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, 8 February 2016

Bright and breezy

This morning the weather looked good even though the stormy winds were still strong, a good day for a long overdue trip to the seaside . . .

We drove down the Colne valley to Brightlingsea on the Colne Estuary and after a warming pot of tea and substantial biscuit in a lovely cafe near the harbour we set on on a bracing walk . . .


We walked along a promenade lined with cheerful coloured beach huts, we remembered seeing these from our walks on Mersea Island on the far side of the wide estuary. This morning the tide was in and the wind whipped up waves that sent spray over walkers and dogs that got too near to the edge of the pathway.


The waves were crashing around Bateman's Tower, a WWII lookout post for spotting enemy aircraft heading towards London from across the North Sea.


Our route continued along the top of a high bank that protects the low lying fields and farmland from flooding. To our right and spread out below us was the expanse of reeds and grassland habitats of Brightlingsea Marsh nature reserve, the colours suddenly became vivid as sunshine broke through gaps in the the lines of clouds.


To our left were the huge blocks of stone making up the sea defences and the choppy water of the Colne Estuary. Between the water of the land are fragments of salt-marsh, you can see the spray from the waves hitting the muddy channels that cut through the low hummocks of vegetation.


We had hoped to see some wildlife but the wild winds meant they were probably tucked into the reedbeds and low scrubby bushes. However we did spot a small flock of birds which landed on the marshes, zooming in with my camera I managed to see they were Brent Geese and also some Curlew.


I don't think I've seen a Brent Goose before. They're surprisingly small, we spotted two Brent Geese in a field behind the sea wall, a rook landed next to them and was almost the same size!


Walking against the wind was hard work and trying to look at birds through binoculars was impossible as you couldn't hold them steady. So we took a route that turned inland along another high earth bank called The Great Divide!.


We circled round though fields divided by reed beds, the views were wide expanses of green and ochre.


Eventually we got back to the outskirts of Brightlingsea, through housing estates and then streets of Victorian red brick cottages. I made a mental note to return on a day when the interesting bric-a-brac shops would be open.

We decided to drive a bit further along the coast to Clacton-on-sea for lunch and a quick breezy stroll along the pier and the promenade gardens before heading home.


... It's almost time to watch the last episode of War & Peace ... Oh Pierre! so I'll sign off

C xx

Friday, 29 January 2016

This month's Gardens Illustrated linocut - Banksias!



January is almost over and I nearly forgot to blog about my linocut for the January 2016 Gardens Illustrated magazine, so here we go . . .

I have no idea what Frank will write about until the email form David at the magazine HQ, pops up in my in-box with a red exclamation mark flagging it's urgency.

It was late November, I'd just returned from Scotland and gales were still raging across the country. So what was more apt for the first 'Frank' for 2016 than . . .

Banksias!

Luckily I'd met a Banksia - or rather several thousand - while on a road trip with Cliff 20 years ago (TWENTY!!! how did that happen?!) I recorded the adventure with a pictorial map which hangs on our wall. A glance reminds me of the straight tarmac road heading across the red dusty landscape and lined either side with huge grey-green shrubs which were covered with huge yellow and white flowers that looked like ice-cream sundaes.


Back home I'd found that these strange flowers were one of dozens of shrubs in the genus Banksia, named after Joseph Banks (that precocious, rich, adventurer and botanist).

As Frank discovers on his visit to a Californian plant nursery to buy heat/drought tolerant plants for his garden, Banksias come in many different forms . . . so I had to do some research on the web and make some drawings of the Banksias that caught Frank's eye.



A new year of work for Gardens Illustrated deserves a new sketch book - a pristine new Saunders Waterford/Cuthbert Mills paper sketchbook - an indulgence, but it makes me happy.


Frank was excited by the leaf shapes as much as the flowers, so I decided that they needed no extra elements and I'd let the Banksia leaves make the design . . . for speed I swapped to working digitally, scanning in my sketches and working in Photoshop. At the back of my mind were William de Morgan tile designs and because this was for the January magazine, a New Year candle.



I put together a 'rough' and mock up of how the illustration sits of the page layout, to send to David at GI HQ and to get the thumbs up before I cut the block and make a print.


Below is the grey-scale image I used to trace down onto the block - of course I traced it down in reverse, but this has been taped into my sketchbook the right way round. 


Here's the final proof, which was scanned for the digital image that was sent to the magazine. And on the right the final page of January's Gardens illustrated with my Banksias linocut in Franks's column.



Thank you Frank for sending me down memory lane to my big adventure in Oz twenty years ago. As I carved the block I recalled many things - the heat, the massive road-trains, the flocks of budgies . . .


This afternoon - I'm working on the illustration for the March magazine, this time Frank's writing about a road trip of his own and I'm getting itchy feet!

Meanwhile the February Gardens illustrated will be on the news stands soon . . . I'll blog about it soon, it's one of my favourites so far!

Celia
xx

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Does "Tu-whit tu-who" mean "I love you" ?



We're nearing the end of January and this is my first blog post of 2016! Too late to wish you a Happy New Year, so I'll plunge straight in with a new linocut . . .

