I have been out in the woods, on the trails, even more than usual this winter as I've been preparing for a long ski into Denali National Park in late February. My writer friend Frank Soos and I will ski in 43 miles and spend about a week in the Murie Cabin on the East Fork of the Toklat River, where I have stayed and worked every summer since 2002. This will be my first extended trip into, and stay in, the Park in winter, and I'm excited about it. I have no idea what kind of imagery will come out of that trip--probably months after I return, when the experience has settled into my consciousness deeply enough that I think I have something personal to say in paint about what it was like to be out there in the quiet of winter.
Skiing nearly every day on the trails around Fairbanks this fall and early winter has led to different imagery than I might have expected. After a year and a half of looking into the sun, painting what I call "epiphanies," and looking up through the trees toward the sky, I've found myself once again enthralled by the character of the individual birch trees I glide past on the trail. This has happened so often, over the past quarter century. Again and again, I quit painting birch "portraits" and focus on other subjects--mountains, water, people, animals, light in the forest... Then one day I find myself standing in front of a particularly gorgeous birch, open-mouthed in wonder at its individuality and beauty, and the next thing I know I'm back in the studio painting its portrait.
That's what happened this January. Returning to the northern forest following a trip to Florida, where Missy and I spent two weeks exploring the Everglades and the Keys, I have been riveted by the way the daily-burgeoning light picks out individual trees, single trunks, along my path. These new paintings are tiny paeans of praise to some of the beautiful birches in the Fairbanks woods, oil-on-board responses to their individuality, sensuality, warm color in the cold winter white.
The five above are 7" x 5" images, and the two below 8" x 6". (They will be 9 1/2" x 7 1/2" and 10 1/2" x 8 1/2", respectively, in their frames.) It's nearly pointless for me to predict what I'll do next, but right now I'm thinking I'll just keep working gradually larger, painting beautiful birch trunks in the growing light, until the impulse slackens and I find myself enthralled by something else.
All images ©Kesler Woodward 2010.