Art Journal: Peony petals, the first flowers of spring and a teapot

Welcome to my art journal, where I write about my drawings and how my little garden, the fields and woodlands close to my home and the seasons influence my art practice.

My screen this week has been filled with the blossoming petals of a peony. I try to concentrate on the clouds of colour, working in highly magnified detail, rather than trying to make the drawing look like a flower. I sometimes only zoom out to view the whole picture after a full hour of work.

I can see my little garden bursting into life from my desk by the window. The Elephant Ears were the first flowers to arrive this year.

I created a quick sketch to preserve the memory of the first flush of colour that celebrated the end of the colder months. Quick shading – not worrying if it was patchy here and there – just capturing the moment rather than aiming for a perfect representation. I save all these little sketches and they are really useful when I am drawing in the depths of winter.

Yesterday I took on a new commission to create a logo for a lovely client’s new community venture. For an early draft I created a fast sketch and used a light watercolour wash to suggest a colour palette. Below is a little detail from the centre of my picture.

We are now in one of my favourite stages of the project – where I get sent a lot of photos and pictures as inspiration, which I then get to interpret into the final design. I’ve been asked to add fairy lights and I’ll spend the next few enjoyable days playing with light and shade. I think perhaps early evening in a spring or summer cottage garden might be perfect.

I’d love to here your ideas for cottage garden plants to add to my commission. Please feel very welcome to leave me a comment below 🙂

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Art Journal: Creating the Storybook Garden in Autumn

The first stage of any artwork I create is to sketch out the shape of the piece in a light 2B artist’s pencil.  This allows me to see how the image flows across the large A3 poster.  My aim is to create pockets of interest throughout the page.

I then put out a request to the online community for suggestions of their favourite autumn sights for me to include.  Below you can see the tiny fly agaric and wheelbarrow full of pumpkins and squash that were sent in as requests.

Gradually, the giant poster starts to fill with outlines and swirls.  I work from home and have five children so sometimes a fairy might decide to take a nap on my pencil case.

The perspective in my work often skews in different directions. The aim is to try and give different vantage points, as if the viewer is taking a walk around the drawing and seeing everything from lots of different angles.

Once the outline is complete, in this case after thirty hours of drawing time, we take a careful scan so that we have a “colouring sheet” copy.

Afterwards, I highlighted just the suggested items and laid out lots of little labels with each person’s name next to their request, as a thank you for taking part.

Then I gradually inked-in the rest of the poster.  In this particular piece there is a lot of sky, weaving pathways and green spaces, so I tested out different tonal graduations to prevent large blocks of the same colour.  This stage takes around twenty five hours.

 After 55 hours … the poster is complete; it is time to scan the finished artwork and start to design the products for the Storybook Garden in Autumn Collection.

If you would like to colour in this giant poster yourself, wherever you are in the world, you can download it from our shop for just £2.50. I would love to see how it turns out if you do 🙂 Every sale helps our tiny family business grow x

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Potager Garden: The unearthly quiet, rabbit clouds and bare feet

We have spent the last week preparing for the shut down that we knew would be coming. It started fully today. Our business is now on hold and the charity library where I am a trustee has shut its doors on government orders. Even though we already worked from home whilst educating our five children, there is an absence of emails and phone calls that will take some getting used to.

Our friends and family have so far stayed healthy and we are in constant contact over text and Skype. Our children send drawings and letters to their grandparents over email.

I am glad it is spring and very grateful we have a little garden.

We cannot explain to our two autistic sons or little daughter what is happening in the world but this has turned out to have a happy side effect. The fact that they live completely for the present moment is teaching me how to do so too.

Today our daughter spent time just watching the clouds go by. Every time she spots a cloud that she thinks looks like a rabbit, she squeals, runs over to me, grabs my hand and pulls me over to see.

Our second son’s apple tree, planted last autumn, has leaves forming. He knows that insects help pollinate flowers and I found him carefully moving spiders from the bark to other areas of the garden, so that their webs did not catch any of the bees by mistake.

The ground has dried out enough in the spring sunshine for us to go barefoot. This is our daughter’s first spring where she can walk and run about (she was just learning to crawl this time last year) and she likes to scrunch her toes in the grass.

Each morning I hide little fir cones around the garden for her to find. She darts all over searching for them, handing them to me as she runs by.

I notice the unearthly quiet of a busy world ground to a stop. Usually there is a constant distant hum of traffic from the city outskirts and a nearby lane. Now I can only hear birdsong, the sound of children playing in gardens nearby and the ripple of our garden stream.

