Cheshire Cat, Snufkin and others: Tree inhabitants in Moscow parks

November 4
Parks and pedestrian areas

The ParkArt project has come to an end in Moscow. It was the fifth time this environmental campaign was taking place. Its aim is to preserve trees and to decorate them with popular fairytale characters. As part of this event, professional artists paint on the damaged parts of trees.

This year, Kuzminki-Lyublino Park, the Biryulyovsky Arboretum and the Arkhangelskoye-Tyurikovo estate joined the project. Now park visitors can meet Snufkin, the Cheshire Cat, forest deities and other fairytale characters.

Caring for trees

The main objective of ParkArt is not only to decorate parks with beautiful images. Artists only paint on those trees that have frost cracks, hollowed out bits and parts of their trunks with no bark.

Each spring, Mospriroda experts take an inventory of the trees and inspect them to see whether any parts of the trunks are damaged. If this should be the case that particular area is rubbed down with sand paper, disinfected, and then given a coat of water proofer to prevent mushroom spores, bacteria and parasites from getting inside. The protective coating extends the life of the tree and guards against decay. The clean white surface is then used like a canvas by artists to create their paintings on. The environmental initiative has been combined with an art project.

This year, the campaign brought together amateur painters, art school and studio students, as well as professional illustrators and animation artists from Moscow, the Moscow Region and even Murmansk. All together, they created 45 tree paintings. Among their favourite subjects are animals, birds, plants, as well as fairytale and famous animation film characters. Some contributors decided to make copies of famous paintings.

Izmailovo Park visitors can see the wood spirit, Snufkin, a red cat and a fox. In Kuzminki-Lyublino Park, there’s a squirrel family, the White Rabbit from Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat. The trees in the Arkhangelskoye-Tyurikovo estate feature the Mouse on a Mushroom and the Hedgehog with an Umbrella paintings, while a Red Zebra and a Bat are now to be found in the Biryulovsky Arboretum.


Wood spirit tale

Oksana Filosopova, illustrator and the author of one of the most popular tree paintings, Wood Spirit, says it was her first time painting on a tree trunk.

“It felt unusual but easy, because the tree trunk was prepared and the surface was flat. I started with a pencil sketch to design the initial layout and then used water-resistant acrylic paints. It took me a whole day to paint the Wood Spirit, I worked from 10 am to 5-6 pm. But I’ve also got another painting, in Kuzminki Park. The squirrel family. It’s a far bigger image and I even had to climb up on a ladder to do it. I worked for several hours during three or four days on this painting,” the artist noted.

There’s a story behind the Wood Spirit painting. A long time ago now, Oksana was about to illustrate a book of children’s poems by Nina Popova and one of them was about the wood spirit. The book, however, never got published, but the artist immediately thought of this character when she was offered her location to paint: a fairytale spirit in the fairytale park.

“I found out about this project quite by chance, by reading the ads in a social network. I liked the idea very much and wanted to participate. There was no particular theme, the only requirement was to paint something that evoked positive emotions. In my opinion, it is a great campaign and such paintings look much nicer and more interesting than just bare trunks covered in protective coating. I like the theme of fairytales and animated films very much,” the artist enthused.

Oksana studied engineering, but several years ago she graduated from the Surikov Art Institute and became a children’s book illustrator.

How it began

The environmental campaign turned into an art project in 2016, when ParkArt took place in the Eastern Administrative Area, namely the Kosinsky, Izmailovsky, Terletsky and Kuskovo parks. Each year, the project geography expanded. In 2020, several more natural areas joined the campaign.

Over the past five years, some 200 images have been painted in Moscow parks, including landscapes, animals, elves, birds and copies of works by Van Gogh, Degas, Matisse, Magritte and Klimt, as part of the ParkArt campaign. These paintings are there because of the efforts of the locals, children and adults, professional and amateur artists, and also volunteers.


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