I'm getting used to the monthly rhythm of commissions for Gardens Illustrated magazine . . . July's illustration is finished and has been sent to the Art Director and Frank's copy for August has arrived. The subject for May's linocut had been a gift - English wildflowers in Spring. Each month I settle down with a large mug of tea and read Frank's words that have arrived by email - here's a behind the scenes look at how I do the linocuts, so I won't repeat that but I will show you my thoughts and working sketches as I put together this month's illustration.
For June's Garden's Illustrated, Frank's article is set in his new garden in California. I received no notes from the editor (ominous?) it was left down to me to choose something to depict. I jotted down a Californian place name and the two latin plant names that Frank had referred to – all three were meaningless to me, this time a lot more research would be needed!
I realised I had seen Quercus agrifolia, the Coast Live Oaks, on a Californian road trip; unknowingly we had also driven very close to the Matilija Canyon, the view from Frank's Californian garden. I began to relax, in my mind's eye I could start to imagine the scene.
A gnarled Coast Live Oak tree and some branches of rampant Pepper Tree make a good backdrop but I needed a focus for the composition . . . more research found a couple of bird species that are common in the area, I remembered seeing Scrub Jays – they are bold and characterful, and the little White Breasted Nuthatch apparently loves the coastal Oak forests – perfect! The smudge of colour is where I'm matching the mixed ink for the linocut to the colour of my rough - a dusky pink that reminded me of the evening light on the mountains in California.
But the article is basically just about Frank pruning a tree – so in the end I decided I had to include Frank in the illustration too . . . with a respectful nod to two favourite works by Eric Ravilious and Clare Leighton.
This is the colour sketch, with my notes to show David, the Art Director, what I planned to do . . .
June's Gardens Illustrated magazine has arrived through my letterbox, here's the page in the published magazine next to the original linocut . . .
. . . and as with all my illustrations for Gardens Illustrated, I will be producing an edition of prints for sale early in 2016 (and a little later, cards too).
Frank Ronan's copy for August's 'The Writer's Plot' is on my desk, at the weekend I bought some of the plants he's writing about so I can draw them from life, you'll see them in August's Garden's Illustrated.