Garden Spaces

Monday, 14th February 2005
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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brick pile
Pile of bricks

I'm putting together a new book, based on the garden strands of this diary. I've got plenty to choose from:

  • vegetables

  • compost heaps

  • piles of bricks

  • weeds

. . . and I haven't even started looking through my sketches of birds, bees and butterflies.

The big advantage of the book over the online version of this diary is that I can tell a specific story. The format I've chosen is A5 (about 6 x 8 inches), 64 pages, printed in two colours, sepia and dark sage green probably, on a very slightly tinted paper - a very pale green, grey or parchment.

I like the way a drawing like this (left), of a pile of bricks surrounded by weeds, can be given room to breathe on a spread in a book. It would fill the left-hand page and one third of the right-hand page, leaving room for a paragraph of hand-written text.

Drawings don't really get the same room to breathe on a computer screen - there are usually scroll bars, menus and title bars impinging on the simplicity of the picture on the page.

Mundane Moments

There are some moments from the diary that I know I'd like to include, like this one that celebrates the pleasures of a mundane task in the garden; the time I got around to moving that pile of bricks.

As I worked I kept finding various small creatures in the subsequent layers of the pile, so I imagined the whole thing like a block of flats and - because of the different characters of these slugs, snails and spiders - I found myself imagining the whole thing as a 1930s or 1940s black and white movie.

Groucho appears as a dancing spider, Peter Lorre as a startled snail.

brick pile, the movie
Pile of Bricks: the Movie


I can do so much design for print on screen but at some stage I have to see it on paper. I need to get the feel of the thing in my hands so I've printed this out on our old black and white office laser on scrap paper (those grey bands are the text on the other side of the paper; I like to recycle).

I like the way I can have a sequence of drawings going across a spread, in this case a row of lettuce seedlings in the greenhouse. There's so much I could put in this book and perhaps some pages will be as closely planted with sketches as our deep beds are with rows of veg.

But I think the real message that I would like to get across is that in a garden that you can find yourself stepping into another kind of space. You walk out of your back door and find yourself drawn into the seasons and cycles of the natural world. To tell that story I need to give the drawings and text a space of their own too.

Even though this drawing of a dock weed is in black and white it reminds me of the air and sunlight on the day I drew it. I can write about that on the left of the spread but I would lose the meaning of the page if I boxed it in with other details.


robinToday in the Garden

We have four goldfinches at the niger seed feeder this morning. There are only two perches on it - perhaps we should have looked around for a bigger feeder!

volevoleAs the light fades the robin is the last at the bird feeder and, as it gets a bit darker still, two voles chase each other on the narrow bed at the edge of the patio. They've no doubt come to gather the food spilt by the starlings, sparrows and other birds that have been feeding all day. Next Page

Richard Bell,

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