Ernest Cook – Art and Energy outdoors

Ernest Cook has been supporting Regen’s Art and Energy work outdoors.


Project overview

In collaboration with Regen, 12 1st Year students on the university-level Foundation Degree Graphic Communication course at Exeter School of Art (part of Exeter College), undertook a project to explore sustainable energy.


Following a day’s workshop outdoors at Bidwell Woodland which involved an energy walk, a challenge to make a water wheel, and a highly informative briefing about the energy system and the future of energy in our homes and localities from Regen’s Chloe Uden, students researched the various forms of sustainable energy which were being used by Andrew Lithgow in his Off-Grid home.

It was decided to give the Exeter students a challenge to deepen their understanding of sustainable energy by setting coursework assignment to re-design the identity for local Sustainable Energy Groups.

After choosing one specific community group to re-brand, students investigated their work, online, through calls and sometimes visits. They then developed a logo design and refined it, the brand identity was then applied to stationery, advertising, web site pages and a range of other touch points.

“This was a particularly interesting and exciting project for the students to work on as they were able to gain greater awareness of the importance of sustainable energy technologies, whilst working on a potentially “live” design brief.

The students really appreciated the opportunity to show their work at Regen’s Smart Energy Marketplace on the 28th of March 2017 where they received positive feedback from many of the visitors and community energy groups who visited. Subsequently students have been given paid industry-based, live briefs by visitors to the event.” Nigel Lowe, Course leader

Examples if water wheels made in outdoor workshop



Making connections with Community Energy Groups

3 local Community Energy groups followed up with students following the marketplace event – Teign Energy Communities, Tamar Community Energy and 361

Students were also offered the opportunity of paid work to create images for an energy podcast.

“I Just wanted to let you know that I met the Art students on Thurs last week who did the community energy re-design project and Nigel. Good session! There was one person who had designed for TECs so we looked at all the re-designs and their rationale. The wide age range was very interesting.

I enjoyed meeting them and hearing what they had to say about the way we present ourselves on our websites in particular. I took plenty away with me. It was good to hear how much they had enjoyed engaging with the project and your workshop with them had been very helpful and motivating. One woman had even been moved to put polar pv on her roof!”

Helen Chessum – Teign Energy Communities

Photographs of work displayed at Smart energy Marketplace


 Other outcomes:

The start of an art and energy outdoors conversation in Exeter 

In addition to the project outlined above, and as a result of the success of the first outdoor workshop with young people, Regen trialled a ‘drawing energy outdoors’ session with 5 local ‘creatives’ in Heavitree taking them to Heavitree Pleasure Ground.

The day long workshop included:

  • Drawing energy Pictionary
  • Discussions about how we know about energy in our environment
  • Short challenges to ‘see’ and draw a particular energy type – sharing the results and experience with others in the group
  • A longer challenge to incorporate the learning within the artists’ ‘usual’ landscape drawing approach.

Feedback from participants was very positive:

Josie Ashe (an illustrator) spent time following the workshop to develop their ideas further:

“The most interesting elements for me were different starting points and different directions often leading to consensus. Most interesting element was group energy! I felt I learnt something, even in one workshop and I will endeavour to change my way of working to try to be more fluid.

I would love to do it again sometime

I’m not sure what could be improved, Perhaps a way to share ongoing work and so help build and stretch ideas if ppl were interested.

Working outside much more relaxing, I found my ideas were less constrained. Inside seems more detailed, more structured thinking and observing.” Josie Ashe

Sarah Connors (a craft maker) was keen to repeat the experience more regularly and suggested a monthly get together as she felt it was valuable session but the subject matter demanded more attention.

“The most interesting parts of the day were talking though everyone’s interpretations of different energy and also the very different styles and methods that people used to create art. It opened up different ways that I might record when drawing or painting. It might be nice to have a 3-d materials session. Outside the natural energies really dominated!” Sarah Connors

Liese Webley (a local artist) particularly enjoyed the opportunity to spend time socially and investigating a new subject in collaboration with others. Being outside, kept that subject matter very present.

