Tuesday, 26 April 2011

An Easter Plover

Uninterrupted wandering through the Watershed lands during this spell of lovely Easter weather has provided some marvellous sights and sounds and none more magical than this Golden Plover's nest on the high moor.

We briefly lost the faint path when suddenly a bird rocketed away, skimming low.  My eagle eyed and informed companion spotted the eggs so I snatched this quick shot with a telephoto lens before quietly retreating and leaving the area rapidly to allow the parent back as soon as possible.  We decided to take a different path on our return leg of the walk to ensure the bird was left in peace and were rewarded by the sound of a Curlew nearby.

This just shows how vulnerable ground nesting birds are and why its important to keep to the paths at this time of year. Its so sad to hear today's news of fires on the nearby Ovenden and Rishwoth moors. You can really notice how dry everything is on the uplands right now.

The high moors wouldn't be the same without the unmistakeable soundtrack of bubbling curlew song, difficult to describe but never forgotten once heard.  Listen to it here.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Engraving on paper

Many plants in the meadows alongside the edge of the moor are bursting into life now, yet these brambles are still dominated by last years old scratchy growth.  Their prickly tangles make me think of the impenetrable domains of fairytale.

I enjoy drawing with my cordless engraver.  The tip rips into the paper (like a thorn in skin) and it takes a bit of getting used to, but I love the lines that result, they have an affinity with the fuzzy monoprint line.

Another exciting feature is that the engraved marks are especially absorbent so any applied paint comes out darker than the smooth paper surrounding them.

In this close up its hard to distinguish between the cast shadows of the brambles and my drawing inspired by them.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

My Watershed Landscape

I never imagined I'd ever call myself a reservoir nerd, but yesterday found myself using exactly that term when discussing plans for this project.  For many years I've been walking in the South Pennines and have always been drawn to the reservoirs up on the moors.  There's something about these large bodies of water, they have a strange haunting quality connected with their isolation, and a magical way of intensifying light whether completely still and crystalline or dancing in the wind.

Blackstone Edge Reservoir

Feeding the reservoirs are a complicated system of drains and conduits - the catchwaters - constructed channels or mini canals that silently run for miles and miles around the tops, carrying the reflections of sky and clouds along with them, conducting light as well as water.  You can walk along them mesmerised and letting your thoughts slide away over their long mirrored surfaces.

Rishworth Drain

And adding intrigue to the mix are the odd little reservoir towers, all different but basically the same, so tempting me to try my own version of a Bernd and Hilla Becher photographic work.  The Bechers were German artists who systematically recorded industrial architecture such as blast furnaces, water towers and pit heads, presenting them in a grid structure in black and white that looks great.

Piethorne Valley

Leeshaw Reservoir

The official Watershed Landscape straddles the Yorkshire/Lancashire border stretching all the way from Marsden Moor in the south to Ilkley Moor in the north and takes in a whole swathe of reservoirs, some of which I'd never heard of. I hope to visit them all over the next few months and made a great start last weekend when I walked to Green Withens for the first time.

Friday, 8 April 2011

What I do

My specialist area is printmaking and I have worked in all the major processes - etching, screenprinting, lithography and relief printing.  For the past few years I've been concentrating on making woodcuts.
Alongside the printmaking, I find that drawing and photography are central to my practice. As you can imagine paper is a material I love using and I know quite a lot about it.

Increasingly I like to make Artist's Books where I design and create the book structure as well as the content. I particularly enjoy working with the concertina format because you can stretch it out and see all the pages at the same time or stand it up to make a sculptural object. A concertina book is great for telling the story of a journey, the sights, sounds and experiences along the way, so will be an ideal medium for  conveying my ideas about the Watershed landscape as I go on my long walks between the reservoirs.

At this early stage in the residency I'm not entirely sure what I will be producing for the exhibition at Cliffe Castle with writer Char in September, but I know that hand-made unique books will feature.  My main aim at the beginning is a blitz of experimention with materials, in my studio and more importantly, out in the landscape.

Here's a mini book I made a while ago called 'Tumbling'.  The artwork originated in a series of woodcut prints that have subsequently been layered digitally. The 'story' is simply the idea of being up on the moor on a late summer's afternoon and rolling down hill through the long blonde grass.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Inspired by Landscape - The Watershed Project

The official start of the Year 2 residency and highly appropriate that its April 1st since the trope of the Fool as an innocent vagabond associated with wilderness, new beginnings and the joy of discovery makes an interesting jumping off point for me and fits in with the approach I aim to take during the project.

I'm following on from Year 1 resident artist Sally Barker and author Char March will be taking on the role of resident writer from poet Andrew McMillan. Sculptor Sally has done some fantastic work with her photo montages so do take a look at her blog via the link on the right.

Inspired by Landscape is a 3 year project initiated by Pennine Prospects, a regeneration organisation, providing 3 artists and 2 writers with 40 day residencies to develop their own work and to encourage others to explore and enjoy the uplands of the South Pennines.