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Category: AileenMArt Blog (page 1 of 5)

Art in Nature – a time for drawing and well-being

Drawing from Building a Herbarium 2017 with Leila Mayne 

On Saturday 7th April  Maggie and I held our first joint workshop Art in Nature – a time for drawing and well-being at the Garden Studio, Straloch , Enochdu in Perthshire. It was a pilot project to see how we worked together and it was an excellent rehearsal, I look forward to working here again with Maggie again on 21st July. This remote place is magical, cushioned in quietness, peaceful, here time seems suspended and we are far away from the world. . .

The studio is large and lets in plenty of light with a kitchenette, disabled access, a loo, a comfortable seating area, wifi access amongst other luxuries. There is plenty of room for people to spread themselves and their drawings and make a mess (cleaned up of course)

To be outside and to be able to spend time thinking about what surrounds us, to walk around at our own pace, to stop when we wish and to look at . . .what’s there . . .tiny or huge, colourful and bright, still, flying, wind blowing, birds singing, frogs croaking . . . I walked down to the loch and wondered what was making the strange noise coming from the edge of the water. Hundreds and hundreds of golden frogs here to spawn, as I approached they submerged then resurfaced when I stopped moving. At the end of the day Lucy the owner of Straloch, asked us to make sure we left by the front drive so that we didn’t squash the ones which had begun to move back to where they came from. Follow the link below for a digital film clip of the sound of frogs mating. . .‘Frog song Spring 2018’



Art Times 12 weeks Everything will never be here


Sometimes life becomes so crammed with activity that it accelerates exponentially and keeping abreast of everything is impossible, some stuff is left behind as flotsam and jetsam in its wake. Time becomes almost meaningless as a marker of its passage, there is simply before and after.

Questions for self about making art ( iterations and reiterations )

Too many questions for self about making – Why did I make this? What is this artwork? Where did it come from? When did it begin? What will it become through time? Where will it go through time?

Who am I while I make this artwork/any artwork? At points throughout it’s becoming it seems that I cease to exist as an individual and am a process, or rather, I am conscious of self then I am not conscious of self, a light that switches on and off, a tide that ebbs and flows, a day, a night, asleep, awake and so on. This process means that others’ ideas of who I am sound louder than my own silence and my unwillingness to make a sound, a mark, that fixes me in time or place. The meaning of this ‘Aileen’ shifts on through time . . . do I create myself as I go along? Everything I do and think influences the evolution of the work and I am reluctant to say ‘this is finished’ therefore all works are in progress and I am a work-in-progress.

From the beginning of February until the end of March I have been busy with Platform 2018 which opened on 24 March and ends on 31 March. Of course it will not be an ending because everything which has happened will start another wave of thinking. Here in Blairgowrie I have work showing selected from my research project ‘Exploring the River Ericht’ funded by Creative Scotland, documentation and photographs in the local library and in Cargill’s Restaurant and Bistro ‘Water works’ –   experiments in painting. The coracle that Jane Wilkinson instructed me how to weave with my son last summer was moored in the Ericht by Piotr Gudan for the week of the festival and then moved to the library and set down gently next to my documentations. Our Heritage, a local community group took over the library for the Easter weekend to mount an exhibition of local archive material and were keen that the coracle be a part.  (Interestingly  when I followed the link for Platform 2018 on Culture Perth and Kinross website all the information about platform had been taken down.)

For a week during the festival I drew for one hour each day along the Ericht’s riverbank in the sun, the rain, the cold and each day the water renewed its fascination for me. I never tire of watching its waves and ripples, eddies and currents, the changing levels, listening to the water’s sounds and the sounds of the world around, I do not tire of feeling the air the water brings against my skin, I do not tire of the scents that change along its course . . . Thursday 29 brought conversation in the person of Jim Mackintosh, Platform’s Poet in residence. Jim has been travelling around Perthshire visiting the many artists, musicians, playwrights taking part in the festival. Conversation is good when it brings someone else’s  mind to the contemplation of the natural world. We spoke about part of his childhood being spent in Blairgowrie, catching salmon, apples, berries, schools, Hamish Henderson and Nan Shepherd. I enjoy listening to the sound of voices, I enjoy words and I enjoy reading and when I listen to people talking about works I have read myself then I pay more attention, my mind does not slip away perhaps because the knowledge is being shared by a person I see, hear and occupy the same space as. Jim read from his collection The Rubicon of Ash and when he described what he was trying to communicate I wondered if every day we all cross our own  Rubicon.

