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

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Distant Cormorants

Today I went up to the hide in Savages Spinney. It looks over the inlet where many birds take shelter. Looking south there is a small spit of land which juts out into the water from the western shore, right now it is a more extensive sand bank, revealed by the low level of the reservoir. Here the cormorants gather in considerable numbers. They love being together.

It’s too far away for a photo but I could see the birds quite well with some modest field glasses. Enough for some scribbly notes.

 savages-spinney-creek

I made a slightly bigger sketch at home. I love the way sit with their wings outspread, preening or with heads titled skywards as if expecting something to happen. A few gulls had joined them.

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Distant Cormorants A4 sketchbook

One bird was standing on its own, right at the end, gazing out over the water.

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The tiny sketches are not much more than squiggles and dots but you get the idea!

I am very fond of cormorants. :)

Monday, 16 January 2017

Bird Week

Birds are so much a part of my daily life, both in the garden and on walks or cycle rides and here, in the winter, we are lucky to have some extra bird visitors on the reservoir.
So on Saturday I went to look for the Great Northern Divers who have been around for a few weeks now and ..hurrahhh… I did get to see one and in close up too, thanks to a very kind man who set up a telescope for me. I watched it preen and rise up from the water spreading its wings, dive and reappear. It’s a beautiful thing.

As well as the diver there were tufted ducks, goldeneyes, pretty teal, many, many grebes with apparently the red necked grebe amongst them. Up in the woods I have recently watched the tiny gold crests, the buzzard, the spotty woodpeckers, and  bullfinches, as well as the usual crows, mallards, swans and coot, moorhens, fieldfares etc etc nearer the shoreline.
So this week I decided to make a record of some of them in some sketches, in between struggling with prints and books. They may find their way into prints etc.


Tufted Ducks  Aythya fuligula
First up is the tufted duck which I see every year in the winter.

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A small section of the large flotilla of Tufties on the reservoir, their crests being blown backwards into little points turning them into slightly punk-y ducks.They look like little toys, all facing the same way, their heads turned away from the strong head wind, which I was cycling into.

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Pencil sketching to get a sense of the shape

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Brush and watercolour only,  for a bit of discipline


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They have very bright yellow eyes and a beautifully curved smiling beak.


They are delightfully smart and very graphic. According to the RSPB some are resident but others are winter visitors from Iceland or Northern Europe.
See more on the RSPB site here

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Branch Book

One characteristic of the big old oaks in the Spinney are the long long twisting branches that seem to defy gravity. Last year in December I needed to make some quick prints to make a small book to bind as part of a great 2 day course with bookbinder Ina Baumeister. On the course we were making a simple book but more importantly making our own bookcloth which was a complete eye opener.

For the book I made a very quick set of 8 sequential collagraph plates based on a long branch, printed to make a ten page codex book. (Good practise to get pagination right).

This is the result.

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Branch Book 200 x 130mm, approx 8 x 5 inches

I have returned to this to develop it more, to get more practise with both printing and binding. One of my aims this year is to get more books made and although it’s a slow process it is very satisfying… when it goes right.

Today I printed 3 more sets on different papers to compare how they print, some thin, some thick…and hope to bind them slightly differently

branch-codex-book-pagesbranch-plates

Yes, it’s very slow, it took me all day to print them but another good resolution this year is to try and do things properly, ie: take time to cut the paper correctly, make printing guides and TRY to keep my grubby fingers off the paper. This I managed, just, but only after quite a few reprints. Of course if I had made the plates all the same size exactly in the first place it would have helped!
It’s a learning thing…

Friday, 6 January 2017

The Spinney: Starting with Drawing

One of my projects this year is to make some work about the small spinney which I cycle through most days. I have already made some drawings and prints but it’s a wonderful place with so much to offer that I have decided to make more. A few days ago when it was sunny I took a small notebook with me and stopped to makes some scribbly notes.



