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, 24 March 2016

On the trail of the lonesome pine . . . my illustration for March's Gardens Illustrated

Until the email arrives, I have no idea what Frank Ronan is going to write about for his Gardens Illustrated column 'The Writer's Plot'. And as he lives in California for most of the year, I can't rely on familiar seasonal plants making an appearance.

But even for Frank, the March article was something different . . . a road trip!

Over lunch one day when Cliff was at home, we sat down and followed Frank's route on Google Maps. If you have the magazine and read the article, Frank writes: 'I made a road trip the other day...' with a casualness of saying he popped down to the supermarket; BUT let me explain, Cliff and I have driven from Portland to San Francisco, we've also driven from LA to San Francisco, taking the coastal route in both cases, and each of those trips took us over a week! At our pace I think we'd need 6 weeks to do Frank's trip! So I suspect he took more than just 'a day'! 

As you can imagine, the landscape and the conifers change dramatically along the route from gnarled coastal trees, then mile on mile of uniform forest and on to the Avenue of Giants back in California. Not to mention the wide pastures of Montana and the beauty of the Lolo National Forest (somewhere I hadn't heard of and is now on my 'must see' list!)

I admit to floundering about not knowing what to draw. My sketchbook is evidence of this!

Frank's writing is always full of passing cultural and literary references, some I'm familiar with others have me turning to google (who's Smokey Bear?) ... I learn a lot. The key that unlocked my ideas for this linocut was this sentence: "spectacular mountains give way to the sort of cowboy landscape I'd dreamed of seeing since the first reading of My Friend Flicka" . . . I remember that book, it's one of my Mum's favourites and she recommended it to me when I was young. I was more taken by the black and white illustrations by Charles Tunnicliffe and noticed he'd also illustrated some of my favourite Ladybird nature and wildlife books. I think this was when the seed was sown in my mind that drawing pictures could be a real job.

So slightly inspired by Tunnicliffe and My Friend Flicka, together with my own memories of huge landscape views in Oregon and California and some unspecific conifers – here is my finished illustration in the March edition of Gardens Illustrated.

To my surprise I've managed to get my work schedules back on track, it's amazing how fast I can carve lino when I have to!!! I can take the Easter weekend off, knowing I just have to print and scan the linocut for May's Gardens Illustrated to meet the deadline next week. Phew!

Wishing all of you a very happy and peaceful Easter weekend. I hope the sun shines, but if not finding somewhere cosy is good option.



  1. Celia, I don't know about your forecast but ours says it will be beautiful tomorrow and then downhill all the way to April. Lashings of rain to come so I'm making the most of Good Friday and getting out to look for Gardens Illustrated. Now I've started to read it regularly I realise how few places sell it down here. I shall enjoy the road trip piece and illustration and thanks for the nod to Tunnicliffe. I have lots of his sketchbooks and a favourite book is his 'Bird Portraiture'. So beautifully written and illustrated. Very much of its time but coming off the shelf tonight now for a quick browse.

  2. It was good that you could draw on some personal experience to help you illustrate this article. Let's hope we have some lovely weather over Easter, I'm sure any forecast rain will pass us by, as it usually does!

  3. lovely to read your thoughts process and see result... n♥

  4. Celia, since I've never gotten any more westward in the States than Kansas City (long ago AT&T business trip) i realize that you've seen much more of my own country than I have.

    All the same, I definitely knew (know) who Smoky the Bear is. He was a cartoon character given life, based upon a real bear cub, and a wonderful spokes-bear for trying to prevent forest fires.

    It's still Easter Sunday over here, and I am about to have my first post-Lent chocolate. An elegant little cake from a local emissary of a Paris patisserie.

    I don't think it's too late to wish you and yours a very Happy Easter! xo

  5. We've done some driving in some of those areas and I would say it's definitely more than just a day trip:) but I love your illustrations, they capture the feeling so perfectly.
    "My Friend Flicka" was one of my favourite books growing up(along with Thunderhead and Green Grass of Wyoming the other 2 books in the triolgy)I was pretty horse oriented though, so that is not surprising!


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