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Thoughts & Notes

On the subjects I paint

Creative Inspiration Found in the Natural World

Thinking & Exploring Life Through the Making of Art

Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails : Traveling Life with Art in Mind

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Creative Inspiration Found in the Natural World

Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails. Fissure & Fern, Volcano National Park. Series: Along the Trail. Trails in Volcano National Park are scenic and beautiful. There are many natural geological landforms where plants take root and grow on the flanks of the volcano.

This Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails is a distillation, much like the work it describes. It is a collection of impressions. I’m traveling this life with a toolbox for artmaking. This life is a complex trail; there is sadness and inspiration. Along the Trail I’ve created a visual documentation of my encounters with both the Ecosphere and with the limits of self.

Fissure & Fern, Volcano National Park

I travel with art, in life and in mind. It leads along a complex trail towards many an unseen, harbor. I think it a given, that all journeys pose some challenges. During those times, choices and paths can be unclear. Surprising twists and turns, forks and branches appear along the way.

If you’re like me, I believe I have the ability to see clearly more days than not. On others, I know it can be quite dark and cloudy. The paths I’ve walked both physically and emotionally, are the inspiration for the artworks in ‘Along the Trail’. These pieces celebrate the lifeforms I’ve encountered. They celebrate the feelings and imaginings those adventures and encounters have fertilized. This Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails, both records and examines some of my encounters in a written form.

“And I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused, whose dwelling is the light of the setting suns, and the round ocean and the living air, and the blue sky, and the mind of man; a motion and a spirit, that impress all thinking things, all objects of all thought, and rolls through all things.”

William Wordsworth

Journal Entry: Pointillist Trails

Along the Trail

There are easy paths to walk, but trails through this ecosphere are not always easy. They do not have to be smooth, paved or clearly marked. Some paths we take shortly lead to awards and others are long, and arduous. At high altitudes the air can be thin, and hard to breath. The sun can often be punishing.

Notwithstanding, I’ve hiked many beautiful and scenic places. I have found, a rush towards the end hampers my ability to fully look, and observe. It is easy to miss the fertile grounds of metaphor.

To be sure life is not easy. Many of us lack clear paths that lead to well-defined choices. In a hostile world, life eats life. Art is the beginning of a trailhead that has led me through trying times. Daily, our lives require us to make choices and choose directions. In all its many forms, art can assist.

Do you know what it is you seek in this life? What is your heart’s desire? I know how I would like to live, and better, thrive. For all that, the decisions and paths I’ve taken have not always work out the way I’ve hoped or imagined. They have not lead to what I thought was my heart’s desire.

Speak to Me

Ocean shores, mountain peaks, cool grassy meadows, trees, rivers, rocks and wildlife all speak a language far older than words. An ancient tongue, it is a language that predates homosapiens. We face a difficult challenge. Instead of talking, we must learn to listen. I believe, self-awareness and the awareness of both others, and other lifeforms, is crucial.

The trails we’ve forged through parks and wilderness areas have definite destinations. And usually trail markers along the way. Life is the same only if you consider death. We know we face an end, but we have no guarantee as to length. And as far as directions and destinations, uncertainty, has often been the only roadmap I’ve had in hand.

These days, I try and remember to walk with awareness to the present moment. The river of life does rush on, however, and so do our days. This Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails explores my efforts at finding equilibrium in this rush, in my art, and in my life.

“The meaning of life is it ends.”

Franz Kafka
Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails. Caldera Sky. Series: Water & Sky. A view of the skyline and cloud formations from a trail in Volcano National Park.

Climate change is inevitable. Both of natural causes and environmental degradation. Homosapiens have exploited the land and other lifeforms to the point of breaking. It is unavoidable, the extinction of species. Soon, we may be among them. Science seems to be telling us, that it is more important than ever, we learn how to see and mitigate the footprint we leave in world.

Caldera Sky, Volcano National Park

Life & Culture

A Spiritual Landscape

“It has been said that people of the modern world suffer a great sadness, a ‘species loneliness’ – estrangement from the rest of creation. We have built this isolation with our fear, with our arrogance, and with our homes brightly lit against the night.”

Robin Wall Kimmerer; Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

I believe we must commune with the natural world, with the ecosphere. Unfortunately, the ecosphere is primarily framed in a philosophy dictated by resource exploitation. As human beings, we have spent too much time in search of what stood to be gain from the biosphere. It is more often approached as if we hold the power. True, we can move mountains, but true power lies much, much deeper.

“Culture has long been understood to be a fluid, artificial complex, the result of a range of interdependent forces – social, political, economic, and more. For enormous stretches of human history, the contingency of civilization and in particular its cultural products, was read in contradiction to the supposed integral essentialism of the natural world.”

Jeffrey Kastner, Art in the Age of the Anthropocene (Nature: Documents Of Contemporary Art)

Psyche …

And Soul

Stories are etched by time and history into our psyches. I can think of many stories to share. One such tale, involves that of the European settler. Through diaspora, disease spread out from the continent and across the globe. As the inhabitants of the newly discovered continents died, that same settler began to rewrite the story of this brave new world.

