Wednesday Jan 30th
I set off with two long sheets of paper (150gsm)
Eager to get going – that was as far as my planning got. Really I should have taken more paper. My best work however often comes from a place where there has been minimal planning; when the seed of an idea takes its own course.
What I did know was that I wanted to sculpt the landscape out of the paper. Shape and tear the top edge to create a line that represented the wispy and undulating line of the hedges, trees and distant hills; the negative space above the frayed edges of the paper thus representing the sky.
The trees curve and bent over to form a covered track. As the track turns to the left it is framed by a tall hedge, this creates a hollow arc – a ‘hole’ that contains the sky. I needed to decide whether to draw this negative shape (when I came to sketch onto the sculpture) or whether it should be torn out. I plumped for the sculpted option, but I questioned at this stage whether this was the right thing to do.
Back in the studio I considered the options for construction – how to keep the essence of a sketch book but to also have a strong three dimensional form that the viewer could interact with visually – an impactful spatial dimension.
The separate pages would need to be physically connected but have a flexibility and length; I needed a method of connection that would enable the pages to separate and metamorphasise from a book into a sculpture.
Friday 1st Feb
Laid down some watercolour washes and went out: lots of thinking about construction. A realisation that I needed to sketch onto the backs of the pages- so that the sculpture could be viewed from both sides. Theses sketches could be the reverse of the walk – the walk back from these same points.
Monday 4th Feb
I decided to sculpt another three strips to represent the return of the walk. These would be connected to the reverse of the first three. The reverse of each strip is painted blue, so that any overlaps or exposed paper become the sky.
Tues 5th Feb
I glued the strips together – only on the bottom half, so that the tops are disconnected. This created an added 3D element, conveying the essence of a layered landscape. How do I continue? Further washes of watercolour to create some deep colours? Or start with the drawing?
A few days break from working on the project hinders the speed at which I can return to it. After a brief spell of morning TV, the drive to pack my rucksack soon returns. I decided on a plan of action, fix the sheets together with a staple – I carefully bend a fold, that will enable the pages to be turned and then staple twice along a faint straight pencil line. I don the wellies and set off.
It is a cold morning; there is a stream of elderly dog walkers. The numbing fingers, the threat of a con-versation about the weather and being observed at work inspires my brain to think fast; and my fingers and hand work with speed and dexterity. The marks are dynamic and instinctual, just what I wanted.
I manage three of the drawings and back in the studio I am really pleased with the results: a crucial turning point in the work. I really like the contrasts between the subtle watercolour and the expressive mark making; it is coming to life.
Tuesday 12th February
Another cold day – my usual morning walk postponed until the late afternoon due to a much over due get together with an old friend.
The light would start to fade soon and the sky was already dark with snow clouds. The tracks had turned to mud baths because of the melted weekend snow.
Afternoon time brings a different group of dog walkers up the track and I am sure that I spot a poacher, carrying what looks like a dead rabbit, hanging from his hand. The man skulks along the other side of the hedge, away from prying eyes.
Despite the biting air I have a steely determination to finish this stage of the drawing. Rapid hand movements create more dynamic gestures. I returned home as the evening was drawing in. Proud of my work and the quality of the mark making; and the impact of the pieces – the layers of landscape, journeys, tracks winding, trees framing, hills leading. The six scapes connected, reading from one to the other and back again.
Tomorrow begins the decision of colour.
Weds 13th February
Some colour goes on to each scape. As much as I liked the subtlety of the pencil and watercolour washes, I felt there was a need for some sweeps of yellow sunlight and vivid blue tracks that were re-flecting the light of the sky on their puddles; a palette to intimate the beautiful winter shades that are the bare bones of the trees and hedgerows.
Thurs 14th February
It’s finished. I am really really pleased.