Prev
Neil Huggett's Gallery - One Moreton Bay Fig Tree Project
Gallery 4

More Details | Home Page Menu / Return to Gallery Page

 


Under A Sunlit Canopy in Angas Gardens


Under A Sunlit Canopy in Angas Gardens
90 cm (w) x 60 cm (h), oil paints on board.
Date produced: March 2017 - September 2018

The tree’s scientific name: Ficus Macrophylla

Common name: Moreton Bay Fig Tree (an Australian native tree, but not native to this region)

Location: The tree is located in the maintained Park Lands that surround the city of Adelaide in South Australia. It is in the Park Lands directly between the city of Adelaide and North Adelaide, in a section called "Angas Gardens". It grows near the south-eastern corner of Sir Edwin Smith Avenue and War Memorial Drive. If you are walking from the City of Adelaide along King William Road, after you cross the Adelaide Bridge, take a pathway to the right and you should see the large tree on the other side of War Memorial Drive.

We live in an amazing world. I find a lot of beauty and interest, and gain immense inspiration from the natural world around me.

This painting tries to capture a single view of the real world, just enjoying the colours, tones, forms, spaces, sounds, smells and general magic from being under the sunlit canopy of this magnificent Moreton Bay Fig tree, growing in a highly accessible place in the Adelaide Park Lands. It felt special just to be close to such a huge living organism, with its own atmosphere and amazing spreads of massive boughs and exposed buttress roots.

Trees are major natural elements growing amongst most human living environments (largely by human choice). They are homes, hunting grounds or temporary resting places for diverse populations of birds, small mammals, and insects ‘living in the wild’, and so provide opportunities for society-based people to ‘tap into’ the vitality of bolder, freer living. Trees also provide shade, oxygen, soothing white noise, charming bird calls, changing spectacles of light, colour and organic space, lovely ‘figurative’ organic forms, and often a ‘spiritual-like’ and peaceful sense of connection with the natural world. The appreciation of trees and the natural environments they provide are cross-cultural experiences, open to nearly all people. As ‘models’ for drawing and/or painting, trees naturally hold their ‘figurative poses’ for long spans of time and their ‘static nature’ easily allows for study through a range of seasons, times of the day, or various weather conditions.

This tree is a natural magnet for most people who walk past it, and there are many people who walk past it every day: many university students walking between residencies in North Adelaide and Adelaide University, city workers who live in North Adelaide, people who walk to work in the Melbourne Street area, and workers at the Women and Children’s Hospital nearby. Many of these local people have expressed the view that this tree is ‘the best tree in Adelaide’. Certainly, many people can feel something special about this tree.

While working at the tree, I have met and seen many tourists from all over the world stop at the tree and take photographs of it. Common reactions to the tree are for people to want to climb in it, and to be photographed next to it. It is certainly a mighty organism, looking very healthy and strong, and growing in a prominent spot.

I first encountered this tree about 38 years ago in 1983, soon after moving to Adelaide, and I spent considerable time then doing some serious drawings of it. At that time it would have been about 105 -110 years old. After the span of another 38 years since 1983, there seemed to have been very little change in the character of the forms of the tree. The tree seems to be going through a very stable time in its life.

I realised when I first came across the tree in 1983 that it was an excellent place to be at, but now I am seeing just how special that one tree is. It is a huge tree, with branching very close to the ground. Most people can easily get amongst its massive boughs and the spaces between them. That is something very unusual in itself. But the tree also has a vast network of twisting buttress roots sitting up from the ground that makes it feel like an inviting playground. Being close to the tree means being in a changed environment; heavily darkened by the thick canopy of rubbery leaves, surrounded by many active birds with tropical calls in the canopy, amongst pleasant earthy smells of rotting figs and decaying leaves, and an atmosphere where my senses seem to be heightened (there are masses of interesting details everywhere I look).

It feels special to have free access to the Adelaide Park Lands. They are an amazing resource, surrounding the City of Adelaide. I am glad and feel proud that the City of Adelaide values and protects this precious and unique resource.

 

 

 

Detail 1

Under A Sunlit Canopy in Angas Gardens - Detail 1


Careful observations of subtle colours and tones. Reflected light is important.

