Of time and landscape

Styhead_Tarn_by Ella_Johnston_1

Time is the prism through which we see landscape. We can, of course, try to fix landscape in our minds by writing it, photographing it or painting it, but it embodies uncertainties that will always undo our efforts. It’s unwieldy, it dislikes neatness, it unravels. Consider a photograph and this becomes clear:

In a photograph is a small boy, cagoule zipped up and hood drawn tight around his face, and out from which some strands of wet hair can be seen sticking to his forehead. Behind him rises a mountain-mass of fell, a monolith enraptured in tombstone grey sky.

The location for the photo is the black water of Styhead tarn – frozen in an instant as a cold winter hollow, smuggled beneath the Lake District’s high ground. And this is the way I always view Styhead tarn, which I’ve rambled up to occasionally over the years, in all seasons, and in weather good and bad. Forget the tiny jewels of flowers that bloom here in spring and summer – the avens and catchfly, mousear and cinquefoil – or the sweet musk hit of bilberries found between the valley-side heathers and ferns of Lingmell. No, this is my picture, and its colours are almost monochrome.

But this isn’t the real landscape of Styhead tarn, either – it’s a version. And the boy in the picture isn’t really me, because I’m here, now. And the boy is peering out from the murk of fast-descending cloud at a man absent from the photo, a man holding a camera and focusing the lens for an inordinately long time, a man who is my dad, who is no longer here. And so when I look at the picture, I’m him, my dad, looking at his son, a child I haven’t had.

An aperture closes. The stratus of cloud shutters us out.

From the look of me, the year of the photo is 1983; but from the quality of the image I guess it’s 85, taken with my dad’s then-new camera. In truth I can’t place it accurately at all.

And where is this photo now? It’s somewhere, of course, maybe in an album in a cupboard in an old sandstone house where sparrows nest, gaining entry to the masonry in cracks where mortar has fallen out over the years. And maybe it’s still remnant on the drive of a computer, scanned in the early days of the digital age. But the dusty and creaking laptops were jettisoned during one of our house moves; and all the old images were lost to become the binary ghosts of a purgatory of landfill.

The photo is gone but the landscape of Styhead still lives, even if I haven’t seen it in two decades. The last time I was there, we paused for a flask of tea and a sandwich – one of those mediocre kind that are elevated in flavour by any corresponding rise in altitude from the valley floor. We headed on round the water, rising for Sprinkling Tarn before dipping into Ruddy Gill and the crags of Great End that signal the way to Sca Fell itself.

As we walked, the bright morning was lost. A small cloud, light as August thistledown, floated towards us; then another – and then we were suddenly gone from each other’s sight, voices ringing clear in the formless afternoon, consumed, wet and blind in the cloud. By the summit we were drenched. Ten years later, two of our small party of friends were gone for good, taken before their time.

It’s hard to consider landscape without considering changes in perspective – the view from there compared with the view up here, or the view back then compared with the view now, today. There’s a tendency in some modern landscape writing – and there’s an awful lot of that around – to want to fix landscape, own it, cement it. Writers venture out and return to report facts, listing all the varieties of flora and fauna seen like they’d been on an A-level geography trip. This misses the point.

Landscape can’t be squared in a quadrat; it’s nothing if it’s not about change, about what is gained and lost, not only in its physical features but also in our appreciation of it, in our imaginations. To gain things, or to lose them, takes time. Landscape is about time too. Its elemental aspects are little more than illusion. We can’t get our precise bearings if we only consider landscape as a meeting of fell and sky, slate and birch, or maram grass and pebbles smoothed in littoral space. These rough pictorial coordinates will only get you lost. The natural world disappears from view, and so does the story of our place in it. It’s only by tracing landscape through time and mind that it truly becomes real.

MW Bewick


Time and landscape are the lines of narrative that run through all of our books – so far – here at Dunlin Press. In our latest book, Priced Out, it takes the form of the life of an artist, Tinsel Edwards, and her personal and creative journey through the city of London, which first offers hope and opportunity, and eventually brings us to the cataclysmic and divisive housing situation that has seen artists leave the capital in droves, along with vital key workers and others, and ultimately delivered the tragedy that is Grenfell.

