Reflections and notes on the relationship of art to nature and of nature to art from along Warwoman Creek, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Katuah Province of Turtle Island, where the light, the dark, the seasons, the time of deep past, deep present and deep future all mix in alchemal mists to reveal and hide and transform these slopes, shaded coves, bright rivers, deep forests and me, and together sustain me and my art.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


"The Mountain Opens to Speak it's Name," 2011. 

 Passage is the act of passing, specifically movement from one place to another, sometimes a change of progress from one process or condition to another. Permission, right, or a chance to pass is often required. Passage is also a way or means of passing, as in a journey, especially by water; a voyage, and passage is that which happens or takes place between persons.

In all these senses, paintings have always presented passages – imagined, proposed, hoped for, sometimes prayed for. They have always offered openings, permissions, journeys, all proffering passage from one process or condition to another.

 If the Spanish poet Machado was right, that we who pass on, even a little, walk, like Jesus, on the water, then artists and their work offer one partial exception – we artists and our work leave tracks of both where we’ve come from and, because of the imaginative intercourse a work of art summons us to, they point to where we’re all going.

But paintings are quite still, aren’t they? Exactly! Paintings and the seeing and meanings they summon us to present an endless quest going nowhere in space or time but only deeper into the presence. There is grace in this - the grace of knowing that our consciousness and the light are always arriving in the world together. And in this momentary stillness there is a great Hello!

It was my sixtieth year when I started this series “The Mountain Passages Cycle.” It was the year I moved to this secluded hollow along Warwoman Creek in the North Georgia Mountains. It was the month of April, Kawani in Cherokee – the Cherokee moon of reviving rivers and re-emerging medicinal plants. A season to take stock, to relent and to let go, and then to recover the deeper language of rhythms and patterns woven into the fabric of all those years. A time to really paint what I see (as the saying goes by painters), but now to acknowledge that seeing as a gift of presence as much as an act of perception, of coming into Being, not just observing.

"Spring Comes to Kawani," 2015
 Presence, present, to be present – these are all entangled for me now. The massive northern shoulder of Rainy Mountain slopes down to meet the flood plain just behind my studio. From late fall to early spring it is a massive shadowed cloak that descends, and from spring to fall it is a bright green lit body. It is not present as a picture. It hovers dramatically between being just some of the furniture of the world and startlingly something else: something protean, powerful and energetic, something drawing my own presence into its circle, always shouldering against where I am, against what I see, what I feel, and who I am. Then one morning I step outside the studio to see that Rainy Mountain has dissolved – the mists that live in these mountains have taken it for their own form of presence- an expression of the world making, unmaking and remaking itself, a process of re-becoming, like ocean waves that rise and then refold into one another. Even in the seeming millennial immutability of this land, some aspect, some dimension, breathes. The very ineffability makes possible the expansive reality of the land around me. It is a great gift to witness.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

NEW PAINTING: Spring Comes to Kawani

"Spring Comes to Kawani," 2015, oil on board, 12"h x 12"w.
Private collection.

The seasons come and go so, and more quickly so as I get older. Both in the outer landscape and the inner inscape. Spring this year seemed like a long time coming, but then suddenly one morning took up a rapacious gate. So differently experienced from fall, which comes on with flames, a last bright declaration, like an unrepentant warrior's last stand against all the destruction facing the world. Spring, on the other hand, begins hidden deep in the ground, stirring for long silent weeks something alchemical.

Beginning in March with those few unexpected errant warm days, I step out each morning onto my porch to gaze eastward looking for spring across the field past the studio to where a patch of woods slips out into the field and follows the path of a spring that runs underground there (I know this because I am blessed with the archaic gift of the dowser). Pine and poplar stand sentinel here, creating an understory where wild cherry and dogwood shelter beneath them. In this early morning spring light, with much still cloaked in darkness, with much that is stilled this time of day, I can see that this is the advance column of the once great and future forest that has always claimed rightful sovereignty to these mountains. Me, I'm just passing through.

Monday, June 15, 2015

New Painting & New Beginnings: "Spring Comes to the Cataloochee Valley"

"Spring Comes to the Cataloochee Valley," 2015, oil on canvas. 24" x 36"

Recently I have come to appreciate with acute sharpness, the experience of the 15 years I have now spent living in the mountains of the Southern Appalachians. They have been such richly deepening years for myself and my life partner Lynn. We have been so fortunate, and these mountains and their people have been so generous in their offering gifts. I have watched them change us, mellow us, and sharpen our commitments for what really matters. And feeling now that our time here is such a fleeting gift, as it always was in truth, as it always is for any of us any where, I have begun a series of paintings that are both landscape and inscape. Something to hold onto, like old photographers used to do fixing an image out of evanescent light emerging in the dark with chemicals. Art is like that. Life too.

This painting "Spring Comes to Cataloochee Valley," is the first, and it was inspired by my most recent of many visits to the Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was early May, spring just creeping across the valley, and it was morning when you can see how the mountains come and go so, mixing with great moving cloud banks. They've done this each early May for ever, and so each May, early in the morning, you can come see this forever.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Registration Closed for "Drawing From Our Own True Nature Workshop" - July 20-24, 2015

Registration closed for this summer's workshop July 20 - 24, 2015.  If interested in being on the wait list for next summer's workshop in 2016, just contact me through  Drawing From Our Own True Nature.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Only 13 days left to register for "Drawing From Our Own True Nature Workshop"

13 days left to register for "Drawing From Our Own True Nature Workshop - July 20 -24, 2015"
in the North Georgia Mountains.

There are still several places available.

DEADLINE: midnight, June 20.

For more information go to Drawing From Our Own True Nature

And a short thought piece:

It is said the Wintu people of north central California do not have words for right and left. Instead they refer to cardinal directions in all cases. So a woman walking to the mountains in the west who stops to pick up an interesting stone with her left hand and slips it into her pocket has picked it up with her south hand. 

If later that day returning she decides to return this stone to its rightful place she does so with her north hand. These people have so decided their priorities in life that it has become embedded in their language, and so therefore their thoughts are always oriented to what matters most to them.

But in the year 2000 only 3 people were left who spoke that language.

As one begins to draw more from nature, in time nature begins to speak back - and does so with a more than human voice. Gradually we come to know how we are embedded in what is a much larger and richer language of being. In one sense this conversation draws from our own true nature, and in another connected sense we are drawn from it ourselves into a larger awareness of both ourselves and the world.

In our time there are fewer and fewer speakers of this language. But it is our voice for this that will ultimately determine the fate of our species on this planet, and whether or not we can manage to respectfully re-inhabit this earth. It is the artist hidden in each one of us who has access to this language of being.

"Su Tung-P'o sat out one whole night by a creek on the slopes of Mt. Lu. Next morning he showed this poem to his teacher:

    The stream with its sounds   is a long broad tongue
    the looming mountain   is a wide-awake body
    Throughout the night   song after song
    How can I    speak at dawn.

Old Master Chang-tsung approved him. Two centuries later Dogen said:

    Sounds of streams and shapes of mountains.
    The sounds never stop and the shapes never cease.
    Was it Su who woke
    or was it the mountains and streams?"

- from poem 'We Wash Our Bowls in This Water,'  in 'Mountains and Rivers Without End,' by Gary Snyder.