25 April 2012

Saturday 21st April

I wake to a blanket of steady drizzle laid over the peninsular: grey, cold, damp.

After breakfast I sit on the bench opposite the Bird Observatory for almost an hour.  The tide is going down, which on this flat, shallow estuary side moves quickly, revealing sand banks, mud flats and the strip of salt marsh.  The textures and patterns are fascinating.

Birds sit in groups, flying every now and then to a new spot along the sand.  I am told by a passing birder that what I'm looking at are godwits, curlew and plovers.  They're too far away for me to be able to see enough detail to identify them.  I'm embarrassed by my lack of knowledge.

Instead I concentrate on the patterns of mud and plant life in the band along the mud flat edge and draw the strip of texture where land and water meet.  Raindrops help the variety of marks from my pen.  As the rain becomes more persistant I use water soluble pastels to capture colour.  The rain is a good partner in this excercise but my hands get cold eventually.

I move in the car down to Chalk Bank Hide, where the wind still whistles in but I'm out of the rain.

The hide, although drafty, is a good place to draw as there is a ledge to rest my book on and and bench to rest myself on. I can wait for pages to dry while I work on other things.  I do need to find a system of working with wet media here.  I'm hoping access to the lighthouse will help.  I enjoy the plaintive sounds of the curlew.

The rain suddenly lifts and the sun comes out.  I walk between the two Hides on this stretch looking at the brown tailed moth cocoons.  They are strange and slightly sinister, this feeling increased by the knowledge that the hairs from the caterpillars can cause severe irritation.

After lunch I walk on the Humber side again, by the exposed salt marsh.  

A heavy shower starts and drawing quickly becomes impossible.  I get absolutely soaked and then it turns to hail.  I turn and walk back the way I came, and when the shower passes I cross onto the seaward side of the peninsular where the wind is.  Because the tide is down there is a large expanse of concrete blocks exposed, sea defences that I didn't see yesterday when the tide was higher. 

Along with the wooden groynes these man-made structures form dominating marks along the beach.  As well as these purposefully placed items there is a constant selection of washed up plastic on the beach.  This unavoidable rubbish is fascinating and depressing in equal measures.  Thunder rolls in the distance.  The waves thunder too on this seaward side.  Spectacularly large showers move on the horizon.  I hope to dry off in the wind before the next one reaches me.    

23 April 2012

Friday 20th April

I drove over to Spurn last Friday, a typical April day with dramatic grey clouds, bright bits in between and the threat of a heavy shower at any time.  After Hull the landscape is very like that of North Lincolnshire, where I grew up: flat fields, ditches with stands of reed, fields of yellow oil seed rape starting to dominate with their loud yellow.  This all feels familiar and relatively stable (apart from the changing weather).  

Once on the peninsular things are in constant flux: tides, weather, exposure, light levels, visibility.  The view is constantly changing because of all these things, but there is always big sky and a wide horizon all around.

The view across the Humber forms a kind of arc of land, as if looking across a lake, with the north bank merging in the distance to the south bank of the estuary.  Across the water are Grimsby, Cleethorpes and the Humber bank industries, which become a string of twinkling lights at night.  Ships come and go all the time, up and down the estuary and out in the North Sea. 

The curve of the peninsular is very apparent at the northern end of it, so rather than looking down the spine of the spit you look across water or sand to the point and the lighthouse in the distance (it's about 3.5 miles long).

I have almost 2 hours walking on a small section of the western shore.  There is so much to take my attention and I don't know quite what to settle on so I decide to draw whatever catches my eye, try things out and not worry about the results.  I have to find a way into things, find a pattern of recording that is appropriate and fits with the ever-changing conditions.  The elements govern everything here.  Plans have to be flexible.

I find that about 2 hours outside in one go is enough, less if the weather is unkind.  To be able to retreat to the car or the Bird Observatory for a warm drink, some note taking and then a change of location or direction is necessary.  
I got really absorbed in drawing sand patterns; sketched bits and pieces on the tide line; made rubbings of a wooden groyne; picked up small items of washed up rubbish that could be used for printing; noted where there were pockets of rusty metal (dyeing potential), drift wood and cockle shells; so much potential everywhere.  Lots of thinking, planning and note taking.  My first couple of visits must be about absorbing the place, understanding how to work here and finding that potential.  Only after this period of discovery can I make some decisions about what I want to concentrate on and make the focus of my work here.

16 April 2012

big news

I was absolutely thrilled to receive a letter over the weekend confirming that my application to Grants for the Arts was successful, meaning that the project has been awarded funding from The Arts Council.  I am officially now supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England!  This is a really big step for me.  As well as the financial support, which makes this whole project much more comfortable to undertake, there is a stamp of approval for my work that is a real accolade.  I'm excited but also quite daunted!

The residency will span the next six months, culminating in the exhibition weekend in September and after that the work will tour a number of galleries through into 2013.  Currently dates are confirmed for October at South Square, Thornton and then January/February at The Ropewalk, Barton-upon-Humber.  There are more venues and dates yet to be confirmed.

I'm very much looking forward to visiting Spurn later this week and really getting going on things.