Search Results for: frog

The Delight of Returning Frogs

As always at this time of year we wait for the joyful return of the frogs and after a seemingly endless dreary winter they arrived, about 2 weeks ago.

I like to mark this time each year somehow, last year it was a trial woodblock here. That was late Feb. The year before I ressurected my “Chris the frog” woodcut and added a some lunch for him.

That was March 30th. I have noticed the times are quite different from year to year I think dependant on the warmth of the water.

This year I am making a ceramic frog. It’s only in clay form at the moment and so won’t be ready to show properly for a few weeks. So I am posting a fabulous painting by the prolific Japanese painter,  Kawanabe Kyōsai 河鍋暁斎

“Sketch. Animals and insects with autumn fruits and leaves. Ink and colours on paper”

British Museum:  Museum number1881,1210,0.1871 

There are many wonderful  Kyosai natural history drawings, so full of life and affection for all the strange small creatures, who in this painting are actually celebrating autumn. I chose this one from his many frog paintings as it also contains some other favourites of mine, bats, lizards, grasshoppers, bugs and a mantis.

But there is so much more to this wonderful painter/printmaker. He was a political comentator at a time when western influences were starting to make changes to Japan and its culture. He was known for having a [articular fondness for sake,  partaking in drunken shogakai calligraphy parties. It’s something I haven’t tried yet but I am wondering if it might be hugely beneficial to my work. It’s defintitely worth a try.
Read more about him in an article in Art News about a recent UK exhibition at the RA. I would very much like to have seen it.

The frog in Japanese culture is considered lucky and I have read that the word for frog “kaeru” is pronounced in the same way as “return”. Travellers would carry a frog amulet with them to ensure a safe homeward journey. How lovely! I shall have to make some small frogs as well.

I made a few prelim sketches knowing I wanted a sitting frog. It’s how we often see them in the summer. Sitting by the small ponds in the sun.


Chinese Landscape 1249 AD…and Frogs

My experimental woodcuts this week are inspired by the wonderful Chinese woodblock printed, Materia Medica printed in 1249 in the Song Dynasty, from the collection of the Library of Congress.

Jingshi zhenglei beiji bencao

Below “Preparing salt”: Two beautiful and finely cut plates describing the all important and state controlled harvesting of salt.

Bencao (Book on Chinese Herbal Medicine), compiled by Tang Shenwei of the Song dynasty and printed in Bingyang, Shansi, in A.D. 1249.
Chinese medical books appeared before the Qin period (221-206 BC). Constantly revised and added to, by the time this version was compiled the number of medical herbs detailed were well over a thousand.”
You can access the book online here.

Originally comprised of 30 juan, (a juan being roughly a “part” or “chapter”) this copy is missing almost one half of the original content at just 13 juan, bound in 10 volumes. But this is more than enough to provide me with a fascinating exploration of the visual style of woodcuts from this time.
The text and images detail remedies involving, jade, stones, grass, wood, humans, animals, birds, insects, fish, fruits, grains, and vegetables and these comforting volumes continued being popular for several hundred years.

The whole subject of these early Materia Medica is very very complex with many strange and sometimes uncomfortable ideas of what might or might not cure various ailments. The illustrations were generally drawn with brush and ink from observation by local experts in pharmacy then slightly simplified for wood cutting/printing. They were sometimes copied from earlier sources or ; “In the case of items imported from abroad, foreign merchants were to be questioned, and one or two samples of each item were to be obtained  and taken by courier to the capital to be drawn.” 

Mostly the woodcuts depict various plants which I am going to return to later when I look at other early herbals but I wanted to cut a simple landscape block to try again to emulate a brush and ink drawing.
I found the characteristic thick and thin lines very tricky to make and the chippy plywood is not really the best material to try.
It has made me even more admiring of the fine cutting skills of these early craftsmen.

Weekly Woodcut No 7: Land, Sea and Frogs

A Rocky Landscape, a tiny bit of Choppy Sea and some Frogs.