Manifest destiny has bloody hands. It is a story of the displaced and the conquered. It’s guise has been stripped, and in the challenge of disease, guns and killing, the renaming of mountains, rivers and natural features, the new history remains incomplete because it ignores the truth.

“Maybe it’s not necessary to pray to anyone. The early desert mothers said that God is without form, color, or content. Perhaps prayer isn’t a matter of praying to anyone. Perhaps it’s an active way of giving up. Maybe that’s precisely what you need: to give up, without going under.”

Peter Hoeg, The Quiet Girl

We face an onslaught of political indifference and outrage. Twin forces hostile to one another. The landscape beneath our feet records a narrative belonging to no one group. But, it is important that none be left out. Inclusion, may be our salvation. Many of the stories told by those who have come before, illustrate this.

What role do we all play in the Native American experience? In the erasing of their stories, myths and traditions from our natiuonal consciousness? Their stories are remembered, mine are remembered, as I write this Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails.


In Mind

I believe the ecosphere is a palimpsest. On it is writ, a story of many people, cultures and species. This manuscript can’t be erased. There have been many attempts, but the past is unforgotten.

As a concept, a palimpsest is fascinating. I search for ways the concept relates to my work as an artist. A palimpsest is, by definition “a manuscript on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing, but where traces remain.”

I have canvases in my studio that, like a palimpset, have more than one painting on them. There are few finished works where the underlying inspiration doesn’t include some words, or deeds of others. I stay open to their appearance. The subjects themselves, or their erasure, will often shed light and insight. I think this is true for all of us, anytime we engage with art. Both for the artist and the viewer alike.

This doesn’t have to be clearly stated by the subjects I paint. Hidden meaning and subtext don’t eclipse the form. I know the initial motivation that led me to choose a subject might not be the energy that drives me to completion. The waters of reason sometimes remain murky, so I write about my art in order to gain insight through self-scrutiny. This Journal Entry: Pointillist Trails is part of a larger inquiry spread across the pages of this website.

Embrace the Biosphere

See the Artist Who Sees the Land

Artists are often approached and understood only by way of their work. But a painting or body of artwork is not the sum-total of my life experiences. It is revealing, yes. But the totality is not there. There are many layers and complexities behind the visible. Some are deep within me and may never see the light of day, no matter how hard I try.

Art is expressive and can happen in creative floods. Life experiences and years of effort are both building blocks in successful art making. The days of our lives add emotional depth, and effort refines the artist’s skillset. I think this is true across the arts. I hope never to reach a point where I think I know it all.

Historical records often document truths that are not obviously evident in an artis’s work at first glance. Without these records, we can easily be blinded by our own set of visual lenses, built from our unique personal experiences. This too, can offer illumination into self, as well as our individual, or collective thinking processes.

“A purely profit-oriented thought process is incompatible with healthy environments, healthy resources, good strong communities, the nuclear family. We need to rebuild economic inefficiency.”

Carl Safina: Song for the Blue Ocean
Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails. Reflections in Queen's Park. Series: Along the Trail. Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens is a 24.14-acre park with Japanese gardens, located on Banyan Drive in Hilo on the island of Hawaiʻi. Pointillist painting of tree and bridge on pond.

I have walked in the face of what I see as … the magnificent. Its depth, breadth and beauty never cease to amaze me.

Reflections in the Queen’s Park

I see around all of us, widespread evidence of depleted forests, soils and waters. Their vibrancy and the life they supported gone or nearly destroyed. There are few things as ugly as a clear-cut forest; or as painful to see.

As I’ve worked on the words wrapping around the art for this Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails, I’ve skirted devastation. Both personal and external. The human being, as well as nature, is being ground against the wheel of technological progress. Ask yourself, does it make you sharper or does it somehow dull our senses?

Lead and arsenic can stay in the soil for 9000 years. It is a far longer time than any one of us will live. Heavy metals accumulate in the roots and leaves of the plants we consume.  

Do you hesitate, with good reason, at drinking water from a clear mountain stream? Are you aware of the pollution and poisons poured on the land that may have contaminated it? What about the ones in your food supply?

Chemicals race lively down streams, dance on volatile winds, poison the rivers, oceans and soils of this planet. Many occur in the world naturally. It is through extraction, refinement and use that a problem exists.

Life Essential

Does despair rule your day? Is your hope enough to weather the climate of crises? Acid rains continue to fall as you think. There are rivers where the salmon will never return no matter our efforts. Each day more is nearing extinction. Our faiths sometimes call us stewards of the land. Instead, we seem content to suffocate in silt and landslide. Trajedy can often be avoided. But only if we see it and act.

The waters are rising. The air is toxic. Clear-cut treeless hillsides grow by the football field. If there is life and hope to be found in art, it is my desire it be found here. These words, both bright, clear and dark are a glimpse at the thoughts and feelings that govern my creative path.

Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails. Series: Flowers. Pointillist painting of Dendrobium Orchid. Orchids are common along the footpaths and trails in the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden. The gardens are a nonprofit botanical garden and nature preserve located on the 4 mile scenic route off of Route 19 at 27-717 Old Māmalahoa Highway, Pāpa'ikou, Hawaii, Hawaii.

Walking in wilderness, in harmony with the essence of the land is still possible.

Orchid 1

When I walk in the wilderness, I often feel as if I come closer to understanding the truth of our actions and our world. Something that exists below the projected diorama. It is old, I know this much. I feel it in the ancient trees and the rocks. The land’s very essence has not been unwritten; it is a palimpsest. I am exploring its rich text in this Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails.

Transforming the World

Money & Time

Money has a liquefying power. It can transform what is, into what wasn’t. The need to profit has fueled horrific crimes against nature and being. What blind eye do I turn in order to live at peace in this society? Is it possible to do so?

If change comes at the cost of ease, comfort and progress, how large a cost are we all willing to pay? I feel as if I am looking at some large mathematical equation, spread out across an immense blackboard. I know greater minds than mine are needed to solve it. Still, I am fascinated by the very marks that make up its structure. Even there, there is an art to be found.

We are one part of a big equation. A number among numbers. But numbers are frequently reduced. Ask the Indigenous peoples who once widely inhabited the lands ahead of the European settler.

There is nothing stopping us from heading into extinction save our own actions. Even then, it may not be enough. But, we can try. Ask yourself, what marks would you want left in your wake? In understanding this you might find, as I have, some perspective.

“It is like when watching the sun going down gloriously at sunset, disappearing slowly behind distant clouds, we suddenly remember that it’s not the sun that’s moving but the earth that’s spinning, and we see with the unhinged eye of our mind our entire planet – and ourselves with it – rotating backward, away from the sun.”

Carlo Rovelli

There is a lot of joy in this world, and certainly we need to celebrate. Doom and gloom are powerful agents in the destruction of forward movement. I am not offering any easy answers. I don’t always know all the questions that need asked.

I have learned to thread my way through propaganda. And, there is a lot of it in the world. It comes in many stripes. Buy organics, use reusable bags, recycle, plant gardens, go green, save the planet, prosper, profit and consume. We hear these and many more. Determining the good from the bad can be like drawing a line in the sand at the shoreline. What winds, waves and times will erase it?

Is action needed on a scale so large our minds balk at the size of it? Do you find yourself reaching for a psychic Band-Aid? I sometimes do. I have days when retreating to the studio is my only salvation.

Writing, making art shrinks some of what I perceive down, just a bit. My studio is always filled with traces of the wilderness. In this space, I am able to grapple with ‘larger-than-life’ issues without feeling completely overwhelmed. If you relate to this, I hope this Journal Entry: Pointillism Trails, connects you to some small part of what I’ve found, and leads you to a space of your own.

Along the Trail


Places are stories for the Aboriginal People of Australia. They have long written a palimpsest on the land. The essense of who they are as a people are transmitted in their stories. These stories have been called ‘songlines’. It is beautiful and poetic. They are reminders, that to settle a place, is more than building houses and plowing fields. It is in our stories, that we find home.

Too few, remaining years, will be measured by my lifespan. I know this, although I cannot say I rest easily with that day yet to dawn. As I grow older, my health has slipped, and the ground seems to grow less stable. Time has begun to move quicker.

The flowing of ancient rivers and waters, the breathe held in the sky are not birthrights for us alone. As custodians we could have done better. Unseen, geological time stretches ahead of us, as much as behind. It will bear final witness to all that we are now and may, yet become.

“If we are fully awake, a moral question arises as we extinguish the other lives around us on behalf of our own.”

Robin Wall Kimmerer: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

There is inspiration in the art of the Aboriginal peoples. My method of telling a story on canvas uses similar mark-making techniques. There is similarity, but not a copying of technique. But, visual story telling is important to me.

I painting by use of the dot. And through artmaking and the written word, I seek greater clarity in my ways of thinking and perceiving the world. It is part of a story that is very personal. It all amounts to the story of my life.

A Poet’s Thoughts

There exists in me a great doubt, that humanity can exist in a barren wasteland. The media and artforms, however, are filled with fiction on how we may do it. It has bred a cottage industry in the field of survivalism. It seems improbable self-destruction will ultimately be the choice we make. However, do we always let logic dictate our actions?

As I’ve stated, I don’t have the answers. I can, however, see a clear and present danger. The last thing I want is for my paintings to have been some type of farewell, to planet earth. My work has always been a sacred place for me wander.

I find some inspiration in these words, by the 17th century poet Basho, who wrote in The Narrow Road to the Interior :

“The moon and sun are eternal travelers. Even the years wander on. A lifetime adrift in a boat, or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is a home. From earliest times there have always been some who perished along the road. Still, I have always been drawn by windblown clouds into a lifetime of wandering.”   

– Matsuo Basho; Trans: Sam Hamill


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