Talk us through what you do

I am a full time artist specialising in drawing on location, I use drawing a way to better understand what fascinates me, initially this was primarily architectural subjects.

In time my focus has turned to the living, or more specifically the relationship between the two.

What is it about the world of trees that inspires you so?

Trees fascinate me on many levels, I have been a nature lover all my life, but my relationship with the natural world has evolved over the years and drawing these great trees from life brings me closer to understanding them and their importance.

Their beauty and longevity inspire my work and life, though the two are hard to separate.

To stand at the base of an ancient tree and wonder of all the many human lives that have passed in that time, it is a humbling feeling. Ultimately our individual insignificance is not something to fear, but celebrate. I hope my work brings people closer to feeling that connection, and the realisation that nature is not something to purely to study or observe, but it is intrinsically a part of us.

Do you have a favourite tree to draw?

My favourite tree to draw happens to be a 600 year old ancient sweet chestnut, clearly this tree has lived an eventful life with many scars and fallen branches littering the understory.

Like many of my favourites, I discover them deep in the woods whilst walking my drawing companion and dog Robin. This particular tree took my breath away, not a tree you cam walk past without taking time to admire it’s gnarled and twisted branches, bark swirling like a storm cloud frozen in time.

I spent two days drawing at the easel capturing this magnificent tree, by the end of the drawing I was perhaps closer to understanding the importance of this monumental living being.

The favourite tree status is cemented by making the tree a central protagonist for my next book. My second book is a fictional narrative exploring our relationship with nature, with trees being perhaps the most symbolic representative of nature as a whole.

How did you approach your project for Highgrove Bouquet, and drawing the Weeping Silver Limes that line Highgrove Gardens?

When drawing on location, you usually have a rough plan in your mind, though with time your learn that this usually shifts when you arrive. This drawing day was no different in that respect.

The trees are beautiful individually, but what struck me was there arrangement, gentle guardians to the house itself, their scent and sound announcing your arrival.

I knew this relationship between the house and the trees were integral in truly showing what makes these trees so significant.

What first struck you when you entered Highgrove Gardens?

Highgrove is undeniably beautiful, my first time in the gardens I was struck by the structure within it, seemingly conceived with a mind familiar with architectural principles.

For an artist fascinated with the relationship between the principles of architecture and the principles of nature, the garden provides endless inspiration.

Needless to say, I look forward to returning.

Penhaligon's Highgrove

You manage to somehow capture movement in your sketches. How on earth do you do that?

The beauty if working from life is being able to capture a duration of time, as supposed to a moment, the movement of subject, the light, the sounds or the wind through the leaves, people your meet sharing an appreciation for the subject all make their impact in some way.

I see my role as an artist to listen to my subjects, so I may be able to communicate their essence through my work.

 How long does it take you to create one of your pieces? 

Their drawings are typically created on location over one or two days, the subject, weather, season all have an impact on the time spent.

What tool or item could you not be without when working on a project? 

My process is simple in the way I create an image with a single black fine line, seeing as I only use pen and paper, the loss of either would be fairly devastating to my practice.

Do you like to listen to music when you work? If so, what is your music of choice?

I only listen to music when working from the studio, for my imagined work and books.

When it comes to drawing on location, my goal is to immerse myself in the place I stand, music would take me away from and bring outside influence so I keep music for my studio work.

I have an eclectic playlist for drawing to, it can jump from Einaudi to Björk without warning.

If I had to put music to this drawing, I think Lark ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

We've seen your beautiful book 'Together'. What sparked this?

Unable to travel and draw on location, I found myself creating more reflective pieces, taking inspiration from situation unfolding around us.

After sharing these imagined drawings online, I was approached by a publisher with the opportunity to create a book.

The main protagonists of the book are my late Grandad and my dog Robin, the book turned into a cathartic exercise, bringing me closer to the memory of my Grandad who was mine and my brother’s main father figure growing up.

‘Together’ has been translated into ten languages and reached the Sunday Times Best Seller spot, something I couldn’t have imagined through it’s creation.

My second book  ‘The Last Tree’ :A Seed of Hope -  is due to be published 2 March 2023 this book has been my most consuming project to date and I can’t wait for it to head out into the world.

Looking back, which piece of work has proved most satisfying?

Perhaps my most satisfying piece of work is my drawing of the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), Westminster. Covered in scaffolding, I felt the sight was one that would not be repeated for perhaps a hundred or more years.

In 2019 I was approached by the Parliamentary art collection for potential acquisition of the original drawing. I was overjoyed to learn it would make the collection and be protected and displayed for many generations to come. I gain great satisfaction in knowing my art will live on beyond me.

What are your plans for the future?

Recent years have been challenging and at times overly complex, with multiple books, commissions and fatherhood to navigate.

I look forward to a prolific year of drawing, with a particular focus on exploring and perhaps better understanding the subject of nature, legacy and fatherhood.


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