Half a year ago, I moved house, country and continent. From the hills of Wellington, New Zealand, to the city of Den Haag, behind the dunes of the North sea shores. This was a bit of a shock. The ocean view has become the apartment across, the whales and dolphins tuned into magpies and rooks, summer turned into winter and I was upside down. This move was instigated by the wish to be closer to family and I have been enjoying the company of loved ones, albeit with social distancing at the highpoint of a lockdown. As a consequence, the pace of my art endeavours reduced significantly, first because of the move back to Holland, and later the death of my beloved father in the spring. Now I’m slowly getting back into my routine.
During lockdown I worked on projects that I had started in Wellington but didn’t get to finish before travelling back: a kea bird, a wave and an octopus. I met the Kea at Arthurs pass a few years back and it was fun to explore the familiar bird form. I used green Fabriano roma paper for that project which works lovely with charcoal and chalk. I met de octopus in a small aquarium in Wellington’s south coast. This animal captivated me and we literally touched when we met. His little suckers explored the hem of my sleeve and the texture of my skin. There was immense inquisitiveness and I felt a sense of intelligence looking him in the eye. I took this encounter with me when drawing from the photographic references but placing it in the deep blue waters of the ocean. In the end, it was a challenge to get the atmosphere of the water to my liking and I set it aside for a while, along with my wave, waiting for renewed water inspiration.
After we moved to Holland, I wanted to draw local subjects from life, and I found some beautiful ancient trees close to home. I decided to document the cycle of life and started with an 85 year old linden tree, still dormant at the end of winter. The trunk has hollowed out over the years, it has become gnarled and the branches are reaching towards the sky, hungry for sunlight. Not so well accustomed to drawing trees from life, I found there is much to learn with a subject matter very different from birds. After a few sketching attempts I got so overwhelmed with all the information that I decided to first work from my photographic references. After regular visits to study the light, the form and shapes of the tree, it is now almost finished. But as so often, I let it rest, and rest, and rest some more, until I finally see what finishing touch is needed. In the meantime, spring arrived with the transition from the greys and browns from last winter into an abundance of new life and colour. A crab apple tree with branches heavy with new red leaves caught my eye and later, just after the death of my father, a 221 year-old linden tree revealed itself. I find solace in observing, appreciating and drawing these giants that have been here for so long. It gets me more entuned with things as they are. So, my beautiful trees are about the cycle of life, transition and learning. Within a few weeks, I hope to get acquainted with a 375 year-old pear tree and should have branches heavy from bearing the ripe fruit by then.