In Scarecrow, MW Bewick‘s debut collection of poetry, the lines of time and landscape connect London with rural East Anglia – and with the recurring figure of the Scarecrow, watching as seasons turn and lives come and go. He is there in the capital, with “fingers compassed acutely at the palaces and flags”, and as ‘Jesus of Kingsway’, throwing out bread that will feed the homeless during the cold night, and in the fields where he will watch “harvests for old lovers, chances passing”.

In The Migrant Waders – illustrated by Ella Johnston and with contributions from the RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology, the Refugee Council, and poets and nature writers – the geographical scope broadens to take in the Arctic and Africa. The book traces the flight paths, and discovers the destinations, of the migrant birds that grace our shores and moorlands, as well as the journeys made by humans – across continents and through history – in search of food and shelter, or to escape conflict, and to find somewhere that might be called home.

In Est: Collected Reports from East Anglia, contributors including filmmaker and novelist Chris Petit, ‘Hookland’ author David Southwell, poets Wendy Mulford and Martin Newell, and a host of other writers, who together create a kaleidoscopic vision of an East Anglia that connects The Wash to The Thames, and folklore with food banks, via the region’s salt marshes and creeks, sand and shingle beaches, psychogeographies and human history.

Landscape and time. It’s how we see the world. And how we create it afresh.

Styhead_Tarn_by Ella_Johnston_2Illustrations: Ella Johnston

Priced Out Review, East Anglian Daily Times


The team at Dunlin Press towers are glowing today after reading a fantastic piece by Martin Newell in the East Anglian Daily Times on our latest book Priced Out by Tinsel Edwards.

As well as being a columnist for the East Anglian Daily Times, Martin Newell is a musician, writer and poet of wide renown. He makes great records and writes books. He has written for the Independent titles, the Guardian, Mojo, Record Collector, Viz comic and other titles. He is also the resident poet for the Sunday Express. Visit his website here.

Martin has been a very valued supporter of Dunlin Press since its launch and we’re always grateful for this help and advice. However, this review clearly comes from the heart and we’re so happy that he ‘got’ the concept of Tinsel’s book.

You can buy the book here and you can read the piece below.

Priced Out piece by Martin Newell for the East Anglian Daily Times
Priced Out piece by Martin Newell for the East Anglian Daily Times

The Migrant Waders illustrations

Artist and illustrator Ella Johnston created 21 bird illustrations and well as incidental and cover images  for The Migrant Waders book. Here she talks about the brief for the publication and her thinking behind the drawings…

The original brief was to create a collection of wading bird and shorebird drawings on a plain white background.

Woodcock Illustration, watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston for The Migrant Waders
Woodcock Illustration, watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston for The Migrant Waders

The creatures needed to be immediately recognisable and all drawings had to have a consistent style in order to work as a collection, while also being able to be used as stand-alone pieces.

Golden Plover Illustration, Watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston, for The Migrant Waders
Golden Plover Illustration, watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston, for The Migrant Waders

I frequently explore landscapes of woodland, coastlines and marshes, I feel a very deep connection with the different kinds of birds that inhabit each environment. My year now revolves around when these birds are in my space – and me in theirs. 

Dunlin Illustration, watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston for The Migrant Waders
Dunlin Illustration, watercolour and fine line pen by Ella Johnston for The Migrant Waders

The waders are my real favourites. The sense of calm and serenity these birds give me is extraordinary. Time stands still when I’m watching the redshanks and godwits digging around in the mud. I marvel at the majesty of the curlew and elegance of the little egrets that visit our creek and quay. The high-pitched squeal of the lapwing, the pip of an oystercatcher and of course the comforting call of the curlew are transcendental – they take me out of whatever is going on in my life and bring me into the moment. I’m grateful to these creatures – they’ve given me peace. I have to draw them.

