Under the Greenwood, Picturing the British Tree From Constable to Kurt Jackson

Under the Greenwood
Picturing the British Tree From Constable to Kurt Jackson

Anne Anderson and  others

This celebration of the British Tree features the work of approximately 80 major artists of two centuries from the early 1800s. The twentieth century is strongly represented, as are our contemporary artists.

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Under the Greenwood, Picturing the British Tree From Constable to Kurt Jackson
Under the Greenwood, Picturing the British Tree From Constable to Kurt Jackson
Sansom & Company, 2013
ISBN  978-1-908326-30-0
270 x 210 mm
204  pages with 100 mainly colour illustrations
English, Softback


Alex Egan

Alex Egan

Alex Egan, Giant Oak
Giant Oak

I live in the Norfolk broads, a gentle terrain, flat and marshy where trees stand out. It's off the beaten track and I'm surrounded by wildlife and ancient woodlands. I also still have strong links to Shropshire where I spent many years.

Alex Egan
Our Inheritance, Ink, acrylic, graphite on paper , 2017, 41 cm x 65 cm

A thread has, for some time run through my art practice, the depiction of trees. Until fairly recently I was using them merely as objects to draw so that I could practice honing my drawing skills, or so I thought. Subconsciously though, I realise now that they have been and are much more than that. 

Through recent life events they have increasingly crept into the foreground of my art. This coincided with an unexpected house move and having no established studio to work from. 

Alex Egan
This Ancient Oak, Houghton, pencil, acrylic, ink on paper, 2017, 30 cm x 42 cm

At the time I was already committed to an existing deadline for a show. I decided to go back to the beginning with a subject that had always been a source of solace, a sense of peace.

Intimate and intricate drawings of trees, small in scale with the intention of increasing the size of the work through time. My car became my mobile studio, restricting and liberating in equal measures: restricting the size of my work and narrowing down the range of trees I could draw to those that I was able to park up in front of. Liberating in being able to keep warm during very cold winter days and thus enabling me to spend more time on the detailed drawings, while also giving me the ability to travel further in search of the right one.

Large Chestnut, Graphite and watercolour, December 2015

Many of the trees I have so far been led to on my quest are not necessarily in the upper echelons of the tree world, they are quite often the scruffy specimens, the dead trees, the Ivy clad misshapen hunchbacks.

I am gearing myself up for the supermodels but as with all things appearance is just the start; beauty is more than skin or bark deep. Last winter when I finally had somewhere to work from, I spent a few weeks drawing the most magnificent oak in the garden, it is directly outside my studio window. I had the luxury of being indoors in the dead of winter and drawing it on a relatively large scale. In the summer, when clothed in all its glory, this tree’s branches stretch out and down, creating a perfect circular canopy to lie beneath and absorb its serene energy. 

Alex Egan
Ancient Sweet Chestnut, pencil, acrylic, ink, 2017, 42 cm x 30 cm

I am without shame a tree hugger, their energy is powerful in its stillness. I am in search of discovering through my art a way of depicting this. 

I hope as a human being I am evolving and this will extend to my art practice, very much helped by the wisdom of trees.

J’habite dans les Norfolk Broads, une terre douce, plate et marécageuse, sur laquelle les arbres se détachent. C’est hors des sentiers battus et je suis entourée par la faune sauvage, par des forêts anciennes et de très vieux arbres.

Depuis quelques temps, un fil conducteur parcourt mon travail : le besoin subconscient d’être parmi les arbres et de les représenter dans mon art. Je me sens maintenant tellement reliée à eux, comme si j’avais mon propre système racinaire, qui communique avec les arbres que j’observe et que j’aime.
Visuellement, bien sûr, ils sont magnifiques, et nous avons tous le souffle coupé devant un bel arbre. Nous sommes d’abord frappés par sa taille, puis par ses plus infimes détails : les bourgeons qui se forment, les feuilles qui se déploient, étapes annuelles de sa vie, vie incroyablement lente, longue et fière.

S’arrêter et méditer ; quand nous contemplons un arbre ancien, nous nous demandons de combien d’évènements il a été le témoin. Dépeindre visuellement tout cela et bien plus encore, c’est pour moi le travail en cours de toute une vie.

