I have been away for most of December. The studio is cold and littered with half-unpacked work and supplies from workshops I've been to. The most recent was one with Matthew Harris at the Committed to Cloth studio. The starting point was text - treating handwritten text as a form of drawing. We played with this until our drawings no longer resembled any intelligible writing. I had a lot of fun experimenting with three dimensional drawing using wire and torn shreds of cloth. I loved the shadows this cast on the wall or the table.
At one point Matthew warned us we should expect to feel a little lost as we began to experiment and move away from our starting points. This certainly proved to be true! That feeling of not knowing where you were, what you were doing or where things were going was unsettling. It was an interesting experience to be consciously aware that I was lost and observe myself trying to find my way again! The way my mind started searching for connections to things I already knew or ways of making what I was doing intelligible (to myself, that is). Which, of course, is how we learn. And if we never allow ourselves to get a little lost occasionally, we never move forward.
When I came home I started re-reading Rebecca Solnit's "A Field Guide to Getting Lost". She talks about how for artists "the unknown ... is what must be found" - it's where the work comes from. But I also recalled this point:
The willingness to explore and find new things requires a willingness to tolerate the sense of being lost. But some robust skills to build upon and having some sense of where you want to go can make the difference between just being helplessly confused and finding a way through - in artistic terms as much as in exploration.
Meanwhile, Winter arrived here at the beginning of December. The wind moved to the north and the temperature plummeted. The last leaves are clinging to otherwise bare trees. The first regular frosts have appeared - silvery edges to the leaves and frozen puddles. The sky has been a study in grey - sometimes stormy, sometimes like pearl - and occasionally pale, cold blue. Sometimes the only colours in the landscape are a myriad of different greys with a shot of brilliant green of moss on a wall or winter crops in the fields. Some people think this is a dull and dreary time of year but I love the colours and the way the landscape changes in winter. Everything is stripped to its bones and you can see the underlying structures of the trees and the land. All the lines are emphasised.
I've been in Norfolk for a week - long walks on the marshes, by the sea and across fields. Plenty of opportunity to appreciate the winter landscape.