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.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Here we go . . .

a) . . . again

b) . . . here we go, here we go

c) . . . it's Christmas!

or  . . .

Here we go round the mulberry bush

Which is what Cliff and I were doing at Ickworth Hall gardens in October.

All in the interest of research for my illustration for the 'Special' 13th issue of Gardens Illustrated magazine - which is on the news stands in the UK now, lovely gardening reading matter nestling twixt the December (Christmassy) issue and the January issue which kicks off 2016.

I remembered seeing a Mulberry tree somewhere in the Italianate garden near Ickworth's famous rotunda, when we attended a summer evening outdoor performance of Round the World in 80 Days. It took a few circuits of the garden but in the end we spotted 2 small Mulberry trees with leaves turning to golden yellow.
On the shady side of one tree the leaves were still fresh and green and we found fruits!

It's always good to see plants growing rather than working solely from photos  . . . back in the studio I made careful sketches
And then started to think about how to illustrate Frank Ronan's pen-portrait of the Black Mulberry and its juicy purple fruits.
I wanted to include some of the historical and culinary references – blended together on a 17th century tin-glazed platter with a slice of mulberry pie and a silver spoon.

Here's the finished linocut, printed in a deep purple, alongside the illustration on the final page of the magazine.

Going back to the nursery rhyme . . .

Here in a 1951 book 'Fiddle-de-dee an other Gay Way rhymes' illustrated by Jennetta Vise.

One possible origin of the rhyme is from Wakefield women's prison where the prisoners exercise yard had a mulberry tree in the centre. There's no need to clap your hands or stamp your feet to warm yourself this December, the seasons seem to have forgotten to 'do' Winter! Spring bulbs are growing, some daffodils are even in flower, and garden birds are behaving as if they are thinking of building nests!

Hold on . . . the coldest weeks here on the corner of Suffolk/Cambridgeshire/Essex is usually late January and early February so cold and frosty mornings might be around the corner.

And finally . . .

Over on Instagram I'm posting an Advent diary of random thoughts leading up to Christmas.

Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas

Wednesday 9 December 2015

A festive wreath ... and December's Gardens Illustrated linocut

This morning it's bright, sunny and cold, it actually feels a bit like winter, which is a lovely change from the mild damp and cloudy weather of late. It was a good excuse to spend time in the garden collecting materials to make a festive wreath. 

My inspiration this year is the design of a small wreath I bought from a lovely local florist to hang on our newly decorated porch door . . .

I cut lots of box branches and made little bunches of bright berries and some faded Hydrangea flowers to nestle amongst the bright greenery - the doors in the front yard are now dressed up for the festive season.

Way back in September when I was anticipating the arrival of Frank's article for the December/Christmas issue of Gardens illustrated magazine, I really didn't expect the topic to be Californian native flora in high summer!

The plants Frank mentions in the article were unfamiliar to me, so the only way to start was to sit down and do some research and sketch the plants from photographs.

The more I thought about the illustration the more I wanted to end the year and the final page of the December magazine with something traditionally festive . . . how could I give the composition a Christmas twist?

I let that idea float around for a few days and two possibilities formed: 
- a path through a magical landscape of candle-like plants
- a festive wreath.

I collaged my sketches together in a wreath shape - this might work! And framed the view of Frank's Californian canyon and his new love, a shrubby tree Arctostaphylos glauca (which is closely related to one of my favourite evergreens for winter berries and flowers – Arbutus unedo or the Strawberry tree) and similar Christmassy looking bauble-like berries and tint lantern-like flowers. 

Here's the finished linocut and the printed illustration on the final page of Gardens Illustrated.

But wait . . . what's this email from GI HQ?! Gardens Illustrated publish 13 issues a year! . . . so there's one more to go before the year ends. I'll tell you more about that before Christmas.

Meanwhile in real studio time the January 2016 illustration has already come and gone and this morning I've received the text of Frank's column for February . . . and it's a gem!