field sketching

Alice Fox field sketch with cabbage and walnut

Since the excitement of my Tide Marks exhibition going up and opening last week there has been a period of catching up, both with myself and with a few things that had to be set aside while I got the exhibition prepared.  A week of half term holiday for the kids means time away with family and some welcome walks in the countryside near my parents’ home.  I set myself a little challenge on these walks: to use only what I found to make colour in my sketchbook.  Along with a single drawing pen and then the addition of some home-made walnut ink I managed to make a surprising number of different colours.

The things that I made marks with included: mud, sticks, leaves, chestnut leaf stalks, dandelion flowers, elderberries, haws, hips, sloes, conker (horse chestnut) cases, privet berries, cabbage leaf, blackberries.

Alice Fox field sketches and studio table

 

edgelands

Alice Fox train tracks

I’ve really enjoyed reading Edgelands by Paul Farley & Michael Symmons Roberts: a wonderfully playful mix of observations and poetic writing about those in between places that are not quite city, not quite countryside, not quite classifiable as one thing or another.

in their words:

Somewhere in the hollows and spaces between our carefully managed wilderness areas and the creeping, flattening effects of global capitalism, there are still places where an overlooked England truly exists, places where ruderals familiar here since the last ice sheets retreated have found a way to live with each successive wave of new arrivals, places where the city’s dirty secrets are laid bare, and successive human utilities scar the earth or stand cheek by jowl with one another; complicated, unexamined places that thrive on disregard, if we could only put aside our nostalgia for places we’ve never really known and see them afresh.  (p 10)

Edgelands are constantly shifting and being re-developed.  That’s part of what makes them dynamic, hard to pin down.  Some crop up in pockets close to city centres, where waste ground and industrial decline has offered space for the edgelands to self-seed. (p 213)

When I walk to my studio I go along part of the Leeds Liverpool canal, along the back of industrial buildings, offices, under roads, beside railway.  This is a classic example of an edgeland, an un-cared for piece of land that is pretty much left to its own devices, complete with rubbish, graffiti, weeds, ducks, magpies, blackbirds…  And this is the magic, the wildlife that just gets on with things.  The resilience and sheer bravery of some of the plants you find in these scruffy places, pushing up through cracks and flowering away no matter what, brings an enchantment to these walks and the sudden flit of a long-tailed tit can make my day.

Alice Fox pansies in the cracks

In Robert MacFarlane’s The Wild Places, having visited some of the most remote parts of the UK, he comes to recognise the wild all around him in his local landscape.  This is certainly true for me too.  While the call of the coast is never far from my mind and the lure of remoteness is always tempting, it is the wild of my streets and pathways that keeps me engaged with my landscape on a day to day basis.

Further reading: Weeds, Weeds & Wildflowers

Alice Fox stone and growth

antidote

Alice Fox winter blossom

 

My kitchen has been filled with the most beautiful fragrance this past week.  I brought a couple of twigs back from my parents’ garden (Viburnum, I now know) and they have these delicate pink and white flowers on them, a bit raggle tangle and scruffy, but gorgeous with it.  They have been quite a focus this week and their perfume has been such an antidote to the grey damp weather outside the house.

In a pink frame of mind I made the most of a load of avocados that needed eating and used their skin and pits to dye some strips of paper and fabric.  Again, this was a creative antidote to the period of relative inactivity over Christmas.  I didn’t want to just dye the strips, I wanted to make lines along them.  I am more concerned with mark and changes in quality of the dyed mark than getting an all-over colour.

Alice Fox avacado skin & pit dyed strips lined up

The skewers were to help my little tubes stand up in the dye bath.  Once dyed I enjoyed playing about with the arrangement of the bundles.  They stood up beautifully and had an almost ceramic quality to the forms (reminded me a little of Edmund de Waal’s lined up pots).

Alice Fox avacado skin & pit dyed strips from above

There was a playfulness to the process, which I enjoyed.  The kitchen table was experiencing quite a lot of playfulness at the time – look carefully and you’ll find a stork sitting on top of a crocodile: part of my son’s and my drawing project over the holidays.

Alice Fox avacado skin & pit dyed strips

The rolls are still drying out.  I’m looking forward to opening them up once they’ve properly done so.