Chris Muhl Art © 2018

The Blog

As another year comes to a close, I find myself reflecting upon my journey through the days, weeks, and months of 2017. As with every year, this was a period of growth, with successes and failures along the way.

The eighteenth-century poet, Alexander Pope said, “To err is human…” Error is a part of everyday life. Trial and error is the pathway to growth and success. However, reaching our true potential in work, and life, and love, requires a good deal of introspection, and an honest evaluation of the causes and effects of our actions. Socrates once said, the unexamined life is not worth living. I believe that the most significant personal growth arises from an examination of our errors, shortcomings, and failures, and the determination to learn from them.

I want to give an example from my own life to illustrate this point. In 2017, I moved to Oregon. The move has allowed me to spend considerable time with my brother. He is 17 years old, and I am 35. I initially thought I would be the one sharing knowledge and wisdom for his personal growth. But as the months have passed, I have found that he has taught me more lessons than I could have ever imagined.

Just recently, we attended a dinner party. The event presented the opportunity to watch my brother perform a few songs on his guitar, and to meet new people. Of the skills that I do not possess, socializing and mingling are certainly among them. So, I soon found myself walking aimlessly around, drink in hand, munching on snacks, and talking only briefly to an acquaintance here and there. With time, I joined the ranks of those men and women that just stand against the wall, sip a cocktail, and watch the dancers on the dance floor. My brother was one of those dancers. As the songs changed, and the people came and went, his dance continued on. For a time, he was the only one on the dance floor, yet he carried on with not a care in the world.

“As I watched him, an old quote came to mind, “Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth.”

And so, I put down the drink, strolled onto the floor, and danced alongside him until the evening’s end. From the dance floor, I looked back to the onlookers, standing alone, drinks in hand, and was amused to think that just a moment ago, I was one of them.

Well, right there and then, I was reminded that the quality of our lives, and the condition of our surrounding environment, are shaped by the choices that we make, and the effort we take to effect change.

Thoreau once said, “It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man [and woman] is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.”

As the new year approaches, I think about my resolutions. How can I “carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which I look” to affect the quality of the day, not only for myself, but for the people around me, and for the natural world to which I am so deeply indebted?

I hear the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

New years resolutions are all about actions. We reflect on the experiences of our past, and resolve to take steps that foster the change that we want to see in our lives.

While change is not always easy to achieve, we can take comfort in knowing that baby steps, and tiny steps, and little steps, and small steps all, over time, can amount to great change.

For 2018, my resolutions include making consumer choices that reduce my ecological footprint, donating monthly to causes that are important to me, embracing new acquaintances with an open heart, and dancing and singing like no one is watching.

To conclude this post, I want to share with you the words of Eleanor Powell, “what we are is God’s gift to us, what we become is our gift to God.” For the evolutionists, the atheists, the agnostics, and so on, I believe these words can be rephrased as, “what we are is the world’s gift to us, what we become is our gift to the world.”

Happy new year to everyone!

Also, here are a few pics of my current drawing. I’m happy to say, it’s nearly completed. The original and prints will be for sale. A portion of each sale will be donated to an organization(s) supporting the rights of indigenous tribal people and/or organizations supporting ecological farming. I am still researching this, but Survival International will likely be a recipient of donations.

Happy holidays!

It’s been a while since I posted an update. Here’s the latest on my end.

The elephant drawing is coming along, but progress is slow. The detail that I want to achieve takes a long time to lay down. I’ve decided to mix in a series of smaller art projects along the way.

I plan on doing a number of small drawings and paintings to promote simple living. This artwork is a tribute to the people on our planet whom live more sustainable lives than we generally do here in the U.S.

The title of this project is, Rich Simplicity: An Illustrative Journey Among Sustainable Lifestyles.

The first drawing is of an Argentine gaucho named Moreira. The photograph was captured by Ezequiel Casares, an Argentine friend of mine, while on a trip to visit his family in Patagonia. Ezequiel is an incredible cinematographer, and one of the best photographers I’ve ever met. I am so lucky to have his permission to use his photograph for this artwork.

If you would like to learn more about this project, and why I feel the purpose of the artwork is important, please visit the project page for The World Until Yesterday.

Happy holidays! I hope everyone is well!

