Saying hello to the Faeries…

One week on the Isle of Man, 2015

It is nearly thirty years since I last visited Ellan Vannin – the Manx name for the Isle of Man. Situated in the middle of the emerald waters of the Irish Sea, within sight of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Heaven, so it is said, this self-governed commonwealth nation is probably best known for the yearly motorcycle TT race. For me, as an idealistic teenager surrounded by radical older students, it became a place of great significance in my own spiritual development. For the Celts it was the centre of the Faerie Empire, the royal thrones sitting atop the second highest mountain, South Barrule. Even today, respect for the other realms is still very much in evidence. Beyond this the island, once you have accepted the proliferation of lycra-clad outdoor pursuits, the squeals of cliff-leaping coasteerers and the constant stream of motorcyclists, is still a peaceful haven with stunning views and coastline, a place of folklore, local heritage and marine and avian wildlife.

manx dog by unknown artist, fired clay; carpets; crushed quartz pebbledash, Port Erin © p ward 2015Manx dog by unknown artist, fired clay; carpets; crushed quartz pebbledash, Port Erin © p ward 2015

Port Erin garden I-IV © p ward 2015Port Erin garden I-IV © p ward 2015

malachite and sea glass, Port Erin © p ward 2015malachite and sea glass, Port Erin © p ward 2015

found stick figure, Silverdale Glen © p ward 2015found stick figure, Silverdale Glen © p ward 2015

Mull Tomb Circle; Lochtan sheep; Manx thatch, Cregneash © p ward and f owen 2015Mull Tomb Circle; Lochtan sheep; Manx thatch, Cregneash © p ward and f owen 2015

The Chasms I-III, Port St Mary © p ward 2015The Chasms I-III, Port St Mary © p ward 2015

The Sugarloaf; Spanish Head, Port St Mary © p ward 2015The Sugarloaf; Spanish Head, Port St Mary © p ward 2015

Ramsey I-III © p ward 2015Ramsey I-III © p ward 2015

standing stones, Ramsey © p ward 2015standing stones, Ramsey © p ward 2015
discarded herrings, Peel; discarded scallop shells; bracken, Fleshwick © p ward 2015discarded herrings, Peel; discarded scallop shells; bracken, Fleshwick © p ward 2015

full moon, Port Erin © p ward 2015full moon, Port Erin © p ward 2015

from South Barrule © f owen 2015from South Barrule © f owen 2015

heather bundle, South Barrule © p ward 2015heather bundle, South Barrule © p ward 2015

from Bradda Head I-II © p ward 2015from Bradda Head I-II © p ward 2015

from Bradda Head III © p ward 2015from Bradda Head III © p ward 2015

Thank you to my family for treating us to this short holiday and this time to restore my connection to those things that inspire my living.

special people, IOM © p ward 2015special people, IOM © p ward 2015

© P Ward 2015


Escape to the Country

just another day in the life of an earth pigment artist…

I was recently invited by the popular television property show ‘Escape to the Country’ (Freemantle Media) to help with a local interest article about Bideford Black. Despite very inclement weather for August we spent an enjoyable morning on the beach and cliff top near the outcrop of pigment, accompanied of course by a chorus of local ravens, oystercatchers, gulls and a single peregrine falcon. The presenter, Alistair Appleton, was completely surprised by the ‘blackness’ and quality of the pigment and became quickly absorbed in his brief painting experience. It was fascinating to see behind the scenes, work alongside the team for a while and also get an opportunity to share my work with a new audience – the show reaches about 16 million people! It will be broadcast on BBC2 sometime during the next few months.

on location at greencliff and paintings by the team © p ward and courtesy n wilkinson (www.nickwilkinsontv.co.uk) 2015on location at greencliff and paintings by the team © p ward and courtesy n wilkinson (www.nickwilkinsontv.co.uk) 2015

© P Ward 2015


painting together workshops at the white moose

To accompany our[i] recent exhibition, painting together, at the White Moose Gallery[ii] in Barnstaple, we offered three workshops to explore the possibilities of creative collaboration through painting with local earth pigments. The first two workshops consisted of morning visits to prominent pigment sites followed by afternoons making paint and painting together on a shared canvas in the gallery. The third workshop was spent entirely in the gallery and looked closer at paint making techniques before using rocks and soils gathered in the previous outings to work with.

North Devon has an extremely rich geology – a combination of Devonian, Carboniferous, Perma-Triassic and more recent glacial deposits – that has shaped the way we have and still relate to the environment. Glacial clays have provided excellent material for local potteries. Copper, iron, sliver and tin were mined on Exmoor. Culm grasslands have offered fertile grazing for beef, dairy and other livestock. And different earth pigments have been extracted for both industrial and artistic applications. Bideford Black (and anthracite) was mined across the region until 1969, while raw umber was extracted from locations around Combe Martin[iii]. But wherever we go there is always an incredibly varied spectrum of earth colours to be used, representing and celebrating sense of place however we choose to express ourselves.

