Since many of us live or work primarily in cities, we forget that trees once served a more significant role in our existence. From scripture we learn that God used trees to provide his people with shelter, protection, and food, as well as resources for energy, weaponry, construction, and medicine.
We still rely on trees. Trees supply food, mark seasons, clean the air, provide oxygen, cool streets and cities, shield us from ultraviolet rays, conserve energy, save water, and help prevent water pollution and soil erosion. Studies have even showed that the presence of trees can reduce violence. Trees are such powerful visual images of growth, decay, and resurrection that hardly any culture has not endowed them with symbolism and otherworldly influence.
I have found 116 references to trees in the Old and New Testaments, and I was intrigued and challenged to look at them metaphorically, illustratively, and tangibly. I have also looked for references to bushes, shrubs, or branches that were critical to telling God’s story, such as Moses and the burning bush, the dove bringing back a branch to Noah, and the stump of Jesse.
Using these tree verses to retell the story of salvation, these paintings seek to encourage prayerful reflection and response to God’s story. The paintings here are a selection from a larger work which I aim to publish as a contemplative book about trees in scripture. The book will include 52 visual interpretations of tree verses with written responses to each from writers, theologians, clergy, scientists, activists and educators.
This has been an inspirational spiritual journey for me and I hope that it will enrich others also.
All works are produced on wood panels using watercolour, ink, graphite, and ultraviolet varnish and framed with up-cycled wood.
All works for sale, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
No. 1: Tree of life (Genesis 2:9) 24 X 24 inches
No. 2: Tree of good & evil (Genesis 3:6) 20 X 14 inches
No. 4 After the flood tree (Genesis 8:11) 20 X 10 inches
No. 5 Surprised Tree (Genesis 18:1) 14 X 8 inches
No. 6: Palliative care (Genesis 21:15) 14 X 20 inches
No. 7: Grieving (Genesis 23:17) 20 X 20 inches
No. 8: I am your servant (Exodus 3:2) 48 X 12 inches
No. 9: Nothing was left on the trees (Exodus 10:15)24 X 24 inches
No. 10: Saved by a twig (Exodus 15:25) 18 X 18 inches
No. 11: What a relief (Exodus 15:27)12 X 48 inches
No. 12 Golden trees (Exodus 37:18) 10 X 20 inches
No. 13: Are there trees or not? (Numbers 13:20) 20 X 10 inches
No. 14: Healing (Numbers 21:9) 24 X 10 inches
No. 15: Refugees (Deuteronomy 24:20) 12 X 16)
No. 16: Spirit in the trees (2 Samuel 5:23-24) 10 X 24 inches
No. 17: More trees in the city (1 Kings 4:25) 12 X 18 inches
No. 18: Golden Tabernacle trees (1 Kings 6:32) 12 X 12 inches
No. 19 Under the broom tree (1 Kings 19: 3-5) 14 X 20 inches
No. 20 Choosing life tree (2 Kings 18:32) 10 X 20 inches
No. 21 Singing trees (Chronicles 16:33) 12 X 12 inches
No. 23 Emily Carr tree (Job 8:11) 24 X 10 inches
No. 25 Prospering tree (Psalm 1:3) 24 X 24 inches
No. 26 Twisted tree (Psalm 29:9) 18 X 12 inches
No. 28 Tenacious tree (Psalm 92:12) 12 X 18 inches
No. 29 Plant the tree (Psalm 104:16) 24 X 10 inches
No. 30 Cathedral trees (Psalm 148:9) 18 X 12 inches
No. 31 Hug the tree (Proverbs 3:18) 24 X 10 inches
No. 33 Loving tree (Song of Songs 2:3) 12 X 24 inches
No. 34 Family tree (Isaiah 11:1) 48 X 12 inches
No. 35 Tender tree (Isaiah 53:2) 18 X 12 inches
No. 36 Dancing trees (Isaiah 55:12) 24 X 24 inches
No. 38 Days of a tree (Isaiah 65:22) 24 X 10 inches
No. 41 Roots and trees (Hosea 14:5) 10 X 16 inches
No. 47: Ghost Trees (Mark 8:24) 14 X 20 inches
No.46 Carpet Trees (Matthew 21:8) 24 X 24 inches
Severed cross section found at Parc King George
Ink, graphite, and wax on wood panel
24 X 30 inches
Trees on a Dutch canal 12 X 12 inches (uf)
Cimetiére Mont-Royal, Montreal, 2015 18 X 24 (f) SOLD
The Dark Hedges, Ballemoney, Ireland, 2017 23 X 24 (f)
Drenthe tree bark study, The Netherlands, 2017 10 X 8 (f)
Betty's tree, 2016 Collection of Janneke & Arie de Lang
On the way to Connemara National Park, Ireland, 2017 12 X 16 (uf)
