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I Stood Still And Was A Tree

Making an oil painting is a slow process. Unlike acrylics which dry almost instantly, oil paint can take weeks to dry, especially if applied thickly. As a result of this, because I work in many layers and therefore often have to wait for drying before I can apply subsequent layers to avoid unwanted blending, I evolved a method of working which involves working on many pieces during the same time period. While I wait for one to dry I go to the next etc. In so doing I often create an entire body of work simultaneously.

There was a time, many years ago, when I had probably 10 or 15 pieces in various states of process and I just could not see how to resolve them. I did not know, could not see, what these paintings wanted to be. I sat in my studio for days, hour after hour, just staring at all of the unfinished work surrounding me and could not figure out where to go. I was distraught.

One day I went outside in the pouring rain. There were two enormous eucalyptus trees outside my studio. I have long been someone who takes council from trees, so I went up to one of these eucalyptus trees and leaned my whole body against it. I was in tears, and I begged god, the intelligence of the universe, whatever you want to call it, to please show me the way to complete these paintings.

The next day I went into the studio and started turning all my paintings into trees. It wasn’t even a thought. It just moved through me.

My tree paintings have become a fundamental part of my work ever since. They afford me the ability to work in a field of pure abstraction but retain some degree of reference. You can see that they are trees. But what kind of trees? Well, people tend to see in them the kind of trees they grew up with. People from the East coast see birches, people from the mountains see aspens. But they are pure abstractions which are really about “treeness” more than being about any specific kind of tree.

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