She stood, wondering.
How did I get here?
Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick
It goes on
Irrelevant inside our own self-obsession.
And knowing it.
Getting closer, closer, closer to God.
To understanding. To beginning,
to see our insignificance
And it hurts.
And it’s vengeful.
The opposite of appreciation, or
perhaps the essence of it.
Fulfilling our pointless lives
Living out their lack of purpose
Every sound a beautiful reminder
of why nothing matters.
A walk in the woods for me always brings back memories of days spent with my dad exploring the local woodland and heath. Being an actor, a creative, imaginative soul and of a Peter Pan nature, he would crouch wide-eyed, cocking his head to the side and pretending to hear the stomp of Christopher Robin’s Heffalumps in the distance. Thrilled, and in that wonderfully childish state of overwhelming excitement, I would follow his racing trail through the trees, squealing with delight as we crunched over the bracken underfoot in high anticipation. In those moments and in those memories we entered another world. Removed from the everyday industrialism for a brief period, we chased into a shadowy world of tone; of light and dark, pared back sounds, silence and crackles, birdsong and sun on bark. Coming across a steep dip in the ground he would inform me conspiratorially and in hushed tones that this was the Heffalump nest and it must be nearby. We were lost in a world of myth and story, letting reality as we knew it fade away to reveal the spine-tingling hidden parts of perception.
A recent trip to Lesnes Abbey Woods resulted in the photographs in this blog, and encapsulate this sense of mystical storytelling which I now pass on to my 3 year old; pointing out to him faerie doors in the trees and drinking in his delighted astonishment like the elixir of life connecting me to the most cherished experiences of my own childhood.
I used Photoshop liberally with these images, to create and enhance the sense of uncovering the hidden reality below that which is first seen. For myself at least I have managed to capture the sense of magic and story which speaks to the deepest parts of me.
All photos copyright Kate Withstandley Photography. Taken on Nikon D5100 with 18 – 140mm lens.
So let’s start with what this is for. In the beginning, my blogging was intended to identify for myself my purpose – to hone my skills and interests to help inform myself, really. Done.
So now what is it for? I did certainly find myself restrained by my own perception of what I thought people would like or be impressed by, and I censored the parts I thought they wouldn’t respond so well to; even if I liked or preferred these. That seems a bit mad really, the opposite of what I want to achieve. I want to head myself towards a state whereby I can fully express myself without fear of judgement.
Not that I wont BE judged, but that I wont validate or define myself by that judgement. Meditation helps a lot with this. Anything which drags you away from the minutiae is purposeful. Minutiae is my favourite word of the moment. It has become my byword for anything which allows us to lose sight of the big picture – which is basically everything / every minute. At this stage of our evolution, our whole consciousnesses have become overwhelmed by the minutiae. This can be beautiful and amazing, and it can be heartbreaking and awful. To me, spending an hour writing about my fears and worries is to be absorbed in the minutiae. To then make oneself aware of the fact that life will pass by very fast, we will die (relatively) soon and in 100 years we will be a distant ancestral memory, is re-affirming the big picture. Little things both matter and do not matter. They matter to each of us on a human level.
I am a strong believer in the importance of empathy and the belief that we need more of it. But allowing ourselves to see our own insignificance can remove pain – an an explicitly basic reminder that ‘all things must pass’. We live in an insanely complex world, where we become so bound up in the minutiae that our whole emotional and often physical state can be affected by things which are transient. Our tendency to become focused on these things is often greatly influenced by consumer culture. But if each time something makes you feel bad you can stop, take a breath and think – how much does this matter? Will this be a problem in 1 day / 1 week / 1 year? – you may find, as I have, that the problem immediately shrinks. Usually when I really pare it back I find that the only thing which stops me from letting it ALL go is my son. He is the only thing that when I ask the question – does it really matter – the answer is usually yes. He is what at my core of being is truly important, the rest is just management of circumstance and how you respond to it is within your control.
Where is my mind? The Pixies asked the ultimate question in that famous song. Where IS my mind? And what is in it when I delve a bit further than the initial surface of daily routine? I’ve recently been getting interesting results from using pen and watercolour sketching and a semi-meditative state to discover the answer to this question.