Ma vision est maintenant tellement sensibilisée à rechercher et à observer les arbres, que c’est la première chose sur laquelle je me concentre devant un nouveau paysage. C’est bien évidemment ce qui s’est passé quand nous avons visité Vaux au début de l’automne 2016. C’était une belle journée, parfaite pour observer et pour respirer l’air chargé d’oxygène exhalé par ces arbres français.

Lesley Slight

Lesley Slight

The landscape of West Dorset is the visual foundation of Lesley Slight’s painting. Her work grows from meticulous observations, her complete immersion in the place she paints. But these are invented landscapes, incorporating real and imagined elements; visions from knowledge, experience, memory.

Lesley Slight
Hidden Path III, oil on linen, 30 x 40 cm

Distinct areas of colour or shadow belie the complex compositions; rhythm and pattern guide the eye, and the result is always monumental. In general she uses a low colour key, holding something back for the shift or burst of light which orchestrates the narrative. Light touches a hillside, a furrow, the crest of a wave, a bush, a leaf – a fleeting moment, but here minutes and seconds explode, this is a moment you will not forget. But a beautiful moment often holds its nemesis.

Lesley Slight
Two TreesI, oil on linen, 30 x 40 cm
Slight paints intuitively and so suggests that mastery of anything does not lie in control. She describes the calm but also the brewing storm. The shadows in these paintings can be ominous, like a warning that our past endeavours to control, dictate an uncertain future. These paintings are thoughtful, subtle, powerful and achingly poignant.

Gigi Sudbury

Lesley Slight
Bright Tree II, oil on linen, 18 x 24 cm

Lesley Slight
Red Sky, oil on linen, 24 x 30 cm

La peinture de Lesley Slight trouve son fondement visuel dans les paysages de l’ouest du Dorset. Son travail se développe à partir d’observations minutieuses et de son immersion complète dans le lieu qu’elle peint. Mais se sont des paysages inventés, qui intègrent des éléments réels et imaginaires : visions de connaissance, d’expérience, de mémoire.

Des zones distinctes de couleur ou d’ombre contredisent les compositions complexes ; le rythme et le motif guident l’œil, et le résultat est toujours monumental. En général elle utilise une gamme de couleurs sombre,  gardant une réserve pour le passage ou l’éclat de lumière qui orchestre la narration. La lumière touche le flanc d’une colline, un sillon, la crête d’une vague, un buisson, une feuille : instant fugace, mais ici minutes et secondes explosent, c’est un moment que vous n’oublierez pas. Mais un beau moment inclut souvent sa némesis.

Slight peint intuitivement et suggère ainsi que la maîtrise de toute chose ne réside pas dans le contrôle. Elle décrit le calme mais aussi l’agitation de la tempête. Dans ces tableaux les ombres peuvent être menaçantes, comme un avertissement que notre passé s’efforce de contrôler ; elles dictent un futur incertain. Ces peintures sont réfléchies, subtiles, puissantes et douloureusement poignantes.

Gigi Sudbury

Abi Kremer

Abi Kremer

Abi Kremer
Highcliffe 2, watercolour, 90 cm x 125 cm

On a walk through woodlands I am struck by the variation of light and shadow, and the moods it creates. Artists and poets have been inspired throughout history by this enclosed space - which can lead you on an enchanted journey through an imaginative otherworld, where trees become creatures with definite personalities. 

I have worked with a range of dance companies and developed drawings from live performance, with music. My focus on the energy of movement has prepared me for this engrossing project, beginning in 2005 with an Arts Council supported residency at Holton Lee, a site of special scientific interest in Wareham forest, Dorset. A serendipitous journey led me there, a mixture of chance and accident which mirrors my practice.

Broomhill Coppice was the starting point for 'Kami 6' (the title meaning Japanese 'spirit of the tree'). My passion for the Ukiyo-e floating world art of Japan, especially Hiroshige, began when I was an art student, studying the prints at the V&A Museum. I have always admired Bridget Riley for her sinuous and electric colour compositions, sometimes stimulated by nature (ref her 'Pleasures of Sight' essay). Working in my studio at Holton Lee enabled me to experiment with washes, masking, layering and transparent colour, resulting in this series. There is a meditative feel to this colour that mirrors the peaceful quality of woodland light.  

