Spring flowers but no April showers

I'm continuing my posts about the illustrations I did last summer for Lia Leendertz's 2019 edition of The Almanac - a seasonal guide ... it's great to know that the book is encouraging people to look for and enjoy the seasonal changes in their gardens and the countryside.

Here in the south-west corner of Suffolk there has been no rain since early March and in the past week with the temperatures around 23˙C it feels more like mid-summer than spring.

The opening page of the April chapter in The Almanac is a close-up of a Blackbirds nest.
We have blackbirds nesting in and around our garden, this year they have been very secretive about exactly where the nest is, I think that the young have now fledged and are hiding in the undergrowth waiting for their parents to bring food. We see them searching out food on the lawn and the male Blackbird sits on a tall branch to sing a glorious song in the evening.
For the illustration I placed the nest in a Field Maple tree. I've noticed the leaves are quite late opening and maybe a Hawthorn or adding Ivy would have been a better choice for April but it's my favourite hedging tree as the leaves are such a beautiful colour in spring and again in autumn when they turn butter-yellow.
I took these photographs of the Field Maples along the Valley Trail in the Stour Valley near Sudbury last week.
Bluebells are starting to come into flower locally, I spotted these English Bluebells under a hedge near the road through our village, maybe a relic of when the area was more wooded.

Butterflies are beginning to be seen on sunny days ... I've seen Holly Blue, Speckled Wood and Orange-tip in the garden this month. The Almanac reminds us to look out for the sulphur yellow Brimstone, a herald of Spring especially in the south of England. The caterpillars need  Buckthorn to feed on, a shrub which likes chalky areas and is worth planting as a hedge if you can track down some plants.
This winter was particularly mild in Suffolk, I spotted a Brimstone Butterfly on a sunny day in January!

With the festivals of Passover and Easter both falling in April this year, the chapter includes traditional recipes and celebration food.
Illustrating this recipe for a nourishing chicken soup was a challenge ... so many ingredients and I wanted to make it look interesting rather than instructive ... so I illustrated the chopped vegetables flying into the pot.
Another challenge were the Easter breads from different Euopean countries.
It took a morning googling to find all the correct items and do sketches ... what a shame I wasn't able to travel to all the places and visit bakeries and caf├ęs! And then the names ... so many letters in a small space and I needed to make sure it was clear which label went with which picture. My solution was paper doily edging, the sort lovely patisseries use, to divide up the page.

I've used the main illustration for April to create a new card design called 'The Nest', adapting the artwork to a square format and in colour. It's in my eco-card range (the card/envelope/clear-packaging are fully compostable) and available from my online shop.

This month has been mostly about framing, packing and delivering work for exhibitions coming up in the next month as well as preparing for Plants & Crafts at Wyken Hall, Suffolk on Sunday 28 April ... more information for all of these is on the News page of my web site.