Wednesday, 30 July 2014


A delightful selection of vegetables harvested either from the allotment or from the garden a few days ago. I am probably going to give up the allotment because it is easier and more time efficient to grow things in our new garden.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Rosebay Willowherb and Gatekeeper Butterfly

One of my favourite flowers grows alongside a bridleway near Preston (Herts). Today I sketched some rosebay willowherb that was growing up to around 8ft high amongst some bracken and brambles. The four petaled pale pink flowers with four deep magenta sepals form at the top of a long single stem that was pale green on the underside and a deep red on the upper or sun-facing side. The long slender leaves vary in shade from dark to lime green - often tinged with yellow and with bright red tips. The colours are very vivid if you look close up. The flower spikes reach up above me and when flowering has finished the 10cm or so long seed pods develop which gradually split open from the bottom of the flower spike upwards to reveal the tiny brown seeds on delicately thin silky threads (apparently up to 80,000 per plant). They seem to grown well here but I don't remember the soil having been disturbed for many years.

The brambles seem very rampant this year. The long, strong growing stems seem to be on a mission escape the hedgerow and arc out over the bridleway. The blackberries in front of me are still a deep red and only a few have begun to turn black. A gatekeeper butterfly lands on some of the flowers and sits long enough for me to take the attached photo.

Sunday, 20 July 2014


Thought I would spend some time drawing on the iPad today and this appeared after a few hours.

Swifts and Stories

Swifts are ‘screaming’ above me as they dart though the warm July evening sky. I am inspired by the speed and agility of these birds that are rarely seen in close up. I wonder how they perceive the world around them? When I watch small birds and insects moving with such apparent speed relative to their size it almost seems as though they adhere to different laws of physics. They seem to be able to process information about their position in their environment so much more quickly than we humans can. They can run, fly or move with lightening agility between, what might seem to us if we were that size, such difficult terrain. I know that it is probably all down to ratios of size and mass and other things, but even so their perception of their environment must be quite different to ours. At the other end of the scale are plants and trees. How do they interpret their environments? I am not sure I would really class them as conscious individuals but they are still seen by us in human terms as living things. For an old oak tree living for potentially several hundred years in one place there is not the need to rush around like an ant might do on the woodland floor, but it still is ‘aware’ of its environment in terms of light, shade, moisture, nutrient availability etc and is able to adapt to changes where necessary.

Our perception of the world is unique in the way that we as human kind sees it and also how we see it as individuals. Our lives are spent trying to make sense of the earth we walk and attempting to build a sustainable life for as long as possible. On our journeys we each build upon our unique personal story and it is that story that creates a framework for how we view our lives too. Like all other living things we have to find food and shelter and yet we have evolved to do so much more. We have become a species that seeks constant innovation: the desire to better our place in the world. These are our own individual stories.

I have returned to my journaling again. This is an exercise in writing three pages of A4 longhand each day on anything that springs to mind. My motivation this time is to seek healing from what I think is a partly anxiety related illness. I have had chronic tummy problems since childhood and I decided to revisit my writing as a way of opening up a communication with myself and to try and break out of some boundaries that were closing in.

After a month and a half of writing two of the themes that have emerged are these: the need to recognise that each of us (humans and others) has a story - a story that has shaped the way that we think, act and live. Perhaps I don’t always recognise the stories that shape and form others around me. Also, I am trying to revisit my spiritual life. This has struggled a little recently due to a lack of suitable inspiration and motivation, but now that the summer is here I feel more refreshed and willing to explore a few things.

My personal artwork had to take a back step whilst I began the journaling. I can’t do everything I want to do and I have a whole bunch of ideas that I am awaiting to forge into something cohesive.

When meditating and appreciating Nature, observation and reflection comes alongside slowness and being more aware of the environment around me. There is an appreciation of space: the empty space and the space taken up by the humans and non-humans who belong in it. There is a language of discovery, a sense of beauty and awe and a feeling of belonging in the natural world. This is part of my story and after a good few years on this earth I feel I should open the doors and walk out again and discover new things. For me, it is a slow process. Things happen over weeks and months, time is almost like a natural time - a time that flows differently from the minutes and hours that govern commercial deadlines and the demands of family life. Like an oak tree that stands in a field, I just need to wait and see what happens.

