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, 25 May 2016

Orange is THE colour

It's nearly the end of May and I haven't written about my linocut illustration for the May issue of Gardens Illustrated magazine . . . so here goes

Have you been following the media coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show, I'm not going to be there in person but I've enjoyed looking at photos of the gardens and displays while I've been packing a big order for greetings cards for the Conchord Festival. From what I've seen, there's a lot of zingy colour this year and orange seems to be 'in', geums, verbascums, irises and those very sexy orange foxgloves on Andy Sturgeon's 'Best in Show' garden.

So it seems I was 'on trend' when I chose a vivid shade of saffron for my linocut illustration for Frank Ronan's column about the summer heat in California and two native poppies that enjoy the baking temperatures - the huge white Matilija Poppy and the orange Californian Poppy.

I began with sketches of both, getting to know the shapes of the petals; and I made a quick sketch of an idea for the composition.

I then worked more on the composition - using negative and positive shapes I could place the white poppies on one side and the orange on the other, joining them together with the rocky canyon landscape and sizzling mid-day sun.

It needed something to focus the attention and add a quirky touch - I imagined the scene and in my head heard the rustle of dry leaves as a lizard scurried out of view - that's it! So I added a little Californian Alligator Lizard.

And then . . . Oooops! do you see what I did there? I flipped my design on the tracing paper then I flipped it back again and without even realising I cut the block and finished the print as a mirror image of my rough design. AND I didn't notice until I was showing a customer my sketchbook on my stall at a craft fair. Oh well, we all have our 'embarrissing moment'. And the composition still looks OK, even though it's back to front! 

There are no Matilija Poppies, Romneya coulteri, in our garden (though I know some people grow them in the UK) but I do have a few Californian Poppies grown from seeds from Ben at Higgledy Garden . . .

I sowed the seeds last year, they survived the winter and are now large healthy looking plants and the flowers are a lovely cream colour.

The variety is Eschscholzia 'Ivory Castle' and petals are like expensive wedding dress fabric.

So my Californian poppies aren't the fashionable zingy orange but I do grow another lovely orange coloured poppy, Papaver atlanticum, the Atlas Poppy, which is a beautiful shade of earthy pale orange.

I think this is my 'signature plant', I love how it seeds itself into just the right spot and then the transient flowers (each lasts no more than 2 days) on tall wire thin and almost invisible stems, seem to float above the foliage like vivid butterflies.

Before I finish, if you're interested in original prints here's a date for your diaries:

The Cambridge Original Printmakers Biennale takes place from 22nd to 28th September. I'm excited to have been selected to take part and I'm also doing a demonstration on hand-burnished linocuts - details on the web site. The exhibition and all the talks and demonstrations are free of charge, though you need to book a ticket for the talks (and you need to be quick to grab one)so, I recommend keeping an eye on the web site/facebook/twitter for updates of when the tickets go live. 

And the next thing on my work list is . . . Christmas Cards (not joking) the fabulous wildflower charity Plantlife have once again asked me to design some cards for them.

Hope you all enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend

PS: I'll try to do a non-work-related blog next time.


  1. I love the zing of that orange, the shapes of the poppies in their different stages of life are so interesting. We could certainly do with some zingy heat today!

  2. Lovely to see both the white and the orange poppies together.

  3. We had masses of the orange Eschultzia when I was a kid and we called them "rotten eggs."Fr good reason! If a teacher had been especially crabby, we'd take her a posy of them.Rotten little brats, weren't we!

  4. Please don't apologise for work related posts Celai... I love reading how you come up with the inspiration and then develop it. I think I would like to come to the printmakers event...sounds good, and finally , yes you are so en pointe about orange at Chelsea....everyone was using that colour!

  5. Yes there is so much o that beautiful coral/orange at Chelsea this year, gorgeous. Your work is always amazing, doesn't matter if it's a mirror image or not :) xxx

  6. Celia, I've also seen some Chelsea coverage and noticed the orange. That's quite a contrast the the color scheme currently on display around Central Park.
    I love seeing the pictures from your sketchbook and getting insight into how your GI picture evolved. Funny to read about the "flip." The illustration looks very good and I will be keeping an eye out for it over here.
    It's great that your choice of hue coincided with a trend. Aren't poppies amazing in any color? I like your description of the blooms seeming to float above the plants on slender stems.
    Bravo to you on being including in the upcoming exhibit. Gosh...I do wish I could see it. It's grand that you'll also be showing visitors the art of burnishing.
    Your own garden is looking very good. xo

  7. Another lovely linocut Celia. I've enjoyed watching Chelsea this year.

  8. I rather like Eschscholzia 'Ivory Castle', very classy. I shall be on the lookout for it.

  9. I like the 'hot' orange illustration, it's lovely. Good to talk recently.

  10. I was able to buy the May issue of Gardens Illustrated when I was in the UK in April which was very exciting (will be back with the other 2 family members in July so I'm hoping to get August too!)
    I always love reading your posts about the article illustrations but actually seeing a print "in person" as it were was great :)
    I am a big fan of California poppies (and Welsh poppies too)but I have to consider them annuals as it seems our winters here are too harsh for even the seeds to survive to flower again - or maybe this is just another case of the "curse of the poppies" since I have been unable to ever encourage any kind of poppy to love my garden, even when my neighbour across the street has gorgeous big red specimens that flower every year!

  11. I have been having 'orange' moments recently. I did some monoprints and got carried away with orange and grey with a bit of crimson thrown in for good measure. Who knew I was so trendy!! Ever since you first mentioned Ben I've been buying seeds there was must have missed the Ivory Castle poppies so they will have to wait until next year as we are overflowing with annuals to plant which I've just realised include lots of orange cosmos!

  12. I have tried to grow both of these here and lost Romneya pretty swiftly! The california poppy did better but somehow it has not self seeded enough to become part of the permanent planting of the garden, unlike the welsh poppies and the somniferum which pop up all over the place, to my delight. I might try again. I really like the white one too!

  13. I don't know how I managed not to visit your blog earlier - what a great place to get into your world. Love your art and love to see how does it come to life!


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