The first tree drawing

An early milestone in the creation of The New Sylva was reached this week with the completion of one of the first original drawings for the book.

Here is a sneak preview of Sarah Simblet’s stunning portrait of a crab apple Malus sylvestris sens. lat. The crab apple is found in hedges and woodland edges throughout most of Europe, except the far north, and across Central Asia. This specimen was growing on the Ridgeway in southern Britain, near to the famous White Horse at Uffington.

Sarah Simblet said “It was a bracingly cold day in January, and I had been out walking in the surrounding fields for a couple of hours, searching for every Crab tree I could find in the hedgerows. I was looking for what they all have in common, what seemed to me to typify their character, and make them distinct from any other kind of apple tree. This species produces abundant bright yellow fruit which makes it easy to spot from a distance. It also has clusters of very long thin stems that can look as though they are pouring into the earth. Many older, shorter stems look clawed and acutely angular, just like the crustaceans (sea crabs) that the tree is named after. I draw with a steel dip-pen and diluted Chinese ink, and work over feint pencil outlines. The pencil is erased in the finished work.”

Crab apple drawing by Sarah Simblet
One of the first drawings for The New Sylva nears completion – a crab apple tree by Sarah Simblet

Look carefully at the photograph where, underneath Sarah’s drawing, you can glimpse the start to our flat plan spread across the desk: an outline of every page of the book.


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