(Taking notes is best if I draw the person talking, each stroke holds a sound of a voice, a sound of a voice holds the meaning of what the voice is thinking.)

And now it is the end of March/beginning of April, everything always rushes towards me, surrounds me and then passes and everything I have written since the 9th has been to do with writing proposals, filling forms, signing contracts, contacting people, designing posters, printing posters, printing them again, getting works ready and it all forms a giant ball exerting a strange gravity as it orbits within my mind. The idea of orbiting helps as it is elliptical and I know that its character of moving beyond reach and then returning to certain points will occur at the right time, to the actual date. I am organising according to another time and not my own, these deadlines are not movable which means I do stop making rather than adding just a little bit more . . .

Stand outs

reading so far this year; revisiting Nan Shepherd; The Living Mountain.

Kyo Maclear; Birds, art, life, death: a field guide to the small and insignificant.

Wohlleben, Peter; The hidden life of trees, what they feel, how they communicate: discoveries from a secret world.


Lee Lozano at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

Jenny Saville and Christine Borland at National Galleries Scotland  Modern One

Super Moon – What would Galileo think?

a week on from the blood blue super full moon and  snow has fallen deep and soft in the night everything hidden and lying beneath this all resting against each other randomly it is not dry small flakes it is large wet flakes in clumps on the branches of trees and houses  the sky is blue grey no stars or moon this morning dark no hint of the sun rising behind the sidlaws to the south no robin sings toward the dawn no wind

I can play with our northern dog outside in her element where she would rather be all the time

I have been wondering what all the great thinkers of the past would make of our world now, what they may have achieved with the resources we have at their fingertips, does ease of access to our technologies for some of our societies make us intellectually lazy, does lack of access mean people think harder to solve problems or do they become worn down by life’s inequalities? Galileo’s life was intellectually hard, his support and enhancement of Copernicus’ theory was challenged and threatened by the Roman Catholic Church and his reasoned analysis of the Earth’s place in the Solar System meant imprisonment, yet he kept working and eventually was able to come home near the end of his life. Sometime in the early years of this century I looked at Galileo’s drawings of the phases of the Moon with close attention and seriously thought, for the first time, about what was actually involved in his process of moving his gaze through the telescope (the lenses ground by himself) at the Moon and recording what he saw when he drew the Moon. The drawings were published them in his book The Sidereal Messenger (1610), I had seen them before but I had not previously fully considered what these drawings actually are and what they meant for society then.

This thinking about thought is cyclical, like the Moon it moves out of sight then returns when I see or read something which reminds me, in this case the BBC’s programme about the Moon scheduled to take place on the same night (31 March 2018) as a Super Moon. What moved me was not only the images of the Moon, it was those of peoples’ reaction to this natural event, their excitement showed in the way they moved, how they spoke. . . all these people all around the world responding . . . this is as beautiful as the Moon itself. Throughout the programme the camera kept returning to an artwork made of the Moon and showing audiences’ reactions when they encountered it. Although this moon was not real people who came to see reacted in the same way as they would to the real one. The artist was not credited during the programme, I waited for the end credits to confirm who I thought it was. I have not seen the artwork itself, a Radio 4 programme had caught my interest and I was pleased to see that this moon looked like my imagining. The artist is Luke Jerram, have a look at his work on his website.

I think Galileo would have liked Luke’s Moon, and I think he would have liked all the technology  we use now to see the Moon, technology which can be traced back to him grinding lenses for his telescope so that he could look at the Moon. If you want to read about his life and its complexities then Dava Sobel’s (2009) book of his life is fascinating.

For the rest of February and into March I am BUSY. Writing my Final Research report for Creative Scotland and sorting out from the project what I’m going to show at Platform 2018, Culture Perth and Kinross’s yearly festival of the arts.



