Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Great Dixter in the Spring

Reading in the Sunk Garden
11" x 8", pencil and coloured pencils in Daler Rowney sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

We visited the late Christopher Lloyd's garden at Great Dixter yesterday. His book "Christopher Lloyd's Gardening Year has temporarily replaced the art books as my bedtime reading. I'd read all about April in the garden before we got there. I love the review of the book which is quoted on Amazon - it's absolutely spot on!
The Guardian - review by Ruth Gorb, December 3 1999
"Read CHRISTOPHER LLOYD'S GARDENING YEAR and you are in the company of a master gardener and friend. In this latest book he is, as ever, chatty, opinionated and inspirational. He disobeys all the rules and wages a long-standing battle against good taste: his combination of orange dahlias and vivid purple verbena may not be your cup of tea, but he describes it with such zest...To be in his company, even through the pages of a book, is a privilege and an education"
I'm now starting his book on Colour for Adventurous Gardeners. It contains this wonderful quote.
Given the right cirumstances, I believe that every colour can be successfuly used with any other and that is the message I hope to convey..............there is something called the Colour Wheel that I have never understood and that I shall not therefore attenpt to explore or explain. It is somehow intended to demonstrate which colours may successfully be put together and which may not, but the outcome makes no sense to me, so I shall go my own way without.
Christopher Lloyd - Colour for Adventurous Gardeners
We toured the garden and marvelled at the difference between the garden at this time of year compared to the total profusion later in the summer. I wrote about this in my post on Great Dixter at the end of August last year. Then I commented as follows
To tell the truth I found most of of the garden almost impossible to sketch for various reasons:
  • there are virtually no places to sit
  • the gardens are much more about a profusion and an experience than about views (the garden is compartmentalised and is simply stuffed with an amazing mixture of plants)
  • there is no place to put a collapsible stool or seat even if one were allowed to as paths are by and large narrow and the plants are spilling over them. There might be places where one could sit - but I found it very difficult to compose views with the camera and I'm guessing the problem would be even worse if trying to sketch compounded by the virtual absence of seats.
My current thoughts are that I should try and get more sketching done earlier in the year having now seen the difference in how the garden looks at different times of the year. It's certainly holds lots of attractions in terms of the leaves of various plants. Plus, if they don't object to me taking in a seat to the vegetable patches, they have great veggies! I've invested in an annual visitors ticket for two people which gives me free access to the gardens (only) at any time during the year when the gardens are open. It will pay for itself if we visit just once more this year!

Here are some of the photos I took yesterday.

After our tour round we sat in the Sunk Garden. 'He must not be bored while I sketch' read his book and I sketched - he makes a marvellous model! Maybe I should do a series of sketches or even a book - "Not being bored in various gardens"? ;) What do you think?

Last summer I was have included Great Dixter in a post about arts and crafts gardens on Making A Mark as part of my gardens project . However this got hammered by a major Blogger malfunction and hence never got posted. I might try and see if I can finish that today.

I've also updated my information site Gardens in Art - Resources for Artists and added in a module for posts from this blog about gardens I sketch. For more details about this site see below.

  • Great Dixter - house and gardens, High Park Close, Northiam, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 6PH
  • Gardens in Art - Resources for Artists
  • If you love looking at paintings of gardens or enjoy drawing or painting your own garden or gardens you visit then this site will interest you. It also looks at gardens as art and artwork in gardens. It shares links to information about:
    • looking at drawings and paintings of gardens
    • studying how different artists have responded to the motif of 'the garden' in order to understand more about different approaches to drawing and painting the garden
    • gardens which provide opportunities for drawing and painting
  • Books

Monday, April 14, 2008

The shoreline at Bankside

Bankside shoreline
8" x 10", pencil and coloured pencils in Moleskine
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is a part plain air sketch of the shoreline on the south side of the River Thames at Bankside. the bridges you can see are the Blackfriars Railway Bridge and then Blackfriars Bridge carrying the road just beyond it.

This sketch is described as 'part plein air' as it started to drizzle shortly after I started - so it was finished at home. I think the colours might appear ever so slightly more exciting than reality! ;) There were no people in the picture when I started but they appeared as I drew so I popped them is as they give a great sense of scale.

Out of the picture and on the other river bank, next to the railway station was the site of the Norman fortress Baynard's Castle which stood in the southwest corner of the City of London, where the walls met the River Thames. It burned down in the Great Fire and the site is currently occupied by an awful lot of concrete. I used to have an office in a completely undistinguished concrete slab office blocks at Puddle Dock where I was based while working all over the UK in the nineties. Those bridges were the view out of my office window - so they're a very familiar sight for me.

Out of the picture and over to the left is the Bankside Gallery, home of the Royal Watercolor Society and the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers. I'd just come from my visit to the RWS Spring Show on its last day. You can read a post about the show on my other blog later today.

The River Thames was low yesterday, hence why the shoreline was exposed. Over on the other side of the River one can see the wood associated with the old wharves to the east of the Millenium Bridge up to Queenhithe.

The remains of old wharves on the north bank of the Thames
(Left) The view from Millenium Bridge - looking east
(Right) The entrance to Queenhithe
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Queenhithe was originally presented by King Alfred the Great in 883 AD to his brother-in-law Ethelred, who in the same year was made the first Earldorman, or Alderman. It acquired its name after the dues and profits from the docks were dedicated to the wife of Henry I, Queen Matilda. The area probably began life as a Roman dock, but was known in Saxon times as Aedereshyd. Indeed, it contains the remains of some Roman baths. With the oldest and possibly the only extant Saxon harbour in the world, the area has always been known as a trade centre, used extensively until the 20th century by the corn and later the fur and tea trades.
Port Cities - London
Below is a present day bird's eye view of the location of Queenhithe and the wharves and this is a very old map if the area.

