January 28th, 2012 Doug
‘You should extend your range of gifts,’ the marketing consultant advised them.
He flourished a hand over those items that previously existed. The lengths of tweed woven over the winter. The cuddly puffins and gannets created for a child to cuddle under eiderdown. The buxom Murdina Gillies ® doll equipped with tartan shawl and a creelful of peat as essential fashion accessories.
‘What do you suggest?’ one of the islanders growled.
‘We could improve upon your selling of guillemot and razorbill eggs. Make a hole in them. Blow them out. Fill their empty shells with granulated sugar and glucose syrup. Market them just like the sticks of rock they sell in Blackpool …’
Extract from Parliament
January 21st, 2012 Doug
This post is part of the River of Stones guest post series, our mindful writing challenge. Properly notice one thing each day, and write it down. Click here to find out more. Our guest post series features writers talking about the art of noticing, writing and more…
Today we’re delighted to host Douglas Robertson…
Douglas writes: I’m trained to see, that’s what I do for a living.
One of the purposes of the River Of Stones project is to encourage people to pay attention, to be more aware of their surroundings and build up an awareness of the space in which they exist.
As part of this I’d like you to take a bit of time to discuss and understand how you see.
‘What?’ I hear you say, ‘but I can already see, the man’s a fool!’
What I’d like to talk about is the difference between looking and seeing. People often look without seeing, not fully understanding the space that is around them, what makes it what it is, and how it also makes them who they are.
This sense of place is an important element of any artist or writer’s work. The colour, mood and personal connection to a particular area, and an understanding of your role in communicating this to your audience, is made so much easier if you can see it clearly.
Many writers and artists have developed this skill by understanding and seeing the spirit of one dear familiar place. Throughout history, writers, artists and musicians have strived to communicate their subject matter clearly, and we can learn so much from the makers that have preceded us.
One particular area where clarity of vision and communication with the audience is reached is in the Japanese art of the Haiku and the Haibun. One of the greatest exponents of this style of prose poem was Matsuo Basho. In his work, Basho takes his readers on a journey, using words and phrases as markers or sign posts which enable the audience to understand not only what Basho is seeing, but through using their own vision and experiences, reconstruct and see the journey in their own way.
By the careful structure and use of language, and by not ‘telling’ the reader what they see, the poet creates a world in which his abstract ideas and situations can be understood clearly by the audience. And through the use of this method, they are allowed take their own emotional and mental journey, seeing their version of Basho’s world.
So, how can we try to ‘see’ more clearly, and apply this to our own work?
Ensure clarity in words and images. Your vision of what you are trying to communicate to your audience should have little or no superfluous language. Create your journey through the work carefully, placing the markers and laying the path for your readers.
Make work about what you know. You will always find it easier to express ideas of what is familiar and close to you, and it will bring honesty to your art and vision that will make it easier for you audience to follow your journey.
I’ve worked as a visual artist for the last twenty years, and I have tried hard to ensure my vision and the art I create come together to communicate the ideas to my audience. Visitors to an exhibition, or readers of a book bring with them their own set of experiences and personal tools that they will use on the journey. I work on making my art open enough for the viewer to see their path through the concepts and ideas, and by giving them the signs and markers they need make the emotional and spiritual connections all the more poignant.
Thank you for your time, and here’s to seeing more clearly!
Many thanks to Fiona and Kaspa for their friendship and support. Please take some time to browse their excellent website at http://www.writingourwayhome.com/
January 15th, 2012 Doug
‘That summer the toymaker arrived on the island with the little clockwork models he had created in his shop. There was a dog that barked and wagged its tail; a soldier set to march, present arms and salute; some puffins that squawked and flapped their wings. They whirled, whirred and raced their way around Village Bay, rolling about from home to home until eventually, they stilled, their springs becoming broken, overwound, perhaps, by a child. When the last one halted, they thought that would be the end of the matter.
Until they arrived in August on the cliffs.
When they clambered down the slope, they discovered there were clockwork fulmars nesting on the crags there. They clicked their necks up and down, making loud, grumbling noises in their throats. One or two could even spit, gobbing out beakfuls of oil that had been used to lubricate their machinery.
Iain tried to eat one, but the tiny motor in the bird’s belly, the broken spring below its wing, got stuck in his throat.’
Extract from Triptych
January 10th, 2012 Doug
In that time of desperation,
when there were no women nearby to bear
the cradle or creel,
flared from time to time with fantasies,
swearing some rock possessed the rare
shape of a woman
(who was not related to him),
a seabird transformed into human
company complete with dark shawl and dress.
But most of all,
there was that piece of driftwood washed
into Village Bay in a hushed tide
He took it home to bed,
caressed its seaweed lingerie,
and gazed into the pebbles
he’d picked up
and employed instead
of dark eyes in her head.
January 9th, 2012 Doug
AN EXILED ST KILDAN OBSERVES CORMORANTS AND SHAGS
On Sunday he watched his former prey
prepare themselves for Sunday prayer,
rattling their ancient joints,
shaking out their sodden coats,
letting the blast of morning air
blow through invisible umbrellas,
making sure their dark crests
were set just right for kirk,
after a quick dive through the mirk
and swirl of salt.
They’d come a long way to spend time
clinging to the old rock,
attending weddings, funerals,
baptisms where a chick is dipped
in water, braving storm and wave
for praise and worship
while most who live here wouldn’t step
across the nearest road.