november FEATURED artist
My Famous Tree Search
The NH Charitable Foundation’s Artists’ Advancement grant was awarded to me last year by proposing to spend time buried in the landscape of my childhood. I was born in England and came to the US in 1973, but it is still England and my roots there that call to my artistic soul. I wanted to go in March, with my husband Larry, to spend the time necessary to search out, study and catch the spirit of exceptional trees in that enduring landscape. Their gnarly bark and peculiar anatomy awaken in me a compulsion to draw.
With excitement and impatience to have new work for the Grant show planned for April, my husband and I actually went for a pre-trip to England after Thanksgiving. We chose to stay in the Peak District after researching famous trees in advance. It was freezing cold in December. The morning fog was always as thick as soup, but slowly as the fog lifted, we saw incomparable trees.
There were more than those two, but they inspired the first major works on my return. I was a mixture of exuberant and terrified but also unconstrained, as the grant had validated exploration and bravery. My heart was in my mouth, but sometimes discomfort and angst bring forth gratifying steps forward.
I had chosen March for the immersive trip, because spring would be imminent. We were staying in five different locations. The first was to research family. After that there was to be ten days right inside a National Trust Property famous for its trees. Croft Castle was an enormous and glorious mixture of parkland, fields and woods. There were thousands of trees, some extraordinary, and the views of the landscape were staggering. I started to fill my sketch books and return time after time to closely observe my chosen ones. I had no idea where the journey would go but I hoped the drawings would remind myself and others of the vital role these ancient survivors play in our world. The trees are themselves giant ecosystems supporting teaming wildlife in the branches and bark, and also underground. They are part of history and the idealized version of the landscape I left behind when I came to the US.
In the 2nd week of March our trip was interrupted. The news was all about the virus. With travel shutting down we had to cancel our next bookings and return. It was very disappointing, but we were so grateful for the time at Croft, and we had a lovely home and studio in which to isolate. The suitcases were full of inspiration, and I was able to go straight into uninterrupted work mode. If you would like to know more about our work since March, please see a video on our website elbroch.com.