In the quiet contemplation of Aileen Harvey’s 2014 article Walking, Drawing, Indexing: Representing Bodily Experience of Landscape,” I am reminded of the profound kinship between the artist and the landscape – a theme that resonates deeply with my own journey as a walking artist. Harvey’s exploration of the connection between the human body, movement, and the landscape is an affirmation of the methodology that has come to define much of my own practice. Through the act of walking, I have found not only inspiration, but also a way of knowing and interacting with the world that is both ancient and intensely personal.

The Mutable Dance of Observation

Harvey speaks to the heart of the walking artist, the individual who understands that to walk through a landscape is to engage in a “mutable dance”. It is an experience that evolves with each step; the walker and the walked-upon are in constant conversation, each influencing the other in subtle, dynamic ways. In my walks, I have felt this shift, a sensory dialogue where mudflat, path, and urban street offers its own distinct cadence and rhythm.

Drawing: The Spatio-Temporal Map

As Harvey elucidates, drawing becomes a spatio-temporal map of this dance. It is not merely a record but a narrative, a layered telling of the journey that captures not just the visual but also the temporal shifts, the changes in light, mood, and perspective. When I draw after (or during) my walks, my lines are more than contours; they are timelines, emotional pulses, and echoes of the terrain I traversed.

Sensory and Material Cartography

Harvey’s discourse on sensory maps resonates with my experiences of translating my walks into tangible forms. The artwork becomes a sensory cartography (the pots in the image below are my version of mapping the history of Deception Bay), an index of the line of experiences that reconstructs the artist’s route through the landscape. In my studio, each piece I produce is worked with intention and is imbued with the memory of these sensory encounters, the tactile imprint of the environment I have walked through.

Changing Terrain 2022. Anna Guthrie. Photography Tony Webdale.

Physicality and the Artistic Mark

The physicality inherent in the artistic process, as Harvey notes, is particularly poignant in ceramics. The act of molding clay, much like the act of drawing, conveys movement and change over time. The marks I make on the clay surface are not just aesthetic choices; they are borne from the physical engagement I have with the landscape, a remembrance of the walks that inspired them.

Indexical Abstractions and Direct Traces

Harvey’s idea of indexical abstractions (artworks that capture direct imprints from the landscape), inspires me to think about how my own pieces could also subtly yet effectively embody elements of the environments they represent. As I press found found objects from my walks into the clay, I am creating a direct imprint, a factual yet intimate connection to the place that inspired it.

The Phenomenological Body as a Measure

The phenomenological perspective that Harvey introduces is something I have intuitively felt , perhaps not fully articulated. The body is not just moving through the landscape; it is an active measure, inscribing its experience into the world. My walks are not passive; they are inscriptions, each step a mark, a subtle index of my presence in the world.

A Personal Step Further

In my own practice, walking has evolved into more than a mere act of putting one foot in front of the other; it has become a ritualistic passage into my world of of creativity and self-awareness. Each walk is an intentional stride into the heart of my artistic being, where the environment speaks, and I try to listen with all my senses. The rustling leaves of the trees in Deception Bay, the mudflats underfoot, the shifting shadows of the afternoon; all become part of a silent symphony that guides my creative impulses.

My walks are not always easy. There are days when the journey seems arduous because my body is sore, and the inspirations feel elusive. Yet, it is in these moments of struggle that some of what I consider my most interesting and intentional work is made. The challenge of the terrain becomes the challenge of the medium, to convey not just a landscape or the sensorial aspects of my walking, but the emotion and the journey it encapsulates.

Walking as a Dialogue with the Self

For me, walking has become a dialogue with the self, a way to engage with my inner thoughts and the internal musings that accompany the solitude of the journey. It is a space where my thoughts unfold like the path ahead, sometimes meandering, sometimes straight, but usually leading to a place of deeper understanding and clarity.