exploring 360 filming with Theta 6, all about the river

I’m trying to get my head around this wonderful camera and what it can do. This is my first footage, made this morning in the snow. I did a lot of stills, which are wonderful, but this is the only video I did. Would love feedback – it’s raw, unedited footage, and clunky….but rather beautiful.

thank you too Google Street View for the loan of the camera.


view a 360degree version of one of these here

and here are some stills, (c) carolyn black

The George Christmas Fair is tomorrow. I shall be there!

This year has seen me return to art practice, albeit somewhat different to the complex video installations I used to be commissioned to do. After years of producing I’m really enjoying exploring the Severn with charcoal, chalks and paper. I have completed the set of works I planned for the publication I’m writing, so now it is time to say goodbye to the originals. The have to go, I don’t have the space to keep them, and they will feel neglected if I stuff them in a cupboard. Many of the orginals have sold, but there are a few left. And there are prints of  most the sold ones too.

So why not come along to The George in Newnham on Severn tomorrow, Friday 8th December. The prices are the lowest they have ever been and I’m even open to offers. I need space to go onto the next body of work which I’m very excited about.

This is the latest work, it’s of New Ground near Slimbridge, opposite the Putcher Racks at Awre. It’s not sold yet, but someone is interested……

Lower George House, High St, Newnham GL14 1BS

10am-3pm Friday 8th December





new drawing of the Severn, last of the set. next the book!

Latest drawing of the Severn, just finished. Slimbridge, New Ground, near Purton, opposite Awre Putcher rack. Apparently in the 17th C the river changed it’s flow and washed a lot of the Awre shoreline up onto the opposite bank. Awre took Slimbridge to court to try and claim ownership of New Ground, but they lost. All my drawings hold a story, and many will be in the book, eventually!


drawing of Newnham Church & The Severn to be auctioned, to raise funds for bell repairs


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Maybe it’s because you’ve seen the original photo on the Bells Appeal Website. I took it for the appeal a year or so ago. This year, as part of a wider project, I decided to do a 2-metre wide drawing, inspired by the photo, which I am now donating to the appeal for auction. We’re not sure how or when yet, any suggestions are welcome. Maybe we could do an auction of artworks by other Newnham artists? Or an auction of promises?

Limited edition (25) prints are available – 30% of all print sales will also go to the appeal. Talk to me if you have any ideas about how to proceed with the auction, or want to make an offer we can’t refuse –  all money raised from the drawing goes to the appeal.

I love Newnham – the River Severn and the Church Bells are integral to life in the village.


Am delighted I’ve been commissioned to do a panoramic drawing of the Severn

Am delighted I’ve been commissioned to do a panoramic drawing for someone else, of a landscape of their choice (which of course includes the Severn). The particular viewpoint is very poignant and personal to the commissioner, so I am presently thinking carefully about content and composition. Which took me to considering the process from beginning to end, and how that compares with other ways of working, such as video or printmaking. So here are my reflections. I currently use the river as my subject, so I can describe the thoughts, actions and resultant physical behaviours that are used to take what I see through to the output – the visual representation.

Keep in mind Paul Klee’s explanation of what an artist does – like a tree, the roots draw from the ground, from the place, and pass through the trunk-body and the mind, which then manifest into branches and leaves, what is seen on the surface. The artwork.

When I take a standard photo of a place I consciously frame the image, for balance, proportion, light & dark. Colour, at present, is not a priority for me, as I am intending to work with monochrome media, black and white, charcoal and chalk. A photo is a fast record, a moment, caught instantly. I stand still, the camera is still, the event is caught at speed. Snap.

