In 1999 a group of 30 artists from the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) were invited to the New Forest in Hampshire, UK, by the Forestry Commission, with the aim of capturing and recording the essence of the forest for all to enjoy. Working in four groups over 12 months (John was there in February 2000) their work is recorded in the book Drawn to the Forest by Robert Burton, published by The Wildlife Art Gallery, Lavenham.
In the book John wrote, “Since I first saw Paul Nash’s ‘Monster Field’ paintings as a student, I have been aware of the ‘presences’ of trees – even long dead ones. In the old parts of the New Forest, giant beeches are left as they fall or as lightning strikes them. They are stark in winter, dead but still animated like powerful sculptures – sphinx-like guardians of the pathways, asking riddles”
In John’s obituary in The Scotsman, John’s friend and fellow artist Darren Woodhead wrote, “I recall struggling to make sense of a New Forest landscape while on a Society of Wildlife Artists’ project, while John drew remarkable tree animals – not living animals sitting in trees – but the animals the gnarled ancient branch shapes created, a conger eel, a strange seahorse-type creature. That’s what John did; he saw where others could not.”