Abi Kremer
Kami 6, oil on canvas, 75 cm x 50 cm

A similar process of experiment and careful design is the basis of Highcliffe 1, where watercolour washes are allowed to tap into unconscious thoughts and feelings. The surrealist work of Eileen Agar, with a playful use of pattern, is an important stimulus, with her fellow artist Paul Nash and his 'objects personages'. Their meetings took place in Swanage, not far from Holton Lee overlooking Lytchett Bay. This large watercolour piece is one of the first of a fascinating exploration into the character of trees, a mixture of surrealist and abstract ideas. Salisbury Trees 1 is a more recent piece. For me trees become animate like dancers on a stage.

I look forward to taking these experiments, which are based on the woodlands of southern England, to France and beyond.  

Abi Kremer
Salisbury Trees 1, watercolour 36 x 26 cm

Comme artiste, j’ai été principalement inspirée par le paysage et la nature, mais j’ai travaillé avec des compagnies de danse, et la tension qui existe dans l’interaction humaine d’une performance existe pour moi dans l’environnement d’un bois. Chaque espace différent crée aussi une ambiance, et j'ai apprécié la recherche artistique à Poitiers et le processus pour trouver un langage visuel afin de communiquer ma réponse. Les émotions sont tout à fait différentes de celles des forêts du Dorset où j'ai passé cinq ans à créer un projet spécifique au site.

Je travaille par des lavis de couleur transparente, organisés en masques et en couches qui créent une discipline. Le travail est très expérimental. En effet, peindre humide dans l’humide développe mon imagination et crée des images irréelles, parfois tout à fait ludiques. Faire des signes devient un rythme, souvent inspiré par la musique. La couleur est la clé de mon travail et je m'inspire du vocabulaire visuel de Bridget Riley et de l’imaginaire d'Eileen Agar. L'exposition expressionniste abstraite où j'ai vu le travail complexe et sensible de Lee Krasner m’a récemment influencée. Pour moi les formes en arabesques des arbres s'animent, comme des danseurs sur une scène.

Blaze Cyan

Blaze Cyan
Facebook: Blaze Cyan - Artist
Twitter: @BlazeCyan

My work begins as an exploration and love of being present in the landscape. While walking and gathering sensory information, I also collect intuitively interesting pieces of wood and stone. Twisted knots in dead branches and tactile stones embedded with crystal or meandering veins. The nature of their textures and surfaces helps me to create the connection between visceral memory and my experience of the terrain. 

Blaze Cyan
Wellington Woods II, etching, 40 x 60 cm, 2017

My primary inspiration comes from ancient and veteran trees. Their individual anthropomorphic qualities evoke feelings of empathy and the uncanny. They inspire my re-enchantment with, and a re-imagining of the landscape. I have a fascination for that which must always remain a mystery, the things that can only be imagined but can never be seen or proven. We can never know what has been witnessed in the lifespan of an ancient tree, they are the silent observers of humanity.

Aged and decaying trees frequently appear almost dead, and it's this ambiguity between life and death that intrigues me and appears to transcend mortality. They seem to exist outside normal constraints or human timescales and are steeped in mystery... with implications of something hidden? They are the symbolic and romantic personalities of the forests and woodland.

Blaze Cyan
Greenwich II, woodcut on silk paper, 45 cm x 30 cm

Being grounded in the discipline of drawing I identify with natural materials like charcoal that have a direct representative relationship with the subject through the process of physical transformation. The mulling of organic pigments from vines into inks seems a fitting and reverential way to re-describe these majestic forms. The overwhelming detail serves to mesmerise both myself whilst making the work and the viewer after completion.

I am naturally drawn to black and white for its dramatic polarizing and defining effects. By taking a step away from realism, the visual incompleteness makes room for imagination. Monochrome creates an unnatural perfection, transforming that which could be grotesque to appear beautiful and fascinating.

Blaze Cyan
Wimbledon Common, charcoal and conte on paper and wood panel, 150 cm x 100 cm

'the artist, with each revelation of the truth, always keeps his enchanted gaze hanging on what still remains hidden...' Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, 1872. 

