Tress has followed an unorthodox route to painting. He was first interested by painter Ben Nicholson, and also the watercolours of John Singer Sargent. He then came across the Abstract Expressionists which contiue to be an influence. By the time he moved to Wales Tress was making film, installation and performance art. In Pembrokeshire, Tress began painting local scenes in water-colour and other media, developing a highly detailed realism epitomized by works such as Winter Sun (1983) and First Sun, Preseli (1984).