© 2021 Chris Muhl Art. All rights reserved.

The Blog

Hello everyone!

It has been a little more than a year and half, and the finish line for DFA #1 is finally in sight. It’s hard for me to believe that so much time has past.

The hardest parts of the drawing have been completed, and the final portion is moving along fairly quickly. Within a few weeks I’ll be into the final touches, which involve finishing shadows and highlights, and accentuating or fading prominent wrinkles and other features.

I have said it before, but this project has been a test of will and patience for me. I’ve had to step away constantly to travel for work, and diving back into the project has been difficult at times. It hasn’t been easy to sit and draw tens of thousands of tiny points, lines, and polygons on a sheet of paper, while beautiful days ripe for adventure pass by hardly noticed, but work we must, and ideally in pursuits of passion.

As the drawing phase comes to a close, I’ll be moving into a multimedia design phase (I’ll elaborate in a future post), scanning/printing, framing, art promotion, and lastly (fingers crossed) artwork sale, and charitable donations.

I have no idea how this artwork will be embraced by the art world. The value of art is so subjective. A red dot on a canvas can sell for millions and grace the walls of the world’s finest art institutions, while works of great toil and complexity can pass through the art world entirely unnoticed. It reminds me of the Stephen Jay Gould quote, “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” Too many fine artists have passed on from this world unnoticed, but if their life’s toils were meaningful to them, so be it.

The Inherent Value of Art

Many people believe that art offers no necessary function, and therefore cannot be definitely valued. For some works, I believe this is true. However, there are many works of art that I believe do provide a necessary function, and there value is inherent. The art world is filled with theories for why an artwork should be valued. Many of these theories are obscur, or open to interpretation, which is why there is so much debate. I believe an artwork is of great value if it can stimulate the emotions of the audience. This is the practical value of artwork, and I think this is less debatable.

All forms of art have the power to educate, to enlighten, and to empower. Humans are certainly not emotionless robots acting only in practical manners. Humans are emotional creatures, and our emotions drive our actions. An artwork holds inherent worth if it speaks to the emotions of an audience. If a work can inspire people to act good, to be kind, to care for the world around them, then it is of great value. The words of a book, can reach the eyes and minds of millions of people through mass publication and distribution. If held in a public place, a drawing or painting can do the same, as millions of museum visitors stand before the piece and feel its message.

Today, we see a natural world in peril. The condition of our planet is suffering. Overpopulation, pollution, climate change, and mass extinction events threaten the integrity of our fragile planet. Never has there been a more critical time to inspire people to act for the common good. This is the hour in which art can provide its most valuable service.

What value does my own artwork have?

In responding to this question, I’ll start with a passage from the film Good Will Hunting.

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell.”

Vicarious, Sensory Stimulation

How do you tell a story, or draw a picture that conveys the magnificence of real life? How do you capture the essence of nature’s perfection in an artwork? What is it in wild places or in wild creations that enrapture us, that fill us with a sense of awe, and awakens our deepest and truest capacity for appreciation? Beauty is not defined, it is beheld. But the nature of our world is such that the vast majority of its beauty will never be beheld by the vast majority of its human inhabitants. So it is, that the critical connection between humans and nature, required to inspire people to act to protect nature, will be upheld through a medium such as film, books, pictures, paintings, drawings, and other works of art.

Drawings for Africa #1 is my attempt to harness, not the image of an animal, but the essence of his being. I don’t want the audience to see simply a picture of an elephant. Rather, I want them to feel the grandeur of his existence. I want them to see what words cannot describe. I want a child who has never seen an elephant to stand before this work and feel the explosion of wonder that befalls anyone who stands before these sensational creatures. I want all people to know what we stand to lose if we do not stand to protect and preserve.

Experiencing Through the Artist

Oscar Wilde wrote, “every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.”

If this drawing is in any way a depiction of me, I hope the audience sees within it what I see in the magnificence of nature. I hope they see a toil of passion and a product of a mind willing to sacrifice time for a cause of deep meaning to the heart. I believe few people will ever take the time to draw an animal at this size and detail. In this respect it is a rarity, and I’ll selfishly admit that I derive some pleasure from that. The drawing is both realistic and abstract, the later perhaps to a debatable degree. Zoomed in, the artwork is seemingly chaotic, somewhat like a Jackson Pollock piece, with tens of thousands of tiny points, lines, and polygons clustered together in no discernable pattern. As we zoom slowly out, the chaos transforms into order; patterns emerge, shapes form, and a creature begins to appear. Zoom out more and an elephant, radiating in all his splendid physical intricacies, is clearly depicted.