The North Wind Doth Blow – River Ericht in January 2018

New Year January 2018

I am listening to Moving Pictures an occasional dip into radio art documentaries I take when I’m preparing to write. I find people talking about other artists’ works brings me gently to a frame of mind where I can write because I do find writing difficult.  ‘A flower picture’ by Rachel Ruysch is in the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington and the accompanying discussion about her eye for detail demonstrated by her painting strikes an echo in my mind about my own work. The smallest detail of my surroundings fascinates me – whether looking down the lens of a microscope at soil or up to the stars with a telescope. It’s the same with listening, feeling or thinking. Sometimes I feel it’s not possible to think more deeply and then find after a while that my understanding has moved on by a fraction and then make art work which I could not have before. The works themselves are circular and iterative, no one else would notice any difference except me. The questions are constant and still shout at me . . . however many new things I find there are still more . . .and more . . . and I understand that this searching will continue for the rest of my life and that the new things are not new. It is the way I see them which changes.

Listen to the radio programme.

To go back to January 2017, to look at the beginning of this research project into the River Ericht here in Blairgowrie is like looking at the parts from a jigsaw . . . each piece a fragment of thought, a new person, a landscape (familiar then unfamiliar), a tree, a plant, a rock, a building, a story, water, air and interlinked in a way I cannot find. I think I will start here, at the end where I don’t know what I have, in January 2018 and go back to the beginning in January 2017. I began with thinking about water, its flow and changing nature and I end with think about air, its flow and its changing nature.

These three pencil drawings, the first this year, are thought drawings considering turbulence and how we move through space and time. They are not scientific drawings, they are personal reflections. This weekend I will take them down to Edinburgh and hopefully sell them in the SSA/VAS Open 2018

An interlude – continuing reflection on practice – a post with no images

In my thesis (2006)[1] I examined the idea that creative practice for most artists (from any art) could not be easily separated from everyday life.

Arguably everyday life for everyone requires imagination and memory as well as thinking . . .

about what is around them now . . .

about what has been around them in the past . . .

and about what will be around them in the future.

When I think about what that involves for us . . . for all of us . . . all the time . . . I am still astounded by the existence of consciousness and its complexity.

Essentially consciousness is one of the most beautiful things in our world, it results in seemingly unlimited ways of structuring and restructuring and enhancing our lives and here’s the but, those enhancements are subject to different belief systems within individuals, society’s and cultures which themselves are the products of ‘creative’ thinking.

What brought on this reflective burst of thought? Three things in particular . . .

Firstly – last week I was at the Christmas meeting of the Perthshire Care and Well-being Co-operative and we spoke about the importance of providing different kinds of care for the increasing numbers of people experiencing problems with their emotional and mental health. The shared consensus was that increased pervasiveness of technology was exposing people of all age groups to unrealistic expectations of themselves and how they should ‘be’, revisiting the perennial question . . . what makes a successful and meaningful life?

Secondly – Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Enough said.

Thirdly – the article in the Blairgowrie Advertiser early in December informing the readership that the old Hill Primary school in the town centre had been sold by Perth and Kinross Council for the grand sum of £1. Yes, SOLD FOR £1!!! To Corryard Contractor and Developer, Crieff. This was only found out after a freedom of information request was put in to the council. The request was put in because of confusion in Blairgowrie about why the council would prefer to choose a private development bid over one from The Ericht Trust. The Ericht Trust had spent a significant amount of time putting together a proposal for a local community centre for the benefit of Blairgowrie. Finding out that the old school had been purchased for £1 is an indication that central amenities for the local community are not a priority for Perth and Kinross Council. Dream Homes are a priority though. Enough said again. (Interestingly I could not find anything on the Blairgowrie Advertiser’s Facebook page about this, or on the online page of the  Daily Record’s  which owns the Advertiser

I am unable to make art which overtly engages with these issues, I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because I feel that I cannot do justice to the seriousness of these events although all of this does influence my thinking and therefore, indirectly, my art.


[1] Stackhouse, Aileen M (2006)Trahere; the sense of unease in making a mark – the practice of drawing and the practice of thinking. University of Dundee

Art Times . . . the year turns over and falls away . . .

