Art Times . . . I live here
It is the beginning of February and already life is sprinting ahead at a scorching pace. Can I keep up?
I have no choice . . . and the acceleration is exhilarating . . .
Informally I am always researching and exploring. Most days I walk with the family dog along the side of the River Ericht between Lornty Burn and the Brig ‘O’ Blair and I have been doing so for about 25 years with other family dogs and my children as they have become adults.
I watch the river closely as it changes throughout the seasons, the weather, its water level, wildlife, plant life and I notice something new each time, more to think about.
This morning’s photographs follow. . .
Creative Scotland funding award – Exploring the River Ericht – Artist-in-Residence-in-my-own-Home
Organisation of time means that I began working on this project on the 1st February for one day a week and will continue to do so until thirty-eight weeks have passed. To keep to working only one day a week will be difficult since I do live here and it is difficult to stop thinking and arranging and making art on the other six days. This division of time is necessary because it is important that artists are paid fairly for their time, however it does mean that I will not work as often I would like to . . . because? . . . because? . . .
because how long is a piece of string?
Most days I walk beside the River Ericht, either with the dog or with other people. This winter the water level has been markedly lower than last year when frequently it was in spate. Walking with the dog is important because I can think and plan with no verbal interruptions, walks with other people are important for holding conversations with and noticing different features of the landscape.
Litter picking with BRAN – negatives
Dog poo in plastic bags sometimes decorating tree branches, why bother to pick up poo and put in a bag if it’s not going in a bin?
Many plastic bottles including Irn Bru, Lucozade energy drinks (why not enough energy to find a bin?), coca cola, spring water (one only)
Glass bottles, both complete and broken, including beers, wine and cider
Cans including different brands of cider, beer (mostly Tennants), wine, coca cola, Lucozade and lemonade
Plastic crisp packets, shards of glass, old socks (never once a pair!), one hair brush, one tampon applicator, Subway sandwich box, many cardboard coffee cups, plastic sandwich boxes, salad, hummus and dips tubs, plastic lighters, plastic string and cord, plastic beer can holders
A semi-buried jumper and an old dismembered leather boot.
All of these are hazardous and it’s not as though there are no bins beside the riverside walking area or play park so why don’t people bother?
There ARE positives about litter picking
Being outside when spring is coming, seeing hazel and alder catkins, a kestrel gliding upstream, dippers singing and bobbing and diving under the clear bubbling water from the rocks and stones, it is raining but it is not cold and all around there are birds singing I am tracked along the river bank by a robin and I see bright new horse hoof fungus and snowdrops.
I am not trained in painting, I am trained in sculpture and I find painting hard, it does not come instinctively in the way that sculpture does. I am trying to paint because of the colours I see. This does not mean that I have only just begun noticing colour, it does mean that I have started to try and represent the colours I see by mixing with paint rather than by taking photographs. The colours in my photographs do not match the ones in my memory and I recognise there are many discussions about colour perception that I could begin here but not yet.
On this day I notice the alder catkins hue, pink? Grey? Pink grey? Blue pink? Purple? Grey purple?? The more I look the more I see. It’s contrast with the alder’s cone is beautiful, the cone so dark as to be sooty black but on closer inspection brown, dark pink and . . . I have to think carefully about this. I decide that at this time I will concentrate on mixing . . .
not shape the
alder catkins, ploughed earth, low cloud, sunlight dispersed through light cloud, yellow stubble
all noted and attended to while in the company of a joyful dog
I posted the news on my Facebook page that I had received funding from Creative Scotland to explore the River Ericht. Shortly afterwards Clare Damodaran from the Blairgowrie Advertiser asked me to talk about the award and we arranged to meet in the Cateran Café on the High Street. Our discussion moved back and forth over time, with questions covering my reasons for doing this and what/who is it for? I found that talking to a journalist was not as intimidating as I thought it would be. Clare gave me names of some people to contact who are interested in the Ericht. She asks for a personal photograph and we decide the best way to get one is to come along to my drawing class in Create at Nest the following day where she can take some action shots.
Later on I meet Bob Ellis who co-founded the Cateran Trail and I describe to him why I want to put my interest in my home
landscape on a more formal artistic footing and later that day send him an edited copy of my application to Creative Scotland (the original would be far too long to read). He is conversational and eminently knowledgeable and recommends that I go along to Outdoor Explore’s opening in Alyth on Friday 3rd. As it turns out my drawing class on Friday afternoon means I do not have enough time to reconnect with Piotr Gudan the Director but as my brother Neil says “Don’t try to eat the elephant all at once”- there is plenty of time for this research and if I rush I will miss important details.
The following day I talk to Paul Jamieson at Kate Fleming’s Shooting and Fishing who is a mine of information about the river’s geology, we talk about the Ericht’s unique chemistry which creates a rich environment for invertebrate species that usually do not occur in Scotland since much of the freshwater in Scotland is acid. At one point when Paul is called to a customer, Dave in the back shop takes over and tells me that the whole Strath is primarily sand and gravel and therefore the river is constantly changing its path. The sand and gravel have been extensively quarried and used both locally and abroad. Dave has lived in Blairgowrie and Rattray all his life and has many vivid memories of swimming in the river and how much life has changed. When Paul returns we talk about the controversy surrounding the introduction of beavers into this landscape, people are either strongly for or against and he maintains a diplomatic distance from the furore.