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 19 February 2016

Fleeting flowers . . . my illustration for February's Gardens Illustrated

When I wrote about my linocut for January's Gardens Illustrated magazine, I mentioned that Frank Ronan's piece for February was one of my favourites . . .

it's about Crocuses . . .

I read the article and worked on the linocut in the first week of the new year, even in this strangely mild winter and premature spring it was long before the Crocuses appeared in our garden. Now in February, perfectly timed with the publication of Frank's column, the Crocuses are in bloom – but as Frank observes, they only open when the sun shines so unlike Snowdrops their beauty is often a brief encounter.

I started by making some careful studies of crocuses from various references including bulb catalogues and my old sketchbooks. 

At some point I had an idea for the composition and scribbled it on a scrap of paper. As well as close ups of Crocus flowers I wanted to include birds on some Ash twigs (mentioned by Frank) and in the background is the gardener admiring the Crocuses open in the winter sunshine.

Frank talks about Galanthophiles arranging Snowdrop parties to admire their treasured plants in flower and muses that to arrange a Crocus party would be impossible as there would be no guarantee of sun on the day. I loved the idea of a Crocus party! In my illustration the gardener's cat is running over to join in the admiration of the flowers.

Here is the finished print and the illustration printed in the magazine. I like the dropped cap and quotation picked out in orange, like the stamens in a purple crocus.

Frank was right, there's often no-one else around to share your excitement of seeing the crocuses fully open in the sunshine . . . but wait – Mr Cheep's come along to the party!

As with all my Gardens Illustrated linocuts, after 6 months this design can be available as a limited edition print and also a card. Designs from last year have been printed and will soon be appearing in my online shop, I'll keep you posted.

The March Gardens Illustrated magazine is at the printers and will soon be on the news stands and now I really should get down to work cutting the block for the April illustration, which means I've completed a full year as a regular contributor to Gardens Illustrated!


Monday 8 February 2016

Bright and breezy

This morning the weather looked good even though the stormy winds were still strong, a good day for a long overdue trip to the seaside . . .

We drove down the Colne valley to Brightlingsea on the Colne Estuary and after a warming pot of tea and substantial biscuit in a lovely cafe near the harbour we set on on a bracing walk . . .

We walked along a promenade lined with cheerful coloured beach huts, we remembered seeing these from our walks on Mersea Island on the far side of the wide estuary. This morning the tide was in and the wind whipped up waves that sent spray over walkers and dogs that got too near to the edge of the pathway.

The waves were crashing around Bateman's Tower, a WWII lookout post for spotting enemy aircraft heading towards London from across the North Sea.

Our route continued along the top of a high bank that protects the low lying fields and farmland from flooding. To our right and spread out below us was the expanse of reeds and grassland habitats of Brightlingsea Marsh nature reserve, the colours suddenly became vivid as sunshine broke through gaps in the the lines of clouds.

To our left were the huge blocks of stone making up the sea defences and the choppy water of the Colne Estuary. Between the water of the land are fragments of salt-marsh, you can see the spray from the waves hitting the muddy channels that cut through the low hummocks of vegetation.

We had hoped to see some wildlife but the wild winds meant they were probably tucked into the reedbeds and low scrubby bushes. However we did spot a small flock of birds which landed on the marshes, zooming in with my camera I managed to see they were Brent Geese and also some Curlew.

I don't think I've seen a Brent Goose before. They're surprisingly small, we spotted two Brent Geese in a field behind the sea wall, a rook landed next to them and was almost the same size!

Walking against the wind was hard work and trying to look at birds through binoculars was impossible as you couldn't hold them steady. So we took a route that turned inland along another high earth bank called The Great Divide!.

We circled round though fields divided by reed beds, the views were wide expanses of green and ochre.

Eventually we got back to the outskirts of Brightlingsea, through housing estates and then streets of Victorian red brick cottages. I made a mental note to return on a day when the interesting bric-a-brac shops would be open.

We decided to drive a bit further along the coast to Clacton-on-sea for lunch and a quick breezy stroll along the pier and the promenade gardens before heading home.

... It's almost time to watch the last episode of War & Peace ... Oh Pierre! so I'll sign off

C xx