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.

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.



  1. Really beautiful work - and that exhibition sounds wonderful. Sadly I'm up in Lancashire so wouldn't be able to escape for a visit. I've recently started taking an interest in the Bloomsbury set and their work as well as that of Ravilious.

    1. Yes, I wish I lived nearer to Reading Museum, it's full of interesting things. I can recommend the BBC Your Paintings web pages for finding work by artists that interest you.

  2. Love the design. I often hear owls in my garden, sometimes they're so close but I still never see them. Early the other morning there were several out there, and they making a huge noise!
    The Sense of Place exhibition looks great.

    1. Thank you Su, It's good to know there are owls thriving near you. Small well curated exhibitions are a joy.

  3. Thank you - a lovely post. You've really a book that old? It must be worth thousands!!! And I've just put Reading Museum on my 'to do' list.

    1. I only have 2 of the Shakespeare volumes and they are falling apart, so probably worth less than £50. I bought them in the early 1980s and doubt I paid more than £10 (I would not have been able to afford to pay more).
      Do try to visit Reading Museum, we only had time to see a fraction of what was there.

  4. It's such a good idea to sketch ideas straight away.I need to do this! How fantastic to own a Shakespeare book that old, a very special thing.xx

    1. Even a scribbly sketch will remind you of what was in your mind. Yes, I've discovered the Shakespeare books are more special than I realised when I bought them - I was just drawn to them like a magnet!

  5. I do like your new design, everyone seems to love Owls, don't they?

    Michael rosen and his guests were discussing, in Word of Mouth, this afternnoon, how the actors in Shakespear's day would have spoken, it was a revelation to me! If you have not heard, I would urge you to do so.

    1. Owls seem to have almost overtaken hares in the popularity stakes - the compilers of The Artful Hare have a Printmakers' Owls book planned.

      And, yes I did hear Word of Mouth! It was fascinating.


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