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 January 2016

This month's Gardens Illustrated linocut - Banksias!

January is almost over and I nearly forgot to blog about my linocut for the January 2016 Gardens Illustrated magazine, so here we go . . .

I have no idea what Frank will write about until the email form David at the magazine HQ, pops up in my in-box with a red exclamation mark flagging it's urgency.

It was late November, I'd just returned from Scotland and gales were still raging across the country. So what was more apt for the first 'Frank' for 2016 than . . .


Luckily I'd met a Banksia - or rather several thousand - while on a road trip with Cliff 20 years ago (TWENTY!!! how did that happen?!) I recorded the adventure with a pictorial map which hangs on our wall. A glance reminds me of the straight tarmac road heading across the red dusty landscape and lined either side with huge grey-green shrubs which were covered with huge yellow and white flowers that looked like ice-cream sundaes.

Back home I'd found that these strange flowers were one of dozens of shrubs in the genus Banksia, named after Joseph Banks (that precocious, rich, adventurer and botanist).

As Frank discovers on his visit to a Californian plant nursery to buy heat/drought tolerant plants for his garden, Banksias come in many different forms . . . so I had to do some research on the web and make some drawings of the Banksias that caught Frank's eye.

A new year of work for Gardens Illustrated deserves a new sketch book - a pristine new Saunders Waterford/Cuthbert Mills paper sketchbook - an indulgence, but it makes me happy.

Frank was excited by the leaf shapes as much as the flowers, so I decided that they needed no extra elements and I'd let the Banksia leaves make the design . . . for speed I swapped to working digitally, scanning in my sketches and working in Photoshop. At the back of my mind were William de Morgan tile designs and because this was for the January magazine, a New Year candle.

I put together a 'rough' and mock up of how the illustration sits of the page layout, to send to David at GI HQ and to get the thumbs up before I cut the block and make a print.

Below is the grey-scale image I used to trace down onto the block - of course I traced it down in reverse, but this has been taped into my sketchbook the right way round. 

Here's the final proof, which was scanned for the digital image that was sent to the magazine. And on the right the final page of January's Gardens illustrated with my Banksias linocut in Franks's column.

Thank you Frank for sending me down memory lane to my big adventure in Oz twenty years ago. As I carved the block I recalled many things - the heat, the massive road-trains, the flocks of budgies . . .

This afternoon - I'm working on the illustration for the March magazine, this time Frank's writing about a road trip of his own and I'm getting itchy feet!

Meanwhile the February Gardens illustrated will be on the news stands soon . . . I'll blog about it soon, it's one of my favourites so far!


Sunday, 24 January 2016

Does "Tu-whit tu-who" mean "I love you" ?

We're nearing the end of January and this is my first blog post of 2016! Too late to wish you a Happy New Year, so I'll plunge straight in with a new linocut . . .

Tu-whit tu-who, a merry note

As with all my prints it starts in my head while I'm walking or, as in this case, while I'm busy working on other things. Then, when I get a moment, I'll make a sketch of it before other ideas pile on top of it like magazines and catalogues that arrive in the post.

Sometimes, on dark winter evenings, I can hear the local Tawny Owls hooting to each other in the looming dense dark Yew trees outside my studio. Ter-whitt! Hooo-hooooo! or as Shakespeare puts it in the Winter Song at the end of Love's Labour's Lost, "Tu-whit tu-who".

This is how the song is printed in my precious 1714 edition of the play. This year, 2016, is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 1616; which means my two tired and battered volumes of Nicholas Rowe's multi-volume edition of Shakespeare's works, were printed only 102 years later. That's like looking back at works by WWI poets today, the person who first owned these books could have known someone who saw Shakespeare perform, or bumped into him in the pub.

Here's the inked lino and a freshly pulled print; it's on Japanese Kizuki Kozo, which is a thin but very strong and satisfyingly crisp paper to work on.

As you probably know, "Tu-whit tu-who" is a conversation between two owls, most likely a male and female (but not necessarily). They are probably saying, "It's me!" "Who are you!" "Get off my tree" "You! You!"; but just maybe they're saying "I love you!"

On Friday I delivered work, including this new print, to The Robin's Nest Gallery in the village of Wargrave near Reading. If you live nearby I can recommend you visit, the gallery is airy and bright and full of lovely things.

I try to combine a delivery to a gallery with a day out, this time Cliff and I met a friend for lunch and also visited Reading Museum. While we waiting for our friend to arrive, we wandered into the gallery displaying a replica of the Bayeux Tapestry. This was surprisingly fascinating, partly because of the clear and interesting way it's displayed - with translations of the text and snippets of background information; but mostly because the ladies who did the work, embroidered their names under their section. There are little differences in styles of stitching which seem to hint at their characters.

After lunch at Wagamama and a little tour around the town with our friend, we returned to the Museum to see the exhibition I'd been looking forward to seeing, A Sense of Place. The exhibitions brings together paintings form the Museum's own collection, by some of the best British artists of the 20th Century, these include John Piper, Eric Raviliious and Christopher Nevinson along with many more. What makes the exhibition multi-layered is that there are also new poems inspired by the paintings and craft works. It's the sort of exhibition that would be lovely to dip into once a week, I had barely an hour, so skipped reading most of the poems and enjoyed looking at the paintings and some of the crafts - such as a beautiful pair of 'artist's fingerless mittens' by Suzanne Stallard inspired by the colours of Duncan Grant's 'Snow at Charleston'; or an exquisite leather purse by Vicky Baker inspired Christopher Nevinson's 'View of the Sussex Weald' (a painting I would very much love to have hanging on my wall to enjoy every day).

A Sense of Place continues until 8 May, and is well worth seeing.

This morning I've listed the 'Tu-whit tu-who, a merry note' original linocut in my online shop, as well as new cards based on the design.

Thank you if you drop in to read my blog, it's always enjoyable to read your comments.

And if you're reading this from the other side of the Atlantic, in the eastern half of the US which is now deep in snow, I hope you are safe and warm.


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!