Archives for posts with tag: Cliffe Castle

Roots, in a way not normally seen; a reminder of how the mysterious life of trees goes on as much underground as above

Beech Tree at the far end of the wood, at the path between High Utley and Spring Gardens Lane

My walk around the perimeter of Cliffe Castle Park has been going through a dormant phase for the last few months. It’s not that I haven’t been walking, but my walks gave been shorter and less frequent – but since this project started with the relaxed intention of letting it take its own time, I haven’t felt the need to push myself and it may be just as well to have paused where I did, in Moorside Wood, because winter is a quiet time. It’s a time of rest.

The most beautiful of seasons in this place is yet to come – we’re still waiting for the arrival of bluebells and the first bright greening of new leaves, when the sky is still visible through the canopy. In the meantime, we have daffodils, and moss, (there’s always moss) and some of the most beautiful fungus I’ve ever seen.

The photos below were taken at different times of the year, and mostly in the long strip of woodland along the back of the sports fields of UAK school. Until recently I thought all this area was Moorside Wood, but this section which was planted much more recently is actually called Steepfield Wood, (it’s not hard to see why). There are two paths here, so you can walk away from the Castle towards Utley on what’s grandly called King George VI Avenue (planted with cherry trees in 1953, now mostly gone) and then at the far end you can double back and return on the upper path which is narrow and much less obvious, and make your way back slowly through the trees.

Stone commemorating the planting (with cherry trees) of King George VI Avenue

Early daffodils at the edge of the path

Fallen tree above the upper path in Steepfield Wood

Large trees that fall here lie at rest and undisturbed

Fungus on a fallen tree trunk in Steepfield Wood

These woods have eyes…

Moss covered drystone wall

The way out of the woods is just as interesting……so that’s for the next bit of the walk. With more hours of daylight there’s more opportunity to explore (in between gusts of wind and showers of sleet hail and snow, like today). Every day something new.

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This is my Teddy bear, Treacle. We became companions when I was around the age of two, and as we’re now well past 60 we’re both showing signs of age (although I’m glad to say my legs are not in danger of falling off, and I’m not quite as threadbare as he is, either). I’ve been drawing and photographing him a lot lately because of a project at Cliffe Castle involving Teddy bears.

Even though I’m extremely familiar with the way he looks, in the last couple of weeks all this work we’ve done together has made me examine his features a lot more carefully, and I’ve been musing about his origins and his ancestry.

I’m very fond of this small bear, so much so in fact that drawing him can be difficult. He has a deceptively simple head – not a classic bear shaped face as he has no real snout – though I’ve seen others a bit like him, like these delightful little ones in the V&A – they’re obviously related.

Three small antique bears in the V&A collection, in the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood. (The drawing is part of a limited edition of prints of Teddy bears that I did in the 1990’s)

But because he’s such a simple shape, any subtle mistake is immediately obvious and that really matters, so I’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to get his features right. He has a very definite personality. And the more I look at him, the more I draw him, the more I realise that he reminds me of someone else who was important to me, growing up. One of my greatest heroes – Noggin the Nog.

Images of Noggin the Nog by Peter Firmin, courtesy of Smallfilms; drawings and photos of Treacle by me

I think you’ll see what I mean.

Noggin, and the whole Land of Nog were created by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate and the first stop-motion film, The Saga of Noggin The Nog was made by them for children’s television in 1959 when I was 5 years old (these images are from around that time – later series followed, and books, and much later, colour versions of some of the videos came out). The films were narrated by Oliver Postgate, and listening again to the lines that began every story, the sound of his voice has an uncanny way of transporting me in time…..

‘In the Lands of the North, where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long, the men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale…’

(I probably don’t need to tell you that the Noggin sagas have always had a devoted following and still have even today, and happily several of these early episodes are on YouTube). An informative website here gives a clear explanation of all the characters and stories.

