Each month I look forward to an email from David at Gardens Illustrated magazine with an attached text file of Frank Ronan's latest column. Sometimes there's a hint of what the editor would like me to illustrate . . . in mid-July the October Frank email arrived with no accompanying notes.
I settled down for a read . . .
Frank is replying to a letter from a gardener in California who wants to do the right thing and plant drought tolerant plants; but she lives in a historic wooden house, built in 1904 and is worried the plants won't 'go' with the house.
OK. A bit of research was needed and some sketching . . .
. . . a cute early 20th Century Californian house and some suitable succulents. Yes I could juggle them into a composition but like Frank's correspondent, I wasn't happy with it. I wanted to show the over-the-top 'Belle Epoque' decor that is loved so much more in the US than here in the UK. I remembered some of the B&Bs we've stayed in on our road-trip holidays - all those velvet tassel-edged curtains, curvy swirly jardinaires and pottery dogs . . . I'd sleep on it.
Then! as often happens when I'm drifting off to sleep, I had an idea. I have a small sticky-notes pad and pen on my bed-side cupboard, without switching on the light I scribbled "2 Staffs dogs looking miffed" and stuck the note onto my spectacles so I'd find it it the morning.
In the morning, as soon as I got into my studio, I quickly drew what had been in my mind's eye.
And then worked on a more detailed study of a pair of Staffordshire pottery dogs.
I've just noticed the note, bottom left, I painted this using some very special paint, Egremont Red, it's wonderful stuff and this has reminded me I must use it again, very soon.
Using Photopshop, I pulled all the parts together into a composition - a close-up of the lower half of the window of a historic clapper-board house, showing lace and bobble-edged curtains and a pair of Staffordshire pottery dogs looking out at an impressive array of Aeoniums and other succulents. I decided that a rich magenta would add to the 'Belle Epoque' and Californian vibe.
Here's the page I sent to David to show what I had in mind, below is a reversed print out on tracing paper that I use to trace down the design onto the lino.Having got the design sorted (sigh of relief) now comes the fun bit - the carving . . .
I enjoyed carving the lace curtains and the dogs . . .
I mixed some luscious magenta ink . . . the block comes to life when you roll the ink onto it!
And here's the finished print and the illustration printed in the October edition of Gardens Illustrated.
Despite, maybe because of, the stuttering start; I think this is my favourite GI illustration to date.