The Intelligence of Trees

“A current trend in my painting reflects an increased admiration for trees. In particular, I have come to see that the typical light, open structure of a deciduous tree survives by the use of various mechanisms such as strong junctions where a branch grows from a trunk and the anchoring of the tree to the ground.

Every tree is unique with a form brought about by responses to the terrain, the availability of light and the force of winds.

The results of studies in biomechanics by Claus Mattheck have become part of standard practice for arborculturists. Whilst his work has helped me to see trees with more understanding, I do not intend that my paintings should be seen as illustrations to these ideas or as being didactic.

Nevertheless, I see a place in the current pressing debate about the future of the environment for an increased respect for nature’s resilience and ingenuity.

As I write this, I look up to see a modest olive tree which has achieved its unique form by responding to the similar but not identical conditions for other olive trees nearby. On the ground there is a snail which appears to have formed its shell without the intellectual understanding of equiangular spirals.

Unlike the snail, the tree does not have an obviously finite form. There is the typical dendritic pattern for every species and an optimum size but within these parameters there are countless variations. As with a painting, a tree’s final form is the result of accretions and deletions; like a tree, the painting has to have balance but this is a dynamic equilibrium.

However, when I paint a tree, when I stand in front of a tree, these considerations are not paramount. Then it is a matter of capturing the aesthetic qualities of texture, rhythm and colour, of finding the equivalent to a specific play of light, of celebrating a unique form. There are trees which are so rich in visual possibilities that a whole exhibition could be derived from one tree.”


Old Oak, conté, 23 x 32cms

Oak by Tom's Wood, oil, 70 x 50cms



Wesley Beeches 1, oil, 80 x 60cms

Wesley Beeches Study, pastel, 30 x 40cms

Black Poplar, Household Mead, oil, 80 x 60cms

Mulberry Study, watercolour and conté, 23 x 30cms

Oak, Blind Lane, oil, 80 x 60cms