The three blocks. the largest is about 12 x 4.5 inches

Cutting these has been a challenge and yet the images look so simple! Normally I don’t cut “outlines” which involves cutting either side of the line and all around spots, all of which have to remain raised in order to be printed. Then clearing the gaps in between to avoid the chatter was a pain and very time consuming.

I did stabilise the blocks slightly with some nori paste which helped the chipping and it’s possible to varnish them if printing with oil based inks but this shina ply varies so much from piece to piece and even on the same block that I have decided not to try any fine cutting on them in the future. The original wood might well have been pear wood and so I’m going to find some to try.

However, I do quite like some of what I managed to produce, despite the chipped gaps!

Rocky Landscape from the “Bencao”  Block and first proof.

Rocky Landscape and a first print of the Choppy Sea. I think the Rocky print has probably turned out to be the most successful in trying to cut the block in the traditional way. 

More Choppy Sea. This block was way too small, at just 3.5 x 4.5 inches, for fine cutting using this ply… but a lesson learnt ie; scale up the marks to suit the wood

Choppy Seas: A variety of papers and rainbow rolls

With the weather picking up here I was delighted to see the frogs back in the pond. So for some more cutting practice I adapted one of the plates from the book replacing, what I was pretty sure were toads, with two frogs.

Frogs: Block and 2 prints.

As a finishing touch I added light yellow to the little froggy eyes and some faint moon shapes, (it was the full “Snow” moon here on the 16th Feb). We can hear the frogs gentle musical purring at night and I think they must have arrived with that full moon.

One is printed on Japanese Hosho paper and the other on a beautiful greeny Japanese Kitikata paper

Frogs and Three Moons

In all it’s been a useful experiment but I probably won’t be doing much work in this style.  Well, useful for practicing patience if nothing else. I should have liked the lines to be thinner but risked losing them all to chipping.
The prints do remind me a bit of colouring books and I have to resist the urge to get some nice crayons and carefully fill in between the lines. Colouring book? Hmm …what’s not to love!

PS .. I like to mark the return of the frogs…. see here and here.

Frogs and Sunshine

In the garden, the natural world, blissfully unaware of any human misery, is preparing for spring. The arrival of the frogs is a particular delight. What exactly brings them back to the pond is still a mystery to me and I’m often anxious when they seem to be late. So in their honor and to encourage their return I reworked an old woodblock a bit and added some possible lunch. I also made some small frog prints for the DDs



Of course they came as usual to fill the nights with loud purring and the days with much splashing and frolicking.

The hedgehog has returned, big queen bumble bees and honey bees are busy.  The gorgeous hairy footed flower bee is all over the pulmonaria and the solitary bee box is out full of last years cocoons.  Hurrahhh.  I saw a beautiful brimstone butterfly a couple of weeks ago, the birds are singing their little hearts out and rushing about with twigs and bits of straw . It’s all go in the garden and we are promised some sun this week.

On the work front there have been lots of stops and starts with nothing resolved. But yesterday I reached no 100 of the mossy hump drawings in the wood. Yes!!!

I will just carry on but hopefully with a bit of colour here and there.

I’ve taken a couple of online Zoom classes which have been OK but I find them difficult and often just hijacked by the pushy people in the group. There are always one or two who talk over everyone, go on interminably and are unfailingly the most boring.
But I am so grateful for being able to tap into very interesting talks and demonstrations which are now online. Possibly one of the very few good things to come out of this awful situation.

One very early ray of sunshine was the arrival of the book “Achahha!” from my friend Gill. See more here:


It’s a fabulous collection of her Indian paintings and notes about her travels.  So full of life and humour as is all her work, gorgeous colours and a keen eye for human and animal behaviour. It made my day!
If you want some inspiration, sunshine and cheering up do check out her website.

Thankyou Gill!!

