Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Finding Truth... Through Trees


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow hast lain,
Who ultimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

- Joyce Kilmer

This post is inspired by blogger friends Caroline in Scotland and Karen in British Columbia. Caroline has undertaken a personal challenge to devote a block of her creative time and energy towards studying and sketching trees. Karen chooses to live quietly with her husband and four dogs with trees. I have always been drawn to trees... all kinds because they represent perhaps one of the most adaptable species on our planet and can be found in nearly every type of landscape in all parts of the world.

Throughout the history of man... the tree has commanded the attention and respect of many great thinkers and creative individuals. Trees form the basis of our architectural needs... are sources of heat... sources of food and are the basis of so many utilitarian products that we depend upon in our homes and businesses. Trees serve an even more important role to all living things by creating necessary oxygen which we must breathe... and the elimination of carbon dioxide.

And yet... in spite of the necessity to protect and respect the role of trees in the survival of the of all life on this planet... mankind continues to arrogantly clear cut... slash and burn... and eliminate old growth forests at alarming rates and without any concern of the obvious consequences of this path to destruction for our delicate ecosystem.

As my regular blogger companion Karen so aptly put it in her most recent posting... "We", as artists are "the canaries in the mine"... so to speak. No other group is more closely attuned to the environment and the massive detrimental influence that we as a species are exacting from the planet. In our painting lives ... in all realms... we bear witness to the grim reality that precious natural wild spaces are rapidly disappearing. Sadly... these spaces are lost forever to the sprawl of unrestricted development and the greed of corporate entities... who seem not to have any conscience or sense of responsible stewardship for the interests and well-being of our children of the future.

I have always believed that education of the young is the sole hope for the future... but we are approaching a critical point where recovery could be impossible. We will simply run out of time... and resources will not matter any longer. Life... as we know and enjoy it at present... will itself be in dire jeopardy.

This simple... but eloquent poem by Joyce Kilmer is a relic from my childhood... and the early childhood diet of poetry of so many school children on this continent. I used it effectively, I think... to introduce the importance of trees into elementary education. I added other great creative children's literature like Shel Silverstein's classic "The Giving Tree"... and the Dr Seuss standard... "The Lorax" to create opportunities to cause children to think about and embrace "Green" ideals such as stewardship to carry into their future worlds.

With Christmas quickly approaching... we are a little more than a month away from burying our traditional central image.... the Christmas Tree with gifts for our children. Electronic toys and games... gifts for "thumb monkeys"... will likely be the main fare on Santa's List. Why not throw in a couple of these book titles under your family tree... and some time over the holidays sit in a cozy corner or chair... and share the joy of being together... and the message of hope and optimism that these classics offer to readers of any age. They're timeless... especially... for the "Child Within"!

I intend to join Caroline's challenge and will take up the challenge in my own way. I have done so in the past... gaining a strong personal a feeling of accomplishment and artistic growth. Today... I offer a few examples of previous Tree Adventures from the recent past!
Why not dedicate a few hours of your own time to offering tree images from your part of the world? By enjoining our energies and our brushes... perhaps we can paint a brighter picture of Hope... that others might see and support. What is to be lost? What might be gained?

"I" wonder!!

Good Painting to All !


  1. Beautiful tree pictures! I've been enjoying the trees here lately. The leaves are almost all gone, and the beautiful textures of the bark are showing. Still pretty, in a different way. :)

  2. Hi Katherine!... Thank "You" for visiting and for your most encouraging compliments!

    Like "You"... I find beauty in every aspect of trees.. in every season. They change their dress... they reveal so much more of their form... texture and structure in late autumn and during winter. Beautiful... in very different ways... if one looks with a different eye!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Hi Bruce, thank you for the mention! I must say your tree paintings are simply incredible, very beautiful works and I can see the individual character of each tree as you depict them. You write so much that is thought provoking and so true about trees and the younger generation. I was walking up my lane yesterday and was sad to see some of the neighbours up there cut down most of the trees on their property, it made me feel close to tears, why are they feeling the need to do that as trees also give protection against the wind and icy weather during the winter. It happens so much around where I live, as if by a whim folk cut down a tree. What will your challenge be Bruce? A very inspiring post, thank you.

  4. Hi again Caroline!... Thank "You"... for the inspiration to post this blog subject! Thank "You" too for your very generous compliments regarding these tree portraits!

    "You" and "I"... are very much "on the same wave length"... "on the same page"... in terms of our ideals in both our personal and artistic lives. This fact in itself... makes our connections mutually beneficial and uplifting , I think!

