Last Sunset

'Last Sunset' copyright Paula Carnell 2013

‘Last Sunset’. Acrylic on silk by Paula Carnell copyright 2013

I could write a book about this painting, but today I’ll keep it brief!

I painted this in November 2008. The view is of a row of poplar trees that grew in the field behind our house.

Earlier in that October we had noticed some ‘work’ going on with the trees. To our horror whilst out on the afternoon school run, several trees had been felled. After speaking with the farmer who owned the field we learned that the Electricity board (Southern & Scottish power) were concerned that the trees may drop branches causing damage to the overhead electricity wires connecting nearby villages, and  particularly a large local cheese factory.
Apparently Poplar trees cast off branches as a way of procreating. Poplars are usually situated alongside rivers and so the boughs would float down stream eventually getting caught along a bank and taking root.
These poplars were high on a hill top, a landmark that could be spotted from many miles, and for as long as I remember. No river to carry any broken branches away.

Many residents of the roads near this field signed petitions to try & keep our beloved poplars. We made the local papers but eventually conceded defeat. I painted this before the last thirty of the original sixty trees were felled. I surprised myself at how upset I was by this whole episode. I had only started painting the trees early in 2008 & felt I’d found a subject I could paint over and over again throughout the changing seasons. One evening, maybe it was the night before they cut down, or maybe a few nights before, I walked into the field and took a photograph of the most beautiful sunset behind the remaining trees. The next day I painted it.
As the trees were felled jets of water shot into the air, these trees were so full of life.
Then the connections became personal. Counting the rings on the stumps, there were forty. I was about to turn forty. After painting this painting I fell ill. I had a few weeks bed bound in between school runs. After many inconclusive tests I ‘pulled myself’ out of my bed bound state and recovered enough to enjoy my own fortieth birthday.

The tree surgeons kindly made me a bench out of one of the felled trunks, ironically it faces out from our garden towards where the trees once stood. A fantastic view of hills beyond has been revealed, but the silence left by the absent trees takes a long time to adjust to. They were the last trees to come into leaf, and the last to lose their leaves in the Autumn, the ‘wooshing’ of the wind through them sounded like the sea.

In many ways the death of the trees was also the ending of many parts of my life. the dancing, walking, painting and at the same age, forty.Within six months I was completely be bound and have remained pretty much bed or house bound for 90% of the time since.

I produced a limited edition giclee print run of forty of this print. The original sits above our fire place, one painting I would find it very hard to part with.

The earlier painting I did of the same trees is ‘Four Leaf Clover’

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4 comments

  1. really moved by the story,Paula. I have tree “friends” that I have felt/feel a deep connection with. Maybe one day you should write that story…

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    • Thank you Julia, I’m so moved that my simple stories are connecting with others, would love to hear your story. I can feel a whole ‘Trees’ section building up on my blog!

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  2. Paula, I also have a eucalyptus tree friend in a green space area near our house. I worry that the city will decide it’s somehow in the way and will cut it down for a convenient road. If this happens you’ll find me chained to the tree! Thanks for your story.

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  3. Ah Kaki, it’s so upsetting to worry that a tree may not be safe where it’s lived in peace for so many years. Maybe you’ll have to paint it to drum up more support and appreciation for it!

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