Sharing a surface to work on – in this case a previously prepared canvas – was found to be a fun, if sometimes frustrating, but rewarding and liberating experience. Sharing the whole experience – gathering pigments, making paint, sharing lunch and conversation, working on a communal surface and finally reflecting on the day – offered new ways of working beyond the more often isolated practice we enjoy. It’s not for all but can help shift our practice as artists into new areas, seeing how others work, observing our own methods, habits and expectations from a different perspective and raising interesting questions of ownership, value and public perception towards communal ways of working.

fremington quay eARTh walk 27615

fremington quay eARTh walk 1 © eARTh and K McEndoo 2015fremington quay eARTh walk 1 © eARTh and K McEndoo 2015

A first impression of Fremington Quay may be that of a fairly non-descript quay on the bend of a muddy estuary. However, when we look a bit deeper a rich history is evident. It was once one of the largest ports in the southwest, exporting iron, wool and clay, amongst other local products, around the world and importing coal and lime from South Wales. Until recently the Quay was a major railway siding, replaced now by the Tarka Trail cycle path extending from Barnstaple to the Ball Clay quarries at Meeth and Peters Marland south of Torrington. Its history is excellently displayed in the newly refurbished museum at the equally excellent café in the old station building.

The Quay sits broadly on the meeting of the Devonian (450 million years ago) and Carboniferous (350 million years ago) geological eras, a weakness in strata marked by the River Taw’s meandering intersection. The underlying carboniferous shales, slates and mudstones of the Crackington Beds, extend west to Hartland Point, and are capped on the southern banks of the estuary by glacial deposits from the Flandrian Ice Age 40,000 years ago. All this creates ideal conditions for the amazing array of pigments to be found along the low cliffs beyond the large disused stone limekiln west of the quay. A few miles inland Fremington clay pits provided fine red clay until 2013, helping establish and maintain the local potteries in Barnstaple and Bideford. The clays were laid down as sediments in glacial lakes and riverbeds. The folds, cracks and twists in the sedimentary carboniferous rocks allow for oxidization of minerals, offering an exquisite range of colours and textures. Some have said that in other countries the site would be considered a national heritage site. For now however it is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

I first came across the site when walking my dog many years ago, noticing the fantastic colours and rocks. However, it wasn’t until I started seriously researching earth pigments that I actually touched the rocks and found the colour. I have since visited with eminent geologists form the Ussher Society and Devonshire Association to learn more about it – although to be honest I wonder if I have not become just more confused, each ‘expert’ offering a different theory of the areas formation, age and make-up.

fremington quay eARTh walk 2 © eARTh and K McEndoo 2015fremington quay eARTh walk 2 © eARTh and K McEndoo 2015

For the painting together workshop the participants were bowled over by both the area’s history and geology and the amazing array of colours available. The painting we made is, I think evidence, of the lively experience and the richness of the site. It was subsequently hung in the Create Centre in Bristol as part of the Soil Culture exhibition.

fremington quay eARTh walk, earth pigments on canvas © eARTh, K McEndoo, S Levy 2015fremington quay eARTh walk, earth pigments on canvas © eARTh, K McEndoo, S Levy 2015

Greencliff eARTh walk 15715

Bideford Black has become popular among artists recently, after numerous projects focusing on its local significance and artistic potential. This workshop was therefore, not surprisingly, well attended with 10 participants and thankfully the weather was glorious. While the Bideford Black deposits exposed at Greencliff were the main attraction, there is a good range of other usable pigments easily accessible from the attendant sandstones and clays – white, grey, orange and pink rocks and clays were gathered, along with other beach detritus, and taken back to be enjoyed in the afternoon painting session.

Greencliff eARTh walk workshop 1 © eARTh 2015Greencliff eARTh walk workshop 1 © eARTh 2015

Greencliff eARTh walk workshop 2 © eARTh 2015Greencliff eARTh walk workshop 2 © eARTh 2015

There being more people made for a quite chaotic and crowded painting together experience, with two smaller canvasses being provided to take a specific place in the White Moose show. Limitations and parameters are an important aspect of any creative process and these were discussed at length within the context of the day’s workshop. Participants ranged from experienced artists and students to designers and other interested parties. Again the results and insights gained were an exciting reflection on the site, its history ad geology, the materials and the day’s events.

greencliff eARTh walk I & II, earth pigments on canvas © eARTh 2015greencliff eARTh walk I & II, earth pigments on canvas © eARTh 2015

painting together, White Moose 25715

After a brief overview of previous workshops and introduction to the materials, the final workshop experimented with various methods of paint making including using egg tempera, gum Arabic and PVA glue as binders. As a theme we focused on water and the sea. The rocks, clays and soils we were using were predominantly sedimentary, being laid down thousands and hundreds of millions of years ago under the ocean, by rivers, in lakes or by ice in glacial times. This is an idea that Francesca and myself are both interested to investigate and participants were happy to indulge us.

painting together workshop © eARTh 2015painting together workshop © eARTh 2015

The group shared their own experiences and relationships with water, and more specifically the sea, and continued to use this as a focus for mark making, imagery and discussion throughout the process. We thought of immersion, of healing, of play, of floating and sinking, of mysterious and murky depths and of a power wild and untamable. We painted creatures and waves. We blew bubbles. We wallowed in mud. One of the challenges was to paint the sea without the colour blue! The paintings success for me lay in its obscurity, its vagueness and shifting focus. Were we beneath the sea or floating in primordial swamp, part of it or separate? Its hard to tell, but we had a great day making it.

