Wednesday, 23 December 2015
Saturday, 19 December 2015
Friday, 18 December 2015
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Friday, 11 December 2015
Tuesday, 8 December 2015
Wednesday, 25 November 2015
Thursday, 12 November 2015
Saturday, 31 October 2015
Friday, 16 October 2015
Thursday, 15 October 2015
Monday, 12 October 2015
I have just spent two wonderful days at the National Trust property of Croft Castle in north Herefordshire. I have set myself an illustration, design and creative writing project based around what I could find there during that time. I did a few iPad illustrations, made copious notes and took loads of photographs based around all sorts of thinsgs: apples, fungi, people, trees, insects, autumn colours and much more. Over the next couple of months I aim to produce a collection of work and present it in an unusual way. In the meantime, the above skectch is of some of the many apple trees in the garden at Croft. The trees were heavily laden with small bright yellow apples and there are poppies in the foreground. I'll let you know when it is completed.
Monday, 5 October 2015
Nature is so quiet, humankind often has to fill its space with noise.
I had a few hours to kill the other day and found myself exploring a huge industrial area on the west side of Reading. My original aim had been to explore somewhere a little more rural but due to a change of plan I decided to see what I could find in this rather modern industrial area. My walk took me from the Holiday Inn near Junction 11 of the M4 past endless industrial units, alongside the A33, past the sewage works, along the Kennet and Avon canal and back down the B3031 leading out from the town centre. A stunningly beautiful 3 mile or so walk….! Well, it was actually quite interesting and one place in particular caught my attention.
I found a place between the industrial estate and the busy A33 where a flyover meets a footbridge and various paths over and alongside a small ‘river’. Here was a sudden abundance of greenness just touched with the bright colours and fragrance of early autumn. Willow trees grew on the banks with brambles cascading down over metal fences and concrete like waterfalls. Floating patches of water pennywort (apparently a very invasive alien plant) and pond weed added areas of bright green to the slowly moving water. Comfrey, bindweed, willow herb and other plants were abundant at the water’s edge. Birds: crows, 1 male and 2 female mallards, robin singing, blackbird, grey wagtail and a pigeon. No fish seen. Some rubbish was present but not as much as I might have expected: cans, bottles, a life belt and a metal pole.
A small pale brown moth has landed on the surface of the smooth water and its fluttering struggles send a mass of fine perfectly round ripples outwards. They remind me of the growth rings found on sawn tree trunks. A few bubbles of gas rise from the depths and cause a few ripples too.
Traffic constantly thunders by behind about 20 meters away behind a hedge. Ambulance sirens, a car alarm, an aeroplane… There is noise all around and yet this patch of nature generates none of it. Aren’t we a noisy lot?
Took this photo of some tomatoes and courgettes from the garden just over a week or so ago. A couple of hours later I had three jars of chutney and a vinegary smelling house. Many of the tomatoes come from two tumbling types that I grew in a large wooden planter. I may have fed them a little too much as the plants the largest and most bushy tomato plants I had ever seen. At one stage I was even trimming them back!
Friday, 2 October 2015
Thursday, 1 October 2015
Friday, 25 September 2015
Saturday, 19 September 2015
Friday, 18 September 2015
Sunday, 13 September 2015
Here is a photo of my sketchbook. I was in Hitchin yesterday sketching people and seemingly out of nowhere this drawing appeared of a couple on a nearby bench. It isn't often I work in pencil like this as usually I work in pen quickly trying to capture a few outlines or shapes. The figures seemed quite happy to say put for twenty minutes or so and were oblivious to my regular quick glances in their direction. I was incredibly excited by this sketch for various reasons and will probably work it up into a proper illustration.
