Millican Dalton: A Sublime Midlife Crisis
The relevance of a 20th century cave-dweller to environmental aesthetics.
Wednesday, 23 December 2020
At the mouth of the cave at Borrowdale, May 2020. Photograph: Lewis Eaton.
On a swelteringly hot day in the North Western Fells of The Lake District, the gaping mouth of a cave offered itself as a refuge and swallowed us mercifully into its cool damp interior. Caves are otherworldly places. This particular cave, set into the hillside of Castle Crag, allows you to peer out at the gently swaying trees and glimmering daylight of the outside world from a viewing point void of light and sound. The daytrip itself had been to seek refuge in The Lakes; an attempt at replacing the stagnancy of a locked-down city summer with a more welcome, less claustrophobic, kind of tranquillity. We spent a few minutes scrambling around on the siltstone, marvelling at the height of the cave walls and exchanging the obligatory comments about feeling small in big spaces. On leaving, I noticed a large, flat stone covered in scrawlings. At the centre in neat, deeply-etched letters read ‘Don’t Waste Words, Jump to Conclusions’ with dozens of smaller sections of writing surrounding this. Each gave names and dates, with many faded with age and dissolving back into the stone’s surface. It was from a frantic Googling during the car ride home that I came to find out we had happened across a sort-of pilgrimage place for hikers: the cave in which a man had lived out his summers for over forty consecutive years.
In 1904, at the age of thirty-six, Millican Dalton gave up his life as an insurance clerk in London in order to dedicate himself to The Great Outdoors. Having spent part of his childhood in Nenthead, the North Pennines, he found life and work in the capital stifling in comparison. From then on Dalton split his year, spending the summer months in the cave under Castle Crag and winters in a canvas hut in Buckinghamshire. Far from your conventional hermit, Dalton was an active and sociable member of the community. He organised camping excursions for the outdoors novice which included teaching hiking, rock climbing, rafting and how to forage for food. What I found extraordinary for the time was that these excursions didn’t exclude women, with one of Dalton’s advertisements for a mountaineering course stating his views bluntly: “Ladies are welcome to the camp. There is nothing new in ladies camping, the custom being at least 10,000 years old.” This rare indiscriminate approach led to Dalton forging a long-lasting friendship with geologist Mabel Barker, who over the years consistently recommended Dalton’s courses to women students and friends.
Dalton and Barker atop a needle, 1913. The Mable Barker Collection.
Social Media Through the Eyes of an Artist
by Esme Kroese | 30 May 2022
Staff writer Esme Kroese interviews two young, aspiring artists at the start of their careers on how social media impacts their artistic practice.
Olivia Turner (top), Esme Kroese (centre), and Jade Emsley (bottom)
Illustration by Jago Henderson
How do you use social media to inspire your artwork and how do you think it can affect your artistic practice?
It depends on how you curate what you see on your account. When I was younger, I just followed other people my age I might know, and this limited the impact that social media could have on me as an inspiration. However, the older I got I began to realise the slightly negative 'highlight reel' side of social media and, instead, I began to focus on trying to follow people and artists that interest me and inspire me visually. I think of social media as a visually sensual interaction, I find it is much more visually appealing to artists once one realises where their interests lie in the medium. Social media is also really accepting of artists and artworks of all different types of medium and it can introduce you to different ways of creating art that otherwise you may never have discovered.
Do you think technology inhibits or expands the horizons of the artworld?
I think both. I think it is good for research and inspiration and for making art accessible. For example, during covid, when galleries were closed, technology allowed people to access art whilst we were in lockdown as galleries went online with exhibitions. It is also so much easier to find inspiration or images of things you may want to paint or include in your artworks. But I also find it can make artists really lazy, as everything is at your fingertips and we can access images through the internet in milliseconds that artists years ago had to research and go through lengthy attempts to find.
Do you think social media affects or inspires your artworks?
To an extent, I think it does, because of how things are visual. I like to look at how things are laid out and I sometimes scroll just for visual stimulation instead of to discover the message behind an artwork. The wide variety of art of different mediums found on social media is also a nice way to be reminded of loads of different ways of working other than the status quo. Social media, in a way, has developed a different way of curating art through a fully visual means that can be curated by your interests and on whom you follow.
How do you think social media and the internet has affected how you will sell your art in the future?
Social media is such a great way to be employed as an artist as it connects you with so many other people and potential buyers. Therefore, I would definitely use Instagram as a medium of advertisement and a way of bringing in a customer's interests, but I would then direct them to an in-gallery interaction or viewing. However, I would not like to abandon the usual artist and art dealer relationship, and I would still like to have an art dealer and to exhibit my artworks in galleries, as it creates a greater level of interaction with my artworks for prospective buyers.
Do you think social media has made the artworld a more collaborative place?
Definitely. It gives you opportunities to learn and interact with other artists and creatives in a way impossible without the connective networks of social media and technology. It can just be one DM that can propel a great collaborative artwork with someone you have never had the opportunity to work with, which I think is great for any aspiring artists who want to take part in a collaborative project or to even just get started in their career. It is also a great way for artists to begin to sell and put their works out there onto an online market.
Olivia Turner is a young art student who is interested in a range of mediums, including photography.
Her art account on Instagram is found @piccalily_ where she posts some of her artworks and ideas.
How do you use social media to inspire your artwork and how does what you see on social media affect your art?
Of course, there are negative effects as you can begin to compare your work and how you choose to convey ideas to other artists or think that your techniques are not as good, but I think it is very helpful with providing tips on techniques as well as recommendations on what brands you should purchase.
Do you think technology inhibits or expands the horizons for the artworld, especially for young and aspiring artists?
I think technology has definitely expanded the horizons for the artworld as it makes your art a lot more accessible to the community and it also allows you to gain access to pieces from around the world, whether it be contemporary artists or historical pieces. It also makes gaining knowledge on certain skills a lot easier.
Have your methods of creating and sharing your artwork changed since you developed your skills with technology?
I have only recently been expanding my artistic skills into the realm of digital art and have found that the internet has been a massive help with advising me on how to use software such as Procreate and Photoshop. I have also created an Instagram account, which as of now is still private for just my close friends but I do feel social media and technology has made it a lot easier to get better recognition for your pieces.
Do you think social media improves the quality of engagement with your artworks?
I think social media would help if you were trying to expand your viewer base but for now, my art is kept private. However, I would like to eventually publish my works and sell prints and I think social media will undoubtedly help with this.
Do you think social media has increased the number of aspiring artists able to exchange ideas and techniques and do you think social media has made the artworld a more collaborative place?
I do think that social media had increased the number of aspiring artists who exchange ideas and techniques, providing encouraging comments and feedback under certain art posts. I also think it has made the online artworld a much more collaborative place with challenges such as inktober and collaborative videos with various art youtubers.
Jade Emsley is an Art student completing her foundation year at Central St Martins, London.