In the quiet places - October

In the quiet places is a work in progress. It is an illustrated book about country lanes, hedgerows, fields and woods where it is quiet. I know, when I can hear my own footsteps and when I become aware of my breathing, I am in a quiet place and my consciousness is the sight and sounds of nature. These are the notes and sketches I make after walking in quiet places, in particular, a lane with woods near to where I live. 

In the quiet places. I am inspired by country lanes, hedgerows, fields and woods where it is quiet. I crave quiet where I can hear my own footsteps, and notice my breath and where my mind stills and my consciousness is the sight and sounds of nature, uninterrupted by the jarring cacophony of urban life. I am also an artist so I carry a sketchbook with me and record whatever inspires. 

Hedgerows. As I walk down the lane this morning the hedgerows are bursting with red berries of different kinds. Small yellow-green crab apples have fallen to the ground. I look forward to the hedgerows in winter because you can spy into them as you cannot when they are in full leaf. There are birds nests and badger tracks and all sorts. And you can see through into the fields behind the hedgerows. 

The sound of the woods. I love the sound of the woods. On a walk through the little wood yesterday, I listed some of the sounds in my sketchbook with the intention of exploring ways of depicting them in my art: wind through the trees; creaking; bough knocking against bough; a soft thud as something falls; crows; birds; branches snapping.

Today, on Youtube, I watched a documentary about Iranian artist Ali Banisadr, who's synesthesia, means he sees sounds. During the Iran / Iraq war, at the height of bombing, when he and his family took refuge in the basement, he first made charcoal drawings of the sounds of war. He now lives in New York where music is an integral part of his paintings. It is a fascinating documentary and his paintings are equally so.

Horse chestnut. I have been taking walks down the lane and into the small wood a lot lately, taking my little sketchbook with me (it fits perfectly, along with a set of fineliner pens, into the deep pocket of my walking trousers). I find I am noticing more each day. After yesterday's torrential rain the paths were thick with mud and the thing that struck me most today was the vibrant green colour of the spiny horse chestnut burrs contrasted against the rich dark mud into which they had fallen. An abundance of ripening crab apples, taking on a pink blush, in the hedgerows too. 

high woods lane after the rain pen sketch by artist mandy covington

19th Oct.Sunshine after rain. After the rain of the early morning, glorious warm sunshine,  edging puddles with silver and making magic of wet autumn leaves. Fallen yellow crab apples nestled in heaps of yellow-gold and copper leaf litter, a sight to behold. Wearing my favourite walking boots I squelched deliberately through the muddiest part of the path through the woods ... just because. But I'm not alone in this child-like delight. A dog walker with whom I got chatting confessed the same! Eyes scanning the wood floor I saw a number of different types of fungi (or toadstalls? not sure) - some colourless and strange looking, others growing on lush moss covered tree stumps, peachy pink fairy worlds.   

ink sketches of oak twig and leaf by artist mandy covington

Bounty. The lane's hedgerows are full of nature's bounty: crab apples, blackberries (the few that are left), hawthorn berries, strings of  bryony berries, rosehip and more. I collected a little of each to take back to the studio to draw. Today I sketched blackberry and twigs, snapped off by the wind, from the oak at the start of the lane, and came to know them better. This bounty will keep me happily sketching for some time to come. 

Hawthorn. From the Wildlife Trust: "Hawthorn provides an important habitat and food source for our wildlife. The haw berries are packed with nutrients and help wildlife through colder months. Nesting birds also rely on the thorny branches for protection and shelter."

Acorns. Shiny, rich brown acorns aplenty for the magpies and squirrels to stock their winter larders. 

pen sketch of a misty field by artist mandy covington

24th Oct. Misty morning. I went out early this morning to enjoy the mist. Great for sketching. I can't get caught up in details (as I am apt to do sometimes) because they are hidden in the mist. To begin with the mist shrouded the far hedge and trees in softness, their shape barely discernible. As it cleared, trees emerged in silhouette; just enough so that I could study their shape. Soft pattering sound of fine rain on the ground. 

pen sketch of trees in the mist by artist mandy covington

Just a few days. What a difference just a few days can make. All that remain of the blackberries are dry husks and bare patches in the hedgerow where leaves have dried up and gone. Autumn making way for winter. The birds seemed happy enough though; chirping away in the hedgerow and flitting back and forth across my path between one hedge and the other. Crows calling in the distance. 

pen sketch of trees by artist mandy covington

28th Oct. Blue sky and soft wispy clouds. Turning into the lane I squinted in the bright sunshine. Sunlight dappled across my path and catching the edges of leaves.  Dew on grass and bramble. New holly with red berries - Christmas!  A robin too. Small, hard black berries I hadn't noticed before - 'dogwood'? Quiet in the wood but for birds singing here and there and gentle breeze rustling dry leaves. Ah the absolute joy of dogs! The peace was briefly interrupted by five dogs, finally set free from their leashes, barking and charging through the wood with wild abandon. It was rather chilly in the wood and I was quite glad to get back out into the sunshine. Two horses and riders were out on the lane, being a public bridleway, also enjoying the sunshine. Always a pleasure to see these most beautiful animals. 

Oak gall. I was pleased to find an oak gall. This interests me because I recently purchased some Oak Gall Ink and love experimenting with it. It has the most beautiful soft purple/blue colour, which darkens as it oxidises. The ink makers add clove to it so you get this most wonderful smell as you open the little bottle.