Tag Archives: hedgerows

more art made by mother nature

Sunday 22 May 2011

an altogether more natural artistic intervention in the landscape –  the somewhat startling sight first witnessed on a sunday drive to the supermarket – a short stretch of rambling hedgerow wrapped in a fine, gossamer grey web. i passed the spot on two further occasions, and on the third drive-by pulled over to take a closer look… (photographs taken with a mobile phone)

i think it may have been a hawthorn or perhaps a spindle or elder bush but there was really nothing of it left, just a skeleton… cautiously peering into the faintly spooky, sticky mesh of fibres i could see hundreds of off-white, wriggly things…

i later googled caterpillars and webs and ascertained this was a colony of ermine moth larvae or caterpillars (later to become ermine moths) and they can completely envelop a tree or a shrub to keep predators from attacking their growing colony (which here must amount to many thousands of soon-to-be caterpillars!). i discovered a similar infestation has occurred in a public park in yorkshire… maybe it’s the prolonged spell of dry weather…

quite fascinating and yet mildly frightening in a way too, alluding to a small act of god’s damnation, a biblical allusion to the great plagues of egypt, or nature just proving its powers again – we are all doomed!.. but i think i’ll let you decide…

an obvious art-historical reference sprung to mind – the wrapped trees of christo & jean-claude

wrapping up the landscape, here looking especially marvellous in the early morning (or is it evening?) light…

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98
[Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98 (Photo: Wolfgang Volz) © 1998 Christo]

the trees still look ghostly but seem alive (this is winter), with the appearance of fluffy clouds that have just landed or are about to take off, the trees not tightly bound or swaddled into submission as other artists have done…

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98
[Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98 (Photo: Wolfgang Volz) © 1998 Christo]

curiously, it was about this time last year that i chanced upon or found some found or readymade art in the landscape (albeit of a humanly-constructed kind) – what is it about the month of may, i wonder?

snowbound in a sketchbook, once again

Sunday 5 December 2010

it was the early morning shock of seeing a thin film of ice on the inside of the windows that prompted a couple of snowy walkabouts this week… for some exercise, some fresh air, to warm up, an excuse perhaps to think more about and reconnect with this rural landscape…

suffolk snow landscape painting - sketchbook

a hill and some snow, acrylic on paper, 8″ x 12″

i carried with me a sketchbook (or three!) but, for a change, i took some small tubes of acrylic and a few offcuts of card. why on earth go out sketching in this inclement weather? well, the intention was to go for a bracing walk and the opportunity to do some outdoor sketching seemed like a good idea at the time… i just needed some white, brown, blue, a little yellow ochre… (you can view last week’s before the snow winter field sketches here)…

these three small sketches are about 5″ x 16″

suffolk snow landscape field - sketchbook

suffolk snow sketches - sketchbook

suffolk snow fields horizon - sketchbook

[click to view larger]

i discovered a new footpath which i had not seen signposted before, perhaps because all the surrounding vegetation that would have concealed it had died back. some farmers, it seems, don’t like to draw attention to the public rights of way that circumnavigate their fields. this particular footpath began at the roadside – it was a quick scramble up a steepish, stepped incline through a small thicket of elder, hawthorn, briar, bramble and the like, which soon thinned out onto a small footbridge across a ditch, which opened into the corner of a large field – regimental stalks of harvested maize pricking through the blanket of snow..

suffolk field snow landscape sketch

winter field with stubble, 8′ x 22″

i walked a narrow path between the hedgerow and the broken lines of sown crops, minding the occasional black hole which indicated a rabbit burrow. in the snow i could see the pitter-patter pattern of animal footprints, probably a dog i thought but i could see no human companion footprints –  were they the trail of a hare, a fox or muntjacs perhaps? the hedgerow seemed to have shaken off most of the recent snowfall and so it exhibited an interesting patchwork of textures and colours when viewed against the snow – from the sepia hues of damp, dead wood to the musty grey-black of dead nettles, small patches of fading green to grey, the auburn brown of tall docks, shades of bronze and tarnished copper on the edges of leaves, the prickly hawthorn branches dotted with red berries…

suffolk snow field hedgerow - sketchbook

field and hedgerow, acrylic on paper, 8″ x 12″

the line of the hedgerow led slowly uphill, then turned an abrupt corner at an oak tree – and hereabouts, sheltered from the chilled midday air with a scattered carpet of acorn husks underfoot, it afforded a clear view of valley ahead. smooth white fields, lightly traced out by their boundary hedgerows, sloped gently to the south and east, a distant cluster of trees merged into a mist of many layered greys. to the north the field’s straight crop lines seemed to converge at a point near the flat horizon, with only the faintest delineation of trees to suggest where the land ended and the sky began…

snow winter field sketch painting - sketchbook

winter field, acrylic on paper, 8″ x 12″

some people assume that suffolk is, in the main, quite a flat county, but this is because the most travelled routes follow more even ground. walk a little off the beaten track and the vistas become much more undulating and expansive – made even more appealing to the senses when there is snow on the ground. all seems for a short while quite serene, quite still. snow softens the sounds and disguises the blemishes, it sculpts, smoothes and redefines, drawing out the best features of a seemingly natural geography…

perhaps on reflection it was not such a good idea to use acrylics as they did not dry properly in the ice cold air. to stop the sketchbook pages from sticking together i sandwiched them with maize leaves, powdery bark and even clumps of snowy soil, all of which had added some interesting textural effects by the time i had headed back. something of real substance to work with, so i applied more white acrylic here and there, the remains of soil and the blurry smears of paint became the tangible traces of walking. i rather like that they turned out this way, incomplete and unrefined, within each rough gesture or mark is a brief thought or memory that relates to the experience – exhibiting the very spirit of a brisk walk in the wintry, white landscape…

these two sketches are 8′ x 22″, on black card – it is (or was) a photograph album…

field snow landscape sketch

suffolk fields snow - sketchbook

[click to view larger]

so, these small studies have really become remembered landscapes, they no longer exist, the snow has now vanished, but we have been warned that the snow will return…

i often remind myself that i have become something of a cave painter – i see things (discarded, redundant or dead things, mostly!) and then i retreat to the studio cave to make art out of the experience. sketching in the landscape seems to be a means to re-engage but also to step back a little, to take in the wider view…

framing june [in a sketchbook]

Monday 21 June 2010

some sketches of some local views, in the course of cycling to places… it pays to set off early, so as not to be too late.. these sketchbook drawings are 29cm x 10cm…

[small copse and wheat field – light rain from the north, quite breezy…]

[a lane and a meadow, ox-eye daisies swaying in the breeze]

[field on a hillside, with black crows gathering]

[same hill, the adjacent field, no crows]

[field, farm and outbuildings, with three poplar trees…]

[remains of a hedgerow, with tree stumps and wheatfield beyond…]

[view across the valley towards marshes, barley fields, with church in distance…]

[top of the lane, wheatfield and a small thicket…]