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.
(working as part of a ‘Japanese 72 season micro-climate’ artist collaborative initiative within Treesisters)
Japanese season called ‘Soko’ / frost falls, 23rd October – 6th November
Micro climate ‘maple leaves and ivy turn yellow’ 2nd October – 6th November
I am also turning yellow! From lack of sunlight!
This is crazy!
Who would have thought an online writing ‘course’ could wreak such havoc with me!
And test my practice. It takes me away from my precious routine.
A beloved Treesister, (I am in awe of her!), Sandy Ibrahim’s brainchild.
3 whole days have gone by! I barely noticed.
I have been writing from dawn til dusk…sometimes not even getting changed….not eating properly….scrawled paper lies around everywhere, in piles…so much prompted, so much flowing, but none of it reaching a state I am happy to publish….not even happy to share.
All seem to be the beginnings of other bigger things….none of it having that satisfying ring of completion.
It has been beautiful weather here too. Golden.
But at this time of year, the shadow of the hill behind our house lies dark on us from lunchtime on…even in my garden there is no sun….it all looks wonderful out of the window though, as I ponder and chew the pencil end of life…but I experience the feeling that I am missing it…..not using it, enjoying it….
Of course this is no ordinary writing course.
We are being whipped through:
What is like to be alive at this time?
As you look back to the shore, what are you personally leaving behind?
What part of civilization do you feel is already dead?
What aspects are you glad to leave? What will you miss?
What is the link between your emotions and the natural world or the ‘soul of the world’?
The Invitation: Write an invitation to all emotions to attend the open house of your heart.
Choose one or more emotions to honour with a poem (Haiku? Limerick?) of recognition. (Possible emotions: Anger. Fear. Anxiety. Joy. Love. Awe. Shame. Regret. Numbness. Despair. Delight. Panic. Impatience. Confusion. Overwhelm.) Fold up these offerings and place them on your altar OR Write about your resistance to feeling your feelings OR Catch up on other prompts.
How honest are you in expressing your emotions, especially around our current crisis? What strategies do you use to suppress or control them? OR What’s the worst thing that would happen if you felt and/or led with your emotions? What’s the best thing that could happen?
Bring up in your heart and mind the last time that you were really angry. Who, where, what, why, when and how? Rewrite the story as a myth with archetypes OR Write about a time that the power of your anger turned against you OR Write about a time you rode your anger to victory.
Using your imagination alone (no googling!), what is the evolutionary purpose of self-doubt? OR Write about your vision of a ‘more beautiful world’ (Charles Eisenstein’s term) OR Write about a potentially potent idea you once had that you convinced yourself out of. What were the circumstances and emotions involved? OR Given that the status quo is killing everything, should we (can we) consciously overrule our need to belong to the herd? What emotions can we call forward for support? Where else can we find belonging?
And now today…
Write a love letter to your own despair.
Write a haiku on despair.
Write about a time you thought your life was over and then it turned around.
Write about how you feel about crying in public.
It’s only Day 13!
I am despairing with my ability to keep up….. that’s what!
I am just speaking from my heart.
Just posted a haiku under the topic ‘Despair’
Losing, not finding,
the plot now, as it thickens,
words loosing meaning.
All this leaping about is making me feel queasy.
There is a warning written into the course that this might happen…..though I think perhaps my particular brand of queasiness comes more from not being very good at following orders…….even if they are fantastically kindly framed and I signed up for exactly this! I also feel a need to try and resolve each piece I begin…now, I am beginning to feel a bit like a performing monkey…..jumping through hoops….loosing, not finding the plot….that thickens…. and this impacts my hard-won peace of mind.
Is this what jobbing writers do everyday? Well, I salute you!
I am going to hang on in here….although reading all the other contributions does feel a little like holding onto the stern of a boat, with one hand, while simultaneously being taken by the wake…..
Also it occurred to me that I have already written much around these themes before.
So here are a few of them…
A willingness to survive
Adventure swallows the mission.
The story swallows the song
Life is a great consumer
Life only goes on.
The living is the artist
The artist is the life
My only record in history
A willingness to survive.
Kat Robertson Berlin. 1996
Afraid to walk
I am talking.
The magic kind.
I spoke with giants
And left behind
Kat Robertson (Nivensknowe Caravan Park, Edinburgh. 1996)
And then I found this…..untitled and stuck in between…the most recent, but I had forgotten I had written it!
“Perhaps she’s going to scale the minarets,
sit in those holy seats
and scream across the roofs of biased houses,
‘There is a darkness,
a darkness so terrible
that it is darkening our moon
and filling our hearts with greed.
A darkness that can only be pushed back
If we all turn into the Light.
Become the Light.
Beam only Love and Grace, Respect and humble wonder,
Guiding others to your safer shores.
Go on! I dare you!’