February Night Frogs in the Rain

I’ve had a bad cold for what seems like most of February, but if anything can cheer me up and really heralds the approach of spring it’s the arrival of the frogs.
After a warm sunny day last week, as evening approached, a light rain started.
We could hear the frogs from inside the house, blissful in the rain, splashing and jumping around the pond. Their eyes just pinpoints of reflected light in the dusk.

I made a quick reduction print to record this joyful event.


“February Rain”… lino reduction  6 x 4 inches

frog sketch

Later I took my small camera out and recorded their spring song. Well I like to think of it as song!
This may be the most boring Youtube video ever, no visuals to speak of but take a minute to listen to happy frogs on a February night in the rain. Tiny spots of light are their little froggy eyes moving about the pond.

Now isn’t that just lovely?

A Quick Woodcut: Chris the Frog

On Friday my Easton group had a great day tackling a woodblock print. Their results were excellent, some even managing two colours which is some going for just a few hours.
As a demo I had prepared a simple two colour print of a frog. Frogs are very much on my mind as they are all over the Garden at the moment.

Roughs and Colour notes:

frog-sket-bg frog-sketches-1-bg

Some thumbnail compositional sketches


A decision..


Colour roughs

The Print I had printed up a few variations of the Frog using the same very basic materials we would be using in the class, a spoon, a baren, computer paper, tissue paper, some cheap Japanese rice paper and basic acrylic printing inks.

frog plate

The woodcut plate, cut for the first colour


The first colour proofed on thin rice paper.


Various combinations of paper and inking with the second colour added.


“Chris the Frog”: Woodcut on Japanese rice paper: Image A4

The frog is called Chris because I realised I had unwittingly cut a rather nice letter C in one of the spots.. it seemed fitting..


In the garden there are still many tiny froglets around the pond fringes Mowing is a nightmare and very very slow.
I have to carefully pat the grass to alert them and help the very tiniest ones to get to safety.
The long grass must seem mountainous to them.. I rather know how they feel.


Here is one on the very tip of my grubby fingers.. I am wondering how they will survive the winter.
Summer seems to be rushing by, the days are shorter, evenings and mornings darker and I am very busy..:).. Busy is always good!

Life at Last: Bees, birds and frogs

It was actually warm on Saturday ..yes warm! There was real sun and there were real shadows and at last… Hurrahhh … bees. I was beginning to wonder if any of my local bees had made it through.  First a huge Buff Tailed Bumble Bee queen finding what she could in the bare garden. I have a few crocus but not much else for such a big bee. I hope she is finding more elsewhere. Then in the conservatory window my first little solitary bee. My bee guru Alan has said possibly Andrena bicolor or  Andrena nigroaenea. Whatever he was, I was very pleased to see him.

The Wild Bird Cherry is in blossom and I am sure that’s where he was heading.

bird cherry

Yes real blue sky! Then in the pond, amazingly, 4 frogs who serenaded us all day.

These are our first ever spring frogs. Last year we created the pond, which we populated with tadpoles from my sister’s pond in Lincoln. Then we had many tiny froglets and now the returning adults. How delightful!

Lincolnshire frogs doing well in Cambs…
There is also some very VERY pretty singing from the blackbirds.
You might almost believe that Spring has arrived!

Leaf of the Day: Frog disturbed nights and the Acalypha Fire Dragon

I have been to Leu today and to my delight have found a Ginkgo tree… leaf to follow soon. Also I took a photo of a beautiful large green/brown frog which was by the pond in the Arid Garden, one of many, whose friends and relations are disturbing the gentile peace of Winter Park these hot and humid nights.

My photo from this am, variety not known yet.

Because, with the now daily and torrential rain, has come the astonishingly loud nightly croaking of the local frogs. There are 32 species of frogs and toads in Florida and I think they are all right here at our apartment block. There must have been a My Space invitation for some midnight revelries at Killarney Bay. Even Florida locals, tired of the raucous partying ring up the council to see if anything can be done.

