Into the Trees
There are some eternal sources of inspiration for me - among them, the forests of my hometown play a particularly mysterious role. A place of contemplation and solace, these rugged and hilly woods have set the stage for countless walks ever since my childhood and youth. From gloomy gray in winter to fragrant lush in summer, "the forest" always bears a riddled depth, a nuanced melancholy, as if infused with a good-natured, yet forever enigmatic spirit.
Many drawings from my youth and early adulthood spoke of this ambiguos quality of my then surroundings: I enjoyed to draw dark, inky portraits of dried flowers, or trees shifting shapes into ominous slow-motion harbingers.
I like the idea that you can see anything in everything when observing a forest - a walk through the woods offers such a vivid canvas for just about any projection of the mind, like a companion reflecting my thoughts back to me, invariably adding a pinch of salt and the earthy scent of the ground.
During a recent, foggy visit to my hometown, the eerie shapes of these forests where additionally amplified by one of my favorite books from my youth: "Hundejahre", by Günter Grass which I read several times since I first discovered it in 2005, and recently started reading again. Among other things, it contains a fiery self-portrait of a fictional, quite radical and imaginative artist, Eduard Amsel, who is gifted with an immense (and oddly specific) talent to built scarecrows. Mimicking the habitus of people around him with a keen eye, he spontaneously assembles his infamous creations using junk, rags and driftwood. The outcome never fails to incite sheer terror in the hearts of birds - and sometimes in those of other creatures, too. The most stirring of his creations, however, is inspired by a willow tree. The power of this creation far exceeds Eduard Amsel's expectations and educates him never to use trees as an inspiration anymore...
I, for one, could not resist! When I strolled through the woods recently, I remembered how much I loved to draw trees, and I wondered about the female figures which must have inhibited these trees ever since, probably escaping my view before I shifted my perspective towards my own feminity.
Back at my drawing table, these feminine spirits of the forest kept appearing, entangled with various types of plants and trees - one of these characters is reflected in the drawing at hand, "Birch".
She looks cautious - emerging from hiding, half camouflaged, holding on to the stem of the tree as if for comfort. Her free hand seems to conjure up a magic spell, a ball of warm light in a cold environment. Her stare is intense, yet expressionless, gloomy and somewhat otherworldy. For me, she captures the sentiment of the Tarot Card: The Hermit.
Left: My version of "The Hermit", No. 9 of the Major Arcana. Right: "The Hermit" in the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck, the most commonly used and quasi-canonic Tarot card set.
Traditionally, this card is about the spiritual findings retrieved in solitude, the depths of self-awareness which can be attained when retreating from the outside world - and the inherent sadness this seclusion brings. For a more detailed interpretation of the Tarot card in the sense of spiritual divination, I will refer to Tarotcardmeanings.net.
For me, the joy of creating Tarot cards is giving the traditional artworks and their interpretation a personal spin which is related to my own perception of the world, and my personal history. It feels very rewarding for me to discover universal tropes such as the characterisation of "The Hermit" in the circumstances of my own life. Indeed, as an artist I keep finding tremendous energy in solitude and isolation - to the degree that I believe the proper "magic" of my art, the "glowing ball of light", if you will, can only thrive in silence. Balancing the desire to be in touch with this magic with the inherent sadness of isolation remains a bit of an unsolved, ambiguous riddle. I think that's why "The Hermit" is also a gloomy, somber picture. It illustrates magic, and in my case also a childlike joy in merging with nature, "becoming invisible" like a squirrel in the trees - but it also illustrates the sacrifice and deprivation that goes along with it, at times.
Up top, I have documented the drawing process for this card. I started out with a pencil sketch in B4 pencil on white, Clairefontaine Multi-Techniques drawing paper, then did the outlines with a Black Pentel Sign Brushpen and erased the pencil lines (left). Next, I added shades using a grey Pentel Brushpen and a fine tip water Brusphen, also made by Pentel (middle). Then I scanned the drawing, added transparency using GIMP and colored the drawing using Sketch - so the graphical editing is mostly vector based, which is a bit unusual for digital painting but I prefer it over pixel-based editing for its precision, scalability and variability. I selected the colors to create an allegorical connection with the Rider-Waite-Smith card - the dry blue background, the orange skin color, the yellow glow of the light and the snowy patch of ground, the white hair resembling the hood of the Hermit's robe. The Tarot card frame is a design element I created in Sketch to use with all of my Tarot cards, and the writings in this picture ("IX","Kruppa", "The Hermit") are vectorized scans of my actual handwriting.
I like the overall shape and posture of the female figure in this drawing, the palpable softness of the body and also the way she seemingly merges with the birch tree. I loved drawing the tree and the speckles and patches of the bark, the gnarly structure of the stem. This is a kind of thing which I drew a lot when I was at school and at university, so it felt very comfortable, playful and sensually appealing to revisit this topic. The entire drawing is done from imagination without references. I created the drawing on November 15, 2021 in Cologne, Germany.
Feel free to reach out if you would like to know more about this artwork or my work in general! If you like, please feel invited to see my exhibition at Galander Berlin, where a number of my Tarot Cards and other erotic artworks of mine are currently on display.