Nature is a moody Muse

"Northface" snow-coated Post oak drawn from life last winter through my soon-to-be-ex-studio window.

As an artist, my inspiration is and always has been nature: birds, trees, animals, the air, water, growth and decay. Lately, I’ve been asked if my relationship to nature has changed since The Event (as I am referring to it now), and it’s a good question.

Fierce beauty; "High Frontier, golden eagle", 22" x 30" mixed media on paper. Rescued from the storm, protected inside the sole-surviving piece of furniture: a sturdy wooden map case, it can be seen in "A Personal Nature", a three-person show with me, Carol Beesley and Alan Atkinson at JRB Art at the Elms gallery in OKC, opening tonight at 6.

Art isn’t necessarily inspired by beauty, and nature ain’t necessarily beautiful. What compels me is the wild and disordered end of the spectrum. A tree with twisted limbs is a grand dancer in slow motion (growth is motion and so is decomposition); a perfect flower needs a wilted petal to be interesting, an eagle is handsomer with a feather askew. Nature offers solace, contemplation, beauty and lethal force. In an era of human disconnect from the natural world, I’ve always thought the best way to reconnect with nature is to pick up a pencil and paper and draw it- draw anything. The purposeful act of sketching is the closest you can come to nature without eating it or being consumed yourself. This is the heart of my life with nature, a relationship now tempered and modified by The Event. The Muse and I have bonded in the most personal way imaginable.

I swear I heard angels singing when my sketchbooks were found. The roof was chainsawed and peeled back, and under the debris, there they were. Safe.
Eighty some-odd sketchbooks, spread out to dry
A hairdryer was helpful. Paper towels between the leaves kept the ink from running amok.
This painting was wrapped around a tree and crushed by a falling kitchen.
The ill-fated harpy eagle pastel. Might be possible to fix it. Maybe it's time to do a new one.

I’m reconnecting with the Muse, slowly and tenuously. With so much of my time and energy flying in so many directions and a head-full of daunting total life change-tasks, it’s too soon to sense what’s to come. Out of disaster comes reflection, healing, and, in time, the grand dance of growth.

In the meantime, an exciting 3 person exhibit, “A Personal Nature” is opening tonight at 6pm at the JRB Art at the Elms Gallery in Oklahoma City, with the work of Carol Beesley, Alan Atkinson and myself. It would be a thrill to have you there.

Drawing in the ruins, looking for beauty or closure, not sure which. Could only manage to do this one time. Photo by Timothy Ryan.
What I drew: the last tree standing. Is it my imagination, or is it waving goodbye, or maybe saying, "That's all, Folks"?

24 thoughts on “Nature is a moody Muse

  1. Ann says:

    Picture of you at the easel is amazing. Thanks for sharing this. I am so sorry I can’t wing my way to your show, but looking forward to seeing you here in the fall.

  2. Stefanie Graves says:

    I’ve been following your Event through postings here and Julie Zick’s blog, and as a fellow artist, my heart wrenches with seeing your life’s work thrown into this abyss. I’m so glad that you were able to find and save as much as you did. Still….. Good luck with your show, and many more to come.

  3. Corienne Cotter says:

    Thanks for sharing, Debby. We feel the emotion. Have a wonderful, successful show. We’ll be thinking of you.

  4. Stacy says:

    I can not imagine the strength it takes to report on this Event. Your words and pictures make me feel like I am experiencing it in part with you. When I saw the devastation in your posts, I was sad that the world would miss out on the art you lost. I am glad that some of it has survived. I hope you are also finding other cherished items and that they somehow managed to survive intact. I am sending you wishes for healing and a return to happiness. Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. Vickie says:

    Loss and finding the path and strength to recover is part of the soul’s journey. Ann Lindsay calls art, “the voice of the soul”. For me it, also, it brings challenge, intimacy, healing and joy. A beautiful post, Debbie. You’re an inspiration to us all.

  6. Ken Januski says:

    Happy to hear that all of your sketchbooks were found. and happy as well to see you working at your easel. In some ways I find it the strongest photo of all the ones about The Event. I guess it shows you getting back to what you love and moving onward.

    I hope that in a years time or two or three you’ll be able to look back and find some good in all of this.

    Best wishes.

  7. Stan Cotter says:

    Your magnificent golden eagle reminded me of the legend of the phoenix bird that arose from its ashes to become a symbol of resurrection. May this be a sign of your own return to creativity. Love, Dad

  8. Wren says:

    Vicki, you’re showing remarkable resilience. Love Tim’s photo, but can’t imagine the pain of sitting there, doing that. However the event changes you and your art, your talent remains and I will look forward one day to seeing it in person, not just on the blog.

  9. Deepa says:

    I really look forward to seeing your art more so, now, as I have had another glimpse of the person I knew to be a great artist. This side shows me a fighter, patient, ready to move on. I salute all of you people for the strength you are showing. Thanks for showing life as another piece of artwork. Good luck.

    With love

  10. Sara in Michigan says:

    I see “The Last Tree” waving goodbye, perhaps like the cast of a long running, wonderful play after the last performance. The show is put to bed with regrets but then the mind begins turning to the next creative adventure.

  11. zeladoniac says:

    You all have no idea how much your notes mean to me; I read each one with tears in my eyes. Thank you all for your insights and kind words…”the cast of a long running, wonderful play after the last performance” sums it up perfectly.

  12. Ken says:

    As a guy that has 40 sketchbooks in a sloppy stack on a shelf by the window… I find your story especially compelling!
    I have prints of sketches that have hung on my office wall as inspiration, and yours are among them!
    All the best.

  13. Linda says:

    I haven’t been on your blog in a while and was stunned to see your post about the tornado damage. That you found your sketchbooks, held fast under the roof, is nothing short of a miracle. I wish you all the best in your recovery and rebuilding–in whatever you do to rise from this disaster and keep you beautiful artwork alive. Your work has always been an inspiration to me, a very amateur bird artist.

  14. Carol says:

    Just checking in to see how you are doing in rebuilding your life and art. My thoughts are with you on many days – I so enjoy your work!

  15. Katherine says:

    Debbie – Sometimes we can be a bit slow to miss somebody. Which is why I’m turning up on your blog in November to say I’m so sorry to hear about your experiences back in May.

    I welled up when I saw you had got your sketchbooks back even if they might be a little damp.

    I’ve done a couple of posts about you and your sketchbooks and drawing in the rainforest on my blogs this week (posting later today and tomorrow).

    I really hope to see you blogging again sometime soon. Which I guess will be right after you get yourselves sorted from this awful experience. I imagine you’ve had rather a lot to deal with – never mind the getting to rips with the emotional trauma of it all.

    I’ve always admired your work – and would love to see it again sometime soon.

  16. Larry Jordan says:

    This is a truly inspirational post Debby. You are obviously the type of person that can make it through anything. The Muse has taken you under her wing and saved your work for a reason. You are a blessed artist and I know you have much more art within you to share with the world.

    I love your Golden Eagle. If it were possible for me to make it to your show, I would have gotten there to see that piece alone.

    Tim’s photo of you at work shows your resilience and lets us know we will see much more from you.

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