While I am looking for a Radio 4 programme that my brother recommended I find  this one instead – called The Gamble – it talks about Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon and I wonder how they managed to live in such a way . . . how they managed to push themselves to financial, emotional and physical limits and still create art which is meaningful. The programme asks whether it is ‘ an artist’s calling to live this life of fear, confronting failure in the hope that taking yourself to the bottom will eventually elevate you to the top?  . . . in a rare BBC interview Freud spoke  about  people  sacrificing the possibility of comfort and what is thought to be an agreeable life, to a life of uncertainty and loneliness perhaps, and where you are engaged in, to them, an incomprehensible activity with results fairly unlikely to change or affect your situation in an economic way,  and the thought of that seems to many people astonishing . . .’  The programme  contains readings from a poem and it is good, I will have to find out who the poet is.

I wonder if this means I am not an artist because I do not gamble . . . or do I? Maybe . . . not as overtly as someone who puts money on horses, play cards or do the lottery but yes, in a different way, I do gamble. I have chosen this economically unrewarding path and I have always understood  that it is likely to will remain so. At least Freud and Bacon did not have children to look after and I wonder about my apparent selfishness in pursuing art rather than working for more secure way of life to provide for my family and their future.

To some extent this repeated self-questioning is irrelevant and pointless, making art is not a choice it is who I am – I cannot remember a time when I did not consciously make marks. It would be more accurate to say I am a continuous process of looking for and finding opportunities and places to make art in as many ways as possible. I have chosen not to follow a predictable career path. Sometimes this bothers me ( I don’t have a workplace pension having never earned enough to put by, bringing up three people costs  and financial needs don’t finish when they are eighteen) and sometimes it doesn’t ( people who are secure in the knowledge that they have a workplace pension sometimes find that it is gone when they retire). I am secure in the knowledge that when/if I reach sixty-six I will not sit back and wonder what to do with my life now, because I will already be doing it.

Reading the above back to myself makes me sound more confident than I am. I know  what I have said contains contradictions and I am quite happy with that.

It was Radio 4’s daily consumer affairs programme You and Yours segment about Online Art Artists that Neil was telling me about, I eventually found, have a listen . . .it’s very interesting particularly because shortly afterwards I listened to Radio Scotland’s Stark Talk series where Edi Stark speaks with Arthur Watson, artist and traditional singer , president of the Royal Scottish Academy of art and architecture, the home of Scottish contemporary art. Arthur has a long and distinguished career as a learned and well-respected and influential artist practitioner within Scotland and beyond contemporary art world. The particular point that he made which I know is true is that he spends hardly any time using a computer except to check his email. He has no interest in using them because he perceives, accurately, that they have the capacity to suck time away from the perilous nature of pursuing the calling of making art. I agree with Arthur about this although I hope that he recognises that his almost Luddite (nb not anti-progress, protective towards traditional practices) reluctance to engage with the actual use of various software is cushioned by his ability to delegate its machinations to those who have to work with it to bring their, or his, works to fruition. For many artists these days and particularly recent graduates and emerging artists such engagement is vital as they begin to make their career without the bulwark of the academic institution or professional bodies such as the RSA (which remain the territory of the few). . .not only because it is technology which supports their careers outwith such, they do not have to belong to any body to belong, they are able to build their own networks without waiting for others notice, nods, or approval. In addition it is cheap, open access platforms mean that many can learn much without substantial financial commitment or indeed any. They can proceed at their own pace, explore where they are and wander onwards in this virtual much in the tradition of the flaneur – their libraries and galleries are open all over the world at all times. They are not limited to their physical space or the people they actually know. I do not argue that one way is better than another, both are good. What I am saying is that if your career as an artist does not advance in the way you imagine, it does not mean you are not an artist.  Yesterday evening I went along  to AKBell Library in Perth to see the new Maker_Space  Culture Perth and Kinross which is open for library members to pursue their creative practice. There’s all sorts of bookable digital resources available along with support for creatives who can’t afford their own kit . . I am impressed and am thinking about how I can make use of their 3D printer.