The bright sunlight this morning showed up my younger children’s fingerprints on the windows, and as I was polishing the glass in a bedroom that overlooks the green, I could see other people doing the same. Soon, many neighbours had flung their windows open and we all waved at each other, shouted hellos and gave a thumbs up.

The seasons keep on moving, even though we have all paused. As we come out of winter, my family naturally begin to change the rhythm of our days. Our school lessons move out into the garden, or at the very least we have the doors next to the kitchen table thrown open, and the breeze coming in. The house feels airy and fresh, no need for scented candles or oil burners when the real smell of grass and blossom is drifting in.

Keep safe and well everyone. With heartfelt thanks to all those who are working to keep us safe, especially those on the frontline in the NHS and hospitals around the world.

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Potager Garden: Storm bubbles, tea and gingerbread

It takes a lot to keep our youngest out of the garden. This morning she could not understand why the rest of us were not keen to play out in the biggest storm to hit Britain so far this year: Storm Dennis is arriving today.

Our garden is quite sheltered and I find the gales are much worse on our driveway as I battle my way over to the garage to fetch some left over bubble mix. Before I get back to the door, a tea towel is suddenly blown from inside the house and out into the street and I go charging after it.

I admit that bubble mix is perhaps more associated with balmy sunny days and not the obvious choice for today, however it is brilliant in winter storms. Suddenly the invisible air currents can be seen in all of their glory as the delicate spheres helix around each other and twirl upwards at lightning speeds.

My eldest, unable to say “no” to his little sister whenever she calls his name, is soon outside with us, holding the pot for her.

The very best thing about a blustery day is that the bubbles do not need any help. Little ones can just run about with the bubble wand and the wind will do all of the work for them.

When you are tiny it can still take a little bit of practise and persistence. Patience is a must if the wind suddenly calms and nothing happens.

And then suddenly – magic.

It is not long before my third son is watching us, with his face pressed against the cool glass of the window. Within moments, he is grabbing his own coat and enthusiastically joining in. Our youngest son follows soon after, the breeze almost lifting him off his feet as he runs around the paths pretending to be a kite.

My second son is helping out, running warm baths for the younger ones, as they come in from the cold. Then the storm really picks up and the torrential rain pours down. It is time to get inside.

The little ones are now bathed, nestled into blankets, and wearing clothes that have warmed on radiators. I make two frothy hot chocolates for my eldest sons, and a tea for myself in my favourite winter mug.

The gale is suddenly so strong that it rattles through our roof space and pops the attic hatch out of place. It is quickly fixed by my husband and myself – but it is only midday and the full storm has not hit us yet.

I make a batch of gingerbread with my youngest son and to my delight he learns the word “cookie.” I make bubble shaped biscuits to commemorate the morning’s fun, he makes dinosaur prints. With the scent of baking throughout the house and writing to do, I’m quite happy to be cosied up indoors now, occasionally pausing to watch the raindrops on the window, until it all blows over.

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Potager Garden: Strawberries, flowers and the slow-growing winter harvest

Today we are busy building another two raised beds, which will be just in time for quick-growing summer vegetables this year – but will provide us with lots more space for next year’s growing season.

The best news is that we have had our first strawberry harvest, and some are even making it from the garden to the kitchen … but not very many!

Last year I bought a little daisy plant at our village plant sale, which consisted of three tiny flowers on a single long stem.  My green-fingered friend confidently told me to give it lots of space as it would transform into an abundant plant this year, and she was not wrong!

We inherited four yukka plants when we moved here, and they have flourished in the current heatwave, producing long purple stems out of the centre, with exotic red buds.

When we came back from our holiday, the geraniums had spread across several feet of borders, and I’m going to go and release the lavender that is somewhere beneath them this afternoon.

Our mint seeds were very slow to germinate, but once established, they spread very quickly.  I’ve learnt from experience and confine mine to pots!  This hand-sown plant is only a few month’s old.

The courgettes were transplanted from pots in the kitchen to the new raised beds, in a sun-drenched position.  More and more flowers burst into life every day.

By gently pulling back the leaves, you can just make out the first few courgettes starting to grow.

Several of our cabbages are ready to be harvested – we are going to pick one for our dinner tomorrow night, and have another marked out for homemade slaw and stir fries later in the week.

Some plants prefer to take their time.  These parsnips have been growing since February.  Sweetened by many frosts, they are now in another new raised bed.  Once ready, we are planning to freeze them and keep them for Christmas.

Also for our winter feast, are the brussels sprouts.  These are growing by the garden wall, where their towering stems will be protected from high winds.

Looking closely, you can spot the tiny nodules of baby brussels, just starting to grow.

If you have any recipes for the above produce, please feel free to post a link in the comments, we would love to see them 🙂

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