Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Over the sea for a road trip

We've been away on an adventure, a road trip of about 2000 miles on an island that's a 5 hour flight from London; west and a bit south of the UK; about the size of Gt Britain and Ireland together and with a population about that of Cornwall . . . have you guessed where we went to?

Jelly Bean Houses

The brightly painted houses in the capital, St John's have become one of the iconic features of


I'm told it should be pronounced to rhyme with 'understand'
New-f'nd - Land

 St John's Harbour from Signal Hill

We arrived fully prepared for fog, rain and chilly winds but the weather was hot and humid! We stood on the rocky headland high over the narrow inlet into the harbour that for over 450 years has been strategic to Britain's trade and naval history. Click on the photo to enlarge it and above the two red ships you'll see a white building with a red roof, this is Murray Premises, the hotel we stayed in.

 On the cliff at Horrid Gulch
Pouch Cove, Avalon Peninsula

I think this was the moment I relaxed and thought, 'I like this place', the day before we started our 'road trip' we ventured along the coast just north of St John's and sat on the cliff eating sandwiches and crisps. The Atlantic Ocean stretched out to the far horizon, blue and calm and as we watched we saw a puff of spray, and a Fin Whale gracefully surfaced, briefly showing its dorsal fin as it dived again.

 Heading West on the Trans Canada Highway

Newfoundland is big. Towns are few and far between and off the high way. Much of the next two weeks we'd see this view.
But the places we found along the way were astoundingly beautiful . . .

 The West Coast
Gros Morne National Park

I think this was my favourite walk, the Coastal Trail from Baker's Brook just north of Rocky Harbour to Green Point - if you're into geology look this up! 


Looking at the landscape of Gros Morne you notice a vast lumpy ochre coloured mountain that looks completely different from the forest covered slopes all around. Geologists get very very excited about this place called Tablelands, where the rocks have tipped and folded so that part of the earth's mantle is on the surface. The rock contains very high levels of metals and chemicals, so much that plants can't grow, it supports hardly any living things. And yes, that is snow you can see in the far distance.

 St Anthony
the Great Northern Peninsula

The top west of Newfoundland is a long narrow peninsula, one road snakes along the west coast, the east is only reachable by boat. If you've read 'The Shipping News' by Annie Proulx, this is the setting (the movie was filmed at New Bonavista near Trinity, we went there later on the trip).

 Whales and icebergs

Vast lumps of ice, some are kilometres long! break off the glaciers of Greenland and float south in what is known as 'Iceberg Alley', they take up to 2 years to reach the Newfoundland coast where they break up and melt. This is one of the last icebergs of this summer, we saw it on a whale watching boat trip from St Anthony. On the left edge of the photo you can see a whale blowing.

 The Viking settlement at
L'Anse aux Meadows

When I was about 9 years old, I read 'Vinland the Good' by Henry Treece, but I never dreamt I'd stand on the shore where Vikings landed and set up a camp and ship repair workshops 1000 years ago. The historical novel written in the 1960s was inspired by the most exciting archaeological find at the time - the confirmation that the Norse sagas telling of a land of plenty to the west of Greenland, were based on truth.

 Trinity, Trinity Bay

In the second week of our adventure we stayed for a few days at Trinity, Trinity Bay. This was once the most important harbour in Newfoundland, imagine the slopes around the harbour cover with racks of drying salt cod and dozens of tall masted trading ships at docks around the sheltered 3-armed harbour (hence Trinity).

Heritage buildings at Trinity

Now this is the tourist hot-spot of Newfoundland, many original wooden framed buildings were saved in the nick of time and are now museums in the care of the Trinity Historical Society. In fact the whole town is a 'heritage zone' and all buildings have to be constructed in traditional styles and materials. Trinity is the home of the Rising Tide theatre company and we arrived in time to see a production of their famous Pageant, an open air history of the town performed in locations all around the harbour, the audience walks between locations.

 St Johns harbour

Two whole weeks of almost constant sunshine but on the last day, back in St John's, we had a taster of some real Newfie weather! This is the view from our hotel at the north end of the harbour opposite the narrow opening to the Atlantic Ocean.

Newfie weather at last!

In a lull in the rain we ventured out for a last visit to Signal Hill, I'm holding on to that wall so I don't get blown into the harbour!

I'd love to share more about the beautiful animals and plants, the crafts - knitting and rag rugs, and the reason we chose such an obscure holiday destination ... but I'll save those for another blog post.

Now I have to pack for my stall at FolkEast next weekend, it's the best summer festival (not just my opinion) if you're coming along do call into the Art Marquee and say hello.


