South wales Artist - Plane Trees in Art

Plane Trees in Art

I first became aware of the wonders on the Plane Tree during the Advent Term of my time at theological College in Cambridge in the 1980’s. I was involved in a somewhat tedious series of meetings in an upper room of a terraced house on Hills Road, which, as every Cambridge resident knows, is lined with magnificent Plane trees. My attention kept being drawn through the window to the quaint little baubles dangling in the breeze from the sturdy branches. I remember thinking, during this hectic, pre-Christmas period with everyone engaged in decorating trees with multicoloured baubles, how nature does it so much more eloquently when allowed to do it’s own thing!

It was years later during the summer of 2014 whilst enjoying a painting break with Studio Simi alumni in the village of Stazzema in the stunning surrounds of the Apuane mountains, that my attention was once again drawn to this fascinating tree. But on this occasion, to the bole of the species. One of the joys of painting ‘en plain air’ with colleagues in such an inspirational location is being able to meet up for the occasional cappuccino at the local bar! Now the bar in Stazzema is located on the High Street and flanked by Planes. What caught my attention was the multi-toned, dappled bark in the bright Mediterranean sunlight caused by dancing reflections from the leaves above on the bole below. It is a known fact that the species is particularly suited to urban planting due to,its remarkable tolerance to pollution and ability to rid itself of dirt and dust deposits by shedding scales of its distinctive bark. This revitalising process reveals some lovely different shades and shapes of greys, greens and creams.

Whilst painting the Plane I was equally captivated by the little Mediterranean Wall Lizards scuttling around that became increasingly confident as they assumed no-one was watching! Their green tones so complemented the shade of the leaf shoots emerging from the roots of the tree.

This picture heralded the beginning of a series of oil paintings on wooden panels. The joy of painting ‘wood on wood’ is not only to do with tone and texture, but also about constraints. I’ve found that just as the tree is multi-dimensional, to extend the work beyond the constraints of a normal flat canvas is proving somewhat liberating and suitable to arboreal work.

As the tree, in itself is a piece of art, I feel that it requires no embellishment or adornment. A frame can only detract from its amazing qualities. I have simply tried to draw attention to those qualities!