King of the Castle


I was passing through the New Forest earlier this year, on my way home from delivering work to an open exhibition, and I decided to stop at Forsey Gardens. It was a hot day and the gardens, pleasant though they are, provided relatively little relief from the sun. Before I resumed my journey home, I took a footpath from the car park into the cool woods, and at some point I found this lovely old holly tree on an eroded woodbank. I was in the wood, the woodbank marked a boundary with a grassy field, and the holly tree occupied a mound of its own keeping – demonstrating rather dramatically how tree roots can help to prevent erosion.

The mound reminded me of a castle motte, and the holly, as we know from the traditional Christmas carol, The Holly and the Ivy, wears the crown. This particular tree also looks a bit like the well preserved ruins of a medieval castle, with towers still reaching to the sky above.

The subject is presented “contre jour”, against the light. The light itself is filtered through the overhanging leaves of larger, deciduous trees and is represented in an abstract manner using assorted green pigment inks variously dropped, diluted and squirted. Unusually, I did this background first, before I did any drawing. I usually only want colours in a limited area, and I prefer to keep scraping back to a minimum. However, in this instance I knew that the green light would occupy amost all of the upper two thirds of the board, and that everything else would be dark against it – so I was likely to be working back from solid black. Some scraper marks didn’t make it all the way back to the kaolin, and this seemed to work quite well

16 x 12″, ink on kaolin-coated board.

Framed size approx 34x44cm

King of the Castle has been submitted to the Winchester Art Club annual exhibition, to be held at the ARC in Winchester 28 Sept to 12 November 2023.