Monday 3 September 2012

an ancient beech, before and after

I was delighted yesterday to be back at Avonmuir House near Linlithgow, invited for the second year running to be artist in residence -for one day only- whilst the garden was open to the public under Scotland's Gardens Scheme. Entrance fees went to charities supported by the scheme and to Combat Stress.

Avonmuir is a beautiful house built at the very end of the 18th century. The garden is large with a walled area of lawn and fruit trees and beautiful flower borders - yesterday attracting small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies, but not as many as you'd expect. And as seems also to be the case across Scotland this year the apple harvest is disappointingly low, although those that were on the trees were juicy red and tempting. I had a display of my work in the little lichen-green summerhouse here, and another in the tea tent (wonderful mini carrot cakes!) I did my painting elsewhere, in my favourite part of the garden - by a little burn that babbles under trees and ivy, a path winds alongside. It's shaded there but dappled sunlight filters through, twinkling in the branches.

tree stump and burn, watercolour, 28 x 38cm

I finished the day with a half-hour sketch done from the exact position I painted in last year. What a difference a year makes... 364 days ago I was looking at a beautiful wide spreading beech - now all that's left is a massive stump with logging all round. Major boughs were lost in the winter storms 2011/2012 and the rest had to be felled. It's sad to see such a magnificent tree gone but I'm glad I was able to paint it last year. It'll be interesting to see what new plant life develops now that the area is open to light. Counting the rings showed that the tree was 400 years old. Think of all that's happened in those four centuries.

Here you can see my 'before' and 'after':

blackbird & wren by the ancient beech, acrylic on card/board, 18.5x23.5cm, 4th Sept 2011

no blackbird, no wren, but a robin singing merrily beside me, watercolour & pencil, 27.5x38cm, 2nd Sept 2012

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