When people who don't know my work ask me what I paint, I tell them I make big abstract paintings that happen to look like birch trees. Most people who do know my work would say I paint birch trees, or the North woods, or--since I paint mountains, rivers, seas, glaciers, skies, and falling snow almost as much as the forest--might simply say that I paint landscapes of Alaska and the Circumpolar North. But really, no matter which of those subjects I'm painting, my work is all about light--the extraordinary light of every season, here in the North.
I had been working for a couple of weeks on this large (4' x 5') painting of light coming through the trees in the boreal forest when I received an email message from my friend Tom Hammond, asking me whether I had ever heard of the word Komorebi. He had just encountered it in a bookstore, and he said he immediately thought of me. I hadn't heard the term, and I was delighted to find that it's a Japanese word that refers to light filtering through the trees, and that it sometimes carries the additional symbolic content of a sense of longing, for someone or something far away.
When I got Tom's message, I was about to take a break from working on the painting to visit my granddaughter Sage and her parents, 1500 miles away, for Sage's and my son Eli's birthdays. As I wrote Tom, that's just the kind of double-meaning that I'm always looking for in my titles, and somewhat to my amazement, it fit the painting that I'd been working on perfectly.
When I finish a painting, especially a large one that I've worked on for weeks, I usually sit and look at it for some time, asking myself, "Now what was that about?" That's when the titles normally come to me. It was a special treat to have this title come mid-painting, and to be able to ponder it as I excavated the details involved in finishing it, so I'm grateful to Tom for both the title and the mid-course inspiration.
When I've just spent weeks on a large painting, I usually find myself working next on a small one--one in which I can see light at the end of the tunnel of work more easily. That was the case with Dawn. This, too, is light coming through the trees. It's the bursting light of dawn over the Tanana Valley, looking south from the high ridge on which we live.