Drawing in the field

This blog “draws in the field” – it shows environmental artwork in progress   by myself, Kate Foster. It acts as a visual diary with developing chapters since April 2010.

I started set up this website to document a particular project – Border Sheepscapes.

Information about Border sheepscapes, 2010 project

This project aimed to highlight the resources of knowledge, skill and design underlying what may be seen as pastoral Borders’ scenery.  I used drawing  to look carefully, scrutinise my own preconceptions and draw out new connections. Borders’ farmland has been described as “sheep and trees, cows and ploughs”.  I began with sheep.

I traced a broad picture of how sheep are present in the Scottish Borders –   on farmland as well as at places such as sheep marts, butchers, textile producers. Four categories developed through the visual diary which can be read as different chapters (with a set of postcards acting as frontispieces for these). The following sentences outline the themes.

‘Sheepwalks’: hill country shaped by human and animal appetite over the centuries, where livestock, people, plants and wildlife co-exist in all weathers, through life and death.  Uplands have been wrought by reivers, balladeers, shepherds, and are newly cast as sites of ‘biodiversity’ and ‘carbon sequestration’.  Hefted ewes tread their own paths, but in due course are gathered and shed from their lambs.  No longer walking to southern markets, the lambs are now driven, standing in reconstituted flocks of twenty.  These are spaces with massed volume and contrast that yield views of where we humans place ourselves, within shifting tones of darkness and light.

Singularity: Our use of the word suggests one ‘sheep’ is just like another, singular or plural.  It takes an experienced eye to see how they differ.  Each domesticated breed has its specific standard, and individuals can be judged on how well they conform.  All sheep in the European Union have unique identifiers – electronic tags – to make them traceable.  But sheep also supply their selves to the situations they find themselves in.

Lamb: Spring brings great liveliness to the sheepwalks, shaping animal and human work alike with themes of nurture, love, pain, differential loss and gain. Transformations of shape and texture are acute as life and death absorb themselves to each other.

Wool: Much skilled activity surrounds shearing, spinning, dyeing, knitting, weaving – patterns that reflect seasons on the sheepwalks as well as globalised markets.  Laid flat, the sheep and their wool map out sharp shifts in taste, and subtle repeating colours.

Click on this link for a pdf about making sheepscapes.

The project was supported by the agencies below.

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