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

‘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!

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.

The measure of productivity

A black and white photo of a small shallow ceramic dish full of lino cuttings. These are like carrot or potato peelings, but on a much smaller scale since many were made with tools under 1mm across

A day’s productivity pile before /\
.
.
.
... and after \/

A black and white photo of a small shallow ceramic dish that is now emptied and contains no lino cuttings so the rake fired pattern on the inside is now satisfyingly visible

I must confess that I don’t always manage to corral my lino cuttings into a small shallow ceramic dish.

Usually, I’m so focussed on cutting that bits can be found all over the bench (and me... and the floor... several rooms away)!

But stopping to put them into a dish means less mess, and I get to empty it at the end of the day and enjoy the raku fired pattern on the inside of the now satisfyingly empty dish.

Buy me a Ko-fi

A black and white close-up photo of the surface of a mug of hot beverage. On the top, bubbles formed when the hot water was added have collected into a heart shape.

I’ve just got myself a Ko-fi page!

If you haven’t heard of it, Ko-fi helps people who make things get support from the people who like those things.

ko-fi.com/lbprintmaker

If you like my prints and cards, please consider buying me a “coffee” to keep me in ink & paper, although you can set up a campaign, so I am currently working towards getting the ‘Instruments of Hope’ series framed.

Thank you! *raises mug in a toast to lovely followers*

Best Ever Testimonial

Handwritten note from my youngest collector that reads, "Thank you for the lovely otter picter [sic]. It is so adorable I also really [pen colour changes] liked the card it was so funny (I have changed pen) do you like my — [drawing of a cetacean with "whale" written inside it] or dolphin [nineteen X for kisses] Loads of love frome [sic]"

There was a thread over on Twitter about best ever feedback or testimonial.

For me, it has to be this one, which is from my youngest collector who is nine years old and had just received an otter print.

You, too, can own an otter print that I hope will bring you as much joy as it for a budding art collector!

The ‘Instruments of Hope’ Series of Relief Prints

A linocut relief print of a retro chrome microphone gleaming under studio lights.

...And now for something a little bit different!

My other half is an ardent gig-goer. In ordinary times, he is out at gigs two, three or sometimes even more times a week.

He really missed seeing new and familiar artists at his favourite venues in 2020 and we know many of those grassroots music venues were already struggling before the virus threw a massive spanner in the works.

So, for his birthday, I made him this print. I told him he could either a) own the only print ever, and I would destroy the plate afterwards (yes, I love him that much!) or...

b) he could have a print and I would sell the rest as an open edition with £5 from every sale going to his favourite music venue(s).

“Better than that,” he said, “could it go to the Music Venue Trust?”

Music Venue Trust logo in black and white
Save Our Venues - The Red List is a national initiative launched by the MVT to prevent the permanent closure of music venues most at risk due to the Covid crisis.

During the last 8 months, Music Venue Trust and Crowdfunder have worked together to prevent the closure of hundreds of grassroots music venues. With no end to the crisis in sight, we are now refocusing that work to spotlight those venues under most imminent threat of permanent closure. The #SaveOurVenues Red List highlights the grassroots music venues at most risk.

We’ve checked all the available funding, financial support, furlough schemes, business support for these venues, and what is on offer is not enough to prevent them being lost. These 30 venues are on the Critical List and need your help.

These grassroots venues play a crucial role in the development of British music, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills. These venues also play a vital role in the cultural and economic vibrancy of any village, town or city.

Once I'd realised the scale of the task the MVT was facing, one print became two prints and soon enough I'd put a whole band of prints together! We want to make sure that when everyone can get out gigging again, there are places to do it, so we hope that the 'Instruments of Hope' prints series will help the MVT support grassroots music venues.

Do head on over to the gallery page if you’d like to buy one the prints in the series and help keep grass roots music venues open.

Please Note: Donations to the Music Venue Trust will be made privately by me as an individual from sales of this print.

A suggested arrangement of black and white relief prints of a retro microphone, a black semi-acoustic guitar, a keyboard, a bass guitar, and a snare drum with brushes. Each print is A5 in size and has a narrow black border. They are in slightly wider black “frames” the size of the paper (A4). They are arranged in the same manner as the five dots on a dice; two at the top (mic, portrait; keys, landscape), one in the middle (guitar, portrait), and two at the bottom (drum, landscape; bass headstock, portrait).

Choose your own “Old English” adventure

Oh. My. Goodness…

At University I fell head over heals in love with Old and Middle English.

My supervisor had a map on his wall which was titled thus: “The Dark Ages Good Old Days”. I thought this was the most perfect way to sum up such a fascinating era.

I loved the sounds of the words, the illuminations in the manuscripts, the amazing art objects. All of it just amazed and delighted me.

And in another of those “many worlds colliding” ways, I don’t think I could love this beautifully made “Choose Your Own Adventure” way to translate and solve Old English Riddle 57 any more.