Friday, 11 September 2015
Thursday, 10 September 2015
This is a quick sketch of the poppies growing on the east patio by the summerhouse - up beyond the vegetable garden and the top lawn. I built the patio earlier in the year but as it is SO far from the house we haven't used it much. The poppies are obviously relishing the newly disturbed ground and providing a delicate splash of colour near the lavendar bed. The gardener has further plans to landscape and refurbish this area of the estate but seems have to have got sidetracked by other things this summer.
Friday, 4 September 2015
Monday, 31 August 2015
Sunday, 30 August 2015
It isn't often I draw a still life. Today an opportunity interested me whilst sitting in the cafe at Wrest Park when a family sitting on the table next to me had finished their meal. I rather liked the collection of tea things, bottles, kids lunch boxes and other odds and ends. I managed to quickly take a photo on the iPad before it was all cleared away and then I worked over the image very quickly to just try and capture the scene.
From what I can remember the place in which I am now sitting is labelled 'fishponds' on the map. In front of me is a fairly large, flat triangular area of grass, perhaps about an acre in area, and surrounded by a grassy bank about six feet high at its highest. In the middle of the grass is a small rounded mound overgrown with berry laden hawthorn and blackthorn bushes. A single willow tree at one edge possibly indicates that there might be rather damp area there. With no knowledge of this place it does indeed look it might once have been a man-made fishing lake with a central island but I don't think it has seen water for many years. The field in which it lies is enclosed by a mature mixed hedgerow and the grass is unmown with loads of thistles. There is no sgn of any young scrub developing so perhaps this has been grazed in recent years. It looks quite a well established permanent pasture.
When I set out on my bike this morning I hadn't got a plan of exactly how I was going to go to Wrest Park but this place was on the way and I felt drawn to it. A heron was circling overhead when I arrived, then there was the carcophonous barking from a local kennels and then the ringing of Shillington church bells. It is grey, overcast, warm and just beginning to drizzle a little.
Dried cow pats confirm the existence of recent grazing cattle and there is sheep wool caught on lower branches of hawthorn. In some places the grass and earth appears to have been scratched away - I wonder if there are badgers about?
There are streams on three sides of the field. One is just a bit of damp soil but one on the possibly higher side could have been a feeder stream. This had a small flow of water. Along the bottom edge of the field is a larger stream about five feet below field level from which I disturb a heron just a few feet in front of me. This looks like it has been dredged in the past year or so.
There are three small rectangular depressions in the ground at the top corner of the field and these must have been smaller pools. Whereas the grasses surrounding them are a late summer brownish colour, these old depressions are filled with dark green silverweed and some rushes indicating rather damp soil. There are two badger setts beneath some hawthorn scrub with mounds of deep freshly dug orangey-brown earth outside them. Walking up and down the banks reminds me of hillfort ramparts on the Welsh border. These though are on flat ground rather than on the top of a hill.
Blue and great tits in hawthorn bushes; occasional calls from a green woodpecker; pigeons; pheasant in ground level hawthorn branch. Hear a distinctive trill-like call coming from some distant trees and then see two largish brown shapes fly off. Must be some bird of prey but not sure what.
On returning home I find out that this was probably some medieval fish ponds. Some accounts suggest this was originally thought of as a 'camp' but it is not now thought to have been a residential settlement. This isn't really a landscape in which there are many pools or ponds. Wouldn't have thought the chalk geology was suitable unless there was some clay subsoil here. Now it is possible to walk right through the area and hardly notice what lies here.
The birds of prey were probably kestrels.
Friday, 28 August 2015
Thursday, 27 August 2015
Monday, 24 August 2015
Sunday, 23 August 2015
Sometimes drawing on the iPad can very frustrating because of the small screen size and stylus dynamics. It isn't therefore always easy when doing a sketch like this to get things looking quite how I would like, but it can be rewarding when something vaguely fits together. This was drawn in the cafe at Wrest Park today, one of my favourite hunting grounds for models.
Sunday, 16 August 2015
The Italian Garden at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. I was quite pleased with this sketch which took about an hour or so to do. I had a good comfy seat away from the bright sunlight which made using the iPad much easier and I could settle down to work at my leisure.
