Third doodle of the year so far. I loved watching the amazing BBC series Africa with David Attenborough recently so I thought drawing a zebra would be fun!
Although there can be great beauty in the less obviously beautiful, it is nice to see some brighter colours during the winter too. The first few splashes look particularly striking, set as they are against a backdrop of plants that are either in the process of closing themselves down or preparing for their own soon-to-be-revealed presentations of colour.
There are several Hellebores out in the garden at the moment, scattered about in little clusters. They are quite an old-fashioned looking flower, especially when they are that rich, smooth shade of cream (which always makes me think of fresh milk in a pail, like something out of Tess of the D’Urbervilles). The way they hang their heads makes them look shy, but they really aren’t when they come out of their shell.
This pink/purple Hellebore was one of the first to raise its head, and when it did I was lucky enough to be able to capture it on a sunny day. The slightly gold-tinged sunlight looked lovely as it mingled with the purple hue of the petals, and the whole thing seemed to glow.
Second doodle of the year and first birthday card made. The birthdays of my close family provide an opportunity to have some fun (and be even untidier than usual!)
Nature puts on a spectacular show when at its peak and bursting with life, but it also knows how to bow out gracefully. Many plants can be just as beautiful when they slip into the final stages of their life cycle as they are at the beginning of it. Some do, of course, look scraggy and sorry for themselves – which can be depressing for us to look at – but others take on dramatic, delicate and intriguing qualities. Winter is perhaps the best time to appreciate these qualities as there is often little of more obvious beauty around. Everything seems to hang in an in-between place, waiting for something: for Spring to arrive and the new life it brings to burst into being; or for some more final end to be brought to those scraggy ‘hangers-on’.
I was struck by these lines from the book I am currently reading, and they seem particularly appropriate here:
‘A dead hydrangea is as intricate and lovely as one in bloom. Bleak sky is as seductive as sunshine, miniature orange trees without blossom or fruit are not defective; they are that’.
– Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
For many plants death is simply a stage in the cycle of life, in more than one sense of the word. Dead heads fall and perform one final duty by scattering their seeds as they roll so that life can begin again. But the end also provides a great opportunity to put on one last show.
The Miscanthus above retains the fun, bouncy shape it had when it was green with life and the clear blue sky made a great backdrop.
Here are a few images from last year of some other plants clinging onto the vestiges of their former glory with style:
There are as many different forms of self-expression as there are people. Some dance, sing, write, run, act. Self-expression and creativity go hand in hand so I guess it makes sense that I have always loved to write and make art. The art I create is wildly unlike the kind of photography I have done so far*, and from each I get something different. Whilst there is really no such thing as learning everything about a particular subject – there is still much for me to learn about making art and writing – photography is something I feel I have to learn more actively if I want to understand how to make the images I want to make. Over the past few years photography has slowly but surely become a constant in my life, but it was not until fairly recently that I realised why: because it is important to me, because it is another way for me to express myself – and because it is fun! This realisation made me want to apply myself more seriously to understanding the craft. Learning how to use my camera and working out the relationship between its functions and the final image takes a fair degree of conscious effort and, of course, plenty of practice and exploration. The process of learning how to do more with photography is complex but rewarding and it opens up more possibilities for new experience. Although I have a long way to go I now can’t imagine not using photography as a way to document what I see.
But drawing and writing have been fundamental to my life for as long as I can remember. When I draw or paint there is no barrier between me and the page and so I am set free. When I write, things seem to work better if I just let it ‘flow’ and don’t actively (desperately) try to write something that stands up; it feels more personal. The doodles (as I call them) I do are untidy but creating them is fun and relaxing, however messy or nonsensical they turn out to be! I feel that they are an expression of my imagination in a raw, more unpolished form, and that expressing myself in this way forms just one of my numerous creative identities.
The doodle above marks the beginning of a new sketchbook, which I aim to continue throughout the year…just as I aimed to keep a sketchbook (but didn’t) last year, and the year before. Here’s hoping I can keep it up this time!
* I distinguish between ‘art’ and ‘photography’ only for the sake of convenience and for lack of a better word for the other work I do; I class photography as art.
One thing I love about photography is that the final image rarely meets your expectations. I don’t just mean that familiar sense of dissatisfaction you get with your own work when you feel you have fallen short of your (too-)high hopes for yourself; I mean how the picture you end up with can be ‘about’ something other than what you thought it would be. This doesn’t have to be any deep or profound meaning, but simply the point of focus – the element of the subject or image that draws the eye.
I took this photo at about mid-morning on a lovely, sunny day, one of those gorgeous days in winter when the sun is warm on your skin but the air is fresh and crisp enough to still need your coat and scarf. I liked the way the sun shone through the spinach leaves, illuminating them and bringing out the green vibrancy that lies dormant on a cloudy day. I wanted to capture this vibrancy, imagining an entire frame of beautiful green. That is not what I ended up with. Besides the holes left behind by slugs and snails (and aside from my own technical shortcomings), the expanse of green I had planned has been eaten away by the shadow cast by the leaf just out of shot. I had set out to take a picture ‘about’ light, and instead it is the darkness that catches the eye. But what fun is there to have in always knowing the outcome of things?
Besides, if you squint a bit, I guess it could look interesting…
This series of images might look very similar, but I was interested in the way that, when taken in sequence, you can see how the light seems to fall like a rain shower – as though someone had just unleashed a handful of glitter from a great height. I took these in late afternoon, when the sun was fairly low in the sky and had a sharper quality to it. The wind was very strong and the bamboo was swaying wildly, so the sunlight pushing its way through the reeds was pretty mesmerising to watch through the viewfinder.
Most of my photos of flowers and other plant life have been taken in my garden. I see this garden every day and I’ve known it all my life – but sometimes I don’t think I really do see it. I enjoy the garden as a whole space: I sit in a chair and soak up the sun, but I’m more likely to be reading a book rather than looking at the effect the sunlight has on the plants around me; I wander around it and point out pretty flowers, but I’m often too lost in my own thoughts to consider them any further. It’s so easy to miss the finer details of something you are accustomed to looking at every day.
Photography has given me a way to slow down and process what I see and, I think, to truly appreciate what I see and what I have around me. Going into the garden with a camera enables me to seek out the details in my surroundings that I might otherwise miss. Taking photos more regularly has already sparked a change in the way I look about me, and I am much more likely to linger over things I normally wouldn’t even notice.
I’d had my eye on these rose thorns for a while. I thought they looked interesting and had the potential to look quite sinister, especially when taken in isolation. But I wasn’t quite sure how to approach them – there seemed to be so many ways to do it and at the same time only one way that would be right. There is no ‘right’, though, so I just got in close to see what I might end up with!
I thought I would start posting new photos and other artwork as part of a blog so that I can keep track of the creative work I do and the progress I (hopefully!) make this year. The static gallery pages can stand together as a more complete portfolio of my work. I hope you like what you see, thanks for looking!