Sense of Place

Without realizing it, as a child running barefoot, going for Sunday afternoon drives in the car, and trying to be a wild animal as much as possible, I internalized the shape of my area- the way the limestone cliffs look when they weather, the shapes the hills take on over millenia, the growth habits and odors of the native plants, the sound of the native animals.  I live in a unique ecosystem which is quickly being destroyed by pavement, expensive neighborhoods, and the infrastructure which accompanies fast economic growth.  When I paint a landscape, I want to choose the critical details that will reveal the character of the place.  I have had the most practice with my native central Texas landscapes.

Clients who had seen my logo “The Glen Cliff” on my front wall wanted me to make them a mosaic for their home.  This style is done in vitreous tile and is physically flat, needing to be grouted when the design is finished.  They gave me a snapshot of a place in California which featured a Monterrey Cypress on a cliff overlooking an ocean bay.  The clients specified the size they wanted for the finished piece.  Because the client is a tree expert, I really wanted the characteristics of the tree to be evident, and this was an extra challenge for me, since I’m not used to interpreting the California coast.  I love the way the mature Monterrey Cypress has a twining trunk which becomes limbs jutting out in various directions, supporting openwork foliage.  The trees often have orange lichens growing on one side, so I added this feature to my mosaic interpretation to bring out the limb shapes against the blue sky.  I hope this mosaic tells something about the character of the tree- its life suspended between resistence to the constant wind and capitulation to this relentless force.  Strong, yet flexible- shall I take my lesson from the tree?

The Monterrey Cypress