Friday, 15 July 2016

Chaos theory . . . and carrying on as normal

What a lot has happened since my last blog post on 17 June, not only has the UK decided on Brexit and to swerve onto a different course leaving everyone on both sides of the argument bemused and *insert words of your own choice* but also here at home we've had a chaotic few weeks - stuff happens sometimes! - but we're all OK and that's the main thing.

When life gets messy it's good to take the long view and get things back into perspective . . . to help us do this we had a lovely day out at Wrest Park, somewhere we discovered a few years ago; since then English Heritage have done loads of work and there's now a lovely café and more of the house is accessible. But it's the park and beautiful pavilions that are the main attraction.

On the day we visited the unexpected bonus was that there was a brass band concert, add to that sunshine and some delicious ice creams and it was a perfect Sunday afternoon in the park

So . . . what's been going on in my studio?

I've designed 2 more Christmas cards for Plantlife, they'll be for sale online later in the year; and I spent an intense 5 days working on a packaging project for a Scottish design company, drawing and then carving lino faster than I thought possible! I hope to show you the finished design sometime, maybe early next year.

Then there's Gardens Illustrated, I illustrate Frank Ronan's column 'The Writer's Plot' a few months ahead of publication, in fact today I'm carving the lino block for the October issue. 

Here are the illustrations I did for the June issue . . . Camellias - do you like them? I confess that I don't but maybe that's because I've never had a garden where they grow happily and look good, frosted buds and clumps of brownish petals aren't a good look in my opinion. In the article Frank discovers that Camellias can be pruned in the Japanese cloud-pruned style, known as Niwaki. If you follow my blog you know I love Japanese design so this immediately grabbed my attention and cheered me up; so I took my inspiration from Japanese blue and white ceramics.

As I've come to expect, Frank's next article was a complete contrast; in the dry oppressive heat of the Californian summer Frank encounters a little weed, it's Groundsel which as you probably know is a common British native weed. Frank seems homesick for a damp verdant English garden:

"you know how it is when you are abroad and lonely and you meet someone slightly disgraceful from home whom you never really liked, and suddenly you feel they are full of charm and you get drunk together and talk too loudly"
Frank Ronan

I hunted around our garden and soon found a Groundsel plant that I could draw from life; looking carefully are the complex curves and points along the leaves, how the leaf wraps around the stalk and the cluster of flower buds and the fluffy seed heads, I'd begun to find Groundsel interesting too! And this sparked an idea for a project of my own through June ... 30 Wildflowers From My Garden, each day I sketched a different wildflower and posted the picture and some facts about the plant, on Instagram.  

It became fascinating ... I learned new botanical terms like 'dioica' and 'achaeophyte' and 'neophyte'.

I found that even the most mundane and common weeds have amazing stories to tell.

And at the end I realised there were many many more still to sketch, I could probably find 100 wildflowers!

So, this is something I'll probably return to from time to time and start another sketchbook of 'More Wildflowers From My Garden'.

Last week, at the end of another hectic weekend, we we went for a walk on the high fields between our village and Cambridge ... we hoped to get a glimpse of some of the air displays at Duxford Imperial War Museum and we weren't disappointed - a flypast of 19 vintage WWII planes just for us!

And on the way home, this glorious view across the cornfields and the sky full of skylarks singing - that's the tonic we needed to start another week and just focus on getting one thing done at a time - it's as good a theory as any to sort out chaos.


Coming soon: 
FolkEast 2016 and Cambridge Original Printmakers Biennale

Friday, 17 June 2016

In Arcadia - the sublime and the almost ridiculous

Earlier in the year I was contacted by Emily from the London Conchord Ensemble, she wanted an illustration to publicise this year's Conchord Festival. You may recall the design I did last year, when the festival took place in Sussex. This year the festival relocated to Twickenham and the theme for the illustration was to be 'London's Arcadia'.

I wasn't familiar with the places and buildings along the banks of the River Thames in SW London, but I was sent lots of photos and web links, so I immersed myself in pastoral views, Palladian architecture and swirling river eddies. The design also includes a rowing boat, sand martins and swans. 

My design was used on the festival posters, advertising and programme - in addition I produced a set of greetings cards to be for sale at the concert venue, St Mary's church, Twickenham. I'm thinking of getting a reprint to sell in my web shop.

St Mary's Twickenham and the riverside garden featuring quotes from Alexander Pope whose home was nearby.

Emily kindly offered me 2 tickets to a concert of my choice, I chose the opening concert of music by Bach; so last week Cliff and I drove down to South London - a burst water main on the Edgeware Road made this a very very long trek, as all roundabouts for miles around had become gridlocked! 

But is was a sunny day and we arrived mid afternoon, in time to deliver the boxes of cards to the church and have a lovely walk along the river in the sunshine.

