August 2018

Winter Solstice Apple Tree

Winter Solstice Apple Tree

The painting above was made on the shortest day of the year using the last remaining leaves on the apple tree that I planted a few years ago in the backyard. In the parts of England where cider is made there is an old mid-winter tradition in the orchards called wassailing.

“The wassailing, or blessing of the fruit trees, involves drinking and singing to the health of the trees in the hope that they will provide a bountiful harvest in the autumn”. www.historic-uk.com

I wrote this old rhyme on the back of the painting:

Wassaile the trees, that they may beare
You many a Plum and many a Peare:
For more or lesse fruits they will bring,
As you do give them Wassailing.

I became interested in the old seasonal traditions that pre-date Christianity whilst living in England. Some traditions that are now common in many countries, such as the decorating of fir trees at Christmas, originated in pagan times. Evergreen fir trees, branches and logs were brought into homes at mid-winter. The custom of burning a Yule log at this time of year was also common in Europe. It’s intriguing to research the various customs involving plants and trees that I use in my paintings.

A companion to this apple tree painting is planned for Spring when blossoms and new growth will appear. The foliage below the apple leaves is a mixture of lavender, rosemary and hebe which are planted nearby in the garden.

Winter foliage cropped

My Winterberries artwork (detail pictured below) was made from some of the plants in the picture above and is available on this website as a download. Payment is by donation of US$1 for those who have the means to do so – it is your choice whether to donate or not. I also have a small herb garden picture available for download. All proceeds will go towards art materials. Your support is much appreciated!

Winterberries SML detail

I use Fabriano and Hahnemühle 100% cotton watercolour and printmaking papers and good quality artist acrylics. Hahnemühle have been making paper since 1584 – it’s beautiful paper and it works really well with the nature printing process I use. If you would like more downloads please let me know and I’ll add some more to the donate and download section.

Autumn process pic

I also make downloadable artworks available to Patreon subscribers – this month’s artwork, Fern, Moss and Corokia, has a restrained indigo and may green palette – see the detail picture below.

Fern, Moss and Corokia cropped

With the deciduous trees giving up their leaves for winter it has been the perfect time to turn my attention to a project involving native New Zealand ferns, mosses and lichens. I’ve been preparing two artworks using these types of plants to enter in art awards later this year.

Mosses are somewhat overlooked in modern gardening and are often poisoned as weeds. However, they are important in controlling soil erosion by soaking up excess water and they help break down leaf matter. They are also surprisingly tolerant of pollution. There are some beautiful moss gardens in various locations worldwide, such as at the Jardin de Berchigranges in France, and the Kōinzan Saihō-ji or Kokedera (Moss Temple) in Kyoto. I’ve been looking at the variety of mosses growing closer to home in my garden and local bush.

Kepa bush tree roots

Pohutukawa and fern detail SML

Pohutukawa and Fern (detail)

I like the idea that the plants are doing the talking in my artworks and that the act of printing directly with the foliage facilitates this. The artwork above was made with a selection of native evergreen New Zealand plants and ferns. A small branch of Pohutukawa leaves found on the ground helped me complete the upper areas of the artwork. I’ve been experimenting with using moss in my latest paintings with mixed results. Sometimes it is too fragile to get a good print from but can be used to add textural effects. In the sketch below I used silver fern, moss and native foliage including Puriri flowers.

Puriri and Fern sketch

Sunsprite Corokia

I’m seeing new growth and blossoms appearing everywhere in my neighbourhood – if plants could talk they would be talking about Spring! I’m looking forward to using some of the blossoms while they last. I’ll finish this month’s blog with a detail of a small mint green painting made recently for a fundraising exhibition at Selwyn College. I used Manuka leaves and flowers, Kowhai, Hebe and an interesting variety of yellow Corokia, all sourced from the school.

Celeste Sterling, August 2018.

Sunsprite Corokia and Hebe detail