My first step on the path to even exploring this was starting a mindfulness course a few years ago. I have subsequently taken the same course 4 times and am now beginning to explore further the many varieties of meditative techniques. Even just a few months of daily basic mindfulness meditation has given me a taste of how it feels to explore my own consciousness. I’m already far less skeptical than when I started, and the idea of meditating in my room is actually more of an attractive prospect than going out on the town! The concept is so ridiculously simple and obvious, I’m almost ashamed I haven’t just always done it. It’s unbelievable that modern life is so overwhelming that we have to re-teach ourselves just to stop; to actually listen to our own bodies and minds. Ironically for such a self-obsessed society, we don’t actually take much notice of our true internal voice.
Through this regular meditation I’ve had a number of interesting experiences, often dream-focused. I find that when I meditate I almost immediately return to a recent dream, I can’t change anything, so its not what they call ‘lucid dreaming’, but I’m in it, I can walk around it and explore it, and I get the same feelings and emotions I had when i was having it. My dreams now are different, they feel more like experiences than dreams and give me a strange sense of having been somewhere.
Quite by chance, I recently started doodling when I was focused on other things, as a stress release. I found that letting my instinct guide me resulted in some interesting imagery. As soon as I started regulating myself – ‘don’t put that line there’ etc. the pictures were far more dull and without the sense of freedom they had encompassed before. I tried to go back to the other technique and found that I could utilise the relaxation part of the mindfulness practice, but without switching off completely. Let the pen guide itself and do exactly what it wants. Don’t limit it, don’t think about what might look good or bad; basically don’t allow your conscious mind to impose the very limiting boundaries which are born of external influence.
The result is these images. I see these as an early experimentation phase, what might grow from further practice at this technique is yet to be discovered. It’s the first time I have not had to labour at a piece of art, the first time I haven’t had to ‘try’, haven’t had to worry about the end result. Releasing myself of that anxiety allows me to truly enjoy the process and I think that probably comes through in the imagery.
All works are pen and watercolour on paper and are for sale.
Visit my profile at Art Market Direct to purchase.
Beautiful original photographic works for sale!
This weekend I submitted two pictures to the RCA Conwy open exhibition. Every new year I compile a ‘to do’ list with things I want to achieve over the coming twelve months. On Thursday night I rediscovered that list in my note-book and it reminded me that I’d successfully completed or made a start on several things this year, but also that there were a few things I hadn’t got around to. I’m sensible enough to know that there’s no point beating myself up about things that are out of my control, but one item glared at me from the page, defiant, just waiting for the usual excuses of “oh well, it wouldn’t have worked anyway” or “I’m not really that good”.
It’s unlike me because by nature I am a ‘go-getter’. I’ve set up successful businesses after the crushing blow of redundancy, completed a PhD while working full-time and…
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I recently went to Sevenoaks Nature Reserve on an exploratory trip with my 2 year old. Miraculously I actually managed to get some nice shots, as my attention was drawn from following his ever-running footsteps, to some of the striking aesthetics born of the natural oasis I was travelling through.
Being November, the three elements which were on my side with regards to getting some great images were colour, light and texture. Sounds obvious, but winter in Kent produces remarkable conditions in which to appreciate the beauty of the situation around us.
The colour of the leaves as the season takes hold is of course a wonderful sight. Living in Kent, the Garden of England as they say, I see this every year and have done for 33 years. It never gets dull. It’s never assumed. It is always, without fail, an open-mouthed moment of delicious shock, at how a tree so recently full and green, can so quickly become a riot of flame and opulence.
Winter light is by far my favourite of all the seasons. Low and hazy, it casts a glow over the scene. In contrast to summer shadows, which are often crisp and glaring, winter shadows are long and inventive; invoking a new aspect of reflection upon their subject.
And of course, texture. Mud. Water. Wet. Crisp. Crunch. Slop. Slide. Squelch. Burn. Bite. Smooth. Wash. Mix. The tangibility of this seasonal effect is almost as extreme as it’s tonal effect. Every aspect evokes a dramatic physical reaction. The modern instinct tells you to avoid the slop, the squelch, the burn. But once engaged, the elements draw you in deeply, in a way saccharine summer cannot.
Rarely is such a thing more beautifully satisfying than a winter walk in the Kent country.
Images taken on a Nikon D5100 with 50mm lens