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Wish You Were Here

I would like to tell you about a project with Design Collective Chichester that I'm delighted to be a part of.

In response to the current exhibition of paintings by the beloved Sussex artist Ivon Hitchens at Pallant House Gallery, the collective put out a call for designs inspired by specific locations in the Chichester area, to be made into a series of postcards. These would be exhibited at a 'Summer Lates' takeover at the gallery on 8th August.

There was a nature trail I wanted to try at nearby Kingley Vale, and had a feeling it would provide inspiration for my application. It didn't disappoint, and a blissful lone walk around the reserve got my brain (and heart) ticking.

A combination of having no phone signal, looking for the signposts to find my way, and having nobody to chat to, led to a far more engaging walk than usual. With just the sound of my footsteps, the wind in the spring leaves and the birdsong to keep me company, I spotted a fox, a grouse, and many small birds and insects.

I took many, many photos as per usual, took the time to make a couple of sketches, and enjoyed the climb and the view from the Devil's Humps at the top.

Spring leaves, Kingley Vale nature trail
Fern sketch Anna's Drawing Room
Devil's Humps sketch Anna Vartiainen
Beech leaf sketch Anna's Drawing Room

It was the yew grove though, that stole my heart. Sitting in its cool, comforting shade felt quite magical, and I can see why the ancient trees are nicknamed 'The Watchers'. Their presence feels both protective and eerie - imagine everything they have witnessed!

Yew trees Kingley Vale
Drawing the yew trees Kingley Vale
Yew trees Kingley Vale
Yew trees Kingley Vale

After some further sketches at home I felt happy with this ink painting and scanned it to make my design. Having thought about making a screen print of this yew grove for a while, I made sure the design could be made into a handmade print as well as the digital version for the postcard project.

The Watchers Ink Study Anna Vartiainen

Adding a big sun blob to the image added warmth - I wanted it to have atmosphere without it being too dark.

I used the studio at Handprinted in Bognor to make a small edition of screen prints. Here are a couple of in-progress photos...

Prints on the rack Anna's Drawing Room
Screen printing the Watchers
Anna's Drawing Room prints on the rack

And the finished print! I'm happy with the results: a little bit spooky without being too much so. Hopefully other people will think so too!

Below are the final digital postcard design, and a framed screen print - there are small differences but the essence of the image is the same.

The Watchers by Anna Vartiainen
The Watchers Print by Anna Vartiainen

This project has been very rewarding - I don't often work to a brief - and being part of a wider communal project is very inspiring. Hopefully this is the beginning of further projects that bring artists and designers together.

We hope you can join us next Thursday 8th August, 6-10pm at Pallant House Gallery - entry is free, with half price tickets to the Ivon Hitchens exhibition.

It's a chance to meet the project participants: graphic designers, photographers, printmakers and illustrators, to name but a few of the industries the Collective members specialise in. Take a look at the Design Collective Chichester site for more details, and for a preview of the stunning designs created!

Another reason to come along: you can pick up ALL 54 postcards for a donation of £4. After this you can buy them from the Novium Museum while stocks last.

Hopefully see you there!

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