Saturday, 19 July 2014


A light summer rain delicately touches the many trees around me. Through the warm summer air the faint drops of water fall - just enough to create a softness of sound that fills the space. The diverse shapes and greenness of the many trees in the ornamental park form a frame for my field of view with a water lily filled pond and a soft close-mown lawn before me. Wood pigeons coo amongst hidden branches and tits and blackbirds flit here and there. A few butterflies, undeterred by the rain, create the only other movement on the otherwise motionless vista. Meadowsweet, one of my favourite wild flowers, borders the pool with splashes of cream. I love to perceive spaces around me. It is not just the observation that inspires me but the sense that I can sort of feel the whole 3-dimensional existence of the space. I can sense the shape and form of all that is around me and imagine that I am like a bird: able to fly and explore the space rather than being limited to the static place from which I observe. I suppose it is like imagining an out of body experience where it is possible to float up, touch the top most leaves of a tree and experience the place from all angles. There is so much to look at. I always remember as a child being fascinated by looking out of large windows onto the garden. I could sit for hours and just look. There is none of the draw that digital media exerts whereby emotions and adrenaline are fuelled by the desire to know everything about the world and who is doing what, when and to whom. This takes a different sort of seeing and fulfils a different visual and psychological appetite.

Why does this being still and just looking appeal to me? It is a form of meditation that requires me to forget who I am and experience the presence of 'others'. I have been thinking a lot in my daily journalling about the idea of beauty and awe. It is something that I am learning to find in everyday things around me, not just the big and wonderful. To me there is almost more beauty and awe to be found in a roadside verge than in a stunning Lake District view. Places where nature is visibly evolving in ecosystems independent of man's involvement.

The sketch of the tree was just a bit of playing around on the iPad when I arrived here. As I look around me I am deeply aware of the colours and patterns made by the different component parts of the vegetation. I notice how each of the plants occupies their particular space and habitat around the pond. The rain has stopped now and the light is brightening. I wonder what I can learn from this place? I want to walk out and dance barefoot on the soft damp green grass before me and experience the freedom the space provides. And you know what? After a week of being sat in front of a computer screen in a stuffy office I am going to do just that!

Roses at Wrest Park

Working on the iPad is so different to using my sketchbook. Although the lines are often not as accurate as if drawn with a pen on paper, the freedom to use varied line widths is a great advantage. Today I cycled to Wrest Park and enjoyed a god day sketching and writing there. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014


The evening is warm, but the overcast sky and brisk breeze brings with it a hint of possible rain. The light is fading as I pull an old wheelbarrow to in front of the summerhouse whose doors are open to welcome the summer night. The barrow has a layer of bricks in the bottom and on these I have built a fire with logs from the woodpile. The fire is lit and it takes only a few minutes before the logs are well ablaze and flames are reaching up warms with wild energy. Sparks occasionally jump out and add to the spectacle. As the darkness draws in so the firelight warms the woodwork of the summerhouse with a deep orange glow and the fire settles to a gentle steady burn that takes all possibility of a slight chill away. 

The garden feels incredibly peaceful. The low roar of the gentle flames is reflected in the sound of the background town traffic. Not far way the peace is broken by the crackle of some fireworks - presumably a small celebratory display of some sorts. Apart from this my peace is undisturbed. 

With me I have my drum. I haven't played it for several years. I never played it in our old garden, it never seemed right and I always felt self-conscious as neighbours were often moving about their gardens at night. Here, in the new house, the end of the garden seems much more private and remote and so it was with a gentle hand that I felt comfortable in returning to an old friend. So, by the warm light of the glowing logs I played and just relaxed into a special time of peace and reflection. 

I thought about how our earthly existence most likely originally began with fire and to fire it will return. In the middle of this we have come to an existence where by fire has become to be something more of something managed by man though nature still has the ultimate power to use it as she will. We are drawn to fire, we are mesmerised by its beauty yet destructive power. It creates, yet it destroys. To me it is a symbol of pain and also creativity that brings healing.

The fire burned down to just a pile of deep red charcoal and I was half tempted to sleep out beside it, but I was rather in need of a good night's sleep as the next day I would be out on the bike all day and I didn't want to get too tired. The fire and the drum were my friends this evening and we shared a wonderful time together.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


This is a close up of some blackfly on a thistle that I found by the side of the road when out for a bike ride a few days ago. I was just intrigued by the pattern the insects had made. The adult blackfly were all feeding from the upper part of the main stem and all facing downwards, as were the baby blackfly. Being quite fond of patterns, I liked the way that the insects were all spaced out as if following a set placement at a dining room table. Often when I see these on runner beans or other plants in the garden they are usually massed together in clumps. I just liked this spatial arrangement and it looked rather more interesting in real life as I only clearly photographed part of the thistle