Tall elms

For a couple of weeks in January, I found myself with a bit of doodling time on my hands as colour collective was taking its winter break and therefore I needed to seek inspiration elsewhere. I’ve always been a massive fan of visiting galleries and museums, even more so since I took up drawing and painting – I always leave desperate to get home and draw something.

On a recent day trip to London, I crammed in several exhibitions that led to ideas for illustrations. I started by visiting the Paul Nash exhibition at the Tate Britain. It was brilliant to see his incredible war paintings and later surrealist works, but what I found most inspiring were his early William Blake style illustrations. I loved his groups of gnarly, impossibly tall elm trees that made me think of Dylan Thomas describing a “wrestle of elms” in his poem “Over Sir John’s Hill.”


I wanted to try and draw a landscape with a similar dream like atmosphere, so I started by drawing my own group of lanky, competing elm trees sprouting from a hilltop with rolling downland and a chalk path fading off into the distance. I added the girl and the giant clockwork robot to make the illustration feel more even more mysterious and otherworldly. I enjoy the eerie effect of putting the likes of robots, dragons or yetis into an otherwise quite mundane scene.

Later that day I went on to visit the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition at the Tate Modern and the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition at the National Gallery which also inspired an illustration and may inspire a future blog.