Tu-whit tu-who, a merry note

As with all my prints it starts in my head while I'm walking or, as in this case, while I'm busy working on other things. Then, when I get a moment, I'll make a sketch of it before other ideas pile on top of it like magazines and catalogues that arrive in the post.


Sometimes, on dark winter evenings, I can hear the local Tawny Owls hooting to each other in the looming dense dark Yew trees outside my studio. Ter-whitt! Hooo-hooooo! or as Shakespeare puts it in the Winter Song at the end of Love's Labour's Lost, "Tu-whit tu-who".


This is how the song is printed in my precious 1714 edition of the play. This year, 2016, is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 1616; which means my two tired and battered volumes of Nicholas Rowe's multi-volume edition of Shakespeare's works, were printed only 102 years later. That's like looking back at works by WWI poets today, the person who first owned these books could have known someone who saw Shakespeare perform, or bumped into him in the pub.

Here's the inked lino and a freshly pulled print; it's on Japanese Kizuki Kozo, which is a thin but very strong and satisfyingly crisp paper to work on.

As you probably know, "Tu-whit tu-who" is a conversation between two owls, most likely a male and female (but not necessarily). They are probably saying, "It's me!" "Who are you!" "Get off my tree" "You! You!"; but just maybe they're saying "I love you!"


On Friday I delivered work, including this new print, to The Robin's Nest Gallery in the village of Wargrave near Reading. If you live nearby I can recommend you visit, the gallery is airy and bright and full of lovely things.

I try to combine a delivery to a gallery with a day out, this time Cliff and I met a friend for lunch and also visited Reading Museum. While we waiting for our friend to arrive, we wandered into the gallery displaying a replica of the Bayeux Tapestry. This was surprisingly fascinating, partly because of the clear and interesting way it's displayed - with translations of the text and snippets of background information; but mostly because the ladies who did the work, embroidered their names under their section. There are little differences in styles of stitching which seem to hint at their characters.

After lunch at Wagamama and a little tour around the town with our friend, we returned to the Museum to see the exhibition I'd been looking forward to seeing, A Sense of Place. The exhibitions brings together paintings form the Museum's own collection, by some of the best British artists of the 20th Century, these include John Piper, Eric Raviliious and Christopher Nevinson along with many more. What makes the exhibition multi-layered is that there are also new poems inspired by the paintings and craft works. It's the sort of exhibition that would be lovely to dip into once a week, I had barely an hour, so skipped reading most of the poems and enjoyed looking at the paintings and some of the crafts - such as a beautiful pair of 'artist's fingerless mittens' by Suzanne Stallard inspired by the colours of Duncan Grant's 'Snow at Charleston'; or an exquisite leather purse by Vicky Baker inspired Christopher Nevinson's 'View of the Sussex Weald' (a painting I would very much love to have hanging on my wall to enjoy every day).

A Sense of Place continues until 8 May, and is well worth seeing.


This morning I've listed the 'Tu-whit tu-who, a merry note' original linocut in my online shop, as well as new cards based on the design.



Thank you if you drop in to read my blog, it's always enjoyable to read your comments.


And if you're reading this from the other side of the Atlantic, in the eastern half of the US which is now deep in snow, I hope you are safe and warm.

Celia
xx






Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Here we go . . .


a) . . . again


b) . . . here we go, here we go


c) . . . it's Christmas!


or  . . .

Here we go round the mulberry bush

Which is what Cliff and I were doing at Ickworth Hall gardens in October.

All in the interest of research for my illustration for the 'Special' 13th issue of Gardens Illustrated magazine - which is on the news stands in the UK now, lovely gardening reading matter nestling twixt the December (Christmassy) issue and the January issue which kicks off 2016.

I remembered seeing a Mulberry tree somewhere in the Italianate garden near Ickworth's famous rotunda, when we attended a summer evening outdoor performance of Round the World in 80 Days. It took a few circuits of the garden but in the end we spotted 2 small Mulberry trees with leaves turning to golden yellow.
On the shady side of one tree the leaves were still fresh and green and we found fruits!

It's always good to see plants growing rather than working solely from photos  . . . back in the studio I made careful sketches
 
And then started to think about how to illustrate Frank Ronan's pen-portrait of the Black Mulberry and its juicy purple fruits.
I wanted to include some of the historical and culinary references – blended together on a 17th century tin-glazed platter with a slice of mulberry pie and a silver spoon.

Here's the finished linocut, printed in a deep purple, alongside the illustration on the final page of the magazine.

Going back to the nursery rhyme . . .


Here in a 1951 book 'Fiddle-de-dee an other Gay Way rhymes' illustrated by Jennetta Vise.

One possible origin of the rhyme is from Wakefield women's prison where the prisoners exercise yard had a mulberry tree in the centre. There's no need to clap your hands or stamp your feet to warm yourself this December, the seasons seem to have forgotten to 'do' Winter! Spring bulbs are growing, some daffodils are even in flower, and garden birds are behaving as if they are thinking of building nests!

Hold on . . . the coldest weeks here on the corner of Suffolk/Cambridgeshire/Essex is usually late January and early February so cold and frosty mornings might be around the corner.

And finally . . .

Over on Instagram I'm posting an Advent diary of random thoughts leading up to Christmas.
 

Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas
Celia
xx