Ice Age Revisited.

Last weekend we had a trip to London, taking along our camera minus the battery. I had intended to show you all the lovely things we encountered on our walk along the Thames starting at Hammersmith and ending in Chiswick. We walked past Hammersmith Bridge where the book binder and co-founder of The Dove Press, Cobden Sanderson, stood before throwing the type from the press into the Thames. (You can read what drove him to this barbaric act here.)

We saw properties once owned by William Morris and his friend and mentor Emery Walker. Further along the bank we saw and the home of Ravilious and stood awhile under the blue plaque on wall. The level of the Thames was dangerously high and in places spilled over the banks, threatening many properties and gardens. We explored the very spooky graveyard around the church at Chiswick before exploring Hogarth’s House complete with spring garden filled with daffodils and violets. All of which I intended to photograph, now you will just have to take my word for it!

The weather could not have been colder and icy wind chilled us to the marrow. We decided to take refuge in The British Museum where we saw, rather appropriately I thought, an exhibition about art in the Ice Age. I had no expectations about this, thinking that there would be little art surviving from over 40,000 years ago. The art on display was extraordinary, original pieces from ancient civilizations displayed alongside contemporary pieces by artists inspired by the primitive. There was a quote by John Berger written on the wall, next to the exhibits that stuck in my mind-
“Art, it would seem, is born like a foal that can walk straight away..”

Perhaps the creative spirit is something, which has always existed in the human brain, so too I believe, is the sense of the aesthetic and the ability feel uplifted by beauty. Many of the exhibits were carvings on bone, depicting the animals that lived alongside Cro-Magnon man. There was a suggestion that because the drawings were sequenced this was maybe an attempt at animation and that maybe the artist was trying to depict movement. Maybe he was making an attempt at pattern design?

We came away from the exhibition feeling enthralled and amazed by this window into an ancient world. So seldom do I feel so uplifted after visiting contemporary art exhibitions, which seems to have an obsession with the shock factor and ideas over substance. Ice Age man would have found survival difficult enough and yet found a place for art, decoration, jewelry, music and beauty.

And now, for something a little more down to earth. I found two lovely old Pelican Books on Wild Flowers and felt inspired to make some sketches of plant forms. I wanted to keep the drawings very simple in order to incorporate them into a new design group inspired by lino printing and nineteen thirties textiles. Apart from the hand drawn plant shapes the designs were made digitally. I tried to keep the colours very subtle and slightly faded, my husband remarked that they reminded him of remnants of wallpapers which appeared under layers of papers when we decorated our 1930’s house. Wouldn’t it be a good idea if everyone kept a scrapbook of the d├ęcor of their home complete with fabric samples and photographs of the interior and exterior?


  1. When I travelled to Northern Ireland, I forgot my spare battery as well! I can only imagine the lovely sights you would have seen, especially the graveyard! How I love ancient cemetaries.
    Your new work is stunning and really does capture a time and feel. Gorgeous!
    I love that quote about art and the idea of which you spoke about ancient man having time to create. My friend found an ancient bone carved man once in the mudflats and the archaeologist at our Provincial museum said that these were very rare because of the time it took to make such a thing. People were too busy trying to survive to do a lot of art.
    In Werner Herzogs movie 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' he talks about the same type of movement in the cave drawings. The first type of animation perhaps? Have you seen the film? The cave paintings are incredibly beautiful and done very deep inside the caves. They think they may have been done by medicine men for ritual. I think they just wanted to create!

  2. p.s I just ordered your garden thrush print...I can't wait to see it. Cheers!

  3. I've done the battery thing too! What a shame, but your descriptions are very colourful in themselves, and your sketches are fabulous - as ever.
    I'm love to see the exhibition - (hopefully back to studying history of art with the OU next year) must get myself in gear!

  4. Valerie, your walk along the Thames sounds quite wonderful, and I thank you for reminding me of the rather fabulous sites and sights along the way. Sorry about that battery...perhaps you'll make another walk a bit deeper into true springtime?

    The museum exhibit also sounds like a good one. I always marvel at old, really old art, wondering about how it came into being.

    Your new floral designs are both jaunty and sophisticated. Please do show us any more that you may create. They seem so different from your detailed watercolors...and yet they do have some very accurate, edited details.


  5. Once again, you've made me wish I were there! I loved reading about every part of your weekend. (William Morris would be proud of your sketches and designs!) The wildflower books remind me of a lovely book we saw on display at a small museum in Hawaii (http://goodbooksforyoungsouls.blogspot.com/2012/05/hawaiian-missionaries-flowers-and.html)- God's creation: so simple, yet complex, brings such delight!

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  7. I love those prints. I think they would make a most wonderful fabric. I'd love to know how you do this digitally. Xxx

  8. Your London trip sounds wonderful, full of arty goodness! I do like those patterns you have created, you are clever, They do look sort of fifties style, love them. You could head down a whole new creative field....do you look at the blog Print and Pattern? You'll be featuring next thing :)

  9. Love the sound of the exhibition... and, so true, its challenging sometimes to find pure beauty in contemporary art - no matter how one defines that - it seems these days art is a self-conscious statement and appology all at once, all cerebral and, yes, the shock thing, too.

  10. ... Just went for a strol along the Themes with you and then off to the exhibit at the Museum .... that was wonderful too - but I especially loved your images which reminded me so much of my very favorite designer - "William Morris" - Thank you - Simona

  11. Gorgeous post, Valerie. Sometimes it can be something of a relief to not be thinking about taking photos! Although I do admit to being completely intrigued by the idea of the Ice Age art.

    I love your drawings from the books, yes, very reminiscent of lovely old wallpaper. I am often surprised when I look back at photos of our house, how I forget the way it was.

  12. I have those books, and I'm liking the designs they've inspired very much Valerie.

    I'm always meaning to start drawing again but somehow never get around to it ... you've inspired me to try harder :D

    Similar problems with camera batteries here courtesy of snow and power cuts!

  13. Loved your daffodils --
    Most disappointing about the missing battery.
    I have become quite addicted to taking photos of EVERYTHING.
    I love looking at old fonts --some people don't think they matter when they make such a difference.

    Isn't it odd that the 1950's wallpaper, once despised, is beginning to look almost chic again.
    Yes, a house decorating diary would be fascinating.


  14. Just discovered your blog - here's to the host of golden daffodils...