Outdoor Art School and the Big Draw, 2019
In addition to the drawing activities at The Artistry House, I devised and led a series of group walking activities for The Big Draw and Preston Arts Festivals, in association with The Friends of Winckley Square. These walks meandered through Avenham and Miller Parks in the centre of Preston, during October 2019. On each walk a sequence of perceptual exercises took place at different locations and introduced creative techniques to tune in to and be inspired by the surroundings, particularly ephemeral atmosphere and sensory qualities.
Walkers’ creative ‘kit': containing A5 notebook/sketchbook, pencil, graphite stick, wooden peg … and in this case, a horse chestnut seed. Each kit contained a seed from a different species of tree.
Some moments recorded on the walks, shown below.
Slowing down and getting into the right state of mind and body…
Perceiving connections, sensing and ‘drawing’ lines…
We used the flights of 17 x stone steps, to make a somatic, rhythmic link to the 17 x syllable format of traditional haiku poetry (three lines, made up of 5, 7 and 5 syllables)
The haiku writing exercise continued at different locations: at the cut grass circle, along the river, around the fountain and in the bandstand.
Above: distilling the essence of moments. Examples of our draft haiku descriptive writing, pegged in situ ( click on images to expand them and click back to return).
Bringing awareness to the present moment has been shown to improve mental health and physical wellbeing. It can be especially helpful for those feeling weighed down by the past, or fearful of the future. Becoming more in touch with surroundings can aid feelings of calm, connection and balance.
On each walk we made collaborative artworks and placed them midway across the old railway bridge over the river Ribble, as material reminders of the benefits to mind and body of creativity and being fully present in the moment.
We interpreted the perpetually flowing river as a metaphor for time passing and the midway crossing point on the bridge as neither past or future: a site at which to celebrate our communal NOW moment.
On one of the walks we made graphite drawings, rubbings and interpretations of atmosphere, using pre-prepared templates to stimulate creative approaches to composition.
We then compiled all the drawings using magnets onto the side of the old iron bridge:
On a separate walk, we collected yellow as we moved through the park, then sorted into shifting autumnal shades to create a vibrant circle.
As an ancient symbol of holism and unity, our circle seemed both enduring and ephemeral.
Thank you to all the walkers for their generous creative participation and also to Manda Johnson-Holme and Glennis Hulme for their encouragement and support.
And a special thanks to Tony Lewis, Park Warden for Avenham and Miller Parks and Friend of Winckley Square, for his support and creative input to The Big Draw activities.
At the end of one of the walks, I recorded this synchronistic moment, from the middle of the old iron railway bridge.
See our event on The Big Draw’s website here
Some touchstones in the development of these creative walks have been
Paul Klee (1879 – 1940) Klee’s highly individual art style was influenced by Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism. He was a natural draftsman who also deeply explored colour theory. He taught at the Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. https://www.paulklee.net
Hannah Tuuliki is a Finnish/Scottish contemporary artist working in the landscape, with voice, drawing and gesture. https://www.hannatuulikki.org
Richard Long – one of Britain’s best-known land artists. http://www.richardlong.org
Nancy Holt (1938-2014) An american artist who pioneered a unique aesthetic of perception, as a key member of the Earth, Land and Conceptual art movements. http://www.nancyholt.com
Hamish Fulton – English artist who translates his walking into a variety of media. http://www.hamish-fulton.com
Andy Goldsworthy OBE is a British artist known for his site-specific installations involving natural materials and the passage of time. Andy studied art at Preston Polytechnic. Watch a recent film about his work here: https://www.leaningintothewind.com
C.G. Jung (1875 –1961) Swiss born founder of analytical psychology, Jung was also an artist, craftsman and builder as well as a prolific writer. He cited an intense period of art making as hugely influential in the development of his theories of the unconscious. Suggest his last book, an autobiography ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ as a starting point.
‘The Spell of the Sensuous. perception and language in a more-than-human-world.’ David Abram. Vintage Books. David Abram is an American philosopher, cultural ecologist, and performance artist, best known for his work bridging the philosophical tradition of phenomenology with environmental and ecological issues. https://wildethics.org
‘Presence’ is a leading British Haiku journal. www.haikupresence.org
Schumacher College is an internationally renowned learning community in Devon, offering ecology-centred masters programmes and short courses. https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk