Reflections on the Julian Woods

I am currently a teacher in a rural school district. It is very much like my home town of St. Marys, Pennsylvania. Just as many teachers take summer course work, I enrolled in an art course in 2005 that took place at the professors home in the Julian Woods. We were a group of people, not necessarily artist, that were in need of this course. I had taken it to brush up on my drawing skills, others enrolled to be close to nature, while others had heard it was an easy “A”. We gathered and over the course of the spring term, we became a close group that had connected on a deeper level than anyone in a three credit course. Led by the most beautiful woman, Jean, we somehow understood that we needed healing and that our art was the medium. To say that I had an epiphany would understate the process that I went through.

Up until I met Jean, our professor, I was unhappy to be in Pennsylvania teaching in a rural school. After all, I lived in Florida with weather and lifestyle my Pennsylvania friends could only dream about.

Jean told me that my students needed me. I did not realize at the time that I needed them as much. I was there to heal and find peace.

The classes always began with sharing and then we could paint with Jean or go off in the woods, swim, pick flowers or what ever we needed that day. I always went off with my tablet of watercolor paper. I struggled for several classes. I am not sure when I began to go inward, but I began to notice the sunlight as it warmed me. I wanted to record the summer. I noticed how happily the plants enjoyed each other’s company. Jean made me appreciate how it is good and natural for the plants and flowers to co exist. My thoughts returned to my childhood when Dad would take us for walks in the woods, picking black berries and skipping rocks. Dad passed away several years ago. I had lived away so many years that I was immune to his passing.

On one of my walks during class, I passed some blackberry bushes and I began to cry. He was with me. I recorded it by taking my paper and pencil and tracing the shadow cast by the sun on the berry bushes. I told Jean about the experience and she assured me that this was an important step in my healing. At that point I became obsessed, chasing every shadow on her land that made sense to me. I traced over a dozen drawings of the wild plants and weeds that grew that summer in the Julian Woods Community. I go into my art studio and paint the negative space and allow the form of the shadow to stand alone. I am playful with my paints and pens as I create beautiful washes around the natural forms. Many viewers may look at my art and enjoy the abstract nature; a botanist might recognize that which grows native.

I have come full circle and know why I create the images that appear in my watercolors and acrylics. My visual memory and wonderful parents have brought me to this point. Just as I love those in my life, I love my paintings. I title my art and always have a story to tell about their meaning.