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 30 December 2007

London's winter sunshine

After five days of entertaining family, neighbours and friends, and feasting on a succession of Christmas dishes, we decided we needed a change of scene. So on Saturday morning we drove down to London, from the motorway we could see the sun illuminating the distant sky scrapers of Canary Wharf, the Gherkin and Tower 42.

We walked through the deserted streets of The City towards St Paul's Cathedral, the windows of the offices reflecting shards of sky and architecture, and joined an international throng crossing the Thames on the Millennium Footbridge and admiring the quintessential London view of Tower Bridge and the boats on the river.

The South Bank had a bright and breezy atmosphere – everyone seemed to be stretching their legs and striding out wrapped in warm coats and Christmas present hats and scarves. We strode past the gigantic Louise Bourgeois spider looming over the entrance to Tate Modern and on to Gabriel's Wharf (one of my favourite corners of the South Bank). Sensing a definite fall in the temperature we decided to turn back – stormy clouds we racing down from the north and the dome of St Paul's was shining against a dark backdrop of rain clouds.

On Friday evening we had checked out the 'what's on' listings and found that a few seats were still available for Saturday afternoon's concert at The Barbican – we booked online for "The Four Seasons by Candlelight" a concert of baroque music performed by The Mozart Festival Orchestra in full 18th century costume. There was just time for a hazelnut brownie and cup of tea before we took our seats in the concert hall to relax and enjoy a beautifully performed concert of music by Handel, Purcell, Bach, Albinoni, Pachelbel and of course 'The Four Seasons' by Vivaldi including some virtuoso violin playing by David Juritz (all the more amazing as he was wearing a heavily embroidered coat and a yak-hair wig!!).

Before driving home we decided to look around the newly renovated St Pancras station. Having watched the TV series following the building of the new extention and restoration of the splendid Victorian gothic station building, we were curious to see it for ouselves. The exterior still looked like a building site – scaffolding and cladding very much in evidence, and as there was no lighting to show off the outside of the station, it loomed darkly over the Euston Road. Inside we followed signs to St Pancras International and emerged into the lower level shopping mall area. A few shops were open – Accessorize, Body Shop, a selection of coffee shops and sandwich bars in an area much smaller than it had seemed on the TV. I was interested to see the 9 metre tall statue by Paul Day 'The Meeting Place'. I think this must have been a incredibly difficult commission – with so many people to please and a deadline and budget to meet, it was inevitably going to be controversial.

I'm not sure that I like the finished sculpture, but it does seem fitting for a station – it reminds me of 1930's poster art.

The other new statue in the station is a bronze of John Betjeman by Martin Jennings , I think this is a joyful depiction of the poet and lover of architecture who campaigned to save the Victorian station building. Slightly larger than life size the bronze Sir John holds onto his battered hat and his crumpled mackintosh looks as if it has been caught by a gust of wind as he gazes up in boyish wonder at the sweeping arched roof now re-painted in sky blue. The statue stands on a circle of Cumbrian slate beautifully carved with a quotation from Betjeman's poem Cornish Cliffs:

And in the shadowless unclouded glare
Deep blue above us fades to whiteness where
A misty sea-line meets the wash of air

If you have never seen films of Sir John Betjeman or heard recordings of him reading his poems, this statue perfectly sums up this national treasure.

Thursday 20 December 2007

Merry Christmas!

Magic Cochin Productions present a seasonal slide show to delight and entertain you at this festive time . . .

Wishing you all health and happiness
Celia x

Sunday 16 December 2007

A mouse-free zone

In the time honoured tradition of pre-Christmas newsapers I'm selecting my top digital accessory . . .

My top gadget is this. My office is a mouse-free zone - and that's not just because the studio assistants have been meeting their objectives, they only focus on furry rodents! This small but essential part of my desktop kit ensures no mice - electric, wired or bluetooth - are residing on my desk. Over the past few weeks I've spent long hours working on digital illustrations and without my trusty Intuos pen my fingers would have siezed up by now. This is a life saver – if you spend your working day clicking a mouse and making little accurate moves with an electric rodent – treat yourself, you're worth it.

Another tradition at this time of year is the awards ceremony, and some generous bloggers love to hand out prizes. Today Fiona, The Cottage Smallholder has handed out her True Blue Awards, and I'm thrilled to be a recipient. Thank you Fiona - your daily blog is a joy to read as I eat my breakfast porridge. Always amusing and often useful (the "last minute Christmas cake" recipe looked so delicious I baked one today!) The Cottage Smallholder is a cornucopia of information.

I'm passing on the honour to all those True Blue blogging friends who add their comments to my postings - I enjoy reading them all :-)

Sunday 9 December 2007

Quick! - we've just got time . . .

Yesterday I suddenly realised that if I didn't go to see the Richard Bawden exhibition at Gainsborough's House in Sudbury right away I would miss it! Richard Bawden is well-known as a skilled printmaker and designer – I love his strength of line, pattern and witty observation.

Nearly 3.30pm and we'd been shopping for most of the day, but if we're quick we'll have time! It was dark and rainy as we drove into Sudbury town centre, the traders were packing their vans in the market place, but hurray! there was a free parking place in the street right outside Gainsborough's House it was just after 4pm – almost an hour to enjoy the exhibition.

I felt revived and inspired - those joyful images of cosy cats on patterned rugs and rambling Suffolk gardens; glass bowls engraved with prancing cats and swooping owls; a garden bench with dodos beak to beak; subtle shaded etchings of trees and fading flowers. If you have the time the exhibition continues until Christmas Eve.

Back home – time for tea (dinner? supper?) - whatever – we're hungry and need food quickly! I'm sharing this recipe with Freddie and Charlotte of The Great Big Vegetable Challenge, for their Q is for Quick Veg Quest.

Friday 7 December 2007

My favourite Friday view

On Friday mornings I often drive along this road and this is the view I look forward to seeing. My route has followed the turning twisting lanes of Suffolk and into the south-western edge of Cambridgeshire, but after cresting a rise (I would say hill but non-fen dwellers may question my use of the word!) the view suddenly opens up and swoops downhill over the Cambridgeshire fens to the horizon. Today the low winter sun made my favourite view extra special, so I stopped the car and took this photo.

I like to imagine what the view may have been like centuries ago - I would have been looking across to the fen edge and the undrained waterlands beyond. Maybe, if sea levels rise, next century this will be a coastal view again?

Tuesday 4 December 2007

When did you last wash your tree?

One of the most inspiring gardens is The Winter Garden at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. If you think winter is a drab season then this is the place to transform your view.

When the sun is out on a crisp winter day there's nothing like a beautiful silver birch, its trunk a composition of subtle pastel shades. If you have a silver birch in your garden, is it beautiful? And if it's covered with dusty greeny-grey dirty grime, when did you last wash your tree? Yes, that's what those cunning gardeners get up to when we're not looking - they go out and give the trees a wash and brush up!

This lunch time my 'garden workout' included washing the silver birch.

BEFORE . . .