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.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

We apologise for a break in transmission

Due to a major technical fault at Purple Podded Peas HQ there will be a blogging break for a week or two. Apologies to all regular readers, occasional visitors and those stumbling upon PPPs by accident. Everyone at HQ is fine and we are working as normal* while we make much overdue improvements to the studio's techinical bit and bobs.

I'll be back

* If you are one of my clients awaiting delivery of illustration work, don't worry, there should be no delay and my email is unaffected by the fault.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

At last . . . paint on canvas

Five years ago I decided to focus on printmaking in the hope it would help me find my own language of mark making. Working as an illustrator had made me a chameleon - changing my style to suit the needs of the client and the project; it took a couple of years before I felt really comfortable in a world of lines and colours that came from me.

Could I go back to painting and still hold on to the freshness of line and limited palette? When I use colour in my sketch book I've been thinking of translating the image into a linocut - the constraints help to free my mind to just draw rather than getting distracted choosing colours and techniques.

Yesterday, after completing the 'A fox broke cover' prints, I wanted to start work on the design for another print. But after some tentative sketching it felt like something else was in the way - something creative that I just had to do first. I flicked through the earlier pages on my sketchbook and found this . . .

. . . just what I needed for these - some small square canvasses I'd bought a couple of years ago. They sat, snowy white taunting me. Last year I painted them terracotta, in the back of my mind I was thinking about colour theory and how if the underpaint is a complementary colour to the colour you use on top it sings through the little breaks in the pigment and makes the colour glow brighter. Yellow ochre behind a blue sky, chrome green behind a rosy cheek.

I then very quickly sketched three hens . . .

And mixed a shade of verdigris to paint in the backgrounds . . .

When I packed up work for the day they looked like this . . .

This morning I was itching to finish them, but I wasn't in the zone. I got carried away with more colour and texture and ended up somewhere far from where I wanted to be . . .

I stomped about for a while and felt cross with myself for stuffing up what had been going so well. Then I put the first little canvass to one side (it's going to get a coat of terracotta paint later).

I turned my attention to the other two hen canvasses, they only needed a few lines in dark grey and they were already there . . .

I think I've broken through the barrier, there'll be a lot more painting in 2010.

Monday, 11 January 2010

First new print of 2010

On Friday I completed printing the first carved lino block of 2010, here are some of the prints hanging up to dry . . .

and this afternoon they have been named and numbered . . .

"A fox broke cover" is inspired by the landscape of gently rolling fields, small woods and lines of wind-break trees surrounding the village where I live and work. As dusk approaches animals stalk the hedgerows and birds take to the air; this is the borderland between day and night, between the wild and the tamed world.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snow from coast to coast

Many of you will have seen this image on the News websites, TV or on the front pages of today's newspapers. This is Great Britain as we've never seen it before - with a covering of snow from coast to coast. This picture is from the University of Durham's Satelite Receiving station.

I know some of you reading this in North America or perhaps Scandinavia or Northern Europe will wonder why we're getting so excited about a fairly thin covering of snow and temperatures just reaching -20C in a couple of places last night. But - we're really not used to this coast to coast snow! I just had to paste a copy of that satelite image into PPPs, just for the record.

Here in the south-west corner of Suffolk we've had a short snowfall this morning, covering the paths which were cleared last night. The clouds are just blowing over leaving a beautiful blue sky and and some welcome sunshine.

Take care if you're out and about - I'm getting the inks out to start printing the newly carved lino block.


Thursday, 7 January 2010

Normal service

As I work from home, it's service as normal in my studio. I'm enjoying cutting the new lino block . . .

The under-gardeners (and that now includes The Spice Girls and Tarragon) aren't enjoying the accumulating snow and frozen grass. This morning there was yet more snow and the biting north-easterly wind is getting stronger, so I've set up a 'café' for them under the pine tree and behind the hedge beside the patio. I scattered some corn among the pine needles so that Tarragon can busy himself scratching for morsels of food for his girls - "look look look" he clucks in a burbling baritone. Humour him girls, I know there's masses of corn in the feeder, but he needs to feel useful!

Oh, before I forget, the studio assistants would like you all to know that they made it in to work on time :-)

Looks like the 'Big Freeze' as it's been dubbed by the BBC, is going to last for a week or three longer. Stay safe everyone.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Here comes the snow again

This morning it seemed as though we were on a snowless island which was gradually getting smaller and smaller . . .

until around midday - yes it's now snowing here too and starting to settle on the frozen ground.

