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Inspired by Aspens

In August, I traveled to Telluride, CO for a four-day class with Rebecca Crowell at the Ah Haa School for the Arts. Rebecca is an insightful painter of atmospheric abstract works inspired by her experiences in nature. She works primarily in oil and cold wax–my own preferred medium–and it was a privilege to work with her in person, after my many Facebook Live sessions in Cold Wax Academy, an online membership program co-taught by Rebecca and her business partner, artist Jerry McLaughlin.

The week focused on the principles of meaningful abstraction. During my rambles in Telluride, a hyper-gentrified resort town with a mining past, I was struck by the beauty of the region’s aspen trees. Their stark white bark, hyphenated by dark gray lenticels and studded with dark, eye-like marks, invites contemplation. The beautifully eerie “eyes” are the result of aspens’ tendency to self-prune their lower, more shaded branches to favor higher limbs. This behavior results in greater photosynthesis and growth above. Aspens can grow to 80 feet and possess a uniquely clonal root system. In unscientific terms, a stand of aspens is actually the root system and suckering activity of a single organism. In fact, the Pando aspen clone in Utah, which spans 100 acres and some 47,000 stems, is thought to be both the largest, and the oldest, organism on Earth. (Its ecology, along with that of aspens elsewhere, is threatened by a variety of human-made impacts.)

Viewing and researching aspens during my week in Telluride deeply inspired my abstract painting there. I made 28 7” x 5” paintings and three 16” x 12” pieces, all in oil and cold wax on Arches oil paper. You can view some of these paintings in my Small Works and Paintings galleries or by studio appointment. Additional paintings in this series will be added in the coming weeks.


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