Thomas Perceval is an artist and designer based in the borderlands of mid-Wales and Herefordshire. He grew up in an artistic household, so it's no surprise to find him in a creative line of work, producing stunning art combining drawing skills with advanced laser technology. When he delivered his works to our Gallery, we were enchanted. Each piece has a very definite presence, just as a tree does in a landscape...
I think they inspire a great awe and peace in us, and I wanted to capture this feeling through my artworks, so people can enjoy the awe of nature in their homes and in the gallery. Sometimes I drive and walk around for weeks looking for the “right tree” - it has to really click. I have to have a strong bond with the tree before I commit, as the drawings can take many weeks. After the commission, I went on to draw a windswept oak above my family childhood home. I made it a limited edition of 25, and the response was better than I expected, it sold out quite quickly! From here, I carried on refining the technique and drawing with increased detail, and have now created a range of tree artworks, mostly from trees within my local counties of Powys and Herefordshire. My most recent one is “Oak in Llanafan” just north-west of Builth Wells.
Thomas at work in his studioYou’re from a very creative family… tell us more! My great uncle is the painter Arthur Boyd and my Grandfather is the painter John Perceval. They were part of a larger art movement in Australia in the 60s and 70s called the Angry Penguins. My grandmother, Mary, went on to marry Sidney Nolan, another well-known painter in Australia (who recently had work shown in Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery) so there are lots of different creative influences from my background. And my mum is a predominantly landscape and figurative painter… our house was always filled with paintings. How did your early childhood influence your direction? Growing up in the countryside, we originally had no electricity in our cottage in the heart of the valley. We had a stereo hooked up to the car battery and my mum would play a lot of classical music. My dad loved Bob Dylan. I started violin lessons and played classical violin (which carried on until I was 16 and left high school). I used to draw, paint and write a lot, making stories up, and painting on blocks of wood. In school, I only ever really paid attention in the creative subjects… in other classes my mind would wander off and I would doodle pictures and scrawl in notebooks. I did consider studying music, but went to Art College to study graphic design. I think this period has helped shaped my work today… I am still interested in design.
Weeping Willow in Coombes MoorHow did you come to focus on trees? After deciding graphics wasn’t for me, I went on to study a foundation in Art & Design in Hereford and then a BA in Drawing at Camberwell in London. Here I experimented with laser cutting technology, which I was fascinated by. After returning to the countryside, and working at various jobs, I decided to invest in a laser cutter, and converted my grandmother’s garage into a studio. I experimented for quite some time, trying different things out, and playing around with etching lines into wood, to create burnt drawings. A good friend then asked me if I could create a burnt drawing from a photograph of his partner’s favourite tree, a local windswept Hawthorn, as a present for her completing her Biology Masters. They were both really happy with it, and I was surprisingly happy with the result too.
Inspiration...I have always loved trees, being surrounded by them for most of my life. Our house backed onto an oak and ash woodland and faced a pine woodland across the field. Without trees transferring carbon into oxygen, we wouldn’t be here today, so our existence and reality is intimately and intrinsically linked with these amazing organisms. Trees are incredible expressions of the universe, projections of nature’s underlying fractal patterns. Through their roots that delve into the depths of earth, up into their extending branches that reach into the sky, they symbolise the connection of earth and sky, the heavens and the material world.
Oak in LlanafanWhy do you work in the materials and techniques that you do? Primarily, I wanted to capture and convey trees in a new and direct way. I wanted the trees to come alive, to become almost 3D representations in the wood. Through subject matter, material and techniques using wood and fire, the viewer is invited to consider the elemental, temporal and eternal. People often comment that the longer you look at the artworks, the more you see. People see all kinds of things… faces, animals, creatures, which is something I’m definitely happy about. The process The tree drawings are burnt into various woods; all colouring is achieved as a result of the burning process. The pictures are mounted onto ash and tulip wood frames. Each work is a limited edition. However, as the wood grain pattern of each edition is individual and an intrinsic part of the artwork, each edition is always unique. The artworks are signed and numbered on the back.