Deep in the woods
Where pouring rain darkens the light
I walk along puddled track
Ancient trees provide welcome shelter.
Deep in the woods.
A face at a window.
I've never seen a cottage
With face at a window.
A solid black cottage
Trimmed with bright orange window and door fames
There, in the rain
Deep in the wood.
With ground floor window open
She stares out at my rain soaked figure walking past.
I can hardly make her face out
Is there really someone there
In the shadows of the blackness inside
The black house?
"Morning" she calls out
I acknowledge with a similar reply
And walk on in the rain.
Deep in the woods
She sits at the window
Staring out at the rain soaked world.
Monday, 3 August 2015
Reflection on the sermon at Stopsley Baptist Church (2 Aug 2015) and the YouTube video by Matthew Fox: 'Recovering the sacredness of the earth'.
"If God gives me all that I need, what am I striving for?"
Having pondered this question for the past day or so, two words keeps popping into my mind: understanding and survival. I think it is a slight misjudgement for me to feel that if I am loved by God and he/she gives me all I need then I need not strive for anything. What is important is the intention behind the actions that govern what I say or do. I could just sit back and dwell in the 'love of God' and not really utilise the fact that I am a unique person with gifts and abilities and the conscious ability to change my interaction with the environment around me. I have a responsibility to be the human being that I am and I think that to be aware of who, what and where I am is key to my spiritual life. I need to be thankful for what I have and it is all to easy to let the days go by without really appreciating all that I have around me: family, food, house, work, garden, fresh air, some degree of freedom to be who I want to be etc. But life is about getting out and about and doing something. I am not one for petitioning God for everything either, I believe I am expected to try and sort out lots of things myself and not to try and hide behind a glib "God will sort it all out" that invalidates any reason for my existence.
My attempt to be a spiritual person means that I am striving for understanding, not to do so would be an insult to God, and my understanding is often based on the awe I have for Nature.
"Radical amazement is the beginning of authentic religious feeling."
"The world in all its grandeur is full of spiritual radiance."
"Awareness of the Divine begins with Awe."
"Many people think of God as they would a cow: what can they get out of it?"
I happily admit that I strive for things and that is because I have to in order to stay alive and have some sort of pleasant existence on this earth. I am not going to go into details about this here as this is just a general comment. Intention is important though and I will happily admit that perhaps I push too hard for somethings and should let more things just "be". Deciding on where to strike the right balance is a key issue. There are many positive times in life when you have to find the energy and motivation to succeed. I recently had to take on a bigger piece of responsibility at work which I thoroughly enjoyed. Then there are times when all the hard work I put into growing vegetables in the garden seems in vain until the summer rains come and then everything suddenly flourishes. I would love to have the luxury of a more relaxed lifestyle. Yes, perhaps God would provide, but I am not at the moment willing to put that to the test I am not always sure it is a matter of faith making decisions like that.
To summarise, I do believe that I have all the resources around me that I need for being who I am and perhaps I need need to be more aware of how to utilise what motivates and inspires me.
Sunday, 2 August 2015
Saturday, 1 August 2015
Over the past few years I have crossed this little bridge at Buckle Grove near Wrest Park several times but have never actually seen it. Until earlier this year it was completely obscured by undergrowth such as brambles and blackthorn. Now the stream has been dredged and all the trees and shrubs cut back along the field margin where the stream runs. The bridleway it carries has been built up with chalk hardcore and road planings - in preparation by the farmer for using the nearby woodland for pheasant rearing. It was quite a surprise to come across such a beautiful old stone structure that has remained hidden for many years. The banks of the stream were too steep for me to descend to have a closer look but it did look a little fragile and I am not sure quite how long it will stand up to modern farm traffic. It must be very old. It reminded me of an old stone bridge I knew as a child in Herefordshire which was a much larger structure and had dippers nesting underneath it. From what I can remember that has now been replaced by a modern structure.
