A Pair of Trunks

Tuesday, 3rd August 2004
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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A small patch of wilderness

6.50 p.m., overcast, humid evening

I've drawn this elder before but, with nothing better in sight, here at my mother-in-law's, I decide to try and draw it again. It's the ancient-looking double trunk that appeals to me but, as I put bits of the fence in to make it show against the background, I realise that the surroundings are equally interesting. I like the rugged concrete block at the foot of the larchlap fence and the mossy/grassy banking.

It's sometimes difficult to get out and experience nature but here's a tiny patch of suburban wilderness that I can contemplate.

World Tree

This is why I haven't been out there contemplating nature: I'm writing my latest Sushi Sketchbook. The whole point of Sushi was that I'd get out drawing from nature a heck of a lot more but it hasn't worked out like that because I've had a backlog of three titles to write up.

The problem is that one simple drawing can lead to a chain of thoughts that takes me ages to write down in some acceptably coherent way. Here's an example; a drawing of the medieval wrought iron handle on the door of a Norfolk village church that I'm including in Sushi number 5, Saints and Serpents.

Here's what I wrote about it this afternoon:

It wasn't until I'd nearly finished drawing the handle on the church door that I realised what it was, what I think it represents. It was the pitted surface of the handle, like reptilean scales, that made me realise: it's Ygdrassil, the Viking world tree; its roots in the underworld, its branches in heaven and, at its base, serpents such as Nidhogg are constantly trying to topple it.

I write all the text by hand for the Sushis and, when I've read through my mock-up of the whole thing, I'll probably go back over sections like this and try and improve them. Because it's hand-lettering that means writing the whole paragraph again.

Research is tempting for me and I can't possibly include everything that I'm tempted to. For instance it amused me that Nighogg, the serpent at the foot of the tree, is in a constant rivalry with an eagle who lives up in the branches. There's a squirrel that spends it's time running up and down the tree and stirring up trouble:

'Hey, Eagle, do you know what that Nidhogg's been saying about you now?!!'

door handle

Sushi Solutions

It's still early days with the Sushis and my solution to this might be to allow myself more time on location so I'm not frantically sketching all the time and do a lot of the writing on location, so I'm not spending so much time messing about with text back here in the studio.

The other solution would be to tell the story almost entirely through the pictures. Next Page

Richard Bell, richard@willowisland.co.uk

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