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Wednesday 13 July 2011


While I was at Heligan I was asked many questions to which I had no answer. I was told things I wasn’t sure about. A lady said she had seen bumblebees flying at night. Had she?..I don’t know. Certainly I have seen them out and about late into these warm, light, summer evenings. Yesterday at 9.00 pm I saw one flying high over the brambles. But midnight perhaps not? Scientifically they are unlikely to, because they need a certain temperature to fly and be active, but  poetically why not?

I thought about Hardy’s lovely poem. Some may argue that “dumbledore” is in fact a beetle, it is debatable,  but bee or beetle it is beautiful and evocative. Perhaps I should have saved this for an August post but there are things here that resonate with me very much right now.

As I learn more, my affection, wonder and awe of our “winged, horned and spined” companions grows and grows. Maybe as my knowledge increases I too will be granted access to those, oh, so beguiling, “Earth-secrets”.

An August Midnight by Thomas Hardy

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter--winged, horned, and spined -
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While 'mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands . . .

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
- My guests parade my new-penned ink,
Or bang at the lamp-glass, whirl, and sink.
"God's humblest, they!" I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

My fly-bee-night image is my first, my one and only woodcut. The result of the most delightful workshop day at Rufford. An A3 woodcut, of 3 fat, night flying bees.. defying science. It’s hand cut and hand printed on Japanese kozo paper. I loved every minute of doing this, every cut and every press of the baren and each peeling away of each reduced plate. It wasn’t really meant to be night, but somehow that’s just how it turned out…that’s just what happened and anyway, who knows what this night’s waxing gibbous moon may reveal?


fly bee night bg

2 Colour Woodcut 12 x16 inches

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Blogger John said...

Great post, Val. I love the midnight bees woodcut!

14 July 2011 at 04:12  
Anonymous norwegica said...

Some tropical bees have been known to fly at night but I can't recall any reports of UK bumbles doing it. I suppose if it's particularly mild they might be active until dusk - especially if the garden is lit-up and there's a nest nearby. Hornets and some wasps are certainly active at night and are often attracted to moth traps or house lights. Maybe there's some mistaken identity going on..

14 July 2011 at 10:35  
Blogger KaHolly said...

I've been taking a leisurely 'scroll' through your site and I am so impressed. I long to be able to draw and document what I see in nature. Especially the finer, smaller things!! You do beautiful work. I was esp. taken with the wine label you made. ~karen

14 July 2011 at 11:31  
Blogger Caroline Gill said...

A wonderful post.

14 July 2011 at 22:45  
Blogger moonsword said...

It's beautiful! I love the whimsical whirling yin yang of it! Cheers!

15 July 2011 at 13:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great woodcut! I think Van Gogh would've seen this and been inspired to learn more about bees. Perhaps he'd have painted Wheatfield with Bees and decided to continue living!


15 July 2011 at 21:22  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

I love all your comments! Thank you. I intend to do more woodcuts when life settles down.
John.. as always thankyou.

Alan: I think you are right. I have never seen a bee out that late. I think maybe wasp and maybe a couple of g&ts ?

Karen: you are so kind. The wine label was fun! get those pencils out! :)

Caroline: Thankyou .. your blog by the way is fascinating.

Moonsword: You know it was all very on the spot and not pre drawn, so very intuitive. all done in one day...I had a happy day that day!

Badges: Oh this made me laugh. "Wheatfield with Bees" is to bee my next woodcut! :)

16 July 2011 at 07:15  

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