On the way home from our last trip mentioned in my last post, we decided to explore some of the lovely old towns along the way. Ludlow was one of the picturesque towns en route, famous for its castle and medieval buildings, it has the most beautiful position perched on a cliff above the River Teme in south Shropshire close to the Welsh border.

I found some books in one of the old bookshops we visited and ignored my earlier resolve not to buy any more books! How could I not buy the King Penguin book on Elizabethan Miniatures?

We also visited Berrington Hall and found some wonderful examples of miniatures there too. In fact, by the end of the trip I felt very inspired to create some miniatures of my own.

I decided to try my hand at pendant making, using my prints under glass cabochons. I have to say that it was a steep learning curve required great patience. If you decide to try for yourself, take my advice and buy lots of extra pieces of glass.
I managed to finish four, which I felt happy enough to put in my Etsy shop, you can see them here-

I was very pleased with the results and enjoyed the way the glass acted as a sort of magnifier. One of the prints I used was taken from a painting I did some time ago. “Fairy Brighteyes” was painted in watercolour onto a piece of Kelmscott Vellum.
This is a beautifully smooth surface to paint onto, it is also very expensive but perfect for miniatures.

Last but not least, our little dog Ted hurt his foot chasing a cat. After three visits to the vets and a hefty bill, I am pleased to say that he is back to his normal cheerful self. The jury is still out as to lessons learned on that score.


John and Fiona Owen exhibition.

If you are in the Gloucestershire area might I suggest a visit to this most extraordinary exhibition of paintings by John and Fiona Owen. I have written before on this blog about my admiration for these artists in particular the work of Fiona Owen who paints in miniature on gilded wooden panels. She paints in oils with teeny tiny watercolour brushes and produces the most wonderful work. You can see their work in more detail here- on their website and learn about their inspirations, however nothing compares with seeing the paintings up close. I know many of you live oversees so I have put together a little selection of images to give you an idea of the exhibition.
Details of the dates and opening times are to be found on their website.

The artists live in a converted chapel high up a green and wooded hillside overlooking the village of Chalford. You climb the steep stone steps and enter through the chapel gate, past pots of plants, through the ancient doorway and up the stairs to the studio.

Prepare to be dazzled, the walls are painted and gilded with images of friends and family worthy of Benozzo Gozzoli.

There are works of art on globes,

On walls,

You might see the artists at work, here is Fiona working on a gilded panel. Firstly she prepares the wood with gesso. She then transfers the design and prepares the areas to be gilded. The gilding has to be done before the painting begins, as the gold would stick to the paint. Finally she is ready to paint in the details using oil paint applied with very fine watercolour brushes.

And after the studio visit you are free to wander through the garden and to admire the spectacular views. The garden has many “rooms” each has its own character which are a delight to discover as you climb up the hillside.

But don’t take my word for it, go and see it for yourself!


Down The Garden Path

Thank goodness for a bit of sunshine at last, doesn’t it do the heart good?
It is hard to stay indoors when the garden beckons and a recent visit from an artist friend from oversees proved the perfect excuse to revisit Tatton Park.

You may remember my interview with Celeste from not so long ago?
It was fun to meet up again and the hours flew by as we chatted non-stop about gardens and art and everything else besides!

The walled and knot gardens are perhaps my favourite, I love the repetition of form, the patterns made by brick and box hedges and the way that the herbs and plants therein appear like tiny embroidered jewels. I was so inspired by the garden that I decided to create a new notebook called “The Knot Garden” It contains decorative endpapers and twelve small illustrations scattered about the pages and you can see it here-

The gardens at Tatton and the surrounding parkland have always been an inspiration to me. I based lots of my illustrations from “The Acorn’s Story” on the trees and deer, insects and flowers to be found here including this fallow deer painting. I am in the process of converting this book to make it into an application for the iPad, and other digital readers but before I can send the images to Auryn Inc I need to prepare the files, a long but necessary job.

The lovely town of Knutsford is very close by, childhood home of Elizabeth Gaskell and the setting for the town of “Cranford”.
It also has the very best charity shops, possibly because it has a very affluent catchment area. I have been busy buying up old picture frames and finally got around to framing my print collection, it took so long to arrange them, what a difficult task it proved to be! up a bit, down a bit, left a bit etc….

So you can see I am torn between my garden and my computer and never quite manage to get the balance right. There are so many jobs to be done, all the rain and now the sun’s warming rays have caused a huge growth spurt and everything is bursting with life. The aquilegias are particularly pretty at the moment and have spread into every available nook and cranny. It has been lovely to see the return of the bumblebees and butterflies, including a Yellow Brimstone, I haven’t seen one of those in ages. My cup floweth over!