Monday, 7 June 2021


 I've talked about my field over several months now, the highs and lows of weather, the growth of hedgerows and plants, the first birdsong and other wildlife living more secretly there.  

I had a tutorial with Sian a week ago, the chance to reset my thinking. So in addition to making my usual observations, so good for settling the mind, I'm going  to make a walking record.  I've made a long paper strip four inches wide, rolled round a small tube and have a collection of media, though I'm hoping to find a feather or stick which can be dipped in walnut ink.  It's quite a balancing act.  Making marks to denote my paces is fine.  Adding bird song to it is manageable.  But recording wildflowers not so, yet it's what I want to do.  What I need is a small version of an ice-cream vendors tray!  Then I'll be able to store all my recording implements and keep anything I find.  Still this is the first time and the results are satisfying.  I feel as if I've produced a field translation scroll.


As yet there are only my paces with bird song accompaniment.  I've marked significant trees and wild flowers that I noticed with crosses, but a combination of juggling and porous paper meant the exercise fell short.  I've made a scroll in more robust paper, white this time, and will try again.  I should not be too self-critical as the marks I've made on the paper I really like.


Sian told me to leave my camera at home.  I haven't completely done that, but left it in the car.  So, back at my starting point I look at my to do list.  I bury small pieces of calico, trying strips to the trees, hoping that the poor weather forecast will bring about change in the cloth.  I mark make, quite satisfyingly, and record shadows with walnut ink (very blurry), make others out of the wind with a wax crayon.  This sounds, and truth to tell, feels like a scatter gun approach, but it will settle down I'm thinking as I sift through the results and decide what needs following up or adding to when I'm home, like making some fine pen markings on the charcoal sketches, as seen below.




It's time to turn for home, but it doesn't seem right to leave without doing a circuit of the field.  I walk as far as my walking record and continue.  Flies hover in the air.  A pigeon swoops, just checking.  And I can see in front of me a bag of skin, stripped leg bones flexed -- a hare.  Was this the one I saw last week?  I am shocked by the sight, though not surprised to see it: last week's local news had talked of men involved in hare-coursing and their arrest.  Such a sadness washes over me.

Chapter 3 : Texture and Relief in Paper

 I could re-title this post Looking, Looking and Yet More Looking.  Remove colour from the equation.  Use only white papers, which is challenging; even a range of tissue papers can prove hard to shape into the subtleties of form found in nature -- stalks are not just stalks, they might be tubes, their surfaces striated or marked in some other way; they might be hard and furrowed or angled.  Whole surfaces requiring a range of responses.  But, of course, this is the purpose of the exercise and it is intriguing.  Here then are my six samples.

Before that though, a word about photography. I was very much hoping to show shadows in my images; they are so much a part of my field experience.  However, in Norfolk recently we have had only brightness rather than actual sunshine so you'll notice in some cases I've had to resort to artificial light, hence the difference in colour.



So here is Dandelion, made in crisp white tissue.  Each leaf is cut in one piece with a rolled central stem partially pressed flat.  On this occasion sunlight was streaming through my window creating double shadows.  I've drawn the plant on location, and again at home practising the easy flowing shape of the leaves.  This really helped and created in my hand a memory of the shape. This I intend to follow up, creating some plant identification cards. I decided to cut about four styles of leaf and as each isn't symmetrical, flipping it over created even more variety.  The stems were cut on the slant and pressed to make contact through the length of the leaf.

I love the mood this image evokes, a sense of secrecy, nature quietly responding to weather and  circumstance.



This is Blackthorn, an escapee from the hedge where the plants are still encased in their plastic supports.  This photograph shows the difference electric lighting makes.  Again, the shadows are a lovely addition and this was achieved by making extra fine rolls of tissue and gluing them on the reverse thus raising the branches.  I had thought attaching the side shoots would be difficult, but in fact I was able to replicate the way they shoot out from all angles without squashing the central stems.  This sample seems altogether more abstract than Dandelion.



This shows an across-the-field view of last year's growth as it had broken down in the field.  Again, it is an abstract which the shadows enhance.

These stalks are made from softer tissue and in off white.  First I crumpled the tissue, then rolled it in different widths and lengths to create the variety I'd observed.  The edge of each stalk was torn along its length with some only partially glued down.  This detail wasn't completely true to what I saw but I felt indicated age.  What was true to my observation were the striations I tried to show by scoring and half cutting the tissue along its length.

My next texture, shows clumps of grass which have taken root on the rough ground.  Unlike the three previous examples the tissue interpretation is  trying to indicate background and foreground,  though I now realise I haven't really shown the rocks or the true unevenness of the ground.  What instead I've concentrated on is the way in which quite small clumps of grass send out long blades across the soil's surface.  In no time these link one clump with another covering the ground in a thick green mat. I've cut the tissue blades in groups, some folded then glued them onto a circle of thick paper.  The runners are extra long blades, their ends are rolled and then inserted into another rolled blade to create the required length.  In fact what I seem to have done is avoid responding to the range of different textures within the image.  The sample is mounted on black card.



On lovely sunny days the trees create wonderful blurry shadows.  If there is the slightest breeze the shapes on the road fluctuate, and the image is ephemeral, moments in time always changing.


A small oak tree is part of the mixed hedge bounding the field.  I placed some roughly torn strips of tissue, then cut some roughly shaped tissue oak leaves sprinkling them on the black card.  As a second phase I cut oak leaves from a white paper bag trying to create depths of tone in some places.  Inserting these made the leaf arrangement less random and produced a disappointing result which I'm not really sure how to improve.  A pity as the idea of thinking about shadows is taking root.  Could it be that the contrast between black and white is too great?




So, in answer to my question, yes it is.  Less contrast with the background, which this time is a beautiful soft grey paper wrapper from my Khadi paper book, is better.  Plus simply sprinkling the twigs and leaves allowing them to fall where they will results in something less defined.

Back once more to things linear.  I found the hedgerow in spring really appealing and in fact interpreted one of these images in charcoal.



Below is the hedgerow un-Photoshopped with my interpretation in tissue paper.  I've resisted the temptation to make individual components as in 3:2, 3:4 and 3:6 but, I'm not sure how successful the decision was.  This is the second sample mounted on black card.



Other possibilities to try in tissue paper:
  • Dandelions
  • Oil Seed Rape plants
  • Queen Anne's Lace
  • Strong vertical growth of mixed wild flowers including Ribwort Plantain, Sandwort, Wild Carrot