Here’s a quick peak at the artwork in progress.


A few months ago, I started dreaming up an idea for a vintage-style art/drafting stool. The idea was to use mostly reclaimed material, and produce a stylish stool, designed for artists, and sturdy enough to last for generations.

Along the way, I created the Not So Sexy Art Chair, as part of my exploration into the utility of a chair designed specifically for artists. This unimpressive, quirky invention, has served its purpose very well, and helped to guide the development of a higher-quality solution.

The final product is the Pump Stool. It’s comprised of a vintage Singer sewing stool, an antique water pump handle (hence the name), a wooden backrest, a hand-forged beam brace, four steel links, and two springs.

If you would like to see how the project came together, check out the short video! Or you can read about the Pump Stool project on the Design page.

Prior to the Drawings for Africa project, I had never attempted to create big artwork. It seems that every week I encounter a challenge, or a small problem in need of a solution.

After spending countless hours standing on a stool, and reaching up and down, and side to side, I got to thinking, there must be an easier way to do this.

I present to you, The Not So Sexy Art Chair.

This modern marvel is the perfect solution for any artist crazy enough to attempt to draw every wrinkle of an elephant’s skin on a 4 ft. x 6 ft. sheet of paper.

The Not So Sexy Art Chair wobbles, it’s crooked, and it completely voids the warranty of the original chair from which it began its life. However, it serves its purpose exceptionally well.

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from the challenges of doing big art, The Not So Sexy Art Chair could be the perfect solution.

Do not attempt to use The Not So Sexy Art Chair if you are prone to motion sickness, suffer from a balance disorder, or are otherwise clumsy.

To learn more, please watch the following video.

And feel free to share this information.

Thanks for reading and watching!

Honoring the Victims

When will we collectively come to agree that something is seriously wrong with our society? What does it take for us to come together to stand up against the ills of our ideologies?

I’m tired of seeing and hearing the pathetic displays of grief and morning enacted by politicians to give the illusion of sympathy. Actions always speak louder than words. If we are to protect life and the pursuit of happiness, we must support politicians that defend policies that define liberty in a way that truly values the well-being of each human life.

Prevention vs. Cure

In honor of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting on October 1st, I want to share a poem by Joseph Malins. The poem, “The ambulance down in the Valley,” eloquently addresses the difference between prevention and cure. I share it with you as food for thought. And if you have already read it, perhaps this can be a moment to reflect upon its meaning, and its application to our society today.

If you’re not keen on reading, or would just simply prefer to hear John Denver recite it, here’s a link to his 1982 performance at the Apollo Theater, where he recites it to the crowd. In the video, the poem begins at 3:25.

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.

“For the cliff is all right, if you’re careful,” they said,
“And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they’re stopping.”
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would those rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he,
“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”

“Oh he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined,
“Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?”

But the sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best
To prevent other people from falling.”
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.’

Drawings for Africa: October Update

Hi everyone! Here’s an update for the Drawings for Africa project.

Due to work, and other smaller tasks related to the project, the progress has been a little slower than expected, but I’m excited to say, it’s coming along well, and the process is speeding up!

Here’s a short clip from this morning. Sorry about the video shake. The camera is attached to the easel, and when the video speed is increased considerable, the shake becomes pretty bad. I’ll fix this issue in future video updates.

I hope everyone is well, and thanks for tuning in!

Hi everyone! I have had a few comments on the large easel that I created for the Drawings for Africa project. So, I thought I would provide an update highlighting some of the features. If you would like to see how the easel was built, please see my earlier post, Building a Big Easel!

As the first elephant drawing evolves, I have been adding new features to ease the drawing process and to enable better documenting of the journey.

I’ve added lights, a magnifying glass, and an adjustable camera mounting system.

If you are interested, check out the video! Perhaps it will provide you with ideas for your own projects.

If you have thoughts or suggestions, please feel free to comment.

New capital of the U.S. ivory trade: Washington, D.C.?

Washington, D.C. appears to be the new hub of the country’s ivory trade, according to a report released Wednesday.

For those of you following my blog, I want to share with you this post from Conservation International (CI). To go directly to the article, please click here, or see the link at the bottom of this post.

