Forests are a big thing for me, maybe because I now live as close to one as it gets. Born in a city, raised in cities (London, Aberdeen, Harare), I didn’t really become acquainted with forests until, while working in a city-bound office environment in NZ, I was invited by a colleague to go ‘walking’ (or ‘tramping’ as we call it).
That introduced me not only to forests, but also to the joys of open rolling hills in a landscape geologically young enough to be steep and furrowed and very revealing of the processes that formed it.
The Wellington Region is not a gentle landscape. Referred to by Dr Graeme Stevens as ‘Rugged Landscape’ in his brilliant book of the same name, the Wellington area has been battered, uplifted and twisted by the forces of plate tectonics and carved by forceful streams and rivers to create one of the most challenging and underestimated mountain environments in New Zealand. The central part of that is called the Tararua Ranges.
In this setting can be found forests of unusual beauty – some of them stunning enough to feature on the big screen as the Elven land of Rivendell and the mysterious forests of the Shire.
Lush and species-rich in the valleys and low-lying plains, these forests change character completely at altitude, becoming short, stunted beech forests struggling for existence at about 3,500′, boughs loaded with snow in the winter months and tossed by strong winds at any time of year.
This artwork came upon me out of nowhere. Sights and impressions imprint themselves on brain and memory, to be reborn at some later date, often without effort. When that happens, magic often occurs – and exactly where the inspiration came from often remains a mystery.
I now live tucked under the remnant of a volcano standing on protected, forested land in the tropical far north of NZ. A slightly different forest again, this – yet still exerting that enthralling pull of nature that living trees generate as they populate the spaces we have frugally left to them, in these days of modern technology and ‘civilization’ run riot.
Trees have much to offer spiritually as well as physically. I guess early man knew that instinctively, but it is something we are only now coming to fully realize again, thanks to foresters and scientists who are not afraid to think and speak outside the box. May this re-awakening not be too late.
For more details about the artwork and products, click on the images.
The Tui is one of New Zealand’s most iconic birds. Sharp, smart and vocal, he can be found in forest, open coppice country, parks and gardens. He is the largest of our honey eaters, his long, curving beak ideal for reaching into the throats of flowers of all kinds.
The Tui has 2 voice boxes – one attached to each lung – and he can produce an amazing variety of sounds in fast succession and overlapping one another. These sounds include carillion calls, sneezes, bursts of song and explosive ejaculations that are completely beyond description.
He is a mimic, and can be taught to talk, as the Maori soon discovered. His flight is fast and he flies in short, energetic bursts, punctuated by a drumming sound produced by a notch in the front of the 8th flight feather of each wing. You can certainly hear him coming!
The use of the term ‘friends’ here is euphemistic. The Tui is a dominant bird, highly protective of his nesting sites and food sources. Because at this stage I have no bird feeders here, I don’t know what the pecking order is between the Tui and the imported Indian Mynah (a rather forceful bird), but I suspect the Tui has the edge.
This is part of one of the 36 illustrations I painted for the book Taketakerau The Millennium Tree published in 2012. The whole picture shows a Maori and his young son exploring the forest on arrival in Aotearoa.
The birds shown here are completely fearless of the strange beings invading their world. But since birds soon became a major source of food for the Maori immigrants, that situation did not last for long!
The birds in the picture are – Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) in the centre and around him, anticlockwise from the top right, Fantail, piwakawaka (Rhipidura fulginosa); Grey warbler, riroriro (Gerygone igata); Tit, miromiro (Petroica macrocephala); North Island Robin, toutouwai (Petroica australis).
The tree is the Shining Broadleaf (Griselinia lucida), often found as an epiphyte on larger forest trees.
For more details about this picture, c;lick on the image – and check out the remainder of the book illustrations at Taketakerau.com .
As you’ll see from my previous post, this is ‘Home’, and the painting – acrylic on canvas card – has been nagging me for several years to get completed.
With all of these things, it doesn’t do to rush if the inspiration isn’t forthcoming. When the right thing isn’t suggesting itself, it’s best to leave well alone, because you can guarantee that in due course, it will.
Come to think of it, that’s a really good piece of advice for life generally – in other words, “Don’t Force It!”
The parakeets in the picture are kakariki – NZ red-crested parakeets, and putting them here is somewhat anachronistic, because we no longer have them up in the north. We do have Australian Rosella parakeets though, very brightly colored, noisy and not endemic. So I thought I’d use a bit of artistic licence…
The larger birds are one of my favorites – the kereru or NZ Native Pigeon. These had become rather scarce in the Far North due to human predation (even though they ARE protected) and the fact that a pair produces only one offspring a year – but I’m glad to say that since I’ve been letting the bush come back on my top paddocks, birdlife is increasing, and I’m seeing and hearing more kereru on the place all the time.
See also my earlier post and artwork ‘Flight of The Kukupa‘.