Wildflowers, clouds and a photobomb

Cow parsley in the afternoon sun. The view is from the start of the flowers looking up at a summer blue sky filled with fluffy clouds

The sun was shining for the first time in what feels like ages yesterday afternoon on my walk. I spotted a few lovely things I thought I’d share in lieu of prints (which are percolating) while I work on my website and newsletter.

Did I mention the newsletter? 😉 Do sign up and you’ll receive the inaugural issue which is due soon!

My dog is largely oblivious to flowers though flowers have evolved to take full advantage of his longer hair and the “feathers” on his legs and feet with their cunning “sticky” seeds. I swear it’s like taking a piece of Velcro for a walk. EVERYTHING sticks to him. Still, this has improved the biodiversity of my garden where most of his nature finds are removed.

Anyway, on our travels in the warm sun and cool wind we saw: Queen Anne’s lace and little fluffy clouds (shout out to the 90s music fans out there!).

A close up of the disc-shaped umbel of a cow parsley plant. Umbellifers have many of these, which are made up of many tiny flowers held on short flower stalks.

Anthriscus sylvestris is important for lots of insects, including bees and hoverflies, as it’s an early source of pollen. It’s also a nectar source for orange-tip butterflies.

I rather like the most common name for this beautiful flower, “cow parsley” sounds bucolically pretty but has other common names depending on where you are in the UK: Queen Anne’s Lace, fairy lace, lady’s lace, wild chervil, hedge parsley, Keck (or Queque depending on where you are in the UK), Wild Parsley, Adder’s Meat, Devil’s Meat, Bad Man’s Oatmeal, and the worst—and yet most sensible—of all; mother die.

Perhaps Queen Anne’s Lace refers to Queen Anne’s habit of travelling the country in May, which led people to believe that these lacey flowers decorated the hedgerows especially for her. Another common name “mummy die” was presumably used to discourage children from picking these pretty flowers. For pretty they may be, but they can also easily be mistaken for some poisonous umbellifers like hemlock.

If you think you’re seeing more cow parsley than usual in the verges as you venture further afield this year, you probably are. Alas they are becoming a monoculture in our verges due to roadsides being more fertile than they were 30 years ago (agricultural run-off, cuttings left in place by local councils, and even car exhausts all contribute). Although it seems counterintuitive, many of our wild flowers needs much less fertile soil to flourish so they are doing less well on our verges.

NB this is not Daucus carota which is called Queen Anne’s Lace but only in North America.

We also saw Horse chestnut flowers (Aesculus hippocastanum):

A close up view of horse chestnut flowers showing some still with their yellow nectar guides while the majority of pollinated flowers now have reddy-pink guides

Horse chestnut flowers are mostly white (though there are some cultivated red/pink ones). The flowers have nectar guides which are yellow when the flower first opens and change to deep reddy-pink once the flower has been pollinated. Why the colour change? Well, bees can’t see red colours so they no longer visit the pollinated flowers, only the pollinated ones.

We also saw a very photogenic dandelion clock:

A dandelion clock stands along in front of the grass at the very edge of a verge.

Well, it was photogenic until the canine photobomber detonated it and it all stuck to him ready to float away merrily as we made our way home...

A black dog sits in front of the cow parsley at the edge of a verge

When “No” is not a rejection

A blackboard with previous text badly erased. The text on it now reads "When 'No' is not a rejection' "

Three “No”s in a row.

Am I disheartened? A little, but here’s the thing.

You have to choose not to take it personally.

A gently written “No thank you. This work is beautiful, but it’s not for us,” isn’t a rejection of my work, it’s simply a gallerist knowing their market better than I do.

You see, even if I have researched either the website or the physical gallery (preferably both) to see if I think my work might be a good fit, the gallerists know their clients better than I do, and it’s important for both artist and gallery that the work will sell.

“No thank you. This work is beautiful, but it’s not for us” doesn’t mean my black and white prints won’t sell anywhere it’s simply that this particular gallerist knows that the people who buy from them are tending to buy luscious colour-rich work at the moment.

A pro forma, "We’re not taking on new artists at this time. Please check back later,” would be perfectly acceptable, but every single one of the galleries I’ve approached has taken the time to a) look at my submissions and b) write thoughtful and sensitive replies. These make the “No”s even easier to take without taking them to heart.

So, thank you very much to all the busy gallerists who make time to do this. It is much appreciated.

Onward...

PS if you happen to know a gallery where black and white prints [cough] like mine [cough] will sell, do drop me a line!

Cherry blossom in relief

A lino tile with a cherry blossom design carved into it. The pencil drawn outlines remain dark against the pale interior of the lino tile where it has been carved away. Although the tile is a mere 2.5mm deep, the ridges and furrows of the cut marks are catching the raking light that is falling on to the lino plate from the left hand side. As the light is low, the contrast between the light and dark sections is more obvious than it would be earlier in the day.

There’s a reason they call it relief printing. This blossom in raking light looks almost sculptural.

It’s also the reason I’ve been a bit quiet: the blossom is just a section of a new print that I’m working on.

Still a few days of fiddly, meditative carving left to go.

Please do not bend

Interesting typography in the “Please do not bend” notice on the front of a recycled brown paper envelope

Just parcelling up the latest orders and loving the typography on my latest batch of recycled envelopes!

Shame they smell like ripening cheese, though.

I think the odour must be something to do with the recycling process and not using bleach to re-whiten the pulp.

Avoiding bleach = good, smelling like the fridge at Christmas = not so much.

An epic rescue

Magnolia tree in full bloom with water sun catching the edges of a few of the petals and lighting them up like lamps.

Much excitement here today. The male* wood pigeon which had been stuck behind the fire for a few days is freeeeee!

Once the engineer had turned off the gas and prized the fire out of the grate, I suggested I get under a sheet in case the bird flew, and the engineer (who was scared of birds, bless him) was on sheet duty. He held the sheet over the fireplace to contain it like a champ! I suspect because the bird was used to the sound of my voice it walked out of the chimney towards me and the light.

I grabbed it before it had a chance to flap, checked it over, took it outside and gently put it down on the grass. It wobbled off towards the end of the lawn then flew up into the neighbours’ magnolia and started to preen and sing, *hence I know it is a male woodie!

Maybe not the most orthodox rescue but a happy result in the end.

PS Pic at the top of the post is from the other day, I was too busy rescuing the pigeon to grab my phone and document it, so you’ll have to imagine him singing and preening!

PPS Once I’d released the woodie, he hung around for a few days and I was worried that his mate had been snapped up by another male. I could tell it was him because of the pattern of the white band on his neck. Luckily, a few days later I saw that his story has a very happy ending.

‘Alert’ – Limited Edition Relief Print

A black and white relief print of a male starling. He’s standing on some old, weathered wood. His wings are tucked but he is alert, and his head feathers are raised. Whatever he is looking at is out of the image and he is facing right to look at it. Perhaps he’s spotted a chunk of fat ball another bird has missed, or another starling has decided to join his feast.

Inspiration

I’ve spent a long time this spring watching the starlings picking through the lawn looking for invertebrates. They’re so gregarious and gently quarrelsome.

I love the iridescent colours of their feathers and the tawny coloured arrowheads at the tips.

It’s sad that although still relatively common in gardens, these glorious little birds have declined so much elsewhere that they are Red Listed.

The UK Red List for birds keeps track of how different species are doing, and any birds that are rated red are in need of urgent action. Shockingly, one in four of our birds is now on that list, 67 species in total.

Source: RSPB website

Design

Here’s the drawing transferred to the block (in reverse), ready for me to start cutting.

The drawing transferred (in reverse) to the linoleum block, ready to start cutting

Here’s the block inked up for the first time, ready for me to pull a proof and see what more I need to do to the block to make it print just so.

A black and white relief printing block which has been inked up for the first time. The block is of a male starling. He’s standing on some old, weathered wood. His wings are tucked but he is alert, and his head feathers are raised.

I’m not sure if the paper I use will take any kind of water based colour but once the prints are dry I might have a bit of a play with the test prints to see whether I can get away with it!