Gary Morse, spokesman for the Lakeland office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission explains;

“The nocturnal symphony,” he said, “is one of the many quirky aspects of living in a state that has alligators, urban coyotes, sharks, hurricanes, lightning and sinkholes. The rain will pass before too long, he said, and so too, will the frog noise. Until then, try to endure”, he counseled.
“The more damp it is at night, the happier they are and the louder they croak,” Morse said. “Loud frogs are part of the price you pay to live in a place like Florida.”
More from the Tampa Bay Chronicle here

But frogs are delightful, and here they are extremely useful as they eat mosquito lava. The ones that make the noise are most likely to be various species of tree frogs.The Cuban variety probably the main culprit .. big latino party animal this. They are the biggest and noisiest with voracious appetites, hoovering up almost anything they can overpower and according to Wiki, they are also believed to cause power outages by sitting on transformers on electrical poles.

image from here
I miss my small froggy UK pond, I hope my frogs are thriving..

My leaf today is a gorgeous leaf, blousey and ruffled like a harlequin’s collar, and is one of the many varieties of Acalypha wilkesiana whose leaves are decorative and multicoloured. They vary widely in leaf shape, size and colour and are known by many different names, Joesph’s coat, Match me if you can, and Copperleaf. They are from the extensive spurge family Euphorbiaceae . To me, like the croton, its leaf is more interesting in isolation and away from the colourful muddle of the whole plant. To see the real beauty of the structure you need to see the leaves in isolation.

The drawing is actually of 1 leaf and 1 flower spike. The flowers are tiny and are held protected by the curl of the smaller part of the leaf, which itself nestles close into the larger leaf blade. The little leaf is a lopsided shape as well and curves in the opposite direction to the larger leaf. The veins are red.
I made a few scans of the drawing as I went along. It’s interesting to see how it develops. I had to keep the leaf in the fridge overnight which it seemed to enjoy, but if I continue on to a colour version I will have to get another one. But I have so many other things to do ..


Acalypha Fire dragon

More Daily Drawings and Some Owls

I am not quite sure what happened to February but I have been plodding along trying to keep positive and dutifully making a small daily drawing. It’s quite a while since I posted those and so here is a bit of a mish mash, catch up of DDs. As usual they are just things I am looking at, sketches and studies here and there. They are not a conscious record of the days but of course some first things have to be recorded, first snowdrop, first bees, first aconite etc etc.




I also made a small booklet of owls. You can see some of the initial thumbnails in the above.

The booklet started with a very small book maquette which I have had for a while.
I needed a few images to see if it would work and as I had heard an owl in the wood in early Feb I took that as a bit of a hint. 🙂

The main booklet opens a bit like a matchbook from the bottom.

So I cut the owls, complete with moon phases…

…and printed them in two ways. In singles on a strip for the “match book” binding and in a traditional form, double sided, to make a traditional codex book.

It all sounds so easy. But making prints into a book is nothing like as easy as just making one print. There are many things to bear in mind and as I have said before you need to keep the backs of the prints clean, as often you will be printing on both sides of one piece of paper.
All I can say is that I am getting a bit better.

Anyway here are a couple of results;

Front and back….


Left, centre, and right.

Then I made a traditional sewn booklet.

….please note pristine verso pages!

Then to give myself a bit more stress and anxiety I made a slip case for the first book.
Nice fit! Shame about the bit of glue on the back but hey I am sure I am improving!

I’m going to reprint and add some type and maybe a bit of second colour here and there…and make a perfect slip case.

Meanwhile spring is slowly getting here, there are bees, and new shoots and a glimpse of a frog in the pond.


Welcome.. and a Spring Crocus

Here I am again, at the new location! Welcome to Pencil and Leaf’s new home.


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I should get more time to blog now, as it will be easier … I hope… on this platform.

But let’s get on with Spring, which despite the weather is definitely on its way. In the garden, snowdrops, aconites, winter honeysuckle and the sweet little crocus are blooming. The yellow ones have a dark red stripe on the back of their petals before they open. Lovely!

