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  • Writer's pictureSue

An Old Oak called Horse

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love trees !

Not only are they beautiful and the lungs of the planet, being in their presence is great for mental health too.

Wherever I go I photograph them and love taking shots from unusual angles.

It will come as no surprise then that I also love painting them which leads to the story of "Horse".

One evening while chatting on Twitter I noticed a striking photo of an old oak tree.

I mentioned that I would love to paint this and Richard of @Trees For Dorset, said, to my delight, go ahead and thus began the story of the portrait of an old oak.

I knew exactly which canvas I would use and couldn't wait to get painting.

Photo of Ancient Boundary Oak at Stokeford Common Dorset
Boundary Oak at Stokeford Common

On the left is the original photo of the ancient tree. It is a boundary oak and maybe over 200 years old ! Who knows what this tree has seen.

There are other oaks around it which may well be its "offspring".

It has amazing textural bark and the more you look the more you can see. So many colours from the moss and lichens. Painting heaven for me.

Next time you stand next to an ancient tree take the time to just stand and observe all the wonderful beauty of it.

So back to the painting.

I got to work and laid down some blue and ochre to cover the white canvas, no one likes looking at a white canvas!

Then I could start outlining the tree and blocking in some colour.

It looks quite rough at this stage (see right)

but now I can really start to work on the texture and colour

First stage of the old oak painting Sue O'Sullivan
First Stage of the Old Oak Portrait

I always take photos of the stages of my work, sometimes when I look at the image I can see things differently. Its also useful to keep a record of how your work emerges.

As I progressed I shared the stages on social media and people began to comment that they could see a rearing horse. I took a step back from the canvas and yes I could see a horse too.

I love hearing what people see in a piece of art, usually I get most discussion from my abstract work but the tree was proving interesting too !

I mentioned this to Richard who said the oak had no name and it has now become known as an old oak called Horse.

On the left you can see that a lot of progress has been made. There's more branches and detail added and the textures and colours on the bark are starting to bring the oak to life. I have also added in the background trees and rough grass around the base of the tree.

As I continued to work on this tree's portrait I felt that I really wanted to go and visit the forest where the tree was. So I mentioned this to Richard who said he'd be happy to show me where Horse was !

I arranged to meet up with him to go visit the tree, which was really helpful at this stage so I could finish the work. I would get a feel of the space around the oak and be able to view it from all angles.

So, on a damp January day we set off for Dorset to "meet" the old oak.

When we arrived near to where the oak lived Richard took us along the forestry track and after a short walk, we were there stood next to this great old oak.

It was quite humbling to stand next to this incredibly characterful tree I felt the bark of the tree, gazed up through its branches and walked all around it and we took more photographs. From a certain angle you could definitely see the horse connection,.

Sue O'Sullivan visiting the old oak tree known as horse
Sue visiting Horse, the old oak

On our walk back I learned more about the trees in this forest and yes took more photos !

Richard is very knowledgeable and part of the Transition Town Dorchester group that plants trees and hedges around the town, part of the Great Big Dorset `hedge campaign being set up to encourage hedgerow management and part of the Purbeck’s precious past project which includes surveying and collecting nuts/seeds from veteran trees in the Wareham area for propagating and growing in the recently established tree nurseries.

He says " The idea of the Dorset Tree and Hedge network is to provide a local online source of news, information, inspiration etc that supports c.20 local tree groups and numerous individuals active in Dorset"

I could have chatted much longer with him about trees but that may be for another blog !

We had a longish journey home and I had a painting to finish.

The finished original painting of the old oak tree by Sue O'Sullivan
The finished tree portrait

On the left is my finished work.

Like all art you really need to see it for real as photos never do a piece of art justice !

The tree portrait is now for sale on my website, please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

The link below will take you to the gallery page.

Thank you for reading this post I really hope you enjoyed it, please feel free to share your favourite trees with me .

Oh one last thing, did you know there is an ancient tree inventory ?

You can search and see if your favourite old tree is on there and even add one, click link below and take a look.


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