I walked through the woods and captured my experience on paper

I’ve been thinking a lot about movement and expressive art lately and decided to try an experiment: a walk in in the woods, followed by drawing whatever I feel like.

Stanmer Park in Brighton is home to some beautiful trees and it’s one of my favourite places to walk. This image was taken in May 2019 on a sunny day, not like the rainy day of my experiment.

The walk felt hurried – I walked fast, stopping to put my coat on because the rain was heavy at one point. I felt sturdy on my feet and was enjoying the surety of moving my feet until the rain came and made the ground slippy in places. I noticed I tensed up, moved slower and felt less certain of the consequences of my foot placements, particularly downhill; uphill I felt confident. At points I got lost in the sounds of my movements – my breath, my feet, my trousers rubbing – and the trees blurred into browns and greens as I made quick decisions about which trails to follow. Soon I was at the car park again and was surprised at the timelessness of my walk through the woods; I had no idea how long it had taken.

I unlocked the van and sat half in with my legs out, grabbed my sketchbook and began making hurried, careless marks with a watercolour pencil. The rain blurred them and I laughed at this pleasant, unplanned interaction with the weather. Who needs water brushes when you’ve got rain? I closed my sketchbook and drove home. When I opened the sketchbook I saw new marks on the opposite page, and I felt delighted at the pattern of rain that had been inadvertently captured.

The marks I made with a “Dark Chocolate” watercolour pencil on the left; the rain pattern marks on the right.

A day or so later I felt an urge to add dark green marks to the brown. For each brown line I saw I added green either side of it in repetitive marks. The rule gave me something to focus on. I noticed I was gripping the pencil quite hard as I made these marks. I felt very serious.

I added “Leaf Green” marks to the brown lines.

Later, I added light green into any white space I could see; I felt the need to work quickly, to get it done. It felt comforting to work on after an intense volunteering session with survivors of sexual violence. I needed to see the transformation that occurred when I dabbed the water brush onto the pencil marks. I finished the image during a phone call with a friend, and I noticed my dabbing action became much calmer as my friend and I exchanged stories of recent experiences.

I added “Apple Green” into the white spaces and blended the greens and browns with a water brush.

I notice the finished drawing has aspects of what it was like to walk through the woods – the blurriness of the greens and browns and the pathways.

What’s your experience of movement and expressive art?