This is a new experiment using Google Maps - please let me know if you think it works or whether it makes the blog too slow to load.

View Larger Map


Friday, April 11, 2008

Sketching the Japanese Landscape at Kew Gardens

coloured pencils in Daler Rowney sketchbook (8.5" x 11.5")
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This is the second of two blogs posts about a visit this week to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The other post is on my other blog - Japanese Art - drawing the Chokushi Mon in Kew Gardens #1. It about how I designed my sketch in relation to specific aspects of Japanese art and the things I now need to do to translate it into a more formal drawing. If you do sketches to provide material for more formal work you may it interesting.

This post will contain a few basic reminders about useful practices when sketching - plus a few other items of interest to those visiting Kew this Spring and Summer.

I'd completely forgotten that there was a Japanese Garden in Kew (no 17 on the map). I was actually on the trail of the non-existent blossom when I found it. It seemed to contain one of the very few cherry trees in the whole of Kew that was actually in blossom. However, when I got there I decided it must be fate - given my current project on Japanese Art - and started to sketch.

'How to sketch' reminders

Have a walk round before settling. The idea is that you shouldn't just start drawing wherever you happen to end up. "He who must not get bored while I sketch" picked his bench in the sunshine to read his book and I sat down on the next one along. The view (in #1 below) was OK but wasn't grabbing me. I got up with camera and started to wander and take photos to see if there was a better place to sit (I'm not above dragging benches to be able to sit to see the best view!) For example, I couldn't sit in the raked gravel - but maybe just beyond it.......

The funny bit is that MNGB now knows to watch me as I start taking photos because I often walk backwards without looking. He functions as my 'auto pilot' and sometimes shouts directions to steer me away from falling over obstacles!

Here's six photos of alternative perspectives to see how I kept looking as I walked around. Can you see what the problem was that kept cropping up on most of them? Which do you think you would have chosen to do?

Why a thumbnail sketch is a good idea These are great for getting a better sense of the overall value pattern which you might lose while sketching in colour (I did!) and which you definitely will not get from any photos taken. I'm inclined to think that my thumbnail sketch on this occasion was maybe a little more successful at rendering the values and I'm going to be using this one to help me work out the final drawing.

What sketches have and don't have
Sketches have information about colour which you lose in photos. You'd never know there was turquoise in that roof from the photo! What they often lack is correct perspective and proportion - especially if you're having to think about too many things. I found that having to think about all the Japanese design and composition matters distracted me from getting both perspective and proportion right.

Why taking photographs is also a good idea:
I don't worry too much about getting perspective or proportion wrong if I know I have a camera. Basically photographs provide me with information for corrections - if I want to make them

I also find a camera useful because I can take photos from places where I can't sit to sketch - or I can get a perspective while standing which I can't get when sat down. So - in relation to this particular sketch, the angle of the top of the gateway varies depending on where it's taken from - and was really difficult to get right while sketching. Studying my photos afterwards I notice it goes up if sat down and down if stood up. I actually prefer the going down angle, so when I work this up that's probably the one I will use.

I did a second sketch later on - of a contre jour scene outside the Orangery. The funny thing in the background is called White Peaks and is another one of the refreshments areas (mainly for kiddiewinkies) - but it also contains a gallery and shop.

White Peaks from The Orangery
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Just to the left of this view was the queue of Henry Moore sculptures waiting to go to their respective homes! The gardens are currently full of fenced off areas and big holes!

The new treetop walkway at Kew, a festival of trees and a photography competition

Finally, our visit to Kew started with us eating our sandwiches sat on a bench while some engineers constructed part of the new overhead treetop walkway.

I've photographed the whole thing from hoist to completion for one section - albeit the completion photo was taken after I'd been sketching the Japanese Gateway! Here's some of the sequence.

Installation of a section of the treetop walkway at Kew
photographs copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The new Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway will be formally opened by Princess Alexandra on 22nd May and will then open to the public on Saturday 24th May 2008. The walkway has been designed by the people who designed the London Eye and will have both stairs and a lift to take people to the top.
The side supports are of an ingenious pattern based on the Fibonacci sequence, often found in natural growth patterns such as the scales of pine cones or the arrangement of leaves in a bud.
RBG/Trees, Kew
This also marks the opening of Kew's 'The Year of the Tree' also has a A Festival of Trees which runs from 24th May to 28th September 2008.
Supported by the Hanson Environment Fund, Kew’s Rhizotron will give visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the natural world beneath the trees learning the vital relationships between the trees roots and the micro-organisms in the soil. Then rising 18 metres into the air the 200 meter long Xstrata Treetop walkway designed by Marks Barfield architects will allow visitors to wander through the canopy of sweet chestnuts, limes and broad-leaved oaks to discover birds, insects, lichens and fungi that rely on these huge organisms. Kew will also be exhibiting the winning entries from this years ‘Garden Photographer of the Year’ competition at a purpose-built outdoor exhibition.
Kew Garden Highlights 2007/8

Don't get a cold......

Running two blogs with regular posts takes some doing on a day to day basis when everything is normal. Starting a new series on this blog at the same time as I was about to start a major new project on my other blog was very silly to put it mildly - so I took a short break while I got myself organised. During which I caught "the head cold from hell" which went on for WEEKS (I jest not!) and made posting on two blogs on a regular basis absolutely and totally impossible! I then got totally side-swiped energy wise by something else while recovering from the dreadful "head cold from hell"............which is the short explanation for the major interruption in my series of posts about the Australia trip.

Hopefully, life is now beginning to get back to normal..............