Thursday, 22 December 2011

Colour from the season - Mistletoe yellow

In winter once the leaves have all fallen, you can see the Mistletoe hanging in ethereal almost perfectly circular balls from the branches. A partial parasite, it provides the host with energy (through photosynthesis) but it also takes food from the plant and eventually is destructive to it.

There are numerous and varied explanations where the custom of kissing underneath it came from on the internet. It has certainly long been a symbol of peace and also fertility, but if it's difficult to be absolutely sure when the custom started, its not hard to understand why its still going strong!

Its delicate structural form casts wonderful shadows. The berries not white at all but the palest green/grey, vibrant yellow buds blending down into the stems and leaves.

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Colour from the season - Hawthorn berry red

Lining the lanes here in the Shire at the moment, I notice the red of the Hawthorn berries, starting to blacken with age not falling but desiccating on the branches. It's a rich subdued red, perfect for this time of year. I love the Hawthorn, I love its leaves, its berries, its folklore, perhaps this should be the red of Christmas rather than (to my mind) the more garish red of the Holly berry...

If you like this post - you can subscribe to Planet Sam by email :) here.

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Colour from the Season - Hydrangea petal red

Hydrangeas (I believe) are at their most attractive as the flowers start to fade and become skeletal. I was in a very frazzled mood the day I drew this. It's captured in the drawing and it perhaps has more vigour and expression because of it. It may not appeal to everyone, I know that my mum wasn't overly keen(!x) but I rather like it. The faded colours reminiscent of the natural dyes, Brazilwood, Walnut and I'm pretty sure that Weld over-dyed in a weak Indigo vat will produce that green...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Colour from the Season - Rose hip (Maigold) orange

Recently I had a letter from a student asking me about my 'interpretation of details extracted from the landscape' and how I transfer them to textiles. I thought this was an interesting description and certainly beats the clichéd expression ..inspired by nature (which as a rule I try never to use).

Originally I began writing in this blog about seasonal colour because I was tired of the increasing influence of the global trend forecasting industry for colour and design. My designs have at times been in trend forecasting magazines and used for trend forecasts. Although these publications can be very inspirational, they are also self fulfilling. Designers follow the colour and trend predictions and therefore the predictions are fulfilled. I felt there was an alternative story to be told and I decided to research seasonal colour from plants, which I have been doing for the past 13 months.

As the notebook has developed it is increasingly a useful resource book of colour and imagery. I document all the colours directly from the plant and I record them in CMYK, RGB and NCS colours - which are the colour systems I use. It's meant I am continually drawing, developing creative ideas through drawing and 'extracting details from the landscape' to build a personal visual language for my creative work. If it also inspires other people then that's even better.

Here, the intense and fiery hip colours of the Maigold Rose outside my front door at the moment - it's the upside of not getting around to dead-heading..!

P.S. ..just posted on our silk screen blog ( how to...coat a silk-screen!

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Colour from the season - New Zealand flax pink

Not seasonal perhaps, but as the brighter colours in the garden are starting to fade - the simple muted palette and structural form of this New Zealand flax (Phormium) adds sophistication. Some people might find these muted colours too drab - to me they are reminiscent of Art Nouveau, of the poster illustrations of artists from that period such as Alphonse Mucha and Henri J. Detouche - subtle and organic. I find I respond to some subjects infinitely more than others and I really enjoyed drawing these...

Poster 1899 by Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939)

Poster 1896 by Henri J. Detouche (1854-1913)

If you like this post - you can subscribe to Planet Sam by email :) here.

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The little

The little things in life that make the difference...

...something we always planned since we found our lovely old garage/workshop in North Devon ten years ago, is at last happening and we are opening it up as a print facility, where we plan to run workshops, ourselves as well as with guest practitioners, offer print services, hold exhibitions and discuss all things relating to print (and dye). The first blog post went up today showing the logo being printed - you can follow us and see what we're up to over the coming months at exposed.

Colour from the Season - Fatsia green

Fatsia are strange plants - palmate leaves like outstretched hands which fall short of being attractive or so I always thought until last year in November, when almost everything else had started to fade and I noticed their flowers which had exploded like extra-ordinary pod forms with a sense of 1950's style about them, made me smile!

