Regular readers of the Just Trees Blog may wonder (or perhaps not) who writes this stuff? Well, the answer I do. My name is Nicola and amongst many other things, I write the words you read right here on Treeification. My background is in art, I’m a ‘creative’ person so naturally, one day, I found myself working in advertising.
Lucky for me, the digital advertising agency I worked at (Reach Digital) was pretty great and the regular 9 – 5 wasn’t so bad. My favourite thing about working for this company was one of our clients – Just Trees. About once a month, my frolleague* and I would drive out to Paarl to check in with Carl and the team, and it was always the best day. To get away from a screen and amongst the trees was always a refreshing and welcome experience. It invigorated us.
Times have changed and I am no longer working full-time for Reach Digital, but a student again, doing a Masters in Performing Arts. It’s good to be doing art full-time again but one thing I’ll always be grateful for during my time in the corporate world, is that I encountered Just Trees and consequently, went through a kind of mental & philosophical ‘treeification’ process. I always liked trees, especially as a kid, but only when I started learning and writing more about them did I begin to realize how amazing these organisms actually are. I became, what you could call, a little tree obsessed.
And so I’ve decided to merge these two favourite obsessions: art and trees. Amongst the regular content that I’ve been writing for this blog, I’ve decided to start sharing stories about artists and people who are also a little tree obsessed. So we introduce Tree Culture: moments, occasions and tales where the world of trees and the world of art and creativity collide. A topic that unsurprisingly yields many fascinating stories.
Let’s start with a classic. Vincent Van Gogh, someone who did a lot of painting during their short life. You are all probably familiar with Starry Night, his most famous painting that was created when he was locked away in an asylum, a common place to put artists in those days. Starry Night depicts a moon-lit village with cypress trees in the foreground. It’s one of the most recognized paintings in the world. But did you know that Van Gogh painted a whole lot of other cypress trees too? In fact, Van Gogh seemed to really really like painting trees.
Trees. Trees. Trees. Van Gogh was really into trees. Whether they were a bit crooked or next to a cottage. He liked avenues, I mean, he really liked avenues. And lanes, don’t forget about his fondness for painting lanes. Trees with people, or trees alone in the sun, or trees with Undergrowth.
What’s more, he knew his trees, I mean – he titled his paintings, quite elegantly with the actual name of the tree. Whether it was a Pollard tree, an Oak, a Willow or a blossoming Chestnut. Apricot, Almond, Peach, Pear and Plane trees… Whether he was painting in Orchards or Public Parks, Van Gogh’s eye and soul seemed drawn to the beautiful logic of natural world. Even in Autumn, he captured this motion of the falling and bright warm red of leaves. Mulberry! Poplars! Pines! And of course don’t forget about his beloved Olive Trees (of which he painted at least 18 portraits).
The list goes on, but I’d like to conclude with my personal favourite, the swoony, underwater-y work called Olive Trees in a Mountainous Landscape and an encouragement to take a moment to observe the next tree you come across. Perhaps you’ll see something of the magic and beauty that Van Gogh saw in trees and start your own ‘treeification’ transformation!
*A termed I coined – (see, creative!) Frolleauge: friend you work with and spend 8 hours a day next to and who just… gets it and it’s not even awkward outside of work contexts. In fact, a desk and capitalism just happened to be the things that made two such unique individuals form a beautiful friendship.