Eco Printing to the Accompaniment of Quanta Qualia

Made this print today while listening to composer Patrick Hawes‘ sublime Quanta Qualia, which I’m rehearsing for The Isolation Choir’s virtual Summer School.

I’ve made this little sample print as part of an online course on eco printing run and taught by Kathy Hays. I’m doing three of her courses simultaneously. Kathy has not only an immense and deep knowledge of printing with plants, but also the ability to teach clearly this complicated art form, a combination of skills not always met with.

The print’s not perfect, and doesn’t do Kathy’s teaching justice (I’m such a bungler) but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s not easy balancing The Elements, which is what eco printing is all about, essentially. I’m not a god, after all.

Here’s Hayley Westernra’s lovely interpretation of Quanta Qualia.

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Tannin and Tone and Chrome

I’ve just performed at the first virtual concert of the Self-Isolation Choir Summer School. It was a week learning and rehearsing – under the guidance of musical director Ben England – a selection of works from the repertoire of the great John Rutter and included the beautiful A Clare Benediction.

The next week of the summer school will include Patrick Hawes’ and Andrew Hawes’ (lyrics) sublime Quanta Qualia. And Patrick will be directing it personally. I’m a huge fan of Patrick Hawes and had the privilege of singing, a few years back, the UK premiere of his magnificent Te Deum.

It’s been a bit hectic as I’d thought the Summer School was in August and then discovered it was in June and I’m also doing three other hands-on courses, so juggling the art and the music has been difficult, but I like this very close proximity – and blending – of the two disciplines and they speak to each other.

It’s trite to say that music and art are interconnected – the terms Colour and Tone, for instance, are referenced in both visual art and musical contexts – but I’ll say it anyway.

Neither do I have to mention Kandinsky – the first artist to create artworks (often calling them Improvisation or Composition ) directly influenced by music – but I will.

Not trite is this Kandinsky app that enables you to draw shapes and colours which then can be played back as music. It’s been developed by Chrome Music Lab – an innovative web site for learning music through hands-on experiments. The app should have an  extremely addictive warning. The entire site. Whatever you do, don’t visit the Songmaker page.





Posted in Art, Choral singing, Creativity, Eco/Natural Dyeing and Printing, Monoprinting, Music, Printmaking, Singing, Singing Sacred | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Oak Leaves, a Storm, the Pond

The pool
Glows at her feet, and all the gloomy rocks
Are brightened round her. 
(Wordsworth, The Excursion)

A little experiment with oak leaves on cotton fabric. The leaves arrived on the high wind, blown over the hedge, a little branch, to fall near the pond, on which I’m working, my pond project. 

I hope you are all working on your projects, weathering the storm.


Posted in Art, Art Notes, Eco/Natural Dyeing and Printing, Monoprinting, Nature Journal, Printmaking | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

The Spirit Lizard and Covid- 19

Mapping uncertainty

About six years ago I rented an old stone cottage in a country town. Shortly after I moved in I swept the cobwebs off the verandah. In a dusty corner I found the carcass of a little skink – a kind of lizard. Its body had mummified and was perfectly preserved. It was a curious find and I put it away in a box with other odd things I’ve found. Recently I came across it again and placed it on my work table.

This weekend I incorporated the lizard into a talisman. In the process I had to think about what the lizard represented. The metaphysical properties and messages of animals are found through observing their behaviour and thinking about what that symbolizes, The more I thought about lizards the more I realized my little skink can be seen as a symbol for this stage of lockdown.

Lizards have the…

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Testing Water for Iron Content

“Give me silence, water, hope
Give me struggle, iron, volcanoes.”
 – Ode to Silence: Pablo Neruda


Samples of water from four different sources tested for iron content. From left to right: tap water, water from a garden water butt, sea water, bottled English mineral water.

The test results tell me there is little iron in any of the samples. The sample richest in iron is the sea water.

Good to know for eco-printing and natural dyeing.

I’m thinking how iron is silent until struck. We all know what that means.


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Chaos and Onion Skins

The chaos is subsiding. I opened the last packing box a couple of weeks back.

Then found more. But a few and there  are places for everything now.

A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place. (Benjamin Franklin?)

Distribution. It is almost accomplished. Objects unpacked. And placed.

There is the deeper de-chaosing; and culling. Hand-in-hand with the physical, the  metaphysical. It is beginning. Little flows and synchronicities.