Fresh colours which aren't at all autumnal, and seem to fit the elegant forms of these odd umbrels...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Colour from the season - Stinking Iris orange

Stinking Irises (Iris Foetidissima) have very quirky looking seedpods. Drawing these yesterday, it was difficult to see how the berries were still attached to the pods - they were hanging on at the very edges for dear life! The leaves seemed almost to be waving to me as I was drawing (or perhaps I'm just a bit over tired lately!).
I documented the delicate colours of the flowers when I drew them in June, also the pod colours in January when I came across them in an salt air dried state on a wintery walk at the beach. These vintage looking November colours from this garden specimen are as sampled below.

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Colour from the season - Spindle pod pink

Finally a spare moment in between printing to post the colours (again) of the Spindle tree. So named because its wood was traditionally used to make the spindles for spinning.
Spindly by nature as well as name, its a bit on the shabby side and not much to look at, until its structured four sided pods develop into a deeply vivid shade of pink, splitting wide open to reveal within shiny deep orange seeds - quite astonishing...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Colour from the season - Acorn cup green

"By viewing nature, nature's handmade art,
Makes mighty things from small beginnings grow:" - John Dryden. Annus Mirabilis (1667)

Yes it is Halloween today - but thought I'd steer away from pumpkins as I sampled their fabulous two-tone orange last year - and instead draw the acorn, the fruit of the Oak, symbol of strength and longevity.
The Oak trees (here) are laden with acorns this year - so perhaps their decline over the past few years will be redressed. I hope so.

These rustic low contrast colours not surprisingly reminiscent of heritage and the National Trust - who use an Oak branch with acorns for their logo...

Last but not least...happy 40th birthday Graf xx!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Colour from the season - Calendula Orange

October's birth flower is the Calendula or Marigold. They flower all summer long and some are still flowering in full force near the end of October! A flower with both beauty and medicinal value and a radiant face against any grey skies...

Great to draw - dip pen and ink - no pencil sketch here - it either works or it doesn't.

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Colour from the season - Mussel shell blue

As long as there is an R in the month - Mussels are in season. (from May to August they're breeding, and not only are they rattly i.e. losing a lot of meat, they also need to be left alone to reproduce.)

Mussels remind me of times spent in Brussels, of days sitting outside the cafés around Le Grand Place, eating steaming bowls of them with the best chips (frites) ever!

I'm going over a few of my early notebook pages to add a drawing or extend the colour range, either because I love the colours or because I want to draw the subject. Here it was for both these reasons. Their shell colours are saturated shades of blue and brown, echoing barnacle clad rocks and sandy seashores...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Colour from the season - Cob Nut brown

I posted a single colour for Hazel/Cob nuts last December, (my early colour posts were very simple!). Those were bought from the supermarket just before Christmas, these I gathered locally. The colour of the local nut is more subdued. Shown here alongside the other colours sampled from the husks and branch - gentle country colours (aggressive looking husks!)...

December (fully ripened?) Hazel nut brown.

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Colour from the season - Conker brown

Conkers - take me back to my junior school days in Bath. Lots of magnificent Horse Chestnut trees there and in September to October, the parks are strewn with conkers. Here, there's hardly a conker to be seen and when I realised that they must be in season, I had to search high and low for them. I nostalgically remember throwing the biggest sticks I could find into the trees to knock the conkers off their branches and the moment of the shell splitting open to reveal a shiny red brown conker against the white inner case set off against the mostly spiky and sometimes smooth protective cases...theres nothing quite like them...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Colour from the season - Cotoneaster Yellow

The berries of this Cotoneaster tree (Cotoneaster Salicifolius Exburyensis) are similar to the shape and colour of miniature golden delicious apples. We happened to stop under this tree on our way back from the beach last weekend. Though it was dark, I could see that the leaves were glossy and elegant and the berries an unusual colour, and when I got it home (the cutting not the tree!) I wasn't disappointed...

Last week I broke my palette which I was sorry about.
It's not that its such a special palette but I've had it a long time and it was a present.
So - sentimental - as a palette can be.

I remembered that I had some packets of Sugru.
So... I "hacked it better" !

(I used blue as a nod to traditional blue and white china)
Great stuff !

Lastly I came across this wonderful track/video today by Ben Howard called Keep Your Head Up and thought I'd re-post it - thanks to Sammy of Pachadesign for flagging it up on their blog or I wouldn't have seen it! How living in Devon can feel at its best - good to be reminded of it!

