sunshine on Porth Kidney beach at low tide yesterday afternoon, I was poised to take a picture of the sand pattern when she flashed through the frame just as I was pressing the shutter.  Now you see me now you don’t.

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I have been collecting photos of beach patterns for many years now.  I’m not quite sure why I do it other than it’s what I do.  It’s part of my hoarding habit I suppose (which goes with the territory) and I have so many of these images now I could cover a sizable wall with them.  In fact, I have just done my annual back-up of the My Pictures folder onto a separate hard drive and discovered there are just shy of 200,000 ‘items’ in the file!  I know I should (hate that word) back-up stuff more often but that would be extremely tedious, would it not?

I also take pictures of footprints in the sand and collect handfuls of sand from different beaches and set them in resin just so that I can compare the size of the grains and subtle differences in the colours of ground up rocks and shells.

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Prints of Prints

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Photos c. 1998, Jersey CI

Beach Sediments

Lizard Beach Sediments in resin

Even my drawings are arranged in grid formats in order to compare and contrast, like the old style photographic contact sheets that I used to do at college.

Landslips on the beach at Praa Sands, February 2013

Landslips on the beach at Praa Sands, February 2013

I remember being delighted when Kodak started including index sheets in your packet of prints in the days when you had to take your photos to be processed.  I now sort my photos into subject folders and eventually, they begin to take on new meanings as collections of ideas.

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making the borders for the quilt

testing the layout

testing the layout

I think this is why making a quilt for baby Rose was so satisfying as it shares the same principles: a selection of similar materials gathered and arranged in a grid format.

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Filed under Art Works, my sketchbook pages, Personal Philosophy, Studio Practice, Whippet Story

Praa Sands

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