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 .
To travel north from Cape Town via railway into the wilds of Central Africa is to discover mile upon mile of veld stretching interminably as far as the eye can see – a vast ocean of grasses and trees that goes on for days.
Traveling by air can’t even compare – what can you see from 40,000 feet? That kind of journey doesn’t make much of an impression on the mind, let alone the soul.
But train travel is a different story. The slow rocking of the carriage on the rails brings a sense of peace and timelessness: three days of suspended animation in which the demands of the modern world are laid aside. Back to the era of Burton and Speke – and Rhodes? Not quite that far – but far enough to realize we have seriously compromised ourselves with the modern fads of ‘fast’ and ‘instant’.
This land teems with wildlife, rarely visible in quick glimpses from the train – and much less so today than formerly. But the wildlife is there, as it has been for centuries – living out its own dance on the hot, shimmering plains that would swallow us up if we were to step away from the lifeline of the two slim, steel rails beneath us.
Digital – vector art. For more details, click on images.
This artwork inspired a design for a Dynomighty Mighty Wallet that’s most appropriate for the approaching Northern Hemisphere summer.
The location is on the coast about 20 miles north of here – a very picturesque fishing village where the street runs alongside the retaining wall above the beach.
Mature pohutukawa trees line the roadside, and cars can park in their shade and enjoy the vista of yachts anchored in the harbor and fishing boats going to and fro the adjacent wharf.
For more details about prints, products and the Mighty Wallet, click on the image above.
Have a great summer!