I had been planning to visit this spot today in particular and it was a pleasure to meet a local man walking his dog whilst I was here. We chatted for quite a while about the countryside around here and shared similar observations.
Tuesday, 28 July 2015
Monday, 27 July 2015
Wednesday, 22 July 2015
A very quick sketch of a courgette plant growing in the garden. I like the yellow ones as they are a little sweeter than the green ones. The leaf edges a very difficult to do as they are very crinkly and it was getting unexpectedly chilly by mid evening so I gave up after a short while.
Monday, 20 July 2015
The garden is looking healthy at the moment with many flowers and vegetables growing well. One of my dreams is to have an 'Artist's Garden' full of many and varied things that could be a source of inspiration for creativity. We are slowly enhancing our garden since we moved here a couple of years ago and we are gradually adding plants and features as we feel they are required. This was a quick sketch I made this evening of one of the main flowers beds. It was a pleasantly warm evening and conveniently overcast which made drawing on the iPad easier. I decided to just roughly represent the flowers in a water colour style, something I don't do much of these days.
I have been feeling a little bogged down with a creativity blockage recently but I think that my 'conversation' of yesterday's blog has cleared things a little. Well, I hope so.
Sunday, 19 July 2015
"Hello, I thought you were just about to go."
"I was, but I was enjoying sketching here and wanted to stay for a few moments longer."
"I haven't seen you for a long time. When were you last up here?"
"I can't remember, it must have been back in the spring when I walked up here with my family."
"What has kept you away?"
"Oh, you know, the busyness of life. Lots of things to do and I know that isn't really a very good excuse. Also, to be honest, I have been struggling to be inspired by things. It is hard when you feel you are a lonely walker and it isn't easy to find others who can share similar interests. I was out walking the other day with some friends and the most memorable thing I experienced was walking past a isolated tree and just stopping for a moment to listen to the sound of the wind in its branches. It was awesome, and yet in that moment of deep awe I was quite alone."
"Do you feel alone now?"
"I never feel alone outside in places like this. How can you feel alone when surrounded by trees, all the plants on the woodland floor, a wren, a chiffchaff, and so many other natural things around me. Yes, I am alone in a human sense and no-one has walked past me on this path for the past hour or so. I am a brief visitor to this place today."
"Why did you stop here?"
"It is just an interesting group of trees up on the hilltop here. It is a long time since I have been to this wood when the trees are in leaf and I had forgotten how enclosed it feels when compared to being here in the winter. It is very windy today and here there is shelter for me because I wanted to do some drawing and I am not keen on sitting in the wind. When I got here the sunshine was pouring down through the leaves and, due to the wind, the sunlight was dancing about all over the place. It looked wonderful."
"What are you thinking of?"
"Stillness, even in the wind. Here I can sit and just enjoy this place. The sun keeps going behind the clouds but when it is out the place is transformed into a place of light, shadow, colour, movement and wonder. Nature does many things so well. What often intrigues me is that I hardly ever meet anyone on my walks or when I am sitting drawing who I instantly feel has a deep interest in their surroundings like I do. I very rarely meet anyone who is an artist, a creative or anyone who looks vaguely like I could have an interesting conversation with them."
"I know what you are feeling. I think it is a gift, and a path that is hard to walk. Perhaps it is a yoke you are carrying. Keep walking. These trees have stood for many years. They take time to grow, adapt and evolve in their landscape. I know you stuggle, but just look at the beauty you find all around you. This is the wonder of creativity. Take hold of your creative spirit again. Do not be afraid. Dance like the sunlight dances in this wood today."
"Thank you. I think I needed some encouragement."
"That's fine. It has been good to see you again. Come and talk anytime, anywhere."
"Can I share this?"
"Thank you for this place. I think I will go now and continue on my bike ride."
"My pleasure. Bye bye."