It is amongst trees that I feel most at home
Updated: Jun 5, 2021
If you have been following me for a while via social media or via my newsletter, you'll know that there has been a change happening in my work. I have loved working on my bird paintings for most of 2020, but I felt the need to expand my work and make it wilder and more authentic.
My new series of paintings is an expression of my connection to nature, and to forests and trees in particular. Let me tell you a bit more:
During my first years in Scotland, I took up a nature connection practice called The Sitspot - picking a favourite spot in nature to spend time with every day. My spot was a large beech tree about a minute from home.
It was an exercise which I relucantly picked up (it was cold, wet, boring!), but as it was part of the learning program I was on, I stuck with it. It was only about six weeks into this habit that I started to thoroughly enjoy my 'tree-visits'. By this time, I was starting to notice some subtle but powerful shifts within myself.
My senses had become sharper. My thoughts cleared, my mind was still and focused. My body felt easier, freer, my motions more fluid. I became more alert and perceptive to my surroundings. I felt myself settle into a relaxed and awake state of being, that extended beyond my sit-spot into other areas of my life.
As I made notes of things I observed at my sitspot, my curiosity was raised and I felt inclined to learn about the various plants, birds, and wildlife tracks I came across. I learned to read the signs of various animals that had passed my spot when I wasn't there - squirrel, badger, deer, fox, pine marten, woodpecker. I tuned into the variety of birdsong until I could discern the voices of most birds, and notice when they erupted into alarm in response to threats. Soon enough, it was like all the separate bits of my observation knitted themselves together until I could read the forest as naturally as I would read a map of our town.
Something very profound was happening - I was reconnecting to nature in a way that felt ancient, much older than me. It felt like some deep and ancestral part of myself had been dormant for most of my life and was only now waking up - and I hadn't realised how I had missed this part of myself until I found it again.
At times, as I went about my daily farm chores, I unexpectedly felt a deep sense of joy well up inside my chest. It was a reawakening and a coming home to the world. A visceral sense of the great web of life all around and within me. The life that was rippling through me with every breath I took, a breath echoed by the trees and the wind and the movements of animals around me.
At the same time, as the joy of reconnecting wove it's way through me, a deep grief made itself known too. A grief of never having felt this alive-ness before, of realising that I had been sleep-walking all this time, locked in the ratrace of human society. A grief for my fellow human beings as I knew that most of us never get to reawaken in this connection, which felt so natural, so essential.
Only now, some six years later, can I put into words what was happening and what I felt at the time. I still often return to my sitspot, which feels like an old friend to me now, a sacred place. I feel as intricately part of that woodland as the trees themselves.
It is this journey, this amount of feeling, of joy, of grief and alive-ness, which I express in the paintings I am working on right now.
Above are some smaller field studies that I did on location, in woodlands around my home. These sketches and studies are now forming the basis of larger paintings, some of which I have finished, others are in various in-progress stages.
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My new body of work is called: "Undergrowth - A Journey through Trees"