the sea, earth pigments on canvas © eARTh 2015the sea, earth pigments on canvas © eARTh 2015

Many thanks to Karen and Stella and to all those who took part in the workshops, to all who visited and enjoyed the exhibition, to all who contributed to the work and especially to the White Moose for hosting the exhibition. Unfortunately, we didn’t sell any work and had to cancel the ‘in conversation’ event through lack of interest but maybe that is a sign of the times or of a prevailing attitude in North Devon towards more contemporary/conceptual art forms but also an interesting reflection on people’s response to communal work. But whatever each time we entered the space we felt extremely proud and pleased with the show, with the work we had done together and the experience we had offered all who took part. We have thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to take the show further afield in due course.

But for now, all good things must come to an end…

un-painting the moose © eARTh 2015un-painting the moose © eARTh 2015

© P Ward 2015

[i] http://earthnorthdevon.wix.com/arts

[ii] http://www.whitemoose.co.uk/site/

[iii] According to local sources “no paint box was complete without Berrynarbour umber.” The pigment was mined until the 1790s and ground with ochre from East Down before being sent to London to be included in Reeves paint boxes. I have taken umber from the River Umber that runs through Combe Martin but as yet I have not located the quarries where it was mined.


painting together

an investigation in creative collaboration through painting

(in support of my/our latest exhibition in north devon)

painting together to save the world, images courtesy b stokes, s orrell 2011painting together to save the world, images courtesy b stokes, s orrell, p ward 2011

Pete Ward and Francesca Owen

White Moose Gallery, Trinity Street, Barnstaple, Devon, EX32 8HX

13th June – 1st August 2015

“Art does not reproduce the visible but makes visible” Paul Klee

painting together is a project by North Devon based artists Pete Ward and Francesca Owen that brings together concepts of contemporary art (dialogical art, ecopsychology, environmental awareness and process-based interdisciplinary collaboration) with the more traditional practice of paint making and painting from locally occurring earth pigments. While Pete and Francesca continue to work on individual projects in their shared studio space and on more collaborative pieces together, they will also be inviting selected artists and members of the public to take part in group paintings/makings in various settings and locations, offering workshops and space for reflection and feedback about the project and process involved.

painting together soil culture @ TH&TW © p ward 2012painting together, soil culture @ The Home & The World, Dartington Hall © p ward 2012

painting together early days © f owen, p ward 2011-13painting together, early days © f owen, p ward 2011-13

We have occasionally attempted to paint simultaneously, or in turns, on a surface with a fellow artist with varying results, the process often revealing the dynamic of egos and styles. In a similar way we are always responding to the relationship between ourselves as creative practitioners and the medium and environment with which we chose to work. Our experience of working with earth pigments has certainly led to a massive shift in practice both concerning our understanding and relationships with specific colours and the process involved. Earth pigments have also revealed a surprising freedom of expression and confidence seldom felt with more commercially available media – everyone just has a go! However, when working with other human beings a whole set of new questions and creative possibilities arise. For example, who owns the painting and to whom does credit for its creation lie? At what point do our egos let go and the collective subconscious come into play, if at all? How much are our individual actions influenced and dictated by the dynamic ecology of the group? Do guidelines and prescribed parameters help or hinder the process and then how and to what extent? Is the sense of satisfaction of making work together the same or different from working as an individual and how? The ‘art work’ of ancient history and indigenous cultures that we presently enjoy is rarely attributed to a sole artist, but more to a group, tribe or moment/phase in earth’s history. Do these works of cultural expression reach beyond the ego to a place of shared experience, of shared intention and mutual respect for the world we inhabit? painting together as a process will hopefully begin to reveal a sense of art more aligned to such sentiments than the overriding individuality of modern times.

painting together, greencliff painting © f owen, p ward 2015painting together, greencliff © f owen, p ward 2015

painting together, for the love of art © eARTh 2015painting together, for the love of art © eARTh 2015

painting together, art trail © eARTh 2015painting together, art trail/art trek © eARTh 2015

Art may be seen as a space for creativity to take place, for time, ideas and materials to reveal thoughts and processes anew. Whether this is a painting, a poem, a film, a performance, activity or workshop is all the same. Art may be a catalyst for further creative action and thought rather than merely the product of such actions. It is not always for the artist to dictate any specific outcome but to provide and structure meaningful parameters within which we may engage, actively and imaginatively, with ourselves and the world. To make work with others, within a creatively conscious and reflective environment, is therefore an ideal situation to explore and reveal new and inspiring relationships, while also producing work beyond the ego of individual artists to represent a specific and relevant ecological dynamic.

painting together eARTh gown © f owen, s bamford, c thomas, p ward 2015painting together, eARTh gown © f owen, s bamford, c thomas, p ward 2015

painting together, soil culture peninsula arts © p ward, d williamson 2015painting together, soil culture peninsula arts © p ward, d williamson 2015

painting together soil culture dartington hall © p ward, CCANW 2015painting together, soil culture dartington hall © p ward, CCANW 2015

‘These projects mark the emergence of a body of contemporary art practice concerned with collaborative, and potentially emancipatory, forms of dialogue and conversation. While it is common for a work of art to provoke dialogue among viewers this typically occurs in response to a finished object. In these projects conversation becomes an integral part of the work itself.’

