Hello! My name is Greg Thatcher. I am an artist and art teacher at the Maharishi School in Fairfield, Iowa, USA.
I have been working on a series of "plein air" yew tree drawings since 1991 based on the topiary yew trees in St. Mary's Churchyard, Painswick, Gloucestershire, England.
Last summer, I began a new "plein air" drawing and clocked in 130 hours on location in Painswick. The drawing is about half-way finished. With your help this summer, I want to return to England and complete the drawing. I also plan to continue searching for suitable gallery representation as well as press coverage to help raise awareness about my work and the significance of yew trees.
For those of you who decide to help fund this project, I have developed a generous, unique, rewards program to allow you to have some choice in selecting either a signed Giclée print or an original artwork depending on your level of support. For me this is very important because I want you to have something that you really want. My website is available for your review in selecting artwork that resonates with you.
I am very grateful for whatever you can contribute to help me pursue my passion.
CHOOSE YOUR GICLEE PRINT FROM THE FIVE SHOWN BELOW
(Please note that all artwork will be sent unframed.)
This is a view looking east towards the church in the late afternoon. I wanted to express the regal power of the dark mass of the trees in contrast to the subtlety of the church.
This is the ballerina tree. She is curtseying to us, to thank us for admiring her grace and beauty.
This drawing took more than 350 hours to complete, over two and a half years and three trips to England. It was this view which inspired the whole yew tree series. Our attention is drawn into the deep space at the far end of the avenue; we transcend to increasingly subtle levels.
This is the oldest yew tree in St Mary's Churchyard. In the winter of 1997, a large snowstorm hit the area and the weight of the wet snow caused severe damage to many of the trees. The damaged trees were severely cut back and they looked like a row of broccoli - when I returned in the summer of 1997, I walked through the churchyard in a state of shock. I did this drawing to restore the honor of this ancient tree.
This drawing inspired me to look at the trees in a completely different way. I began drawing the underneath boughs of the trees, as seen Yew Trees #66 and #76 above.
My first extraordinary "tree" experience happened while I was painting my Mum's house. There was a tree whose branches were rubbing against the building where I was about to paint. As I approached the tree with paint sprayer in hand, I felt a strong sense of fear. I thought to myself,"Where is this fear coming from? Why am I feeling this?" It didn't make any sense to me. As I paused to consider these thoughts, I realized that these were the tree's emotions. I knew that the tree was communicating to me,"Please don't hurt me!" I put down the sprayer and approached the tree. I put my hands on its trunk and explained that I would not hurt him but I did need to finish the painting job. I sensed that the tree was concerned about getting its branches wet with paint and that would cause them to die. I explained that if I trimmed the branches which were rubbing against the house that my house-painting would not be a problem for the tree. At that moment, the tree's "emotion" pulled back into itself and the fear disappeared completely. I took this as the tree's approval of my trimming. I went ahead and started trimming cautiously, explaining and apologizing as I cut its branches. This experience convinced me that trees are vibrant beings and they do communicate through subtle vibration which we can understand on the level of intuition and feeling. We only have to be open and have a simple, non-projecting awareness to communicate with them. This experience has influenced not only my relationship with nature but has profoundly affected my work with the yews in Painswick because now, I can hear them.
Finding the Yew Trees
How did I find the Painswick yews, or how did they find me? I was in England on an artist collaboration grant, working with Stephen Whittle in 1991. While I was researching Britain, a travel brochure caught my eye. It was about a small Cotswold village called Painswick which showed the avenues of yew trees in St. Mary's churchyard. I was intrigued with the beauty of the trees, the shapes and how they mysteriously grew together creating archways. Later when I visited Painswick, I was amazed by their presence and regal power and the churchyard setting. St. Mary's churchyard has over 100 yew trees and I found that each tree looked and felt differently. The trees seemed to express or trigger a wide range of feelings and emotions in me. This I found extremely interesting and full of all kinds of creative possibilities. Since that time, I have returned to Painswick over fifteen times to continue working on my yew tree series. To date I have over 116 drawings and many mixed media images based on the yew trees.
Yew Trees and My Mother's Passing.
When my Mom passed away, I felt a deep hole in my Being. It is hard to describe the feeling of the "lack of connectedness", the lack of "bearings", and "Who can I turn to when I need help? From whom will I receive that unselfish, non-ending support and belief?" These are difficult issues that we all face at some point. In my case, being a husband and father and a teacher did help, but I knew that I needed a long creative silence to heal. As soon as school got out, we headed for England and my beloved yew trees. One day while drawing underneath the yew tree arches, I felt the trees' energy physically extend towards me, as if they were trying to comfort me. It was like being hugged and nourished. As this was happening, I told the trees,"I will be fine. I can deal with the grief." I knew as I said this that just being there under the trees drawing every day, was helping me. At that very point, the physical sensation of the trees that I had felt, retracted slowly back into the trees and everything was as it had been before. I found out later that the deeper purpose of the yew tree and one of the many reasons they are planted in churchyards is to help people with the grieving process. I was lucky enough to have this experience.
My drawing process
My yew tree drawings are the most difficult and rewarding artworks for me because they require me to work in a non-compromising fashion which is demanding and needs great concentration and patience. My drawings are created through direct observation - plein air - and what the trees represent outwardly and inwardly. The trees cannot be rendered through photographs. I tried it and it didn't work because the spacial relationships are too complicated to be understood except through direct perception and even that is challenging!
Each tree is comprised of its own vast galaxy of spacial relationships which make up its basis. Capturing these relationships helps me to tell each tree's story and express its essence. In this way, I feel I am a spokesman for these silent, magnificent trees. You are welcome to go to my website for more information on the trees
Plein Air Drawing
beautiful English churchyard with over a hundred yew trees in avenues.
It is silent in the late afternoon. The trees cast long shadows like
dark fingers across the grass. The Painswick church bells are ringing in
the hour. The trees are partially silhouetted, dark, mysterious,
regal. I muse: how many painters have worked here? How many collectors
have commissioned artworks from here?
I walk around the churchyard quietly, trying to find which tree to draw. Then something attracts me; I pursue it. What is it about this tree? Why is it calling me? I change my point of view. I look at it from different perspectives, until the composition is right. Once I have it, I leave it and continue searching to see if there is something else more charming. If I do not find another possibility, I come back to the original tree. Does it still carry the same charm? Does it stand out from all the other trees? Can I do it justice? Can I tell its story? If so, I submit to its beauty and start drawing.
Risks and challenges
I am a professional artist and will follow through on my commitments to my backers. The work being offered to my backers already exists so it's a matter of the supporters making their choices and me packing and sending them.
I plan to fulfill my side of the contract by the end of September 2014.
However I do, of course, completely rely on the English weather to complete its side of the bargain! This is the risk of 'plein air' drawing.
- (29 days)