I have been reading an old gardening book which refers to daffodils as daffydowndillies, isn't that a lovely name? Our daffodils have more or less gone past their best; they have been so much later this year than last thanks to our very prolonged winter. We have a few in flower at the moment but I don’t think they will last much into next week. The painting here will be an Easter card to be published next year in the UK, actually I finished it last year and had the luxury of painting it from life which is always preferable to working out of season.
The weather has been truly wonderful here and we have been taking photographs of wild flowers in order to have lots of reference material on which to draw. Our usual walking place is now scattered with cowslips, primroses and wood anemones. Baby rabbits have been keeping Ted on his toes, fortunately he is hopeless at catching them, in fact I think he enjoys hunting for sticks! We have noticed a few rabbits with what looks like Myxomatosis, something I thought had died out years ago, it is quite heartbreaking to see them limping about by the wayside.
I have started to work on a new book project, which is a bit daunting; I hope to share more news of this soon, and in the meantime I hope to catch up with reading your blogs.
"This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England". William Shakespeare.
Although the tradition of wearing a red rose on St George's Day seems to have been forgotten I thought that I would post this image today. Over the past few years there seems to be a movement towards making today a National Holiday, maybe sometime we will be able to enjoy this day in much the same way as the Irish celebrate St Patrick's Day, which I am more than happy to do being married to an Irish man :- )
Following on from my last post I promised to tell you about Oxford. We stayed overnight in St Stephen’s Hall, one of the many student halls available to the general public for bed and breakfast. Previously we have stayed at Keble College but this was out of action due to renovation; no matter, St Stephen’s did not disappoint and as an added bonus it had car parking, a rarity in central Oxford. I loved staying in this tranquil, cloistered building which was surprisingly warm and friendly with its hidden herb gardens and quiet corners (see top two images, click to enlarge).
It was only a short stroll down the Cowley road into the town centre where we visited the Ashmoleon, The Natural History Museum with its famous dodo and the most amazingly quirky Pitt Rivers Museum. Oxford looked beautiful basking in spring sunshine, which made its honey coloured stone glow. I love to peep into secret gardens and soak in the ambience of this famous city with its bicycles and lovely old pubs and bookshops.
On our way home we returned to reality and caught the Friday afternoon traffic on the motorway which took us to the NEC where “Books Illustrated” were exhibiting original children’s book illustration including for the first time the amazing Nicola Bayley whose work I have admired for many years now. Included in the exhibition was a small selection of work from my book “White is the moon” which you can just about make out in the photograph. The exhibition will tour various venues around the country, the dates and places are available from the website here.
Nicola kindly gave me her permission to show you some of her work which you can see in more detail here on her website. I have a collection of her books on my shelf starting with “One Old Oxford Ox” one of the many books she illustrated for Jonathan Cape. She is perhaps best known for her amazingly detailed, exquisite, miniature paintings of cats, possibly the best known being “The Mousehole Cat.” Perhaps my all time favourite and desert island book is “All for the Newborn Baby” by Walker Books which is what I can only describe a work of pure genius with jeweled medieval inspired decorations; one for keeping and handling with white cotton gloves!
We have just returned from a little trip down to Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. As well as being home to Wind-in-the Willows it is also the home to Makower, the fabric company who produce fabrics for crafters and quilters. I needed to meet up with the people there to talk over my new Christmas Collection for 2011 and as my husband was still on his Easter break it was a good excuse to turn the trip into an overnight stop.
It was a delight to drive under a blue sky, past fields of green, hedges flanked with daffodils and trees full of blossom. One of the most thrilling things for us was to spot red kites circling overhead, we never see these magnificent birds in Cheshire, in fact they have been brought back from the edge of extinction fairly recently. Red kites have a huge wingspan of about two metres; this combined with a relatively small body enables them to circle for long periods without beating their wings. I am not sure how long they have lived in the fields over Oxfordshire but they are very easy to spot so I am guessing that they must be thriving. Now I am not clever enough to photograph red kites but you can read about them here.
We had some time to picnic by the river, the first time this year it has been warm enough to walk about without a coat! Gentle breezes stirred the famous willows along the Thames and we sat for a while and watched the ducks and coots building their nests. After lunch we strolled along the riverbank and admired the many pretty cottages built of red brick and flint, something else we don’t see in our neck of the woods. After a quick visit to the market it was time to visit Makower.
It is quite rare for me to actually meet the people I work with face to face, so much work is done via the internet so it is quite nice have opportunities to talk things through and to pool ideas. The meeting went well and before too long we were back on the road again, this time to nearby Oxford where we had booked B and B here, I shall tell you about this in my next post.
Despite the spring like nature of this post it seems more like Christmas here in my home studio. I can see snow on the lawn outside and I have my heating switched on. My desk is strewn with eighteen pots of gouache in classic Christmas colours, mixed especially for a new design collection that I am working on for Christmas 2011.
We have had some brief respites between showers and have managed a few country walks along the canal towpath. The wildlife seem to think that it is spring and the air is filled with various chirpings and squabblings as birds seek out their nesting sites.
Every year a couple of swans raise a family along the canal side, this one in the photograph seems to think it has found the perfect spot. Ted found a few new friends as you can see; it is hard to think he will be ten years old in July. I will have to keep a close eye on him when then cygnets appear, as those mute swans get very protective of their young. click for a closer look.
It will soon be time to tidy away my work and set to preparing this empty nest in preparation for our family visitors over Easter. There are metal Easter eggs to fill, beds to be made, a house to clean and lots of shopping to be done so without further ado I would like to wish you all a very happy Easter!
My name is Valerie Greeley. I am an artist, surface pattern/textile designer and illustrator. I have a special interest in the book arts including illustration, bookbinding, printmaking and artist books. I also have an interest in quilting, nature and bumblebees.