(Grant Kester, 2005)

painting together, annoying stuart fiddes © f owen, l hudson, r ara, p ward 2015painting together, annoying stuart fiddes / black, grey, white © f owen, l hudson, r ara, p ward 2015

painting together WHITE MOOSE © f owen, p ward 2015painting together, WHITE MOOSE mural © f owen, p ward 2015

painting together © f owen, p ward 2015painting together © f owen, p ward 2015

painting together will include opportunities to participate in communal art through workshops, artist’s talks and walks in the local environment as well as the exhibition at the White Moose Gallery in Barnstaple, North Devon. For more information see http://www.whitemoose.co.uk/site/painting-together/

further links

 painting together white moose logos © f owen, p ward 2015

The exhibition at White Moose Gallery has been organized in conjunction with the Centre for Contemporary Arts & the Natural World Soil Culture Project in the International Year of Soils 2015

 

P Ward 2015


painting with earth (again) … a new start

art trail ART TREK open studios 2015

Prompted and encouraged by our recent investigation at eARTh into natural paint binders with Clare Thomas and the opportunity to show some new work during two recent open studio events, I have been doing some painting…

vernal equinox 1 (51x31cm; earth pigments with gum arabic and rabbit skin glue on canvas) © p ward 2015vernal equinox 1 (51x31cm; earth pigments with gum arabic and rabbit skin glue on canvas) © p ward 2015

vernal equinox 2 (60x50cm; earth pigments with gum arabic on canvas) © p ward 2015vernal equinox 2 (60x50cm; earth pigments with gum arabic on canvas) © p ward 2015

storyteller 3 (50x50cm; earth pigments with gum arabic and rabbit skin glue on canvas) © p ward 2015storyteller 3 (50x50cm; earth pigments with gum arabic and rabbit skin glue on canvas) © p ward 2015

crow point triptych (3x60x50cm; earth pigments with gum arabic and rabbit skin glue on canvas) © f owen & p ward 2015crow point triptych (3x60x50cm; earth pigments with gum arabic and rabbit skin glue on canvas) © f owen & p ward 2015

The different natural binders (gum arabic, rabbit skin glue and damar varnish), new range of colours and larger scale, and inspiration of working closely with another painter, has provided more depth, transparency, fluidity and subtlety in mark-making within my painting and rejuvenated my desire for and understanding of its place within my life. Thank you Clare for your thorough investigation and generous sharing of your discoveries and materials. My own work has continued along its theme of resonance, energy and potential, hopefully offering space for healing and rejuvenation through personal observation and the local assimilation of process, materials and colour. The work is still intuitively aligned to a sense of landscape, connection and place, to nature’s processes and cycles, to magic and the power of intent, meditation and prayer.

bonk! (250x150cm; earth pigments with rabbit skin glue on canvas) © p ward 2015bonk! (250x150cm; earth pigments with rabbit skin glue on canvas) © p ward 2015

i do not love (it is) (78x78cm; earth pigments with gum arabic, damar varnish and rabbit skin glue on canvas) © p ward 2015i do not love (it is) (78x78cm; earth pigments with gum arabic, damar varnish and rabbit skin glue on canvas) © p ward 2015

indigo (90x70cm; earth pigments with gum arabic and rabbit skin glue on driftwood board) © p ward 2015indigo (90x70cm; earth pigments with gum arabic and rabbit skin glue on driftwood board) © p ward 2015

eARTh open studio © v large 2015eARTh open studio © v large 2015

The open studio events – Ilfracombe Art Trail 2015 and North Devon Art Trek 2015 – provided an opportunity for free community eARTh painting workshops, further contributions towards Francesca and I’s forthcoming painting together exhibition/project at White Moose Gallery in Barnstaple, and to meet a broad range of people – artists and non-artists alike. Ilfracombe Art Trail, a new and enthusiastically organized local community event including 40 artists in 25 venues throughout the town, brought nearly 150 people through eARTh’s doors in one weekend. While the more established Art Trek, spread across the whole of North Devon for 3 weeks, brought a far smaller number maybe indicating a natural trend towards the ‘local’ within the creative industries. Thank you to all who helped organize both events and to everyone who made time to visit us and contribute to the paintings. The Ilfracombe painting was initially shown at the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe before being hung along with a selection of other collaborative and communal works in Barnstaple – see next post.

full house – community painting at eARTh for ilfracombe art trail 2015 © eARTh 2015full house – community painting at eARTh for ilfracombe art trail 2015 © eARTh 2015

