Things seen on walking the dog

November 5, 2012

Are you bored…?

…try looking at your surroundings in a new way.

Browsing through some old photo files on my computer the other day, I came upon a set of snaps that I had taken when walking my old dog, Freddy, early in 2012. In the last few months of his life, my dog-walks had to be incredibly slow as his legs were failing. Sometimes it appeared that we were barely moving at all, and occasionally I cheated and carried him part of the way.

Observing the world in an abstract way

These round-the-block walks were a highlight if his day but, being both blind and deaf, he didn’t mind if my focus was elsewhere. I routinely took this opportunity to listen to vet lectures downloaded onto my ipod. But on a couple of occasions, I set myself the task of “seeing pictures” in the world around me, and recording them as a set of photos.

I am not a photographer, and these images are not intended to be perfect in themselves. I embarked upon this in the spirit of a game, in order to see the world around me in a new and rather abstract way.

Shapes and colours

However, it is good to have a few of these pictures filed as they remind me of my time with the dog. Here he is sharing a picture with a piece of old string. When I look at this, I keep glancing from the string to the dog’s light grey hairs and back again, as the pale colour and muted tone of string and hairs seem to unite them. The whole image is a curious combination of different shapes, both straight and curved-edged, and of shapes between other shapes:

Patterns in the natural world

Our walking route was the same every day and a strategy to avoid boredom was required. One trick is to look at things with great curiosity. Looked at intently, a spray of tiny flowers in someone’s front garden is as interesting as a sculpture. The groups of white flowers do not form a neat dome as I would have expected. But their arrangement is not random. They  seem to create some kind of wave-like surface pattern. I find it rather compelling close-up:

Interesting three-dimensional shapes

Litter can be shameful and embarrassing, but also rather sculptural. This rounded, reflective bottle could be seen as a thing of beauty. The fact that it is a hazard to wildlife, and the carelessnesss with which it must have been discarded, do not make it any less visually appealing. The wild plants are growing around and enclosing it:

Other items on the road and pavement are interesting for their two-dimensional shapes:

And the contrast between man-made waste (this time on glass recycling day) and nature can be striking:


An extreme close-up view

A rose is expected to be a thing of beauty, but do take the opportunity to look very, very closely at it:

Search for light and colour

Do not ignore the abstract shapes created by shadows and by other tricks of the light:

Even on a “grey” day, the colours of the world can be inspiring:

 Imagined stories

Occasionally, looking at the world at very close quarters may suggest part of a story. I was a little intrigued by this Ikea receipt neatly wedged into the gap in this wall:

Sources of inspiration 

The set of pictures, above, were fun to take at the time, and are interesting as a personal record.

Taking this a step further, I could choose to use each image as a source of inspiration for a new piece of artwork. The thing to remember is this: In each case, there was something that had sparked my interest and made me take a photo. If developing the idea into a fresh piece of artwork, I would have to retain the quality that had inspired me to take the photo in the first place.

For example, where colour combinations were the initial interest, I could take the same colours in the same proportions as the original photo, and use them to create an oil painting or collage. Two-dimensional shapes could similarly inspire an abstract painting. Alternatively, I could choose to set up a still-life inspired by shapes, colours and/or tones in one of the original images.

Those images containing intriguing three-dimensional forms could even inspire a piece of abstract sculpture. I particularly like the idea of the folded paper wedged into the brick wall, above.

Get to it

Don’t use my images for imspiration. Go and look at your own surroundings and come up with your own ideas. The important thing is to look and think. Bring ideas back to the studio either as remembered images, photos or sketches. Whether your surroundings are a hedgerow-lined lane, a suburban street, your own kitchen, a hospital ward or even a prison cell, it is possible to find curious ideas and images.

You are more than welcome to share links to any similar projects of your own by adding your message to the comments box, below.

Comments (2) | Tags: , , | More: Blog

2 Responses to “Things seen on walking the dog”

  1. Andy says:

    This is great stuff. Really inspiring. The bottles and flowers together is very interesting. Have you ever thought of taking up photography full time, Marianne?!?!

    • art28278 says:

      Thanks, Andy, that’s very kind. I feel that the ideas that sparked off these photos are more interesting than the images themselves. To answer your question, I feel much more drawn to drawing, painting, clay and collage than to photography. I love the opportunity to physically “mess about” with the art medium in order to create an image, with the option of stepping right back from reality in my depiction of the world. Books of great photos are wonderful to look through but, for myself, the camera is just a recording tool at the moment.