April 26, 2018

Dancing Around the Tree of Life

Dancing Around the "Tree of Life"

Dancing Around the “Tree of Life”

How do life and art come together?  How do we live out the art of community?

This painting is TheTree of Life.  It is a gnarly cypress tree near the pier at the Village of St. Simons, Georgia.  It attracts children who climb in its whorled branches.  It looks like it has been there a thousand years.  It attracts me.  But it took something more that artistic curiosity for me to paint it in a way that mattered.  I had to live with it.

Courtney Jordan of Artist Daily wrote, “Each new process I discover heightens my awareness of art as a whole. The goal doesn’t have to be the composition or even the subject matter.”  Instead she says it is the physical, sensory act.  The human experience that transforms us.

I painted the Tree of Life in my studio hundreds of miles from that village pier, and several days before open-heart surgery.  I did not think about symbolism, I only knew I had to try to paint the tree one more time.  This time, without drawing, I laid down strokes of water to approximate the trunk and the canopy.  I mixed and poured pure watercolor, tilting the paper to lightly control the flow.  The tree appeared, red as a beating heart.  The yellow flames of the setting sun drew me toward the sea.

Art and life were intertwined in the place where the community stopped to climb, play, and to touch.  Art and life were intertwined and sacred. 

And now when life seems too short and mortality too real, I hold that tree and hold the community of love that dances around it. The experience of God in our midst.


  1. I love the color palette, the primary colors with the glowing yellow like a mystery fire behind the tree on a starless falling nigh.

  2. Thanks for sharing. . ..beautiful painting…beautiful words that I couldn’t agree more with!

  3. Sandra Hughes says:

    I learned so much from your story – details about how art retains its potency and pull even during life’s large challenges. Your painting retains a misty, almost mystical quality – even though the colors are hot and bright.

  4. McKenzie says:

    So evocative. You speak so richly of the connected life. Bless your strong and beating heart and the beauty you bring to the world both personally and professionally.

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