A black and white relief print of a male starling. He’s standing on some old, weathered wood. His wings are tucked but he is alert, and his head feathers are raised. Whatever he is looking at is out of the image and he is facing right to look at it. Perhaps he’s spotted a chunk of fat ball another bird has missed, or another starling has decided to join his feast.

If you would like to buy one of these prints, be quick as there are only 30 in the edition!

Happy Easter!

A human-made nest constructed of birch and alder twigs, scraps of material, and yarn. Seven tiny, palest blue, crocheted eggs sit in the cup.

Happy Easter! And if you’re really not feeling it this year, at least you can console yourself with chocolate for breakfast.

A couple of years ago I developed a pattern for a simple crocheted little round bird.

Every time I wanted to make another one, I’d pop into the local haberdashery to grab another ball of yarn and show them the latest addition to the brood.

One day they asked if I would let them put my flock of Little Round Birds in the window for Easter.

As I was saying, “Yes, please, that would be lovely,” without even thinking I added, “... and my friend Rob could make some nests and we could add in some bits of fabric and yarn from the shop, and I can crochet some eggs to put in them.”

Just like that, quick as a flash the idea popped into my head and a spring collaboration was born!

A human-made nest constructed of birch twigs, scraps of material, and yarn. Five small pale brown crocheted eggs sit in the cup.

So, here are the teeny eggs in the beautiful nests Rob made. It took a little while to come up with a pattern for the three different sizes of eggs because I wanted them to be as close to life-size as I could get them.

A human-made nest constructed of birch and alder twigs, scraps of material, and yarn. Five tiny, bright blue, crocheted eggs sit in the cup.

It turns out that the plural noun for Little Round Birds is a Rainbow! 🌈

Sixteen little ground crocheted birds arranged in a bow shape and arranged in rainbow colour order from darkest blue to palest pink. Beneath the arc are five “special edition” little round crocheted birds, a blackbird, a ring-necked parakeet, a hyacinth macaw, a robin, and a ptarmigan in winter plumage

A close-up look at the texture of a relief printing block

The texture created in the surface of a relief printing block. The cut away parts are stained dark grey while the surface has become almost the colours of brass.

Would you look at that texture!

Usually a plate looks pretty bad once it’s been cleaned a few times but the plate for ‘The Listening Post’ looks like oxidised metal on a bronze sculpture.

This zoomed in photo of the block gives you a good idea of the marks I used to make the barn owl’s feathers in this print. Most of them are tiny and this close up they look pretty abstract but zoom out a bit and you have an owl!

The Listening Post (close up view two)

‘The Listening Post’ is available to purchase, but it is an edition of just 40, so when they’re gone, they’re gone!

The Listening Post

Jazz Hands! (Or how I keep your prints oil-free)

These are my print handling gloves. They’re simple white cotton gloves and they stop any oil from my hands transferring to the prints while I’m handling them.

This post is brought to you through the medium of expressive mime...

These are my print handling gloves. They’re simple white cotton gloves and they stop any oil from my hands transferring to the prints while I’m handling them.

It’s all part of making my work as archival and lasting as possible; give it a few years and your investment still won’t have any sticky paw prints on it.

And yes, once they are donned it is almost impossible to resist doing a fake tap dance and making “jazz hands”! 😂

Do you ever use colour?

A very small pastel painting of bluebells carpeting the ground beneath three copper beech trees sporting their dark red new leaves. In the back ground are flowering shrubs and trees.

‘Bluebells, Coles’
2.5 x 3.5in (ACEO size)
Soft pastel on UArt paper

The weather is cold and grey today but it won’t be long before the bluebells are carpeting the beech woods with wave after floral wave of delicately scented colour.

This is a teeny, tiny pastel painting I did on UArt paper with the most delicious soft pastel set made by Sennelier.

You thought there was no colour in my art, right?! Well, part of the joy of linocutting my way is the challenge of representing a world filled with colour and tone using just one colour and making a variety of marks to suggest tone. When colour is removed the viewer focuses on the textures, shapes and subject matter instead.