If you have heard about poaching in the news recently, you have most likely noticed that most articles point to Asia as the primary source of demand for ivory. China, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are often noted as key markets.1 However, many people are not aware that the U.S. is also a key player, with the second largest market after china.2

U.S. ivory imports were outlawed in 1990, when a ban established by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1989 went into effect. However, the CITES ban did little to reduce illicit ivory imports, and distinguishing between sanctioned and illicit ivory is nearly impossible.3 Consequently, the ivory market in the United States has flourished. In recent years, some states, notably California, Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, New jersey, New York, and Washington have introduced laws banning ivory sales. In response, ivory sellers have moved their inventories to states with no trade regulations, including Washington, D.C, Virginia, and Maryland.4

In an effort to save elephants and reduce illicit ivory imports, the Obama Administration introduced a new, “near-total” ban on domestic ivory sales on July 6th, 2016.5 This ban is intended to prevent the masquerading of illicit ivory as sanctioned ivory. Time will tell whether these new measures will prove effective in reducing illegal ivory imports.

You can help save elephants by spreading the word about ivory and poaching, signing petitions, and writing letters to lawmakers in support of ivory bans. And most importantly, never buy ivory! To keep up on the status of African elephants, check out the IUCN Red list. Click here to support the IUCN’s 2020 species assessment goal.

via New capital of the U.S. ivory trade: Washington, D.C.? — Human Nature – Conservation International Blog

1 Strauss, Mark. “Who Buys Ivory? You’d Be Surprised.” National Geographic, Accessed 25 August 2017.

2 Smith, Jada F. “U.S. Bans Commercial Trade of African Elephant Ivory.” The New York Times, Accessed 25 August 2017.

3 Arnold, Chris. “New U.S. Ban On Ivory Sales To Protect Elephants.” National Public Radio, Accessed 25 August 2017.

4 Bale, Rachael. “Why D.C. Is the New Hub for U.S. Ivory Sales.” National Geographic, Accessed 25 August 2017.

5 “Ivory Ban Q&As.” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Accessed 25 August 2017.

An Artist’s Website

After three days of design, coding (sort of), and content creation, my WordPress website/blog is up and running. WordPress makes it pretty easy, though knowledge of HTML and CSS is helpful.

I’ve looked at dozens of artist’s websites to see what the trends are. I deviated from the norm a bit, opting to place emphasis on the blog, and my current project, Drawings for Africa, instead of a gallery of work, as other artist’s tend to do.

I’ve tried to keep things simple. The blog will be the most dynamic part of the site, with updates, videos and pictures, and highlights of other enjoyable moments posted every week or two.

The purpose for this website is twofold, 1) to convey the story of my artwork, and 2) to provide a way for me to share news and information on environmental problems. I hope that my posts will serve as food for thought.

If you have any ideas or suggestions to improve this site, please feel free to comment.

What the heck am I going to draw on?! This easel needs to be BIG!! After a quick bout of research on Google Images, I opted to build a large version of the classic table easel.

Using wood and metal fasteners, I built a sturdy, albeit cumbersome, easel.

For the drawing surface, I acquired a large Plexiglass Acrylic Sheet. This makes for a perfectly smooth surface. Although, I’ve discovered that, on hot days, the Acrylic expands, resulting in a slightly undulating surface. This is remedied with the addition of more screws around the perimeter of the Acrylic sheet. Alternatively, drilling holes ~2-3 times larger than the diameter of the screw, and using large washers, would keep the sheet fastened to the frame, while allowing it to expand without bowing.

Given the severity of plastic related pollution in our oceans and waterways,
I was hesitant to buy a large piece of Plexiglass. In my own life, I try to minimize plastic usage, opting for reusable and easily recycled options such as stainless steel, glass, fabric, and just about any alternative I can think of. However, Plexiglass has its advantages in this situation, and I will be using this easel for many years. Should any damage occur to the surface, I will reuse the Plexiglass in other applications around my home. If I ever need to dispose of it, I will seek out a facility capable of recycling it properly.

I chose a 50″ x 10 yd roll of Stonehenge 90 lb, acid-free, fine art paper. To get the paper on the easel, the roll is placed on a roll holder at the top, pulled down over the easel surface, and taped in place.

Watch the video to see how it came together. If you have questions or suggestions, please feel free to comment.