Excuse me! This white stuff - it doesn't taste as good as it looks! May we have some more corn please?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Twelfth Night

Our Christmas decorations have been taken down (not yet packed away) and the festive time is at an end - it's Twelfth Night. In some parts of England there are still Twelfth Night traditions, but no Green Men and Mummers around here; if there were it would be a very very cold night to be cavorting around in ribbons, bells and branches of holly.

There's been no further snow here since New Year's Day morning, unlike many parts of the country which this evening have the heaviest snowfall for at least thirty years. The snowstorm is heading our way but may not reach us, we'll have to wait to see.

I remember at school we put on a production of Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' as the school Christmas play. It was set in modern dress - that's 1970's modern dress, which aptly suited the girls dressed as boys plot-line - trouser suits, shirts with floral prints and big collars or silk ruffles. It was the first Shakespeare play I actually enjoyed being part of (even if I only sewed shirts and painted cardboard trees).

So what happened on the twelfth day of Christmas in my corner of Suffolk . . .

• I cooked a hot breakfast for the under-gardeners - porridge with chopped apple and marrow.

• I drove to the feed stores - the animal feed merchants for mixed corn for the under-gardeners and to my favourite local butchers for venison, lamb, chicken and vegetables for us. I also found out that the person I stood behind in the butchers' queue before Christmas, who thought was one of my favourite travel journalists, was indeed him! But I'm not telling you who it was.

• I drove home very very cautiously as the road back into the northern end of the village was covered with icy compacted snow.

• I discovered that Tarragon our Araucana cockerel can jump. In fact he jumped right over my head (I'm 160cm) which gave me a shock I can tell you.

• Ginger Spice also got a shock when Tarragon showed her what a virile young chap he is - Ooooo, I say!

• And I managed to get down to work on designs for new linocuts inspired by the walks we've been doing recently.

Friday, 1 January 2010

The first day of a new year

The answer to the mystery on the previous post is . . .

So well done Rhiannon and Moreidlethoughts - you were spot on :-) Yes, in a moment of seasonal goodwill (maybe madness fueled by a large measure of our 2007 vintage Damson Vodka) I offered a good home to a 6 month old Lavender Araucana cockerel. After a few days thought he's been named Tarragon, not because we have plans to cook him but because a) 'Tarragon the Araucana' sounds good to me; b) it's a good spicy herb to pair with the Spice Girls and c) Tarragon means 'little dragon'. Tarragon looks very much like a little dragon as he prances over the grass . . .

He's not fully grown, I'm looking forward to seeing how his adult feathers develop. Araucana cockerels don't have large wattles under the chin, but they develop a feathered beard and moustache; you can also see that his comb isn't flat and zig-zagged but instead it's a 'rose' and a lovely shade of cranberry red.

I now have an apology to make - yesterday I told you that the studio assistants were curled up asleep somewhere warm, well that wasn't quite true. Yesterday afternoon I spent some time in the greenhouse washing sooty mould off some of the leaves on our little lemon tree, the Tabby One was in and out, in and out, in and out of the greenhouse door - I lost track of were she was and when I'd finished cleaning the lemon leaves I shut the greenhouse door and went back to the house to spend the rest of the afternoon cooking. We then went to a New Year's Eve Murder Mystery Supper with some friends and came home in the early hours of the New Year. This morning after breakfast we wondered where the Tabby One was. As the hours passed mild concern became slight worry became worried enough to go in search of her. Cliff set off to see if there was a furry body in the road and I went to her favourite haunt 'The Wild Wood' - no luck. As I returned past the greenhouse a movement caught my eye - there she was in a box of shallots next to the electric fan heater.

She was very quick to get back to the house and check out the food bowl. If the Tabby One was writing today's blog post I'm sure it would be a tirade of venomous expletives aimed directly at me!

Did you have a White New Year? We did. Here is the under-gardeners' chalet and Tarragon's batchelor pad in the snowy garden. Tarragon decided to join the girls in their chalet last night and who can blame him!

I thought I drank very little alcohol last night but the combo of pomeganate juice mocktails, red wine, champagne and a very late night made me feel less than chirpy this morning. I made squash, chestnut and apple soup for lunch and afterwards felt I needed some fresh air - even very very cold fresh air. So I've just come home from a bracing walk around the village and along the footpath nearest to our house. The Hogweed seedheads were holding little pinches of snow in their umbels . . .

And the freezing fog held the world in a magical stillness . . .

Back home I joined the hens and Tarragon as they ate their corn for supper. The dynamics of our little flock is changing with the introduction of a cockerel - unlike introducing a lone hen, there has been no pecking or agression from the girls. Tarragon is wary and he must be missing his three sisters and all the other hens he used to live with, but he's growing in confidence every minute - I love watching him and so do Nutmeg, Saffron and Ginger ;-)

Best wishes for 2010 everyone!