    I will post a couple more images soon... that visually illustrate the terrible impact that you speak so sadly about in your own area. My point is... that this travesty is indeed well underway in all parts of the world... simultaneously.

    Stay tuned for my involvement... it will reflect my continued passion to pass forward the very courageous futuristic view of the Lorax:

    "I speak for the trees!"

    Good Painting!... and Thank "You" for including your oqwn thoughts and experience!

    Warmest regards,

  5. Every time I pass by a recent 'stump' where a tree has been cut my heart cries!
    I remember days as a child lying across the foot of my bed and looking out at the tree outside my window -- watching it burst into spring bloom, weighted down by snow!
    I've planted many trees ... seems where ever I go - even on my balcony.
    I too am drawn to trees; I have four ongoing paintings in my 'studio' and sure enough -- they all are trees.
    Thanks for sharing yours and your words of wisdom. Have posted many of my sketches of trees ... will be posting more paintings in the next few weeks.
    Now wouldn't a blog titled 'artists who paint/draw trees' be a fine idea!
    Thanks again, always a pleasre to visit your site.

  6. Oh yes Bruce, trees are beautiful. I will definitely post a study of a tree in my neck of the woods. I even got inspired to do some leaf paintings.

    My neighbors tree that I have been admiring through the years has been hacked away branch by branch, how sad.

    Once again, your blog brings us artist together in the simple joy of appreciation of natures beauty.

    All the best to you.


  7. Hi Bruce,

    It was obvious, before I got to the text, that you love trees! We are in for a treat if you take up some kind of tree-painting challenge.

    An interesting point about artists as environmental watchdogs, and very true.

    All the best,

  8. Dear Friend Ruby.... I share your sense of loss and strangely have felt a strong sense of kinship and admiration for all trees. But perhaps that feeling in "Me'... is not so strange ... or unusal.

    What child has not climbed apple trees... or made a tree fort/house to escape the world.. and be closer to Heaven? My favourite boyhood book was Swiss Family Robinson... and I read it over and over... immersing my Self in their shipwrecked world of danger and adventure. The idea of actually living inside a large tree so captivated my fertile and searching imagination way back then. Today... over fifty years later... I still ponder a similar late life adventure when I see such a house in the Homes section of our favourite bookstore!

    At the end of the poignant and wonderful Shel Siverstein classic "The Giving Tree" the boy returns many years after as an old man to the apple tree that he has used piece-by-piece. He asks what the tree has to offer and the tree replies that he is sorry, but that he has nothing left to give.

    " I wish that I could give you something... but I have nothing left.I am just an old stump. I am sorry..."

    "I don't need very much now said the boy,
    just a quiet place to sit and rest.
    I am very tired."

    "Well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting.
    Come boy, sit down
    Sit down and rest"

    The boy did.

    And the tree was happy.

    Perhaps we'll all be happy then Ruby... for there will certainly be ewnough stumps to go around for everyone... everywhere!

    Thank "You" ever so much for sharing your experiences and feelings!

    Good painting! I look forward to seeing your tree portraits! Don't be shy!
    Warmest regards,
    Warmest regards,

  9. Hi there Joan!... If my blog brings just a few minds together in the name of art... then I have accomplished my purpose in creating and maintaining the forum! Thank "You" for saying so Joan!

    I very much look forward to seeing your Tree Portraits and am so happy that "You" shared your experience here!

    The responses to this post have been... personal... poignant and encouraging .They all point out clearly that the problem of preservation/conservation cannot be left to government because they are too much tied to the whim and greed of corporate decision-makers.

    By joining hands as a collective group of mind and energy we CAN make a difference and draw attention at least... to the havoc around us.
    We can go a step even further by donating our work in support of competent preservation watchdogs in our own part of the world.

    The choice is individually ours to make! Thanks for your input and encouragement Joan!

    Good (Tree) Painting!
    Wramest regards,

  10. Hi there Keith!.... Thank "You" ever so much for responding so positively!

    I will try very hard not to disppoint all of you out there with my Tree challenge. It wiull commence in early January I think! We are currently preparing for our annual Christmas Open House here at the Gallery.... so painting... I'm afraid has been on the back burner as they say.

    I really do miss it... but will have ample opportunity to "get out there" over the next two months.It snowed yesterday and throughout the night. Exciting to wake up to a fresh,white linen ground cover!

    I will be painting both in the outdoors and in the studio steadily over the next two months, since I have a large painting quota to reach for my solo show at AyrSpace opening January 28th.

