The Wood for the Trees

And tactile textiles from last time...

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This week has seen a couple of changes in our routine and places we visit. There is a beautiful place called Burton Agnes Hall and Gardens about a ten minute drive from where I live. My children and I have been going there regularly for the last seven years; we have an annual membership pass because we love going there so much. 

A week ago they reopened partially for members and even though the weather has been wet and windy and a bit chilly we have gone there almost every day. We explain at the new horse box ticket area that our garden at home is tiny and it is great to be able to run around in all the open space there. We are invited to make their garden our garden. 

Even though the woodland play area is closed, the hall is closed, the Norman manor house and shops are closed, we are still able to go to the walled garden and the woods. In the walled garden there are the most amazing displays of flowers of all kinds. The peonies are just unfolding, the giant alliums are crawling with happy bees, and the air is filled with the perfume of numerous rose bushes in all the colours. We are happy to follow the new one way system, don’t mind that the giant games are removed and the maze is closed. The delightful sights and smells of all the glorious flowers is so welcome. 

Then there are the woods. Whilst living so close to the beach has been a wonderful tonic to help us through lockdown we have been missing the green spaces we are used to. Being in the woods has such a noticeable effect on my children. They become calmer and more relaxed. My daughter’s name means ‘woman of the woods’ and my son’s name means ‘peace’. I always feel peaceful there. I can breathe better, I am almost relaxed. We go straight to their ‘den’ - a large laurel bush in which they stash and find their sticks to accompany them around the woods. We then visit all our favourite trees. Occasionally we stop and just listen to the birds. I wonder if there is such a thing as peaceful noise. My children instinctively hug the trees. The trees have probably missed them too. I decide to join in.

We look at the different bark patterns and they point out all the tree trunks that have other plants growing around them. There is also a large group of fairies that has moved in recently, all the tree trunks seem to have tiny doors and windows in them. I put my hands on the ancient wood and wonder how long the trees have stood there, nurturing the soil, supporting other plants and providing a home for birds, insects and fairies. Whether you choose to believe in the little people or not, our trees and woodland certainly hold plenty of magic. 

This week's challenge: Make some tree related art. 

Preferably absorb yourself in gorgeous woodland, but the tree on the corner of your street will suffice, get up close and talk to the trees. Copy their bark patterns, compare their different textures, take rubbings, compare leaf shapes. Take photos and draw them at home if you don’t want to take drawing things outside. Draw the shapes they make or the tangle of branches, do leaf patterns. Zoom in or out.

Use charcoal, pencil, pastels. Heap paint on a canvas and splodge into bark with a palette knife if you have one (I don’t - must get one!). Play with watercolour, sponges, finger painting. Anything you like, no rules apply except for these:

  1. Enjoy it and relax.
  2. Immerse yourself in the process.
  3. Focus on the process and not the outcome.

 

Last week’s challenge:

I struggled with this a bit. I was looking forward to painting piled up cushions and doing cosy blankets in charcoal. Maybe I was being too specific. I thought about drawing my clothes. I tried creating a pile of heaped blanket in pastels but it looked like this lumpy thing which made me feel uncomfortable. I know it is about the process but this was uncomfortable too. It was as though all the textiles were as heavy as I felt and the act of drawing them would provide further weight to my already loaded psyche. 

I couldn’t find my sketchbook and it was the only thing I wanted to draw in. When it turned up I tuned back into myself.

One day I walked up the stairs and was struck by the floaty gold curtain over the landing window. I’ve written about this window before. The angle of the folds of the transparent crystal organza were more opaque in some places than others and the tree in next door’s garden was more visible in some places than others. I took my sketchbook and drew it. The pastels were still out and so the curtain is the only thing that is coloured, the main thing in the picture. I may only have done one drawing for this challenge but I love it.

Find out more about Attentive Art and Mindful Creativity at theattentiveartist.com.

Sophie Walker

Multi Disciplinary Art and Design, Creative Life Coach and Business Mentor, Attentive Art

I'm an artist, photographer, designer and writer. I had enough of trying to be one thing so I decided to embrace it all. While working this out I studied psychology and mindfulness to help myself overcome some of life's challenges. Now I help others to do the same using creativity and psychology. I believe creativity holds the key to the enjoyment of life and I want to help everyone to feel good about yourself and your life.

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