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

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Bird Cherry Update

Back in 2015 I started experimenting with prints based around the Bird Cherry tree in the garden. I intended to make one print for each month to chart the changes. It was more a way of experimenting with techniques than actually producing a thing, and as with many projects, this one got overtaken by other work.

These are the first few proofs for possible January and February images. They are all based around one twig of this thorny little tree which I am not so keen on but the birds (yes, the clue is in the name) do love…and so do the bees, so it has to stay.

Currently I am trying to improve my bookbinding skills and am attending a short course with the excellent Sue Doggett at City Lit. Knowing we were going to be looking at Japanese stab binding on Monday galvanised me into picking up this almost forgotten project. Going back to the prints made me realise how much my understanding of printmaking has improved but there was no time to remake the prints, just to finish the last 3 months..oh and the cover and the endpapers and the text .. etc etc.


The full set of Bird Cherry prints, all printed on Japanese paper. The print size is  20 cm x 10 cm.

They are mostly collagraphs with the odd lino and woodcut thrown in. They are printed on Japanese paper, trimmed and tipped in. My printing is still rather erratic so this seemed to be the best way to get a decent set.


Tipped in prints and a text page.


Text, endpaper and January print. The text is also printed on Japanese paper, for its lovely translucent quality.

The image pages are French folded Japanese paper, so bound on the unfolded edge and the end papers were made from a spare plate I had made as a background for another project.

The great thing about working with a professional is that you get to do things correctly and are shown things that suddenly open up a whole bunch of other possibilities. I have done some simple Japanese binding before but never added these very neat little corner pieces.


or made an internal binding to hold the pages together before the final binding.


The cover was printed with the same thorny image as the endpapers, thorns are very apt for this tree, and laminated onto thin card, I agonised about the reverse of the cover but the card was dark grey and smooth and looked too dull against the textures and colours of the prints and other papers, so I laminated that too with plain Japanese paper. Much better.

The cover title was set into a recessed rectangle and then everything was punched to make a classic 4 hole stab binding and bound with olive green hemp string I happened to have. NIce!



 Bird Cherry: 12 Calendar Prints of the Bird Cherry: Prunus padus:   25 pages, tipped in hand printed plates, hand printed cover and endpapers. 225 x 290 mm. Hand bound.


Translucent endpaper.


Print for April when this little tree is covered in white blossom before the leaves appear.

I had allowed for the binding in the page size so this book opens pretty well. It is one of the drawbacks of this binding that it cannot open entirely flat, but if the pages are big enough and the paper flexible it works OK.

Yes I am pleased.. and relieved to actually get something finalised.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Oak … Book 1

Back in December I made some woodcuts of the Oak trees in the spinney. This is a collection of the woodcuts, very simply printed and bound into a wordless book.
Yes, there are mistakes but it is a bit of an advance. The plates are hand printed, the cover is printed from hand cut type and it’s bound by hand. There are two 6 page sections, 10 images printed on Fabriano 300gsm with red endpapers and it is a satisfying 24cm square.The biggest book I have attempted so far.

“Oak…Book 1”  24 x 24cms




Oak, spread.


Early proofs.

I am calling it “Book 1” as I am hoping that “Oak ..Book 2”  will have some text and be bound a little better!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Spinney Trees

This lovely May morning I took a small sketchbook and a pen up to the Spinney to make some quick notes about the tree shapes. Most of the trees have their leaves now so I can identify which is which. I am looking for characteristics of each species which I can use for some prints. They are the trees I see, very possibly not typical of the species, but ones I know and can place along the route..a young beech, the tall alders and a cluster of limes etc.

Field maple, Larch way up at the top of the canopy and the Limes with my bike :)

The lovely tall Alders down by the bird hide, Wild cherry, Sycamore with its big drooping leaves.

Pollarded willow, Poplars in the wind with floating willow seeds blowing everywhere, Elm with bunches of, now browning, seeds which are scattered everywhere.

A small Beech growing under the Oak canopy, Birch, twisted from the prevailing wind, arching Bramble and a spindly Hawthorn again growing up towards the light under the canopy.

Ash just coming into leaf with its tipped up branch ends, Blackthorn up on the old railway line

A5 sketchbook and pen. It’s all you need.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

April Sketchbook: Days 22 to 30

The last week of the April sketchbook, making notes about what I see on my route through the woods.


22nd April: Some bird notes. A few shapes of birds that I see regularly in the wood.


23rd April: Leaves from trees. Most trees are getting their leaves now. My tree knowledge is a bit sketchy so it seemed a good idea to make some notes from the leaves I have collected.

24th April: Tree shapes. I am thinking about some prints so a few thumbnails of possible designs. The weather had suddenly turned very cold so it was an opportunity to do some thinking inside rather than freezing outside.


25th April:  Bugle, wild crab apple and groundsel. There is Bugle on one of the rides through the wood. I love these pretty plants and have the cultivated form in my garden. The hairyfooted flower bees love it!

26th April: Alder. Alnus glutinosa I knew very little about the alder tree before this week.Now I know a lot more now. There is a small grove of very tall and stately trees by the bird hide. Lovely tree.


27th April: Pendulous sedge. Up in the wood there are clumps of this  growing by the path. They are in flower right now with very attractive nodding heads which scatter yellow pollen.

28th April: Piece of bark with accompanying woodlouse. I brought a piece of wormy bark back to draw. It had a resident woodlouse so I drew that too.


29th April: a Snail and some moth notes. Busy bank holiday Saturday so a few quick sketches of a large snail and some moths associated with the trees from the Spinney. I really like moths and have a moth trap which is due to come out as soon as it warms up a bit more.

