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

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..

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 :)

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

It’s November…it’s Pig Month!

And it’s back to the sketching and the blog.

Leaving the academic world( probably briefly) regular sketching is back on the agenda. But I do like a purpose and this month it is pigs, pigs, glorious pigs.

In connection with Chris’ excellent “Salute the Pig” Blog I am going to be working on a series of pig prints and need to brush up on my sketching and get to know pigs a bit better. So on Saturday we went down to Franklins, our favourite farm/shop for their Open Day.

Their pigs are a delight, ranging from super cute little piglets to a magnificent Saddleback Boar. Loosely penned, very busy, very funny and very happy. Particularly because of the steady supply of apples which were coming their way. Yes we eat pork, yes we know they are going to be killed, we are not starry eyed about it. But if we eat meat from animals which have had happy lives we do feel a bit better about it all.

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Franklin’s Pigs. Sat 29th Oct

So to get started, some Franklins pigs.

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Little snuggling Saddlebacks

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Love those ears!!

I also decided to collect the older pig drawings together in a Tumblr page here:  Pig and Pencil …yeah! Go pigs!

Other stuff: Medlars
It wont be all pigs. I am doing some observed drawings ( nice just to sit and simply draw something) and have set my Easton Group a monthly theme to work to during the winter break. Last month was “Harvest”

I drew some medlars. The fruit with some delightfully rude names. It’s a very Anglo Saxon sort of fruit.

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Curious things… I am bletting them ( hmmm) in order to make some medlar jelly. I wonder if pigs like medlars. More of these odd little things to come, their history is interesting.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

After Amsterdam….

Three great weeks in August, some serious letterpress printing, lino cutting, cycling, fabulous museums and galleries,  good food, drink and company.. and plans to return for even longer next year.

I will be putting some post up about my time there, which if you are not a letterpress fan may look a bit dry. But my aim was to lean more about the capabilities, restrictions and potential for future projects.
I achieved all that and more thanks to the very excellent Thomas Gravemaker at LetterpressAmsterdam and the Vandercook. More projects planned….. : )

And Another Hortus Book

Before starting the project with Thomas, there was by chance a short three day “Make a Book” course. ie cut linos, make etching plates, print them; hand set type,print it; bind book. Sounds fairly simple but is a huge amount to do in 3 days in a class. The course was run by Thomas, Carola Rombouts and Thekla Ahrens. It was excellent.

As I was in Amsterdam to print part of my Masters project it seemed appropriate to keep the theme going.
Just time for 5 of the 7 Janus herbs this time …
Simple imagery, typesetting and just 2 colours.

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Proofs, wood and metal type, lino and stamps.

And the finished book.


Covers …

Double spreads..

Simple, with super fast lino cutting, but many more techniques understood and learnt…Great !

More Amsterdam printy stuff soon. Just a couple of weeks to go and the course is up!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Some Lovely Bees

The only thing to do at the moment is to go out and commune with some bees.

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Tiny tiny delicate white faced  Hyleaus bees on the coriander flowers and the furry lamb’s ear. They are such a favourite of mine. No-one ever bought a print of this one ..too much like a wasp people said…..

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The normal hover flies look enormous in comparison

Little male Bombus lapidarius sleeping away a rain shower.

and without its pollinating bee anymore, the self pollinating bee orchid from a grassy patch by the reservoir.

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All that dressing up with no-one left to impress, except a few of us humans… The male longhorn bee is known to visit this beautiful thing,.. but they are very rare in the UK. It would be lovely to see one; it is the right sort of habitat with vetchling, clovers and trefoils. Maybe another day .

Monday, 13 June 2016

Growing … can be a deadly business…

I like to get really up close and personal to my subjects, so am growing the herbs for the final MA project work.

Here is a wicked little set of Janus plants; Henbane, Deadly nightshade, Foxglove, Thornapple, Artemisia, Celandine… sure, in their various strengths and concoctions, to do you more harm than good.

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Innocent little seedlings right now…

And then there are the plant dyes. Little bottles of colours …lovingly prepared with mordants and salts and minerals, macerated, ground and pulverised, boiled, extracted, slaked and reduced, drowned in alcohol and fattened with oils, relaxed with ox gall and waterproofed with saponified shellac. A little witchcraftery in the kitchen and and studio.

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Some gorgeous avocado ink. Add a little gold here and there for true alchemy…

People ask me how Chris is doing?  Well he’s just fine; at the moment. He just needs to watch his step.

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(BUT one final thing today.. it’s just a “get well soon wish” to Orlando. Why this beautiful, fun–loving city?  Responsible for some of the very very happiest days of my life and some of the best people I have ever met. I am thinking of you all.)

Friday, 27 May 2016

“Nothing Is Arbitrary”

Thesis is done and out of the way. The research was fascinating, the writing just a chore. I wonder about the scores of these reluctantly written texts which are destined never to be read ever again. I wonder if this is the right way of assessing the understanding of essentially visual subjects.
However after a short break to beat the garden into submission I am back to work.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the excellent egg tempera course I attended. On the first day Dr Spike Bucklow of the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge gave a short introduction to tempera and  particularly its medieval  uses. His initial statement, referring to both the artists, and the paintings, was

“Remember, at this time, nothing is arbitrary”.

Everything about a painting from its pigments to its supports, its media and its content was carefully considered. He spoke about the alchemy of paint and painting, of the community surrounding and involved in the production of paintings and that community’s ability to read the significances of both paint and content, which we have largely lost. Sometimes the deeper meanings are not in the image but are within the paint itself.

This remained with me as I wrote my thesis and thought about the materiality of the Russian Artists Books I was researching. It remained with me as I learnt more about the simple ingredients, precious pigments and beautiful dyes used to make Persian Miniatures, and as I started thinking about my major project which notionally is set in the 17th Century and concerns plants and medicines and a certain amount of alchemy. There are many parallels between making paint and making medicine ( and making food). Sometimes they use the same ingredients. Sometimes that is not a good idea.

I am also reading Spike’s book “The Alchemy of Paint”, so in these early stages of the project rather than just reach for the nearest tube of paint I have started to make some of my own.

Firstly: … Beetroot and Woad. ..

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What a very lovely combination. I could also drink it or cover myself with awesome tattoos in preparation for the Last Battle.

“Remember …nothing is arbitrary” :)…..