Pulling Inspiration from the Rim Fire in Tuolumne County

The Rim Fire Painting


The Rim Fire in Tuolumne County is close to containment. This is good news, as to date it has burned 237k acres. Highly quixotic, it is likely one of the most difficult forest fires in history. But the thousands of hero’s fighting it are getting the upper-hand. The dastardly inferno is now about 85% contained. We are not relaxed but hopeful.


The five acres I live on was never on the advisory evacuation list, but in crow flying miles it came within 12 miles. Much too close. It caused me to question the wisdom of an at-home- studio-gallery. How would I move all of those paintings and where would we go? And then, it set me to wondering at the wisdom of doing all of these paintings?


I suppose introspection is a universal quality in an artist, but this fire forced the question.  I reminded myself of Camille Pisarro’s story (Impressionist 1830 to 1903). In 1870, France lost the battle of Sedan, forcing Napoleon III to surrender. The Prussians advanced so quickly into Louveciennes, France, where Pisarro resided on his farm. He fled for his life, leaving behind in his barn 1500 painted canvases of his own, in addition to many he had stored for Monet. The Prussians turned his studio into a butchery and used his canvases as aprons, soiled with the blood of slaughtered animals.

He was able to salvage only 40 paintings. Ouch.


There was a reason the Impressionists made their mark on the world. They painted every day; they painted passionately, turbulently and with fervor. We know of the angst many of them also felt, so I quiet my inner critic and start another painting, carefully monitoring the news of the fire.


My own belief is there is something good that comes with most calamities and it almost always has to do with compassion and kindnesses offered. There have been many shining generous examples of folks helping folks through this unfortunate fire.


I’m going to want to process the emotions of this volatile time through my art. The good, kind examples of heroism in juxtaposition to the fear a destructive fire like this evokes. A roller coaster of emotions. This juxtaposition is kindred to the art I have been doing which I call “Trans-formative Chaos.” I ‘ve started prepping a few canvases with this in mind. Who knows, maybe I’ll come close, maybe not. But in spite of angst, questioning and introspection my prevailing internal philosophy pops up and tells me to “just shut up and keep painting”.


The smoke is still too thick to go outside anyway.

Rim Fire