Blog Archive

Tuesday, 19 September 2017


While I was making a series of small prints of parts of the garden at Roots and Shoots, it occurred to me that what I was drawing were safe places; refuges and shelters. Where wildlife can feel safe and protected from difficulty. Where life can flourish and feel relaxed, comfortable and confident in its natural habitat. I was looking at the solitary bee homes and wildflowers that are provided with a habitat where they can live and grow without being sprayed with “round-up” or some bug killing spray!

If you look up Sanctuary in the dictionary, it is described as a “state of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or difficulty”.  It’s a cosy word, I suppose.  I 'googled' the word and discovered heart-warming projects, mostly to do with welcoming refugees or vulnerable migrants, who are searching for warmth and comfort away from war-zones and boats on cold seas.  I also discovered that part of the 3000BC year old site at Avebury is called the Sanctuary.

I found out about Hygge. A Danish word (pr. hue-guh). Last winter this word was all over the place. I don’t think it has disappeared yet either.  It is:
1) the art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open hearted and alive 2)to create well-being, connection and warmth 3)a feeling of belonging, to the moment and each other 4)celebrating the everyday.

Whilst there is no one English word to describe Hygge, the words cosiness, charm, happiness, ‘contentness’, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, kinship, and simpleness seem to sum it up.

I suppose that in this uncertain world, we are striving for some sort of comfort and so these things come to the fore. 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A cure for a "naughty liver" lies herein.

It's that time of the year again. Open Studios at Lewisham Arthouse. (30th September/1st October 2017).  I have been working hard in the studio over the summer.  Will be showing some monoprint drawings of wildflowers I have watched from Spring and through summer.

This is Jack-by-the-Hedge/Hedge garlic/Poor man's mustard/garlic mustard.  Take your pick.  Alliara petiolata
Indeed, the crushed leaves taste rather like Garlic and mustard.  Amazing!  

I think it's rather a pretty plant.  It starts as small heart shaped leaves and grows quite tall, so that in summer it grows to over a metre with groups of tiny, white, four petalled flowers growing from the top of the flower spike. When the flowers finish they leave thin, green pods containing the seeds.

The plant can be made into a poultice for treating cuts and wounds and is also used in medicines as an anti-asthmatic, antiseptic and can treat worms and bronchial complaints. 

My second drawing is of Agrimony.  (Agrimonia eupatoria)  A pretty yellow spire of flowers.  Bright and joyful in the summer.  (A type of person according to Bach's flower remedies.  The sort that hides their tears with a smile.  I think there was a song written about them once).  In the autumn the flowers give way to seed pods that have tiny hooks.  Walk past it in a cardigan and you'll be an unwitting carrier of this plant, taking it far and wide.  

In Saxon times, this was lauded as a plant to heal warts and snake bites!  Yes another plant for snake bites.  In the times of Chaucer it was mixed with mugwort for a bad back and "alle" manner of "woundes".  In fact it's an all round good sort.  It has been said to cure jaundice and other liver complaints.  I found a blog that quotes someone called Gerard who says "A decoction of the leaves is good for them that have naughty livers".  I must do more research.  I'm sure I know people who have "naughty" livers.

Ribwort Plantain grows beautifully in the meadow at Roots and Shoots.  I include a photograph of a print I have made, but would like to write more about this plant on another occasion.  Tbc.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Inspired by indigo dying and Boro - a patchwork of prints.

In February I went to an indigo dying workshop and produced lots of small pieces of cloth that were patchworked together into an apron.  Subsequently I have been using the left-overs to make a bag.  I was introduced through this, to the Japanese practice of Boro.  Boro translates as rags or scraps of cloth and describes clothes and household items that have been repaired many times so they can be used forever. Daily use required many repairs. Intricate sewing is used to weave through the worn fabric, making it stronger.  Make do and mend, you might say.  

Meanwhile, I had been trying different things out with gelli plates and really not knowing what to do with them.  Gelli plates are great for a while, but every print is the same size and fairly small.   So I started to monoprint and draw on top of these small prints.  Inadvertently, I think, I have started to place them together and then realised that I have a patchwork.  I think I will stay with this process and see where it takes me. I might even sew them together.   I haven't finished drawing though, so more to come.

Everyday I am inspired by the garden where I work and this has translated to my studio practice.  I am lucky to be near a couple of acres of wild garden and I have been photographing the plants, the solitary bee homes and the enormous Echium, mentioned in the previous post.  Some of the Echiums have bloomed, with beautiful blue flowers towering up into the sky. They are truly magnificent.  I daresay I will be drawing more of these graceful and handsome plants as the summer progresses.