Mon travail commence comme une exploration : j’aime être présente au sein du paysage. En marchant, je recueille des informations sensitives, en collectant des morceaux de bois tordus qui intuitivement m’intéressent et des pierres aux veines sinueuses, mais le plus important... des souvenirs. La nature de leurs textures et du toucher de leurs surfaces m’aide à relier ma mémoire intime profonde à mon expérience du terrain.

Blaze Cyan
Cranbourne, graphite on paper, 45 cm x 35 cm

L'inspiration vient de la forêt et d’arbres anciens singuliers, dont les qualités anthropomorphiques créent un lien personnel, des sentiments d'empathie et réenchantent le paysage. Ils dépassent l’échelle des temps humains et l’idée de la mort. Ils sont soustraits à toutes les préoccupations humaines. Le mystère des forêts sombres nourrit la mémoire, mais garde la conscience enracinée dans le moment présent par la possibilité du danger. Une transposition de la nature au travers du filtre teint de noir de mon imagination.

Etant ancrée dans la discipline du dessin, je m'identifie à des matériaux naturels comme le fusain, qui par le processus de la transformation physique établissent une relation représentative directe avec le sujet. Le monochrome crée une perfection artificielle, une incomplétude visuelle, qui transforme ce qui pourrait être grotesque pour le faire paraître beau et fascinant.

« Ne choisissez qu’un seul maître : nature », Rembrandt Van Rjin

Blaze Cyan
Croft castle III, etching, 25 x 20 cm, 2017


Michael Porter

Michael Porter

I am a landscape painter who observes the minutia of what we see. 
If I can convincingly depict a small aspect of what one experiences whilst out there in the world then I count this as success.

The tree is often seen as the embodiment of nature, as both a product of the earth and the sustainer of the very world in which we live.

As a painter of nature my eyes continuously flit from twig to bark, observing the nest’s in its branches, an individually striated leaf, the twist of a climbing columbine around it’s trunk.  Neither is more important than another, they merge together to build up the overall picture.

It is not my intention to create an illustration of the landscape but create an image that corresponds to what one sees, to show the characteristics of place and make visual equivalents of that which is
before us.

I am drawn to bits of landscape that are often disregarded whilst at the same time cannot be overlooked, a dilemma indeed!

Michael Porter
Forest floor, 15-06-11, 110 x 120 cms, acrylic, gouache and oil on canvas

Michael Porter
Day and Night, Bethany series, 19-06-15, oil and acrylic on photograph, 50 x 100 cms

Michael Porter
Beside the Path  21-06-14, 43 x 39 cms, acrylic and oil on paper

Je suis un peintre paysagiste qui observe les petits détails de ce que nous voyons. 
Si je peux décrire de façon convaincante un petit aspect de ce qu’éprouve celui qui est plongé dans le monde, je compte cela comme un succès. 

On considère souvent l'arbre comme l'incarnation de la nature, à la fois comme un produit de la terre et le soutien du monde dans lequel nous vivons.

Mes yeux de peintre de la nature circulent continuellement de la ramille à l’écorce, observant le nid dans ses branches, une feuille seule, striée, la torsade d'une ancolie qui s’enroule autour du tronc. Aucune chose n’est plus importante qu’une autre, elles fusionnent ensemble pour construire l’image globale.

Mon intention n’est pas de créer une illustration du paysage, mais de créer une image qui correspond à ce que l'on voit, de montrer les caractéristiques du lieu et produire des équivalents visuels de ce qui est devant nous.

Je suis attiré par des éléments de paysage souvent méprisés, mais qui pourtant ne peuvent pas être négligés : un dilemme assurément !


Richard Bavin

Richard Bavin

Richard Bavin
Queenswood - Late Summer, 2015, charcoal, 345 x 460 mm

Trees have always filled me with joy and wonder and I can be absorbed for hours in simply looking. Throughout my life I have loved many city trees but these days I am blessed with an attic studio looking onto mature chestnuts and oaks, and a home in a valley filled with orchards and woods. Every tree, great or small, has its own character and presence, and walking in woodland is a deeply restorative pleasure in any weather.