I trained in sculpture and although I experiment with paint I am not confident when using it. I swither between whether I prefer oil or watercolour, I swither between abstract or representative, I swither between landscape and figurative and I swither between leaving a flat surface or building outward from the canvas. It takes me a long time to make up my mind whichever artform I concentrate upon and earlier found this in my notebook ‘today I am speaking about sculpture and I find it hard to explain how slow it is, the slowness, the halts and spaces then the acceleration in thinking so rapid that an alteration takes place in the form where there is no indication of the amount, repetitiveness and complexity of circular thought beforehand. Even the halts, spaces and silences are part of the work’s emergence . . .even the times when physical work ceases, where the work sits unchanged for months and sometimes years before it is taken in hand again. There is no time as measured by the clock, the days, years there is only art time.

I am not sure of the precise beginning date of these first two images here in their form as painting. The idea for them had been revolving? Proceeding? Approaching? since 1996 although the images themselves come from much earlier childhood thinking.

The next four are struggles with paint and the appearance of water, of waters’ force, its energy, its densities and transparencies . . .its presence. . .to look at one body of water is to reference all bodies of water experienced in any a=way over time and location. I cannot express what it means. I have many digital film clips of the River Ericht from this year and the from previous years concerning what fascinates me about bodies of water. The digital clips are fine, I love to watch them although for some reason they do not contain all I want them to contain which is why I turned to painting. These are unsatisfactory as well and march me straight back to the question ‘why make art at all when it is the water itself which contains the magic? What more can I say about water than say water?’  I do not know how to make them the way I want them to be.



Art Time Flies . . . the last weeks of August . . .

I have been thinking about the fact that one day a week for one year is not enough to find out all I want to know about the River Ericht . . . I am literally only skimming its surface. The months since June have been crammed with events, thoughts and ideas, conversation and learning new skills. I could make a list of all of these however that would not communicate the intensity of the last ten weeks, what I can communicate is the abrupt changes in the Ericht’s flow. Through May, June, July and August the water levels continued to be low enough to paddle in places that were usually inaccessible, then on the night of Monday 14th the heavens opened and the torrential downpour lasted for hours. On the Tuesday morning I went out with the dog and the Ericht was in spate, racing and tumbling, churning and falling over itself in its hurry towards the Isla.  The rocks beneath the viewpoint at Cargill’s Leap were totally overwhelmed with brown, raging torrents and invisible then only two days later the water was falling and they could be seen again.  I would not like to be a form of life which depends on stable water flow although anything which exists alongside the Ericht must be able to adapt to such extremes. Interestingly, even though the river still looks high this morning when I look at SEPA’S website it is still within normal levels for the time of year. Today, for example, the water level is just beneath 0.7m which is at the lower end of ‘normal’.

If such turbulence continues it may mean the coracle I have made with willow weaver Jane Wilkinson of Special Branch Baskets will not be moored in the Ericht during BRAW 2017. Unexpectedly (for myself) I feel very attached to my coracle and am now reluctant to set it free from the Ericht’s beginning up at Bridge of Cally to see how far it floats down towards its  confluence with the River Isla. I am thinking of a way around this. . . when I first had the idea I was quite willing to let it go and see what happened. The idea was connected to my reading about David Nash’s (British Sculptor) Wooden Boulder  and I was impressed with his ability to accept that whatever happened to the work was the work. I don’t know whether the physical method of weaving has endowed this particular coracle with more meaning than if I had used an axe to hack and shape a log boat from a tree which I had felled myself.  Does the controlled and regular weaving of the willow wands with my hands and fingers mean more than the abrupt movement of wielding a heavy and sharp tool. Maybe my reluctance to deliberately leave it out in the elements is intrinsically to  weavings’ links with domesticity. Some artworks  I make do not exercise a strong hold on my imagination and I am willing to send them on their way, or even speed their destruction. My son Thomas has helped me make my coracle and I would have been lost without his physical strength – fifteen years ago maybe I could have made it myself but not now. Thomas and Jane spoke about how weaving and using coracles was an ancient and worldwide way of transport, there are writings describing them as well as drawings. The whole process took three days and even now the stitching needs completion then I will make it watertight by painting it with bitumen paint before seriously considering what to do when it is finished. By the way it has been christened ‘Theo’ by the Tibetan Mastiff of the same name when it was being woven at Eastfield House before being taken down to be handstitched at the Alyth base of Outdoor Explore in The Barony.

