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13th November 2012

Composition – Landscape by Joan Baxter
At the meeting on 13 November Joan Baxter treated the Club to an authoritative and thought-provoking illustrated lecture. Joan is an artist resident in Brora but with an international reach. Her chosen medium is tapestry and she is in demand to teach weaving in countries across the world, and her work and commissions are to be found in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia.
By her own admission she is not a "techy" photographer and uses a very modest point and shoot digital camera. With this, she captures images that are the start of her process of realising in tapestry what she sees in the landscape. On this occasion she confined her photographs to the parish of Clyne. Modest her camera may be (2.8 Megapixels and fixed lens, for the initiated) but her pictures disclosed aspects of our landscape that we may not have seen, or not captured because of some doubtful photographic orthodoxy. For some of us, Joan’s pictures were all the better for that, refreshing and full of longing.
Joan told us that the slow process of weaving meant she had time to develop her work, building in layers of story and meaning, as well as compositional features. In this regard she said much the same as fine photographers have told us: take time to form an intimate knowledge of the landscape you want to portray. This includes its history and the life it supports as well as its physical attributes; all our landscapes are to a degree human landscapes. Through use of her photographs and sketches, Joan demonstrated how she developed landscape ideas in Sorley Maclean’s famous poem Hallaig to produce a stunning tapestry which expressed these ideas visually. It was clear that significant images of landscape involve thought processes, experimen¬tation and effort, for the photographer as artist as well as for the weaver as artist.
We were invited to make intelligent use of colour and texture, choose the best times for taking photographs, and to make better use of foregrounds to remind us of where we are rooted; the camera too easily distances the image from its creator’s vision. We were to be aware of when it was right to break compositional “rules”. And she showed us landscapes in frozen water. It was a tour de force, encouraging and inspir¬ing club members, but delivered with unfeigned modesty. If there was any disap¬pointment it was that some members would like to have seen the finished tapestries! But that would just have been greedy even if it had been possible.