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Colour from the season - Chrysanthemum burnt orange

I love Chrysanthemums and it seemed to me when I visited 100%Design last week, that the rich slightly burnt deep orange I sampled from these locally grown ones, happens to be pretty much spot on trend at the moment.

I particularly like them alongside the acid yellow/green from their inner petals and the much gentler muted pink petals and green and brown of their stems. Couldn't leave any colours out when they were looking this good together. So here they are, squeezed in, all seven colours..!

...some stills from the fab light show projected at the entrance to 100%Design this year.

mesmerising colour...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Colour from the Season - Beech nut brown

In May the colours of this Purple Beech were deep purple black, greys and pinks. Now the September colours of these large beautiful trees which I walk beneath on my daily outings with Chip are turning every shade of rich red to orange, darkest brown blacks, and ochre greens.

Each nut form is a clever three sided triangle, and within each hairy case, two nuts fit together snugly. From a purely design perspective they are technically very interesting! Beech nuts are edible - I loved them a lot as a child and I ate these after I'd drawn them, the first time for quite a few years! The flavour is sweet and nutty, but because they're small and mostly shell - they're mainly left for the squirrels...

May colours of Purple and Common Beech (together).

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Colour from the Season - blackberry black

In London over a month ago I noticed that the brambles were already laden with ripe blackberries. Here in Devon, they've been set back by the weather this year, are small in comparison and are still ripening. The blackberries at Woolacombe dunes at the moment are these very intense shades of vivid red and green next to black, have a sharp sweetness to them and are the most vicious bramble thorns I think I've ever come across...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Colour from the Season - Tree Peony pod green

Wow - lovely pods! A friend brought an enormous branch of this tree peony round the other day, which she described as the bog standard yellow flowering one!

When they arrived the leaves were spikily alive, the pods tightly closed. The following day the pods had split open to reveal highly glossy (olive like) seeds, shining out in sharp contrast against the matt white inner pod and bright acid colours of the exterior shell and stems. Pretty fantastic for something bog standard..!

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Colour from the Season - Hydrangea blue

Love the rain? Hydrangeas do and its been a great year for them! We visited Clovelly the other day, it was a fabulously sunny morning, but as we set off in the early afternoon the clouds were gathering and it started to rain pretty much on cue as we arrived. On a positive note, at least there was room at the inn when we reached the harbour!

This lace-wing hydrangea had a cloudless palette of blue and blue/greens - unlike the sky...

'Doom Bar' in the Red Lion Hotel
(the great names of British beer!)

what comes down must go back up along..!

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Colour from the Season - Dahlia & Chrysanthemum white

"...white is a colour. It is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. When, so to speak your pencil grows red-hot, it draws roses; when it grows white hot, it draws stars." - extract from 'A Piece of Chalk' - Chesterton, G.K. (1909)

Yesterday I was wondering about white. How flowers that we consider to be white are hardly that at all. These white Dahlias and Chrysanth's have a range of fresh yellows, set against red/browns in the stems of the Chrysanth's and acid greens of their sepals and leaves.

G.K. Chesterton's short essay which the extract above was taken from - about colour, (and other philosophical thoughts) worth a read. You can find the whole essay here...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Colour from the Season - Sloe berry blue

A few days ago I read a poignant blog post by Rob Ryan - he's started a new blog separate from the one he writes about his (brilliant) work. This one is called 'You can still do a lot with a small brain'. His post 'Not even September yet blues' voices how I've been feeling since my son Josse left home to study graphics in London last September. He captures the feeling perfectly.

There's also been other things that just piled up on top and which meant that my usual ability to self motivate and bounce back seemed to have abandoned me.

When I started this section of my blog on seasonal colour, my first post was sloe berries. It consisted of just two colours and a photo. Eleven months on and I'm up-dating and refining it to include more of the colours found in the whole branch, adding a sketch and also below the drawing as it developed. It somehow seems fitting to be posting something sloe and something blue to mark this time of change.

Documenting these seasonal colours, out and about gathering the occasional cutting from here and there(!) with the lovely Chip has been a kind of therapy. Always intended just to be for it's own sake, this colour notebook has in fact been amazing for a multitude of reasons and on many levels. It's developed my knowledge of plants, I now know a lot about poisons, recipes, feathers, and all sorts of other odd things. I notice colours that I once would have passed by and I spot colour in the bleakest of places. My drawing and creativity has developed by default as I've progressed and it's (mostly) kept me sane this year, with a little help from my friends...

