Tag Archives: river daemon

A New River Daemon

a photo of the view upstream where the river falls through a rocky cleft

the view upstream, looking into the river ‘grotto’

This summer we found the river had created a new daemon …

sculpted by the river, some grass has a monkey-like form

the new river daemon

nature sculpture - a small form created by the action of river water on grass

the daemon stares from its rock

a dog staring

the dog stares back

The new daemon appeared in the special place up the river, where rocks have faces and cliffs grow trees and flowers. This was a small daemon, a bit monkey-like and perched above the waterfall, very difficult to reach. I felt it might have been a bird in spirit and, sure enough, my mother produced a suitable skull that she just happened to have been keeping safe (for such an occasion?)

photo of a river daemon sitting above a waterfall, an assembled form made out of natural materials in the environment

a new river daemon perched above the waterfall

bird daemon, river god, assembled from natural forms in the landscape

a closer view of the strange bird daemon as it perches over the rushing water

The waterfall is usually impossible to climb because the rockface is covered in slime and there is nothing to grab hold of within reach. As if by magic, when my mother was visiting and had brought the skull the weather became very dry. The once-slimy rocks were bare and easily scalable. Once on top of the waterfall I discovered another way in and out of the roofless grotto via a natural staircase in the rocky cliff. My dog looked on, unwilling to join me. She decided that she preferred to stay in the magical pool below the waterfall – the place I always expect to find a golden crown one day …

ripples and sunlight

the magical pool below the waterfall

dog looking up

daemon watching

river daemon made from hay and bone, an art in nature piece

startled by my dog, the river daemon turns its head

There’s a beautiful tree that somehow grows in the sky to form a roof for the grotto.

photo of a tree with rocks and sky

the beautiful tree

The beautiful tree reminds me of my sister, once photographed drinking tea.

a photograph of my sister sitting in a tree drinking tea

Clare sitting in a tree with a cup of tea, an old photo from the 1980s

Further afield, we travelled to Scotland and I did some oil sketches, some more successful than others. At first there was the compulsion to be too relentless in pursuit of the wave forms, daubing away until they were deadened. Then there was the trap of getting carried away by the sunset colours and losing some tones here and there. In spite of it all some hints of the sea eventually crept in, as if nature finds its way into your paints no matter what. This is heartening.

plein air painting of Culzean beach, 6x8 in oils on canvas

light fading over the beach at Culzean, plein air, oil on canvas, 6×8 inches

small oil sketch, plein air, of Culzean beach during sunset

the sun well into setting with deep, rich hues – a plein air sketch from Culzean beach, 6×8 inches, oil on canvas

Culzean beach and Arran at sunset, quick oil sketch, plein air, 6x8 inches on canvas

Culzean beach and Arran in the distance. A quick oil sketch carried out at sunset, 6×8 inches, oil on canvas.

small plein air sketch of waves at Culzean, oil on canvas

rusty attempt at a wave study, Culzean beach, 6×8 inch oil painting on canvas

small plein air sketch of the sea at Culzean, oils on canvas, 6x8 inches

the sea and sky at Culzean in a pale light with Arran looming blue on the horizon, small oil on canvas, 6×8 inches

My sister Clare in the 80s, staring out to sea on the Isle of Skye

An old photo from the 1980s showing Clare looking out to sea (and I have no idea what she’s carrying)

The second tree and the river daemon

Settlebeck Gill view with rocks

at the start of the Gill walk, looking back down

Summer heat sent us to explore the river that runs, sometimes hidden, down a cleft in the fell. Walkers tend to take the top route that only occasionally overlooks our watery path and this means that, once we leave the fell wall behind, Tilly and I usually have the stream all to ourselves.

Welsh Springer Spaniel

walking companion

We always visit the first tree, a sycamore, that bears the scars of dozens of names. People obviously walk as far as this on summer days and then carve its trunk, which seems quite cruel. We never see them though, so hope that the tree spends most of its days unscathed.

sycamore tree in Settlebeck Gill

we reach the first tree

A lovely pool lies beneath the tree, dappled with sunlight. Tilly likes to wallow in it and I took her photo, only to see what looks like a second spaniel in the water. A trick of the light – but I’m not surprised because the whole of this place has a mysterious atmosphere. It would be quite in keeping to suddenly catch sight of a gnome peering through some ferns although, probably luckily for me, this hasn’t happened yet.

dog in pool with rocks and grass

the pool under the tree – but is there one dog or two?

After saying farewell to the first tree we follow the river upstream.

view of hills and tree

leaving the first tree behind us we climb higher

And the second tree appears.

tree, gorse, hills and sheep

the second tree appears inside its rocky cleft

In keeping with the mysterious theme you may notice something in the entrance to the rocky cleft, which I fancifully imagine as an almost-grotto, with the tree forming a kind of roof. It’s a vague shape that resembles a seated figure with lots of hair.

river, rocky cleft and tree

the entrance to the ‘grotto’ with the second tree

As you get nearer you see the river itself has assembled wood and hay to create this sculpted form, a seated ‘river god’.

river sculpture, figure

the river sculpted its own ‘god’ guarding the entrance to the ‘grotto’

river sculpture, wood and grass

a closer look at the grotto’s guardian

The river god seems quite benign so Tilly sunbathes, paddles and digs while I sketch.

sketching location

here I sat and sketched

I try to capture the direction and energy of the various forms in the landscape.

movement in a landscape, oil pastel sketch

first sketch of the ‘grotto’ in oil pastel, A6 sketchbook – trying to capture the movement

We scurry back down after a while when storm clouds begin to gather.

Settlebeck Gill stormy day

storm clouds gathering on the horizon – looking down the Gill

Returning to the same spot a few days later there has been a change.

river daemon sitting in front of waterfall

the ‘grotto’ seems to have a new guardian

I couldn’t resist altering the river’s sculpture.

river god sculpture sititng in ravine

looking down into the ravine at the river god

Maybe the gods were not amused because, while we were there, some rather strange signs appeared in the sky.

feather cloud and hill view

a giant feather floats across the sky, accompanied by other peculiarly shaped clouds

feather and egg clouds

more unusual clouds, this time resembling fried eggs, and their feathered friend

I sketched on regardless.

oil pastel sketch en plein air, semi-abstract

second sketch of the ‘grotto’, oil pastel in A6 sketchbook

Then we left, after one last look at the grotto daemon.

river god sculpture with sheep skull

an odd figure sits in the entrance to the ‘grotto’

This time we climbed even higher up the fell.

dark clouds, blue sky and hills

looking up to Arant Haw, with more curious clouds

After reaching the summit we descended, with ominous skies appearing once more.

photo of hills with approaching storm

more storm clouds are gathering over the hills

The thunder and rain held off each time, allowing us to return home safely, but the next time we visited the second tree the river had removed my addition to its artwork.