Jan 31


Plein Air Paint Box setup

Paint box setup at Loyd Park for “The Woods”

North Texas winters can be all over the map – snow, ice or close to 80 degrees. But this January, we have had some awesome days sprinkled throughout the month and hopefully it will continue into February. The temperature has been warming up to the 60’s and sometimes 70’s and the sky’s have been blue. Weather like this seems to stimulate the thoughts and memories of


One afternoon I had a little window of time and took advantage of the near perfect weather and packed up my paint box and headed out to paint. Access to land is always a problem, so I find myself painting in private parks and Texas State Parks…both provide easy access to quiet landscapes and usually crowd free locations to work en plein air.

Walking down a quiet path with paint gear in tow in the “dead” of winter, when the life of summer lies dormant and unseen, there is not much to see except bare trees and brown forest floors, dry grass and….not much else. But even in this silent, sleeping environment there is a warmth and kindness from the Creator Himself. A walk in the woods seems to refuel the soul and point to days to come. God created the earth and all it contains for us to enjoy and to remember and acknowledge Him.

The experience reminds me of words from an old song that has been sang by Elvis Presley and many other singers over the years. The second verse of the old song tells this story:

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze-

And then the chorus goes on with these words…

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art!

Of coarse this part of Texas has no mountain grandeur, and this particular day there was no sound of a brook as I wandered through the woods with paint and easel, inspired by the Creator and His creation. Just silence and barren trees. But some of the trees were awesome in shape; and subtle colors and shadows made interesting patterns on the ground.

So I painted a tree.

Psalm 96:11 and 12 say this: “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice”

Particular trees have always fascinated me. Trees are a gift from God, and a reminder of His “common” grace that He gives to all who live on the earth, whether they know Him or not. A tree is almost magical in all it provides for us. Shelter from the wind, cold, rain and heat. Wood for tables and chairs, wood for many tools that make our lives easier. Wood for boats to float on the vast oceans and rivers for both pleasure and food. Trees are really an incredible gift from God.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

Steve & Donna Miller at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

And I believe trees have fascinated many of us from the beginning of time. Authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis have personified trees in many of their writings. One year while my wife and I were driving through the mountains of North Carolina, we came across the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. We parked and walked a short trail through the Appalachian forest (this section was one of the last remaining virgin forests in the mountains) to two massive Popular trees. A thousand years old or so. Back in the parking lot we read on a display a poem called “Trees” written by poet Joyce Kilmer –

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

The Woods - Plein Air Oil on Panel, 12 x 9

The Woods – Plein Air Oil on Panel, 12 x 9