Midway through July  I visited the Ericht’s Witches Pool near Craighall Bridge with Danielle Muir and she had shown me how she takes freshwater samples of bugs to establish how clean the rivers are around Perthshire . . .  the Ericht scores highly with its evidence of invertebrate species living in the water including; the larvae of Stonefly, Mayfly, Midge and Cased caddis; Pond snails, Freshwater shrimp, Water and Whirligig beetles. Plant species were abundant as well including; Harebell, Pink Purslane, Valerian, Wood Sorrel, Wood Cranesbill, Herb Robert, Dog’s Mercury, St John’s Wort, Dog Violet, Enchanter’s Nightshade, Common Figwort, Hogweed, Yellow Pimpernel, Sticky willies (Cleavers Herb), Common Comfrey, Self-Heal, Hedge Woundwort, Nipplewort, Foxglove, Nettle-leaved Bellflower, Golden-rod, Leopardsbane, Butterbur, Feverfew, Ragwort and Marsh Thistle. Among the birds were Dippers (the Ericht is a favourite River of theirs), Grey wagtails, a Common sandpiper (I have only seen them at the sea before), Wrens, Long tailed tits and a Buzzard. We heard noises in the undergrowth which may have been deer but the only mammal we saw was the Red squirrel. All of these inhabitants really on each other for their survival and any imbalance will have long term effects which may not be immediately visible but are there nevertheless.

There has been more, much more, and as usual I do not have enough space. Perthshire Open Studios 2017 looms where I will be showing at Cornelia Weinmann Design . . .  only nine days to go!


Art Times . . . I live Here . . . and I am out of my Studio

I spend so much of the time inside my studio and undoubtedly I sometimes use it as a refuge from the noise of our world. Most of us have hiding places from everyday demands and routines of work and it is uncomfortable to recognise that my own refuge is actually my work. My research project into the River Ericht has brought many personal challenges, not least meeting other people and clearly explaining what I am doing. The art of communication is precisely that, an art, and because much of my time is spent alone communicating with other people holds many complex layers and potential for misunderstanding.

There are so many people I have met in my work about the River Ericht since February and I am struck again by how genuinely giving and constructive they are with their memories and knowledge. Ideas for possible artworks are beginning to form and I have shared two or three of these with closer acquaintances,

And there is so much to do, the amount of relevant information I have already gathered is varied and vast. At the beginning of June I was introduced to The Blethers group in Blairgowrie and look forward  to going along and listening to more recollections in July. Last Thursday (14th June) I listenned to a talk in the Cateran Cafe given by Paul Adair (Perth Museum and Art Gallery) on the Laing Photographic Collection given to the archives by  D.Wilson Laing Photographers after they closed in Blairgowrie around 1993. The collection has been chosen by Cateran’s Common Wealth as part of the A Story of the Cateran Trail in 100 Objects exhibition which opens on 1st July in Alyth Museum. It was fascinating because portraits of our own children in 1992 (too recent for the purposes of the talk) were taken in the studio which was shown on the first slide and although I did not know any of the people in the photographs I recognised many of the locations. The extensive collection will soon be available to view online.

This weekend BRAN volunteers tidied up the grass and litter along the banks of the Riverside, this is hard work especially because PKC does not have the budget to commit to maintaining this resource. There are plenty of bins along the path and I don’t understand why people don’t use them, this is such a beautiful place for visitors to Blairgowrie and people who live here to relax and enjoy AND it’s only five minutes from the town centre AND Cargill’s Bistro‘s excellent scones OR Wellmeadow Cafe‘s tasty pancakes. Clare Damodaran from the Blairgowrie Advertiser came down and took some pictures of us before we all got messy and then interviewed Brian Smith, Graham Reid and myself about the Riverside Venture Group which I joined in April. Brian and Graham are working hard to rejuvenate the Riverside as an essential place to visit in Scotland given the town’s wealth of social and cultural history – they will welcome any ideas and people willing to get involved.

