The Nightingale Project


I’ve been very quiet for a while – sorry about that. Now that the children are back at school I have a little more time and have been making the most of it. The Nightingale Project, which I started a year ago, has gained momentum in recent weeks. Many of the paintings were just scribbles and notes, and had to be left while i concentrated on the paintings for Toffee Town, and then Christmas orders. And then, well, home schooling slowed production too. Though my Maths has improved!

Anyway – as the paintings have been coming together, I’ve made a definite decision about what to to with them:

I’ve been putting the paintings and the lists of things we saw in chronological order. From March 2020 to March 2021 I can see the seasons change, and it’s been good to look back and remember some of the lovely times we’ve had. Small scale, and very local – but quite precious.

The first three from spring 2020. The last one is summer, during a brief escape to Somerset with one big bubble of Lycetts!

This is my latest group – some are not quite finished…

This is just a selection of the more recent ones. The two on the far left are from Somerset and Wiltshire last summer. But all the others are within a couple of miles from home.

They’re all a mix of inky paper collage, inks, watercolour, threads, gold leaf. They’re not literal, but maybe each one is like a diary entry – a collection of things that we saw or heard on a particular day. Some trees I photographed every month – like the twisted willow down at Hardcastle Craggs. It’s such a beautiful shape that it’s lost in the summer. In October it suddenly looked like a Kay Nielsen tree, so that’s the season I chose (If you don’t know Kay Nielsen’s work then do look him up).

This twisted willow is in the garden of the gatehouse down at Hardcastle Craggs. The April cherry blossom is in my garden. It rains pink petals down on the studio roof.

I’ve found a book binder that specialises in art books and have started working out the details; choosing cloth cover colours and paper quality. I’m producing this myself and I want to do it right!

For the text I played around with all sorts of layouts and lettering but nothing felt right. So I’ve taken the very practical and sensible decision that every page is going to be handwritted with a Copperplate dip pen…

I’ve been learning formal Copperplate, but it’s too formal and rigid for this, so I’ve been deveoping a script that’s just mine.

There will be over 30 trees when this is done, and I still really want to present them all together. One huge joyful wall of rich colour and delicate detail. It’s all been about finding beauty in the small things. With galleries and museums all closed it’s not been a good time to sort this part of the project out, but I’m determined to find somewhere. Ideally to coincide with the launch of the book.

9 thoughts on “The Nightingale Project

  1. These are so beautiful. It’s been so wonderful going on this journey of ‘the trees’ with you. I’m so looking forward to seeing the end results….

  2. Absolutely beautiful! I would love to know more about when your book will be published and other details – cost etc. I love your work. 🙂

  3. It will be absolutely beautiful I’m sure! I love your handwriting – such a forgotten art that can turn a shopping list into a thing of beauty! Thanks for letting us know how it is coming along.

  4. When my dad died, I saw a magpie. I wrote a song following this. The day before my neighbour died (he had been on deaths row for years), I added a verse for him with respect to his early starts, and the local woodpecker who would start at the same time. As soon as I I had finished this new verse, a new bird came and sat before my doorstep, smaller than a pigeon, magnificent, shiny black with a bright white stripe down his back. He walked away and jumped onto an old stump, then turning towards me, lifted his green breast to tell me who he was. When He started pecking into the old stump, I realised at that point who I was too….

  5. I heard a “nightingale ” singing as I walked home from my 50th birthday party at The Brown Cow in Bingley on Dec 16th 2002. It was on a tree near the railway station but I couldnt see it. I guess it was around midnight and I felt that it was singing esoecially for me.I knew it couldn’t really be a nightingale and recently I found out that it was most likely a robin. It was very magical and I will never forget its beautiful song that birthday night.

  6. Wonderful! Beautiful artwork and stylish script. Your book will be a treasure to behold ?

  7. This is all really beautiful Kate. As a lover of trees, this is really quite inspiring. I am trying to work out which ones are Somerset and Wiltshire, seeing as they are close to my heart. One of the paintings is reminiscent of Kitt Williams: the one with cow parsley (?) and butterflies. I love the quality and also how you integrate type into your work.

  8. I suspect, Kate, that I am one of many who this morning has found that there is no such thing as a “quick peek” where the Nightingale Project is concerned. This is something that you have so skilfully crafted and developed into an enchanting book that will be dipped into time and again without in any way diminishing the pleasure its reader gains on each occasion.

    I so wish that I could visit the Bankfield Museum where the original paintings will be exhibited later in the year but despite this not being possible, I can imagine what a fascinating and thought provoking experience it will be.


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