I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks through August, a different theme will be explored.
Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project.
Today, August 21, the theme is War. Here’s the image:
The theme of War is more concrete than some of the earlier ones. We all have many images of war stored in our heads from exposure to the news, stories told to us by friends or relatives, war in fiction or movies, or from our own personal experiences.
Fictive Dream Editor Laura Black said in her notes on this project:
For the colour I have in mind khaki (perhaps the shade you used in Image 11 for February), and numerous splintery trees with damage from bombing or shooting.
The artwork to which she refers (Image 11) is this one that illustrated a story in Flash Fiction February 2019:
I also recalled an image I made for an earlier event at Fictive Dream, September Slam 2018 – the story concerned events of World War I. For various reasons the story ultimately was not included and the illustration did not appear, but I remembered the khaki-yellow color I used in it:
So I used the greenish color for the landscape with a dull ocher for the sky, both colors associated with army uniforms. I also deliberately made the colors less vibrant than some of the other illustrations, though I kept the intensity.
When it came to the trees, Laura’s image of trees splintered by bombs coincided with my own (and my husband’s too; when I mentioned this theme to him he immediately described trees blown up and lying on the ground in pieces). It was important the the trees portrayed the suffering, damage, and destruction of war. I created trees that are barely standing, with branches scattered around and who may or may not survive, trees irrevocably changed, trees whose years of growth were destroyed in an instant.
When I showed the image to Laura, it fit her vision, and so the illustration of War was done.
The broken trees can stand in for so much about war…well done.
Thank you. Both Laura and I (and my husband when I asked him for his ideas) saw broken trees of some sort. I found this one…upsetting… to do when thinking about smashed trees, odd, because I am inured to reading about human casualties since…there is an infinite history of them, I guess, and we get used to bad news if we hear it often enough. I hope the trees bring people to the point of feeling it, maybe, when the usual image won’t? Guess this is all kind of odd to be saying, but it’s how the image came to be.
It’s hard not to be distressed about everything we read and see going on around us today. War is only one part of it. And I agree, somehow the destruction of trees seems to especially catch at the heart.
Yes. I think because they remain even when the people are gone.
Your work and your words brought Paul Nash to mins. “Nash began to invest trees with distinct personalities, describing how he had tried ‘to paint trees as tho’ they were human beings’.” https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/paul-nash/room-guide/dreaming-trees He was horrified and deeply distressed by what the war did to the trees in WW1 and his war paintings show that.
I followed your reference and looked around on my own as well. I did not know this artist and now I feel he is expressing exactly what I feel about trees, and also that idea that inanimate objects have a spirit or a life (I have thought this since I was a child). Thank you for pointing me in this direction.
I immediately thought of the trenches and of No Mans Land when I saw this image so it’s perfect.
Thank you. We have such vivid images of war, this one came easily. Though I also think if I were doing another one, I’d take a different angle, just to go against expectations, and that has given me something to think about.
I agree with you when you say the war theme is the most concrete of them all, and that our ideas of war are readily informed by films, books, the news and so on. Splintered trees are symbolic of war (especially World War I in my view) and I felt this would be right for this image. I love your representation of trees in the artwork – once beautiful trees now reduced to stumps. The colours also are exactly right, and the dull ocher in particular. I can’t believe we’ve arrived at the end of the series. As always Claudia, it was a real pleasure to work with you on this project. Thank you for all that you did.