Since 2010 I have been searching for ancient or characterful trees and exploring our cultural connection with them through drawing.
Early on in life I learned a respect and appreciation for wood as a material from my wood-turner father and as a maker myself through my 3D design degree, but writers and campaigners like Oliver Rackham, Richard Mabey and Ted Green have taught me to look beyond the immediate appearance of trees towards the historical and cultural stories their forms represent.
Personal encounters with trees form the basis of my work, with research done literally ‘in the field’, usually during the winter and early spring when the trees are free from leaves. I’m always on the lookout for the special trees which have a story to tell, in their contorted forms, broken branches or undecipherable graffiti. Walking, driving, poring over historical maps, gathering local knowledge, all contribute to my hunt for those trees with something particular to say. When I find a site I make repeated visits to get to know it, making many sketches and photographs, often over many years.
My trips to the woods are partly open-minded wanderings, partly focused foraging and I’m always searching for trees which have a story to tell in their contorted forms, broken branches or undecipherable graffiti. They are constantly engaged in a dialogue with their surroundings, with the ground they grow in, the prevailing weather, the other plants, animals and people that live alongside them and there are physical clues in their forms that provide a record of that dialogue.
Similarly, my drawing process is one of dialogue – it is a record of the interaction between the artist and the subject, the eye and the tree, the hand, the paper and the mark making tool. As John Berger says, a drawing of a tree is not just a tree, but ‘a tree being looked at’.