One of the most formative experiences in Andy Goldsworthy's life was the holiday work that he and his brother took on as teenagers, at a local farm in Leeds, near the suburban housing estate where they were raised. It was during this time, at the age of 13, that Goldsworthy discovered the nearly woods, and in these woods that he made his first outdoor sculptures. Never a strong student, Goldsworthy had a difficult time finding his place during his time in art school, finally ending up at Preston Polytechnic (now the University of Central Lancashire), where he received his degree. It was here that Goldsworthy truly began to create in nature, establishing a routine of working out of doors most days, only going in to college once or twice a week to attend a few classes and talk to people.
split down centre vein
laid around hole
October 1977. Leeds, Yorkshire. © Andy Goldsworthy. Courtesy of the Andy Goldsworthy Digital Catalogue.
Around 1976, during these formative college years, Goldsworthy established the patterns of creating art that would follow him for the rest of his life, including his constant use of the camera. It was also during this time that Goldsworthy began to focus on particular motifs, one of the earliest of which are holes; the above work was one of the first that Goldsworthy chose to show when he began exhibiting a few years later. As Miranda Strickand-Constable explains:
Goldsworthy made his first hold by accident, when scraping through layers of sand: one layer fell in, and he was pleased with the resulting dark space. Using the idea posed problems: it did seem to want to be round, but it must not be perfectly so, or it would have that man-made appearance he had been so studiously avoiding, and might carry unwanted overtones of traditional symbolism. For this reason, when he first began to explore the 'hole' theme, and later in the leaf patches of 1980-84, he did come to use a circular shape ('it is such a fundamental form, you can never get away from it altogether'), it is always unevenly outlined, a little off balance.
Frost leaf patch, December 1979. Clapham, Yorkshire. © Andy Goldsworthy. Courtesy of the Andy Goldsworthy Digital Catalogue.
Goldsworthy himself elaborates, explaining that "the hole has become an important element. Looking into a deep hole unnerves me. My concept of stability is questioned and I am made aware of the potent energies within the earth. The black is that energy made visible." Similarly, circular shapes have long held a strong appeal for Goldsworthy, either drawing the viewer into the space, or creating a sense of contrast and form through shape and color.
Dandelion circle on bluebells, 4 June 1985. Brough, Cumbria. © Andy Goldsworthy. Courtesy of the Andy Goldsworthy Digital Catalogue.
 Miranda Strickand-Constable, "Beginnings," Hand To Earth: Andy Goldsworthy Sculpture, 1976-1990 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1990), 11.
 Ibid., 11.
 Ibid., 11-12.
 Ibid., 13.
 Ibid., 19.
 Andy Goldsworthy, "Introduction," Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1990), 3.