Last week I collected my Beach Ghosts prints from Artlink in Hull and took a little time on my way back to say hello to the Humber Estuary. I walked briefly on the foreshore almost under the north end of the Humber Bridge. It isn’t the most glamorous foreshore in the world but there is something about that point where land meets water that is captivating whatever the situation.
I took a brisk walk in the sharp wind, making a few quick scribbly sketches before the biting cold took hold of my fingers.
The bank here has the most intriguing erosion control. It has a fluid smooth form and was obviously created using a textile basis filled with concrete that was then hardened. These bulging shapes still have vestiges of their textile origins but are now solid concrete, complete with zips and woven surface texture. It reminded me of the innovative stuff some textile designers and artists have done integrating concrete in their work, for example here, here and here.
I will be demonstrating on the Artists in Action stand at the Knit & Stitch Show in Harrogate this week. The show is on Thursday to Sunday and I’ll be there on Thursday and Friday mornings. There are six artists working on the stand at any one time. We’ll be on stand C590. Do come and say hello. I’ve never done anything like this before and have to admit I’m a bit nervous about having people watch me working. But I was thrilled to be invited to do it and am looking forward to meeting lots of lovely people at the show.
I’ve had a couple of days of meetings, which have been really useful and stimulating. One was about the development of a new collaborative project (more on that another time) and the others were about my main project this year. As a result I have renewed hope about possible funding. I know I keep being vague in these posts about projects I’m planning and that is because I don’t want to announce things until everything is in place... hopefully that won’t be long now.
We’re in the middle of a cold spell here with snow coming and going. Yesterday was particularly wintery, with ice, remnants of last weekends’ snow and then rain just to make things extra slippery. I drove over to Hebden Bridge to see Angie Rogers, an artist who’s work I admire and who was kind enough to give me some time to talk through various aspects of her recent residency.
The drive over the water shed between the Calder and Aire valleys is one I love. You climb up from Haworth, through Oxenhope and then on the the moors that separate the two river systems. Whatever the weather is doing in the valley, suddenly on the moors it can be so different. It gets me every time! Yesterday it was shrouded in mist and rain with the residue of recent snow marking out the features in the landscape. It was bleak, cold and wild – bracing and breathtaking. The subtle colours of the grasses, rushes and exposed peat are interspersed with patches of snow, which make a clean backdrop for stark stems.
Persistent rain made getting out of the car to take photographs a fairly quick affair, but sketches in the warmth of the car were possible.
Coming down off the tops the fields were suddenly visible, but still through mist. A different layby, a different view. Snow drifted along the walls mark out a pattern, almost a negative of the land without the snow. Snow transforms the set of marks that make up the landscape; accentuates different features. It lingers in dips and hollows in fields, revealing something new about the surface of the land.
> Sisinghurst is apparently the most visited garden in England. The trouble with this fact is that it means there are a lot of other people trying to experience this wonderful place at the same time!
It is worthwhile, therefore, to wait until the majority of the coach parties and other hoards have moved on for their tea and then you can really relax into this romantic place.
Of course the ghost of Vita Sackville-West and her unconventional life pervades this garden and the fairytale tower, where Vita wrote, is ever-present in views across the garden. So tempting to lounge about the orchard reading some of the books that were written here or linked with the people who spent time here.
Such a contrast to the exuberance of Great Dixter: here the planting is harmonious and safe, but beautiful for it. The ‘white garden is the most well known of the garden ‘rooms’. My favourite, however, was the ‘cottage garden’ next to the South Cottage and filled with hot reds, oranges and yellows.
Towards the end of the day, after a cup of tea, we returned to the ‘white garden’ and found a shady place to sit and sketch. Finally the pen flowed as it should, un-hindered by the frustrations of earlier in the day.
The dominant colour in the ‘white garden’ is actually green, in all its different permutations and punctuated by the various white flowers. There is also a lot of grey. Many silver-leaved plants are used in amongst those with white flowers. It is all bound together by the strong lines of low box hedging and the faded red brick pathways.
>I was in Cumbria on Saturday, the bit of Cumbria that mingles with the Yorkshire Dales. The weather changed by the minute almost – heavy rain showers, sunshine bringing warmth to the skin suddenly, dramatic, ever-changing clouds with glimpses of intense blue sky between.
Trying to capture something of the movement of the water
Why can’t I sketch more at home? When I’m away on holiday I can get really engrossed in a sketchbook and drawing becomes part of my exploration of a place, part of immersing myself in a location. I’ve often thought I should be able to do that at home too and make drawing a part of my everyday routine. But there is just too much else to do, too many mundane distractions. It is the exception rather than the norm, but I’d like it to be more the norm…
> I had a lovely weekend in Edinburgh with my daughter and my good friend Caroline. It was the first long train journey I’d done with Hazel on her own and it felt like we were embarking on a real adventure when we set off on Friday evening. I love that journey, particularly the section from Newcastle and north. Suddenly the Tyne and the distinctive quayside buildings are revealed through the jumble of bridges. I lived in Newcastle for three years and I was born in the north east, so it always feels a bit like coming home. Then as you go north the coast in closer and closer and there is anticipation of the time you first catch a glimpse of the sea.
There are so many lovely places to go in Edinburgh and we made a good go of sampling its delights.
We went into the Dovecot Gallery, not knowing what was on but found the degree show for Heriot Watt University’s textile course. Well that was a pretty good start to the day as far as I was concerned. There was some lovely work, imaginatively displayed. There were also students demonstrating weaving and knitting, which was a lovely way to engage people visiting the exhibition. Hazel went straight up to the loom and asked if she could have a go!
A highlight for both generations was the National Museum of Scotland. This is a stunning building. I’m sure the exhibits are equally as stunning but as it was such a beautiful day we vowed we’d come back on a rainy day to do the inside. We headed up the the roof where there is a roof garden and the most wonderful views across Edinburgh and beyond.
This gave me lots of food for thought in terms of one of my possible themes for my final year…
After a Swedish lunch we took a bus round to the other side of Arthur’s Seat to a beautiful little haven of a garden. Dr Neil’s Garden was created for the people of Edinburgh but not many seem to know about. It is quiet, apart from the activity of the birds and the rustle of the trees and the reeds that grow by the lake that the garden looks out over.
This certainly isn’t a garden that has been designed to within an inch of its life. It is relaxed and simple with paths that wind around the slope and between terraces. There are numerous places to sit and enjoy the tranquillity.
From here it was a short bus ride to the sea! Fish and chips for tea at the beach at Portobello, followed by a paddle in the evening sunshine – what more could you ask for?
> Today I’ve been with good friends who I last saw a year ago in Northern Spain for their lovely wedding celebration. This time last year we were having a really relaxing and food-filled few days in Cudillero, Asturias with friends old and new. As a late wedding present I made them a little book with copies of the sketches and notes that I made while we were there and I finished it this morning just (literally!) in time to give it to them over lunch.
There were sketches of the fishing boats coming in with their catch and then the catch being auctioned in the fish market…
There were sketches at the beach where various members of the party swam in the very cold sea… There were sketches of the spectacular muddle of a roof-scape in the valley-confined village…
And sketches of the main square where the people of Cuillero spend their time sitting, drinking, eating and putting the world to rights…
Scanning my drawings and cleaning them up on the computer was fairly time consuming but it was actually constructing the book which was the difficult bit. The good quality water colour paper I used is fine to stitch through as long as you’re not using a big wadge of it! Several broken needles and bleeding finders and thumbs later I had a complete book
which I could wrap
and present to my friends.
Book making listening: Schubert quintet in A major and quartet in D minor