The application of colour is very loose, free and instinctive. Each portrait is created on watercolour paper that absorbs the paint and ink beautifully and I believe best shows off the quality of this medium. The birds are first drawn as a light sketch, in pencil, loosely highlighting key areas. Then, layers of watercolour washes are applied, each heavily diluted to gradually build up the colours – this provides interesting combinations of hues and texture. I then apply detailed drawings over this with a range of black felt tips – I love the way the different nibs allow me to work up the texture of each feather and capture the character of the plumage. Some pieces are heavily layered with black fine line ink detail, others only need a light touch – it’s a lovely way to work and, again, it’s an instinctive process.

The birds are deliberately painted without a landscape. It’s an important artistic consideration for me. I want to emphasise and focus the viewer’s attention on the decorative, sensual elements of the subject itself, allowing the spectator to scrutinise, deconstruct and interact with the portrait. I also don’t feel it’s right to tie these birds down to a particular location: waders migrate across many lands and don’t recognise the borders that humans create and that we see on maps. They are my winter but someone else’s summer.

As well as creating a detailed wading bird illustrations, the Migrant Waders book also required an enigmatic cover illustration and accompanying imagery that gave the reader an idea of the sea and the depth of the oceans covered during migrants. Illustrations needed to be atmospheric – with a simultaneous sense of solidity and lightness.

Original cover image for The Migrant Waders by Ella Johnston
Original cover image for The Migrant Waders by Ella Johnston

This rather abstract image was created by applying layers of watercolour and merging two paintings together in photoshop to create a cover that suggested the sea and the sky. The book also features little watercolour droplets throughout the pages to key in with this sense of ‘journey’

You can buy The Migrant Waders here.

Praise for Dunlin Press

Dunlin Press and its authors have received many plaudits -– we felt it was only fair to share them with you…

Priced Out by Tinsel Edwards, photography Lady Ray
Priced Out by Tinsel Edwards, photography Lady Ray

Priced Out

‘Tinsel has written a valuable social document… Priced Out reads like a dispatch from a war zone. Which, in a way, it is.”
East Anglian Daily Times

‘An important voice to a problem that isn’t going away any time soon”
East End Review on Tinsel Edwards (The Poor Door exhibition review, 2015 

MW Bewick Scarecrow

‘A seriously good poet – fierce, political, able to capture industrial and post industrial landscapes with precise and sometimes painful imagery, tender about the natural world – love it!’
Kate Foley, poet 
‘An ambitious book… I look forward to reading more of this poet’
Billy Mills, poet
‘Hugely accomplished’
Poetry Wivenhoe
‘If I ever write anything half as good as Scarecrow or have something that lovely looking published, I’ll be bloody happy’
David Southwell, author Hookland Guide

The Migrant Waders

‘Central to this book are the beautiful drawings… another gorgeous work’
Daily Gazette
‘A rich mix of prose and reportage drizzled with a little poetry… an object of desire’
East Anglian Daily Times
‘Lavishly and exquisitely illustrated’
Caroline Gill, poet

Dunlin_Cover_final copy

Est: Collected Reports from East Anglia

‘Books like Est must be able to be written again by the next generation’
Caught By The River
‘Uniformly excellent… well-edited, well designed, and unbreakable’
Ken Worpole, author of The New English Landscape
‘Strange, reflective, memorable and odd as the region itself’
Country Life
‘An excellent book’ 
Hidden Europe

About Priced Out Author Tinsel Edwards

Tinsel Edwards, photography Lady Ray

Dunlin Press’ new release Priced Out is written by acclaimed artist Tinsel Edwards.

Priced Out is Tinsel’s first book and is being launched at Atom Gallery, 127 Green Lanes, London N16 on 3 August 2017, 6-9pm.

Tinsel Edwards (born 1979) is a British artist originally from Leamington Spa, England. She lives and works in London.

Tinsel’s art is politically motivated but there is also an autobiographical element – the subjects and themes she tackles often relate to her personal experiences. Predominantly she works with oil paint on canvas, but her varied practice also includes printmaking, sign writing and painting on different surfaces such as bedsheets, reclaimed wood and correx board.

She has exhibited across the UK and in Germany, Austria, Poland and America. She has worked with The Art Conference, Jealous Gallery, Pure Evil Gallery, The Art Car Boot Fair, and Galerie Michaela Stock in Vienna, amongst others, and has also produced work for Banksy’s Dismaland.