P Ward 2015


Crow Point 10415

“If you lack the materials to work with, go to the beach and draw with a stick in the sand, draw on the dry earth with a line of piss, make a drawing of the song of the birds in the emptiness of space, the noise of the water and of the wheel of a cart, and the song of the insects. All of this may be swept away by the wind and the water, but have the conviction that all these pure realizations of my spirit will influence, by magic and miracle, the spirit of other men.” Joan Miro, 1940

crow point © p ward 2015crow point © p ward 2015

Sometimes, when one’s creativity seems a little stifled or this art becomes a little too serious and responsibilities just too onerous to bare, it is enough to take oneself to the local beach, or a place of personal power, some woods or favourite walk, or even somewhere completely new, and just set to playing – exploring some different materials in a different environment, away from the studio with no pressure of outcome, finance or foe. Francesca and I are presently working together towards a number of exhibitions and open studios but often struggling with the demands of parenthood to find time to apply ourselves fully to our artistic endeavours. It was time for a change – a change in our expectations of ourselves, of our working practice both individually, and with each other, and maybe even a change in the form of our expression. Working together may often help such a process of re-evaluation and movement but it may just as easily hinder it. Whatever, it is always worth trying to get the juices flowing again, to unblock, to break the dam, to release and revive the mojo, so to speak.

Here’s what happened when we went to one of our favourite spots in North Devon – Crow Point, at the mouth of the Taw and Torridge rivers, where the rich estuarine waters flow into Barnstaple/Bideford Bay (wherever your more clandestine loyalties may lie), at the southern end of Braunton Burrows, centre of the UNESCO North Devon Biosphere Reserve, a place I had spent many happy childhood holiday times and one I will be continuing to share with our son Noah now and in the future.

arbritary transect © f owen & p ward 2015arbritary transect © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Transect – collecting objects that appeal from a line down the beach, recognizing arbitrary zones, changes in surface and ecology, bringing those things together as a simple expression of that system, process and place.

noah’s ark within arm’s reach © f owen & p ward 2015noah’s ark within arm’s reach © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Noah’s Ark at arm’s length – sitting and sorting the stones and sand to find as many seashells as one can within arm’s reach; drawing a line to mark that reach; placing all the shells together on a piece of rock or driftwood within the space; observing, perhaps identifying and counting and enjoying the diversity of life therein.

boardwalk for lizards and beetles © f owen & p ward 2015boardwalk for lizards and beetles © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Driftwood boardwalk for lizards and beetles – arranging a selection of sticks from one place to another.

crow point bundle © f owen & p ward 2015crow point bundle © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Flotsam and jetsam beach bundle – collect interesting things and tie them together in a bundle; photograph arrangement from a weird/artistic angle to capture a sense of moment and place.

rubbish sculpture © f owen & p ward 2015rubbish sculpture © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Rubbish sculpture, an ode to Mr Duchamp – a carefully juxtaposed re-appropriation of discarded toilet seat and plastic, sticks, rope, sand and shadows.

4 subtle stick crosses © f owen & p ward 20154 subtle stick crosses © f owen & p ward 2015

  • 4 subtle stick crosses on driftwood with sand – most transient darling!?

buggy tracks © p ward 2015buggy tracks © p ward 2015

line in the sand © f owen & p ward 2015line in the sand © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Line in the sand – drag a stick in the sand as you walk along the beach, enjoying this simple expression of movement and mark making.

crow point sketch © f owen & p ward 2015crow point sketch © f owen & p ward 2015

  • Pick things up and take them home – gather some more objects that particularly appeal to one’s artistic sensibilities at the time, tie them all together and cart them back to the car and consequently the studio where they may be arranged in pleasing and/or meaningful ways in the name of art…

As utterly committed contemporary (environmental) artists we, of course, spent time recording and documenting our ‘play’ for who knows just when our lighthearted, seemingly trivial investigative dalliances may trigger a new burst in creative output or inspired artistic flare and productivity. We also had a great time and hope that Noah did too!? From his shoulder-top vantage point who knows what he thought or what affects we may be catalyzing in his innocent and vulnerable being but from his smiling cheeky face chirruping away throughout the windy, sun filled walk, and the way he is chewing away on the table edge as I write this blog, I’m sure he’ll be just fine.

finger painting, earth pigments and natural binders on canvas © f owen & p ward 2015finger painting, earth pigments and natural binders on canvas © f owen & p ward 2015*

Thank you to Francesca and Noah for such a lovely walk, to Crow Point and North Devon in general for providing such creative and spiritual inspiration in abundance and such a beautiful place to bring up a small child, to this blog post for mainfesting yet another excuse to use one of my favourite quotes and to Mr Miro for writing it. We are now cracking back on with work in the studio in preparation to entertain and inspire you all again throughout the coming months and years…

© P Ward 2015

* and many thanks to Clare Thomas for priming the canvas with rabbit skin glue and linseed oil, and indeed for her inspiring residency at eARTh – I, for one, will be using more natural ingredients in my paint making from now on 🙂

 


Morocco – Marrakech, Imlil, Essaouira

early spring 2015

It is difficult to concisely express the accumulated experience of 9 days (216 hours) in such a different culture and environment with a year old baby and loving partner. I was quietly determined to take only a few photos, to try to keep the experience more ‘whole’ through sensory memory alone. Of course, the phone camera was hard to resist and some moments were captured digitally both as sound and image, albeit rather inadequately, along with a handwritten list of bird and animal species. Suffice to say I also enjoyed some fantastic bundles of sticks, carried by people and animals alike, and a wonderful array of earth colours in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. But to sum up, the lingering sensation is that of movement, of change, of noise and smell and taste, of clamour, of conversations, of frustration, deliberation and joy, of meetings and departures, hellos and goodbyes, of a small boy waving and waving with a mouth full of berber bread and happy adoring faces, of colour, of heat, of wind and mountains and sea, of arid brightness and intensity, and then of a return to the soft, patchwork of rolling subdued earthy tones and a familiar English winter landscape from on high.