I think much of life is like this. One flower on a hill often goes by unnoticed, while a billion flowers together create a blanket of color that excites the eye. One star in the midnight sky is not much to behold, but a trillion stars shining brightly together create the beauty of the universe. And the seconds we are living now will pass by hardly noticed, but all the seconds of our days amount to the years of our lives, and the splendor of our memories. And each action we take, no matter how small or great, amount to the quality of our character.

Today, we see our nation divided by selfish desires, thoughtless words, hateful rhetoric, and blind allegiance. We see how ugly a world of division can be. To quote Oscar Wilde again, “To define is to limit.” If we are to create a sustainable human existence, and if it is peace we seek, we must see that definitions can create divisive and hideous boundaries. Group affiliations can foster group thought, which often impedes rationalization, and shackles the heart and mind, preventing them from realizing their potential for love and knowledge. When we remove definitions, when we cast away labels, unity can prevail. We can love without constraints. We stop judging, we lay down our prejudices, and we begin to approach others with understanding and tolerance. What more do any of us want than the freedom to flourish and shine, the freedom to love, the freedom to be, the freedom to pass from life in peace. There is no true (unbiased) reason why we cannot do this together peacefully.

DFA #1 is not only a depiction of the essence of an elephant, it is a depiction of the beauty that arises in unity. It is a depiction of what can be when all the pieces of the puzzle of life work together in harmony. I believe this is a critical time to remind the world of this beauty.

If you have made it this far, thanks for reading! I wish everyone all the best!

Over the past several weeks I had the unique opportunity to work with emergency teams on the Camp incident in Paradise, California. It’s hard to believe the devastation. The Camp Fire is the most destructive and deadliest fire in California history. In total, 13,972 residences were destroyed, along with 528 commercial buildings and 4,293 other buildings and structures.

As I drive along the streets, I think of all that is gone. Too many lives were lost. Too many families will mourn the passing of a beloved family member. And I try not to think of the helpless pets that had no chance, but my mind goes there, and I feel my eyes start to water. I think of homes filled with beloved heirlooms, family photos, secret boxes filled with old love letters, children’s drawings, and untold other irreplaceable possessions. I cannot imagine the emotions Paradise residents must be feeling. It’s so far beyond anything that I have ever experienced.

While working one day, I met a couple who lost their home. They are in the later years of their lives. We spoke about tomorrow, and what it might bring for them, and where they might go. What stood out most was their optimism. During our conversation, the woman said, with confidence in her voice, “our journey has just begun.” I feel blessed to have been in the presence of such wisdom. What a beautiful way to embrace disaster. Now I picture them on the road to somewhere, hand in hand, starting a journey and a new chapter in their lives. I think of love, and the resilience that love can foster.

I leave Paradise with lessons learned. More than anything, I see now how quickly the world around you can vanish. Everything can be gone, everything except love. Nothing and no one can take that away from you. And it’s all you need to survive anything.

To help Paradise residents, you can make donations to the American Red Cross, the California Community Foundation, or several other organizations.

To help displaced pets and animals, you can make donations to The North Valley Disaster Animal Group or the San Francisco SPCA.

Special thanks to my work colleague, Melissa, who throughout my time on the incident, was constantly thinking of ways to show love to the people of Paradise. Decorating and giving a Christmas tree to town hall was all her idea. It’s people like Melissa that remind us of the value of random acts of kindness.


I’ve started the shading process on the face and trunk. Shading is where the fun begins, and I’m very excited to begin this process.

This project has really been a trial of patience. I had no idea when I started, how much time this would take. Along the way, I’ve listened to dozens of books that have carried my mind to every corner of the globe and throughout the span of human history. I’ve listened to thousands of songs of every genre. I’ve felt loneliness and isolation, and I have felt love and comfort. At times, my hand has even etched the emotions of my heart into the drawing.

And so for me, this artwork has become a journey of learning, an expression of love, and a test of my will. While there’s much work to be done, the fun is really just beginning. I look forward to sharing this adventure with you!

I hope everyone is happy and healthy, and enjoying lives filled with love, laughter, and smiles. And whatever your life’s pursuits may be, I wish you the best in achieving all that you can be.

I’ll leave you with a short fable that I picked out of Thoreau’s, Walden.

