Saturday was a busy day - it was amazing to see how 9 artists and their helpers could transform a small village hall into a arts and crafts gallery and tea room for a day in just an hour and a half. Thank you to everyone who braved the horrid weather and ventured into the Cambridgeshire fens to Reach Village Centre. The word had got round in spite of the Cambridge Evening News deciding that a double page spread photo of Charlie Dimmock and a daffodil was more "newsworthy" than the feature about our art fair. Today I received the first art briefs for a new illustration project - so there's lots to read through and think about before I get down to sketching out the illustrations, maps and diagrams and then getting down to work at the computer.
Today I have to get everything ready for my stall at Reach Arts and Crafts Fair on Saturday. We hope Emma's hard work publicising the event and the features on web sites, radio and local papers results in lots of visitors. Maybe the promise of excellent home-made cakes will be too tempting to resist. The linocut above is my most recent limited edition print and is based on sketches of a Buff Orpington hen - I love their soft roundness and gentle character. I was also thinking of tile designs when I was working on this print - both islamic designs and the work of William de Morgan. I like to start with a carefully observed sketch and distil it into decorative patterns without losing what I wanted to capture in the original sketch.
I'm a great fan of The Great Big Vegetable Challenge - a blog following a vegetable-challenged boy's quest to eat his way through the alphabet of vegetables. So I looked around my vegetable garden today to find something beginning with C. These are Cardoons a fabulous dramatic vegetable. They need rich soil, sun and space to grow - each plant takes up about a square metre and the flower stalk grows over 2 metres tall with purple thistle-like flowers that the bees love. At this time of year they look triumphant in the mostly bare vegetable garden, with beautifully elegant blue-grey leaves. It's the stalk that is edible - the bit that looks like a stick of celery, but it doesn't taste of celery, it's a more delicate flavour a bit like swiss chard stalks and nice with a cheese sauce. But I think they're worth growing just to look at and the leaves are the perfect place for cats to hide under.
These are our new hens - two Maran Cuivre and two Maran Coucou (well, they're hybrids but they look like real French Marans and they should lay dark chestnut brown shelled eggs just like James Bond orders for breakfast!) Maybe we'll get some Easter eggs?
Japanese woodblock prints are a great inspiration to me. I admire the skills of the artist/designers, block cutters and printers who produced them. And I enjoy finding out the story behind the picture - for instance sometimes a serious looking image turns out to be a silly joke involving a pun and a celebrity actor dressed as a fireman! This is a detail of a woodblock print by Hirosada. I bought it at a local auction last year and after a bit of research I found out that it is one of a series of prints designed by Hirosada in 1852 illustrating a play based on the story of the selection of the 12 animals of the Japanese zodiac. This one shows the hare - and you can see the technique of blind embossing used to depict the hare's fur. The fine line detail is amazing, as is the combination of blind embossing (printing from an uninked block onto damp paper) with colour to create a subtle 3D effect to the patterns on the kimono. This print was throw-away publicity material for a theatre production 155 years ago in Osaka, Japan - it's also a beautiful example of the skills of the artist and craftsmen who produced it.
Welcome to Purple Podded Peas - my blog about what's happening in my studio and garden. When I'm not working on a design or illustration project for a publisher or producing a new linocut, I'm usually in the garden and at this time of year it's the vegetable garden. As the weather is amazingly warm, 18C it's a pleasure to be outside and I enjoyed a few hours hard work moving compost into the "squash mound" from the compost bins.
But it's time to get down to some work in the studio. On 24th March I will have a stall at the Reach Arts and Crafts Fair, Emma who is organising it, rang this morning to say the Cambridge Evening News would be sending a reporter/photographer along next Monday to do an article about the event and she wants as many of the artists as possible to be there for the picture. Also this morning I received information about the Cambridge Open Studios "Taster" and Launch exhibitions, so I need to select some new work to submit for selection.
My recent linocuts show images of animals sometimes within a landscape or surrounded by patterns inspired by the tiles I saw last year in Cordoba. I like pictures to have story to tell, either a personal experience or an ancient tradition or fable.
My work is inspired by Japanese woodcuts. I admire the elegant simplicity of the designs, underlying wit and superb craftsmanship. Linocut printing, a similar process to woodcut, needs a combination of skills apart from creating the design: I enjoy cutting the blocks knowing than unlike digital artwork you only get one chance to get it right! Inking the block carefully is crucial to making a good print, knowing the stickiness of the ink and the sound the roller makes on the block when the ink is just right. And finally pressing the paper onto the block – which I do by hand like the Japanese printmakers, rubbing the back of the paper and judging how much pressure is needed to get a clear print. I've just bought two new barens from Japan - these are the traditional tools used to press the paper onto the inked block. Mine are plastic (I'll have to save up for a real wood an plaited bamboo fibre one which are hand made to order!) and I found them on a very useful web site 'Baren Mall' and a week later they were here in my studio.