Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Winter Shadow

Here in northern Europe the long winter evenings are drawing in, and today's strong winds are stripping the few remaining dead leaves from the trees. There they lie beyond counting on the damp ground, then briefly sail up again like a club of kite surfers as the wind catches them. And apart from the fact that this year it is unseasonally mild, for me it's typical November weather. It was the same two years ago, when while out walking with my dog I stooped to pick up just one leaf out of the hundreds that lay around me.

The leaf had evidently been lying on the damp ground for some time, for much of the membrane between the veins had already rotted away, leaving a lace-like network so fragile that I dare not even place it in my pocket, but carried it in my hand until I was home again. I laid it carefully upon the glass platen of my scanner and scanned it in (above, but please note that this is a large image, and, for those with a slow Internet connection, clicking on the image may mean that it will take some time for it to load). Now a digital image, the full intricacy of the leaf's details could be examined on my monitor (the detail, below); more effectively, in fact, than if I were looking at the original leaf with a magnifying glass.

The scan was sitting on my hard drive for a few weeks before I hit upon the idea of using it as the main design element for a presentation cover of the music A Winter Shadow, by Swedish metal band Tiamat, which I was then compiling for a digital portfolio of my work. By converting the image to a negative, and adding a mirrored section of the leaf itself to create a more complete symmetry (below), the effect of a skeletal wintery darkness was emphasised.

Further layers and textures, mostly derived from close-ups of the leaf's own patterned filigree, helped to enhance the depth surrounding the leaf's shape, and suggest the idea of a fragile preserved pressed botanical specimen framed for display in some cabinet of curiosities. The added title typography completed the image (below).

And what of the leaf itself? Lying undisturbed on the damp ground outside, the fragile structure had survived, but in the dry warmth of my studio it soon dehydrated and disintegrated into a papery nothingness. The resulting scan is therefore all that remains: a winter shadow indeed, the ghost of a ghost.

Artist: Hawkwood
Work: A Winter Shadow, 2007
Medium: Digital, derived from scanned natural material
Location: Cyberspace

The music A Winter Shadow is featured on the Tiamat album The Astral Sleep.


  1. Youre works make multiple references to Tiamat. They were my first metal band and affected me very much in life too. I also really like your use of neo-classical subjects.

  2. Thanks for your comment Anon. It's true that Tiamat have influenced both my life and my own art. They were my first metal band as well! I have created my own artwork versions of all their albums, which you're welcome to visit online at:


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