“There was an artist in the city of Kouroo who was disposed to strive after perfection. One day it came into his mind to make a staff. Having considered that in an imperfect work time is an ingredient, but into a perfect work time does not enter, he said to himself, It shall be perfect in all respects, though I should do nothing else in my life. He proceeded instantly to the forest for wood, being resolved that it should not be made of unsuitable material; and as he searched for and rejected stick after stick, his friends gradually deserted him, for they grew old in their works and died, but he grew not older by a moment. His singleness of purpose and resolution, and his elevated piety, endowed him, without his knowledge, with perennial youth. As he made no compromise with Time, Time kept out of his way, and only sighed at a distance because he could not overcome him. Before he had found a stick in all respects suitable, the city of Kouroo was a hoary ruin, and he sat on one of its mounds to peel the stick. Before he had given it the proper shape the dynasty of the Candahars was at an end, and with the point of the stick he wrote the name of the last of that race in the sand, and then resumed his work. By the time he had smoothed and polished the staff Kalpa was no longer the pole-star; and ere he had put on the ferule and the head adorned with precious stones, Brahma had awoke and slumbered many times. But why do I stay to mention these things? When the finishing stroke was put to his work, it suddenly expanded before the eyes of the astonished artist into the fairest of all the creations of Brahma. He had made a new system in making a staff, a world with full and fair proportions; in which, though the old cities and dynasties had passed away, fairer and more glorious ones had taken their places. And now he saw by the heap of shavings still fresh at his feet, that, for him and his work, the former lapse of time had been an illusion, and that no more time had elapsed than is required for a single scintillation from the brain of Brahma to fall on and inflame the tinder of a mortal brain. The material was pure, and his art was pure; how could the result be other than wonderful?”



Lost in stormy seas

In its 2014 Synthesis Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) stated that “…stabilizing temperature increase to below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels will require an urgent and fundamental departure from business as usual.”

The late and renowned Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess said that, “The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.” Naess went on to say that “Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.”

Overpopulation is the most pressing environmental issue we face today. In 2017, Earth Overshoot Day (EOD) occurred on August 2nd. EOD is the day of the year when human consumption exceeds the annual biological capacity of the Earth. Since the 1970s, EOD has progressed to earlier dates within the year. The most significant environmental problems of our time stem from overpopulation and overconsumption of natural resources.

How do we move away from business (and life) as usual, while maintaining our perceived quality of life? Clearly, this requires an ideological shift.

Naess proclaimed, “The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent worth) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.”

I happened upon “great” one day while riding a bike. To elaborate, I want to share a story from my own life.

I grew up in Los Angeles, but was fortunate to have parents that took me often to places wild and beautiful. We hiked and biked on the weekends, and enjoyed summers in Yosemite, and camping in the Sierra Nevadas.

The wild has always been a place I love, yet despite this attachment, there was a time in my life when I lost my inner connection to nature. I don’t know how to describe the feeling. What I remember is, not deriving lasting pleasure from a walk among the woods, or a view atop a mountain. What it is in me that sees the beauty in nature and creates a sense of wonder or attachment, was gone.

I went several years like this.

Discover her, love her

In 2013, I moved to Arcata, California, where I lived for three years while attending college. This small town of 18,000, lies four and half hours north of San Francisco. Arcata is bordered by forests of towering coastal redwoods to the north and east, Humboldt Bay to the south, and the exquisite Northern California coastline to the west. If you’re looking for an adventure into the heart of nature, look no further.

The tranquility and isolation that can be enjoyed around Arcata is a far cry from the traffic, congestion, and chaos of Los Angeles. And this was exactly what I needed to rediscover one of the most priceless, yet costless joys on earth, a journey into the wild.

While in Arcata, I spent every weekend along the coast, or in the woods, or atop a mountain. For the first year and half I felt the same feeling I had in Los Angeles. Nature was there, and I loved her, but still something was missing. Then one afternoon, while riding my bike to school, I looked up to the sky; it was a window of blue, in a frame of emerald green needles. Rays of amber light flickered through the trees, and somewhere in that view I rediscovered the wonder and everlasting pleasure that nature can provide. It is one thing to look at a flower and find it beautiful, it is quite another to hold that flower and feel something deeper than what the eyes behold, a feeling of awe, of warmth, of comfort, of love.

