Herbiarum Vocabularum

One from my latest batch of eco collography experiments. I made these from herbs from our allotment. I am fascinated by the fact that the dark green colour of the leaves, during the process, changes to brown. This has happened with many of the prints. I wonder how it is that the pressure on the plant matter precipitates the chemical changes that create this phenomenon. Or it is about the chemicals in the water in which the paper is soaked? Or a combination of both?

I used Bergamot Mint to create this print. I’m thinking now of producing an herbiary, a compendium of herbs in the same manner of the bestiary, which dates to the Middle Ages and were illustrated descriptions of animals accompanied by “… a moral lesson, … [reflecting] the belief that the world … was the Word of God, and … every living thind had its … special meaning.” (Wikipedia). 

I’ve wanted to research bestiary for years. And it seems that now is the time. And it also seems that I’ve for a second time in a couple of weeks invented a new word. First there was Eco Collography and now there is herbiary. I can even attribute to this name a latin origin for if bestiary is bestiarum vocabularum, then herbiary must be herbiarum vocabularum. And it also occurred to me in considering an herbiary, given that it would have, like a bestiary, its metaphysical aspect, that this would also fall within my theme, Towards the Light.

In regard to the metaphysical I’m already thinking of Jon Silkin’s Flower Poems and Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal.







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Eco Collographs

Collograph on Watercolour Paper V 30 June 2017Eco Collograph – it seems I’ve invented the term, which is nice if it’s true since I rarely invent anything. I poke around – books, bookshops, art galleries, the Internet – find and adapt. Which is exactly how Eco Collographs came about, since the technique comes from Alice Fox’s fabulous book Natural Processes in Textile Art. 

It’s subtitled From Rust Dyeing to Found Objects and in the book are described a good number of techniques. And this particular printmaking/markmaking technique is breathtakingly simple. It’s in a section of the book on embossing – marks made not from inked plates, but impressions of three-dimensional objects on the paper, fed through the rollers of the printing press.

Printing press? Don’t they cost a fortune? Yes. The cost of a printing press often runs into four figures. But don’t run off; the printing press used in this case is a pasta-making machine. And the one I bought was Top Home Solutions® 3 in 1 Heavy Duty Stainless Steel Professional Fresh Pasta Lasagne Spaghetti Tagliatelle Maker Machine Cutter. It comes with a clamp to attach the machine to a table or other surface; and it cost an unprincely £17.94 ($23.64) and the rollers have nine settings, which means you can adjust the spacing between the rollers nine times, to suit the thickness of whatever you’re feeding through them.

Collograph on Watercolour Paper VI 30 June 2017

A proper collograph (an alternative spelling is collagraph) is a printing plate and therefore reusable; for example, an assemblage glued down onto a base, inked, then printed onto something, usually paper. My prints, in this case, are monoprints as well as collographs. I used as a first experiment, some sycamore seed heads – windmills – as I have a constant  supply raining down into my garden from overhanging sycamore trees (whether I like it or not). I placed them, rather than glued them, meaning that they shifted as they went through the rollers of the pasta machine. So the results were unpredictable. I like unpredictable. And I noticed that as well as achieving an impression of the seed head in the paper, some colour transferred.

Alice Fox recommends printing onto watercolour paper over 200 gsm (120 lbs). The paper I am using here is 300 gsm (140 lbs).  Why 140 lbs? Well, the papers in my local art shop (Frances Iles) are kept upstairs, first floor. The day I walked in seeking paper for this specific technique, my eyes fell at once upon this lovely, big, landscape-shaped, 300 gsm watercolour pad. There it was, all on its own on a stand just inside the door and on sale at half its normal price. Talk about meant-to-be.

Collograph on Watercolour Paper III 30 June 2017

You soak the paper for at least ten minutes, then blot it till it’s lost its glossy surface. I soaked mine in the bath while I raided my garden for plant material. I have lots of clematis that have flowered and the flowers have developed into spectacular frondy seed heads. The print above this paragraph is from some of these clematis seed heads. If you look closely, you will see how the stems have also been embossed into the paper and some of their greenness has transferred.

I placed the plant matter on one half of my moist watercolour paper, folded the other half over onto that, creating a sandwich. I sandwiched the sandwich with thin card (from a cereal box) to protect the paper and fed it through the rollers. It’s trial-and-error, getting the roller setting right. The top two images are battered, stained and torn first tries – before I remembered to wrap the paper in card. But I also like battered and torn – battered and torn mirrors life, thus an appropriate metaphor for my inkblotty mirror images.

