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Tree Knot No. 1 (10 x 10 watercolor+graphite on Fabriano cold press #300lb)


What I’m working on at Grand Ciel Design will sometimes seep into my artwork — especially projects for environment based clients. I always do a bunch of research for projects (to bring ideas and authenticity to the design work) and in doing the research, I find all kinds of fascinating articles relating to the work I’m doing. Case in point: The Minnesota DNR Arbor Month Campaigns for 2016-17. 

These campaigns focused on educating the public on the health benefits of trees. While I am incredibly fortunate to “live in a forest” (a ranch style house circa 1968 surrounded by 200-300-year-old white oaks) there is a serious nature deficit people experience by living in cities, commuting on buses and in cars and working in closed, fluorescent-lit offices.

Getting Back to Fascinating (Tree Related) Articles

Remember the 2009 movie Avatar? Turns out that story is not far off from reality. Scientific research and biology have discovered that trees in forests are social beings. Trees can count, learn and remember, nurse their sick neighbors, warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network known as the “Wood Wide Web.” This information came to me via a story posted on the New York Times about a German forest ranger, Peter Wohlleben and his book “The Hidden Life of Trees.” Taking the lessons from Wohlleben’s book, modern forestry can gain a better understanding of the nature of trees and how to improve care and forestry practices. Which in the long run, makes the world a better, healthier place for all of us.

I’ll Never Look at Trees the Same Way Again.

Since reading Peter Wohlleben’s book, I look at trees and given the challenges nature presents, wonder how they manage to reach the age they do — it’s not like they can pick up and move when adversity strikes. What happens to a tree when it can’t grow up straight, gets hollowed out, has fungi growth or as shown in the watercolor above develops a knot or more accurately a burl. Sadly, burls are trees last ditch effort to protect itself from stress – injury from an axe or chainsaw, insect infestations, or extreme drought, and flooding.

But the result of tree burls can be quite magnificent. It leaves me with a muse and a challenge to define the tree’s affliction on paper. Burls are also sought after by woodworkers and other artisans as the burls leave beautiful patterns in the wood’s grain.

POST SCRIPT: The tree shown in the above watercolor was inspired by a Hedgeball tree located in Big Creek Park, Canton, Illinois.

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