At the church I discovered my linocut design had been printed on a HUGE banner!

And onto VERY TALL flags! they looked splendid.

On our walk I was pleased to find the Arcadian landscape along the river just as I'd pictured in my mind. 

Marble Hill House

Orleans House

Across the river from St Mary's church is Eel Pie Island, if the Palladian palaces and gentle leafy parks are sublime, then Eel Pie Island is it's ridiculous neighbour - there are about 150 quirky residences, studios and shacks on the island which can only be reached by a foot-bridge or by boat.

Back in Twickenham 'village' pedestrian high street we had time for a snack before the concert, a small Lebanese tea-house/café looked inviting and the owner kindly moved a table outside for us.   

Tea with a timer!

However it wasn't calm and tranquil! Friday evening was also the start of the Twickenham Summer Festival, and that means Tug-of-War!!!

 This was happening right beside our café table!

The Tug-of-War teams were still battling for the prize when we had to leave and take our seats for the opening concert on the Conchord Festival. The church was packed and the music was beautifully performed; it wasn't surprising the audience demanded an encore! You can see a photo of two of the musicians, Daniel Rowland and Michael Foyle, inside the elegant church, here on Facebook.

The concert was recorded and filmed, so I'm hoping there will eventually be a video on YouTube. In the mean time you can see some of the Conchord Ensemble's past performances here.

There are so many places to visit along the 'Arcadian Thames', I can recommend a wander. If you look at the last page of the Conchord Festival programme you'll find a map and a list of some lovely places to visit.

This weekend the entertainment is closer to home . . . our village fete on the green just around the corner from my studio. I'm busy baking cakes for the teas!


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Orange is THE colour

It's nearly the end of May and I haven't written about my linocut illustration for the May issue of Gardens Illustrated magazine . . . so here goes

Have you been following the media coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show, I'm not going to be there in person but I've enjoyed looking at photos of the gardens and displays while I've been packing a big order for greetings cards for the Conchord Festival. From what I've seen, there's a lot of zingy colour this year and orange seems to be 'in', geums, verbascums, irises and those very sexy orange foxgloves on Andy Sturgeon's 'Best in Show' garden.

So it seems I was 'on trend' when I chose a vivid shade of saffron for my linocut illustration for Frank Ronan's column about the summer heat in California and two native poppies that enjoy the baking temperatures - the huge white Matilija Poppy and the orange Californian Poppy.

I began with sketches of both, getting to know the shapes of the petals; and I made a quick sketch of an idea for the composition.

I then worked more on the composition - using negative and positive shapes I could place the white poppies on one side and the orange on the other, joining them together with the rocky canyon landscape and sizzling mid-day sun.

It needed something to focus the attention and add a quirky touch - I imagined the scene and in my head heard the rustle of dry leaves as a lizard scurried out of view - that's it! So I added a little Californian Alligator Lizard.

And then . . . Oooops! do you see what I did there? I flipped my design on the tracing paper then I flipped it back again and without even realising I cut the block and finished the print as a mirror image of my rough design. AND I didn't notice until I was showing a customer my sketchbook on my stall at a craft fair. Oh well, we all have our 'embarrissing moment'. And the composition still looks OK, even though it's back to front! 

There are no Matilija Poppies, Romneya coulteri, in our garden (though I know some people grow them in the UK) but I do have a few Californian Poppies grown from seeds from Ben at Higgledy Garden . . .

I sowed the seeds last year, they survived the winter and are now large healthy looking plants and the flowers are a lovely cream colour.

The variety is Eschscholzia 'Ivory Castle' and petals are like expensive wedding dress fabric.

So my Californian poppies aren't the fashionable zingy orange but I do grow another lovely orange coloured poppy, Papaver atlanticum, the Atlas Poppy, which is a beautiful shade of earthy pale orange.

I think this is my 'signature plant', I love how it seeds itself into just the right spot and then the transient flowers (each lasts no more than 2 days) on tall wire thin and almost invisible stems, seem to float above the foliage like vivid butterflies.

Before I finish, if you're interested in original prints here's a date for your diaries:

The Cambridge Original Printmakers Biennale takes place from 22nd to 28th September. I'm excited to have been selected to take part and I'm also doing a demonstration on hand-burnished linocuts - details on the web site. The exhibition and all the talks and demonstrations are free of charge, though you need to book a ticket for the talks (and you need to be quick to grab one)so, I recommend keeping an eye on the web site/facebook/twitter for updates of when the tickets go live. 

And the next thing on my work list is . . . Christmas Cards (not joking) the fabulous wildflower charity Plantlife have once again asked me to design some cards for them.

Hope you all enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend

PS: I'll try to do a non-work-related blog next time.