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 30 January 2008

Cambridge Open Studios members' blogs

"Cambridge Open Studios exists for the purposes of promoting the making of original works of art and craft and to provide an opportunity for the public to become involved in the arts by meeting artists in their studios, seeing their work and how it is produced."

COS members' studios are open during four weekends in July, but by looking at these blogs you can visit these artist's studios 24/7 . . .

Gina Ferrari textile artist
Fan My Flame – musings of a textile artist
Gina creates exquisite colours and textures with machine embroidery – in addition her blog covers her love of sewing, knitting, gardening, cooking and drawing. Colourful and fun!

Andy English wood engraver
Wood Engraver
Andy is a true master of his craft, his blog explains the meticulous process of wood engraving and printing using his beautifully restored Albion press. A printmaking masterclass.

Karen Jinks artist and illustrator
Karen is a mixed media collage artist and illustrator, she creates subtle imagery using all kinds of creative techniques as well as photography, knitting, bookbinding and jewellery – Karen's studio is bursting with ideas and beautiful things.

Friday 25 January 2008

2008 International Year of the Potato

Yes really! I haven't made this up. The United Nations, no less, has designated 2008 as the International Year of the Potato. Apparently "The celebration of the International Year of the Potato (IYP) will raise awareness of the importance of the potato - and of agriculture in general - in addressing issues of global concern, including hunger, poverty and threats to the environment".

The last week of January is when I buy seed potatoes and I like to get them from a garden centre that has a good selection of varieties and allows you to buy small quantities. Daughter of the Soil posted the other day about buying seed potatoes from a small garden centre that had 111 varities of spud!!!!! Well, I can't top that, but I had a choice of 31 varieties at Oakington Garden Centre near Cambridge.

My chosen potatoes for The Year of the Potato are:

'International Kidney' - these are the same as 'Jersey Royals' but can't be called that because we're not on Jersey, they grow very well in our garden.

'Pink Fir Apple' - these knobbly pink spuds have a lovely waxy texture, they are late maturing and hopefully will produce a good crop of late summer salad potatoes

- I haven't tried these before, but selected them instead of 'Charlotte' just to see what they're like, they should have a waxy yellow flesh.

- also known as 'Asparges' these are the French gourmet potatoes, less knobbly than 'Pink Fir Apple' they are the choice of many top chefs.

. . . and here they are carefully placed in egg boxes, eyes upwards, in a cool light corner in the entrance hall to my studio, chitting. They will develop little shoots and will be ready for planting out at the end of March.

I also bought shallots and onion sets which were being sold loose so you could select as many as you fancy. I bought Onions, 'Red Baron' and 'Sturon' and Red Shallots 'Pikante'.

Wednesday 23 January 2008

First flowers

Delicate pastel blossoms on bare stems are a special winter treat. In summer there is a multitde of colour and scent, but in January a tiny pastel flower with a delicate perfume will attract attention – look! how beautiful!

Four flowering shrubs in my garden in January . . .

– fragrant cream flowers of the Shrubby Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)

– breaking buds on the Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas)

– clusters of richly scented sugar-almond pink flowers on the Viburnum (Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn')

– exquisitely perfumed spiky flowers of the Christmas Box (Sarcococca humilis)

Bursting up through the soil and leaf litter are perfect freshly unfurled Winter Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) . The deep burgundy red Hellebore is one of the many I grew from seed from a slate-purple Helleborus Orientalis, this is the second year they have flowered.

Sunday 20 January 2008

Looking through lenses

Yesterday I collected my new spectacles from the opticians – yes, I've been advised to wear specs for close work and reading. My designer specs are being modelled for you by one of my beautiful Winter Festival squash.

The book was my Christmas present from Cliff - 'Secret Knowledge' by David Hockney. There was so much controversy when David Hockney first published his ideas about how painters in the past probably made use of lenses and mirrors as an aid to making accurate "photographic" images, rather than purely "eyeballing" (Hockey's word) the subject. I think it makes a good deal of sense and it is so refreshing to look at paintings in the company of an artist rather than an academic art historian. The reproductions of paintings in this book are outstanding and Hockney's observations are down to earth and backed up by his own experiments in using the optical devices. This is a fascinating book.

You may have noticed a statuesque hen and cockerel through the window - these were another (surprise) Christmas present. The under-gardeners were slightly nervous of them at first, but they now know the new-comers aren't competitors for the food so completely ignore them!

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Layers of colour

Layers are very useful when working on digital illustrations, and printmaking with multiple blocks is a very similar concept. So it is a natural step to use the "layers" in Photoshop when I am working out the design for another colour lino block for the Fieldfare/Running Deer print.

First I printed a proof of the black lino block and scanned it. I then "draw" the red block design over the top on a separate "layer" which is slightly transparent so that I can see the black design underneath. The next step is to print out the red block design, transfer it to the lino block and cut the design.

This is a detail of the 'Running Deer' red block printed over the pale blue oak wood block print . . .

I decided to soften the red and blue by over printing with a third layer of colour – the oak block this time inked with translucent pale grey. I masked the area over the sun so that it remained a strong red. When this layer was dry I could overprint with the black lino block. Of course not all the imprressions work out, and I was experimenting with the transparency of the ink and the pressure needed on the barren, but I had a three good prints of both 'The Arrival of Fieldfares' and 'Running Deer'.

I needed one image that represents the direction of my work in 2008 to go next to my entry in the Cambridge Open Studios 2008 Guide Book, this is the one that I selected. July may seem a long way off, but on Sunday the starting whistle blew for Cambridge Open Studios artists to prepare for opening their studios to the public in the summer. A well-oiled admin process got into gear; artists gathered to fill in forms and talk of marketing and websites and sales and stuff; and the show got on the road!

Friday 4 January 2008

Fleeting moments

Happy New Year! 2008 entered hiding behind a shroud of dense fog, but that didn't deter us from taking a bracing walk with friends before enjoying a feast-like lunch! There were no glorious views but the landscape fading into a grey-white middle-distance had a strange presence. Water, air and earth merging - an image to return to later.

In my mind I have a 'file' of saved images for future prints and paintings. While I'm busy working on other things or out for a walk or gardening I 'look' through the images and they seem to come into sharper focus. When I eventually put them onto paper the scene seems to draw itself, I've walked around the scene in my mind and everything about it is familiar.

This is the sketch for a pair of prints "The Arrival of Fieldfares" and "Running Deer". It has come together from a collection of fleeting moments, there and then gone images seen from a footpath or from the car. All are special moments.

A flock of chattering fieldfares arriving from the cold north; a single fieldfare plucking a haw from the hedge before rising into the air to join the flock; two deer racing along the crest of a field; the copper-red sun sinking behind distant woods; skeletal hogweed seedheads; hares racing across ploughed furrows.

The lino blocks will be printed over impressions taken from a pair of oak blocks - the grain continuing across the pair of prints. I love the way the grain is visible in the backrounds of japanese woodcuts and want to use the wood grain of the English oak to give a texture to the sky and land.