Creative Passage

Philosophy of process and inspiration


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Wish I’d brought my camera…..

Sean Balanced On A Farm Gate In His Rugby Boots. Circa Early 1970's

Sean Balanced On A Farm Gate In His Rugby Boots. Circa Early 1970’s

Had a great January walk with friends, on the East Lothian coast near Tyninghame. It was cold but bright and we walked through the woods to the estuary, at the mouth of the Tyne. The trees there grow so close to the shore that their exposed and tangled roots, dangle like dreadlocks over the pebbles. If the sea had been azure blue I would have thought I was on the Riviera as the views were framed by lone mature pines with their trunks of chunky bark, scaled like alligator skins. If there had been any real heat in the sun the dried and faded pine needles, strewn on the sandy pathway, would have filled our delighted nostrils as we walked. But all the while as much as I  enjoyed being there, I desired to hold onto, to record in a material way, the beauty of the surroundings, and I wished I’d brought my camera.

I used to get really annoyed if I saw something visually stunning like a sunset and I didn’t have my camera. Once in the early seventies, driving through Limburg in the Netherlands at dusk in winter, past rows of vines silhouetted against a sky streaked with colour, I was so frustrated that I didn’t have the means to capture it that I turned my head away, I couldn’t look. That literally was a turning point and I decided to start enjoying those moments of visual excitement, without my camera.

Limburg Vines With Winter Sunset

Limburg Vines With Winter Sunset Circa Early 1970’s

Rusted Steel Girder with Stone. Circa late 1960's

Rusted Steel Girder with Stone. Circa late 1960’s

Corrugated Metal Sheet

Corrugated Metal Sheet Circa late 1960’s

So after a period of restraint and a turn away from photographing nature in the landscape and ‘arty’ abstracted selections, I began photographing my family and friends instead.

Those were the days of photography being limited by the number of frames on a roll of film and when used up, the restrictive cost of developing and printing. While at Art College my friends and I rarely took photos of each other, which I now regret. We saved our precious film for those ‘arty’ considered photographs and the thrill of a ‘good’ result in the form of a slide or print.
More often the results were disappointing, for various reasons; the colour was rarely true because of the processing or the type of film used, a lack of technical experience, no involvement with the processing and what the eye saw often being different to what the camera saw.

Sky Above The Menai Straits from Llandudno

Sky Above The Menai Straits from Llandudno

Old Brick Lined Quarry Pit, Penmon Anglesey Circa 1970

Old Brick Lined Quarry Pit, Penmon Anglesey Circa 1970

The Straits From Lleiniog, Anglesey Circa 1970's

The Straits From Lleiniog, Anglesey Circa 1970’s

Looking back at those early photographs, they were taken as slides on a slow film, there is something rather pleasing about their quality. The camera lens wasn’t very good, someone once said ‘shame about the putty lens’ and there wasn’t Auto Focus either!

I’m taking photographs of landscape again but it’s not quite full circle as digital photography has enabled us to make unlimited numbers of images, of everything and everyone, we have Auto Focus and we can ‘photoshop’ our images to achieve a variety of results with quantity having little impact on cost.

I try and remember to take my camera on my walks but it’s not the most important aspect of the walk and yes I sometimes ‘wish I’d brought my camera’. Having the camera doesn’t mean that something will catch the eye, it doesn’t mean the eye will be inspired, and it sometimes means it stymies process. Nothing is seen if I’m in a dream and being present and stirring the senses out of  their sleep is process and remembering to do so is progress!

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Walking On Cornflakes

Walking on cornflakes

Walking on cornflakes

It had been a two hot water-bottle night and the dog needed a walk before I left to go to teach my life drawing class. She usually comes with me to the class as there’s a wee mongrel, part Shih Tzu called Murphy who runs round with her at the community center where it’s held. It’s her once a week social and he misses her when I don’t bring her, but she’s in season so in quarantine for the time being.

Soggy Leaves

Soggy Leaves

Golden Light Through Leaves

Golden Light Through Leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked through the wood close to the house and the fallen leaves on the path were so crisply frozen it was like walking on cornflakes. From week to week, day to day and sometimes just a few hours, the wood-floor changes. When the frost lifts, the leaves loose their crunch and crackle, and turn into a soggy cereal.

Its already been a while since the path I tread, disappeared under the autumn carpet. The colours, were so intensely glorious, that when brushing through the orange spread of the leaves from the sycamores, I forgave them their greedy habit of ground scrounging.

Autumn drive

Autumn Colours On The Drive

Fly Agaric

Fly-agaric

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The path has appeared again, the foliage now flattened, the colours transposed to tannin browns. Its been cold then warm, wet then dry, and with these visual changes, a greater awareness of the aural ones, which have equally entranced my senses.

The stubble field is still unploughed, extending the sense of freedom I’ve experienced in my walking. The heavy rain had filled its edging ditches and now they’re bridged with icy shards of geometric piercings and I begin to imagine how I can use the images as a source for my next screen prints.

