Thinking about the forest

‘Spending time outdoors’ means different things to different people, and I am one of the luckier ones. Growing up in a forest farm meant learning to appreciate growing things, shades of green, young and old creatures, soft and loud sounds, smells, mist, water, rain, heat. The affinity for the forest was fostered by my father. He also grew up on the land, and his knowledge of and respect for the forest rubbed off on me. Being there with him, it was easy for me to love the natural world. Whispering grass, sunken roots, tall trees, clear water, a sense of timelessness, a deep and abiding love for all things and ways of life. He taught me to look at trees, to listen to sounds, to appreciate the cycle of growth and stillness. Having no playmates, I learnt to draw and play quietly. That quietness has not gone away, and I can still spend hours by myself, sketching or reading or planning new work. When in college, we were given a task of twenty sketches very weekend, and although I dreaded it then (our illustration teacher was a strict taskmaster), I have turned back to my practice of sketching with gratitude. As an artist, I know I should be disciplined about where I sketch, or at least try to maintain a regular sketchbook, but am sadly lacking here. Now I have a scattering of sketchbooks at home and in the studio, all haphazardly strewn with notes, sketches, quotes, thoughts. But at least I have gone back to the discipline of daily sketching. And am pleasantly surprised by the amount of satisfaction that gives me. Sometimes a small sketch can lead to a whole series of work. I haven’t yet gotten there, but hopefully, sometime, will end up with a large series of work that comes together seamlessly. Right now, my art is as scattered as my sketchbooks. When I first started to paint seriously, I found myself trying everything – charcoal, pastel, pen and ink, water, poster, oil, gouache, clay, acrylic. I also wanted to paint all kinds of subjects – people, still life, landscapes, buildings, trees. Slowly, the rest of the materials have given way to acrylic and pen. And now, my subjects have also slowly started to fall into two categories – the forest (where I am from) and the city (where I am now).

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