Saturday, 2 July 2011

Drawing and redrawing a river

This week I have begun experimenting for my River Nene project.

Three Jos in a Boat is a commission by Ros Stoddart as part of a series of events inspired by Denys Watkins-Pitchford, a Northamptonshire naturalist, children's writer and illustrator who wrote under the pseudonym "BB".

My part in the project is to create a map of the stretch of the River Nene that BB wrote about in his book "A Summer on the Nene".

When I first start drawing maps I love the abstract lines before any information or detail is included. Each map has its own unique shape and beauty.

This section of the River Nene is incredibly lovely, it twists and turns but simultaneously has a distinct linear direction. I have been reading about how rivers are created and the bends in a river are technically called "meanders".

The meanders continually erode the banks by the movement of the water. The River Nene at this point is very slow moving, so the erosion is also gradual. You have the idea that the river is continually redrawing itself over time, but at a pace we cannot see.

Rather than being a fixed shape like a map, the river is continually changing itself, widening and redefining its edges over time. I get the sense that this drawing is less of a fixed guide map and more of a snapshot in time, a drawing of the river as it is at this moment but it is remaking itself just as I draw it.

Ros Stoddart is organising a number of events along the River over the next year, starting tonight! They include storytelling, music, walks with natural historians, poetry in pubs and more ... visit her website for details:

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