I thought it would take a month out of 2020 to complete the de-chaosing. January. It has taken four, and crashed into Spring and its own special and necessary chaos.

April is the cruelest month. T S Eliot meant something else, but there’s cruelty in the culling that has to be done in April, the making way for new  growth, new life, in the natural world.

And it crashed into a global pandemic.

Strange times. Hope you all are coping well.

So, I’ve been accumulating onions skins for about a year. I’d read they were easy to dye with. We’ve all, at Easter, stained patterns on eggs by wrapping them with onion skins and boiling them, haven’t we? I used red onion skins in these prints. I soaked a handful from my stash in water, adding a dash of iron sulphate (FeSo4 to all you chemistry geeks). The iron was on impulse and isn’t necessary.

The skins were meant to soak in that solution overnight. It was three weeks before I got back to them. How would they print? Would they print? I made a sandwich of the skins between silk and cotton. The silk was from the Silk Market (Koza Han) in Bursa, Turkey; the cotton was heavy-duty, an offcut from some white curtains.

The top image is of the silk; the bottom, the cotton. They are quite different prints. I have it on good authority that the blue splash on the cotton print is likely to be from the iron I added.

I’ll be doing more experiments with onion skins.

Stay safe.



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Still Taking the Anti-Dote (to the Poison of Chaos) And an Art Note

When all is done and dusted (pardon the pun) I’ll blog about what Jordan Peterson’s Clean up Your Room edict has revealed and changed. (Clean up Your Room comes from Dr Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Anti-Dote to Chaos). I believe I am in the home stretch.

Meanwhile, though I have not been making any form of art since my last blog post, but concentrating on the de-chaosing, I have been thinking constantly, and making notes, and dreaming, and … Artists don’t have an ‘off’ switch – and that’s one thing revealed to me during this clean-up process – which is good as in deciding to abandon art-making in order to finish the clean-up, I expected to die. Not be creative? I’m dead!

I didn’t die, not essentially abandon my creativity. I’ve sketched or written down the ideas as they came. Recently I had this come to me in the wee small hours and I’m writing it down so I don’t forget it. It is this: I am to consider the poetic maps – all the blogs about the mental walks I do – their roads off into other subject matter, related or seemingly, at the time, not, … I am to consider them in terms of music. In terms of melody, harmony, disharmony, counterpoint. And to translate this music into inter-related (or not) forms and spaces.

Notation is to sound as sound is to form; and
Notation is to sound absence as sound absence is to non-form

If the above doesn’t make any sense to you, it doesn’t yet make much sense to me. I do feel it is how nature works anyway but I don’t yet know why I think that.

Any thoughts? Suggestions? References?

I’m reading one of John Cage’s books: A Year from Monday: Lectures and Writings. The book completes the corpus of his collected writings. I’m reading the collection backwards in time. Don’t ask me why.



Posted in Aesthetics, Art, Art Notes, Creativity, Inspiration, Music, Music Composition, Music Theory, Research, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Tricks of Light I

2019 was not a year for blogging. I didn’t plan it that way. But from late spring onwards, what plans I had for the year were snatched away and I was flying by the seat of my pants.

2020 is also going to be a year for flying by the seat of the pants. At least I am prepared for it. I am making plans, but …

This does tie in with my single 2019 New Year’s Resolution, the advice of Jordan B Peterson to clean up my room. And I’ve cleaned it up enough to have freed more creative time and space for 2020, if all goes smoothly. There’s a story, but I’ll save that for another blog.

I’m kicking off 2020 with, believe it or not, poetry. I think it’s poetry. Maybe it isn’t really poetry. It’s a series anyway and I’m calling it Tricks of Light. It’s about observations made during walks in nature. It’s about paying attention.

Here’s the first. Read it as a draft. I’m aiming for at least one a week.

Tricks of Light I

At first glance it looked like that young squirrel
(born late in the seasonal cycle) – its tail –
arched for balance as it thieved
food from the bird table. I was leaving
extra food. It would survive the season
to thrive, unless preyed upon.

At second glance it was a leaf
lanceolate – bowed-down,
twitching in the tight breeze.

At third glance I tried to switch it with a spell,
back to adolescent squirrel tail.
But the leaf held fast to its own self
a green spear – already rusting back from its tip –
piercing my winter-weakened powers.

Or was it that, my powers mellowed by winter,
to have the squirrel I also had to have the leaf?