Sloe development...

The morning was sunny - not a bad start - bit shaky...

A nice rabbity looking sloe, but nearly gave up on the drawing at this point because the berries were too heavily outlined and yes still pretty shaky - but it was also very sunny

the ink was drying on the nib quickly in the sun - had to work fast (the music on my ipod by Little Dragon was slow)...

colour (acrylic) focus on the berries - a splash of colour to the leaves and branch...

always adding colour - Chip x

If you like this post - you can subscribe to Planet Sam by email :) here.

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Colour from the Season - Snapdragon yellow

I've been looking at these Snapdragon's in the garden all (questionable?) summer long - they seem to go on and on. Their season has lasted all through August and though the seedpods are now spilling seeds everywhere, they are still flowering madly. Drawing them felt full of nostalgic fondness, outlining their dragon like heads and mouths in red ink for a change which was all I had to hand...

Hard to resist doing this, see below, (very) short clip featuring a rather beautiful multi - coloured Snapdragon to the music of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic zero's - 'Up from Below' !

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Colour from the Season - Crab apple red

Just as I'd sampled the Rowan berries (last post) with a link to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's crab apple and rowan berry jelly recipe, a friend came around with a shoe full(!) of crab apples - which of course would surely be in season at the same time. So here they are - sharp citrus colours...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Colour from the Season - Rowan berry orange

Berries are ripe and in season, these vivid orange/red ones are Rowan or Mountain Ash berries. Uncooked the berries are slightly poisonous, but they're good for making jelly and wine - just found these Guardian blog recipes for rowanberry wine and also Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's crab apple and rowan jelly...perfect!

My notebook records the colours of a moment in time, one branch, one flower, one designer's selection and perception. Another week on and the orange berries may have all turned red. At first glance the colours of the Rowan could appear to be only the flaming red berries and bright yellow/green leaves. Look closer and the less ripe berries are still orange or even warm yellow, the branch and stem are a dusky soft red, the leaves are spattered with brown. Documenting sets of between three to six colours for each subject, giving these (for the moment) equal importance, and telling a fuller if perhaps not the complete colour story.

...from my seasonal colour notebook.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Colour from the Season - Begonia red

I never used to care much for Begonias - always thought that they were a bit on the brash side. Now that I'm on the alert for interesting plant colours it's hard not to notice them as their petals are (as my dad pointed out) pure pigment colour. The more I studied them the more interesting they seemed and their colour intensity is spectacular. Two completely different flower forms, a male and a female on the same stem - that's a very close relationship !

Third attempt to capture them and I finally thought I had something of their personality - Yesterday was one of those days - upset the bottle of ink, washed out the paint brush in my tea etc...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Colour from the Season - Honesty seed pod cream

Honesty seed pods are ripening, they've turned from their unripe shade of green to multi colour deep purples, reds, green yellows and gradating tints of of cream. Soon they will become the parchment thin, transparent discs for which the plants are mainly grown - though it seems to me that this in-between stage is especially attractive...

(the flowering colours of Honesty can be seen on my April blog posting here)

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Colour from the Season - Rosa Rugosa hip red

In May I documented the colour of the Rosa Rugosa when the bushes were covered in roses. They still have a few flowers on the dense bushes but now the hips have taken over as the dominant feature. The tomato like fruits have what are called long persistent sepals - these strange leafy protrusions coming out of the bottom of the fruit are visually extra-ordinary and great to draw!

Although the red and green are strong and contrasting, the less saturated orange and brown shades soften the overall intensity of the palette...

I tasted them to see what they were like (very rich in vitamin C but remove the seeds first!). They're a bit like a soft apple or pear but with slightly more citrus, not bad!

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Colour from the Season - Petunia phantom black

Adding an touch of drama to the Petunia market. The complementary contrasts of deepest purple/black, green and a very unusual shade of yellow. Loved by hummingbirds apparently, but as their habitat's a few thousand miles away, sadly I don't think that they'll make it as far as my garden..!

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Colour from the Season - Broad bean green

Broad beans are in season. These have got chocolate spot, which adds an extra colour and interesting splatter pattern to the pods! The tactile pods open up to reveal the downy palest green cocoon protecting the smooth beans held in line with a vibrant yellow hinge..!

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.