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

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Pig Print… “Number 1. Dottie the Gloucester Old Spot”

As you may know I am working, intermittently, on a series of pig images. This is “No1” a Woodcut, based again on the lovely Dottie from Old Weston Garden Farm.

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Dottie woodcut; Image A4

Gloucester Old Spots are gentle and good natured and were known as the Orchard or Cottagers pig. How this delightful and smiling pig must have brightened the day of the smallholder and to all accounts still does.

Lop eared with large black patches and a smiling upturned snout they are one of those charming “picturebook” pigs depicted as lazing in sunlit orchards and I do like the old wives tale that the spots developed from the bruises of falling apples.

They are good mothers.. here are a few of Dottie’s piglets. Ahhh uber cute!

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Photo from Old Weston Garden Farm Facebook page.

Lots and lots more info on the Gloucester Old Spot HERE  from Chris’ Salute the Pig blog

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Working Drawings

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First Proof

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Block

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First Prints

These are really first trials for the image. I am intending to make another smaller print in lino of Dottie for the book which I hope, in part, to hand print.
But I love the chunky properties of woodcut.They compliment the chunkiness of pigs I think. Something I would hope to retain in the lino version. Will be interesting to see the comparison.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Signs of Spring

In the garden…. honeybees.

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In the wood;.. shoots of bluebells and the lovely spotted leaves of Lords and Ladies.

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NIce!

Monday, 13 February 2017

Bird Hide

Another small experimental book about the Spinney. This little book describes part of my route through the wood where the old oaks grow. Part way along the track are the remains of a fence, once for some limited purpose as there was only ever one strand of wire, now missing in parts. It’s another remnant of some other time, rather like the old oak trees.

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Initially I planned this as just a dense, tree filled, background with the fence, but as I worked on the block I thought it more apt to incorporate bird shapes “hidden” in the background. I am acutely aware that the wood is full of watchers, birds, squirrels and even perhaps the trees. You are never alone in a wood .. are you ? Also along the route there are signs to the Savages Spinney Bird Hide.

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First rough design based on my sketchbook drawing

Adding the reference to the nearby Bird Hide by the water seemed apt. Who is watching who I wonder??

So should anyone care to take time to look into the image, there are 16 birds worked into the background, some a little abstract but then how difficult is it sometimes to see the inhabitants in a wood?

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Two flying birds on the fold and the walking figure at the very end of the book.

The concertina form is joined by a thread of “wire” kept in place by two small twigs from the oak trees and is backed with linen, like the old maps which had that very satisfying strength and pliability. The covers are hard and quite weighty and the whole thing folds very nicely.. It is all hand printed so has a tactile surface so much more pleasing than the digital print.

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It’s a very satisfying thing to hold in your hand too, that is so important for a book.

It’s not often I am pleased, but, despite the many things that could be improved,  I like this little book very much.
It has taken a few weeks to work out and I have more prints to play with,  but at least one is actually finished.

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Hurrah!!  I am managing to stick, in part, to my 2017 resolution of finishing things!
More finished things soon.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Paper, paper, paper.. and more paper

This week I have been experimenting with some paper dyeing and decorating alongside attending a great little course at City Lit in London led by Nesta Davies, all about dyeing and manipulating paper. The course was particularly interesting to me because Nesta is a bookbinder and so has books in mind when creating these papers. The scope is endless.

I tried some paper decorating many years ago but nothing with dyes, which is a whole different thing.

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Dyed and decorated papers

At home I tried some natural dyes and inks, as well as commercial brands. I made a few trials of paste papers, edge dyed folded papers…

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…and even a bit of eco dying with the steamer. Fascinating.
The lovely thing about the eco dyed papers is that they are, not only double sided but a complete surprise.

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I have promised myself that the next time I do it I will make notes as to what went where and how. I am just too excited to get that organised.

I have no conclusions or plans as to what exactly to do with them yet, just having a lovely time playing with stuff!Next weekend, after the final day, I should have some more resolved items. Maybe not, because I have another week of experimenting ahead. :)

Monday, 30 January 2017

Quercus: A Small Block Book

A small block book using some trial prints from the oak tree plates. I wanted to make another block book in the same way I had made the Seed Book in the summer in Amsterdam, just to make sure I could remember the process and steps.

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The 8 trial prints were a mixture of the plates in red and black and on the opposite side the word “Quercus” just stencilled in grey. I also decorated the edges roughly to see how that might work.

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Prints and book makeup.

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The book and the plates

I say “just”  but it was quite a job to paste all the pages onto the boards to get the correct fitting and to keep things clean and not get gluey finger marks all over everything. An awful lot of careful measuring and accurate cutting is required too which I definitely need to improve on.
So it’s fine but a little raggy here and there.

“Quercus” -  Oak Trees of Savages Spinney.  A Book of 8 Prints

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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Spotty Woodpeckers and the Fiery Redshank


Great Spotted Woodpecker  Dendrocopos major

I see the spotted woodpeckers often in the woods but we also have a couple that visit the birdfeeders here so it’s easy to watch them. They love peanuts.

Common Redshank  Tringa totanus

A pretty dainty little bird I saw pecking about by the shoreline. I did get a hazy shot this but it is easy to ID because of its brilliant red legs.



As it flew away catching the sun, it looked as though it was on fire. Very beautiful.

Thumbnail of fiery Redshank

It’s those sort of thoughts that make me want to record and note things visually. Not in a conventional accurate drawing but just as a record of what I have been thinking about, what characteristic I find interesting, maybe a colour, a shape, a line or an attempt to understand how something works. Sometimes it might develop into print or a very detailed painting or even something 3D. Thumbnails are very useful !

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.

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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