Trees are amongst the oldest living organisms in the world. I have always loved observing and drawing them, with my favourites being the broad leaved trees. As a member of Bedgebury Pinetum Florigium I have contributed several paintings of trees from their collection.
Acer campestre , known as Field Maple, is an often overlooked tree, even though it is very common and can be found in almost every hedgerow along roads and lanes. It also seeds and grows on the edge of woods and open fields.
It is deciduous and native to much of Europe and Great Britain. Mature trees can reach a height of twenty metres but as it is slow growing and often very small it is not considered an important tree. The wood is hard and strong and used for wood turning and musical instruments, especially harps but it is also used for furniture and flooring.
Acer Campestre has a fissured bark which becomes corky with age and it can live for about 350 years.
The fruit is a samara with two winged achenes spread in autumn by the wind. The tree retains its leaves, turned yellow, well into the winter. Some of the trees in the hedgerows are still covered in yellow leaves in January, whereas those in more open places have shed their leaves.
My painting was done on hot pressed paper with watercolour. I use quite large bushes for most of the work and begin by working wet into wet preferring the colours to mix on the paper. I do very little preparatory work, but sometimes use sketches to understand form and connections before starting. When I think I have enough information I draw straight onto the paper. I always work from live specimens as even the best photographs don’t give enough detail.
This means that in order to capture all the life cycle of a tree, it takes almost a year of collecting and painting.
This Acer campestre painting was started in March and finished in October. It would have been nice to spend another month capturing the autumn colours…that’s another painting.