Richard Bavin
Springtime Song

Most of my drawings and paintings depict specific trees and woodland in Herefordshire. My starting point is always to spend time walking or sitting quietly with sketchbook and camera amid the mud, wind, birds and midges. The act of drawing intensifies the experience and I feel fully alive! Patience and perseverance are rewarded by extraordinary moments when a scene is made astonishingly beautiful by some shift of light or weather. In the studio I distill these encounters and records into paintings, aiming to share what I have seen and felt as faithfully as possible with the viewer. 

Richard Bavin
Wood Edge on Foggy Morning

Winter is my favourite season with stark, bare tree forms, slanting sun and hot coffee to hand. Oak Tree, is based on a pencil drawing of a grand old estate tree whereas Wellington Wood - Winter Sun shows a stand of young oaks, regrowing after clearance, in a wood I visit often.

Richard Bavin
Wellington Wood - Winter Sun, 2012, watercolour, 460 x 670 mm

It breaks my heart to see how rapidly Britain's trees and woodland are succumbing to development and the ravages of pollution and disease, and I am involved in campaigning locally and nationally. But in my practice as an artist I choose to go on making paintings which delight in the myriad ways in which trees enrich our world and ourselves. At the end of my life I hope that my work will not be a eulogy for what we have lost but a celebration.

Richard Bavin
Old Oak, 2014, oil on board, 700 x 1000 mm

Peintre profondément amoureux des arbres et des bois, chaque mois je passe une partie de mon temps dehors à faire des croquis au fusain et à l'aquarelle et à photographier. Tout aussi importante est la solitude et le temps pris à observer et à m’imprégner de ces expériences.

Dans mon atelier grenier du Herefordshire rural, j'utilise ce matériau d’extérieur comme point de départ pour les aquarelles et les huiles. Mon but est de communiquer le caractère de chaque arbre individuel, le caractère des bois, et ce que l’on ressent à être là en différentes saisons et par différents temps. La lumière perpétuellement changeante en est la clé. L’essentiel de mon travail se construit par couches durant des semaines et des mois pour apporter profondeur et richesse aux couleurs.

Richard Bavin
Young Oak on Quarry Edge

En octobre dernier je me suis rendu au centre de la France, une occasion tant attendue d'explorer les magnifiques forêts de Blois et de Chambord avec leur faune abondante. J’ai rejoint les Arboréalistes à Vaux, où nous avons été bénis par deux jours de chaud soleil pendant que nous dessinions et photographions les arbres locaux dans leur richesse automnale. Cette peinture est la première d'une série consacrée à ce voyage.


Nick Schlee

Nick Schlee

Nick Schlee
Copse in meadow', 81 x 101 cm 

I am usually in a state of high anticipation when I go out to sketch. I have to find a subject that stops me in my tracks. If I am not excited how will the picture I draw ever excite anyone else? I usually draw from the car. If I have to, I get out and work leaning on the bonnet.

I first try to make a mental verbal note, on an imaginary index card, of those elements that have made the initial impact on me. Putting the scene into words forces me to think and analyse what it is I am looking at. Working at speed I then try to capture all those essential components I decided made the scene worth recording. I leaving out detail I might discover on closer observation unless they help consolidate the picture I set out to make. I am careful about getting the essentials only and take great care to get everything in the right place.

Nick Schlee
Copse in Basildon Park

Later, when painting up the oil pastel in oils, I approximate the same calligraphic marks of the sketch with my brushstrokes. They are the key to the liveliness of my pictures. The long shadows and golden light of the evening help make the pictures atmospheric and moving.

I only choose subjects that in some way excite my eye and so I use slightly heightened colour and accented linear rhythms to create that same excitement in the viewer.

Back in the studio I paint from the sketch following it closely, painting it up to a large size in oil paint, the bigger the picture the more you get a feeling of being right there, actually in the landscape.

Nick Schlee
Trees at Basildon Park, 92 x 107 cm

I paint mainly landscapes of the country along the Ridgeway in West Berkshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire. These days the countryside is eerily bereft of people. But I find that the trees, whether close or far away on the tops of hills, become the animating element. They congregate in congenial clumps, sometimes menacing like ancient armies awaiting battle. Some trees deserve a picture to themselves suggesting restlessness or repose and always implying strength and longevity.

Nick Schlee
Stones and beech trees, 82 x 97 cm