Floods in the Calder Valley

Last Friday the rain was stupendously heavy and prolonged all day and into the night and inevitably the brimful rivers and canals flowed over their banks and into the little towns along the upper Calder Valley.

Fortunately no one was drowned but Saturday morning revealed scenes of sad devastation to homes and businesses in Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd.

Its grim to see communities that had just about been weathering the recession OK now reeling.  The only good thing to come out of it is the upwelling of support and community spirit that's seen large numbers of volunteers helping with the clear up and people raising money for the fund to help those worst affected.

Amazing things have been achieved in a few days and many of the affected shops are now opening.
Continued trading means jobs can be saved and wages paid - Shops and Tourism are the main industries in Hebden Bridge and provide decent jobs especially for child-rearing women who choose to work part-time. So please do buy local if you are in the area.

On a personal note, I had artwork in Spirals the lovely Fairtrade Eco shop owned by my unsinkable friends Helen and Sarah, but luckily for me my big framed woodcut print was in the upstairs room.  Two galleries that I was due to exhibit in during July have been affected, one in Todmorden and the other in Hebden Bridge and I'm not sure if both will go ahead now which is a shame, but of course completely minor in comparison to those artists who have had their work destroyed.

Despite all this, there's so much still going on in Hebden, there's life in the old town yet! especially this Saturday with the postponed Handmade Parade, Mytholmroyd Gala and the start of the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival. And the following weekend its Open Studios which I'll be fully participating in again at Brooklyn Studios.

More Woodcuts

Two more very recent woodcuts of Hebden Bridge Terraces.

I've enjoyed exploring all the different marks to make trees out of although the thousands of little gouges have strained my hands and shoulders and made a terrible mess in our kitchen (should have done this in the studio but sometimes its more comforting working at home when its chilly and dank and its supposed to be our summer...).

I'm possibly sorry that I've cleared so much from the road going up the hill, it seems too pale, although the hill roads round here do shimmer and reflect a lot of light, especially when damp. If I'd left it grey then there wouldn't be enough contrast.  It'll be interesting to see what difference hand-tinting might make, and I will probably fiddle around with some proofs to change the emphasis a bit.

Green Annihilation - in black and white

Exhibitions and Hebden Bridge Open Studios are looming so its been nose to the grindstone recently - a woodcutting frenzy has resulted in these little prints of upper Calder Valley terraces that seem to be disappearing into the trees.

The recent monsoon-like rains have led to rampant growth and reminded me of reading Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude over half a lifetime ago, where it rains in Macondo for 'four years, eleven months and two days'.

I took some pictures of the blocks before the initial inking as I love the soft look of them at this stage.
Its still always a shock when the image comes out reversed and very contrasty - you get used to seeing things one way and then suddenly everything's facing in the opposite direction - its easy to get confused...

Annoying Blogger

I like using Blogger most of the time but occasionally it drives me crazy when it seems to wilfully jumble up all the careful positioning and refuse to be corrected. So sorry to anyone following this blog who gets multiple posts just now.

Art Trail at Grassington Festival 2012

I've been keeping quiet about the work in progress for the Grassington Festival 2012 Art Trail, largely because I've been feeling unconfident about it.  There's always the worry about making a fool oneself in public.

Originally I was going to make some kind of book structure out of paper to be displayed in a shop window, but I did really want to try to make something to go outside in a specific site, for the challenge of it.  As soon as I saw the lovely ancient stone dovecote I knew I wanted to put work there and it just seemed natural to involve the folding paper bird skulls I started making as part of the 28 Days later drawing challenge in February. What better use for a disused dovecote than as an Ossuary? Like a cabinet of curiosities or a shrine to the birds whose skulls are so beautiful and redolent of their species.

So today I went to Grassington to install the work, ready for the start of the festival on Friday.  My colleague from Brooklyn Studios, Lynda Thomas very kindly offered to help me and I really appreciated her standing guard as I scampered up and down a wobbly ladder.

Here's all the stuff in my studio ready to be packed up this morning and an earlier trial run of installing a skull in a niche in the printmaking area.

And here's the initial concept drawing in my sketchbook with a mini skull in situ.

The theme of the festival is Tracks and Trails and the 15 participating artists were asked to respond to an artwork chosen from Leeds Art Gallery's Picture Lending Scheme. I chose Black Landscape an etching by Norman Ackroyd.

The connection between the etching and my final artwork is the starkness of the winter land, a black and white world where the underlying architectural structure of the landscape is revealed. And on those late winter and early spring walks you often find exciting objects to bring home, like the wondrous skeletal remains of birds and plants that still speak so strongly of their living selves.

More Enfolding Landscape Revealed

Here's the second part of The Enfolding Landscape Revealed.  The image is all about the wader's eggs I saw on High Brown Knoll at Easter 2011.

The Turkish map fold format really helps to give the sensation of drawing back the grass to reveal the simple but well camouflaged scrape that forms the nest.