    Beyond our obvious passion for painting Keith... "We" ... are kindred spirits who are very much attuned to the Natural World... and the "Call of the Wild." May it long survive!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  11. That snow covered tree is my favorite... gorgeous!!!

  12. Thank "You" Marian for your gracious compliment. I must admit that your choice reflects my sentiments too!

    This tree was... and the final word is indeed "was"... a favourite of mine. I stopped often to paint... or just look at it. Its tenacity was a lesson in grace in and courage in aging... and thus received the title..."Embracing Winter... and Life".

    Due to the ambitious activity and ambition of Hydro One... this lovely American Beech no
    longer "is". This tree... well off the road... was chained sawed out of existence by work crews and a page wire fence now takes its place. Its needlessly unnatural passing still greatly disturbs and saddens "Me"!

    The upside is that the portrait mentioned lives on... in the hands of a respectful and loving couple who could not be without it. We had the privilege of being invited to a sumptuous dinner party at their home to see it en situ - it lives and my heart sings!!

    Thank "You" for responding Marian!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  13. Dear Bruce, I just saw this post today...I've been a bit distracted lately...and almost cried when you mentioned my part in inspiring your post of all these beautiful tree paintings! I am almost jealous of the way you have managed to paint snow...I have always found that a particularly difficult subject! I have placed trees in my pieces on occasion but now I am really feeling up for your tree painting challenge...I definitely want to participate. I am a tree hugger (literally!) from way back. My earliest memories of my Grandparents cottage in Lion's Head include waking every morning in the tiny room I slept in, the bed pushed against the wall and right next to the window, from which I could see the welcoming branches of the Cedar's tapping on the glass or the screen and the small wild canaries chirping to me. That is what I wanted to recreate in my life which was so urban and hectic for so long...and I have that here in BC. We walk in the forest on the mountain every morning, EARLY, and some mornings I am cranky and don't feel like getting out there quite yet and dealing with romping, pulling dogs, but once we are over the treacherous little walk/bridge over the roaring creek, or up higher by the thundering waterfalls, and I have caught my breath from the climb, eased my aching hip or knee or back, the peace returns, even if it's raining, cold, and a bit miserable:-) Geez...I have heaven here and I can't believe I still can be a crank sometimes!! Thanks for the wakeup call...also, saw a movie last night that everyone should see, especially children in the schools called Sharkwater ( The very air we breath is in danger due to the overkilling of sharks - trees and sharks share that in common - they balance the air we breath and hardly anyone in power is doing anything about it - it is up to the rest of us.

  14. Dear Karen.... Thank "You" so much for your interest and compliments re: my snow! Very much the same as your study and approach to capturing skin tone.

    It's all about truly going beyond the casual looking... to studying and "Seeing"... then painting.

    We often fail to see how strong the impact of our example and our presence can be on others who watch us in our daily lives... and are effected by our seemimgly "ordinary" lives.

    Furthermore... when "We" feel that all the world is wrong... and that we are alone... it is reassuring to discover... from complete strangers really... that our lives and our passions have meaning and purpose... and thata "We" have many who care about us!

    Blogging is a wonderfully positive vehicle to communicate support and friendship. I very much enjoy... and look forward to conversing and sharing ideas and feelings with people... particularly artists who live their lives as "I" try to... with Passion and Truth.

    I very much value our connection and find joy in discovering... more and more with each visit... that our lives often run parallel in many ways... despite the distance.

    Our early lives and cottage experiences are only one example of these overapping events in our separate lives. I used to lay in my brass bed at our cottage during summer thunderstorms safely buried deep in the feather tick mattress... listening to the white birch branches brushing the shingled roof. How safe and secure "I" felt... despite the howling sou'wester clawing to get in! Good memories!

    Glad that "You" have decided to participate in the Tree Challege! I very much look forward to seeing your Tree "Portraits from BC!

    "I" am happy that "You" have found the Peace and contentment so important to "You". Envy me? Don't be silly... "I" envy your kingdom with is ruggedness and quiet places! Just keep huggin... and caring Karen! "YOU" are an unusully wonderful spirit!

    Good Painting!
    Much Peace and warmest regards,

  15. Beautiful painting and a beautiful post to go along with it. :) I really love how you've painted the trees with so much color. Just beautiful.

    And I have one boy who is decidedly not a 'thumb monkey' he's nine years old and always has his nose in a book, of which I'm so dang proud. :)

    And I'm your 100th follower!! Woo hoo!