Tinsel was a singer in a girl punk band called The Fairies Band (2000-2007). She later co-founded a record label called Pushing Pussy Records. It specialised in 7” vinyl and provided a platform for female musicians. In 2012 she co-founded a gallery, project space and studios called A-side B-side in Hackney, East London.

Tinsel currently works from her Acme Studio in Homerton, East London, and lives with her husband and two children in Manor House, Haringey.

Buy Priced Out here.

Sneak peek: Limited Edition ‘Priced Out’ postcards


Help us celebrate the launch of Tinsel Edwards’ book, Priced Out, at Atom Gallery, Green Lanes, on 3 August from 6pm.

The book is a personal and powerful account of being an artist during the capital’s growing housing crisis in the first years of the 21st century. It’s the true story of the degradation of quality of rented property, amid rising rents and costs of living, and during the huge explosion in unaffordable ‘luxury’ apartments. It’s about how artists, and the creative and cultural industries, have brought so much to this most wonderful, vibrant and diverse of capital cities. And it’s about how the cost of housing is forcing artists to turn away from the city they have lived and worked in, and loved, for many years. It’s a story that is common to many people in all walks of life. It’s a story of being priced out.

There will be words from Tinsel Edwards and Dunlin Press, and copies of the book will be available to buy at the launch.

We’ve also printed a limited edition range of postcards featuring Tinsel’s artwork that will be sold to raise money to help people in need after the Grenfell Tower fire.

Printed on high-quality, archival textured gesso card, the postcards are taken from a series of paintings and prints created by Tinsel that explore the human stories behind the crisis taking place in London housing. We have only printed 20 of each and once they’re gone, they’re gone.





Book Launch! Tinsel Edwards: Priced Out

Tinsel Edwards_Priced out_Lady Rayweb
Tinsel Edwards, Priced Out. Photography: Lady Ray

When living in London is unaffordable to so many, can the capital remain a creative force in the arts?

Dunlin Press are proud to announce the launch of Dismaland artist Tinsel Edwards’ debut book, Priced Out

Priced Out will be launched at Atom Gallery, 127 Green Lanes, London N16 on 3 August 2017, 6-9pm. atomgallery.co.uk

Limited edition copies of the book will be available to buy at the launch.
A set of postcards featuring Tinsel’s artwork will also be sold to raise money to help people in need after the Grenfell Tower fire.

Priced Out is a personal and powerful look at the declining state of housing in the capital through the eyes of an artist. It traces the high rises in cost of rented accommodation, the spiralling property prices, and skewers the reasons why artists, who contribute – like so many others – so much to the character, wellbeing and uniqueness of London life, are being priced out of the city.

Tinsel Edwards says of the book:

“It’s my artist’s story – of how and why I started making artwork about the crisis in London housing. It’s the story of artist friends and the people I know. I am proud to have lived here for nearly 20 years. But the London I have known and loved is changing. When I arrived, I felt that I belonged. I wanted to contribute to this fascinating, wonderful place that pulsated with the energy and creativity of communities old and new. Now when I walk the streets I feel like an outsider. Wealth and finance have taken over. The streets don’t feel like they’re mine any more. I am an artist. This is the story of how I came to London to work, and how I – and the fellow artists I’ve met and worked with – are being forced to turn away from the capital. It’s a story that is common to so many people in all walks of life. It’s a story of being priced out.”

Tinsel’s art comments on a variety of contemporary social and political issues. In 2015 her work was selected to be part of Dismaland, Banksy’s ‘bemusement park’ in Weston-Super-Mare. Banksy is a collector of Tinsel’s work and previously invited her to take part in a Santa’s Ghetto exhibition. She has presented work at the first edition of The Art Conference, produced by Tina Ziegler, and exhibited widely across Europe and America. She has worked with Jealous Gallery, Pure Evil Gallery, The Art Car Boot Fair and Galerie Michaela Stock, amongst others. Other titles from Dunlin Press: The Migrant waders, Est: Collected Reports from East Anglia, and Scarecrow.

Priced Out by Tinsel Edwards, photography Lady Ray
Priced Out by Tinsel Edwards. Photography: Lady Ray