Summer of Clouds

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It has been a summer of tremendous clouds. There has been rainy days with monotonous greyness, days of sweltering azure (can you use that word like that?) and everything in between. It has been a perfect summer for some cloudspotting.

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From a walk with our dog, Kili. Apparently we fought of a gigantic swarm of flies, and had to overtake a half a metre long adder on the path. It was searingly hot so I sketched like a lightning.

However, form a sketcher’s point of view the summer has been problematic. If it wasn’t raining, it was so hot that watercolours dried far too quickly making it next to impossible to use wet-on-wet properly. So I was usually left with two choices: sketch real quickly or not at all.

The beginning of the August saw a change in the weather as the thunderstorms arrived. Some days were tropical (really, they said that on the TV’s forecast): humid, warm nights were followed by sultry mornings and afternoon thunder showers. The monotonous rain clouds changed into towering thunderclouds.

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A thunder front advancing from the east.

That made sketching clouds a lot easier. Especially as I could see approaching showers well before they hit and look for shelter. Often the clouds rolled past in rows making the landscape seem even vaster and boundless. Pohjanmaa region is clearly the Finnish version of the Big Sky Country. Except for the mountains.

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Then the weather changed again and the clouds with it. The clearly shaped cumuli lost their firmness – a certain sign that the autumn is suddenly just around the corner. Those partly dissolved clouds presented a new sketching challenge, but it was a delight to sit in the open and follow the clouds go by.

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Sometimes they had the feel of gigantic, monumental beasts floating unhurriedly across the landscape, being massive and insubstantial all at once.

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A big sky behemoth.

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The winter is coming – as it always does – and these clouds a the first promise of snow.

Then last Monday I saw clouds that made my summer. We were driving towards the West on our way to the town of Kokkola. It was far too early (for me at least), around 6.30 AM, and there was massif of storm clouds rising above the sea some 15 km from where I took this photo:

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A lenticular cloud above low hanging storm clouds.

The cloud massif was – phenomenal. So many different kinds of formations that I could have spend several hours watching their evolution. But the cherry on top was that lenticular cloud floating almost immobilized above the massif. We don’t often get lenticular clouds over here. I suppose it’s because the landscape is rather flat, i.e. it’s relief is shallow, and to my understanding lenticular clouds usually form above high hills, mountains and such. What a treat!

Life on Seabed

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VP_aurinkoinenpelto

I’m a bottom crawler. I live on the bottom of the sea. Ach, well, I don’t live in the sea but on land that used to be sea some thousands of years ago. You see, we all are still living in an ice age. The Querternary glaciation, that started about 2,58 million years ago, is still on. We’re just living in a interglacial period, the time between glacial periods when the continental glaciers are at their maximum. So, ice age was not something that happened a long time ago.

The last glacial maximum ended about 11 000 years ago and that’s how long the Finnish landscape has been free of the contenental ice sheet even 3 to 4 kilometres thick. And that is the reason why I am living on an ancient sea floor. All that ice pushed the Earth’s crust down creating a kind of a dent on the crust. When the ice slowly melted away and the ice sheet retreated back towards the north pole, water filled that dent creating a sea. Once free of the weight of the ice, the crust begun to rebound. Post-glacial rebound it is called. That means that every year the land here rises from the sea a little and the actual landmass of the country increases. It’s not much, approx. 5 mm per year, but give it enough time and it will change the face of the earth around here.

So where I now live it used to be sea about 3000 years ago and you can still see it in the landscape. It’s pretty open and level up here. There are small ridges left over by the retreating ice but between them it is rather flat. If you know what to look for, you can see where the ancient beaches have been, and here and there you can see how the now gone see has arranged the sand that once was at the bottom of it into wave like dunes.

I love the openness. The sky is vast, almost limitless. Clouds are the main feature of the landscape and since we are still pretty close to the sea (a bit over 20 km) we get a great variety of clouds here. There are types that you see only during summer and those that herald snow in the late autumn. Even the slightest change in the cloud coverage changes the light, and suddenly you have a completely different mood over the landscape.

The two sketches were made of the roughly same view along our daily dog walk. Nothing much in landscape changed in between except for the sky. The white things in the picture below are huge round hay bales wrapped in white plastic to preserve them for winter feeding. We call them dinosaur eggs – not quite lovingly.

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My Heroes: Danny Gregory

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MatkaHesaan

About two years ago I was leafing though Amazon (Can you do that, leaf though Amazon.com?) trying to find something that would encourage and reassure my desire to get back into drawing and art. I went though book after book, ordered some – most of which were quite good and inspiring – before I came across Danny Gregory’s Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to be the Artist You Truly Are. I don’t know if I can say that I have ever read a book that changed me or my perspective, but Creative License certainly was a starting point for the change I’m going through right now. Danny’s style of drawing and writing spoke to me. I especially liked the fact that he accepted that it is hard to return to a practice you have previously judged to be a “not proper career”. His book solidified my determination to draw more and to be serious about it, to give it the time, effort and role I want art to have in my life. It’s been a slow process but I will get there.

I did not get myself a Moleskin – well I did, but I didn’t like the feel nor the colour of the paper. It took awhile to find that perfect, inspiring sketchbook, but eventually I did and I took up the habit to carry it in my bag. The first pages filled up very slowly but I did finish the book last autumn after almost two years. I have a new one now but I try not to put any pressure on filling it up though I definitely would like to draw daily. One day (not someday, mind you) I will.

I mostly draw when I’m away from home. I don’t know why, really. I have all these excuses at home, but while I’m on the road or in a museum they disappear. These I drew last August, the clouds on the train on my way to Helsinki and the two men playing Go in a beautiful, peaceful small park (much like a garden really) in southern Helsinki. I still had a cold and I was about to give a presentation in a conference in a few days, but the weather made me forget my tiredness. It had been raining for days but while traveling south the low-hanging rainclouds turned into magnificent cumuli and sunshine. Thanks to Danny I had the tools to capture them.

A Local Call

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It rained for two days from Thursday night till Saturday noon. The rain clouds hung low and it reminded me of this joke about the region where I live.

An architect was writing a book about Finnish churches and was traveling around the country to visit them all. Soon he noticed that in every church there was a golden phone half hidden in some corned of the church hall with a note next to it reading ‘100€ per minute.’ He wondered about them and especially about the charge, but it took some time before he mustered the nerve to ask what the phone was for.

‘It’s a direct line to God,’ answered the priest in a church in Tampere, ‘You just pick up the phone and God will be at the other end of it.’ The architect thought that not many sinners had the money to pay for such call, but did not comment on the matter.

Where ever in Finland he went, there was the golden phone in every church, and in every church the charge was 100€ per minute. In time his travels took him to Pohjanmaa where land is flat and the sky is vast. In the first church he visited, just as expected, he found a golden phone but here the note read ‘5€ per minute.’ The architect turned to the local priest who was acting as his guide and asked: ‘I know that this phone is a direct line to God and that there is one in every church in Finland, but how come you are charging only 5€ per minute when everyone else is charging 100€?’

‘Oh,’ said the priest, ‘We are so close to Heaven here that it’s a local call.’

Two thirds of the view here is sky. On a sunny day the sky dome swells far above the land, but when the wind blows the clouds fast and down over the landscape the sky hangs low like a ceiling. It definitely is a local call then.

Evan Thompson

Professor of Philosophy, University of British Columbia

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