When I take a panoramic photo, time and space are expanded. I need to map the framing carefully and consider what will appear at the sides, in the centre, what features of the scene are important to the story I wish to tell. How is the light performing? What is in the foreground? The distance? The format always brings new challenges, because the balance between foreground, mid-ground and distance are very different to those of a 4:3 ratio picture. The pictoral space has a different balance to it, the image requires the viewer to read from left to right, more like a book than a painting. The photographer has to do the same, moving from side to side slowly, steadily, and with constant awareness of time. For a panoramic, the camera also has to move, it is pivotal to the composition. I use my body as a tripod, allowing me to pivot steadily, scanning. I cross my legs to start with, then unravel as I pan. Time enters the equation, not in the same way as filming uses time, but within a tight, limited visual parameter. Doing vertical panoramic shots requires a different dance-action. One starts at one’s feet, then curves up and over, bending the body backwards, to capture the sky above and some of the opposite bank. Physically much harder to control.

When I video the river with a handheld camera (my phone or ipad), I’m inclined to use two particular approaches.

  1. David Lynch style – stand still, let the river perform in centre frame. I love this one for capturing the movement of the water as it builds when the bore passes through.
  2. Panning, often from left to right, in a similar way to doing the panoramic shots, slowly, slowly. Using handheld technology means zooming is a bit of a no-no, as I can’t control it well. I do have a video camera but have always enjoyed the spontaneity and fleet-footedness of digital devices.

For the panoramic drawings, the photographs are a resource. I sometimes manipulate them digitally a little, though I am a bit of a purist. Likewise, with filming, I’ll maybe do a bit of a tweaking, but I’m not big on filters or effects. One thing that has developed as I’ve been doing more and more panoramic drawings, all around one metre wide, is the white space, the void. Working with charcoal is, by its nature, a messy business, so it is key to retain a good range of tones, with black blacks and white whites. Emotionally and psychologically, the voids provide a visual remission for the viewer, drawing attention to the pictoral space, usually water or sky, and letting the eye rest from the intense interrogation, the reading, of the image. This provides a window into the viewers imagination, a space to fill with their own thoughts at the moment of viewing.

The drawing is never a direct copy of the photograph. Nor could I work from someone else’s photographs. They are a record of my being in a place, seeing it the way I see it, through my eyes. Each image is, for me, a body record of gazing and mapping, moving through that space, at that time. Their size is important, because scale provides a time for the viewer to look. To engage.

Which is why it is so interesting doing this commission. Because as the artist, I am keen to not force my own emotional investment in a place that holds power for the commissioner. I know the place a little, but am not as emotionally invested in it.  I’m asking questions.

Maybe I’m overthinking this, but I thought I’d share that overthinking, as you may find it fascinating, as I do.

No pictures to share yet, but come back in a month or two.


The Chris Packham documentary has helped me consider why I found making my Crowdfunder film very hard to do

The Chris Packham documentary has helped me consider why I found making my Crowdfunder film very hard to do. Is it because it’s also hard for the viewer to watch?

I watched the documentary about Chris Packham the other day (catch it on BBC iPlayer if you haven’t seen it). It was the best TV I’ve seen for a long time. It was excruciating to watch in some places, and, equally, felt like a privilege to watch too. Packham, who has spent his entire life talking intelligently about his subject matter – animals and nature – was now the subject of his own documentary. The camera was on him and his coming to terms with Aspergers.

It has made me think about how we can switch from being both object and subject, and how that feels. Packham trained himself to overcome his deep-seated discomfort of being filmed and having to talk to others, and to do so he actually used his impairment. He declared that he doesn’t care about other people, he’s not interested in them, so that gives him an advantage over you or I, because most people do care about what others think, and that affects how we behave.

As a visual arts producer, I have done marketing and PR for many projects and have always found it to be relatively easy, because it’s not about me. My first learning curve about having to promote my own work in an objective way was when I set up Flow Contemporary Arts. I realised that whilst the name provided me with a mask, the mask was semi-opaque, people soon knew that it was me, a sole-trader, behind it. From my perspective, that was challenging, but it comforted me to know that Flow was my external label. When I produce projects for others, my name rarely appears on any publicity, which is written in third person. To begin with I was muddled by that and tended to switch from third to first when I wrote on my Flow website. As my confidence improved, I stuck to using first person – after all, everyone knew by then it was only me, a freelancer. I had developed my own voice. There was no place to hide.

