Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A print by the 'Two Brushes'

I went to my favourite local auction house today, I'd spotted something in the catalogue that made my 'art antennae' go into alert-mode! After a little research I realised the description in the auction catalogue was, how shall I put it? . . . economical with the truth. I could be on to a bargain!

In case someone had spotted what I had spotted and the bidding went bonkers, I decided to leave a modest commission bid with the auctioneer and cross my fingers.

But I couldn't resist popping in to the auction . . . and YES! The auctioneer banged down the hammer and I got the print for much less than my commission bid max. 

I skipped home and couldn't wait to get it out of it's grubby frame . . . I know it's a bit faded but the condition isn't bad at all. What I've found is a collaborative print between two major Japanese artists, Kunisada (who used his pseudonym 'Toyokuni III' to sign this print) and Hiroshige in a series of prints called 'Fifty-three stations (of the Tokaido Road) by the Two Brushes'

Hiroshige did the landscapes, views along the coastal route between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. The views are similar to his earlier series '53 Stations on the Takaido' which established him as the master of the landscape print. This print depicts Station 9 'Odawara', at the Sakawa River crossing which is near the Yumoto hot springs.

Kunisada, who was famous for portraying Kabuki actors, did the figures in the foreground. This print has a woman (probably a Geisha, as she has blackened teeth) wearing a shibori dyed cotton yukata (summer kimono robe), she looks as if she's just been bathing in the hot springs and is drying her face.

I think the other figure is a maid? but her clothes and hairstyle are quite elaborate, so maybe a she's a Maiko (trainee Geisha)? Or is she selling something? I'm not sure exactly what is in the basket, is it food or cosmetics, or souvenir trinkets? It looks like a toy box!

Kunisada was 68 and Hirosada 57 when they worked on this series together, I think they must have been old mates. I love how they called themselves 'Two brushes ' (it makes me think of The Two Ronnies!). In fact when Hirosada died only a few years later, during a plague epidemic, it was Kunisada who designed his friend's memorial plaque. 

Hiroshige who died on 12 October 1858 by Kunisada

I can't quite believe I've found such a gem.


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A watershed moment


thoughts while enjoying the autumnal sunshine

Thank you to everyone who came along to my exhibition at The Church Street Gallery in Saffron Walden which finished last Saturday. I haven't been to collect the unsold prints yet or check exactly what sold . . . I was a little disappointed with how quiet the gallery has been, but then again I'm not sure what I expected to happen. Should I have waited until I had done lots of new work just for a solo show? Was it silly to agree to putting together an exhibition in only a few weeks? 

Probably best not dwell on 'what-ifs'. A good number of prints including a framed 'Winter Evening in Bull's Wood' and lots of cards sold. And I've had some lovely positive messages from friends who did visit the gallery.

The past couple of weeks have felt like a watershed – between getting all my existing prints framed and exhibited and moving on to work on something different. I so want to do something a bit different! Is that a normal reaction after an exhibition?

And now for something completely different . . .


I'm introducing some printed fabric items into my online shop, starting with these printed linen slip-on cushion covers.
I have kept the price to enough to cover the fabric printing/making up the covers/p&p plus a little extra (after all I'm not giving stuff away!)and have decided to only sell them direct from my online shop rather than offer them at a trade price to shops/galleries.

I'd like to add further designs to the range, I can get the fabric printed in very small quantities and re-print the popular designs. Any feed back or suggestions of which of my designs you'd like to see adapted for cushions would be most welcome.


Some of you will know that I've wanted to get back into the habit of doing watercolour sketches. I very much want this to be a habit that becomes a small part of every day (not sure this will happen but the intention is there).
Earlier this summer I decided to treat myself to a brand new box of watercolours  . . .

of course, I had to start by doing this . . .

and after a slow start I'm gradually re-engaging with painting . . . 

I have rules -
no pencil or eraser allowed

 the Ginger Studio Assistant got bored and didn't pose for long!
discovering that limited time is actually good
not worrying about just painting over bits that went a bit wrong
and discovering that my car makes a good studio while out and about.

I haven't painted today
. . . and the sun is out! . . .


PS: it may be sunny BUT it is VERY WINDY!!!
just done, still wet
today's watercolour -
the view beyond our garden.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The day the people invaded the palaces!

Open House London

Yesterday we spend the day along with hoards of others, invading the rich 'palaces' of London's rich past and present.

Lot's of photos (taken with my phone) and a few brief words about our day . . .

Arriving at the old West India Dock on a misty, grey morning 

A magnificent inscription . . . I loved the emphasis given to certain words, its voice speaks across the centuries

The view behind us towards Canary Wharf, in the past 20 years the derelict docks have been transformed into London's high rise, high tech, commercial centre. The arch-shaped structure bottom left is the roof of the new Crossrail station and the building whose pyramid-shaped top is lost in the mist, is One Canada Square (usually just called 'Canary Wharf as it was the first tower in the development to be built) and where we were heading 

We had been very lucky to get pre-booked tickets for a tour up to near the top of One Canada Square, first to the Marketing Suite on the 30th floor, where we saw some incredible architectural models of the whole site's development - past and future. And then up to the Level 39 which is the home to technology start-up business and is very cool. Photos weren't allowed, which was a shame.

We were allowed to take photos out of the windows . . .

The Thames and the City spread out before us in the grey mist

Another view of the new Canary Wharf Crossrail Station, it's shape is inspired by a ship in dock and will include a roof garden

Other things I loved in One Canada Square but couldn't photograph . . . the sculptures in the foyer by Bridget McCrum and the amazing flower arrangements!

Moving on . . .

Next stop was The Guildhall where we hoped to join a walking tour. Sadly the first-come-first-served system meant all places for the whole day had been snapped up within minutes of the 10am kick-off!

