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.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Behind the scenes - working on October Gardens Illustrated linocut

Each month I look forward to an email from David at Gardens Illustrated magazine with an attached text file of Frank Ronan's latest column. Sometimes there's a hint of what the editor would like me to illustrate . . . in mid-July the October Frank email arrived with no accompanying notes.

I settled down for a read . . .
Frank is replying to a letter from a gardener in California who wants to do the right thing and plant drought tolerant plants; but she lives in a historic wooden house, built in 1904 and is worried the plants won't 'go' with the house.

OK. A bit of research was needed and some sketching  . . . 
. . . a cute early 20th Century Californian house and some suitable succulents. Yes I could juggle them into a composition but like Frank's correspondent, I wasn't happy with it. I wanted to show the over-the-top 'Belle Epoque' decor that is loved so much more in the US than here in the UK. I remembered some of the B&Bs we've stayed in on our road-trip holidays - all those velvet tassel-edged curtains, curvy swirly jardinaires and pottery dogs . . . I'd sleep on it.

Then! as often happens when I'm drifting off to sleep, I had an idea. I have a small sticky-notes pad and pen on my bed-side cupboard, without switching on the light I scribbled "2 Staffs dogs looking miffed" and stuck the note onto my spectacles so I'd find it it the morning.

In the morning, as soon as I got into my studio, I quickly drew what had been in my mind's eye.
And then worked on a more detailed study of a pair of Staffordshire pottery dogs. 
I've just noticed the note, bottom left, I painted this using some very special paint, Egremont Red, it's wonderful stuff and this has reminded me I must use it again, very soon.

Using Photopshop, I pulled all the parts together into a composition - a close-up of the lower half of the window of a historic clapper-board house, showing lace and bobble-edged curtains and a pair of Staffordshire pottery dogs looking out at an impressive array of Aeoniums and other succulents. I decided that a rich magenta would add to the 'Belle Epoque' and Californian vibe.  

Here's the page I sent to David to show what I had in mind, below is a reversed print out on tracing paper that I use to trace down the design onto the lino.
Having got the design sorted (sigh of relief) now comes the fun bit - the carving . . .
I enjoyed carving the lace curtains and the dogs . . .
I mixed some luscious magenta ink . . . the block comes to life when you roll the ink onto it!

And here's the finished print and the illustration printed in the October edition of Gardens Illustrated.

Despite, maybe because of, the stuttering start; I think this is my favourite GI illustration to date.



  1. I think it is my favourite too, the composition and the colour are just right.

  2. I love your process posts! It's wonderful when ideas come to us while we *think* our minds are at rest. The trick is capturing those ideas, which you did beautifully!

  3. They have all been beautiful Celia but this is especially lovely!

  4. The process is fascinating, beautiful!

  5. a gracious way to melt thru the 'resentment' at having to change to drought tolerant plants.

  6. Dear Celia, I have been busy recently with a bunch of bothersome, but necessary matter, and so had not a chance to let you know that I have acquired Issue 225 of Gardens Illustrated for my growing collection.

    Although I have yet to enjoy looking at the magazine's other pages, rest assured that I have had a long look at your summer show illustration accompanying Frank's essay and think they are both rather wonderful.

    It is so much fun to get to see your behind the scenes development of your pictures, and then...after the pause required for GI to cross the pond, to actually see the page in print.

    What I now need to remember to do is show this issue ...particularly the last page, to my work colleague who grew up in Instanbul. I think she will love your print.

    So, now I see the creative stages of your newest illustration and love it! The close up view of your inked block truly does make me want to get out my tools and buy some lino. Magenta is a great color choice, and the idea of having the viewpoint start just outside a window, looking inward to those dogs is brilliant. How well you have captured the lace!

    Hoping I can find time to have a leisurely look at issue 225 before 226 arrives over here in a few weeks.


  7. Wow. Interesting processes that remind me of my own. If you're ever in the shower when inspiration or an answer comes through the mist, use the corner of your soap bar and make notes on the shower door. There's always the mirror too, if you can hold on to the thoughts that long. :)

    I have actually gone to our local bookstore and thumbed through the magazine, just to see if your print was there. :) Your work is lovely.

    Now, on to Google Egremont Red!

  8. Wow, what an interesting post Celia.... and the finished illustration is exquisite....

  9. I look forward to seeing your illustrations for Frank Ronan's column in GI every month, Celia. I'm amazed at the detail you get into each one; thanks for sharing how you do it; it's beautiful work. I'm now wondering how you came to choose linocuts as your preferred medium?

    1. Why linocut? Excellent question -
      I took over from Angela Harding, previously the column had been illustrated by Clare Curtis and Mark Hearld - all printmakers; the art director had seen my one colour lino/woodcuts and liked them.
      As I submit a digital file there's no reason to do a real linocut, but retain the right to produce original prints of the image to sell. So this supplements the fee for the magazines 6 month exclusive right to use the image. The first of these will be available in the New Year. I also plan to produce a range of cards based on the GI illustrations.
      I think linocut is ideal for illustration work because the process distils the image down and gives it a distinct quality of marks/line/texture.

  10. I love this design and the colour is so absolutely right. I can see why it's your favourite one so far :-)

  11. Gorgeous, and that lace is fabulous. I really enjoy your process posts. I love it when inspiration sneaks up at unexpected times!

  12. I really like that stencilling technique, it works really beautifully!

  13. It is a fabulous illustration and as you say, has to be a print, it just wouldn't have worked as well with a different medium: I don't buy GI, so I didn't know about Angela Harding and Mark Hearld being predecessors of yours, but it makes perfect sense. And not a confidence that they too are in my favourite artist list.

  14. Fantastic, how wonderful to get to peak 'behind the curtain'. The staffordshire dogs were a stroke of genius, funny how creative we are when we're unconscious, or on the verge of it!

  15. Beautiful C. I am in awe of your carving talents, that lace curtain & the dogs faces are just wonderful. I love the block as much as the finished print.. perhaps more. It's fascinating.

  16. It is gorgeous - especially in that colour. It is so much fun to be able to follow your thought/work process from idea to completion. I only hope you are enjoying it as much as I am!

  17. I think I like this one best so far too ... nicely done m'dear :o)


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