Returning to my art practice this year, I was again confronted with the demon of self-publicising, but with no mask. I joked about ‘coming out of the closet as an artist’, but, in truth, I really did feel like that, and a naked one too. Which makes me consider that for years I taught life drawing, but have never worked as a nude model myself.  I’m camera shy and always avoid having my photo taken.

I thought making a video for the Crowdfunder would be fairly easy, after all, I used to edit video for my art installations; I can project manage and I can tell a story. But it was torture. My daughter gave me some great advice (she produces documentary films as BlackBark). I asked her to film me, because I (wrongly) thought that would be more comfortable for me rather than a stranger. She pointed out, more than once, that I was pulling weird faces, which she said I probably only use with my children!

Which brings me back to Packham’s TV documentary. Here, you see a man who stated very clearly that he cannot make eye contact with people and has no empathy for humans. He loves animals and cares for them tenderly, with passion and commitment. We find watching animals on screen entertaining, so why is watching human subjects speak about themselves to camera so uncomfortable?

Packham can’t bear social situations and avoids them wherever possible. He became his own subject for research and set out to look at how others manage, and try to fix, their condition. He lives alone, miles from anywhere, and anyone. Which is why it is so amazing to see him being so vulnerable on TV, speaking clearly about his ‘impediment’ and how it has affected his life, albeit in a detached manner. The only time emotion chokes him up is when he talks about his kestrel. Not diagnosed until he was in his forties, he had struggled all his life because he didn’t understand why he was different to other people. It appears that the diagnosis gave him the ability to accept his condition and be who he is.

I believe that all of us suffer from something similar, to different levels, and the intensity varies according to our habitat/situation. For some, an exam or interview will blow all confidence out of the window, for others having a profile picture on Facebook is one step too far and makes them feel horribly vulnerable. Some people who step out into the spotlight and become media stars develop a public persona, whilst fiercely protecting their subjectivity in their private lives.

For me, the whole Crowdfunder experience is uncomfortable, because I feel like I have to sell myself. But I am not up for sale – my art is. There’s a sense of pressure when doing Crowdfunding to share who you really are, to connect with the viewers, to build empathy. But when you can’t speak to camera without recoiling, that’s a hard thing to do. When I’m scared of something, I generally close my eyes. I’m a visual person, if I can’t see the thing that scares me, I can cope. I do it when someone driving a car I am in takes a bend too fast, or when there is violence or blood in a film. I used to do it when I was driving if I thought I might hit a rabbit on the road – but realised that was dangerous, so have managed to control that reflex!

If only I could learn to control the compulsion to close my eyes when I’m being filmed, life could be easier!

Anyway, this is a story I felt compelled to share with you, making myself vulnerable but without looking down a lens. And now, the painful part:


Note that pledges for cards and prints will be fulfilled at the special Crowdfunder prices, whether or not the appeal succeeds (if you still want them). Obviously, the book won’t.

severn bridge aust from raw carolyndng adjusted BW












#mademyday – one of the many reasons making art matters – lovely words from Jess

At a local exhibition with farOpen a complete stranger walked in and fell in love with my work. We talked for ages and today she sent me an email, a little of which I am sharing it with you, because sometimes it is important to remember that making art carries a responsibility too, to others.  And it is a reminder to us all to be open with each other, we’re all such sensitive souls!

Thank you Jess, you made my day!

“I found you and your work to be really inspiring and exciting. I love your drawings, I love the place that’s inspiring you and I’m really excited about your book which looks fab.
I think your love for what you’re doing is infectious…
Since meeting you something deep inside stirred and I went down to the beach at Beachley under the bridge to see if I could come up with a papier mache response!! It’s looking good so far…a bit to go…but the passion is there!”