"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Monday, 16 February 2015

Bees, Blossom and a Fat Baby Bird.

I am busy working away on some prints and other things but last week I saw the first bees in the Garden for 2015.  

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9th Feb: First Bees

I have a small winter honey suckle outside the kitchen door and 4 honey bees were backwards and forwards on a sunny warm afternoon. Huraahhhhh.. It is cause for much rejoicing and worthy of recording.

And then here is the first blossom from our Bird Cherry Trees which I will be making some work about this year. We have been chopping the trees back and I had brought a twig inside to hopefully draw. One week later and it is in bloom. The trees outside are poised…

first-bird-cherry-flower

On Saturday we went into Cambridge and had  look round the fascinating Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. As well as an excellent small print show (see The Power of Paper), the small museum is stuffed with fascinating and very sketch-able things. Favourite on Saturday was the exquisite baby bird carving. It does not have a label but is in a case which invites the viewer to make up their own minds about the possible story behind the enigmatic objects it contains. It looks Japanese in its elegant simplicity.

baby-bird

A5 sketchbook, pencil

This gorgeous little carving with its pleasing curves and that big wide baby bird mouth reminded me so much of the baby robins we see in the spring.  It’s the sort of thing you long to pick up and hold in your hand.  There was also something of a winged flying saucer about it and it sparked an old memory of those sherbet flying saucer sweets, from a time when day-glow rice paper and sickly sherbet seemed like a good idea. Hmm.. not much has changed then...

Anyway it has all made Spring seem not too far away now !

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Sketchbook Crickets and Grasshoppers

Earlier in the autumn there was a bright green spindly legged cricket in the wardrobe. They are strange and wonderful things. There are quite a few in the Garden in the summer, and of course grasshoppers are all around the reservoir. 
I am planning a series of prints of singing, chirping, humming things for a woodland project and have been blogging these over on the blog I share with Sue.

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Sketchbook sketches A5 sketchbook

and some more thumbnails….

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I have been planning a few prints and sometime soon a small booklet might appear but for now No1 lino block and proof print.

I have taken quite a bit of artistic license with this “grasshopper”  but it’s fine for some more experiments and does have some of the essence of the sketches and grasshoppery-ness about it.

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4 more to come ..

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Winter Colours

Yesterday I had another look at the greens outside and made these 4 colour studies.

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4 Winter Greens

These were Ok but I needed more scope because the colours are more complex so I returned to the 9 square format I have used before in making colour trials. These two were done last summer for the Easton show, they represent two poppies.

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I made quite a few small colour mixing trials….

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These are from looking out of the window at the Garden. About 7 inches square


and more …..

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And one larger piece. It’s really a good excuse for some careful observation and colour mixing and can get rather addictive, but they do take along time.

With some thought and experiments with different colours you can achieve some very beautiful subtle effects which don’t really show in the photos. It all depends on what paper, which paint, how much water etc.

winter-colours 

Watercolour sample about 11 inches square

And a small one in gouache. I am very fond of working in gouache yet seldom do. More to come I think.

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7 inches square gouache

There are many beautiful colours out there right now. just take a look, unless of course, you have a blanket of snow…but even then.. blues greys purples etc etc…

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

First chilly outdoor sketches of 2015.

Log Piles: Ordered disorder

In the pale almost warm winter sun I went for a morning cycle/walk. It’s quite a while since I have been so far; up through the wood and along to the spinney where in the summer the dainty little Dexter cattle graze. Someone has been clearing and chopping and small piles of logs are scattered around.

There is something very pleasing about a pile of logs. They are imperfectly neat. An attempt by man to make some sort of order out of twisty natural forms. I stopped to make some very speedy ink sketches.

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logs-3

Ink sketches in A5 Sketchbook. My fingers got cold very quickly.

The sketches are .. well, sketchy… but it was just good to be outside, looking at things properly, making a start, seeing wrens, robins, a million blackbirds , pheasants, partridge and many tiny birds dancing about in the brambles, and they are my first outdoor sketches for this year.. a bit of a late start but a start. The weather forecast for the next few days is awful so it may be a while before I do any more. I am a bit of a fair weather pleinair sketcher:)

I was struck by how the woods were full of greens, from the brilliant acid green of moss and lichen to the blue greens of old leaves and the oak tree bark, to the soft olive greens and brown greens of general undergrowth.