Nevertheless, there was lots to see, firstly we went into the Guildhall Art Gallery to see the Roman Amphitheatre which is in the basement. On the way downstairs we also saw Magna Carta.

We then crossed the square and went into the Guildhall itself, here's the magnificent Great Hall - the entrance guarded by the giants Gog and Magog

In this huge space Mayor Dick Whittington held a banquet for Henry V . . . I wonder if his cat was invited to the party?

Monuments to 'British Heroes' line the walls . . . here is a very sad British Lion and Britannia mourning the death of Lord Nelson, while a lady with nice handwriting writes up a list of his victories on a board

And here is Pitt the Elder surrounded by symbols of his illustrious career, there's Britannia again with a very fluffy British Lion and a bee skip (skep) to represent 'industry' and 'hard work'.

Down in the crypt the stained glass windows, designed in the 1970s, depict different Livery Companies. This one is for the Gardeners' Company, whose motto is -

In the sweat of thy brows shalt thow eat thy bread
(a quotation from the Bible, Genesis Chapter 3 verse 19)
how true!

After a snack eaten perched on a seat in Guildhall Square, we were off again . . . heading down Throgmorton Street with a glimpse in the distance of what was once London's tallest building Tower 42

Just past the clock in the the photo above is Drapers' Hall, along with everyone else we weren't prepared for the magnificence within!

There's Her Majesty looking down on the masses gawping at the splendour of the Drapers' HQ 

The furnishings, furniture, illuminated charters and paintings were splendid! Former Drapers' Company members' wives and children depicted in their best frocks

We were allowed to sit on the sofas in the Drawing Room, wouldn't it be a lovely place for Afternoon Tea?! Sadly no scones appeared

Back out in the City streets and alleys . . . I love these wall plaques marking the Wards of the City of London

We headed towards the river, down Pudding Lane and past The Monument marking the place where the spark in a bake house ignited the Great Fire of London.

In Lower Thames Street we went in The Customs House, the latest of many Customs Houses to occupy this site for nearly 2000 years! and still the home of HM Customs and Revenue today. It was interesting to see the offices and displays inside but very crowded and hot so we didn't stay too long.

On Tower Hill, there's the ancient church of All Hallows by the Tower now dwarfed by the new giants of London's skyline . . . The Walkie-Talkie, The Cheese Grater and The Gherkin . . . Londoners' sense of humour survives in the 21st Century!

And across the water on the south bank of the Thames is The Shard . . . an is currently the tallest building in Europe

The Tower of London guards the entrance to the City as it has for centuries . . . those life-like lions were made from chicken wire by artist Kendra Haste

Before heading home we joined the crowds of people looking over the Tower moat at Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red the installation of ceramic poppies to commemorate the dead of WWI . . . each one of the 888,246 poppies mark a British military fatality in the 1914-1918 conflict. A time to stop and think a while. 

London never fails to surprise and astound. 


Friday, 19 September 2014

Winter Evening in Bull's Wood - linocut and cards

Last year's festive season was only just out of the way when I was contacted to talk Christmas Cards for 2014! It was a request from Suffolk Wildlife Trust for a donated image suitable for one of their cards.

I had a think . . . my prints suitable for Christmas cards were already being sold as my own card designs; in 2013 I'd produced some Christmas cards in the most economical way I could without compromising quality and I realised that customers either wanted much cheaper cards OR preferred to buy Charity Cards. So as Suffolk Wildlife Trust is one of my favourite charities, I decided to offer a brand new design and invited them choose a subject.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust suggested I illustrated a winter scene in one of their lesser known reserves – I selected one that was not too far from my studio . . .

Bull's Wood

It was a mild late January afternoon that I arrived at Bull's Wood . . . of rather, a farm yard where I could park 'tidily' before heading off down a track towards woodland a couple of fields away.

Stepping into Bull's Wood is like being transported back in time, it is a small remnant (about 30 acres) of 'the many woods of Cockfield' which where recorded in the Hundred Rolls in 1279, and those woods had probably existed for centuries before then and were in constant use by villagers who harvested poles and timber, grazed animals, foraged and hunted. The ecosystem of the woodland is entwined with lives of the people. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the woodland was destroyed as fields were enclosed and ploughed up to plant crops. Somehow Bull's Wood survived and today it is managed by volunteers who coppice the Ash and Hazel just as it has been done for a millennium.

I walked around the wood getting to know its specialness. The strange shapes of the ancient Ash stumps, the textures of the branches and the scale of the tall Oaks. I took photographs for reference of particular details, but mainly I let a composition come together in my mind.

I wanted to depict Bull's Wood on a cold winter's evening, so would need to do some research and work from experience and imagination. At home I put down my ideas in my sketch book, including animals I knew would be in the wood on a December evening . . . a Tawny Owl roosting in an Ivy covered tree, a Roe Deer in a clearing near the pond and a flock of Redwings arriving from Scandinavia to feast on the berries.

It was Spring when I carved the detailed lino block and a wood block from which to print the red colour to make the trees glow in the setting sun.

I decided to wait until Autumn before selling the prints, to coincide with Suffolk Wildlife Trust publicising their new cards for Christmas 2014. These are two of the finished original prints ready for the Market Place Gallery in Olney and my exhibition at the Church Street Gallery in Saffron Walden this month.

And here's another I framed last night to replace one in my exhibition that has already sold.

Winter Evening in Bull's Wood

The cards are available from many shops around Suffolk and here on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust web site. They are blank inside, so if you'd prefer a seasonal message you could use a rubber stamp (either buy one or make one - I'll try to blog about how to do this when I'm making one for the cards I'll be sending).

I'm very happy that this year the proceeds from these 100% donated cards will help target conservation efforts to turn around the fortunes of Suffolk’s hedgehogs.