January 05, 2022

Many thanks to the lovely Sherborne Times for featuring my upcoming WEND: the Stour from source to sea solo exhibition in June this year at The Art Stable

January 04, 2022

COP26 has been, gone and been forgotten. The news cycle has moved on and the headlines it made have already become a sad and distant memory. To my mind, the oil companies, lobbyists and their friends have got away with it again. They gave us warm words about slow, long-term fossil-fuel reduction targets but we're still left with a heating planet.

If the oilmen in suits were physically setting fire to our forests there would be uproar and strenuous efforts made to stop them. But they are doing it more indirectly and subtly so that we hardly notice that it's happening. But it really is. Our woodlands are burning up and so are we. The shocking thing about the oil industry's actions is that it has known for years what the outcome of burning fossil fuels would be on the planet. Sadly, profits trump that knowledge.

These are the words written around the edges of the painting:
"ExxonMobil had a turnover of £1,069bn between 2015-2000. During the same time it spent 0.01% of that on low-carbon investments and developments. Oil and gas contribute 19,000,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide to the planet each year. ExxonMobil is the self-proclaimed leader in carbon capture. It stores 9m tonnes of CO2 per year. That is 2% of its annual emissions of 730m tonnes in 2019. The world's oil companies invest 1% of their budgets in clean energy. They're knowingly burning us alive."

Sources: clientearth.org, The Guardian, ourworldindata.org

December 31, 2021

A selection of new watercolours on show at the Sea Pictures Gallery in Clare, Suffolk. Online here too

December 03, 2021

"We might see an otter." I said to my friend as we walked along the Stour in the centre of Blandford Forum in the middle of the afternoon. "But probably not. You have to get here at dawn really."……Cue otter

December 02, 2021

Many thanks to The Salisbury Journal and @ShoshaAdie for the article highlighting the destruction of the 700-year-old Wardour oak. Read all about it here

November 20, 2021

The stunning 14th-century castle that was used as a backdrop in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves has had its walls knocked down by a local contractor. Cue outrage from one and all, right? Except, thankfully, it didn't actually happen. 

What did happen though was that, 200 yards from the castle, a 700-year-old oak tree that is listed on The Woodland Trust Ancient Tree Inventory as nationally important has had the arboreal equivalent of a bulldozer bashing through it. It has had all its limbs hacked off, the shock of which may well end up killing it. Cue outrage, right? Wrong: cue deafening silence. The reality is that even though our leaders have promised to reforest thousands of square miles of the UK, we can't actually protect a single very important oak.

At the very least, the tree, a full century older than Old Wardour Castle's bricks and mortar, has been cruelly disfigured. And there isn't a thing we can do about it. Incredibly, as it is on private land, it has no protection and is at the mercy of the landowners. They and their "tree surgeon" have irreparably changed a tree that had remained untouched for 700 years, and yet they have done nothing illegal.

Under our current system, the oak is not automatically protected by a tree preservation order (TPO), which would prevent any work being carried out on it without permission from the council. As it stands, an application has to be made for individual trees, clearly an impractical situation. As we are in a climate emergency, I believe the default position should be reversed and all trees should automatically be under TPOs so that any planned work has to be approved. 

The Wiltshire Tree Officer has examined the oak and believes it did need some remedial work but believes it did not need to be cut back to such an extent. I disagree so does the Ancient Tree Forum. We believe a tree of that age should be allowed to follow its own life cycle. At its grand old age, the Wardour Oak has, of course, lost some limbs. This is a natural process, but as the tree stands in the middle of a field, falling branches are of no threat to the public, buildings, power lines etc. 

Remarkably, the tree surgeon who undertook the work cannot be sanctioned and does not need to belong to any professional institution to ply his trade. On a more positive note,  the landowner has agreed to take advice from the Ancient Tree Forum about future tree management on their land and the parish council has said it would like the damaged tree to have TPO placed on it now. 

I'm sure the tree surgeon and landowner thought they were doing the right thing. The idea of tidying up nature is sadly ingrained in our society. There is a rump of people who still want to do things as they did in the unenlightened 1970s and take control. Anyone with an interest in nature or agriculture should be able to embrace the overwhelming evidence that a lighter touch on the environment is the way forward. The practices we've been employing to manage our lands and wildlife for the past century are palpably wrong as the UK is now one of the most nature-depleted nations on earth.

Think of it this way. This tree geminated when Robert the Bruce was fighting the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. It was 200 years old when Henry VIII married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The Gunpowder Plot imploded when the tree had marked this spot for 300 years. Its half-century anniversary would have been just before the first railway service steamed into action. And as the world gathered for COP26 to talk about saving the planet, this ancient icon of the natural world has been brutalised and left for dead.

I have painted and written about the tree previously in Resurgence and highlighted that there are around 2,300 different species, from bats to beetles, lichens to mammals, dependent on the oak in some way. Oak trees grow for around 300 years, rest for the next 300 and then start to deteriorate and die, which also takes about 300 years. This one may have had its final phase of life severely compromised by this thoughtless butchery. Lets try to ensure this is the last soldier to fall in the battle to save our world.

November 07, 2021

I worked @sundaytimesgraphics for 27 very enjoyable years and when I left I tried a series of painting graphics. I was convinced I could carry on producing information graphics but in a more painterly form. Some worked, some didn’t. This was seven years ago and I became slightly obsessed with showing how climate change was happening and using a swimming polar bear to illustrate the point.

These bears can swim really well but they need pack ice to help them feed. The ice gives them the element of surprise to catch seals, their main prey. But sea ice is diminishing and so the bears are having to swim longer distances, sometimes hundreds of miles, to seek their food. This saps their precious energy and contributes to their death.

Ice at the North Pole freezes and melts through summer and winter but is shrinking at a frightening rate. Over the last 35 years we have lost Arctic sea ice equivalent in area to 17 UKs due to man made climate change. That’s 1.4 millions square miles of ice. This has happened when we have increased the global temperature by just 1.1 degrees. Changing the natural cycle of freezing and thawing in the Arctic is not only going to affect polar bears it is going to change the world’s weather patterns in unpredictable ways.

And yet at #COP26 we can’t even agree to limit warming to 1.5 degrees which is still going to change our lives drastically. In the last week of the conference we need MORE ACTION, LESS (crocodile) TEARS

October 27, 2021

As part of the Shaftesbury Tree Festival I painted a demonstration watercolour in town on a misty Sunday morning. I normally have my easel set much more appropriately for a 6ft4in scribbler, but kept it at a low setting so people could see over my shoulder. A good back workout……

Here's what was produced on the day

October 26, 2021

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. In 2007 while working in @sundaytimesgraphics at The Sunday Times @thetimes I produced this diagram for @thestmagazine all about the climate emergency we were creating. It was to accompany an extract of the amazing book by @mark_lynas explaining what will happen to the planet as we warm it up degree by degree. It was sobering stuff to read and a tricky graphic to do to encapsulate it all.

This diagram was one of a long line of environmental stories and graphics the newspaper published over the past thirty years warning about the damage we were doing. Working in The Sunday Times newsroom gave me the massive privilege of seeing reports and research into how we were overheating the environment which spurred me on to try and incorporate some of that information into my work as a painter today.

Unfortunately, during all that time very few of our politicians were prepared to "follow the science" which was obvious for years. Now we are, sadly, where we are. To me #Cop26 really does feel like last minute stable door fiddling.


October 21, 2021

The winner of the The Sunday Times Best Places to Stay 2021…… Callow Hall