Trees: markers of time, place and season
The growth habits of trees and the way in which they define time, place and season are the inspiration for this exhibition. My sketches focus on trees in Oxford’s meadows, parks and woods and are part of an ongoing project. These small drawings, made almost entirely in the field, are light, instinctive responses, set down in whichever combination of pencil, ink and watercolour best suits the occasion. Whilst often sticking to the simplicity of black ink, my occasional use of colour is a response both to natural tones and to the mood of the day.
Recent discussions over resilience, change and adaptability have drawn me, in several cases, towards trees which continue to thrive in the face of adversity: Crack Willows submerged in the icy stream of the Cherwell; a fallen Silver Poplar still growing strongly beside Godstow nunnery; the familiar Pines growing at perilous angles in the University Parks and the lopped branches of the Scholar Tree, exploding with new shoots . Others are simply sketches of trees or snippets of scenes that appealed to me whilst out walking: records of a dazzle of winter sun between bare trunks or afternoon light on a pathway by the river.
My work draws upon my deep love of natural history and is especially focused on trees and the way in which they define our landscapes and the human interactions within them. My developing artistic practice is informed by a career in research and teaching in the biological, environmental and human sciences. The academic desire to understand living forms and the artistic desire to draw them enhance and reinforce each other.
Based in Oxford for the best part of twenty five years, I have experienced and enjoyed the city as a student, academic, teacher, mother and long distance runner. Integral to this have been the countless trips across Port Meadow, The University Parks, Christchurch Meadows, Shotover and Wytham Woods which are the inspiration for much of my recent work.
My artistic response draws upon two different but linked perspectives: from a biological standpoint I am fascinated by the growth, form and adaptability of trees, whilst from a human one it is the ways in which they impact our experience of place that inspires me. My work is increasingly enriched by the observations of others. Chance conversations reveal local trees favoured for climbing, picnicking, or marking out a running route; those whose shapes excite storytellers and those whose slow but steady growth have mirrored human life stories. Always gathering fresh ideas to work on and occasional commissions, I have much sketching to look forward to in future years.
I work almost entirely in the field, completing my sketches in a relatively short time – especially in the winter! - with whatever materials seem best suited to the tree, the season and the mood. A much longer time is spent in observation and rapid sketching to get a feel for the shape, structure and the relationship of the trees. In some ways my final pieces have an unfinished feel - background features roughly sketched in pencil or edges left blank: a result of cold fingers, fading light or just because the sketch seemed finished.
Additional work that appears in my flip book includes botanical sketches of herbaceous plants, again drawn as quick responses to shape, form and patterns of growth. Sizes and prices are included there. Some postcards are also available at The Produce Store, 2 North Parade, Oxford, or directly from me.