Sunday, 17 July 2016

Kite and camera trials

 So finally get to fly my own kite... a 1.5m flexifoil (the 2m kites pull me over when the wind gets them going).

Assisted by the family

I didn't crash the kite and wasn't pulled over and sent headlong across the beach by the wind and strength of the kite at all! Must be getting better. I can even hold the kite fairly still while it's up.
This time to film we used a GoPro (thanks Tom Poole-Kerr) which is a lot lighter weight for the kite to carry, and the results are a lot better. 
You can see the footage of the first trials with the GoPro attached to the kite here:

Still need to make a few adjustments and change settings on camera so the images are closer-up to the ground, but it's not bad for a first-time flight. 
Starting to feel that this might actually work in the Arctic. Only 12 weeks to go now before I set off....

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Kite flying again...

So its Tuesday evening and I'm back in Weston-Super-Mare, and this time weather permitted kite flying, but with an eye on the tide - which was predicted to be high, and coming in fast and furiously behind us, assisted by an increasing wind.

Attaching the camera in its tin
Although it was somewhat gusty we did fly a single line kite and attached a can with my water bottle tucked inside to emulate the weight of a camera. Seem to bear the weight pretty well, but the trick is going to be to balance the camera in its protective container, so that it's pointing downwards and hope that the wind isn't too strong. The camera would have taken some pretty wild and jerky film in the prevailing wind conditions.
Final adjustments
Lift off
Flying tins

With lots of help from Dom and friends (thank you). Sorry about my poor knot-tying skills Dom!

Still a lot to learn and get right... 

Interesting place to be in the evening on Weston-Super-Mare beach; there are lots of activities going on - dog walkers, groups of kids digging in the sand, kite flyers, and kite surfers shooting across the beach, and a sea full of wind and kite surfers all out there doing amazing jumps and turns... very tempting... maybe another adventure.?

Aerial photography research part II: Kite flying

Last week I traveled to Stroud to meet artist Neville Gabbie, one of the artists to be accepted onto the now defunct British Antarctic Survey Artists and Writers Programme. In 2008/09 Neville spent four months traveling to and at the Halley Research Station on the Brunt Ice shelf, the most southern British base in Antarctica in 2008/9. A place that you can only go in the summer months and even then is pretty inhospitable. Whilst there he used a kite to record the landscape; I decided that we had things to discuss... 

Flying a kite with a camera across the landscape is a performative act and is also as much about drawing over the landscape as capturing it on film.

Neville very generously talked to me about the experience, the kit he used and what I need to consider. I will need a kite capable of lifting a camera and one that I am capable of controlling.

So I decided that I needed to talk to kite expert and sellers .... and went in search of kite shops - which is more difficult that one would think. Kite flying is not popular at the moment. However I have struck lucky and found  

This is a great shop in Weston-Super-Mare - with extremely helpful and very experienced staff (Dom has spent many years in the kite industry; a national stunt kite champion, competing on both national and international circuits, a national kite buggy racing champion. Barry is an open class champion in racing kitebuggies).

Tuesday found me in Weston-Super-Mare and in UFO kite shop discussing options and learning about the different types of kites - starting with the single line Cody Box kite - developed by Samuel Franklin Cody.
A wild west showman and early pioneer and manned flight Cody is most famous for his work on the large kites known as Cody War-Kites that were used by the British in World War 1.  
Cody Box Kite

Then on to 2 string, 3 string and 4 string kites - some with frames and others without - and which include power kites and ones used for kite surfing on water and land......


Then it was off down to the beach while the tide was still out, to learn how to fly a kite.. and I have much to learn, but I had a very patient instructor!

I don't look quite as stylish as Cody! 
Really enjoyed the experience of using 3 string and four string kites, but I'm going to need masses of practice if I am going to be able to control a kite without it crashing to the ground, and especially one with a camera attached if the camera is to survive! 

Next week will see me back in Weston-Super-Mare and flying more kites - weather permitting...  watch this space..

Aerial photography research: Drone flying

I have finally managed to fly a drone that is controllable and can hover... Thanks to Kim-Tobias Kohn from UWE's Avionic Department for the lesson and taking time to help me. 

So now have to consider the options of using a drone - the noise is a bit off-putting, but I can achieve clear images  - or going with other options - a kite perhaps - or maybe using both.

Monday, 13 June 2016

More flying preparation

Off to see a man about extreme kite flying on Wednesday.. and hopefully having a drone flying lesson on Wednesday (weather permitting).

Have finally managed to retrieve the drone from the tree at Maesbury Castle (where it has been for the last 2 weeks), with the help of Ollie - tree climbing supremo and rigger - and Anna and Steve who came along for moral support...

The team (apart from me of course)

Is this what it was all about?
Whether it will still work is another matter...

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Arctic expedition companions

 So I now know who my companions will be with me on the Autumn Arctic Expedition 2016.

