I travel into forests for hours, days, or weeks at a time. I work seated on the ground in all weathers, in response to specific moments, habitats, plants, birds, and animals. I mostly use watercolor and ink on paper, materials that are lightweight, easy to carry, and well-suited to working in the outdoors. When available, I paint with local river or sea water, I place found bark, leaves, soil, lichen, sap, and fungi on the paper to stain it, I let rain fall upon my work, I draw with found forest charcoal and twigs dipped in ink. I seek the interplay of my own inner energies with external wild forces. I become woven into the surrounding wildness the more I invite those surroundings into my work—and my experience of separateness can wane. The work I bring back from my treks receives minimal treatment in the studio. Rather than portraying the western idealized distant landscape, where we are forever separate from nature, I want to document and evoke an experience of immersion in wildness. I believe this difference matters.
WHY PLANTS, TREES, & FORESTS?
Since childhood, I have loved to sit on the ground beneath trees, to gaze at plants, and draw and paint. I continue to be enchanted by the shimmer of light and shadow in forests, the intricate patterned chaos of wild plant communities, and the watery ways of ink and paint on paper. I document native plants in wild places because I want to reveal what I can of the complex beauty where life thrives on its own terms, untamed. Plants hold our earth in place, they connect to each other both above and below ground in intricate systems that scientists are only beginning to understand. Trees create oxygen, metabolize carbon dioxide, store carbon, make shade, shelter wildlife, grow our building materials, and many of them live far longer than we do. I see plants, especially trees, as wise beautiful mysterious protectors. I am endlessly delighted by their grandeur, forms, colors, details, repeating patterns, the way they intertwine with each other and other forest beings, and how they thrive best when in interconnected communities. Our wild forests are increasingly at risk. Too often, when I return to places I’ve spent time painting over the years, wildflowers, plants, and trees I’ve known are dying, dead, or have simply disappeared. This loss is personally sad, culturally tragic, and ecologically frightening. As time unfurls, I remain committed to documenting wild forests. It is a small act, a devotional practice. It is my form of prayer and a way to bear witness to the wildness we still have.