Collograph on Watercolour Paper II 30 June 2017

You don’t have to make mirror images, of course.

Only small prints can be achieved using a pasta machine, since the rollers are only about six inches wide, but you can feed through quite long pieces of paper, as I did here.

This technique is, like sketching, a way of recording the treasures found on sorties into nature.  Sketching is another way – the traditional way. Both techniques are about making marks that represent. This, in addition, is, I think, a kind of entrapment, entrapment of the energies of nature. And yes, unless the plant matter has dropped from tree or bush, there is an element of cruelty, even. And in that, isn’t really eco. Is it valid? Life is cruel.

Is it valid to be cruel – even to a seed head – in order to make the point that life is cruel?  I think so. In the same way that even we vegetarians/vegans need to kill plants for our sustenance, we also need to kill for art’s sake, which is also sustenance. We cannot survive without either food or art. They are both fundamentals. Our responsibility must be however, to do as little damage as possible as we pass through this earthly plane. And to honour and give respect to that which we kill for our sustenance. How many of us give a thought to our food before we eat it? How many of us artists are conscious of the sacrifice of life that went into our art materials, papers, canvasses?

Food for thought and pardon the pun.

I am looking forward to experimenting further with my pasta machine printer. But recommend Alice Fox’s marvellous book for the complete embossing technique. And also, all the many other recipes she shares for markmaking and further, her tips on combining techniques to arrive at a finished piece.













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And Yet Another Eco Collograph – Have a Nice Sunday, Y’All


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And Another Eco Collograph on Watercolour Paper

Eco Collograph: Clematis Montana seed heads, stems and leaves


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Eco Collograph on Watercolour Paper



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Walking with Shalott by the Light of Tabor, Noor, Nirvana, Ner Tamid, Diwali: A Response to Terrorists

Drawing-in the Withdrawn – Drawing in Meta-Meaning Mode led me to – a different approach entirely.  It happens. Still, there is a connection, in that I am yet again drawn; drawn to let recent work inform me of my onward route.

Recent work/walks in my quest to uncover what lies Below the Line and then how to express my finds, led me to a realisation; that it’s only in its reflections Above the Line, aka The World, that can ever be experienced what lies Below the Line. Because we only have our senses with which to perceive. (But they are indeed awesome, the senses, and far more than the acknowledged five or even six).

It came to me that my work presents itself as incoherent as it is about just fragments of those indefinable reflections; yet this realisation, even, has shone light into the shadowy yet-to-be-mapped places I walk. Largely, the fragments are unrelated, cannot be pieced together. And thus, make sense. And so, what is Below the Line, reflected in its different ways into the world, is a journey towards Light.


I’ve never been at this crossroads – my work substantial enough to show me a way forward. Towards the Light. Or, I’ve been there many times but, so deep the shadows in which I walked, I was not able to perceive it; backtracked, or took the wrong road.


And I am, half-sick of them. Shadows. I feel stupid. The answer could only have ever been to work towards the light. But which road led to Light? I think it’s about Faith. Faith in the journey. Not blind faith. The idea of living by blind faith makes me angry, because it’s lazy, an excuse not to use that most wonderful gift, Mind. It avoids Truth, actually.


Shalott. She grew weary of engaging only with a reflection of the world, for fear of losing her life. But one day, she fell in love with one of those reflections (Lancelot). She lost her mortal life. To Love. “The curse is come upon her,” they cried, as she died. She lost her mortal life – an imprisoned one (as mortal life is) – but gained eternal life, through her courage to love. She found the road that led to Light. For Light is Love. In working at her weaving, The Lady of Shalott discovered which road leads to Light. Her work directed her. She wove her way out of shadow. She wove until she realised that weaving kept her in shadow; Love triumphed over Shadow.

Light with a capital ‘L’ = The Transfiguration of Christ/The Conversion of Paul

The glory of incorruptible bodies does not emit a light similar to that of this corruptible body ..., nor is it of a kind which is accessible to mortal eyes, but incorruptible and immortal eyes are required in order to see it. For then on the mountain He revealed only so much [of this light] to them as was possible for the beholders’ eyes to see without being afflicted; yet even so they could not bear it and fell on their faces.