23rd tree on the north side of Villa Marie Lane, Montreal, 2015 24 x 30 (f) SOLD
Yet will I rejoice in the Lord (Habakkuk 3:17)
Graphite, Ink, water colour, and wax on board
24 X 12 inches
Wire on Tree, Dark Hedges, Ballemoney, Ireland, 2017 17.5 X 12 (uf) SOLD
May I have some green please? 2016
Mapping poverty with trees
I’ve been researching trees and thinking about their role in cities and this has formed a foundation for my recent work. This summer I was especially struck by the injustice of the growth of trees in urban settings. Economically depressed areas of the city tend to have less trees and indeed that seems to be true in Hamilton. This painting points to that injustice and also reflects on how people in impoverished settings sometime take on ghost like qualities.
24 X 36 x 2.25 inches Mixed media on wood, unframed to expose the wooden sides Collection: Indwell
Waiting to be filled: A collaborative pinch pot project, 2017
In anticipation of Pentecost both communally and personally, we invited everyone in church to participate in a tangible and collaborative project by making a small pinch pot. During the weeks between Easter and Pentecost people made pots and these were placed at the front of the sanctuary.
Clay pots and vessels are often referenced in scripture. Pinch pots are small containers simply formed using clay and our hands. Pots were used for eating, cooking, and washing for sacrificial offerings (Exodus 16:3, Exodus 38:3, Leviticus 15:12). Clay is often used as a way to describe our fragility with God forming and moulding us like clay (Isaiah 29:16). Making individual clay pots became a metaphor for God shaping and making us into containers for the Spirit of God to do his work in us.
Making the pots was not difficult and took the participants between about 10 -15 minutes to construct. Artist volunteers demonstrated the technique for making pots and helped anyone who was hesitant. From young children to older members, the collection of pots slowly grew in quantity and variety. Some of the pots took on different shapes and were carved with toothpicks to add decorative elements. Individual pots became a personal, tactile expression and the arrangement of all of them together was a rich, visual expression of us as an intergenerational and diverse community of believers.
Each week after service, tables were set up with plastic sheets and other materials and people gathered around the tables to make their pots. We used Vallauris clay, a non-toxic, self-hardening terra cotta clay because of its rich earthy colour. The finished pieces become extremely hard without the need for firing. The clay pots were air-dried and placed in the sanctuary every Sunday until Pentecost. Using long cut pieces of parchment paper under the pots protected the table and allowed us to add a soft, flowing element to the installation. The paper was cut with a utility knife in graceful lines and layered to reveal some of the paper underneath.
Not everyone participated in the project and some children came back every week to make another one. In the end we accumulated approximately 300 pots. On Pentecost we filled 100 of them with small tea lights and lit them for the service. It was a beautiful expression of God forming us and filling us with his spirit.
Indwell Friday art group
Indwell is a Christian charity that creates affordable housing communities that support people seeking health, wellness and belonging. On Friday afternoons I volunteer at the Dr. John M. Perkins Centre to teach art to some of the tenants. It’s been a wonderful experience getting to know people there and in the spring session we designed and painted two large canvases for the annual fundraising gala dinner.
Over the course of several weeks we completed two collaborative paintings based on the theme of home. In the first session we looked at the artwork of the American expressionist painter: Jasper Johns and a mural painting done at Hazel McCallum School in Mississauga. Johns, because of his monochromatic textured work and the mural because it was a collaborative project much like this one.
