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.

Friday, 29 December 2017

And finally . . .

Before 2017 ends I'll show you my illustration for the 2017 Special Plant Issue of Gardens Illustrated magazine, this was published just before Christmas and the subject was 'avenues' and the love of arranging plants small and large in parallel rows that lets the eye into the distance. Frank Ronan writes about Mulberries and Hydrangeas, pollarded Willows and Swamp Cypresses; but the paragraph that sparked my imagination was a description of an avenue of Monkey Puzzle trees ... I love the geometry of the branches.

I studied loads of photos and reference books and made careful sketches of the Monkey Puzzle tree structure. Then I scanned and played around with the sketches in Photoshop, creating an avenue of trees. I wasn't sure where this was going, but after a break I suddenly realised it looked like a snow scene and how appropriate for late December. To emphasise the distance and the path between the trees, I added two silhouetted figures and two skipping whippets making tracks in the snow.

As with the December magazine's illustration (in the previous post) I decided to use a second colour, this time for the sky ... a bright pink, the colour of the sunset on a frosty snowy winter day.
I printed the green and pink areas separately and layered them digitally, this is something I often do with illustration work as the colours can be kept clean and bright when scanned and it allow for tweaking of the digital artwork to get it just right.

So, after almost 3 years and 36 illustrations, this is my last illustration for Frank Ronan's column in Gardens Illustrated magazine. I've handed the baton on ... maybe it's to you?

And this seems an appropriate time to draw a line under the PurplePoddedPeas blog. 

Ten years is a long time in social-media-land and life now has a different rhythm.
You can find me on Instagram and on Twitter  
. . . and also soon on my new blog which I'll publish a link to in the new year.

Wishing you a happy and peaceful 2018


Friday, 15 December 2017

Gardens Illustrated illustrations 2017 ... part 2

Here is my round-up of the linocut illustrations for Frank Ronan's monthly column in Gardens Illustrated magazine for July to December 2017 (the illustrations for January to June can be found here).
Frank's June column left him returning home after a few years living in California ... 
"The joy of being back in my own garden is overwhelming at times."
During 2016 Frank's writing had taken on a gloomy tone, so I was relieved he was happy and and back among plants he loves ... and I love too.

July 2017

Frank's garden has been left to grow wild and he's unsure what to tackle first. He decides that a large fir tree ... a Christmas tree someone planted out in the 1950s ... now dwarves the cottage and has to go; his decision made because he loves pruning things, climbing trees and using a chain saw. The fir tree's trunk already has a Clematis montana growing up it, so Frank leaves a 15 ft stump as its support. Our garden wall also has a C. montana ... and as it was May it was in flower  (I work about 2 months ahead of publication), so I could enjoy sketching from life. This isn't always possible but I prefer drawing from real live plants.

August 2017

This year I often had a very small window when I could work on the 'Frank' illustrations; the August Frank arrived in late May and I sat at my desk and carefully read and re-read Frank's words on Monday 5 June ... 2 days after the London Bridge attack, the 3rd terrorist attack in a only a few weeks last summer. Frank's essay on the subject of forgiveness, contentment and happiness was poignant and perfectly timed ... I may have cried (which doesn't happen often). If you have a copy of the the magazine or can get the online version, I recommend it as something to keep at hand if times get tough.

The editor suggested I include a Goldfinch in the composition, they are frequent visitors to our garden and one of my favourite birds, so along with grasses I sketched from life this became the image to illustrate Frank's words ...
"Happiness is no right, but an elusive privilege ... If you chase it, it will run ... The stiller you are the more it will linger. Any attempt to run after it and capture it, or even too direct a stare, and it will flit off like a goldfinch startled."

September 2017

More happy coincidences for September's Frank, the subject is meadows and I'd just spent a fascinating day visiting one and doing lots of sketches. Frank had been reading a book, 'Grass-fed Nation' by Roger Harvey, the agricultural adviser for 'The Archers' ... which is often on the radio as I work ... so I'm familiar with 'herbal leys'.
Frank discovers that his neglected garden borders ... now overgrown with a thatch of grasses, wildflowers and self-seeded perennials related to meadow plants ... are thriving! He muses about a new kind of garden border that is more like a meadow. Now, that sounds lovely, just my kind of thing too, Knapweeds, Burnets and Geraniums mingled in drifts of meadow grasses ... something butterflies would enjoy too.