Geometric Ice Shards

Geometric Ice Shards

The bright frosty days are a welcome change from the traditional warmer Novembers of continuous rain and mouldy walls, and now it’s December anything could happen, we love the changes these Isles give us, we might even have snow

 


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Without Desire

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I walk the dog because she needs to run off all her energy. She needs to smell the scents of animals and birds and to flush them out of the undergrowth. She rarely catches anything and doesn’t know how to kill it’s not in her nature. It’s in her nature to run and hunt and her body is wired up to do so but that has nothing to do with desire.

The pay off for me of course is the pleasure of getting out in the fresh air, and walking through woods and fields. Its such a naturally satisfying activity, and the doing of it and the enjoying of it seems to be part of my nature, so why do I need to ‘walk the dog’ to make going for a walk happen every day, what gets in the way?

When I create, in whatever medium or form, I am absorbed, focused, present. It’s a satisfying, fulfilling process and even if the outcome hasn’t been resolved or completed, something within my nature has been met and I can meet the rest of the day.
When this happens it feels natural, and the work flows. Yet more often than not, this process is preempted by resistance  and resistance’s most powerful tool is desire. http://www.stevenpressfield.com/the-war-of-art/

In this situation desires are used as distractions. These desires may be everyday ones like deciding the house needs a clean, the windows look really dirty in the autumn morning sun, the weeds in the garden seem to be bigger than ever, they need pulling out out as it’s not raining. Desires can be in your face huge or subversively tiny and they just get in the way of what should be a natural process.

Even cleaning can be seen as a natural process but there’s the right time for everything!

‘Drawing in Nepal, Lake Phewa. Pokara’                                               Copyright  James Home

I enjoy painting outside but getting myself out there into ‘the nature’ requires determined effort. When I eventually find myself sitting on my painting stool, sketchbook resting on my knee, loaded paintbrush in hand, there’s nothing quite like it. Its a multi-sensational experience and even the little hovering bees want to take part, being attracted by the colours of the paints.

We can and we do use desires to get us going. We can imagine an outcome and that can be useful to a point. If I want to paint the shoreline on the Berwickshire coast I start by imagining where I might sit, timing it to make sure I’m there when the sun is in the right position in the sky, wearing something warm if there’s a wind. If it’s watercolours, remembering to take all the additional useful things like kitchen roll, a wide topped jar, water for me as well as for the paints, a sandwich in case I get hungry…

coast-coldingham-to-berwick-28x19cm

‘Coast, Coldingham to Berwick’ Watercolour

 

Once I’m there, the desire has served its purpose and if there had been an idea about the finished result this is the time to give it up, otherwise it will use up the energy required for the activity and will stifle the creative process.

With all the injustices going on in the world right now, all this may seem insignificant. but it isn’t. We have to start somewhere, we have to confront and acknowledge the enormous injustice we do to ourselves if we don’t express our creativity, that is, creativity without desire.

The wild geese are flying over again, calling out that winters on its way. They often take a break overnight in the fields close by and graze on the remains of the grain left over from the harvest. The wind has begun to cut and my walking routes will soon be subject to their theatrical direction. With a costume change, an extra jumper, gloves, an unflattering hat with ear flaps, wellies with double socks, the time has come to embrace the cultural hygge with warming soups and ash log fires, and soon will be forgotten how hot the sun was when it came, and how green were our trimmed lawns.

 

 

All Photos Copyright Sylvia Quinn Home unless otherwise stated.

Field Striding

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image

A ‘rains a coming’ sky of blown in clouds, a dash of blue. The field’s been combined, the red soil’s crumbly dry, the stubble still crisp. I’m standing at the edge of the field trying to keep my camera level as I take a panoramic photo, and a hare dashes past my legs followed swiftly by my dog.

The day before with the sun on the stubble, the field had glowed golden, honeyed, a mixture of yellow, ochre, and cadmium red set off with burnt sienna, but of course I didn’t have my camera then.

This has to be my favourite walking time when the fields are free of crops and are expansively inviting. I can stride from corner to corner, top to bottom, side to side, tree clump to tree clump.

My boots swish through and crackle the chopped stalks, it’s energizing, I am huge, my skin freshens, my head clears, my sight opens, and the dog is happy too.

The dog, who’s name I won’t give you for the moment in case I’ve used it for one of my many passwords, is probably extending my life as I was doing very little exercise except for once a week Yoga, and of course she’s a very sweet and affectionate companion when I’m on my own. I’d like to say that after our walk I’m ready to start working but usually I sit down in my studio with a contemplative cup of tea to plan and dream a little.

My studio isn’t short of painting materials but it’s often very difficult to make that creative start, so the cup of tea and a sit in my deck chair, is a way in. After the tea and contemplation I begin the ‘stalking the easel’ process and suddenly there I am sitting in my chair looking at the unfinished painting in front of me and I’m away.
There is a kind of ‘taming the beast’ process that goes on and courage is needed to step into the unknown. That courage needs support, our creativity needs nourishment and we all need to field-stride in one way or another.