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Trees 'up the top'

Updated: May 3, 2023

I've been feeling a bit stuck in the studio lately. The winter hasn't been that bad but working on some commissions, a new linocut and then the dreaded covid, has kept me inside.

Anyway, the plan is to spend a lot more time 'up the top', mostly on Mynydd Llangatwg (Llangattock Mountain) over the next few weeks.

I've finished a couple of studies from last week. I call the technique 'pleinish air'!... I tend to do the first half of the work on a piece directly at the scene, to get the values, forms and composition blocked in but sharpen the image up later in the studio with detail and texture.

The hawthorns on the side of the mountain are so interesting in form. They are probably hundreds of years old. They have been stunted and contorted by their age, the weather and the nibbling of generations of sheep. Sadly some of them are coming to the end of their lives. They occasionally fall and regenerate from the the ground, growing again from the old fallen trunk but many are dying, still standing until a storm topples them. The hillside seems overgrazed now for any seedlings to have a chance to take.

I've got this theory (a bit arty farty I know) but when I paint and draw these trees, the images tend to contain how I'm feeling about things. I don't realise until I later look back at the work and relate it to what is going on. I've had to stop paintings in the past.

Ukraine, poor/corrupt government? (see the image below)... Or positive and full of the joy of being out in our wonderful countryside.

Here's a comedy time-lapse of me working. The fallen tree in the study above is the tree behind me in the video but from the other side.

Reminder to self...'make sure the camera is pointing the right way next time!'

Here is the finished piece. Quite a panorama, about 55cm wide.

Mossy Fallen Tree. Watercolour, pencil and pen. Only 26x19cm on 640gsm paper.

This painting/drawing has come from a walk up in the hidden valley when the bluebells were still out in late April/May.

Off to the side of a path, near to a very large and old beech tree, the February storm had done some serious damage with whole trees and branches lying on the slope in a big jumble. The bluebells were still growing through the chaos and were picked out by the light through the hole in the cover of fresh new leaves.

I saw my first cuckoo in a long time up there this spring (so that had to go in as well.

I think it's finished (added 04/07/22)

75 x 30cm, watercolour, pencil and pen on cold pressed 640gsm paper.

I'll keep adding to this page as I complete work.

These trees turn up a lot in the background of my prints.

He moves like a cat, trying to find the perfect viewpoint!;D

How the fallen tree panorama looked after working on it on site.

Half way through working on it in the studio.

Update, May 2023. I've just finished this painting that iis in the same format as the two other wide compositions. Fallen birch and tumbled walls.

giving back

when a tree falls to the earth it's an ending in one life before the resurrection comes

for as the wood rots away it creates a space to live in which multitudes exist

and, in its decay, it sinks into soil which is enriched with enhanced fertility

old logs are best left to be admired in their slow decline back into the woodland floor

where they sink back underground to nourish hidden networks of their wider family

they're also a reminder for us to contemplate our certain mortality

and consider how we may be of service to the earth when we fall beside the path

johnegan. 3/5/23

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Beautiful work…love seeing your process…..thanks so much for sharing!

Apr 24, 2022
Replying to

Thank you for the kind comment


Vanessa Sorensen
Vanessa Sorensen
Apr 12, 2022

I so love your work. I had to stare at that first tree image for a long while to take it in. Gorgeous!

Apr 12, 2022
Replying to

Thank you for your kind comment. I'll add a bit more to this blog post over the next month or so.

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