October 2017

Autumn flowering bulbs is the subject of the October 'Frank', all those lovely sugar-almond pink flowers that surprise the garden with their clean sharp colour among the decaying leaves of autumn.
I chose to illustrate the Nerines and Cyclamen (Frank includes Colchicums too, but I decided they would overload the illustration). I included the toad that Frank says looks like a Cyclamen corm, and the drifts of Cyclamen are based on those at Anglesey Abbey which have a special memory for me.
I like his idea of planting Nerines in pots ... so this is a visual reminder to do that too.

November 2017

Apple trees and garden bonfires ... two more things I can draw from life and from personal experience. Frank is writing about how picking fruit and having a bonfire are great ways to get friends to 'help' in the garden. This was a lovely Autumnal subject and and excuse to carve decorative patterns to depict the flames and smoke.

December 2017

The December issue of Gardens Illustrated includes a lovely new series of articles by Lia Leendertz on identifying trees, part 1 covers Deciduous Native British Trees. To continue the 'tree theme', Frank writes about Ash trees at a time when time may be running out as they succumb to Ash Die-Back. The Ash tree I sketched for this illustration is one I can see from our vegetable plot, it stands on the bank of the brook in the neighbour's garden, and has a twin trunk which joins to make an opening big enough for a child for small person to squeeze through.
I've got used to spotting obscure literary references in Frank's writing, this month he makes a passing reference to Tennyson referring to the Ash tree's 'coal black buds in March' ... it took a request on Twitter for someone to point me to 'The Gardener's Daughter', so I thought a 2017 gardener's daughter should appear in the picture ... with her cat. The door in the garden wall is based on the one in my garden ... although I've played around with the scale and made the tree huge and the wall more extensive and further away.
A few more changes from the usual ... I worked slightly larger and inked the block in various shades of brown and dark grey. The red of the gardener's daughter's coat was added digitally after scanning the print (if I print an edition, I'll cut a special block to print the red).

So that's almost another year of prints complete ... there's one more, I'll tell you about the linocut for the Special 'Plants Edition' before the New Year.

Meanwhile, wishing you a calm run-up to the Christmas weekend. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Gardens Illustrated illustrations 2017 round up ... part 1

Times change and these days you'll mainly find me on Instagram or Twitter rather than keeping this blog up to date. But it would be shame not to continue to record here my linocut illustrations for Frank Ronan's monthly column in Gardens Illustrated magazine . . . so here begins a round up with the illustrations for January 2017 to June 2017 . . .

January 2017

Frank writes about the pleasure on a fine winter day, of pruning a rampant Wisteria and how a small cottage can be engulfed by a particularly vigorous Wisteria.
I aimed to give this illustration the feeling of a Grimm's fairytale.

February 2017

Frank's love for one of the native Californian shrubs, Manzanita, isn't put off by it's incendiary reputation, so he experiments with fire to promote germination of its seeds. 
"I might not be so open minded about the beauty of this native were I shivering in a silver blanket in a school gymnasium"
These were Frank's portentous words written a year ago about Californian wildfires which right now are devastating Ventura county with its worst wildfire in modern Californian history

March 2017

The plant hunter and nurseryman Michael Wickenden died while on an expedition, this is Frank's tribute to his friend.
I've included Michael walking out into a mountainous landscape, a humble bunch of flowers ... some of the species he collected and grew in his nursery ... and a postcard of the Mountains of the Moon, the scene of one of his adventures. 

April 2017

After reading Frank's piece about using some pink coloured rubble to create terraces and paths around his Californian garden, this design popped into my head fully formed ... it illustrates Frank's fantasy that one day his garden will be full of fruit trees and bushes that he can harvest from as he meanders up and down the sloping terraces.
This was one of my favourite designs from 2017.

May 2017

Flowers often invoke a deeply buried memories and for Frank it is his love of peonies that threads through the years ... his introduction by a cousin to the seductive flower and friends who have added to his collection. I saw this as a still from a whimsical film about a long forgotten childhood meeting.

June 2017

The 'June Frank' text arrived by email and to my surprise Frank is leaving California and on his way home ... where would that be? The magazine editorial and design team were as surprise as I was. We'd have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, as Frank packed his bags and left his Californian garden where he had tried to grow native shrubs, indulged his love of agaves and battled with gophers eating his palm trees; the rains came! His garden flowered, plants he had given up on and watched desiccate, sprang into life and bloomed! I designed the image in warm red/browns but after discussion with the art ed I printed it in a fresh green.

... part 2 of this round-up will follow soon.