Contrary to what I would have believed, it was not a separation from nature that made me love and long for her. Rather, it was the daily interaction with nature that enabled me to discover and appreciate all the little nuances of her. She was always beautiful, but I suppose my attraction had become superficial, and as a consequence I had lost the ability to truly appreciate her. In living daily with her, listening to the wind in the trees, the ripples in the streams, the thunder upon the ocean, I heard her thoughts, and longed to hear more. In walking through the woods, I saw her creations in all their magnificence and all their delightful quirks. I climbed her rocks and swam in her rivers and lagoons. I tasted her fruit and smelled the sweetness of her breath.

Rejuvenating a deep connection for nature was not something that came without effort, but I wanted it, I immersed myself in the pursuit of it, and in the end, I found it.

I think of the day on the bike often, as it is the moment in my life when I discovered the “difference between big and great.”

Somewhere in the glitz and glamour of urban life I lost the ability to truly enjoy the simplest of pleasures. Perhaps an excess of entertainment opportunities combined with a tendency to crave new and more exciting experiences had made me numb to nature’s offerings.

I think it is import to understand that the material world is the realm of our imaginations. It is the world that we created from our dreams and ideas. While it is sensational in many ways, it is also artificial, and we as natural beings originating from a natural world may unknowingly lose our way within it. Our concepts of pleasure and excitement may be corrupted by an excess of lustrous, artificial entertainment.

Through love of nature we can attain sustainability

Discovering “great” had profound implications on my own life because it enabled me to see how little I need to be happy. So many of the innovations of the modern world are simply luxuries, but we grow to perceive them as necessities because we equate owning them with attaining a high quality of life.

Despite what people, or advertisers, or society may say, we really do not need much to be happy. And this is good to remember, as consuming less will steer us in the direction of sustainable living.

Big lives are filled with material stuff that come and go with no true consequence. Great lives are filled with experiences that create the memories we will cherish until the end our days.

Perhaps George Strait said it best, “I ain’t never seen a hearse, with a luggage rack.”

I share this story as a lesson from my own life about the influence of society and the complexity of pleasure. I was completely unaware of the negative influence of urban life on my own well-being, until I dared to live a while among the woods.

Have you read the news lately? It’s a bit discouraging, right?

With all the lies, and all the hate, and all the turmoil in our society today, I suppose it is time for a post on love.

What is love?

Perhaps the poet Rumi said it best, “What was said to the rose that made it open was said to me here in my chest.” Love is beyond description. Love is beyond what we know. We channel it from within us outward to light up the world. And like a flower that shines to share all it has to continue the cycle of life, it is love that drives us to share all we have to nurture the next generation.

We can’t really see love, or hear it, or smell it, or touch it, or taste it, yet we use the senses to express and receive love every day. There are many forms of love, such as love for a romantic partner, love for a friend, love for a parent or child, love for a pet… Our hearts can be deprived of it for years, and then in a moment we can become absolutely drunk with love, and fall clumsy, and goofy, and silly. At the same time, where once love was abundant, we may find that only little remains, or that the type of love has changed.

For so many of us, it is love that gives us meaning in our lives. In caring for others, we strive to assist, nurture, and provide, and in so doing, we find purpose. And perhaps it is love that sparks empathy. Most of us have a capacity for empathy, but who or what we empathize with may vary greatly from individual to individual.

Empathy, among other things, seems lacking these days. From school shootings, to racial conflicts, to political chaos, it seems too many people have lost the ability to understand others, to see their points view, and to share their feelings.

Morality itself is in jeopardy. On both sides of the political arena, people have sacrificed honesty, integrity, and dignity, in their unwavering commitment to blind allegiance.

All this conflict calls to my mind the story of Larry Trapp. In short, it’s a true story about a leader of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Nebraska who, when confronted with the unwavering love of a rabbi, ultimately renounced the Klan and converted to Judaism. The story is the ultimate display of how love and tolerance can conquer prejudice and hate. To learn about the story of Larry Trapp, see the New York Times article titled, Lessons on Love, From a Rabbi Who Knows Hate and Forgiveness.

While the current political scene in America is of great concern to me, I find that I am far more disturbed by the overwhelming presence of prejudice and intolerance among the public. As Jack Johnson has sung, “Where have all the good people gone?”

In reality, good people abound, but there is a disturbing trend among some groups in the direction of hate.

What is the point of hate? And how will hate help us to achieve anything?