Many people will fondly remember the books with their coloured illustrations but for me the haunting, strange, dark tales told on TV in black and white were always more powerful and compelling. They are stories of cheerfulness, courage and challenging adventure mixed up with the dullness of the everyday, where it’s always mild manners and politeness which end up solving intractable difficulties.

Peter Firmin based his designs for the Nogs on the Lewis chess pieces in the British Museum, found on a Hebredian beach in the 1830’s.

Drawings of Noggin the Nog and Thor Nogson by Peter Firmin courtesy of Smallfilms, and the Lewis chessmen from the British Museum

So do Noggin and Treacle share the same ancestry? I doubt it. It seems that they came into being at around the same time, but I think I was simply drawn to them both for being what they were – and still are.

I’m grateful to both of them for a lifetime of companionship – I’ve a feeling my life would have been very different without them. They’ve given me a sense of optimism and adventure, and been a consolation in dark times. They’ve helped me to think creatively about solving problems and how to move bravely forward. And above all, they’ve been a shining reminder (and how badly we all need this today!) that whatever you’re faced with, politeness, respect, and good manners can make all the difference, no matter what.

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At long last, work on the restoration project to restore and relandscape the grounds at Cliffe Castle is under way. As I’m often prowling around up there with a sketchbook and do love watching what’s going on, I seem to have become a sort of unofficial Works Artist. Not that I can in any way do it justice – but I’m going to try to record as much as I can, and it’s wonderful drawing practice. Watch this space, and I’ll put up bulletins when I can.

Cliffe Castle, Cricket and KiteI celebrated World Wide Sketchcrawl day sketching in the grounds of Cliffe Castle in Keighley and although I went there intending to draw the house (which is not really a castle at all but worthy of drawing nonetheless) to practice sketching architecture, as usual I got sidetracked as soon as I saw three generations of one family on one of the lawns with cricket stumps and a bat, and later on playing with a kite. Drawing people for me is irresistible and however difficult it is I just have to try. I’ve had such a good time following the advice and tips that Marc Taro Holmes has been giving out on his blog – wonderful resources that he gives away free from his workshops on drawing people in motion.

Cliffe Castle, Saturday afternoonI’d been following reports from the USK symposium in Singapore – wow! What a wonderful thing it’s been – just watching videos and reading posts has been enough to fill me with even more enthusiasm for urban sketching. And now we hear that next year the symposium will be in Manchester!

I’ve only recently realised that sketching soft toys can be almost as interesting and challenging as drawing people – or at least it is when the individual in question is a loved and cherished character. It’s just as important to get a good likeness, and the shapes and textures are just as unpredictable and unknown. I occasionally draw a stuffed rat that I’m especially fond of (he came from IKEA).

Soft Rat

On the 11th August I’m going to try to be at the Teddy Bear’s Picnic at Cliffe Castle; there should be plenty of subjects. Little stuffed creatures are somewhat easier to draw because they don’t move about much, but accompanied at the picnic by their owners this may be less so. And I may find myself distracted once again by wanting to draw people. Who knows?

 

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Not too much time for sketching – as I was too busy taking long slow looks at the selected artworks, but I couldn’t resist doing a ten minute drawing of a detail of Anna Lambert’s ‘Hedge Candlestick’.

Cliffe Castle was the only venue in Yorkshire to put on a Slow Art Day event, and one of only a handful in the UK – two of them being the Ashmolean in Oxford and Tate Modern – so we felt among distinguished company. Exciting to think of people all over the world participating on the same day, in a total of 205 galleries and museums in Australia, Africa, Europe the USA and Canada.

There’s something deeply pleasurable about taking a long slow look at a painting or sculpture and it was especially good to be part of a group doing it – we had a lively discussion afterwards and are looking forward to next year!

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Outside the weather was not what it was two days earlier when I sat on the grass near the playground and then on the bank above one of the fountains (yet to be restored), and sketched in the sunshine.

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