We began the visual process by defining what home means with words. Then we approached the theme visually using watercolour crayons and pencils on large sheets of bond paper to explore the idea of home by drawing images of our collected words. These images were transferred onto canvases and painted. We chose analogous colours; that is a colour range that is on one side of the colour wheel to produce a cohesive and uniform design. To create an area of extra interest we carefully selected a few areas that would be painted in contrasting colour. Some of us drew and others painted making this project a truly shared work.
Comfort Cosy Calm Enfolding Grounding Anchor Stable Sanctuary Welcoming Hope Happy Friends Food Safety Important Family Belong Gathering Acceptance Love Comfort Uniqueness Calm Community Support Freedom Relaxed Growth Crazy Fun Independence Adventure
Every square inch/Chaque centimeter carré
Collaborative wall mural, 2015 120 X 288 inches
In the spring of 2015 I was invited to collaborate with the students, administration, faculty, staff, alumni, and board members of Emmanuel Christian School in Dollard des Ormeaux, Quebec. Emmanuel Christian School is an inter-denominational school that attracts students from a variety of Christian backgrounds within the city of Montreal and the surrounding areas. The school is a member of the Quebec Association of Independent Schools (QAIS). The school offers two bilingual (English/French) sectors: Elementary and High School.
We acquired a wall that was 24 X 10 feet that had been painted white and divided it into 24-inch squares giving us 60 squares in total. Participants were asked to design a square and paint it using the theme of Every Square Inch. This phrase was borrowed from the theologian: Abraham Kuyper (1837 – 1920) to help everyone think about the holistic and encompassing foundation of their faith in regards to education and how they live their lives. Participants designed the squares using only visual symbols and designs and there was no text permitted. They were asked to think about their faith in the context of culture and also what they were passionate about.
The theme of this collaborative wall mural is that our world: from the arts to sports to science to math to academics to our imaginations all belong to God. “From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20, The Message). Abraham Kuiper (1837-1920) says “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign, does not cry, Mine!”
Students, administration, faculty, staff, alumni, and board members of Emmanuel were invited to contribute to this collaborative wall mural by submitting an idea that represented visually what this theme meant to them. Each 24 X 24 inch square was painted in black, white, and grey to merge with the surrounding squares and equalize the work visually. Black, white, and grey also serves as a metaphor that the world is not yet perfectly redeemed and we can look forward to a time when we will live in his brilliant, creative, and coloured presence.
Every Square Inch Chaque centimètre carré 2015
Drawn to trees
This short video shows the progress of a mural that was painted on floor 4.5- South Stairwell Gallery. "Be moved by art" is an effort to encourage users of the Molson Building (MB) to favour the stairs over the elevators and is initiated by the David O’Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise.
When thinking about sustainability and sustainable development, trees serve as an obvious and necessary participant as our natural breathing partner. Trees clean the air, provide oxygen, mark the seasons, cool streets and cities, conserve energy, save water, help prevent water pollution, and soil erosion. It has also been shown that they can shield us from ultra-violet rays, provide food, heal, reduce violence, create economic opportunities, provide human retreats, bring people together, provide habitat for wildlife, block unpleasant things, provide wood, increase property values, and increase business traffic.
Trees do many things for us. Quite simply though: trees grow tall and big when conditions are favourable and do not when conditions are unfavourable. Trees remind me of our human journey through life and in a recent body of work I have been inspired by the vast array of trees that grace the streets and lanes in my Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (Montreal) neighborhood. Biologists describe primary growth in trees as linear (height) and secondary growth as a response to the environment (diameter). Secondary growth profoundly describes how trees plainly assume its circumstances into itself. As the symbolic and imaginary trees with their gnarled knots and broken limbs manage to propagate and root themselves into my work, I image them as aging bodies, with fragile bones, and wrinkly, sagging flesh. Trees tend to grow stronger as they age and as they reach their tender shoots to the sky, their roots are nourished. Is it possible to think of our minds in this way? Our flesh and bones may deteriorate but our minds continue to reach out and seek knowledge.