Tuesday 6 December 2016

The Story of the Tree

As some of you may know, I've recently done a print - a photopolymer gravure to be precise - of a Scots Pine tree, and I've been lucky enough to get it selected for the current open exhibition of Visual Arts Scotland 'FLY2016'.  I thought I would record what lies behind the picture.

If you drive along the road from Lochcarron to Shieldaig, you go through a forest of Scots Pines just before Shieldaig.  I can only assume this is an old native woodland, maybe even an ancient wood, and it stretches from the shores of Loch Dughaill up the slopes of Ben Shieldaig.  It is lovely to drive through, and I'm always happy if I have to linger in a passing place there.  It is difficult to draw off the road, but you can find a spot.

We did stop one time, and I chanced upon a tree with character and ended up reaching for my sketch book.  Here's a photo of the tree in question.
As you know, the image captured in a photo is a distortion of the real thing, as is a sketch. But I think you can see a similarity between the two.  Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but then Matisse did advise 'Exaggerate in the direction of truth'. I also realised that I'd have to draw the tree over two pages in my sketch book to try and describe the crookedness of its character.  I think I used graphite and pencil on this sketch.

I never quite know what I'm going to do with my sketches.  Initially with this one I did nothing.  This tree has such a strong character.  Would it be suitable as the main motif in a painting?  I suppose I shied away from that as I thought it would be too dominant.

And then a few months later I was looking through my sketchbook for ideas for making new photopolymer plates.  I'm trying to do a few smaller plates in order to have cheaper prints to sell.  Anyway, I thought this might make a good picture, and re-drew it in ink on a type of transparent film (MMR film).  This is the drawing.  You can see the edges of the film which is lying on top of paper.

Finally, after exposing this on to photo-sensitive polymer plate (using a lightbox), I ended up with a type of 'etched' plate (but it's not strictly 'etched' as it doesn't go into a bath of acid to create the lines to hold the ink: that's done through a photographic development process: sometimes this process is sometimes called 'solarplate').  The final print which I pulled off the plate is looking like this - it's quite true to the final drawing I made.
So that's the story behind the 'Shieldaig Pine'.  The print is hiding away in one of the back rooms of the VAS exhibition at the RSA until 27th December 2016.  See if you can track it down when you go along and please let me know what you think when you see it in the flesh!