Base camp is my car, it’s the place I return to from each round of drawing. Tea flask, food, art materials, and time to reflect on each process.
First exercise: to walk fast through the forest and landscape to see how that effects the voice in the work, will a faster more energetic pace make for a more energetic drawing and powerful observations? What does the process do to the work and my experience in the forest? Will use digital recording device to begin to use my voice, to record (and then reflect on) what happens.
I found that:
1. walking at a fast pace meant that when I noticed something of interest I didn’t stop to investigate, felt frustrated at not being able to take those other paths, kept to well known paths as there wasn’t the time to decide whether it was possible to take a different route as by the time I’d thought about it I’d already passed it
2. covered more ground than previous days
3. saw more people
4. felt warmer as most of the paths were not under canopy and in sunshine
5. saw more butterflies that followed me on three long sections of path, mostly peacock
6. used the voice recorder more than drawing
7. the voice had more power in that it had more energetic feelings of frustration (at being on main paths not discovering new ones, time taken to complete the walk when I could be discovering new paths, a sense of rushing through it which felt closed (opposite to being still in the forest feeling open to new sights and experiences)
8. the walk was as insightful: i recognised that I rush through other areas in my life thinking that rushing is the same as moving on and achieving, but it isn’t, it’s just rushing, it just feels like fast energy but the sessions being still in the forest achieved as much if not more in terms of drawing and observation. On reflection I like both. I didn’t like adhering to the main path.
Next exercise I chose to return to one of the sights I’d had to walk past:
Beyond the Ash was a small yew grove, beyond this piles of sawn trees, a firepit in a sunlit cleared ground. Sat here a while. Found burnt wood and drew the sirens. It was important to stop rushing. Drawing from memory. Drawing also with ink and using text.
i kept my promise to return
the sirens kept theirs
i heard their core knock at the wind
the trees are dying
Chalara, ash dieback. The trunk had a knocking sound as the tops clashed, easterly wind. Trees were particularly figurative and alive bar the broken slump-like bark.
There were strange grid patterns, strange to me for I associate trees with more of the patterns of spreading rivulets as in the oak above.
On the main path past the tumuli as you head down the West side it descends through yews. Very little undergrowth and a steep bank down the side. Pattern of trees revealed in their shadows, the strong line of a tree and it’s shadow merge, like who we are and the truths revealed by the marks that we leave. This is an SSI area of countryside, the rule being leave it as you find it, leave nothing behind and leave no trace.
Next exercise: Walk normal pace, upright, swing arms up and down, and step long strides, walk with a sense of power in the body. I walked up the West side this time, through the log ampitheatre, behind the ash that leans on the ground. Found an oak caged in yew, as yews grow slowly I couldn’t know which trees where there first, the oak was much bigger and wider. I saw the leg-like root lifted from the ground first, then looked back to see the oak.
her mightiness caged
in bars of young and needy yew that clung
and squeaked and moaned to the wind
but the wind listened only to her
she rose from the earth knee first
chalk scattered the forest floor
she had a promise to keep
In the forest I tried saying then shouting the words I’d written which felt initially nervous. It was windy so not so concerned about visitors hearing. Writing up the text now I’ve added more, the haiku i find a bit limiting, it keeps the voice a whisper and vague whereas with more lines they become more powerful. There is more of the energy of the walk, of frustration and clarity.
1. if the walk on the top of the hills gives a ‘bird eye’ view over the forest, the walk in the trees gives ‘human eye’, think about the ‘toad eye’ – traditional Japanese sumi-e painting views. toad eye would be the films from the forest floor. is there another eye, maybe ‘memory and thoughts’ not visible, revealed in the prose. the unspoken in the relationship between myself and the forest, and in the home.
2. on the material process to experiment with: how to combine digital recordings with drawing mediums
3. other drawing exercises to try, think about materials to record experiences, to create opportunities to engage in different ways, eg physical (drawing through touch not sight – following on from last weeks drawing through sound), drawing with found materials, drawing to express what is seen in the forest and what is felt, to write the words first then say them then express the sounds in mark making (on paper and using found materials).