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, 20 April 2016

When April with his showers sweet . . .

When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,
Quickened again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun
Into the Ram one half his course has run,
And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)-
Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage

those are the opening lines to Geoffrey Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' and they seem to pull together the random things in this blog post . . .

Back in early February when I received the text of Frank Ronan's column for April's 'The Writer's Plot' in Garden's Illustrated magazine, I breathed a happy sigh of relief that the subject was 'Green' and in particular, English bluebell woods. Of course bluebells were'n't in flower nor were leaves breaking from their buds, so I had to work from reference photographs and my memory, though I did find Dog's Mercury and Honeysuckle already in leaf in the tiny 'Wild Wood' at the end of our garden!

Frank makes the observation that . . .

"A bluebell needs the shimmering green

of the woodland floor for its magic" 


and he goes on to beautifully describe how all the varied hues of green transform the blue of a bluebell into

"an illusion of purity and blueness" 

Now is the perfect is time to find a bluebell wood and see this for yourself.

Having 'worked my socks off' during March, I was in need of a recuperative break. Cliff was going on a weekend away to Sussex with the local walking group, so I tagged along and we added an extra couple of days for good measure.

I discovered some new places . . .

The Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft is devoted to the artists that lived and worked in this village tucked in the South Downs north of Brighton, notably Eric Gill and his friends and family but there were others too, such as textile designer and natural dye specialist, Ethel Mairet.

The current special exhibition is about the calligrapher and type designer Edward Johnston (that's his desk in the display, above), coinciding with the 100th anniversary of his type designs for London Transport (with only small tweaks, they are still in use today).

The museum is a beautiful tranquil space full of inspiring things.

I bought souvenirs.

After delivering some of my prints to The Gun Room in Alfriston, which already stocks my cards I drove a little north along some tiny lanes and found Berwick Church. If you're in need of inspiration and don't have time to visit Charleston and want to avoid the crowds, I can recommend this tiny church with murals by Bloomsbury Group artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell.

I spent an hour there completely by myself just sitting looking at the paintings and the views across the fields through the clear glass windows and listening to the birds singing in the churchyard.

And revisited some old haunts . . .

A friend who recently moved to Brighton had been urging me to visit so that I could show her places I remembered from my student days. I wasn't sure I really wanted to re-live my past, especially if I found places changed beyond recognition, but I was looking forward to having a long chat, a good laugh and a nice lunch. In the end we had great fun wandering along the sea front (what IS that monstrous THING?!!!) and around the town.

The old fruit and veg market next to the Art College has gone and was a pile of rubble behind hoardings but opposite I was delighted to find the Market Diner was still looking just the same (except for new formica on the table tops). I like to think of all the art students who have enjoyed a calming mug of tea there after a scathing crit'.

Kemptown is a bit tidier but still familiar and there, still thriving, was The Bristol pub which was next door to the Seafront Hall of residence (now swanky apartments!). We went in for a drink and a sit down in the lounge.

Walking back to my friend's flat we past the building that was the subject of my first reduction linocut (a long long time ago! 

I now remember, we were paired to share sheets of paper, printing on the reverse of our partner's print; then we each got a set of all the printed pages and we bound them into books. On the cover of my book (I found it on a shelf in my studio) is an embossed street plan of Kemptown and foil blocking representing the 'sea'.

New discoveries and refreshed memories . . .

and having a jolly good break from the norm!

maybe that's what inspired Chaucer's Pilgrims too?
Wood engraving illustrations of
scenes from The Canterbury Tales
by June Chapman
(I bought these at an auction a few years back - and really must frame them!)



  1. Made me think how true it i that a counterfoil is needed to show off the bluebells - never occurred to me!

    1. Yes, it's that fresh green that makes the bluebells zing!

  2. What a delightful illustration, all green and fresh. That church looks wonderful and I see you bought some dying seeds, they'll be fun to use :-)

  3. Sounds like you had a lovely few days away. That church is beautiful.

  4. Celia, your April Gardens Illustrated prints is a real beauty, a tribute to April freshness. I also appreciate the glimpse of your sketchbook's beautiful pages.

    What a great opportunity to join Cliff on the Sussex break. There are so many interesting places to see there, and you've now added to my wish list.

    Seeing the the pictures of some Brighton locations that you visited was also interesting. I'm glad that some of the locations still resemble what you remember. Your early artwork is fabulous, too!

    Thank you for allowing me to experience a bit of Sussex while having my morning coffee. xo

    1. Thank you Frances. I was a little envious of my friend being able to walk around the corner and be amid the bustle of Brighton. And I also visited Lewes, somewhere I recall you explored on your last visit to the UK.

  5. Celia, you always seem to either throw in a quote that makes me want to re-read something or show me something new. Canterbury Tales was O level territory and I never thought I'd want to return there but I actually do after reading your opening lines. I thought it was a lovely piece in the April edition and I now have a list of tulips that I want to source for next season in those gorgeous plum colours. So glad I've started re-reading the magazine and I thank you for that. I must also put Ditchling and Berwick church on my list of places that you tempt me with. Thank you!

    1. I know you would love the Ditchling Museum!
      I too 'did' Chaucer for O Level EngLit, our teacher was Elizabeth Spearing, who with her husband, wrote extensively about and edited Chaucer for various publications. With hindsight, she did a brilliant job of bringing the text to life!

  6. I love the little church! This is not an area I know at all. Maybe when we get our new campervan (Yay!)at the end of May we should plan a trip...

    1. A camper van adventure sounds wonderful!
      Though the A27 and A29 are fast and furious, so take care x


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