 

 

 

 

Detail 2

Under A Sunlit Canopy in Angas Gardens - Detail 2


Deep darks of shaded surfaces that slowly show more detail.

 

 

 

 

Detail 3

Under A Sunlit Canopy in Angas Gardens - Detail 3


Variety of tone and colour within the masses of leaves.

 

 

 

 

Detail 4

Under A Sunlit Canopy in Angas Gardens - Detail 4


The painting felt like it was made up of many smaller paintings, all needing to relate together. I visited the tree several times while I was producing this painting, to check on the character of the colours I was actually using.

 

 

 

 

Detail 5

Under A Sunlit Canopy in Angas Gardens - Detail 5


Very complex, and rich!

 

 


 

Another related artwork:

 

Pastel Of Moreton Bay Fig tree


Pastel Of Moreton Bay Fig tree
53 cm (w) x 34.5 cm (h), unfixed pastels on coloured-ground paper.

The particular tree here was the subject of a two-year art project, my Microcosm project.

This pastel was produced entirely on-site, directly from the subject over about five one-hour sessions held at the same time of the day (but over 5 different days where the lighting conditions were similar). I worked quickly, directly from the subject, to record the colours as accurately as possible.

I purposely chose a view with a wide dynamic range of tones. I wanted to capture an accurate sense of the colours seen within the dark shaded areas, and the light sunlit areas. I also wanted to capture the characteristic warm orangey greens seen through sun-backed foliage. The concept is very simple - a single view, recording one moment in time, recording accurate colours and tones to those experienced - similar to the concept of many ‘French Impressionism’ paintings.

I ultimately wanted to try to produce an oil painting that was larger than this pastel, of the same view, but didn’t need to be framed behind glass. I need to frame my pastels behind glass, because they are all unfixed (fixing is done with a layer of sprayed lacquer, but this does change the refractive index of each pigment [it changes all of the colours] and the transparency of pastel layers), and are therefore extremely fragile. My pastels have mainly many tiny granules of colour just sitting on paper. Glass tends to include distracting reflections, and makes the darker colours more difficult to see. By producing a larger copy with oils, I hoped to create a large pastel-like image that didn’t require a protective layer of glass, and that had an even wider dynamic range of observed subtle tones and colours than pastels can reproduce. The big problem was being able to get the oil painting to the subject (and home again safely) enough times to capture the subtle colours one can observe from the real subject in real light. I prefer to work entirely directly from the subject, but knew from previous attempts at producing paintings on-site, that I would not be able to get this oil painting out on-site enough (if at all). I live quite a distance from this tree, and don’t have a car to transport it. Even if I did, I know that I wouldn’t get enough time at the tree with the same lighting conditions to produce this painting. The light is only ‘good’ for about an hour each sunny day, and even this changes in the span of just a week or two (as the earth orbits around the sun each year). Other things change over the course of a couple of weeks, such as the length of the grass, the dryness of the ground, etc. I decided to try a different method of accessing the subtle observed colours in the scene, using a combination of:

1) A pastel produced on-site (reproduced above) directly from the scene and produced during the same hour of the day over several days with the same lighting conditions, and

2) A high-quality digital photograph taken of the scene from the same observation point at 11:32 am on 9th March 2017. The photograph was taken during the first pastel session I held at the tree. The photograph was taken as a ‘raw’ format digital photograph, which means that it could be ‘processed’ using specialised software in a computer to have many of its colours and tones modified or tweaked. Naturally, I used the on-site pastel here as my reference for processing the photograph that I would use as one of my guides. The photograph had the advantage of capturing a moment in time, so the unique arrangement of branches, leaves and light through the scene would be always available from this photograph.

 

 

 

Detail 1

Pastel Of Moreton Bay Fig tree - Detail 1

 

 

 

 

Detail 2

Pastel Of Moreton Bay Fig tree - Detail 2

 

 

 

 

Detail 3

Pastel Of Moreton Bay Fig tree - Detail 3

 

 

 

 

Detail 4

Pastel Of Moreton Bay Fig tree - Detail 4

 

 

 

 

Detail 5

Pastel Of Moreton Bay Fig tree - Detail 5

 

More Details | Home Page Menu / Return to Gallery Page


Prev
Neil Huggett's Gallery - One Moreton Bay Fig Tree Project
Gallery 4