“I found it really helpful to have a discussion on representing energy in a visual way… alternative sources like the aesthetics of solar panels. The workshop made me think about the energy in a new way. It was great to be creative with others…very inspiring.

As it was a windy day it was brilliant to be outside in the elements thinking about energy natural and man-made sources” Liese Webley

Naomi Wright (a local artist) took the theme back to her local art group in Crediton where they pursued the theme and discussion further.

“It is the beginning of term and we stand about discussing our theme for our classes ahead. I suggest art and energy, it interests me for all sorts of reasons. I say I’ve been on a similar themed workshop with some college students outdoors as part of Regensw’s art and energy programme. I wonder whether it will interest the class. We think about the wide range of meanings for energy. Energy is everything, I say, remembering a recent workshop. In a physical sense, binding the molecules of our being, energy fixed from the sun, in the movement of a river, the heat from a fire, in our food, in the every-day. We have our own energy, in the spirit of the land, in ley-lines, in happiness, in despair.

So the term at Crediton arts centre has taken this as a theme…. A couple of us are working with an old luccombe oak that has had to be cut down in the local park. We think of the power within, the height and weight of it, the history in it, the energy held beneath in the ground. The dying energy, used by fungus, the last of the leaves to be photo-synthesising.

Others in the class discuss their drawings through the eye of an energy lens. Lines are energetic, directional, growing. The still life is far from still as vegetation takes on a new meaning, pots spin, and all the senses are enlivened.” Naomi Wright

Making energy art outdoors with pupils from St Christopher’s Prep school in Staverton

Through the art and energy outdoors project that we did with support from Ernest Cook, we also made links with Totnes Renewable Energy Society who have been developing an energy educataion week for primary children.

Totnes Renewable Energy Society (Tresoc) launched its ‘Renewable Energy Experiential Learning’ (REEL) programme, designed to stimulate education in renewable energy technologies and wider energy issues in local primary schools. The programme brings together many local organisations and businesses with expertise in technology, investment, sustainability, ecology, learning and sharing. These include: The Bio-regional Learning Centre, Regen, Hydrosense, Fishtek, Beco Solar, South Brent Community Energy Society and Dartington Hall Trust.

REEL, kicked off with a 3-week pilot project at St Christopher’s Prep School Staverton for key stage 2 students, and included practical, hands-on making, site visits, critical thinking ideation and presentation of learnings. It focused on the landscape-scale renewable energy schemes currently generating electricity for local people: hydro, using Totnes Weir; solar, using Dartington Hall Trust Solar Farm; and, wind, using South Brent Community Energy Society Wind Turbine. Victoria Kennington,

Regen worked with the pupils outside next to the hydro project at Totnes weir to play with found materials and explore how they interact with the water flow.

Head at St Christopher’s commented “We were very excited to be part of the REEL pilot project at St Christopher’s as we look to increase the STEM opportunities for our pupils. Year 6 are looking forward to using their science and design technology skills over the course of this three week programme and learning more about the sustainable and renewable energy projects in their local area”.

Chloe’s approach as a guide allowed the students to think for themselves out in nature… each experimental water wheel was unique – most importantly, they had fun!” Jane Brady, TRESOC

Tresoc aim is to gradually offer its education programme to all local primary schools and expand the focus from key stage 2 to key stage 1. ‘The water wheel recipe’ Regen developed for the Ernest Cook project and then re-tested with Staverton pupils will be incorporated into the ‘REEL’ proramme and used in future projects.

Future Plans

Having established links with Bidwell Woodland in Rattery, we would like to extend the project with a more in depth investigation of energy outdoors across the period of a year.

Being able to spend an extended period of time with a range of people in one outdoor space would allow us to tell the energy story of a particular place through a variety of voices and that shared investigation would be really rich.

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