Well, yesterday evening I finally had success. This red is the brightest of the bright!
I sourced the pigment a couple of weeks back from a beach in Dorset. The cliff at this spot has bright yellow and red sandstones, and from this cliff many boulders have fallen onto the beach. It was from one of these boulders that I obtained my material – rather than affecting the structural integrity of the cliff.
I didn’t want sand grains in my paint, for obvious reasons, so I used the decanting method, as shown in the video. Before decanting, I boiled the sand for a while – I wonder if this had anything to do with the success?
To test it out, I tried it on a rock by starting to paint the red deer in my next rock art piece: Herbivore Guild : Diversity creates Diversity.
More to follow regarding that piece.
I also obtained some yellow sandstone from the same beach, so I’ll be making some yellow paint soon; again I’m hoping to rival the brightness of the yellow ochre I’ve purchased form the south of France.
There’s something pleasing about rock art. Natural rock provides an interesting surface with quirks and irregularities – landmarks – as any landscape should, rather than the boring uniformity of a piece of paper. There are a lot of YouTube videos showing how to make paleo paints with Earth pigments, which I’m all for, but on the rare occasions when they show them being used to create art, they always seem to be used on watercolour paper. I can’t understand this at all. For me making paleo-paints is about opening a dialogue with our inner paleo hunter gatherer rock artist or cave painter, a part of us that feels more connected with nature and is ready to embrace a rewilded world. In hunter gatherer ways of being in the world, culture and nature weren’t disconnected into separate realms; engaging with the rock surface in this way was a direct interaction with the natural world.
So, for me, for the paleo experience, it shouldn’t be on paper with a painted background representing the ground. It should be on rock – the ground itself. With my monitor lizard here, this is particularly apt, as lizards do hang around on rocks in the sun.
In short, if it ain’t on a rock, it ain’t rock art.
When making rock art, you get the earthy feel of the materials of this particular kind of art combined with the mindful flow state you can get when making any kind of art that requires care and concentration, as well as a sense of connecting up to a very rich tradition.
This type of art was practised across the world by hunter gatherer peoples for thousands of years, so you can get a sense of going back to a time before the hustle and bustle of the modern world, and linking back up to a noble ancient tradition from a period when humans felt themselves to be more fully a part of nature. Because they didn’t see human art on the one hand and the world of nature on the other as being entirely hermetically sealed off into separate realms, but instead felt them to be magically intertwined, their art was part of a different way of being in the world, a different ontology. Rather than creating art on paper within an image that has an artificial ground representing the landscape, the rock itself was the landscape, and so the art was a direct engagement with that landscape. So painting an animal on the rock was a process of putting an animal onto the land, and as such it was like a re-enactment of the mythic creation of that animal in the time of origins, which gives it a numinosity, yet because you’re engaging directly with the real ground, it also feels grounding.
Thick, soft tresses of maidenly blossom cascade – scented surf in a heavenly flood, Pure white dress of the Hawthorn will one day become berry necklaces scarlet as blood At the sight off a-gathering filling my basket I’ll go for a plentiful store Of the berry that brews to a tea with the power to soothe and relax and restore Hawthorn tea you delight me You calm yet excite me When daytime to evening gives way A swift end to anxiety Drunken sobriety Perfect for closing the day
I feel I should probably write a second verse to that at some point, echoing the same stanza structure, but for the moment, there it is.
When I started the poem I was just writing about hawthorn blossom but then it came to be about the tea too. So it leaps from early Summer to Autumn with the line: “pure white dress of the Hawthorn will one day become berry necklaces scarlet as blood.”
The effect of the tea is a recognised one by the way – something to do with opioid receptors and vasodilation – a rush of blood to the head. Only thing I’ve ever found that is comparable to alcohol in it’s ability to take the edge off things at the end of the day, but a healthy alternative. Very effective at lowering blood pressure I understand and great for rounding off a day when you’ve been hitting the Java. Hence: “drunken sobriety” in the poem
The bit about gathering them is poetic license – I did do that a couple of autumns back but now I just buy pre-dried. I use about 50 berries, and I leave them boiling in a pan for about 12 mins, then I stand them for a further ten minutes in the water, steeping, having also added a chamomile teabag, then I sup away. I’ll then give those same berries a second boil but in less water and only for a couple minutes, for a second cup.