Indigo squares.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Tales of Echium Pininana and a beautiful garden. Inspiration has come at last!

It's been a long while since I have posted anything on this blog.  The winter was harsh in the studio, which doesn't inspire, and I started a new job.  The new job is in beautiful surroundings. A wildlife garden in the middle of Kennington.  Now as spring approaches, it is coming into its own.  It is full of giant Echium pininana. (Tree echium or Tower of jewels). I have seen these growing in Cornwall and they are rather magnificent. They are native to the Canary Islands really.  Anyone who has known me or my blog will know that I had a lovely summer drawing Echium vulgaris, which is commonly known as Viper's Bugloss.  They are related and deliciously blue.  I am looking forward to the summer, when these great plants will shoot up to heights of 3-4m (in some cases) and are covered in hundreds of little blue flowers.  The bees love them.  Presumably butterflies will too.

Of course I am inspired by these plants. I am inspired by the garden, which has a pond with newts and frogs and now tadpoles, by the hives for the bees, the solitary bee homes and the many more flowers, which I am looking forward to seeing at the summer progresses.  I have started some prints that I am hoping will turn into something I want to put in a frame at some point.

This Echium is further on. The stem is as thick as a forearm and the little flowers are beginning to form.

Below is an old book that my mother had.  She had pressed flowers into it and I found this ghost of a pressed flower today.  It would have been her birthday yesterday, so it felt particularly poignant. 

This was an attempt to recreate them in monoprint.  I wanted the image to be soft and almost translucent.  I will be working on this idea too.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

It's beginning to look a lot like........ oh and Lichen.

It has been 2 months since I updated this half of my blog.  A lot has been happening to distract me though. I have a new job, which because, it was new has taken up a lot of time.  Now I am more settled I am hoping to spend more time in my studio.  Just as it starts to get cold.

I have managed to work on the ivybroomrape prints and they only need a few little tweeks now.

Since my visit to the rainforest in North Wales (temperate of course), I have been really interested in lichens.  Well, to be fair, I have been interested in them a long time, but I saw a few different sorts and for the first time, lichens with little cups.  Non-flowering plants are also fascinating I find.  There are over 1,800 species in the British Isles.  I'm always amazed when I start researching my interests.  1,800!!!

From the British Lichen Society, which is based at the NHM:

What is a Lichen?

A lichen is not a single organism; it is a stable symbiotic association between a fungus and algae and/or cyanobacteria.
Like all fungi, lichen fungi require carbon as a food source; this is provided by their symbiotic algae and/or cyanobacteria, that are photosynthetic.
The lichen symbiosis is thought to be a mutualism, since both the fungi and the photosynthetic partners, called photobionts, benefit.

Anyway, I have started noodling in my sketchbook. Colourful watercolours, trying to get a feel and find out about these fascinating organisms.  It's been fun and I need to do many more.  I have also started a couple of monoprints. It's early days and I have much work to do.

In other news, we have a Christmas Fair coming up at the arthouse. December 10th. I will be making and selling Christmas cards. 

As you can see it is still a work in progress.   I will be sharing more information over the next couple of weeks.


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Ivy Broomrape - in which I get to use the phrase "sex-aid pink".

Orobanche hederae.  Ivy Broomrape.  I assume that the "rape" bit of the name refers to its taking over the host plant.

Etymology of rape 14c: past participle of Latin rapere "seize, carry off by force, abduct". 

We found this plant on Greenwich Peninsula in June.  We went looking for it specifically (it had been spotted the year before), as I was slightly fascinated and intrigued about a plant that grew, parasitically, on ivy.  Ivy being the bane of my life.  One day I might need to be cut out of it, like Sleeping Beauty. It threatens to cover my garden, my house and is probably heading for my car!

There was fine specimen on this ivy.  Just next to where they have pulled down the former Sainsbury's. The one that won lots of design awards, but apparently is no longer fit for purpose.  But that aside, the plant was there.

It is, as I mentioned, parasitic.  There are a few Broomrapes, most of them are host specific and this one will only grow on ivy.  These parasitic plant lack chlorophyll and are therefore, lacking in colour.  They vary between sex-aid pink and pinky-cream.   Adding the description I found on the internet  "reddish purple, glandular hairy and swollen at the base" it makes them sound unspeakable.

