Beginning again with a beech

a twisted beech tree in springEver since I found this strange tree in Aberdeenshire last summer, I’ve been longing to get back to Aden Country Park to spend more time documenting it.

It’s striking twists and contortions are vegetatively mysterious, visually exciting and emotionally disturbing – a perfect combination to captivate this tree artist.

a red chalk drawing of a beech tree

When I heard that last winter’s Storm Arwen had devastated the park’s forestry, I felt a sense of panic that I’d missed my chance. It was clearly a very old tree with the usual signs of decay – had it been toppled by the wind or broken by the successive storms? It was with great relief that I learned from local Landscape Officer Calum Davidson that it had survived where thousands hadn’t, so I made a plan for a drawing trip this spring

Back to the beginning in art making

tansy lee moir at the easel drawing

Why was I so desperate to travel 3 hours north just for one tree? It does seem a bit impulsive but this singular organism has lodged itself in my imagination and I have a strong feeling that I need to make art about it. That means going back to the beginning of my process, connecting with the tree through drawing, asking it questions, tracing its surfaces and listening to its stories.

red chalk drawings of a twisted tree

I’m just back from a perfect few days with this tree, with some first impressions, sketches, photos and videos (and a song thrush as accompaniment). Calum gave me a warm welcome to the park with a coffee and a wide ranging discussion about our cultural and historical connections with trees in the landscape. He also told me this one was locally known as the Witch’s tree and thought to be a site of hangings. We agreed that the tree was unlikely to be old enough to have been mature at the time of the Scottish witch hunts, but the link was a grim reminder of the hundreds of such trees across the country which were used as a means of execution.

The unmistakable strangeness of this tree will stay with me and I can already feel new ideas bubbling just under the surface of consciousness. See (and listen) for yourself…