Looking through the list published on the Arctic Circle website it looks like a really interesting mix of artists of many disciplines - writers, film-makers, scientists, and teachers from many corners of the world.

Here is the full list (with websites where they have them):
Jess Arndt (Writer)

Tama Baldwin (Photographer/Writer):

Annie Christain (Writer)

Carly Connelly (Artist):
Jennifer Crouch (Artist/Educator):

Spike Dennisis (Inter-disciplinary artist):

Tania Dibbs (Artist):

Jordi Fornies (Artist):

Rachel Guardiola (Interdisciplinary Artist):

Han Sungpil (Artist):

Clara Harris (Actor/Playwright):

Laurie Hermans (anthropologist)

Jenn Kahn (Artist):

Isaac Kestenbaum (Multimedia Journalist):
      Janette Kerr (Painter):
Ok Sun Kim (Science Teacher)

Oskar Landi (Photographer):

Chen Lin (Performance Artist)

Agnes Marton (Poet)

Leigh McCarthy (Multidisciplinary Artist):

Jamie Mohr (Artist/film-maker)

Ella Morton (Artist):

Mary Neubauer (Artist):

Ellis O’Connor (Artist):

Ersi Sotiropoulos (Poet)

Leonard Sussman (Photographer):

Lene Tangen (Glass Artist):

Tim van der Meer (Interdisciplinary Artist):

Zlatan Vehabovic (Painter)

Eva Weber (Film-Maker)

Julia Wellner (Photographer):

Sofy Yuditskaya (Artist/Educator)

I make that 32... feeling quite crowded!

But seeing the names seems to make the trip come even closer...

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Arctic frustrations

Not a good week so far! 

 My drone is still stuck up the tree and I'm still working on a plan to gt it down.  A friendly rigger who can climb trees has pulled a muscle in his neck so we have to wait until he can move again! 

My session on an airfield with Kim-Tobias - who was scheduled to take me professional drone flying this week - is on hold as his flight from Germany back into London last night was cancelled due to thunderstorms over the UK.

My Arts Council/British funding application has been refused. Who have they funded since everyone I know has been refused!!!????

So - anyone know someone who could sponsor me?

I am sure these are all things I will overcome. I will certainly be making more small postcard-size paintings to sell and to raise funding. So watch this space.....

On a more positive side:
I've had an offer of sponsorship for helium by the company on Longyearbyen that supplies it; and an English company that makes balloons is also interested in doing a deal - equipment in exchange for a painting. 

I'm meeting with the artist Katy Connor - - who traveled on the same expedition a few years ago. Hoping to pick her brain about the experience. 

My proposal to give a paper at the Relate North 2016: Practising Place: Art & Design for Creative Communities has been accepted. This will take place in early November and will now be held in Shetland - which is perfect! I will be talking about my expedition to the Arctic and the work I make as a result of the experience

Monday, 30 May 2016

Experiments - watercolour and ice

Thanks to Peter Davies ( for his advice and demonstrating the art of making watercolours. 

In the Arctic, temperature has increased at twice the rate as the rest of the globe, and could increase by another 8°C (14°F) by the end of this century. The warming atmosphere along with new weather pattern extremes is causing Arctic sea ice to melt at an alarming rate—12% per decade—that suggests the Arctic will be ice-free by 2030. The impacts of dwindling ice cover in the Arctic are far-reaching, from species endangerment to enhanced global warming, to the weakening or shut-down of global ocean circulation. See:

So one of the plans I have for my Arctic trip is to make frozen blocks of water-colours based on the colours I find in the Arctic, and then to allow these to melt and flow across paper -  reflecting the melting of the Arctic ice. 

I've been doing some initial experiments in my studios in Shetland and Somerset with water-colour pigments and ice; grinding down pure pigments with a glass muller to make my own water-colours...

the equipment
grinding water-colour pigments using a glass muller
adding water-colour medium and water

Pouring the watercolours in blocks ready for the freezer: 

Pigments ready for freezer

 Allowing the blocks of ice pigments to melt onto damped paper:
Melting blocks of iced water-colour
A bit of outdoor weathering...

Results -

There are lumps of pigment sitting on the surface which I quite like - probably frowned upon by watercolour purists! But I like the textural qualities that are emerging.

Initially I've used ordinary tap water, but have just mixed up some water-colour using sea water gathered from Lerwick Harbour, and distilled water gathered from the studio dehumidifier.

So I'll be trying these out soon...

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Arctic prep re aerial images - Drone flying (and crashing) practice continues...


Here's a link to the film of the flight - I've uploaded it to vimeo:  

My latest practice attempts to fly a drone... assisted by local neighbourhood children who were hanging out on the memorial field. 

Think I still have a long way to go regarding gaining any sort of control.

J Kerr, White on White 2009