Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Sketchbook Project - "Milltir Sgwar / Square Mile"

“It's like a road trip, but with sketchbooks”.

 “The Sketchbook Project is a global, crowd-sourced art project where participants from all walks of life are sent a sketchbook … fill the pages and return it for inclusion in a traveling exhibition and permanent collection at The Brooklyn Art Library. Anyone – from anywhere in the world – can participate in the project."

During my annual visit to New York, I visited the Brooklyn Art Library in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There I signed up to participate in their 2012 Sketchbook Project. You get a Moleskin sketchbook 5”x7”, and are then invited to respond to one of their many themes in any way you chose, regarding technique and materials. You can deconstruct and reconstruct the book if you wish but it must be returned the same height to fit their shelves. The term Sketchbook can indeed be interpreted very loosely and can be in any medium suitable to your own way of working .You also have the option to digitize your book which then becomes an online companion to the one in The Brooklyn Art Library.

I chose to work on the project with Welsh artist and printmaker, Linda Davies. Living in the forest as I do, one of their given themes seemed very fitting, and we decided on “A Path Through The Trees” as our working title.

As writer and artist, we have both previously incorporated the concept of Milltir Sgwar into our work.

“Milltir Sgwar/ Square Mile”is a phrase much used in Welsh to define your patch of land, the place that created you, the location that tugs your heartstrings when hiraeth – another uniquely Welsh concept for  a yearning that is tied to a particular place - kicks in.”

Although not the place of my birth, my deep connection with the forest, inspired me to focus on this immediate environment.

During the autumn of 2011, the forest I live in had undergone a massive harvesting programme which dramatically altered my close surroundings. With all of the pines cut down the aspect was opened up and light was let in but something impenetrable and mysterious was lost. I had to learn to live with a changed landscape, to reconcile myself to lost and altered paths. We set out to record and respond to these changes.

Book One – “A Path Through The Trees I"
 – was for the 2012 touring exhibition.
Work on Book One began with me taking a notebook when I ran in the forest to record my observations and emotional responses. Then Linda went walking with her camera and the words I had written, and recorded her own images, choosing those that best worked with my words. Images and words were collated and printed by hand using the paper lithography technique.Text was added through xerox transfer. The original sketchbook paper was removed and the book re-created with Somerset newsprint 300gram paper inserted into the original Moleskin cover. The cover was also printed on.

Book Two – “A Path Through The Trees II”
– was for the 2012 The Limited Edition Book Series 
“Every contributor to the Sketchbook Project Limited Edition Vol. 1 will be included in a series of art books documenting the project. Together, the series will provide insight into the imagination and process of each artist participating in the project. Bound by the Brooklyn Art Library Press and hand-finished in our Brooklyn workshop, the book series will be published in the fall of 2012”.
Book Two was a companion book to Book One, but this time Linda selected a range of photographs and I responded with words. Both books had a red elastic band around them lengthways. My post, often bound by a red elastic band, is delivered to a box attached to a tree and we often found these red bands during our field trips.

The format for both the books was a concertina artist's book to give a narrative to image and text.

Selected words and images

Book One

Unknown paths
taught me to be patient
and call lost by another name

Touch the gnarled bark
and think of everyone
you’ve ever loved

There is a peace amongst trees
that have lost all green
and are reconciled

Book Two

I cannot tell
if the fallen branch
feels less betrayed
than the felled

Cedar heart
with rippled
growth rings
your lifelines
rooted to cold earth

I look for you
in the runes
of scarred bark
the scattered leaves
my oracle

1 comment:

  1. What a great idea.

    My neighbour, the painter John Knapp Fisher, is arguably the finest landscape artist in Wales. He has made a lifetime of work from within 5 miles of his home. I find that hugely inspiring.

    Rooted, we'd loosely call it where I'm from - though not quite the same.

    Isn't the phrase Dyn y milltyr sgwar (forgive spelling if it's wrong) - man of his own square mile?