If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise as dozens of darling dinosaurs compete for their opera prize
A phrase from one may establish its rhythm, but then it’s lost as another phrase cuts blithely across it with all the informality of free verse, in rich cacophony
And then that rhythm you heard before will suddenly reappear in a moment of ordered harmony as if made for the human ear
Then it’s gone again, but the sounds still delight – heaven-storming chitterings pulsing scintillating emanations through the sap-irrigated matrix of the Chloromyriad
The Old Romantics oh!’d and ah!’d for they found it uplifting and freeing and now the science is backing them up: It bolters our mental well-being
So bathe in the forest and smell the earthy humus for even now the Star-lungs are warming up their vox-boxes in readiness – may we likewise prep our auro-tubules for sensitive apprecio-resonance with this ancient treasure of our planet!
If you’re on the road to Chitterfest you’d better keep moving fast for tomorrow’s the day the developers come so this chance may be your last
Sing on, sweet birds, sing on your spasmodic gutterations of brain-brightening liquid light! Star-lungs: stars are flowers; flowers is bird; bird is Spring…. No bird, no Spring
Should every bird that ever there was stare mute from under glass – just dozens of dry, dumb dodos – we’ll despair that this came to pass
Across the marsh, white passing over white the silent hunter flies then loses height descending to a favoured perch to stand and view with icy gaze an icy land Stray snowflakes catch my fancy, frivolous but never his; his hunt is serious.
Across the marsh, white passing over white Outside the stables, freezing at the sight I let my busy, muck-filled spade fall still A thought occurs that gives a further thrill: this, and the pellet found the other day suggest the owls have come back here to stay!
Across the marsh, white passing over white Fight on! Though cold Spring breeding left its blight The pellet, when with tweezers prised in two revealed the fine-boned relics of a shrew strange artefacts of Lilliputian size a fascinating wonder for young eyes.
Across the marsh, white passing over white he signifies to me a world put right Will future generations ever know that world? To them, and our own souls we owe our best attempt to turn the tide around so nights then still awe-shiver at his sound.
Across the marsh, white passing over white A treasured moment; may a poet write some verses that will eloquently share this plea and make the world more keenly care and feel, if all is lost, how dear the price. For now, the humble lines here must suffice.
My gladness of the silver birch I wish To share, that slender goddess of a tree Her shower of silken hair moves in a swish That stirs in me a mystic reverie As turns this verdant, grassy leaf-fringed glade Into her sacred grove, and I, her priest Mid-frisson in the dancing, dappled shade Call druids, bards and ovates to the feast But let us now the details try to trace The little leaves, heart-shaped, serrated trail Along each pliant twig to form a spray That’s bright and airy, made with measured grace Cascading sprays together form the veil That by the gentle breeze is set to sway Her stretch of sky she turns to shimmering show And whispers Summer’s secrets soft and low.
O fine, faff-free and labour-saving key That lets me lock and unlock, with one press, The car remotely and most easily For you my heart now fills with thankfulness Let’s say it’s raining and one stands With luggage in both hands It’s been a busy day and one is tired How glad one feels to then recall A single button press is all That is required!
Hephaestus for the gods with rarest skill Did many a shining bronze device design Some tool that leapt to action at their will Performing tasks befitting lives divine: Their gold cars pulled by brazen steed Through air at such a speed As lighting that precedes the thunder’s rumble We feel ourselves to be their kin When gracefully we enter in Without a fumble
So unimpeded in the car I climb And like a king upon a throne I sit And cruise the country lanes in state sublime Like Bacchus in his magic vine-filled ship And as my homeward way I wend I know at journey’s end There waits for me a happy circumstance: I’ll loose the safety belt and out I’ll get and walk away without A backwards glance.