My alarm chirped at me and it was 3am. I’d not had much sleep on account of my head been so busy with planning the drawing. and I was rising so early to finalise designs for the day to come. In an hour and a half we were to descend onto the beach to make a protest against a proposal for a coal fired power station on our shores with the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). The proposal would destroy a wading area for birds and significantly contribute to climate change. There is no need in this day and age for Britain to source such energy; is it not so windy over here after all.
I woke Andy Moss at 4am. His face was uncharacteristically blank and like a zombie he clothed himself, carefully taking one step after another, slowly becoming more alert as his body arose from its deep sleep. At that moment there was a knock at the door and Jo Billingsley popped her head through. Our team was complete.
We drove down to the beach in the dead of night, me desperately trying to see through the windscreen all fogged up by the warmth of our bodies snatched from our beds. It wasn’t far to the beach and when we arrived there was no one but ourselves, the beach lit up for a moment by our headlights and then black as I turned off the engine.
We were to make two drawings that day. One set of images were to be birds flying down the beach. The negative space would be highlighted by the signatures of those people who had signed the protest, it was to be a visual demonstration. This idea had come from some work we had done the week before. Working with a youth group we had made some solar orbs in negative space with squiggles as the flares to highlight them. Some of the kids had made pictures instead of squiggles; others had signed the images with their names. It dawned on me that it would be poignant to make the birds using the signatures from the protest. The Signature Bird was born; this was to be done by me and Jo with the help of the RSPB volunteers. The second image was to be a face of a girl cracking as though it was in a dry river bed. This was to be done by Andy Moss, the Mexican, the Major, the Moustache; he goes by so many names.
Soon the RSPB volunteers began to arrive and the drawing commenced. Jo and I went to make the bird images that were to be photographed by the Aeroplane which is piloted by Nigel King. Nigel is an incredible character and I feel that he needs a story of his own. For now he is the magician of the air, taking incredible photographs that are far superior to any others that we have had in the past.
It is characteristic of large sand drawings that you are often isolated in your own space as the team is so spread out along the beach. Occasionally there is talking on the radio reassuring you that you are not alone. Hand poised on stick, stick drawing in the sand, making marks that are yet to be signed with the rake. We drew for four hours right until the sea was lapping at the wing of our final bird which was my favourite the Bar-tailed Godwit. Myself and Jo drew it together in haste to try and beat the tide and we got the raking team to come and sign it before we had even finished the drawing. I could not see the finished result as I had to run the 600 meters down the length of the beach for a press call on the work of Andy. It was fantastic. An anamorphosised face that was 100 meters long. We posed for the journalists before the tide took the image.
It was to be a great success on Irvine beach that day. We did not know it at the time as we were so exhausted and ready to go to bed, our eyes glazed. But we could not go to bed as we had to drive home for five hours to verdant Yorkshire. The morning had been so intense that it passed into a dream like memory. It was only the next day that we realised how successful it had been as the images of the face appeared in newspapers up and down the country.
“Jamie, I just saw your face in the Metro and the Telegraph!” This was a message from a friend of mine Danielle. What surprised me though is that she was writing from Sydney Australia. The images had gone global.
My thanks to Andy, Jo, the people at the RSPB and finally Nigel King who took all the ariel images.