The seeds will germinate when they are contact with the host roots.  The seed grows into the root and develops an underground tuber, from which the plant develops.  The hairs are sticky, which is thought to detract non-flying insects.  Bees are encouraged, though, for pollination.  Here is a rather  magnificent picture I took.  I think it looks quite pretty, despite my description above!

I have sketched a few of them and am hoping to make some prints of this fascinating plant.  There are many other Broomrapes, and something called Toothwort that appears in early spring, parasitic to hazel, apparently.  I'll be there next April, looking for it!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Marsh Woundwort and how I am botanically challenged.

I'm embarrassed.  I drew this plant, which grows prolifically in my garden, a couple of years ago.  I was sure it was Purple Loosestrife.  However, I visited Dungeness Rsbp reserve yesterday.  I came upon a tall purple plant that it appears is Loosestrife, and mine isn't.

I have since i.d'd it.  It is Marsh Woundwort Stachys palustris. I looked at it more carefully and realised it looked more like a member of the nettle family.

Still it has a long and illustrious history as a healer of dressing cuts and wounds.  It is also supposed to help aching joints, when made into an ointment.  Goodness knows, I have enough of it in my garden and of course, I have aching joints.   How do I make and ointment, I wonder?  Culpepper, the famous herbalist, said that Stachys will protect the liver and preserve us from witchcraft.  An all rounder then!

I feel I should find some purple loosestrife to draw now.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

More open studios. Brockley Open Studios. SE4 Saturday and Sunday 2-8

Only a month after the last open, here's another one.  This time at 97 Manor Avenue Brockley SE4. You won't miss us.... we are in the front garden.  Fingers crossed for the weather.

I have been busy in my studio, making new work, but you will have to wait for the next exhibition for that!  I only had time to finish one, which was shown at the exhibition at St Peter's Church that is running alongside the Brockley Open Studios.  I have sold it already.
This is a print made with my new gelli plate.  It is an experiment that I think has worked very well.  Storksbill and Groundsel.


The Sweet William Series.   I will be showing one of these today.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Open Studios...... A good time.

We had a great open studios last weekend.  Lots of people came and were very positive about my work and the work of the arthouse generally.  We have a rolling programme of exhibitions coming up so pop in and see the place.

For those of you who didn't make the event, you missed a good one.  We had tours around studios, to give the public a chance to talk to the artists about their work.  We had jerk chicken and music in the yard in the evening.  It was a great day and night.

The yard on the Saturday night.  Full of people, lights, music and food.  What's not to like?!  Credit to Conrad Ellam for the photograph here.

Here is a picture of my studio wall and my collection.  This is what was on offer on Saturday and Sunday last week.  I sold three monotype drawings, so I am very pleased.  The response was very positive.

 Rose drawings. Small and large.

Wild flowers and collections.

These are pictures of in and around my garden.

These are things I have collected. Some natural, some not.  Shells, fossils, stones, abandoned crockery, washed up on the shoreline.  Seeds and flower heads.  The little glass bottles contain seeds or bits of "stuff".  Some of them are filled with plastic.  I was working on a project a couple of years ago that highlighted my concern when I found out that the sea was full of plastic.  The glass bottles on the bottom left are filled with tiny micro-beads that are sold for nail fashion.  Where do these go when washed off over-decorated nails (really, why bother?) ?  Well into the sea of course.  Here, they are eaten by fish and other creatures.  Below are a couple of photos from this time.  And a link to the appropriate part of this blog.

Installation of plastic soya bottles.  I think I might start collecting these again.

These are some ink and watercolour drawings I made at this time.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Open Studios starts today. Lewisham Arthouse 2016

This year my garden has, as ever, brought me great joy! Some of the prints on show are studies from my garden, of both cultivated plants and interlopers.  I love the interlopers. The dandelions are there, in early spring, to encourage the bees. The Sweet William was bought into the garden from Lewisham market, to sit on my garden table in a vase.

The roses were as a result of a gift of 12 Valentine’s roses. That was a first for me! They were so beautiful, I just had to draw them.  They are dried roses now and still stunning. Still being drawn.

Flowers from my garden to decorate my open studios.

Who you calling common?

Who you calling common?

starling sketches

starling sketches
Ongoing work...waiting for a breakthrough!

The Waters of March

The Waters of March

It's the joy in my heart.

It's the joy in my heart.

Collected Items

Collected Items
the broken, the wrinkled and the uneven