December is always a busy month, with a rush of open studios and end of term shenanigans. I did manage to carve out some time between Christmas and New Year to reflect on the year past and the year ahead – you can read more about this on my blog here: flyingcreature.wordpress.com
January proved to be a quiet month, giving me time to start a few things and begin to plan for the year ahead - it looks like it is going to be a busy one!
I began a large scale charcoal drawing in the studio, here it is in progress:
The piece is the beginning of what I hope will be a sustained project considering the idea of 'shifting baseline syndrome', a concept first introduced to me in George Monbiot's recent book, Feral. Feral is a manifesto for a re-wilding of the planet and a re-wilding of the human psyche - I would thoroughly recommend it.
I was sceptical at first about the concept of re-wilding, dismissing it as a romantic, nostalgic notion. However, after reading Feral I am pretty convinced of the importance of re-wilding to the sustained health of the natural world and our relationship with it.
'Shifting Baseline Syndrome' is a fancy phrase for a simple idea, it refers (broadly) to a common human failure to understand the diversity of the natural world outside our own lifetime and experience. The 'baseline' of childhood becomes the point we (conservationists and campaigners) strive to return to, without acknowledging how the natural world might have been before our birth. I think it is fair to say that nearly everyone on the planet today was born into a world which was already severely depleted.
The visual implications of this are very exciting, to imagine a world abundant with flora and fauna beyond anything experienced in my lifetime. My plan is to create a body of work which deals with this concept imaginatively – perhaps from the past or the future? Watch this space...
I've also been out drawing since Christmas – a bright, bitterly cold day near Aberlady produced this drawing of a fallen tree made in a wood full of stunted trees, goldcrests and blackbirds:
I am looking forward to spending a week in April near Glen Affric on a conservation week for Trees for Life, a fantastic Scottish based charity working to restore the Caledonian forest. No mean task, but they are making amazing progress, and I hope to get to know the wildlife and landscape of a new area of Scotland a bit better during my time there.
I regularly check the local birding website, Birding Lothian, for recent sightings to see if there is anything I should be heading out to draw. In January a water rail was reported to have been seen on the pond at Inverleith Park, so I headed off with my bike and sketchbook to see if I could spot one of Britain's shyest species! I was delighted to find it in full view when I arrived at the pond – an inner city sanctuary for many water birds, they have a wild bit at one end which on this day was home to the water rail, a pair of mute swans, some moor hens and a host of restless house sparrows. I didn't manage to get any drawing done as the park was busy and the water rail quickly disappeared into the reeds, but I did get this photo which gives a sense of how fine its shape and colouring is.
There are a few exhibitions in the pipeline offering an opportunity for me to show my work to new audiences:
In April I hope to have some work on display in Windermere through G1 Art. It will be very nice to be exhibiting in Cumbria again.
Also in April I will be sending a different body of work up to the far north east of Scotland to be exhibited in Lyth Arts Centre, very close to the RSPB reserve at Dunnet Head and to the ferries which take people across to Orkney. My work will be on display from April to October and I am hoping to make a trip at some point to visit the centre and have a look around the local area.
In May I will be at the Scottish Bird Fair manning a stall with fellow artist, Leo du Feu, which will be a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and have a good look round what promises to be a fascinating weekend.
Sketchbooks into Print, Coburg House, Edinburgh, April 24th and 25th 2015;
A sketchbooks into print weekend workshop at the wonderful Pick One Studios in Coburg House Art Studios, Leith. This is where I have my studio so students will have the opportunity to have a look at my working space and my own development work over the course of the weekend.
Ink wash drawing, Old Sleningford, June 6th and 7th 2015;
An ink wash workshop at this beautiful location in Yorkshire, looking at work with ink outdoors and developing sustained, lively mixed media pieces back in the studio. More information on their website: http://www.oldslen.co.uk/courses2015.html
Phew – after that I think I will need August to recover and get back to my own work...watch this space for more news on that and do get in touch if you want any information about upcoming exhibitions or teaching that I am involved in.