Christine Howes prints for Botanic Garden

‘Maritime Pine’, Wood Engraving by Christine Howes

It is a cold and rainy February 2017. I am working on 2 prints at once, not recommended as there is a danger that neither will be finished. But these two prints are very different. The first print, almost completed is a black and white wood engraving, printed from a block of end grain wood 14 cms high and 13 cms wide. It shows a much loved pine tree at its finest, almost filling the composition. This tree which I have called ‘Maritime Pine’, was severely damaged recently in storm Angus and the entire huge left branch was severed at its base, bringing down most of the canopy. It lies starkly on the ground with its torn branches reaching out. The storms on the North Cornwall coast can be awesome with waves that often reach halfway up the cliffs in the background. These winds however, sculpt the trees and hedges at the coast catching the eye of photographers and artists alike. I have previously featured this tree in another print called ‘The Wind-blown Trees’ which was exhibited at the RWA a couple of years ago. I decided after the storm that this tree deserved its own memorial to celebrate its beauty.

The sky is still grey and damp and I needed some bright colour to see me through until Spring. So I began work on a print of honeysuckle intended for the BS9 Art Trail where I will be exhibiting at the Botanical gardens in June. Honeysuckle is a complex flower but with gorgeous colours, delicate petals and bright berries. My first designs were tall and narrow to reflect a slice through the hedgerow with the flowers growing outward. But as I worked on the composition, the design grew larger and is now four times as large as the black engraving. I imagined a small warbler sitting on the red stem, knowing I could use the yellow and greens.

Last summer I photographed the honeysuckle and loved its red winding stems snaking through the hedge. I tried to include its many forms – buds and berries, flowers before and after flowering. I spent time choosing the colours as when over printing, each colour affects the others. I hoped to use 4 or 5 colours at most.

‘Honysuckle Hedge’ is printed from only one piece of lino using the reduction method. Firstly all areas of white must be cut out of the lino using sharp tools. Then 20 prints are printed with the chosen yellow. Next the yellow areas are cut out and all of the prints are printed with red on top of the yellow. The third colour was green , then blue and black. With every colour the block is reduced by cutting away the lino. This method is sometimes called the suicide method of printing as you can never go

backwards or print any more prints when you have finished. As the print progressed the small yellow bird emerged from the foliage! This print definitely brought colour into my winter.