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Showing posts from November, 2019

Beguiled by barnacle geese

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from my Caerlaverock sketchbook


Out on my wanderings today around Caerlaverock, I was much more aware of the big sky down here than I have been so far.
That is a surprise to me since “sky” is what I thought this project was really about after all.

Birds are important, but I thought that was so much to do with their necessary relationship with that big sky.

Of course it’s all to do with the geese effect and in particular barnacle geese.
After all I am here at this time of year especially, to witness at least a tiny part of their overwintering.

They are so present, so distinctive in their gorgeous monochrome plumage and their yelping cries.
When they are flying, I must look up.
It is mesmerising.

I am beguiled by their return each year from breeding grounds in Svalbard.
2716 kilometres they fly.
I love that continuity and constancy.
And that’s the bit that resonates so much.

I have returned to this place too, though I’ve not travelled so far in distance.
But I was only five years old w…

Splashing in Puddles

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It was raining all night.
I know because it was lashing on the skylight windows of my bedroom.

Cosy and comforted, it reminds me always of childhood.
It’s the same sweet recall when I open the window wide to watch for the geese and feel the chilly blast of the wind on my face while I am cocooned in warmth.

It’s only a short walk from the cottage to the WWT site and there’s not much traffic in the lane.
I am accompanied all along with birds rustling and calling in the hedgerows and the near constant background “Goose Music”. (Aldo Leopold’s essay from Round River).
Then I see them.
Black, silvery grey and white wonders beside me in the field.

There are puddles all along the roadside and I take a diversion at every one.
Why would I risk getting my feet wet?

I wander along the main avenue of the site.
Wind is picking up.
Rain can’t be far away again.
The feeling is joyous but still I make a zig zag route around so many large muddy puddles.

But I have wellies on here, not my leaky wal…

It’s important to rise before the dawn

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A rough night’s sleep but happily I was awake before the sun came up.
It’s important to rise before the dawn...

As the sky changes colour emanating from the left of my direct viewpoint, the movement begins.

A flurry of crows land on a nearby tree, each one turned to where the sun is about to appear.
It seems like it must be inherent in their bird consciousness - the wonder and expectations of new day beginnings, for all time.

Then I start to see the dotted trail lines away in the distance, appearing apparently from the inner sky, threading through the brightening light.

I watch and open the window wide to listen.
The geese calls increase, crying the dawn.
Mesmerised, I watch their fabulous mark making in the pink light.

Then the lines move in tangles right over where I am leaning over the windowsill.
I can see the bellies of them - gorgeous shapes as necks stretch out and the constant beating of wings.

The air shifts and the day has begun.



Just how much graphite will I need?

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Packing list for going to Caerlaverock tomorrow:

many layers of clothes
my new fab stripey ankle wellies
bobble hat and gloves and scarf
enough vegetables to make plenty of tasty soup
seed bread from Earth’s Crust in Castle Douglas (and maybe just a bit of focaccia - please?)
far more books than I will ever be able to read in just one week but how can I leave that one or this one or that pile behind?
map
camera
binoculars
sound recorder
every nuanced kind of sketchbook, in various weights and textures of paper, I could find including that gorgeous concertina one
pens - bamboo and other assorted and necessary
pastels
Indian ink
watercolour sticks
brushes with useful water reservoirs

and so much graphite in different formulations that there may well be a global shortage!

Did I ever say how much I love graphite?


just a smidgeon of my packing...

Dreaming of a residency

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The Solway sky was the first sky that I looked up and saw as a tiny infant.
A sky big and open and I was imprinted on it.
My sky...

All last year, I had been dreaming of spending time on my own in some isolated bothy somewhere off the west coast of Scotland in order to feed my work, but then I visited the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site at Caerlaverock here in South-West Scotland.

And so it was, that just over a year ago, with breathless revelation, I started mulling over the possibility of making an artist’s residency for myself, down there on the Solway coast, no more than a couple of miles from where I first lived as a child.

Why had this certainty not occurred to me sooner?

I must have been seduced by romantic ideas of rugged west coast wildness, transforming soft graphite lines into dramatic Hebridean mark making.

But when at last the relevance of the sense of this place slotted into my vision for my practice, there could be no more reckoning.

By the end of 2018 I had devised a …