Down here in East Sussex, I do very much appreciate the beauties of spring. In particular the amazing wild flowers that appear between March and late May. My plan is to create a short series of linocuts celebrating these wild flowers – possibly with some wildlife included too. Certainly, there will be wildlife in the first one as I am looking at the lovely wild garlic and plan to include a wood mouse in the scene.
I live within a few minutes walk of Hastings Country Park – a protected stretch of coastline from Hastings to the coastal village of Fairlight. It’s only a few miles between the two places but the park is quite deep, with higher and lower main paths and lots of smaller footpaths between them. There are grassy hills but mostly woodland, full of the dingly dells. This habitat is called ghyll woodland and is characterised by steep sided wooded valleys with streams running through.
Hastings was once famous with the Victorians for the impressive ferns found on these steep shady slopes.
So this means that in the country park you can go from open grassland with raptors and field birds, to cliff tops with ravens and migrating birds, to woods with woodpeckers and wood mice within a few minutes on foot – which is really inspiring.
In one part of the Country Park that I often walk through there are banks of wild garlic. I really enjoy seeing them and decided that they should star in a linocut.
For those unsure, this is what wild garlic (or ramsons) looks like:-
Apparently wild garlic is a sign of an ancient woodland. I am slightly dubious of this as it is really pretty common. Here in Hastings I have seen it in the town park, gardens and patches of waste ground, as well as woods that probably are ancient. I have also seen it in the Mendips in Somerset. It seems to prefer shady spots, ideally with moisture in the air.
Most of the plant is edible, as you would expect – including the flowers. For a time, the air in the woods is suffused with a mild garlic aroma and then, within a few weeks, the flowers are over and the wide green leaves are flat and brown.
As I planned this linocut I remembered that I had also watched a little wood mouse at the wild garlic spot at a different time of the year.
I was walking along a footpath through the woods when I heard a sudden rustle and decided to wait to see whether the creature would re-emerge. I thought it was either a small bird or a mouse. I hoped it might actually be a weasel. I’m always hoping to see weasels in the countryside (or glow worms, or an otter).
After a minute of me standing quietly, a wood mouse came out of cover and nosed along the bank around the tree roots for ten minutes or so. I suppose it’s slightly unusual for them to be around in the daylight. Anyway this memory has inspired me to include a wood mouse amongst the wild garlic in the linocut.
Coming up with the sketch
Here are some of my sketches for the wood mouse.
I looked at online photos and videos and also drew (no pun intended) on my own sightings of wood mice – not just that time in the Country Park, but also live wood mice brought in by my cat, including one that was quite perkily sitting on my bed staring at me when I woke up in the night. (It was released unharmed into the back garden).
The wood mouse is one of our most common rodents and probably resident in most gardens. It is similar to the house mouse but has larger ears and eyes and is therefore quite a bit cuter.
I then decided that the wood mouse would perhaps be better side on so that it could interact with the wild garlic rather than looking like it was just sitting in the middle and squashing it.
Finally I came up with the final sketch and planned for an image approximately slightly under A4 – which means I can use my press! The wild garlic stems are curved, which is unrealistic but artistically pleasing.
Below is the final sketch.
Next thing to think about is how the colours are going to work and what technique to use ….
You may also like the previous blog Inspirational Spring Flowers.