Though widely known for his intricate architectural black and white illustrations, French artist Thibaud Hérem harbours an unexpected passion for gardening. His latest book Raising A Forest reveals so, and in turn uncovers an entirely different facet to his practice that sees his work break from the straight lines of brick walls and windows. Instead, the pages are filled with beautiful, delicate and colourful drawings of trees, leaves, plants and seeds, plus some gardener’s tools, laid out in a meticulous way that hints at Thibaud’s famous attention to detail.
The book began as a personal diary, Thibaud tells us: “I started to grow trees from seeds a few years back, jotting down notes and observations in my sketchbook, and those thoughts and illustrations gradually transformed into a book.” In the book’s introduction he explains further that, although he comes from a long lineage of farmers in Brittany, and spent summers working on family farms as a teenager, that world seems “like ancient history” since he moved to London 12 years ago and “gradually grew blind to the variations of grey weather and pollution”.
Then, one day five years ago, a friend gave him two packets of seeds, which he planted in a yoghurt tub in the kitchen. When a seedling emerged from the soil, Thibaud says he was filled with pride and has since become a keen gardener, filling his small urban garden with no less than fifty species of trees, grown from seeds and carefully tended by the illustrator. This book documents an “obsession with trees and the process of growing them,” he says.
“My aim was to be intimate with the reader,” he says. “I am not pretending to be an expert, so I wanted to give the feeling of the personal relationship with my trees and to focus on the small details and observations that interest me visually. I feel that’s something often missing in sylviculture books.”
He admits the illustration aesthetic is very different to his architectural work, “a more sketchy, human style that feels right for drawings of nature,” and reflects another, more personal side to his practice outside that realm. “Hopefully people will now know me for my other passion for trees!”
Raising A Forest is published by Cicada Books.