Here is a selection of the images taken by Francesca and myself (depending on who was holding the camera/baby at the time)…

bicycle-door-wall, marrakeck © f owen 2015bicycle-door-wall, marrakech © f owen 2015

dye smeared gateway, marrakeck tannery © f owen 2015dye smeared gateway, marrakech tannery © f owen 2015

rug showroom, marrakech tannery © f owen 2015rug showroom, marrakech tannery © f owen 2015

‘indigo’ scarf, marrakech wool dye shop © f owen 2015‘indigo’ scarf, marrakech wool dye shop © f owen 2015

bulbul; house bunting, marrakech © p ward 2015bulbul; house bunting, marrakech © p ward 2015

painted metal sheets, marrakech © p ward 2015painted metal sheets, marrakech © p ward 2015

rocks, tamatert, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015rocks, tamatert, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015

sticks and blankets, aroumd, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015sticks and blankets, aroumd, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015

firing the hammam, imlil, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015firing the hammam, imlil, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015

painted path marker, imlil, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015painted path marker, imlil, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015

boxes, imlil, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015boxes, imlil, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015

graffiti, imlil, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015graffiti, imlil, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015

stairwell, imlil, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015stairwell, imlil, high atlas mountains © p ward 2015

fish cart, essaouira © p ward:f owen 2015fish cart, essaouira © p ward/f owen 2015

palette, essaouira © p ward:f owen 2015palette, essaouira © p ward/f owen 2015

rubbed-down hull, essaouira © p ward:f owen 2015rubbed-down hull, essaouira © p ward/f owen 2015

earth juice stall, essaouira © f owen 2015earth juice stall, essaouira © f owen 2015

children’s mural project, essaouira © f owen 2015children’s mural project, essaouira © f owen 2015

old town, essaouira © f owen 2015old town, essaouira © f owen 2015

shops, essaouira © f owen & p ward 2015shops, essaouira © f owen & p ward 2015

evening promenade, essaouira © p ward:f owen 2015evening promenade, essaouira © p ward/f owen 2015

riad beldy, essaouira © p ward 2015riad beldy, essaouira © p ward 2015

collection, morocco © p ward 2015collection, morocco © p ward 2015

home again, the south downs from the plane © p ward 2015home again, the south downs from the plane © p ward 2015

Many thanks to Francesca, Noah and all the people and creatures of Morocco who made our time so good.

© p ward 2015


 

1. http://karol-kochanowski.com/ – a lovely artist we met in marrakech

2. http://www.galeriedamgaard.com/ – a great gallery showing distinctive primitive local art in essaouira

3. http://francescaowen.wix.com/arts  – the wonderful francesca owen no less…


500 children!!

NEWPORT COMMUNITY INFANT ACADEMY ARTSWEEK 2015 – Soil Culture*

500 children, communal painting, earth pigments on canvas © p ward 2015500 children, communal painting, earth pigments on canvas © p ward 2015

I was recently invited to develop and lead environmental art activities for Newport Community School in Barnstaple, North Devon. The activities offered opportunities for staff and pupils to explore and celebrate our relationships with Nature, in particular soil and local earth pigments. The school has 500 pupils between 3 and 12 years old. A range of activities, including mud painting, making soil balls, bundles of sticks and leaf sorting, were presented to the teaching staff and then left for them to interpret. The communal artworks created were included in an exhibition for children and parents at the end of the week and a 6x1m earth pigment painting made by the whole school was left as legacy of the week’s hard work.

For me to develop such a large-scale event for so many was extremely daunting – how teachers do it day-in-day-out is amazing! It was incredible to see a painting evolve at the hands of 500 children, with only the most arbitrary guidelines, to become a vibrant expression of their experience and of North Devon itself. All participatory group paintings I have facilitated have somehow turned out well, but I have never tried it with 500 children before, and it is certainly a way of working I hope to pursue further in the future. The other simple activities, and reflection upon them, seemed to give children and staff space to try something new and also a space to learn through a different, more hands-on approach. The whole event has given me a great deal of satisfaction and confidence to tackle such events again in the future.

