Tree of Life

I like to create images in series, as it gives my projects a framework and focal point. This particular project began with my on-going search to mix digital and analog media. I really wanted to find visually interesting ways to mix acrylic paint and gels with digital printing.

It was winter as I was casting about for an image to explore and, doing my daily dog walk, my eye kept returning to the deciduous trees without their leaves. They are so big and graceful as they hold their space. I love that those great big forms can be defined by all those negative shapes - the diamonds, triangles, rounded pentagons and weird twisty shapes that have no names.

Many years ago I saw a painting by Toronto artist, Lynn Hutchinson, that depicted a Tree of Life - a very stylized tree filled with birds, fruit, abundance and beauty. Somehow this image has stayed with me. I wanted to make my own Tree of Life.

The image of a sacred tree has been central to many different mythologies, religions and stories. Norse mythology has the Yggdrasil at its center.  This is a World Tree that connects Heaven, Earth and the underworld. The Buddha sits under a Bodhi tree.  My mother always told me there were three sacred trees of Ireland - the Rowan, the Hazel and the Mountain Ash. Let's not forget the Garden of Eden, let alone Avatar with sacred trees at the center of their stories. And on a more earthly plane, writer and tree advocate Diana Beresford-Kroeger says, "Global forests are the lungs of the planet, keeping the atmosphere rich in oxygen and low in carbon dioxide." It seems to me that trees speak to our longing for connection.

The creative journey is grounded in technical and design problems. I struggled with different ways to make digital and analog techniques mix. Sometimes the paint went on first and then I printed over it; sometime the reverse. I've never been satisfied with digital greens, so I was pleased to use acrylic greens in many places. The discovery of rogue Adobe Illustrator brushes was a delight and fed my recent interest in Sumi-e brushwork.

When I embarked on this particular creative journey, as always, I didn't know where it would take me. That's the scary part - the unknown. I had a vision, but I didn't know exactly what the final images would look like. The reward is new Seeing - that's why I'm a visual artist. I feel my resulting trees mix the fairy tales I was read as a child with my sense of community, connection and spirit.