America is the melting pot of the world. We are the amalgamation of every race, every religion, every culture, and every belief. In nature, diversity is fundamental to the health and vitality of every ecosystem. In America, diversity is fundamental to our health and vitality as a nation. It is diversity that has driven us to dizzying heights of economic success. It is diversity of background and thought that has fueled innovation in health care, manufacturing, computer technology, performing arts, and so many other industries. Diversity has carried this nation to its place as a leader in the world.

Our lives are made better because of diverse minds and ideas. When technology saves a friend from dying in a car accident, we have diversity to thank. When a parent is saved from the grasp of disease or cancer by advances in medicine, we have diversity to thank. All that we enjoy from food, to music, to travel, is sensational because of diversity.

Our progress in the previous decades to embrace equality, to provide equal opportunities, and to give everyone the strength to succeed, has fostered unprecedented growth. Granted, we have not always succeeded in providing opportunities for all. Our systems are not perfect. There is much to be improved. But we have come so far in a positive direction. There is a reason why so many immigrants come here to make their mark in the world.

The American paleontologist Stephan Jay Gould once said, “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”

In America, we must nurture this “equal talent.” In America, we must fight for opportunities for all, so that all can realize the full extent of their capacities and share with this world the gift of everything they were born to be. In America, we must provide the mechanisms for all people to shine because this is true freedom!

America is teetering. We are, increasingly, the laughing-stock of the world. Our influence as a leader is waning. And it is hate and intolerance and prejudice and indecency that are driving us downward.

We must not forget how we came to be who and what we are! Look upon our own history with open and honest eyes. As we came together, we grew stronger. Love, not hate, is the most powerful force in this world.

We must put down our fists. We must withhold our hateful rhetoric. Differences there may be between you and me, but let us overcome them with love, not hate, and with courage, not fear.

We must look around us and see that this Nation is the sum of a splendid diversity of parts. And we must realize that we are only as strong as our weakest link, and hate is a very weak link!

We are all in this together. No group is forcing any other group out of here. We either win together or lose together. There is no single victor.

So, let us strive to understand one another. Let us appreciate the importance of each other. Let us work together as a team coupled by unbreakable links of love, and support, and understanding.

We may fail at times. We may frown when we should smile, and judge when we should understand, but all the while we must strive to be good, to be kind, and to help those around us to stand and shine. One lonely star in the midnight sky is hardly a spectacle to behold, but a trillion individual stars, radiating with all their might, and sharing their colors with all, create the brilliance of the universe.

We are meant to shine together, and it is love that makes this possible.

Happy Trunk Day!

The trunk is finally done!! Or rather, the outline is. I still have a little shading to do.

My goal with this project is not to create a photo-realistic result. Rather, I want to capture what it is in elephants that makes them so grand. It’s more than just their size; they look wise, they look ancient, they appear almost omniscient. And perhaps they are, and we’ll never know. But how do you capture this in a work of art? I am sure 100 artists would create 100 unique ways to do so.

If I were to paint the galaxy, conveying its enormity, would I need to paint every star, or is there a threshold beyond which the eye of an observer can no longer perceive a difference? And is there a threshold at which point the imagination can easily expand from, filling in the gaps? In drawing this elephant, I have played with these questions, and they have defined my style.

The trunk of this work contains ~15,000 (this is a rough guess) tiny shapes. The entire artwork may contain over 100,000. While I have not captured every tiny detail, I hope that I have captured enough to trick the mind into seeing more than is actually there, and to stimulate the imagination to implant an aura into this inanimate form.

What is the purpose of this art?

Elephants are sentient and intellectual beings. They posses an extraordinary degree of emotion and affection. It is sickening to think of how these creatures are treated. Poaching is a grotesque act of pure evil. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that humans and elephants share similar capacities for empathy and love. And so it is, that when a heard of elephants is gunned down by poachers bearing fully automatic weapons, we can only assume that they feel the same pains (physical and emotional) that we would feel in that situation.

The battle against poaching has become a violent engagement. Both poachers and rangers are losing their lives. This could all be avoided if consumers would just stop buying ivory. A product with no demand has no market value.

This artwork is meant to generate further awareness for the plight of the African elephant, but I mean to do so by depicting what we stand to lose. The artwork is very much scientific, produced in a style akin to scientific drawing. Producing the artwork in this style conveys the elephant as the result millions of years of evolution; sculpted by the forces of nature over a great expanse of time. Or, for the religiously inclined, the product of divine creation. But regardless of their origin, their future lies in our hands. In the blink of an eye they could all be gone.

