Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Luminous Forest

The beautiful Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve, Brandenburg

The experience of being in Germany was so emotional and moving, that I have found it hard to put into words.  Walking through the forest and hearing Cranes calling in the distance moved me deeply.  The vibrant biosphere was full of life from irridescent blue beetles carpeting the floor of the forest to the amazing variety of birds darting in and out of the tree tops.  I imagine it is like being in a fairy tale – only it was not a fairytale as everything was very real and alive and calling it a fairytale takes away from the very normality of how things can be if protected and cherished.  My life in inner city Birmingham is a world away from such epic beauty.  I value nature be it buttercups trying to grow along the dusty industrial streets of the Midlands or bees trying to make their home in the side of a terraced house.  I look for signs of flora and fauna everywhere and value it even though it might be a small patch striving to survive.
The Cranes and the forest were very special and I know I am very privileged to have had the opportunity to have been part of this year’s Great Crane Project trip to Brandenburg. It was also wonderful to have met Beate and Eberhard, the conservationists from the biosphere reserve whose passion and knowledge of every inch of the area was infectious.(More on Beate and Eberhard in another post).

Cranes and a Thunderstorm 

About 10 minutes after I took this quick video the sky opened into a heavy rain storm. It was one of the most vivid and intense nature experiences of my life and one to remember forever. Eberhard had taken filmmaker Sasha and myself to a tall hide in the forest where Cranes roost at night. We sat high up watching the Cranes walking amongst the trees and calling to one another (play with sound on to hear the Cranes). The landscape was still and quiet apart from the birds themselves and for one moment I felt like I could disappear into the landscape and leave the modern world behind. Nothing seemed as real and vital than that moment in time – the feeling was so intense you could almost reach out and touch it. 

A Rich Colour Palette

Me about to enter a swamp! My desk back at 'The Mill' where the team stayed for the duration of the trip.
During breaks from wading through swamps, tracking Cranes and collecting eggs, I managed to do some painting in gouache of small miniature scenes from the forest.  These paintings will form part of my work for the Company of Cranes exhibitions -  part 1 at Slimbridge in the summer and part 2 in Langport as part of Somerset Art Weeks, in September.

Forest Jewels

A short film I took of this beautiful beetle crossing the forest path.  The irridescent blue colouring was so vivid - like jewels scattered across the floor. 

More forest jewels and a tree covered with fungi that looks as if it is straight from the pages of an Eastern European folktale!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Off to Germany. Leaving you with flying Cranes and Barn Owls.

Off to Brandenburg tomorrow!

My new gouaches, Damon Bridge checking eggs in Brandenburg and the first chick hatched at Slimbridge on 4th May.
Photos courtesy of Damon Bridge.
On the eve of my trip to Germany with The Great Crane Project to collect Cranes eggs for rearing and release in England, I am busily packing my art equipment and my brand new, fresh gouaches (purchased specially for the trip)!  Gouache is my preferred medium and one that I've used for 23 years. I love it's smoothness and vibrancy and when painting minute and intricate details - there is no rival in my opinion.  I travel to Brandenburg with the Crane team, stopping one night on route and arrive at the 'Mill' on Tuesday evening, where we will stay and work for a week.  I'm hoping to set up a mini art studio in a corner if I can, as I am so excited and eager to get started on illustrations for the zoetropes.  As of yesterday the first chick from this years egg collection has hatched at Slimbridge (there are two trips to Germany and I am on the second leg).  So a good start for this years new flock of Cranes.

Flying Cranes Zoetrope - work in progress

A short experimental video of my zoetrope, depicting cranes in flight - illustrated in gouache and fine pens. I am making a series of zoetropes for my forthcoming exhibition at Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, illustrating my time with the Cranes.

Barn Owl at Stathe Bridge, Somerset

A spontaneous video of a Barn Owl that surprised me whilst looking for Cranes at Stathe in Somerset.  I managed to capture a short flight on my camcorder as it flew very close to me.  Such a beautiful and bright bird and a wonderful surprise.

The Beauty and Fragility of Somerset Hedgerows

During the recent bad weather a couple of weeks ago, I managed to capture some of this icy beauty on camera.  A morning walk down foggy lanes revealed withered and delicate plants whose beauty was only highlighted by a covering of frost.