Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Woodcuts of Widdop

Here's a slideshow I've put together of a brilliant day at Cliffe Castle Museum yesterday with the art students from Titus Salt School making woodcuts based on their drawings from last week's trip to wild, windy Widdop.

Despite never having done anything like it before, the students quickly grasped the idea and ran away with it.  After getting their heads round the need for reversing the image and thinking in negative/positive, it was heads down for some solid concentrated gouging.  Then the really fun bit, when the ink goes on for the first time and the image is revealed.

The resulting prints are fantastic and perfectly capture the mood of our day at Widdop, so well done all!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Watershed Journey

Since the beginning of April I've been working on a concertina book called Watershed Journey.  Its one of those works that for one reason or another is taking a long time to complete. There have been times when I've felt stuck and I had to cut 2 pages off after spending a week trying to make them right.

I'm using collaged prints, a combination of Woodcut, monoprint and engraved surface print.  The original plan was to make use of a large collection of offcuts and oddments from previous printing sessions but in the end I've had to make some specific prints and so the offcut pile is growing and changing.

So far I've done 12 pages but now I've realised I need to work on the reverse side of the concertina so the book can be displayed standing up and be viewed from both sides.  And so the journey goes on.
These pages are from the start where the emphasis is on winter colours and textures up on the high moor.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Studio work in progress

This is a selection of Watershed images I've got up on my studio wall for inspiration, mainly photographs with a couple of quick sketches and a cyanotype of Widdop water.

I'm still looking for a solution to the problem of how to convey a sense of the conduits winding across the moors.  I guess I may have to settle for the Enfolding Landscape sculptural book representing both the reservoirs and the conduits. See post dated 10th June for photos of the artwork.

I've got so many ideas for work celebrating this landscape but time seems to be running out as everything must be completed by the beginning of September for the exhibition at Cliffe Castle.  The main thing about the space at Cliffe Castle is that its huge and anything small will be lost.

I'm going to remake the Enfolding Landscape book - it will be twice as long and twice as tall, and be double sided with printing on both sides of the paper so there's no blank areas.  This means it can be displayed on a low plinth and be viewed from any angle.  I'll have to cut new, larger blocks and print about 30 sheets of A2 on both sides; so a major undertaking.  I do feel slightly daunted by the physical effort required but know it'll be worth it if I succeed.  I'm really excited by this new development in my work, the 3D print, getting away from flatness.

Another area of experiment continues to be using the router for engraved marks on paper as I love the tactile result.  Here's a kind of sampler page from my sketchbook:

I'm wondering if I can include this kind of mark making in an extended flag book, either instead of woodcut printing or alongside it.  I'm not sure I can achieve this in time for the September exhibition as I've already set myself another huge goal that I've not even mentioned here yet!

Technically speaking I'm Watershed artist in residence from April 2011 until April 2012, and it seems strange to have the exhibition this early on.  I'll carry on producing work long after the exhibition goes up at Cliffe Castle.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Drawing workshop at Widdop

Had a great time at Widdop Reservoir on Tuesday with the art students from Titus Salt school. They worked really hard and seemed to quite enjoy it.  The grandeur of the setting at Widdop is very inspirational I think.

It was pretty windy when we set up on the dam, so difficult for doing A1 charcoal drawings with no easels or boards, hunkered down on the ground.  Thank goodness for the plastic sheets I brought, and the enthusiasm of the students. I was impressed by their willingness to have a go, making large drawings of the lichen and plant life that grows on the dam wall. Staff member Heather Graham also joined in.

I loved this drawing of just the outer edge of the lichen, a great use of the smudged line, and an ideal way of using charcoal for interesting effects.

The huge rock face above the reservoir was looking especially fantastic, all purple and green and dramatic.  The local sheep took an active interest in the drawing activities.

After lunch the weather had gone off a bit so we moved round to a more sheltered spot on the north side of the res where masses of lovely foxgloves are in full bloom just now.

Next week we're transcribing the drawings into woodcuts at Cliffe Castle and I can't wait to see what comes out.  The students always manage to surprise with their unusual ideas and inventive approach so it should be a good day.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

More photos from Leeming Valve Tower

Its all about sharp angles and circles in this series of photos documenting my tour of the valve tower at Leeming Reservoir near Oxenhope.

Water - it seems so simple when you drink a glass of it without even thinking about the complex systems we've devised to get it there, uncontaminated and clear.  The giant rivets on the outflow pipe are a reminder of the powerful forces of nature we seek to control.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Inside Leeming Valve Tower

At last, after years of curiosity, I finally get to see the view looking out from inside a reservoir tower. And what a surprise to discover that inside not only is there no giant plug on a chain, there's nothing much at all, except a large scary pipe under the grating that leads down to the water and ultimately underneath the reservoir to the outlet further down the valley.

I went to Leeming with Anna and Gavin from Pennine Prospects and we joined John the very pleasant and informative engineer for a mini tour of the doings.  I'll post more pictures soon but now need to concentrate on tomorrow's creative field trip to Widdop reservoir with the Titus Salt art students.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Low water

I've been on a recce to Widdop Reservoir in preparation for taking a group of A level students from Titus Salt School on a creative field trip there soon.

Despite the ferocious downpours we've had recently the reservoir is lower than I've seen it for ages.
So here's a view you'd never normally be able to take as you'd be well under water.

A few minutes after taking this photo the ground suddenly gave way and we sank up to our knees in cold peaty mud, so venturing onto the shore is not something I'd recommend.  For a moment I thought we were going to disappear into the Grimpen Mire, it was scary.

All sorts of interesting textures and colours have been revealed by the retreating water, big sheets of golden red stone and lumps of disintegrating wood.

The lichens on the dam wall still look amazing but the micro landscape of moss I photographed much earlier in the year has mostly been dessicated.  This is what it looked like in late January:

Now the little green pincushions are mostly shrivelled. Its strange to be surrounded by all these signs of dryness, whilst struggling to keep my camera out of the rain and getting soaked by walking through damp ferns and rushes.  There's just no predicting whats in store from one week to the next.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Leeming Reservoir Valve Tower

For such a long time I've been curious about the valve towers on many of the reservoirs in the Watershed Landscape area.  They come in lots of different styles, some like cute little bandstands or gazebos such as this one at Leeming Reservoir and others like castles, chapels, watchtowers and prisons.

I always wondered what criteria governed their design aesthetics - what was the motivation for making them ornate or not and what exactly are they there for. I guess their function is something to do with controlling the water outflow and I like to imagine maybe a giant sink plug inside or some kind of Heath Robinson whirring mechanism.

Of course the enticing little bridges that connect them to the shore are strictly out of bounds, with locks and bolts and razor wire to keep you out.  Being forbidden only serves to make them more appealing to me and I really want to see whats inside!

All being well I'll get my wish on Monday when I've got permission from Yorkshire Water to accompany an engineer over the water into Leeming.  I feel childishly excited at the prospect and hope for kindly weather and a co-operative camera.