Ann Isik 2020

Have a creative 2020.


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Covehithe Ochres and Gissing Whites: Hand-Made Paints from Foraged Pigment

If you think you received this blog yesterday, well, you did. A version of it without many of the images as I was having problems downloading photos from my iPhone onto my computer. I sorted out the problem – with much gnashing of teeth – and so was able to add more images.  I’ve added to the text, so read on.

First, an uplifting and pithy quote. I can’t agree with it completely, but it’s a good attitude to adopt, even so:

Grinding Pigment into ‘Gissing White’

“Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us.”   Thomas Holcroft  

Covehithe Ochre, Gissing White. These are names I’ve given to two watercolour paints I’ve hand-made recently from foraged pigments.

Covehithe Ochre in the Making Process

As well as Covehithe Ochre I’ve made Wells Ochre from material gathered from the cliffs at Wells-Next-The-Sea and is slightly lighter in tone.

Little pot of Gissing White Watercolour Paint

I made Gissing White from chalk foraged from a village near where I live.

The first picture shows it in the process of being ground to a fine powder with the addition of Gum Arabic and honey. These ingredients bind the pigment.

Nugget of Variegated Covehithe Ochre Pigment

It’s not as beige as in the first picture, more an almost-white pinky-beige. It would have been lighter still had I used Acacia honey as recommended in the recipe, but I only had some very dark forest honey to hand.

Close-up Showing the Variegations of Pigment in Covehithe Ochre

I’ll have some of the lighter honey later today and am hoping I’ll end up having created Gissing White and Gissing White (Light).

Wells Ochre: Ochre from Pigment Foraged From Wells-Next-the Sea and is slightly lighter in tone than Covehithe Ochre

I’m going to make some gouaches soon using these same foraged pigments (I have small bucketfuls of each) which will mean the addition of glycerine.

And I’ll be trying to make some burnt colours from my pigment harvest by oxidising some of it, using sunlight. That will probably be next year. We are now in the depths of autumn approaching winter. Today is typically autumn; it’s 2pm as I write and it’s dark, damp and shrouded in mist outside. It suits my mood.

Covehithe Brown in the Making Process

I also made some Covehithe Brown from darker pigmentation gathered from the beach.

Using and making paints ground from locally gathered pigment makes artworks more authentic. It makes me feel more engaged with my own natural surroundings. And artwork. I’ll be posting pictures soon of how I’m using the paint.

I’m lucky to be living where I am and my next foraging expedition will be to Hunstanton, whose cliffs and beach are known for its pigmentations and fossils.

Here‘s a picture of Hunstanton cliffs and beach. I could eat them.

Grateful thanks for the photo to  John Wernham.


For the paint-making processes, I acknowledge artist Debbie Lyddon and Earth Pigments.





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Indeterminacy: The Blueberry Interlude: Cold Dyeing with Blueberry Stems

Dyeing needn’t be an elaborate process,  experiments have shown me. Or require costly – and sometimes quite hazardous and pongy – ingredients, sophisticated equipment and a PhD in chemistry.

I pruned a couple of little blueberry bushes a few weeks ago, arranging some of the stem cuttings in a vase for the kitchen table. After a few days I noticed the water had started to take on colour.

I hadn’t yet thrown out the blueberry clippings, which included leaves and a very few remaining berries, so I added them to a transparent plastic bucket and rainwater from one of the garden butts. (I have a ton of these plastic buckets, originally containing seed and fat balls bought to feed the birds).

I let the plant matter soak in the rainwater for a week in a sunny greenhouse. The water hadn’t changed colour much but I decided to soak a little sample of silk in the solution, to see what happened. Not expecting much, I returned the bucket with its pale-coloured liquid to the greenhouse. After another week, the silk had gone from ivory to this lovely apricot colour.  Here it is in the picture after washing and drying.

Prunings, rainwater, silk fabric, upcycled plastic birdfood bucket, sun, time.  The birds got fed, the humans got fed (on the blueberries the birds didn’t steal), the blueberries got pruned so they’ll feed the thieving birds and the humans next year,  the plastic bucket got upcycled, the water was got free from the sky. The only monetary cost were the few pennies for the little piece of silk.

No doubt this dyed silk will find its way into my Indeterminacy sonata. Maybe it’ll become an Interlude.  The Blueberry Interlude. I like that.




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