Bloodline in the rock

Over the weekend, we attended our church's annual congregation retreat. This year's theme was Play, and we played in many creative ways.

Bloodline in the Rock - Mt Moran 2

Drawing and painting on the form of a small Greek cross was one of activities. The collection of pictures will be brought together into a larger painting to be hung in the church in the future.  I painted two of these pictures.

Bloodline in the rock is of a mountain in Wyoming of which I'm particularly fond. Mt. Moran, in the Grand Teton range of Jackson Hole, is a mountain of massive granite which has a diabase basalt dike of reddish brown lava that cuts vertically through the mountain.  I find its presence endlessly fascinating because it represents to me how good things can rise up from the hardness of life. My picture is more of what the mountain represents to me, than a picture of the mountain itself.

In much of life, when we try something new, we are taking a risk. Risks are inherent in life. Do we accept these risks as a way to expanding the range of our expression, or as an unavoidable facet of life?

Andy Goldsworthy is a sculptor who uses natural materials in extraordinary ways. In his video Rivers and Tides, a sculpture that he has been working on falls apart in the wind, he says,

"When I make a work, I often take it to the very edge of its collapse; that's a very beautiful balance."

Here is Goldsworthy creating an arch out of stone, and toward the end of the video removing pieces of it to see if it will collapse.


As in art, so also in life, translating what we see in the natural world into expressions of our passion and commitments enable us to see more of who we are in the context of the world we live in.

Cairn of Fire 2

Having painted Bloodline in the rock, and then introduced to Andy Goldsworthy by our artist guide, I decided to paint another of my favorite objects, a simple rock cairn.  I called it Cairn of Fire.

What did I learn from this little experiment in artistic expression? It really helps to be an observant person. We see things as objects, like a mountain or a pile of rocks. But we don't normally see the interrelation of the parts. For example, in trying to draw a cairn, I knew that the typical cairn is not uniform, but very eclectic. What I did, as a result, is try to draw the stones in the cairn very quickly so they would not be uniform. 

The ability to see what is there in the picture is no different than seeing and hearing what is going on around you. Learning to observe is learning to be a better communicator. To observe is to shift one's attention away from your own thoughts to what is happening in front of you.

Whatever you think you see or hear is a perception of what actually takes place.

Mt Moran close up


Bloodline in the rock is not an exact representation of Mt. Moran. The lava dike on the mountain is visible in the circle.  My painting is my perception of the mountain that you see here. To see it with the human eye, rather than through a photograph is to see it differently. In this shot, it seems insignificant. But to stand here by Jenny Lake in the Grand Teton National Forest and look at it, the dike stands out much more.

What I learned from playing with paint, a brush and some crayons is that we can learn to express ourselves in new ways. This is important if we are to communicate what is important to us.

I encourage you to take a pencil and quickly, in a manner of a few minutes, draw something that matters to you. It won't be perfect because there is no such thing in art. I once heard it say that a work of art is never finished. I think this is also true for our lives. And the more we test the boundaries and horizons of our expression, quite possibly as Andy Goldsworthy has learned, we'll find a very beautiful balance that will enhance the quality of our lives in ways unimaginable right this moment.