So, when completed, this elephant will stand as an artistic and scientific depiction of what is, or possibly in the years to come, of what once was.

Around the world, there are many extraordinary creatures on the verge of extinction. Whether or not they will be here in the future is left for us to decide. Most importantly, we as consumers of the Earth’s resources have control over what we will and will not buy. This world will always be filled with greedy people willing to make a dime at any cost, but consumers have the power to control what these costs will be.

The learn about the current wave of extinction events, please see The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.


Thoughts from the Road

I mostly post on this website about my art, but what I have written here arises from my day job as an incident mapping specialist.

This season, I’m working with small teams producing maps for the various other teams engaging wildfires. I work out of a trailer, miles away from the dangers of the uncontrolled fire edge. I work to support the firefighters that risk their lives to protect other lives, and homes, and properties.

On my last assignment, I had the tremendous honor of working alongside the incredible women and men of CAL FIRE, the Forest Service, and other agencies and organizations as they battle the Carr Fire around Redding, California. The Carr Fire has been an extraordinarily devastating incident, burning over 229,000 acres, consuming more than 1,000 residences, and claiming the lives of three firefighters and several civilians.

On this incident, I was struck by a firefighter’s comment about the severity of the season’s fires, “climate change should never have become a subject for political debate.” The reality is, the stakes are simply too high. We stand to lose too much. There is no time for debate.

It is true that wildfires occur naturally. However, the severity of California’s fires is escalating and the duration of the fire season is steadily increasing as annual temperatures rise and conditions grow dryer. With this change comes increasing risk to home owners, firefighters, and other emergency responders.

Taking Action Saves Lives

Personally, I ask myself, how could I ever expect firefighters to risk their lives protecting my home if I’m not voting in favor of policies that reduce the risk they encounter in the field.

Whether or not you believe in climate change, there is no denying that the frequency and intensity of wildfire events are growing as a consequence of hotter and dryer conditions. With these changes, lives are at risk. There is no time for blind allegiance and skepticism. We must be proactive today. If something can be done, it must be done.

Click here to be redirected to an informative article in High Country News about the current fire situation in California.

Also, if there are fires near you, check out airnow.gov to see air quality data for your area.

Wrinkle by Wrinkle

For anyone following my blog, I’m sure you’re wondering, when will DFA #1 (a.k.a. the elephant drawing) be done. I hear this a lot from friends. The answer is, it’s still several months away from completion.

Why is it taking so long?

Well… I’m not a full-time artist. I’m currently working on wildfires, and my pencil only hits the paper between field assignments. Come the end of the fire season, I’ll be on DFA #1 non-stop until completion.

For those of you who have followed me this far, thank you!!! I have some big plans for the completed drawing and prints. I look forward to sharing the experience on my blog.


I am currently back at work on the elephant drawing, a.k.a. Drawings for Africa #1. This is by far the most taxing project that I have ever undertaken. I’m working from photographs and trying to sketch out every detail that I can see. Each little feature of the skin becomes a polygon, or a line, or a dot on this enormous sheet of paper. I estimate that I have now sketched out somewhere between 10,000 and 13,000 tiny polygons.

When zoomed in, the patterns appear as a scene of chaos, like a madman’s abstract depiction of the galaxies of the universe crammed onto a Petri dish.

As I listen to audiobooks while drawing, the shapes seem to transform with each story. A few weeks ago, I listened to Hemingway’s “The Green Hills of Africa,” and the shapes began to appear as animals, and lakes, and rivers. I then listened to “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage,” and the shapes started to resemble the broken hunks of ice on the vast, antarctic, ice sheet upon which Shackleton and his men were stranded for 15 months. Now, while listening to Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” the shapes have become an odd illustration of the tumultuous personalities and harmonious interactions of Dickens’ enchanting characters.

Standing back from the drawing, it is hard to believe that this jumble of shapes becomes the figure of an elephant.

I suppose many parts of life require a glance from a distance to be fully appreciated, as the totality of their magnificence lies in the synthesis of their elements.

Lie upon your belly on the valley floor of Yosemite, and you’ll see a jumble of pebbles, and twigs, and leaves, and sand. Rise up to your feet, and look out towards the peaks, and the eyes take in a seen that could tickle one’s fancy for eternity.

And in love, isn’t it true that we, from time to time, find ourselves so caught up in the deluge of life’s events that we must step back to see how wonderful our relationships truly are?

