Monday, 9 March 2015

30 years of Trees

Morton Bay Fig, pen sketch 1984
I love drawing trees. I have used the original sketches drawn on location for etchings, large paintings and book illustrations. A few weeks ago I went to the Blue Mountains and chose to sketch trees. Here are some from over the years.

Morton Bay Fig etching 1984.

Above is one of my first tree studies, drawn on location on a cold day about 30 years ago. I used a sketch nib in a fountain pen. The tree is still in the Botanical gardens but does not look as healthy these days.

I used the tree sketch to create a series of etchings. This is one of them. I also printed them in a sepia ink which looked great :-)

(Later, in about 1990,  I did a large painting in bright coloured inks drawn with a dip pen. It sold when first exhibited and I don't even have a photo of it but I'd be interested in doing something similar again with the Da Atramantis inks I have been enjoying so much.)

One of the etchings was on display in our home in Singapore and our friend Steve Stine asked if I'd like to illustrate a book - about a tree.

An imaginary forest - illustration from Kayla & the Magical Tree.

That was in May 2003 and in December 'Kayla & the Magical Tree' was published by Times editions, Singapore. There were a lot of tree-inspired images in it!

I did a series of imaginary landscapes in the early 2000s based on a painting from years earlier. These combined the idea of gum trees with the leaves the I loved to walk through in the Fall when we lived in the US and were created using a mixture of Indian Ink, watercolour and Chinese pigments. Sadly, the yellow, which was pure gamboge, has faded. It's one of the reasons I am so determined to only use light-fast pigments. 

I spent many hours sitting on an old stone wall at Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia in 2003, sketching this wonderful tree. It is difficult to tell whether the tree is pulling the building apart or holding it together after so many hundreds of years. 
I did a full-sheet painting of the temple, for my brother, later that year, though in many ways I prefer the sketch. It has more memories attached of conversations with the locals in the temple, and the heat and the atmosphere. Nothing beats sketching from life.

I spent a day in July sitting by this tree between Thredbo and Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains a few years ago. It's such a lovely shaped snow gum. The sketch is in an A4 Moleskine sketchbook. 

Later I repainted it on a much larger watercolour paper. This is the finished painting, and also a limited edition print.

During the same ski holiday I sketched this tree in Thredbo
village. It's remarkable that even in winter, with snow on the ground, we can sketch en plein air in Australia.

I really enjoyed this Morton Bay Fig. Sketched in Hyde Park, Sydney, in an A5 Moleskine on a lovely day out with the Urban Sketchers in 2013.
These studies were painted on National Tree Day. Both A5 Moleskine sketchbook studies.

I went away for the weekend in the Blue Mountains in February this year and painted these trees. The first is an ink and watercolour A4 sketch in a lovely mossy spot called Mermaid's Cave. This gnarled tree was perfect for some ink line-work.

Then we sat in a cafe and painted the trees we could see from the Magalong Valley Tea Rooms.

Trees in ink. I don't think I'll ever tire of them :-)