It was very cold and the drawings are quick shaky lines but really useful to me. To stop and draw, however quickly makes you sort out what exactly it is that you are really interested in. Ignoring the muddle you simplify and isolate (I think intuitively) the things that are important to you in that moment. Another day the drawing would be very different and the added bonus of drawing outside is just the joy of being outside and those chance encounters with the natural world. It makes you stop for a while and in this quiet place, off the main track, there is little to distract other than the noise of the wind in the tree tops, squirrels, woodpeckers and a friendly robin.

Today I returned for more drawing and again the robin appeared and hopped around by bike.


Yes it is very muddy!

Why Savages Spinney?
The Spinney is a narrow strip of fascinating woodland which contains some fragments of the ancient wood. It features on the old maps. On this scale it is tacked onto the end of Calpher (Calfe)wood. This one from 1643.

 old mp1
This from 1687
1687
Here nearby Brampton wood is encircled. It was an important hunting wood, once part of the much larger Royal forest of Warbridge.

In 1889 the spinney is more clearly defined. I have highlighted it. There is the addition of the railway line, now long gone and Low Farm, lost under the reservoir in the 1960s.

1889

Then 1986 and the reservoir has engulfed Low Farm, the railway line closed and fractured and the spinney now has its feet in the water. This is how it is today.

1986

So it is an area which has seen development and loss. Settlement here dates back to the Iron Age. Roman remains have been found near Perry and the church here dates back to the early 12th Century. So there is much to think about.

The wood itself is very lightly managed by the Wildlife Trust. Piles of logs are left to rot and are overcome with moss and fallen and broken branches remain undisturbed. There are woodpeckers, owls, fungi, carpets of bluebells in the spring, orchids many many bees and insects and down the side track is the bird hide, looking out over Savages Creek. There overwintering waterbirds take shelter along with resident swans, coot, moorhens, herons, cormorants and egrets and delightful grebes.

Yes indeed, so very much to think about!!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my friends and readers!
My simple wintery owl print as a greeting to you all.

Winter jc
Winter
, lino cut 5x5”.

After an Autumn lull, I am looking forward to a really productive year. Already the projects are piling up; more drawings more prints and more pigs of course. All starting…optimistically…tomorrow.I do like a good start to a New Year!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Proofing prints

I’m working on a series of small prints to develop some ideas from the Savages Spinney oak sketches. Every time I cycle up through the woods there are changes, fewer leaves, more or less wildlife, longer shadows, still  or swaying tree tops. It’s a lovely place.

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I am also learning more about cutting wood.I am learning how much it chips when you really don’t want it to and how deep the tools can embed themselves in my fingers. It’s a learning thing. I am sure that the more I learn the less damage I will do to myself and the wood.

Also as the leaves disappear the mosses and lichens on the trees become more apparent. A few colour notes.

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Lovely colours and curious structures.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Trotters and more pig sketches …

I do like to understand how things work and as, in the name of cooking research, Chris has been making “Trotter Gear” (see over on Salute the Pig) I was able to make some sketches of a pigs foot.

Pigs really walk on their tip toes and only two of them.There is something unsettling about the two “spare” toes at the back  with their elegant nails. They look rather like thumbs.

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trotters

Trotters..

And then a few more sketches from Franklins lovely pigs.
Some all-sorts..

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and the pretty Berkshires..

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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

In The Woods. Some Useful Sketches

The ancient oaks in Savages Spinney are just beginning to lose their leaves and they are looking magnificent. Their turning leaves are gleaming copper in the low sun, their long black branches twisting and snaking away from their massive trunks.

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I often think about these branches. Their gestures are those of reaching out, of continually seeking something that lies away from their centre. They grow out and out until gravity defeats them, leaving rips, cracks and fissures.  Sometimes contorted dead branches remain silhouetted against the sky, sinister in their way.
But the Tree itself carries on despite these catastrophes.
I have to admit to having tree envy.

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Oaks in Savages Spinney: A3 Ink sketches

Oaks fascinate me, they did in Florida. A little Live Oak leaf was my first Leaf of the Day back in 2008.
So when I walked up through the Spinney it seemed time to return to the woods for some drawing and sketches. They will be useful. Definitely some prints, maybe a book.

Don’t think you are escaping pigs though.. there are more to come. And of course they like acorns :)