30th April: Beech, an old twig with leaves and a new twig with emerging tiny concertina folded leaves waiting to unfold. I have learnt today that the name for trees retaining their leaves in winter, as the beech does, is called ‘marcescence’. Fascinating. These beech twigs, one very new and one old, with last years twisted dried leaves, are from the same tree.

And that’s it for April!  I have a really busy May coming up, so not planning a daily notebook. But its a good and useful habit. Maybe…


A4 Sketchbook.. with a convenient 32 pages. Nice to finish a sketchbook for a change !

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Hopeful Scrapbook

Printmaking and many other creative processes generate huge amounts of not-quite-right trials and experiments. I just cant quite manage to throw them out so they get shoved into bags and boxes and put out of the way somewhere. Every now and then I get them out and think about them and put them back.


Scrapbook Book 300 x 150 mm, 60 pages.

It can’t go on.. So  I made this rather lovely scrapbook which will hopefully encourage me to corral the bits and pieces together and save the most interesting things. I wanted to use a piece of the experimental paper from the paper decorating course I attended with Nesta Davies at City Lit to practise a bit more binding and it seemed appropriate for this book of experiments. I found some beautiful two tone shimmering pink bookcloth, some dark red paper for the ends and made three ten page sections of cartridge paper .. approx 60 sides to fill.

This all seemed fine and dandy. I made the book with many (but fewer)mistakes and now am faced with the almost insurmountable decision of WHICH of the bits to put in it. Best to just start…


I will post some of the more interesting spreads.It will be great when it’s full I am sure!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

April Sketchbook: Days 15 to 21

More sketches from my woodland route.


15th April: a young oak twig with oak flowers Quercus sp and the very strange and sinister shoots of the black bryony Discorea communis. In the spring their long swaying heads emerge from the ground like searching snakes. They wave about until they can find something to support them, sometimes each other, and then continue skywards unfolding handsome spear shaped leaves as they go. They drape themselves over trees and shrubs have small flowers but beautiful strands of red berries in the autumn.
!6th April: A fallen larch Latrix decidua twig with cone. The larch branches are too high for me to reach in the wood. They tower up into the sky on spindly trunks, their main leafy branches held right at the top in the light. The larch flowers are red…pretty…and develop into the rosette like cones.
And below the larch a single elder leaf. Sambucus niger


17th April: Field maple Acer campestre spring with small flowers and the start of those twin seed pods and charming little trotty wagtail Motacilla alba, ever present along the waters edge.
18th April: Lichen possibly Hypogymnia physodes blown off a tree in the wood in the recent strong winds. It’s curiously spiky and a lovely faded grey green. Some old sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus keys from a last season, fallen, spray.

19th April:  Elephant Grass. Miscanthus sp The elephant grass which grows in a large field by the reservoir has just been harvested. The harvester scatters bit of straw and grass heads along the road. It’s curious stuff with these very attractive fluffy seedhead.
20th April: Spring blues and pinks: bluebell, ground ivy, dog violet, red dead nettle, campion.


21st April: Deconstructed dead mole Talpa europa. Back in 2015 I had found a very smelly dead mole on the track in the wood and made some sketches.

I then buried it in the garden in a pierced plastic tub in the hopes that worms and bugs would clean it up for me and leave a pristine skeleton. However when I unearthed it after two years it was just a slimy mass of black fur and many tiny bones all mixed together. Ah well. Maybe the compost heap next time.

But it was worth digging a few out and I found a couple of jaw bones and some ribs and leg bones but the strangest I discovered are the 2 huge, (relatively  speaking) criss-cross shaped humerous bones from the front legs. See mid left on the sketch. Big strong digging bones. Very interesting!


And I am past the middle staples in the sketchbook now!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

April Sketchbook: Days 8 to 14

Continuing April sketches to record what is happening up in the wood.  Lots going on out there now. I have started noting the Latin names now, which are often illuminating and explain much.


8th April: A neat little fly that I see everywhere. It is elegant and attractive with spotty transparent wings. Hence its Latin name Syvicola fenestris otherwise known as the window gnat. Like most flies it has some grubby habits but is very pretty non the less.


9th April: Shepherds purse, Capsella bursa pastoris, from scrubland.( more heart shaped seeds ). The pretty silver backed silverweed leaf, Argentina anserina, and a sprig of already flowering cow parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris.

10th April: Pussy willow aka goat willow, Salix caprea, catkins and stems.


11th April: A page of yellows. Pretty greeny yellow of the celandine, Ficaria verna, which opens and closes with the sun. Delicate pale yellow of primrose, Primula vulgaris, with a darker flash near the base of the petal, buttery yellow of dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, and the daisy, Bellis perennis, centre. The gorgeous marsh marigold, Caltha palustris, and my phone, Objectus irritatus, which was on my desk at the time.

12th April: Sadly not all bees make it.  I found a little early bumblebee, Bombus pratorum queen on the track. Shame. They are so very attractive, with silky long hair and that slightly blunt ended ginger rump. Another small grey and white female mallard feather, Anas platyrhynchos, from the execution scene. And a tiny creeping weed, the ivy leaved speedwell, Veronica hederefolia, whose flowers and leaves are neatly arranged opposite each other all the way up the stem.



13th April: At the top a sturdy ash twig, Fraxinus, with its black leaf buds and contrasting little fluffy spray of flowers which have red tips. You can see old “keys” still hanging onto some of the trees. A little group on the right. I have never noticed these flowers before. Here they are sprouting either side of the leaf bud, looking like mad sort of ears.

14th April: Below two more willow catkins from the grey willow, Salix cinerarea, on the left and the elegant arching crack willow, Salix fragilis, on the right.

All sketches in A4 32 page sketchbook. I shall be in the middle soon.. hurahhh!