Updated: May 26, 2020
Sketch : Flow (2019) watercolour on paper
Back in September last year (2019) I decided that I would occupy my artistic endeavours by focusing on the place I am from, looking at the lowland woods and heaths of North West Surrey. I grew up here and about 15 years ago returned to settle with my family.
In many ways these spaces are unremarkable; tracts of open land, bridging the space between unremarkable suburban towns; but you can ‘get lost’ in them, walk and amble for miles often quite alone, encounter small wildlife, be surrounded with bird song and enjoy all the infinite variation the British weather can throw at you in a single day. And for me of course there are the memories and associations with a place I have known for all my life.
I bought three sketchbooks and decided I would fill them.
Because I like to give projects titles I labelled two of the books ‘Omphalos’ (I and II). They were both concertina sketchbooks where one page runs automatically into the next, allowing for continuous sketching, if one so wishes.
Omphalos means the centre of things and originates with the stone at Delphi that Ancient Greeks saw as the centre of the universe. Because I like ancient stuff I found this to be an inspiring title and got started, painting the tree in my back garden first. The implication being that this was the centre of the world – well my world at least.
The third sketchbook was much smaller and I used it for doodles and scribbles. For the instinctive ‘what’s that?’ kind of work I love to do. I promptly labelled this one ‘Rhythms’ and two weeks later added ‘…and Anxieties’ to the front cover.
So already I have in my head one project or approach and its just been subverted by something else popping up. I look at what I am doing (or think I am doing) and decide – wait that’s two projects. Anxieties indeed.
At this point though its all OK because this is just exploratory work. So on I go.
Six months later and it is March 2020. The UK is in lockdown. I can still walk once a day in the woods and on the heath. My sketchbooks are full and I am reviewing them in the sun, in the garden by the tree that is in the first page of the sketchbook.
I have posted, shared and shown some of the work therein. People seem to like it. I like it and I like it even more when people like it.
So I dig deeper into my work and reflect on it, deciding this is a body of work that I want to do something with. This will be the core of my project.