#18 A stream, a painting and chicken-of-the-woods

After so much pleasure and fulfillment, a day of discovering my own company. I haven’t been out on the motorbike for almost a month and so today, despite heavy clouds and strong winds, I packed, trundled the bike from the back of my house, and went out. After passing through Clifton, Bristol to drop off a broken amp and buy a small watercolour kit and paper, I went against the current of the Avon, under the suspension bridge and left the city by the south road towards Weston-super-Mare. I followed my nose. The bike was smooth and I felt like a child again, swooping and flicking the front round pot-holes and puddles. I eventually ended up in the Mendips, south of Priddy, above Wells, on a hillside above Lower Milton. There was just room enough to park the motorbike by a stile that lead downwards. I locked the bike up and mounted the stile. Ahead of me, the hill dropped down, bordered by a line of hawthorns along the ridge, and a tunnel of hazels interspersed with tall ashes below. My eyes lifted to the horizon to see the distant Glastonbury Tor gazing back at me. blogpic

I walked down, a little awkwardly in motorcycle boots and headed for the trees at the bottom. I could see a stream flashing out from beneath the low canopy, so climbed over a fence alongside and sat against the base of one of a pair of massive ashes that stood alongside the water. This is what I saw:

2013-06-22 002I lit my smoke and opened my new watercolour kit. It is a Windsor & Newton Sketcher’s Pocket box. Inside, there was an excellent and detailed folded instruction leaflet that I read whilst I smoked, the sound of the stream and nearby sheep increasing my sense that I had found the right place.

The instructions suggested that I begin by sketching an outline. This, I did:

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I dipped the seed head of a flowering grass beside me into the stream at my side to wet the paper.

I then applied my first set of washes, left to right, as instructed:

2013-06-22 010I used moss from the tree behind me to drop water into the mixing palette:

2013-06-22 009I admit to feeling slightly smug that Nature had laid everything on for me so conveniently. When we are smiled upon, it makes sense to smile along.

I added in the next few stages of darker washes:

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2013-06-22 015The line of dark green showing the shadowed fringe beneath the canopy of the distant trees on the brow of the field beyond me.

While that deep blot of green mid-left dried, I went for a stroll.

The stream delved down into a cleft that led downhill amongst yet more hazels and ash. I had to dip and clamber through several thickets until a clear path appeared that followed the stream, only deer-prints suggesting any other visitors here. It is an enchanted place, verdant with self-seeded plants at the feet of their mother trees, ripe with the mushroom-like fragrance of ancient boughs decomposing in the cold, moist air.  I found a lurid chicken-of-the-wood mushroom to take home and cook:

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A black cat appeared from nowhere, slipped across my field of view and disappeared. For a moment, I thought I saw a deer in my periphery and my senses sharpened. They then heightened and my whole spine tingled in caution as the image resolved to this:

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A decaying chair. A sinister throne with its ghastly sitter momentarily absent. I leapt across the stream to take some other shots:

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The feeling that I got seemed to suggest that now was a good time to leave. I headed directly up the bank

2013-06-22 027and found myself in a vast field that I knew led down towards Wells:

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I walked back towards the shadow of the trees, past a rope swing, and added the finishing touches to my first ever concerted attempt at a watercolour. I used the stream to rinse out the palette,

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then added what I could to finish the painting:

2013-06-22 001I left this place, clambered up the hill and took a photo of myself because I felt happy:

2013-06-22 032I looked like Sade: