A New Challenge for 2018

Woodland by Jo Degenhart
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I wanted to tell you a little bit about a project which I have decided to undertake in 2018.

As you know, my work centers around nature and our changing relationship with it. I love to explore the small detail and the wider picture and look at the part nature plays in all parts of our life from when we are a child to when we are adults.

Down the Canal by Jo Degenhart

There is a park local to me called Sankey Valley Park which runs along the canal in Warrington. The park has played a huge part in my life over the last 15 years; I have enjoyed walks and adventures there with my children, watching the seasons ebb and flow and teaching them about the cycles of life that can be found there. The park is sandwiched between houses and businesses and is like a little oasis of calm to me in my town.

Tree near the Bandstand by Jo Degenhart

Last year I reached out to the local Wildlife Trust to ask for advice on carrying out a year-long survey of the park. My knowledge of wildflowers and botany in general is pretty limited so I wanted some advice on how to start. I was passed a number of people’s names and emails and was amazed at all the help and advice I was given.  I went on a Wildflower and a Grasses, Sedges and Rushes course with Hilary from the Wildlife Trust at New Ferry Butterfly park which was incredibly informative and helpful. I came away with so much helpful information.  I was also put in touch with Gail at Warrington Plant Group and I hope to go on a survey with the group soon.

In June I went on a survey of Anderton Nature Park with rECOrd where everyone was incredibly supportive and helpful, especially considering my lack of knowledge and their expertise. I had a great day and it helped me realise what a huge task I had taken on and I suddenly felt a little daunted by it all.

Branches over the Canal

My plan was to start going on informal surveys along the canal, recording what I saw and identifying it with the help of photos, books and the internet but it suddenly seemed too big a project for someone with such limited knowledge. I have had to remind myself that I am an artist, not a botanist, that this project was supposed to be inspiring my work, not becoming it! I love to research and it is a large part of the process of creating pieces of art for me but I can get a little carried away with it all and forget that its job is to lead me to create not become a job in itself.

Tree Skeletons by Jo Degenhart

On Friday 21st Jan I went out along the canal path and around the park and started to jot down what I saw while listening to the sounds and enjoying being outside. I have had a huge burst of ideas for work and pieces, for areas I would like to research and plants and I would like to get to know better. I also recorded the birds I saw as there seemed so many around me and after my Inktober month of drawing birds it felt right to include them.

Woodland by Jo Degenhart

So there you have it. My plan for 2018 and I really cannot wait to see where it takes me!

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