So as to prepare His disciples for the trials that they were about to endure in this life, Christ chose to give them a foretaste, concrete proof, of the heavenly blessings of which he had hitherto only spoken:

These [trials] were in the present life and at hand, while the good things were still in hope and expectation; as in for example, they save their life who lose it; His coming in the glory of His Father, to render His rewards. But willing to assure their very sight, and show what kind of glory it is with which He will appear so far as they were able to understand this, even in this present life He shows and reveals it to them.

(The above are extracts from Dr Christopher Venianim’s St John Chrysostom and the Light of Tabor. 

Light figures majorly in all world religions. On researching Light in the Qur’an I came across many references. This one drew me particularly:

5.46   And We (God) caused Isa (Jesus), the son of Marium (Mary), to follow in the footsteps of those [earlier prophets], confirming the truth of whatever there still remained of the Taurat (Torah/Old Testament); and We vouchsafed unto him the Gospel, wherein there was guidance and light, confirming/corroborating the truth of whatever there still remained of the Torah, and as a guidance …

In seeming confirmation, I was reminded of a point Jesus made in his Sermon on the Mount:  Matthew 5:17: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

And I’ve highlighted in bold, from the above extract from The Qur’an, two interesting statements, that the Old Testament at that time, was just a fragment and that Jesus was given a Gospel (Truth) in which there was Light. I’ve also read one extract in which it is stated that the Gospel given to Jesus was lost. There’s clearly a back story here.

In Buddhism Light is Enlightenment. From The Eight Steps to Happiness by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso: Our mind is like a field, and performing actions is like sowing seeds in that field. Positive or virtuous actions sow the seeds of future happiness, and negative or non-virtuous actions sow the seeds of future suffering. This definite relationship between actions and their effects – virtue causing happiness and non-virtue causing suffering – is known as the ‘law of karma’.  I think for Virtue one can read Love.

Buddhism rose out of Hinduism, at whose core is also the Law of Karma. Hinduism’s most important religious celebration is Diwali, Festival of Lights. From BBC/ReligionsThe festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance, …

In Judaism an Eternal Light (Ner Tamid) never extinguished, hangs above the Ark in every synagogue. (The Ark of The Covenant is the holiest part of the synagogue, housing the scrolls of the Torah, the Jewish Written Law, which consists of the five books of the Hebrew Bible known to non-Jews as the Old Testament and containing the central teachings of Judaism. The Ner Tamid is a symbol of God’s eternal and imminent Presence in our communities and in our lives. And on the subject of Love, The Jewish attitude was clearly enunciated in the Book of Proverbs in which it is urged that when man’s enemy falls, man should not rejoice and say, “I will do to him as he has done to me” (24:29) and “Let not your heart be glad when your enemy falls lest the Lord see it and it displeases Him” (Ethics of the Fathers 4:24).  In other words, we are to love our enemies.

Light and Love.

All the major religions advocate Light and Love. None advocate driving vehicles into crowds, stabbing people, detonating bombs in the midst of children, …

As this extraordinary blind autistic miracle boychild sings, Open the Eyes of my Heart.  This beautiful child was born weighing less than 2 lbs (less than a kilo) to a mother who was a drug addict. Beyond all expectations he survived and thrived and grew into the living demonstation of Light and Love that he is.

Oh, and one of the victims of the latest atrocity at London Bridge (as I write) was a Senior Nurse working at the nearby Guy’s Hospital, a young Australian woman. Had she not been murdered and had her murderers not been killed by the police but wounded, they might have been nursed back to health at Guy’s Hospital by this very nurse. Would they have refused her care? Her administration of painkillers? I doubt it. They would have taken every advantage of the system that allows them the freedom to worship their religion.

In Light and in Love.





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One Beautiful Thing

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.  Helen Keller

Actually, there’s at least two beautiful things in this photo.

P S No creature was harmed in the making of the above photograph. This is my cat Keeks ‘inspecting’ a Cinnabar moth then moving on. It was only when editing the photo that I saw the moth.

Keeks knows that not everything is food. If only humans had that perception.


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John Cleese on Creativity and Changing Light Bulbs

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Warm Weather to Walk

At last, some warmer, sunnier weather. Here’s a view from Ide Hill, Kent, where we walked a part of the Greensand Way today, after stopping off for a nice strong pot of tea at the Cock Inn.




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Drawing-in the Withdrawn – Drawing in Meta-Meaning Mode

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger than reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”  Anais Nin (Goodreads)

“The arts … a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”  Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country (Goodreads)

“This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I [create]? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose…” Rainer Maria Rilke (Goodreads)




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