I’m going to investigate these some more tomorrow …

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Eels .. a start.

I am completely fascinated by these slippery, mysterious creatures and their extraordinary life cycle. They are one of the subjects in my very long, 2015, to-do list. I have drawn some eels before, long ago to illustrate Philip Gross’ poem “Sargasso”. I had been thinking about another interpretation of the poem for a small book.


eels Sargasso


But meanwhile I am playing with all sorts of printing methods and wanted to make a simple concertina book for a bit more simple bookbinding practice.

I started with some sketches

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eels-1

ell-head-sketch

They do have teeth… awesome! 

Then made a couple of simple plates cut from card. I had made some card plates for the moon project but they were not terribly successful. Now I have made up some of my own shellac which I think will help.

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Sketch and plates

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Trials with different weights of ink

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A first folded print

Then I made a small simple case for the book. I say simple but it is tricky to get everything square, to stop the ink smudging and to keep everything clean. I printed some foliage for a quick cover, wrestled with some old wood type for the title and printed the back of the eel to tidy that aspect up a bit before pasting the print to the front cover. 

 

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The case cover

 

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The back

 
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Opened book

There are a million things wrong with this but it is a small triumph for me and number two small book form for this year. I am trying to make one a week.

 

Last week I used an old frog print, folded it and made two separate boards.

 

frog booklet 1

The folded book

front and back 

The front and back boards

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The opened out print.

 

I have to consider this an experiment .. but good practice. See more here.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Twigs

I trying to decide on my tree for Lucy’s Tree Following blog this year. I gathered some inspiring twigs and did a few sketches. I am also looking for a “good” twig as the basis for a set of prints. I like twigs very much….and their colours are lovely this time of year.   
I particularly liked this Hawthorn.

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Sketchbook sketch, Hawthorn


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Hawthorn, Willow, Bramble and I think, Hazel…watercolour 11.5 inches square

Then in the Garden there is an annoying and vicious wild cherry of some kind. It has lethal thorns which embed themselves deep in your unsuspecting flesh and it throws up suckers everywhere… BUT it is a wonderful tree for the birds and bees and is so pretty in the spring and does have almost edible fruit. We hack it selectively every year.
I sketched it when we first moved here. 
bark-and-spines-bird-cherry

So all things considered I might just study this one this year. More knowledge should engender more understanding and affection. It’s not unlike the hawthorn in many ways but has a simpler leaf shape which will be good for the prints I am hoping to make.

More twigs next week.

Monday, 12 January 2015

2015 Hurrah!

I love a New Year, even if a really awful cold has delayed my start a bit.  There is so much to do so many plans…

A quick catch up with the Moon project which has now ended. Many fascinating ideas came along with many frustrations in tow.  I often have to learn things the hard way but it has increased my understanding of monoprinting and its possibilities and I did complete, if not really finish, a few ideas for small books.

I made a prototype embossed concertina book, loosely based on a tactile/Braille solution to depicting the moon’s phases.

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braille 1 braille 2 

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Braille Book

It was very white, and very tricky to make with an awful lot of measuring, hole punching and trials before I got it to work, but I discovered a lovely translucent quality to the compressed paper, how to write the phases of the moon in Braille and that I need more patience.

I made another rough book idea based on the views that Galileo had of the moon through his small telescope. He could only see sections of the moon one at a time which, they say, is why his early moon maps were inaccurate.
The round telescope views reveal a section of the larger moon map piece by piece. ( in this case Cassini’s very beautiful moon map of 1679).

Galileos section

Galileo’s Section

The monoprint series continued and I eventually chose 30 to form a small 36 page, single section, saddle stitched, self ending book called: “29 d 12 h 44 min 2.8016 s  29.530587981” (which is the length of a synodic month. Hence the half page image at the end)

pages

Pagination worked out for printing.

I made a very simple, soft back, slip cover and printed some moon words on the endpapers

Cover   spread 1

spread 2 spread 3

end page

“29 d 12 h 44 min 2.8016 s  29.530587981” book 6 x 8 inches

This small book illustrates just some of my research avenues.
It was all completely fascinating, absorbing and wonderful. I find myself reluctant to leave the moon, so many more possibilities and half finished and unexplored ideas, but there may be time over the next year to realise a few more.

Meanwhile it’s on with the game.. Growth, Eels and Rivers plus more pigs and bees to come.