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Saturday, 30 April 2011

What is Not Working?

It followed me home...  K Howell Pastel on Paper 21 cm x 14 cm
When work is play, what is a holiday?

  • Eating purple broccoli.
  • Revisiting a favourite chamber tomb (Jaded four-year-old comments, Well, there's not much to see in here, is there?).
  • Fishing said child out of a river (unrelated incident. Honestly.). 
  • Recovering the excitement of spotting Iron Age ring forts and remembering this reaction is not universally shared. Why? Why??
  • Picnicking on a long barrow, surrounded by round and bell barrows. Eight-year-old doesn't like the flies, and must be reminded that the people who crafted this landscape with antlers for tools were probably able to get past the insects. Surely she can do the same? People with antlers? She says. Wow! 
  • Singing loudly and often badly while traveling on foot or in the car. Pity the pedestrians in the vicinity. At least in the car, we pass quickly. 
  • Contemplating What is Not Working and finding solutions.
  • Contemplating What is Working, because this is easy to forget.
  • Discovering dragons and making stories out of twigs, because working or not working, this is what I do...
 Happy May Day!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Spring Ahead (with antlers)!

Cloak K Howell Pastel on Paper 21 cm x 14 cm
     Sometimes tree forms suggest antlered creatures; part tree, part animal.
     Antlered animals are part of the forest, and the seasonal bone growth is both an extension of the essential beast and an echo of its environment. The majestic headdress is shed when the bone is dead and no longer of use.
      The anthropomorphic antlered form is very interesting. I like its Celtic manifestation as seen on the Gundestrup Cauldron, known as Cernunnos. He seems very genial, together and, well, flexible. His solidarity with fellow woodland creatures is most clearly shown by his excellent set of antlers. And while he is gripping that snake solidly below the head, it does seem like the snake might be amorous. Hard to tell with reptiles.
     Covered by vascular skin, antler bone is supplied with oxygen and nutrients from the outside until fully formed. Osteoclasts (A bunch of  cells with a Cromwellian aspect shouting, The bone must die!) destroy the antler bone at the base, resulting in shedding, usually in late winter or early spring in preparation for growing a new rack.
     Antlers are a display of hormonal activity, a tool for foraging, a weapon in combat. They must be heavy, and most human antler systems are removable. But antlers for a day; wouldn't that be fun?

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Bridges: A Conversation

Relevant Thoughts in Italics.

Here we are, in a quiet wood, set back from the dog-walkers' track, but NOT FAR ENOUGH. A painter stares at something and makes decisive coloured smears and marks on paper saturated with such activity. Clearly ENGAGED in what she is doing.
Enter, Man In Tracksuit.

MAN: You're drawing.
PAINTER: Yes. Well, painting, but let's not quibble.
MAN: You drawing the bridge?
PAINTER: I can't see the bridge. Can he see the bridge from here? What kind of eyes does he have?
MAN: Most people draw the bridge.
PAINTER: Not from here, they don't.
(Feeling bad for being snarky, PAINTER continues): I'm painting the fallen tree.
MAN: Which one?
Bridge K Howell Pastel on Paper 21 cm x 14 cm
PAINTER: The one on its side. The one that looks a bit like my painting.
MAN: Uh.
A long silence ensues.
MAN: You're using pastels.
PAINTER: I am indeed.
Terrier licks a half stick of prussian blue. Man in tracksuit is oblivious.
MAN: Do you like pastels, then?
MAN: I find them messy.
PAINTER (regarding own purple fingers): Messy can be good. I like messy.
MAN: I can draw.
PAINTER: I imagine you can (Wipes prussian blue stick on denims).
MAN: I have a GNVQ in Art and Design.
PAINTER: Ah (Reaches for permanent red).
MAN: I have lots of drawings, at home.
MAN: Most of them are from 2005 or before.
PAINTER: I see (Reaches for light yellow).
MAN: It's finding the time, you know? To draw.
PAINTER: It doesn't happen unless you do it, does it?
MAN: Life is busy.
PAINTER (whose life is obviously comprised of more hours than the usual twenty-four): Sometimes you have to make time, really.
MAN: Too much on, you know?
PAINTER is silent. Terrier sniffs ochre stick.
MAN (indicates PAINTER's work): That's not bad, really.
PAINTER (expression could be construed as a smile): Cheers. How fortunate that I'm painting this specifically for your approval. How favoured and fulfilled I feel.
MAN: It's very peaceful here.
PAINTER: Hmm. It certainly was.
MAN (indicating a direction): Know where I'll get to if I carry on this way?
PAINTER: I really don't like to say... Eventually, you'll reach the road.
MAN: Ah. Well, enjoy your time.
PAINTER: You as well. As long as I have your blessing oh magnanimous one who walks with the scruffy dog. And I apologise with every fibre of my being for having time when clearly more talented, driven and able people are without such resources.

Truly, a most entertaining excursion.

Monday, 11 April 2011

No Dark Things

Pink Puddle K Howell Pastel on Paper 14 cm x 21 cm
    The forest is a realm of transformation, full of uncertainty and possibility. For a few magical days in spring, as the trees are just coming into leaf, it is a place of complete renewal.
    The light is strong, the colours are freshly peeled and there is a tentative vitality to the wood that, as it will become something assured and lush, cannot last. In celebration of transience, I've painted an elusive pink puddle and Unstoppable rush of trees.
     Like Larkin's trees, Last year is dead, they seem to say, Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
    If this sounds like boundless optimism, I've also been (more typically) working on ancient shapes conjured out of dead wood... but those are for another day.


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Inhabiting Space

Bent Birch K Howell Pastel on Paper 21 cm x 14 cm

Watching the trees grow doesn't sound like a mind-blowing experience, but it is fascinating to see how trees inhabit their space. There's a rhythm to a forest, and all sorts of intriguing shapes, solitary in company.
In a forest, the space between the trees comes alive as well, creating a dynamic interplay between positive and negative shapes. Check out Emily Carr's Old Tree At Dusk. It's an amazing piece of work, and just looking at it makes me wonder why I'm typing and not painting. According to Ms. Sharyn Rohlfsen Udall, author of Carr, O`Keeffe, Kahlo: Places of Their Own, "Carr's trees form the thematic and formal scaffolding upon which her whole oeuvre was constructed."

Which is entirely understandable, when you consider the wealth of inspiration waiting in a forest full of creature-ly trees.