  16. Wonderful, wonderful paintings Bruce and writting. Trees have always been close to me and my soul. I remember always, the first time with my back pressed tight to a large grandmother tree, feeling her lifeforce surge through me. Trees are now and have always been my sanctuary.

    Trees are us and we are trees
    and forever will always be...


  17. Hi Crystal!.... Thank "You" for your visit... your uplifting comments and for becoming the 100th follower of this blog!

    Thumb monkies... book worms... "glow" .... (give pride) worms. Thank God they're different... and healthy! We are blessed to live in places where children can enjoy Freedom... grow up safely in relative Peace and prosperity!

    "We"... are GREATLY blessed.... aren't "We" Crystal?

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

    PS I'm heading over to view your site!

  18. Hi again Friend Jeffrey!... "Wonderful"... coming from "You" means a great deal to "Me"! I very much admire your Art...your thoughts... your ethic and your humanity!

    "We" share so many commonalities in our lives... both personally and artistically and our thinking despite the difference of current locations.

    It is comforting to know that when the world seems around you seems sad... that one is not alone! Thank "You" for your presents... presence... either noun works!HAHA!!!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  19. Hi Bruce,

    "Trees" has always been one of my favorite poems and I find it all the more touching as Joyce Kilmer was killed during WW1.

    I am surrounded by trees and I enjoy living in the woods. I love how they give shelter,food, and protection to the birds and other wildlife.
    It upsets me to see clear cut land and how people will remove trees from their property just because they do not want to rake leaves.

    They truly miss the beauty and what trees provide for us all.

    Great post Bruce.


  20. Hi there Sue!... Good to hear from "You" again! See... we share so many "intersections" in our journeys... yet have never physically met! How strange is life... eh?

    In preparing to write this post my researching revealed a couple of interesting facts that I never knew about Kilmer.

    Firstly... I had always erroneously assumed given the first name Joyce... that the poet was female. As "You" are likely aware... "She" was all the time... a "He" and was indeed one of the too many souls sacrificed in that first World War.

    Secondly... did you know that there is is a large Douglas Fir standing 219 feet tall at Lake Crescent in the Olympia National Park bearing his name... The Joyce Kilmer Tree?

    Franklin D Roosevelt was taken on a tour of this magnificent region during the 1930 Olympics... where several of the largest specimens were given names... in the hopes that it might sway Roosevelt towards creating this magnificent region as a National Park. It became so... The Olympic National Park and The Kilmer Tree is the last remaining member of these special trees.

    I have encountered such magnificence myself in British Columbia's old growth forests. Stay tuned for images to share that experience. That experience truly created within "Me" forevermore.. a real and lasting sense of "shock and awe"!

    Happy Thanksgiving Sue!
    Good painting!
    Warmest regards,

  21. Hi Bruce,

    I knew Joyce Kilmer was a he, but did not know a tree was named for him at the Olympic National Park. What an interesting fact. I visited the park about ten years ago just for a day and I was in awe of it's magnificence.

    I will stay tuned.


  22. Hi again Sue!... "We" learn from each other... when we're open to sharing! Thank "You" for sharing your experiences and ideas..."I" always look forward to our chats!

    Stay tuned for my visit to Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.... an awe-inspiring visit in my life!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards Sue,

  23. Bruce, these trees and your post are all extremely special! Thank-you for sharing them all with us all - such a "TREEat"!!!

  24. Hi Linny!... Thank your for your complimentary remarks!

    It is my pleasure to share my work and ideas with other talented and passionate painte such as your Self!

    Love that "TREEat" Linnyism! I'll have a Linny kind of image to share in my next post! "I" call mine "Intuitive Images." Stay tuned!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  25. I'm especially glad, then, that you captured that lovely tree while it still WAS.

    There was a tree I so enjoyed on my walk down the hill each day... A giant pine... just wonderfully old and huge and it smelled so good to walk past ..... The squirrels played in it and dropped pine nuts... all chewed up..

    I was so upset when they owners hired a company to come and chop it down... It isn't my tree... my land or anything... It's just that I enjoyed its existence... Like you did with your tree.

  26. Hi Tree Friend Marian!... Thank "You" for your visit and for sharing your personal tree tale with us!

    I am quite sure... that in the personal memory vault of every person... there lives the sweet memory of such tree Friends... as "You" and "I" have shared!

    As Christmas quickly approaches... try to imagine that festivity.... without a tree! And that is just the surface of our symbiotic relationship with the trees and plants of our Garden.

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,