The exhibition was well attended by some most bemused but interested parents looking for their individual child’s work only to find it absorbed into the totality. The school, to their credit, thoroughly got behind both the educational and experiential value of art activities and also the contemporary conceptual nature of the final exhibition. Many thanks to Georgie Treanor for helping organize ARTSWEEK and to the children, teachers and staff for their patient and enthusiastic participation, and to Francesca for her support and help preparing the canvas.

francesca hemming the canvas © p ward 2015francesca hemming the canvas © p ward 2015

soil . making paint . local history . geology . local resources . environment . culture

earth pigment logo © p ward 2010

INTRODUCTION to TEACHERS PACK

“Art does not reproduce the visible, but makes visible” Paul Klee

Art is one way we learn about the world. The learning and creative processes are based on both sensory experience and reflection. The process and expression of such experience is what we know as Art. From the beginning of human history we have learnt about the world through experience of the materials that are available in our immediate surroundings. From this experience, and through trial and error, we have developed the technologies to enable us to survive. As communications and transport have become more versatile and far reaching we have often lost our knowledge and understanding of the local environment and the materials it provides.

In North Devon, as elsewhere, our culture and identity as a region has been based on the natural resources available. For many centuries the chief industries were mining, for iron and copper, and sheep farming wool on the steep hills and valleys. The soils have promoted a rich and varied agriculture from dairy and beef cattle to crops. Bideford and Barnstaple both had large potteries supplied by clay pits in Fremington and Peters Marland. The potteries have unfortunately closed now but the white ball clay pits at Peters Marland and Meeth still quarry and export clay for use in brick- and paper-making. And, of course, Bideford has a black earth pigment named after it that was mined until 1969. Bideford Black was used in the boat industry, to paint tanks in WW2 and by Max Factor to make mascara.

By learning about the materials in our local environment and appreciating their importance to our lives it is hoped that we may also learn to respect them a little more.

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself” Zen Proverb

THE ACTIVITIES

  • THE SOUND OF CHILDREN LISTENING – we have quietly listened to the wind and trees and birds and the sounds of Newport. We have felt the sun and wind and rain on our faces and the earth beneath our feet.

circles made by walking © p ward 2015circles made by walking © p ward 2015

  • CIRCLES MADE BY WALKING – we have been walking in big circles on the playing field, making big muddy drawings with our feet.

a workshop for a week © p ward 2015a workshop for a week © p ward 2015

presentation display © p ward 2015presentation display © p ward 2015

paint making table © p ward 2015paint making table © p ward 2015

work in progress © p ward 2015work in progress © p ward 2015

500 children, communal painting, earth pigments on canvas (detail) © p ward 2015500 children, communal painting, earth pigments on canvas (detail) © p ward 2015

  • 500 children – communal painting on canvas by all members of the school using North Devon Earth Pigments. We have learnt about where paint comes from, how the rocks it is made from are formed, where they can be found in North Devon and how to make paint before adding our mark to the big painting.

soil investigation table © p ward 2015soil investigation table © p ward 2015

  • Soil Balls – we have been investigating soil brought in by teachers from around North Devon to see what it is made of and what creatures live in it and then forming it into balls with our hands.

500 soil balls, exhibition table 1 © p ward 2015500 soil balls, exhibition table 1 © p ward 2015

500 soil balls, exhibition table 2 © p ward 2015500 soil balls, exhibition table 2 © p ward 2015

leaf collage, display table © p ward 2015leaf collage, display table © p ward 2015

  • LEAF COLLAGES – we have been collecting leaves and sorting them to see how many different plants, shapes and colours there are.

charcoal leaf drawings 1 © p ward 2015charcoal leaf drawings 1 © p ward 2015

charcoal leaf drawings 2 © p ward 2015charcoal leaf drawings 2 © p ward 2015

  • CHARCOAL DRAWINGS – we have been looking very closely at leaves and drawing them using charcoal.

500 BUNDLES OF STICKS, exhibition table © p ward 2015500 BUNDLES OF STICKS, exhibition table © p ward 2015

  • BUNDLES OF STICKS – we have been gathering sticks from the playing field and tying them together. This simple activity has led to discussions about fuel, building materials and ways of tying things.

dirty hands and cordyline structures © p ward 2015dirty hands and cordyline structures © p ward 2015

  • DIRTY HANDS – we have been getting our hands ‘dirty’, covering them and some paper with mud.

cordyline structures 1 © p ward 2015cordyline structures 1 © p ward 2015

cordyline structures 2 © p ward 2015cordyline structures 2 © p ward 2015

  • CORDYLINE STRUCTURES – we have been using cordyline leaves to explore natural fibres and making all sorts of things from them.

word wall © p ward 2015word wall © p ward 2015

  • WORD WALL – we have been writing down words that the ARTSWEEK activities have inspired.

exhibition space and slide show in the assembly hall © p ward 2015exhibition space and slide show in the assembly hall © p ward 2015

  • SLIDE SHOW – here are some pictures of us exploring, creating and enjoying the activities this ARTSWEEK.

remnants - soil balls, leaves and bundles of sticks returned to the playing field after the exhibition 1 © p wardremnants – soil balls, leaves and bundles of sticks returned to the playing field after the exhibition 1 © p ward

remnants - soil balls, leaves and bundles of sticks returned to the playing field after the exhibition 2 © p wardremnants – soil balls, leaves and bundles of sticks returned to the playing field after the exhibition 2 © p ward

© p ward 2015


 To see more of the work visit http://www.newportprimary.devon.sch.uk/artsweek-19th-23rd-january-2015/