I wonder how magnificent the universe would appear if we could stand atop a prominence and view upon its entirety. Perhaps we’ll never know the beauty of this scene, but maybe, just maybe, it bares resemblance to the assemblage of shapes on the surface of an elephants skin.

Well, that sums up my ramble. I hope everyone is well!

Hi everyone! I hope 2018 is treating you well.

I haven’t posted in a while, and that’s because I have been focused on less exciting business development tasks. However, I have made some interesting discoveries along the way!

Key biz dev highlights include integrating e-commerce functionality into my website, developing an executive summary and other company documents, creating company graphics, writing grant proposals, establishing relationships with frame makers and framers, ordering shipping supplies, and so on.

Making Stamps

If any of you have a business, it may interest you to learn about the process of making rubber stamps. I wanted to make a few stamps for company stationary. The process is very easy; simply create your design in Photoshop, Illustrator, Gimp, or any graphics editor, save it as a JPEG file, and upload it to a website that develops custom stamps from digital image/graphic files. I chose www.rubberstamps.com, because this company makes it extremely easy to produce custom rubber stamps from image/graphic files. The downside is, this company does not use recycled materials. Other companies make stamps from recycled materials, but are limited to producing stamps with only letters and numbers. I have yet to find one that uses recycled materials and allows for customization with graphics.

For you artists out there, archival ink pads can be purchased from Dick Blick Art Materials. Archival ink pads enable you to put your logo, or other graphics safely onto your artwork!

Shipping Tubes

Another biz dev topic I’ve had to address is shipping. I want to use shipping supplies that are created from recycled materials and provide the protection to ensure that my artwork makes it to its destination safely. I came across a company called Yazoo Mills. This company manufactures mailing tubes from 100% recycled materials. Additionally, their tubes are considerably thicker than general mailing tubes, providing far more protection. I have also opted for metal end-caps, as they are “tamper-proof” and can easily be recycled.

Storage Containers

Another subject to address is storing and organizing art and office supplies. Admittedly, when I “need” something, Walmart and Staples seem to come to mind. I live in a small town and sometimes I just have to go to Walmart to find what I need, or do I? Every time I go to Walmart, I find myself a little overwhelmed and sickened by the enormous volume of cheap, plastic crap that fills the shelves. Yet, somehow I still end up there. It’s as if I have been programmed by society to think that when I need something, it has to be new and cheap. Luckily, I have a guilty conscience that deactivates my subconscious thought process in times of emergency, and activates a conscious stream of logic. This invariably drives me out of Walmart in search of better solutions. I usually end up at local antique shops and thrift stores. The products that I find are, reclaimed/second-hand, made of wood and metal, fulfill the same functions as plastic items found in Walmart, and are often in the same generally price range. Additionally, they have history and are visually far more appealing.


I know some people don’t like the idea of buying second-hand items, but as the old quote goes, maybe “what we think is so, just isn’t so.” The products in today’s society are laden with extremely toxic chemicals. Some of these include BPA (a key component in polycarbonate – found in water bottles, baby bottles, plastic containers…), Phthalates (a key component in plastic – found in shower curtains, vinyl flooring, food packing…), PFOA (a key component in non-stick and water-repellent products – found in cookware, furniture, carpets…), formaldehyde (a key component in resins – found in pressed wood products, glues, fabrics…), and PBDEs (a key component in flame retardants – found in televisions, computers, furniture foam…).

My guess is, if you’re not buying the newest, non-toxic items, buying older second-hand products is probably a much safer option than purchasing cheap, Chinese-made junk heavily laden with chemicals.

To conclude…

If you have read through this, thanks! I hope my words provide value to the reader. I’ll keep you posted on more interesting biz dev events.

I hope you’re all well, and thanks for your support!

The first print (01/25) of The Gaucho has been sold, and is now safe at home on one of California’s most extraordinary ranches.

The artwork’s new owners are leaders in grassland conservation in the Central Valley, with thousands of acres of land in protection with conservation organizations. I am honored that they have chosen The Gaucho to adorn a wall in their home. From its perch, The Gaucho now looks out upon a landscape of sensational beauty.


The overarching concept of my artwork is “Drawing for Change.” I want my art to, not only please the buyer, but serve as a means through I can make ongoing donations to non-profit organizations that work to improve the condition of our planet.

A percentage of the sale of this print has been donated to Groundswell International, an organization that works “to empower thousands of rural communities and organizations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to sustainably improve their lives.”

Thanks for your support!

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.