The striking monochromacity of silver birch is a natural fit with pen and ink, but I wanted to do something different with it. So I decided to try drawing on wood. I had several 12 by 12 inch squares of plywood – by chance, it is faced with birch (the inner layers are probably a soft wood), and I liked that coincidence.
I started off by applying a few of layers of black acrylic gesso to prime the wood, and then used white acrylate ink to start forming the tree. It was quite different to drawing on paper; I could layer black (Indian) and white inks without worrying about wearing out the surface – wood is a lot more resistant to the scratchiness of a dip pen than paper. The ink went down well onto the gesso but the surface’s relative lack of absorbency told when the ink dried, harder and shinier than it ever would have done on paper. However, both of my inks proved to be up to the challenge and I was able to build up the complexity as I had hoped to.
I decided to use flat colour to offset the pen work. The colours were suggested by the sky and the yellowing leaves of autumn. It’s not often that I use metallic paints, but both the flatness and the contrast with the cool, strong blue suggested gold. I admit that I was tempted by silver – simply because of the tree’s name – but it just didn’t have the warm contrast of the gold.