Walks With Other Artists.
Richard Draper, Photographer.
March 5th, 2018.
Richard and I discovered each other’s work via Instagram. I think I was scrolling through the #walkingartist hashtag and found images of the Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest road. Or maybe he was, I don’t remember, but it’s all there on Instagram somewhere. The Ridgeway runs partially through Wiltshire, which is my neighbouring county, so I figured that Richard might be an artist I could walk with. It transpired that Richard and I are both MA students at the same art school in Bristol, so my original thought was that we would meet there and chat about our projects. After a brief email exchange it became obvious that the best thing to do would be for me to travel to his home near Avebury, in Wiltshire, to walk a route plotted by him through the landscape that most informs his work.
We walked part of the Ridgeway which, at 5000 years old is Britain’s oldest road. We crossed and then walked along the impressive Wansdyke, a relatively modern earthwork from Anglo-Saxon times, named after Woden. The dyke, similar in design to Offa’s Dyke, is thought to have formed the Mercia-Wessex border in that pre-illuminated age. We talked about the human effort involved in constructing such structures, and the alluring mystery of the Dark Ages. Richard explained to me that Wiltshire was the ‘wild shire’, on account of its vast open spaces. There is much level or even ground here, though this shapely landscape is anything but flat, often falling away steeply or rolling in waves that decrease in scale towards the valley floor. As we came down from Wiltshire’s highest point, Milk Hill, I shared my recent discovery that the greened humps surrounding us were actually overgrown tree stumps, which I learnt on the Pennine Way last year. And of course I include my obligatory terrible picture of a red kite riding an updraft. Richard took me to see the Alton Barnes White Horse, whose picture I have chosen not to share, on account of the Ordnance Survey satellite view being much better. As we headed back to Richard’s home we diverted along the muddiest track my boots have yet seen and stopped for a selfie by the conical Silbury Hill, which I was reliably informed had been so thoroughly excavated during the latter half of the 20th century that its roof had fallen in. We walked alongside the crystal clear waters of what Richard referred to as the Winterbourne, but the map calls the River Kennet, though it was more a burn (or bourne?) than a river, and ended up back at Richard’s family home where we ate soup and discussed Richard’s work. His Photography centres on his experience of the landscape, but for me, Richard’s written account of walking the Ridgeway in both directions was something else – it spoke of walking, and of being within the landscape that inspired it. See more of his work on Instagram @richarddraper38 and his website.
Richard brewed a coffee when I arrived at his lovely family home, and baked a loaf of bread, which we ate later with soup and cheese.
We discussed the temptation of kit, lightweight, flexible, hard wearing etc, but agreed that really the walking is the thing, and it’s difficult to get too carried away by the paraphernalia.
Richard’s wife, Anna, was equally welcoming and was happy to sit and discuss my project and our day’s walk. Anna has embarked on a year long project of writing a limerick a day, which is worth following on Twitter @AnnaQuarendon. She wrote this one for us while we were out in the elements…
Though it looked quite like rain, there’s no balking
When two men determine on walking
Admiring the scenery
Hill side and greenery
Just enough breath left for talking
I also met their big ginger cat, who was lovely but whose name I didn’t catch.
All in all a successful first walk, in which we discussed both Richard’s and my work, the nature of our chosen mediums, the difficulty with paying to show work, the joy of walking and being able to get away from the world, allowing ideas, thoughts, and feelings room to breathe. We chatted about walking artists and about public speaking. We even discussed our home lives and origins, and what led us to our current situations. We barely approached the big question of the project, ‘what’s the difference between an artist and a non-artist walking the landscape?’ But then maybe that’s the point – made by Anna at the end of our day – answers to that one will emerge as the project progresses, and maybe I should be walking with non-artists too!
This write-up was originally posted on Instagram here, and here. I’ve essentially re-posted my Instagram post here, because to a greater extent than ever, now that I have separated my personal life and my art work on there, it seems to be the place that I do my thinking. There and out walking, that is. I’ll be writing about this soon, as well as posting about Walk 002 with Simon Lee Dicker, this Sunday.