Since the summer of 1991.
I was in England on an artist’s grant from July – August 1991. I started researching various travel brochures, looking for interesting subject matter and saw the Painswick yew trees. I was inspired by the wonderful and mysterious way the trees grow together. I visited the churchyard and have been working on the series ever since.
I let the trees call me. I tend to draw the ones that seem to need my attention. Many times I will draw trees that have been damaged due to snow storms and excessive clipping. I try to re-establish their beauty and dignity.
My goal is to translate my experience of joy, inspiration, beauty and the raw primal power of nature I feel from the trees into my drawing. I also try to create a visual means that encourages the viewer to transcend the surface of life and experience a deeper more holistic level of awareness. (please read my artist’s statement to understand more deeply my intention.)
First, I use recognizable subject matter which is beautiful and multi-dimensional. Familiarity with nature tends to pull the viewer into the work through the heart, not the mind. I also focus on creating a balanced rhythm between all aspects that make up the composition ie: texture, contrast, space, weight, value, structure etc. Then I push the co-existence of opposite values and create a balance within each element. As an example, with texture, I have dynamic and subtle textures balanced throughout the composition. This balance between all of the drawings parts or “elements” creates a holistic spacial field that encourages the viewer to look more deeply and explore more subtle aspects of the work. Pictoral space in visual arts is a metaphor for consciousness. In moving the viewers’ attention from the surface into deeper space, the viewer’s awareness is refined leading him/her in the direction of transcendence.
To achieve what I strive for takes time. I am building a visual universe, line by line, tone by tone. My yew trees #108 took me 650 hours and three trips to England to complete. I try in my work to make drawings that are rich spatially, by pushing and balancing opposite values such as dark and light, soft and hard, gross and subtle. This process is labor-intensive and takes a long time to build up the drawing’s surface and balance all of the various elements..
My drawing technique is to build up the drawing in layers, working with hard, leaded pencils. I use hard pencils because I try to maintain an overall balanced silver-tone throughout the drawing. To achieve a rich, dark tone, I have to press hard which embosses the paper surface.
I work directly in nature in plein air using a small range of hard drawing pencils and build up the surface slowly. First, I lay out all of the shapes in line. Then I begin building up the tones from light to dark.
The basic technique I learned from Geoffrey Baker, a colleague. However, most of what I do was learned through experimentation and the requirements needed to unify the drawing’s composition.
Yes. I have to work mainly on location as the level of detail and complexity of the yew trees space demands direct observation. This is because photography’s inherent inability to capture an honest pictoral spacial rendition of the trees makes it impossible to draw from photographs.
These drawings are the most demanding and rewarding of any art works I have ever made. It is the creative process and my practice of Transcendental Meditation that sustains and nourishes my focus. Also having the opportunity to draw for extended periods directly from nature and create images that share my deep appreciation of these noble entities gives me energy and a humble perseverance.