I made a bunch of quick prints to celebrate their arrival.

A nice little experimental piece to try some new papers and a few new inks.


Morning Crocus.


A4 lino reduction print. 

……and not only are the flowers in bloom but the frogs have arrived… 🙂 happy happy days!!

Almost done: The Problem Woodblock

It was all going so well .. so well. I came back from Amsterdam and with a bit of faffing about with shimming and extra packing, printed 11 of the large Tree woodcuts.

“Alder” one of my favuorites,  with the charcoal burners and rooks.

Then the last one just would not print.


There is a low strip in the wood and sod’s law it is on a part of the block which really needs to print a nice even black.
All  day Friday and again on Monday I tried everything;  shims, extra strips on the back under the low spot, raising the grain with steam and sanding down the high spots but still it refuses to print.

By lunch time on Monday I knew this was doomed so the only remedy was to cut another block.  Resigned,  I came home and promptly feel ill with an awful cold and I thought I had come through the winter pretty well! Wednesday, still with my awful cold  but cheered by the arrival of frogs in the pond, I re-cut the block. What a pain. But as with all these setbacks there is something to learn.

The dip in the wood was impossible to discern in its raw state but in future before starting I will run a block and sandpaper over the surface of the wood to flag up any serious flaws. To be fair this is cheap plywood and its done pretty well so far.


Eventually on Friday, still with the awful cold, I finally managed to print the last block.

“Willow”… at last.

Printing these blocks on the Western Press has been interesting and quite a challenge. They are big plates so need lots of ink.  I have double inked most of them and re-inked the rollers after every 2 or 3 prints. The tricky thing has been keeping the printing more or less consistent over the series; not too dark and not too light. It’s a balance of inking and pressure.

Some blocks are slightly higher than others and need less packing, some need lots of packing and more re-inking. Each plate must be proofed individually. It’s a slow and painstaking business.

I decided early on that I would let the grain of the blocks show. It gives an added texture to the prints and of course, as they are about trees it is much more appropriate than slapping on a heavy black and obliterating all the fine grain texture.
I am hoping to make 20 books. 10 with these plates printed on the Western and 10 with images I print at home. I am hoping to add another colour to some. But the next step is the binding.

Colour Print Trials and Bees.

The weather has been fabulous, spring has arrived and it’s been too nice to be inside so work has been a bit slow. But in between wrestling with the garden, sporadic bookbinding and printing I have been making a series of small colour print trials. These are using 2 relief plates and are helping me understand how printing ink colours behave when overprinting. It’s not always the same as applying glazes in oils or watercolours. Hmmm
The possibilities are endless. Inspiration? The pond, minus frogs though.


Bees bees bees….
I have spent the last couple of days in the garden digging, chopping and moving things. The frogs have scattered now and it’s mostly quiet in the pond but I was accompanied by the buzzing of some newly minted queen bumble bees and the odd solitary bee.

So far the bee count this year is, Queen Bumble Bees;  Bombus hypnorum, pratorum, lucorum, terrestris and pascuorum. One odd little solitary, one Andrena fulva and… joy of joys.. the male Anthophora plumipes, the hairy footed flower bees, with their unmistakable high pitched buzz and speedy flight.

HFFB           Hffb2

Hairy footed flower bees.

Top; one lurking at the bottom on a stachys leaf near a favourite spring pulmonaria flower
Above; zooming off to chase away another male. He is a little supercharged bundle of male aggression and will even tackle large bumble bees who stray into his territory.

pasc           pasc2

A dainty little B pratorum The Early Bumblebee, approaching the winter honeysuckle, tongue unfurled in the first and legs up coming into land in the second.

pa3         pasc4

The Common Carder Bee. B pascuorum. In the second photo she is balancing on one flower with her back legs while getting her nose right up into the flower.


A gorgeous two tone ginger Tawny mining bee Andrena fulva resting in the sun.


and a little solitary male… waiting… waiting… waiting for a mate.. 🙂

And yet more trials…

There has been little time for practical work this week except a few more trials with mostly collagraph plates and combining some scrap prints with different plates to see what happens.


