Delta State a
Inspired by Grayson Perry’s Art Club to do some drawing.
It has been a while.
The prompt was ‘Dreaming’.
I did a few random searches on ‘dream states’ and was reminded that the name of the brainwave, associated with deep dreaming, is ‘Delta Wave’. These brain waves, electrial impulses, now recorded using electroencephalography (EEG).
I meditated on these words and an image began to take form, behind my eyelids.
I really enjoyed a return to charcoal (probably still my favorite medium of all time!). Burned Tree.
I used a plastic stylus to invisibly carve ‘rivers’, running from the centre out to the edge, each reaching a ‘delta’ at the edge.
Then, when I took the charcoal over the page, it worked like a rubbing, the ‘rivers’ remaining white.
I worked it up from there, getting lost in the ‘mountains’ and land forms that appeared and disappeared with the swipe of an erasor or the rubbing blackness of my finger. Enjoying all the accidental illusions.
As I worked I began to wonder if I had made a mistake making the centre ( that had also clearly became the pupil of an eye) so very dark?
Perhaps the rivers should run from the edge and become delta near the centre? With the ocean as the pupil?
No possibility to change that now.
I introduced soil pigment and was amazed at the sheen it had to it when used with charcoal in this way.
And eventually reached a point when the piece could be worked no further.
One of those pieces when the best versions lie hidden under later layers.
I googled ‘river deltas from space’ and sat, open-mouthed, gaping at the Beauty of these branching, sediment carrying, ‘tree’-like, neuron, blood vessel, veins of Life.
Each finding their own way, pulled by Gravity, following paths of least resistance, at last to join, the Ocean.
I learned that, apart from the threat of rising ocean levels, our world’s great river deltas are actually sinking.
This is due to damming and other human-made, water diversions, higher up stream.
The sediment is no longer washed down to the sea.
Less and less, new, silty land is being created. Fewer nutrients feeding our shores.
This natural barrier to coastal erosion removed by our own, ignorant, subtraction.
(Sub-traction. Ex-traction. These words now haunt my Dreamtime. Our human obsession with all things ‘traction’ so tied up with removing the very earth’s surface we seek ‘traction’ upon! Mechanically hauling ourselves forward. At what cost? ‘Progress’ and ‘traction’ becoming the same word in my kookie mind……)
The real irony is that these deltas provide such rich, fertile, plains, on which huge numbers of humans have made their homes.
And now they are the first to suffer ……
I created a ‘sketch’ mandala using Nasa photograph of the Great Ganges River Delta from space.
Delta State b
I loved the colours of this mandala and resolved to work again with this vision.
This is something I rarely do as my experience is that, everytime I attempt to re-do, better, a vision, it looses rather than gains anything! It seems always to become more contrived.
This time I used my mud preparation and ‘drew’ the rivers through that with a wet brush.
It made sense to try using actual soil/earth, with the direction this idea was moving in.
I sought out my beloved Prussian Blue watercolour and painted an ocean around. I soaked the paper around the ‘mud Earth’ with water and delighted in watching the sediment joining the ocean, the exact same green from the photo mandala glowing through, as the soil met my artifical watery blue…..
It became clear to me that the ‘pupil’ was now an ice cap. A polar region. Each river now beginning as a glacier.
The centre of the ‘eye’ became frozen, white.
Perhaps also a dreaming/trance eye? Pushing the subconscious, mental ‘sediment’, out into a wider ‘field’ …..?
In truth, I did not like this version much.
The rivers did not flow and they reminded me more of roots.
The mediums used seem to clash somehow. So many elements I loved, but overall I found no Beauty in this work.
I learned a few new tricks with mud, but again reached a point of no return. Over-worked.
(I was also reminded how extremely difficult it is to photograph this mud art. These images do little to represent the original, but are the closest I managed to get! It is something to do with the colour/quality of the mud. In edited pictures it always looks more ‘pooey’ than to the naked eye!)
Delta State (final version)
I sat with it again.
One more attempt.
This time only soil/earth on paper. Pure Mud art.
I worked slowly , more mindfully. Mapping out the precious deltas.
Working in negative.
Only adding what needed to be added.
Never ‘taking away’.
The rivers and oceans were the page itself.
Water is Life.
I took great care to leave them alone, not to ‘dam’ them.
Where they met the ocean, I used my finger to sweep the powdered earth out into the white paper ‘ocean’ surrounds.
This time a definite , snow-capped, volcano, began to take shape.
Lying in the centre of this ‘earth-eye’.
It’s crater, the focal point.
I found, again, great pleasure in simply moving the mud to create valleys and mountains, seeing how the terrain morphed and and changed, with the slightest sweep of the brush.
A joy to work with such a slow drying medium. Even when it has dried, it can be rehydrated with water and softens again.
Water and Earth, with the brush playing the part of Weather and Time.
Then it was finished.
I fixed the piece using linseed oil, which, again, changed the finish.
I feel it lost some of the ‘magical detail in its terrain’, but this step is necessary, to stop the whole thing crumbling to dust.
(Note to the cynics out there, I will not give away all my secrets, but this method of fixing does work! I now have mud art pieces that are over a year old and show no signs of crumbling! )
The photographs do not really do it justice, but it pleases me.
It now is.
Another piece of physical evidence to prove my ‘doing’ …… to document here …. to qualify my existence …..
I did enter it to the TV show, but hold little hope of being chosen. Image not screen-grabbing enough? Not really Grayson Perry’s style either. I do not have a mobile, so did not record my video ‘on my phone’ as requested. I do not do Zoom or other facetime apps, so would probably prove to be a bit of an awkard body, even if they did choose to feature ‘Delta State’!?
I did enjoy working to this prompt though.
Words often provide the gateway to the image in this ‘artist’s way’.
I may revisit this idea again, sometime.
It has traction.