On Sunday I went along to the third of Leila Mayne’s Plant Study Walks along the Ericht and the first thing I saw on the freshly cut grass was a large empty plastic Co-op bag and various empty sandwich cartons and silver foil. ANYWAY!! Leila  knows so much about aspects of our relationship with our environment that Hazel and I become mentally stunned with her weight of knowledge. We learned about the health giving properties of  two types of Plantain, Plantago Lanceolata and Plantain- Plantaginaceae. Brilliant! Not only because I am learning about so many new plant properties but also because I get to spend most of the day outside by the River. It was an absolutely beautiful day.

On Saturday 24th I will be at Blairgowrie’s Community Market in the ABC tent should anyone want to come and see me drawing my surroundings in the Wellmeadow. And, if you would like to try outdoor drawing with me, then my July workshops are on the 21st and 22nd July, book on   seven maximum – minimum four.


Art Times . . . I live here . . . walking close by the River Ericht

Spring has come and April turns to May . . .

During April each day so cold, the wind bright steel cold into eyes skin bones breath catching – aching to return home and warm the self. . . there is an exhilaration in walking against the wind or being driven by it from every way and then May turns the corner the sun rises earlier brings light and heat.

Ten days into May and still no rain and so dry, the ground is cracking and footsteps sound the earth echoing beneath, soils are losing their pigment turning pale grey brown ochre and clouds of their dust rises like smoke following the wind as it passes. Yet the trees leaves are still unfolding and the plants below their shelter are still growing,  there are constellations of starry Wild Garlic (allium ursinum, ‘bear’s garlic’, ransoms) and Wood Anemone (anemone nemorosa) the leaves of Wood Avens (geum urbanum, ‘herb bennet’), Coltsfoot (tussilago farfara,’son before the father’) Sweet Cicely (myrrhus odorata, ‘anise’) there are so many species here by the riverside. The Ericht’s water level is lower than it has been during spring for years and parts of the river bed can be seen that I have never seen before, at the beginning of April it is so shallow that Piotr Gudan from Outdoor Explore calls off our kayaking down from where it starts at Bridge of Cally to where it ends at its confluence with the River Isla. The water is not deep enough he says, we would have to carry the kayaks as much as paddle them.  This morning while I stand on the bank next to Cargill’s Leap there are pools still where water is so deep the bottom cannot be seen, dark brown, black, purple and blue, and then there are pools where rocks and shelves of rock can now be seen. The exposed river rock in places becomes silvery grey patterned by fronds of dried weed pointing downstream, more than ever its tilted folds and crumpled stone slopes resemble the bones of unknown gigantic beasts strewn between the steep banks.

Imagine no rain for 15 years . . .this is impossible for me . . .the thought fills me with dread. If there were no rain . . . here we take so much for granted.

Water holds people with its presence, they stop to contemplate the passing flow, the depths and reflections, eddies, waves, currents overflowing then falling back, drying, flooding and spilling. Many artists have tried, and try, to capture its essential nature yet nothing we make is big enough to communicate its presence,

Conversations about the river with people  have been full of unexpected nuggets of knowledge; Louise Copeland (Brooklinn Mill), Rab Kettles (Wisecraft), Lesley Macdonald (Cargill’s), Sir William Macpherson (Newton Castle), Cath Robertson of (BRAN, Blairgowrie and Rattray Access Network), Melanie and Peter Thomson (Thomson Farms), Leila Mayne (medical herbalist) among others. I have been experimenting with recording some conversations, some people ask not to be recorded and I respect this. Learning sound recording is a new experiment and experience for me, it is complex and does not come easily, I make mistakes which is fine. The word for becoming used to sound editing software is tangled, I begin and stop, and begin again. . .  it is all most confusing yet this is to be expected. There are many people who I still wish to talk to and there is still much to learn.

I have been reading A social history of Blairgowrie and Rattray : the market town, the mill town, the berry town / edited and compiled by Margaret Laing. A land by Jacquetta Hawkes, How to read water by Tristan Gooley, The water book by Alok Jha, All are interesting and all point me in new directions.


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