Updated: Sep 29, 2022
Since I began my obsession a year or so ago with recording and drawing trees in my sketchbooks, I have been pondering ways in which I could translate these sketches into finished works.
I love drawing in sketchbooks. They are my place of solace and exploration. If you make a bad drawing, you can just turn the page and begin again. And no one knows. Somehow I have found drawing in any other way difficult. It felt a little pressured and I just want to experiment and consider how to approach these trees without any concern for the outcome. The process of drawing was what felt important.
Over the summer, I had intended to go out drawing more frequently, but the harsh light, intense heat and the sight of the landscape, and the trees within it: distressed, parched and scorched, made the venture seem much less appealing.
But when the heat abated, I turned again to my sketchbooks and began reconsidering the drawings I made last winter. Although I had used the medium of drypoint before, I had never contemplated it as a method for capturing my trees. I love the soft, blurred lines it creates and it the perfect medium to draw wintry branches and bark. I began with a subject I had sketched several times previously, a hawthorn that stretched itself out across a field margin at Baconsthorpe.
The drawing was made on a biting December day. I was wrapped in several layers and wore two pairs of fingerless gloves in an effort to keep going and in the end I retreated to my car, placing it in front of the tree, just so I could finish it. Though the fading light defeated me, I had a strong skeleton on which to work.
To make the engravings, I used Perspex plates and scratched with an etching needle to reform the tree. The process of recreation takes several hours, but it is both absorbing and fulfilling. I like that it remains a creative, fresh activity and not simply a way of reproducing something that already exists. I hit upon the idea of using a black sheet of paper beneath the plate while helped me to see the marks I was making more clearly and allowed me to be much freer in my drawing.
When finished, the surface of the plate is ‘inked up’ with black intaglio ink. This process takes some while as the ink has to be pushed into the engraved grooves and then the ink surrounding these grooves cleaned away. With such delicate and intricate branches, the inking of each plate can take some while, and each print is unique as the final image depends on how much ink is cleaned and remains. I have shown some of the process in the accompanying videos and images of the prints in my shop.
The pulling of each print is a moment filled with apprehension and excitement. The engraved image is reversed and so the final result is always a surprise (and relief!)
I have loved making this small collection. I wanted to celebrate the native trees that punctuate the Norfolk landscape and to capture what they mean to me. I hope that in the coming months these trees continue to call to me.
Below each of my trres below I have added two films that celebrate a year in the life of the Field Maple and the Oak. I hope you enjoy them too.
You can find my collection on my website shop.