Printing lightly on thin paper gives a lovely soft grainy effect and subtle overlapping colour mixes.

blue-4    blues-det

And a combined lino, collagraph and a bit of chine-colle


Some accidents can really help, especially when, what you are actually trying to do, isn’t working. (often)
It’s always worth looking at some tiny details which could be enlarged and developed into new prints.

berries-2     berries-1

It’s also quite useful to have scrap prints to use for something else, a trial book jacket perhaps..
Ah yes ! And here is one I made earlier, out of scraps…There is nothing in it yet, it’s just a sort of book in waiting and will probably remain so..


Spring though is definitely springing here…many bees, many birds and much frogspawn, lovely! I am having a few days off to dig the garden. Back after Easter.

September Sketches 4

These are the last of my September 30 minute sketches. Just a short break and then I’ll be back.


Monday: Geese and the Harvest Moon: Last night the huge harvest moon hung in the sky ( I didnt manage to stay up for the blood moon!) and the flocks of geese which visit the reservoir this time of year flew by. Their cries send shivers down my spine. The beating of their wings are like sheets flapping in the wind. They are Autumn to me.


Sunday: Autumn leaf, a breezy day and daddy long legs. I was not sure what to do today but I had a leaf on my desk. It’s windy and bright and yellow outside. By the window are the remains of daddy long legs caught in the huge spiders webs.  My ginny spinner still has a bit of life left!


Saturday: Last Plums I love Victoria plums these are the last ones.


Friday: Plum Alley Muntjac. In the early morning wildlife are scattered along the cycle track and woodland paths. Rabbits, squirrels, many birds and sometimes a weasel or a fox zig zag in front of me. Plum Alley is an old railway track where trees on either side of the track now meet forming a leafy arch. I often see little muntjac deer. They are capable of leaping high across the track. Falling leaves are turning yellow. Sometimes the deer just blend into the background.


Thursday: Come Again Lacewing . Found an old receipt in my jeans pocket, it had been through the wash. The only clue to its identity are the faded letters. “……ME AGAIN” A little lacewing has been flying around recently. I keep seeing it. They are always welcome.


Wednesday: Fence Crows. The twa corbies. They are always there, sitting  on the posts in the sheep field down the lane. Black, black unremittingly black.


Tuesday : Rain rain rain:  Sitting gloomily looking out of the window at the dreary relentless rain……puddles, drips, runs, sheets, stair rods and dreich, dreich drizzle. It rained all day.. even a frog would be miserable.
Back soon…

Eels .. a start.

I am completely fascinated by these slippery, mysterious creatures and their extraordinary life cycle. They are one of the subjects in my very long, 2015, to-do list. I have drawn some eels before, long ago to illustrate Philip Gross’ poem “Sargasso”. I had been thinking about another interpretation of the poem for a small book.

eels Sargasso

But meanwhile I am playing with all sorts of printing methods and wanted to make a simple concertina book for a bit more simple bookbinding practice.

I started with some sketches:




They do have teeth… awesome!

Then made a couple of simple plates cut from card. I had made some card plates for the moon project but they were not terribly successful. Now I have made up some of my own shellac which I think will help.


Sketch and plates


Trials with different weights of ink


A first folded print Then I made a small simple case for the book. I say simple but it is tricky to get everything square, to stop the ink smudging and to keep everything clean. I printed some foliage for a quick cover, wrestled with some old wood type for the title and printed the back of the eel to tidy that aspect up a bit before pasting the print to the front cover.


The case cover


The back

Opened book There are a million things wrong with this but it is a small triumph for me and number two small book form for this year. I am trying to make one a week.   Last week I used an old frog print, folded it and made two separate boards.

frog booklet 1

The folded book

front and back

The front and back boards

open frog

The opened out print.

I have to consider this an experiment .. but good practice. See more here.