And then she’s going to climb into the steeple bell tower and scream again the same.
And then she’s going to go and sit in silence with benevolent others
in the halls of those that feel this truth…
yet never utter it
……and she may never get up again,
for these wars have never been fought, or won, with words.”
Kat Robertson (written where I still sit now, Scotland. February 2019)
So perhaps this is an impossible task for me?
I hope not, as I have always wanted to be asked such questions, feeling, somehow, some answers might reveal themselves….my mind is bursting with responses to these prompts…..it is only the actual act of writing that is so exhausting!
This grew as my invitation to all the emotions….I am quite pleased with it!
The list of ingredients was so long.
I stared at the shelves and shelves of bubbling vials, bottles and jars.
Spiders had made webs and the dust lay thick on some of them. Others had only a little left. Some had tipped over, leaking.
I hoped I had everything.
He had told me all I needed was here in this strange little shed at the edge of everything.
He had worked on this collection for eternity.
Caught a bit of this, a bit of that.
Labelled them all.
‘Fear’, ‘Love’, and all between.
There seemed too many ingredients listed.
What kind of cake would this be? I wondered.
The picture on the page looked wonderful….improbably delicious…almost alive.
Full of colour and almost too good to eat….
A vial on the shelf caught my eye…..it was a tiny bottle, slightly chipped, grey inside, emptier on the inside….labelled ‘self doubt’….I gave myself a shake.
Why was there no order to things?
This would be so much easier if it was arranged from positive to negative for instance….easier to find…and what’s with all those boxes on the floor?
If they are all so important why didn’t he look after them properly!?
It seemed this shed could do with a spring clean!
So I began by slowly taking everything down and wiping the shelves clean….with a bucket of water from the spring.
Cleaning each vial, bottle and jar carefully and placing them behind me on the table.
I dropped a few….glass splintering….it was strange watching as they escaped back into the atmosphere….in small amounts they all looked frail and controllable….I could feel them rushing to join the whole….returned to source.
I felt a sudden urge to free them all……to smash up the whole collection and watch as thousands of chemical reactions met in flashes of red and blue and turquoise and green. A crazy, wild, liberating show….I looked at the vial I held in my hand….it read ‘impatience’….and thought of the mess it would make.
I was stumped.
The ingredients were all here, but no instructions.
I sat on the floor and stared at it all blankly.
The now empty shelves…..the huge collection of emotions on the table behind me.
The empty pot.
How did I end up here anyways?
The door was now locked. On the outside.
How did I manage to do that? I wondered.
I felt foolish.
I felt clumsy.
I felt inept.
I felt trapped.
Fearful of the consequences….
So I started there.
They took their place back on the shelves.
This was a beginning…..
I felt ‘despair’ in my hand, and I realised how very, very, long this would take….how sometimes I needed to take a bottle down again and put it at the end….how some where missing (so clumsy of me)….there were so many of them…..so very, very, many….
I began to cry…..this task was too much for me….
And as I cried my tears fell into the pot….
Suddenly corks popped and lids untwisted, small explosions went off across the table, sparks flew, gunge oozed…..I heard a click….the door opened….and the entire shed simply disappeared around me…..
Only one vial remained.
It was warm in my hand.
It was labelled simply ‘me’.
I held it gingerly…..the contents swirled and glistened. Sometimes turning dark, sometimes shining with a bright light, sometimes it vibrated in my hand, sometimes I thought it was dissolving into nothingness. It changed so fast I could not see it properly….
Taking a few deep breaths,
I began to unscrew its silver top ………
Kat Robertson 2nd November 2019
There have been some in-between times.
A family night out. Fireworks. Not as much of a fan as I used to be. Not the best show either.
Now a teenage sleep over, which I have to kinda ‘be there’ for…they always need fed….these boys….
I have started doodling with only Earth (processed soil pigments)…..playing with how it marks the page….using my fingers….using spring water to move and take away…learning how it dries. I then experimented with some alder stain and oak gall ink….then a bit of home made charcoal….then more water and dabbing the pigment away….it is fun and intuitive.
Time out from brain gears….
Now I’ve gone and ripped the paper. I did not mean to do that.
This ‘seed’ was percolating long before this writing project began…now it seems to almost illustrate how this project is making me feel….a seed, deep underground, becoming alive, but germination and growth can only happen when ready! In right conditions. This cannot be forced! All in good time. A kind of resistance I guess…..
I work with the liminal when I make these images. This is my therapy, my happy place. .
These words are bogging me down…..when words come to me, they come, fast and free…. but I find myself unable to, easily, summon them on command.
A drawing just evolves….with no mind. Loving feeling into these new mediums, on paper.
It makes me smile, lopsidedly, when I realize how much this ‘seed’ also resembles my, now shriveled, ‘tumchie’ lantern from Samhain….from seed to the compost heap….all turning in cycles…