Thursday 11 October 2018

Printing Conkers

A lino block of conkers.
Warning: heavy autumnal themes and sighing.

You might guess that I would be making autumnal images. You probably share my enthusiasm for the flame colours, gauzy mists, bracing chills and mellow sunlight.

The season results in all sorts of eye-catching things lying about. You won't get many I-Spy points for the cuboids and cylinders of straw arranged in every other field or stacked like castles. You might get more for the occasional field striped orange with pumpkin production.

If you're a habitual collector, the natural world's annual, gentle shake-up will keep you busy. Leaves rattle at the roadside, acorns and pinecones pepper the woodland floor. Dry sticks clatter alarmingly and the hedges are sprinkled liberally with berries.

On a trip across or around any park, I'm preoccupied with looking out for conkers. They might be in their full shell; they might be gleaming unshelled in the grass. They might be perfectly round, dried and wrinkly or dome-shaped with a flat base. The empty shells might still be bright white on the inside or turning to a leather brown.

My conkers pattern.
Collecting is one thing but then there's the game. It combines careful selection and preparation with chaotic whacking and smashing.

I've covered this in a post two years ago and got a bit lost in methods of boiling and varnishing. Shortly afterwards, at the last outdoor party of the year, I put it all to the test. Really, there was no scientific conclusion. The ricochets, the shards and the perfecting of knots took over and it was all good fun.

So I may not be an expert but I'm not far from the people who are. This Sunday the World Conker Championships will take place near Peterborough.

I revisited some drawings and made a lino block. It's fine on its own (see above) but it was intended for repetition (see left). In recent years I haven't done as much relief printing as drawing, so this was a good return to the form, along with another pattern that I might show before long.

Edward Bawden's famous wallpaper designs had an influence. I hope that it has a complexity that breaks the chequerboard grid up a bit.

Printing a lino block with a fade multiple times on a page is a skill that I have not attained. The pattern is made from several individual prints with slight variations in texture.

Now I need to get outside before the rain shows Autumn's other face. Have some squashes to finish.

Bonus pumpkins!

Saturday 6 October 2018

Ten National Parks

The UK has fifteen national parks:  two in Scotland, three in Wales and ten in England. Today I'm bringing you two thirds of the set.

My friends, clients and, later today, married couple, Jon and Hannah, asked me to come up with illustrations for their wedding reception table plan. They've had happy holidays working through the list of national parks, coming from the New Forest themselves.  Here is their selection for ten tables.

Ten of the United Kingdom's national parks.

It's an ideal project for me - making lists, sketching and then filling a circle. There's wildlife, human structures, wide views and close-ups, lots of weather and a few references to the experience of visiting the elemental edifices of the British Sublime, from lunchboxes to lost gloves.

Dartmoor, The Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors, the Brecon Beacons and the Cairngorms are left out for now but here we have Exmoor, Snowdonia, the Pembrokeshire Coast, the Lake District, the Peak District, the South Downs, the Norfolk Broads, the New Forest, Northumberland and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

I've been to most of them myself, although some may have been in early childhood. I've drifted on the Broads, scrambled up Snowdon, gasped on a South Down and got wet by Loch Lomond. Of course, there are plenty of other areas of land to gasp or get wet but the designated national parks are a great focus. Completing the set sounds like a great holiday plan.