* Soil Culture is a project by the Centre for Contemporary Arts & the Natural World to raise awareness about soil through the arts (www.ccanw.co.uk)

 


garden waste, woodford 161214

spotted flycatcher bundle, woodford © p ward 2014spotted flycatcher bundle, woodford © p ward 2014

a pleasant few days break in west somerset

after a week of hard work inside the studio.

despite a forecast of persistent heavy rain

and a recurrent mechanical inconvenience

there was sunshine

a chance to tidy the garden

to the sound of wind shaking the trees and familiar birdsong

inspiring peace of mind and a few life-art works

to celebrate the simplicity, beauty and creativity of nature

reflections of place and time and relationship

with thanks…

garden waste, woodford 161214garden waste, woodford © p ward 2014

Waste and wastes implies unwanted or unusable materials. The term is often subjective (because waste to one person is not necessarily waste to another) and sometimes objectively inaccurate…[i]

another line made by walking, woodford © p ward 2014another line made by walking, woodford © p ward 2014

In preparation for a local school’s artsweek I will be leading at the end of January I have been researching some very basic materials such as sticks and leaves and mud, and wheelbarrows… I have been invited, as an environmental artist, to develop a series of activities to engage 500 children between the ages of 4 and 12, and their teachers, with ideas of local ecology, its influence on the region’s historical development and our current relationship with it. 2015 being the UN International Year of Soils, and being one of my own specialisms, I have chosen the theme of SOIL. The activities will allow children and teachers to explore and hopefully learn something about the nature of soil and its importance in all our lives. The activities, designed to be starting points for creative journeys for teachers to explore with their classes, will also lead to an end of week environmental art exhibition including work made by every child in the school. The centrepiece will be a large earth pigment painting built up during the week by the children and finished by a group of ‘gifted and talented’ students who have shown a particular aptitude and interest in the arts. The painting will be left as a legacy for the school and acknowledgement of the hard work accomplished during the week. Hopefully the children and teachers will have an enjoyable and memorable time.

© p ward 2014


 

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste


eARTh MIDWINTER OPEN studio 2014

reVIEW…

Many thanks to everyone who came along and shared their support for eARTh, both in person and on line. Despite the cold (our central heating packed up during some of the coldest, wettest, windiest weather so far this year) we had a good number of interested and interesting visitors, some great ideas shared, some good work done and even some work sold. It was really encouraging to see our ideas taking shape and to have others excited and wanting to share in them. We are presently putting together a series of initial events and activities for 2015 based on discussions had during the week including a contemporary environmental art support group, open space days, painting and dyeing workshops, a number of meetings, two more open studio events (Ilfracombe Art Trail and North Devon Art Trek) and a few residencies, including a visitor from Canada exploring natural pigment binders and some performers from the Netherlands.

Here are a few images of the work done for and during the OPEN STUDIO…

eARTh logo, gesso on slate © p ward 2014eARTh logo, gesso on slate © p ward 2014

WARofWORDS, earth pigments of paper © p ward 2014WARofWORDS, earth pigments of paper © p ward 2014

shimmer, earth pigments on paper © p ward 2014shimmer, earth pigments on paper © p ward 2014

“Then, when the waters sank, the great goddess smiled again and in her heart declared herself for man. She blessed the harvests, and her gentle spirit was ever in the fields and granaries; and in the long evenings, she loved to take her ease in some countryman’s home and listen to the talk of sunshine and grain, and new shoots and old trees and the mischief-making nymphs.”

from The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen.

OPEN STUDIO day 7 with dance artist Katy Lee, Bideford Youth Group, Home Grown Kids and environmental artist and youth worker Andy Branston © p ward 2014OPEN STUDIO day 7 with dance artist Katy Lee, Bideford Youth Group, Home Grown Kids and environmental artist and youth worker Andy Branston © p ward 2014

francesca working on 9 months, inside and out, oil and earth on canvas © p ward 2014francesca working on 9 months, inside and out, oil and earth on canvas © p ward 2014

eARTh studio view, including paintings by francesca owen and pigment table © p ward 2014eARTh studio view, including paintings by francesca owen and pigment table © p ward 2014

femme, earth pigment and watercolour on paper © p ward and f owen 2014femme, earth pigment and watercolour on paper © p ward and f owen 2014

for display purposes only, ilfracombe cake and chaise longue © p ward and f owen 2014for display purposes only, ilfracombe cake and chaise longue © p ward and f owen 2014

bideford black hand spiral by elspeth © p ward 2014bideford black hand spiral by ella © p ward 2014

shared painting table at eARTh © f owen 2014shared painting table at eARTh © f owen 2014

music, earth pigments on paper © p ward 2014music, earth pigments on paper © p ward 2014

learning, bideford blackboard and shelf with chalk, charcoal and birch bundle © p ward 2014learning, bideford blackboard on shelf with chalk, charcoal and birch bundle © p ward 2014

If you have any further ideas, no matter how small, that you would like to explore or ways you would like to utilize the space please contact us directly. We would love to share and develop our work with others of common interest and intent so please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Similarly, if you would like to be kept informed of our work and events please send us your email address and we will add you to our mailing list.

© p ward 2014